Kyoto has an intricate bus network that is an efficient way to get around at moderate cost. Many of the bus routes used by foreign visitors have announcements in English. The core timetable for buses is between 7am and 9pm, though a few run earlier or later.
The bus terminal at Kyoto station is on the northern side of the station and has three main departure bays (departure points are indicated by the letter of the bay and number of the bus stand within that bay).
The TIC’s Kyoto Transportation Guide is a good map of the city’s main bus lines, with a detailed explanation of the routes and a Japanese/English communication guide on the reverse side.
Bus stops throughout the city usually display a map of bus stops in the vicinity on the top section. On the bottom section there’s a timetable for the buses serving that stop. Unfortunately, most of this information is written in Japanese, and those who don’t read the language will simply have to ask locals waiting at the stop for help.
Entry to the bus is usually through the back door and exit is via the front door. Inner-city buses charge a flat fare (¥220), which you drop into the clear plastic receptacle on top of the machine next to the driver. The machine gives change for ¥100 and ¥500 coins or ¥1000 notes, or you can ask the driver.
On buses serving the outer areas, you take a seiri-ken (numbered ticket) when entering. When you leave, an electronic board above the driver displays the fare corresponding to your ticket number.
To save time and money, you can buy a kaisū-ken (book of five tickets) for ¥1000. There’s also a one-day card (shi-basu senyō ichinichi jōshaken kaado) valid for unlimited travel on city buses and subways that costs ¥500. A similar pass (Kyoto kankō ichinichi jōsha-ken kaado) that allows unlimited use of the bus and subway costs ¥1200. A two-day bus/subway pass (futsuka jōsha-ken) costs ¥2000. Kaisū-ken can be purchased directly from bus drivers. The other passes and cards can be purchased at major bus terminals and at the main bus information centre.
The main bus information centre is located in front of Kyoto station. Here, you can pick up bus maps, purchase bus tickets and passes (on all lines, including highway buses), and get additional information. Nearby, there’s an English/Japanese bus information computer terminal; just enter your intended destination and it will tell you the correct bus and bus stop.
When heading for locations outside the city centre, be careful which bus you board. Kyoto city buses are green, Kyoto buses are tan and Keihan buses are red and white.
The quickest way to travel between the north and the south of the city is to take the Karasuma line subway, which operates from 5.30am to 11.30pm. The minimum fare is ¥210.
There’s also the new Tōzai line subway, which runs east–west across the city, from Daigo station in the east to Nijō station in the west, stopping at Sanjō-Keihan en route.
Kyoto taxi fares start at ¥640 for the first 2km. The exception is MK Taxis (721-2237), whose fares start at ¥580.
MK Taxis also provides tours of the city with English-speaking drivers. For a group of up to four people, prices start at ¥13, 280 for a three-hour tour. Another company offering a similar service is Kyōren Taxi Service (672-5111).
Most Kyoto taxis are equipped with satellite navigation systems. If you are going somewhere unusual, it will help the driver if you have the address or phone number of your destination, as both of these can be programmed into the system.
Kyoto is a great city to explore on a bicycle; with the exception of outlying areas it’s mostly flat and there is a new bike path running the length of the Kamo-gawa.
Unfortunately, Kyoto must rank near the top in having the world’s worst public facilities for bike parking and the city regularly impounds bikes parked outside of regulation bike-parking areas. If your bike does disappear, check for a poster in the vicinity (in both Japanese and English) indicating the time of seizure and the inconvenient place you’ll have to go to pay a ¥2000 fine and retrieve your bike.
There are two bicycle parking lots in town that are convenient for tourists: one in front of Kyoto station and another on Kiyamachi-dōri, halfway between Sanjō-dōri and Shijō-dōri. It costs ¥150 per day to park your bicycle here. Be sure to hang onto the ticket you pick up as you enter.