Travel tips for Kyoto city. Spend your days enjoying Kyoto, not stressing about how to get from A to B!
This article will answer questions on how to navigate Kyoto city and where you can leave your luggage while you're enjoying the sights.
Kyoto is a historical city in Japan, which attracts millions of visitors per year. If you know how to get around you can do a huge amount of sight seeing in a short time. This article will get you going quickly and efficiently, so you can enjoy the city to the fullest.
A trip to Kyoto is a highlight of any visit to Japan. The city was spared by the allies during World War II and a walk through the streets and temples truly is a step back in time. However, like anywhere in Japan, there is a language barrier and you can waste a lot of time trying to find your way around. I hope this article eliminates that frustration and allows you to really enjoy the city.
Whether you arrive by bus or train, your starting point in Kyoto will be JR Kyoto station. The station is 470 meters long and 70 meters high, a colossal structure well worth a look on its own.
It’s not normally official policy, but almost all hotels and hostels will let you drop your bags off before the actual check-in time if you call and ask politely, however that requires access to a Japanese speaker in most cases. If you’re unable to call ahead, or the hotel is not convenient there are thousands of lockers inside Kyoto station where you can store your gear for 300-500 yen per day.
The two best methods to travel around the city are by bicycle and bus. Bicycle is the easiest to describe so I will cover it first. Go to the Kyoto City Tour Project site, pick out your bike, plot a route and you’re set. Be warned the city is in a basin with most temples in the surrounding foothills so while bicycle may be the fastest option, you will want to be fit before taking this on. Bicycles typically cost between 1,000 and 2,000 yen per day to rent.
The other option is to buy an all-day bus pass and enjoy being driven around the city. Kyoto has an excellent city bus service and the map they provide with the ticket is very easy to follow. Sll routes are color-coded and numbered, so you line up which sites you’re going to visit and get on the corresponding bus. There are busses every few minutes and at 500 yen for an all-day pass the ticket is great value. Note that some areas are “outside” the designated free zone. I’ve found all temples on the east and north side are covered while some on the west side of Kyoto cost a little extra. Don’t let this dissuade you from checking out west Kyoto as there are some amazing spots there such as Tenryu-ji and Koke-dera.
Here is a scan of the city bus map. Colored and numbered lines, very easy.
Most hotels and hostels should have the passes for sale in the lobby, just ask for a “bus pass” and they will set you up. To pick one up at Kyoto station, go out through to the main entrance (if you arrive by Shinkansen you’ll need to walk over from the other side of the station) and just outside by the busses there is a stand-alone information center just over to the right of the bus bays.
There are train and subway lines in Kyoto, which you will not normally use if you are visiting for just a few days. If you want to go further out, or perhaps visit Nara trains are cheap and frequent. One very famous shrine, Fushimi-inari is easiest to access by train.
One option I do not recommend is renting a car, simply because you then have to park it and a lot of sites won't provide car parking. Some of the big temples have car parks however you'll miss out on all the great smaller shrines and parks hidden away in the back alleys.
I hope that by now the worry about how to get around Kyoto and experience all it has to offer is gone. As for what you should see, I'll leave that for another article.