Kyoto Travel Guide: Getting Around Kyoto By Bus 京都バス
Kyoto is a fairly compact city which can be adequately explored on foot or by rental bicycle.
However, with only two subway lines: the Karasuma Line running north south and the Tozai Line running east west, outlying attractions such as Arashiyama, Katsura Rikyu and Shugakuin Rikyu may best be reached by bus if you do not want the extra expensive of a taxi.
Kyoto buses may be crowded and best avoided during rush hour but gaining a rudimentary knowledge of your bus in Kyoto is well worth the effort.
Kyoto city now operates three loop buses aimed directly at tourists in the city. These are the Raku buses: Raku 100, Raku 101 and Raku 102.
Raku buses operate in a loop from Kyoto Station with the Raku 102 traveling a loop from Ginkakuji Temple, fares are a flat 220 yen and the bus stops for Raku 100 and Raku 101 are to your right as you exit the central exit of Kyoto Station.
The Raku 100 bus goes to the Higashiyama and Okazaki areas of Kyoto with bus stops at Sanjusangendo Temple, Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Yasaka-jinja Shrine, Heian-jingu Shrine, Eikan-do Temple, Nanzen-ji Temple terminating at Ginkaku-ji Temple before returning to Kyoto Station.
The Raku 101 bus goes to the central and western parts of the city with bus stops at Nijo Castle, Nishijin Textile Center at Horikawa Imadegawa, Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kinkaku-ji Temple and Daitoku-ji Temple. The bus terminates at Kitaoji Bus Terminal and then returns to Kyoto Station. At Kitano Hakubaicho, the Raku 101 connects to the Keifuku Railway for Arashiyama.
The Raku 102 from Ginkakuji Temple runs a loop via Kinkaku-ji Temple and Daitoku-ji Temple in the northern part of the city from east to west and back again.
From Ginkakuji-michi bus stop the Raku 102 stops at Kyoto Imperial Palace on Imadegawa Street, Nishijin Textile Center, Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kinkaku-ji Temple and Daitoku-ji Temple before returning to Ginkaku-ji. At Kitano Hakubaicho, the Raku 102 connects with the Keifuku Railway for Arashiyama and at Demachiyanagi Station, the bus connects to the Eizan Railway for Kurama.
Kyoto City Buses
There are two main types of buses operating in Kyoto: Kyoto City buses (green) and Kyoto Bus Company buses (white).
Kyoto City buses serve the inner city whereas Kyoto Bus Company buses go to more outlying areas such as Ohara and Arashiyama. Enter through the rear of the bus and take a numbered ticket if you are traveling outside the central zone. Pay the driver on exit from the bus through the front door. The flat fare within the inner zone is 230 yen. Destinations are announced in Japanese and English and on the electronic board at the front of the bus.
The central Karasuma exit of Kyoto Station is the city's main bus terminal. The bus stands are coded A for eastern Kyoto, B for western areas, C for areas south of Kyoto Station and D for Raku Bus 100, #28 to Matsuo Shrine and Arashiyama and the #208 bus (see below).
Other major bus terminals are at Sanjo Keihan Station and Kita-Oji (Kita-Oji subway station) in the north near Daitokuji Temple. Bus stands at Kita-Oji are color-coded: red for east bound and blue for the west.
A central 100 yen loop bus operates on weekends and national holidays aimed at shoppers. The Kyoto 100 yen bus runs from Kyoto City Hall to Karasuma Oike, Shijo Karasuma and Shijo Kawaramachi. Look out for the big "100 Yen" sign on the side of the bus.
In addition to Kyoto City buses and Kyoto Bus Company buses Keihan Kyoto Kotsu runs buses from the Central Exit of Kyoto Station to Kameoka and from the Hachijoguchi (South) Exit to Kyoto University's Katsura campus and a Limousine Bus from Hachijoguchi to Kansai International Airport (KIX) which takes about 90 minutes.
Kyoto buses run from early in the morning around 5am to about 11pm.
Kyoto Bus Passes
If you are going to make best use of the buses in Kyoto consider buying either an all-day bus pass (Kyoto City Bus & Kyoto Bus One-day Pass) for 500 yen, which covers the central area of the city (and is valid on all Kyoto city buses, Kyoto buses and Raku buses) or a Kyoto Sightseeing One-Day Pass (1,200 yen) or Two-Day Pass (2,000 yen), which are valid on Kyoto City buses (green), Kyoto Bus Company buses (white) and the subway.
Insert your pass card into the card slot as you enter at the rear of the bus. The first time you do this, the date will be printed on your card. If you pass outside the designated inner city area put your card in the machine at the front of the bus and the extra fare will be calculated, which you can pay by inserting coins into the slot.
Places outside the designated inner city area include Arashiyama to the west and Shugakuin in the north east and buses that run to these places have black numbers on a white background like the number #5 bus to Shugakuin. Flat fare (230 yen) buses have white numbers on an orange or blue background. Both travel passes are available at subway and bus stations in Kyoto.
