Feb 10, 2014

How to travel on Buses in Kyoto (Japan)

So I went to Kyoto alone recently and experienced first hand how travelling solo in a foreign country is. I went on many wasted paths and had to learn everything by myself.

So I'm going to share everything I know about the Kyoto Bus systems with you guys, hopefully this is helpful to someone!

kyoto on bus

Why take the Bus? :

Compared to Tokyo, moving around is a very different ball game in Kyoto. In Kyoto, it's all about the buses and you can reach pretty much any attractions with the buses. For in-depth explanation about transporting in Kyoto, you can go to Kyoto City's website.

I'm going to briefly explain the bus system in Kyoto and then explain how to use the Kyoto City Bus Map.  I will also share some hands-on tips not found in other tourism website .

Different types of Bus Cards :

You pay for a bus ride with either cash or Bus card. Below are a few card options you can have. You can purchase the cards in advance at many places such as the City Bus or Subway's information office or ticket office. Some hostels also sells them and it seems like you can buy them on the bus itself, though I imagine that would be quite a messy sight during peak hours. 

Below are the different Bus Cards available.

Kyoto City Web  Access  Public transport in Kyoto - Google Chrome 1022014 91200 PM.bmp
Kyoto Bus[9] 
The City Bus All-day Pass . It can only be used for one day.

For my trip last year, I've only found the need to purchase the one-day City Bus Pass as I hold a JR Pass ( I talked about  budget travelling & JR Pass in another post) that can cover most of my Train rides. For use of the Kyoto Subway Line (This is different from the JR Train lines), I just use my Suica Card since I was in Tokyo the week before and hence found it easier to just use my Suica. Then I use my JR Pass when I need to use the train instead of purchasing a Day pass that includes both Railway and Buses and then having to restrict my tour plans.

I'm not saying the Day Passes are not good , it's just that you should make sure you are able to fully utilise the cost for the that day otherwise it is not worth the price. 

How to Pay:

Regardless of whether you are using cash or card, you pay when you alight the bus. You board the bus from the back door and alight at the front door.


If you are using the City Bus Pass, the first time you use it, you have to slot the card into this machine beside the bus driver. That machine will verify and stamp a date onto your card. Then for the rest of the day, before you alight from your bus, just turn your card around and show the bus driver the date stamped on it.

  If the buses you took are Non-flat fare buses, then you need to insert your ticket into the machine when you board the bus. Then when it's time to get off, you insert the card into the machine again and it will tell you how much in cash you need to top up. 

If you use cash, just prepare 220yen of coins and put them into this coin slot machine beside the driver. 220 Yen is the flat rate for most buses in Kyoto.

If the buses you took are Non-Flat fare buses, then you need to get a ticket from the front of the bus when you board the bus. After that you figure out how much you need to pay by looking at the display screen on the front of the bus and then pay in cash when you alight. When I returned from Arashiyama, the bus fare was 240yen and I didn't take any ticket coupon (I wasn't aware then) but I just verbally asked the bus driver and just paid in cash^^;  So I guess that works too =x

No change will be given for any cash payment so give exact change. 

This video uploaded by japanese1cooking gives a very good run down of the payment process on Buses in Kyoto.


How to use the Bus (and read the Kyoto City Bus Map):

Before all else, make sure you Print or get your hands on this Kyoto City bus Map. If you buy your Bus Cards at the Bus Office in front of JR Kyoto station, they should give you one of this map for free.  Either that or just save the PDF / image into your smart devices. This is essential!!

Screen Captures
Kyoto City Bus Sightseeing Map "Busnavi"

How to use the Bus Map:

1) First thing you should do is figure out where you are and which is the nearest bus stop to you.

The Bus numbers are the numbers in a small colored box. The same colour will be used throughout to symbolize the route the bus will take (those thick coloured lines). Bus Stops are represented either as a big box or a really small white circle. 

how to read kyoto bus map

2) Second, find the attraction you want to go and the bus stop closest to it. 

3) Third, find the bus that can connect both locations together. The direction the bus goes toward is indicated with a small black or white arrow, however that arrow is not shown in every Bus Stop so you might have to go forward or backwards on the line to figure out the flow. 

I am at Yasaka Shrine. The nearest bus stop is “Gion
I want to go to Kiyomizu Temple and it’s nearest bus stop is “Kiyomizu-michi
I can take bus 100, 202, 206, 207. I alight at the third bus stop counting from where I board.

Sometimes you have a direct bus, sometimes you need to take a few buses. Either way, you will be taking a bus and you have to decide which. 
4) Fourth step is to figure out which direction your bus stop is going and whether to take the bus from this side or the other side. 

You're probably a little puzzled now but there is actually 2 Bus Stops with the exact same names.

They are usually across the street from each other and they service the same buses which goes in opposite directions. This was originally a super puzzling thing to me as I found myself alighting at different bus stops that both called themselves "Gion" –_-;;;;

Until I realize, the front of the Bus Stop pillar/stand (facing the road =_=;;; ) actually writes which direction it is going by indicating what is the next stop.  So based on what the next bus stop is, you will need to figure out which side of the route you are on. This might take some time so it is recommended that you take your time to clarify it before hopping onto whatever bus that comes.


If you can find the bus you want to board and the next few stops is correct when tallied against your Kyoto City Bus Map then you should be fine. Otherwise you might need to look and ask around for the correct bus stop. The other Bus Stop with the same name is usually just across the street but sometimes they might be around a bend and be in your blind spot.


The pillar also lists information for each bus such as the string of bus stops ahead and the estimated bus arrival timings. The arrival timings are pretty darn accurate !


So that's pretty much it! I hope this guide had been comprehensive and helpful! If you liked it, remember to subscribe to this blog, comment and share it with your friends!

1 comment:

Danny said...

Great job. I guess this will help me much.