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The main train station in Kyoto is Kyoto Station, which is in the south of the city, just below Shichijō-dōri and is actually two stations under one roof: JR Kyoto Station and Kintetsu Kyoto Station.

In addition to the private Kintetsu line that operates from Kyoto Station, there are two other private train lines in Kyoto: the Hankyū line that operates from Downtown Kyoto along Shijō-dōri and the Keihan line that operates from stops along the Kamo-gawa.

Buying a Ticket

All stations are equipped with automatic ticket machines, which are simple to operate. Destinations and fares are all posted above the machines in both Japanese and English – once you’ve figured out the fare to your destination, just insert your money and press the yen amount. Most of these machines accept paper currency in addition to coins (usually just ¥1000 notes). If you’ve made a mistake, press the red tori-keshi (cancel) button. There’s also a help button to summon assistance.

If you happen to purchase the wrong ticket or change your mind about which station to get off at mid-journey (or miss the stop, get on an express train by accident etc), don't stress as most stations have a fare adjustment machine when exiting. Simply pop your ticket into the machine and it will calculate how much extra you need to pay. Pay the amount and your new ticket will be issued to then put through the exit barriers.

Kansai Thru Pass

The Kansai Thru Pass is a real bonus to travellers who plan to do a fair bit of exploration in the Kansai area. It enables you to ride on city subways, private railways and city buses in Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Kōbe, Kōya-san, Shiga and Wakayama. It also entitles you to discounts at many attractions in the Kansai area. A two-day pass costs ¥4000 and a three-day pass costs ¥5200. It is available at the Kansai International Airport tourist information counter on the 1st floor of the arrivals hall and at the main bus information centre in front of Kyoto Station, among other places. For more information, visit www.surutto.com.

Discount Ticket Shops

Known as kakuyasu-kippu-uriba, these stores deal in discounted tickets for trains, buses, domestic flights, ferries and a host of other things, such as cut-rate stamps and phonecards. Typical savings on shinkansen tickets are between 5% and 10%, which is good news for long-term residents who are not eligible for Japan Rail Passes. Discount ticket agencies are found around train stations in medium and large cities. The best way to find one is to ask at the kōban (police box) outside the station.

Around Kyoto Station, you’ll find Tōkai Discount Ticket Shop. It's in the Torii building, which is located on the main street opposite Kyoto Station and across the road from the Kyoto Tower building.