The Kyoto Traffica Card can be bought at machines on the Kyoto subway and comes in denominations of 1000 and 3000 yen with 10% added on. So if you buy a 1000 yen card you get 1100 yen's worth of travel on Kyoto buses and the Kyoto subway. Similarly a 3,000 yen card gets you 3,300 yen's worth of travel until it runs out. Place your card in the card slot at subway ticket wickets or in the machine at the front of the bus near the driver as you get off.
The Tourist Office in Kyoto has a free English guide to all of Kyoto's buses and details of the various bus passes on offer.
Useful Kyoto Bus Routes For Visitors
The Kyoto city bus #4 runs from Kyoto Station to Kamigamo Shrine in the north west of Kyoto city.
The #5 Kyoto city bus leaves Kyoto Station for Shijo Karasuma, Shijo Kawaramachi, Sanjo Keihan, Okazaki, Kyoto Zoo, Nanzenji, Kita Shirakawa, Shugakuin and on to Iwakura.
The #9 Kyoto city bus runs from Kamigamo Shrine in the north of Kyoto to Kyoto Station and then back.
The #12 Kyoto city bus runs from Shijo Keihan Station to Ritsumeikan Kinugasa campus via Nijo Castle, Nishijin Textile Center and Kinkakuji Temple.
The #17 Kyoto bus runs from Kyoto Station via Demachiyanagi to Ohara and its temples.
The #19 Kyoto bus runs to Ohara from Kokusaikaikan Station on the Kyoto subway.
Kyoto bus #28 bus runs from Kyoto Station to Tenryuji Temple and Arashiyama.
The #205 Kyoto city bus leaves Kyoto Station for Enmachi, Kitano Hakubaicho, Kinkakuji then turn east for Kita-Oji. south to Shijo Kawaramachi and then south of Kyoto Station to Kujo Shako-mae, near Toji Temple.
The #206 Kyoto city bus runs in a loop in both clockwise and anti-clockwise directions. Clockwise #206 buses leave from bus stand B4 and anti-clockwise #206 buses depart from bus stand A2. The buses stop at Kyoto National Museum, Gion, Heian Jingu, Daitokuji and Nijo Castle.
The #208 Kyoto city bus passes Sanjusangendo Temple, the Kyoto National Museum and then south past Chishakuin Temple, Tofukuji Temple and then west below Kyoto Station via Toji Temple, then north near Umekoji Park and the Steam Locomotive Preservation Hall, Nishi-Honganji Temple and the Kyoto Aquarium before arriving at the end of its loop back at Kyoto Station.
Highway Buses to other major cities in Japan also run from the Kyoto Station terminus.
K'Loop Buses operate on weekends and public holidays and travel in a clockwise loop connecting many of Kyoto's attractions and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You can get on a K'Loop Bus at any of the following stops: 1) Kyoto Station Hachijoguchi, 2) Shijo Kawaramachi and Nishiki Market, 3) Kyoto City Hall/Honnoji Temple, 4) Nijo Castle, 5) Kyoto Imperial Palace (Gosho), 6) Kitano Tenmangu/Kamishichiken, 7) Kinkakuji Temple, 8) Daitokuji Temple, 9) Botanical Gardens, 10) Shimogamo Shrine/Tadasu-no-mori, 11) Demachiyanagi, 12) Ginkakuji Temple, 13) Heian Jingu/Okazaki Museum area, 14) Chion-in Temple and Maruyama Park, 15) Gion and Yasuka Shrine, 16) Kiyomizudera and 17) Sanjusangendo/Kyoto National Museum.
The fare is 1,000 yen (500 yen for children) for a day pass allowing you to hop on and hop off at any stop. Buy the ticket on the bus from the driver.
There are 19 buses a day beginning from Kyoto Station at 8.30am and then half hourly intervals until 5pm. One bus leaves Kyoto Station at 8.40am and stops first at Shijo Kawaramachi and then next at Demachiyanagi.
How To use Kyoto City Buses
Due to over-crowding on Kyoto's buses, since March 2018, most Kyoto buses are now entered from the door at the front rather than the side door as previously. Swipe your IC card, pay in cash or show the date on your pass to the driver.
Kyoto Bus Maps
You can plan your journeys in Kyoto using the handy arukumachikyoto.jp route planner in Japanese and English. You can also download the app.
The route planner gives the bus number, fare, and time needed to reach your destination as well as a map of your journey. Just enter your start point and destination.
Kyoto city has two useful bus maps of Kyoto which can be downloaded as pdf files:
Kyoto Bus Map 1 (Basic city area bus map)
Kyoto Bus Map 2 (Includes bus maps of outlying areas such as Ohara and Arashiyama)
Kyoto Bus Video