Saturday, January 14, 2017

Japan Travel — How to Ride a Bus in Kyoto Area

In this article, I will cover how to ride a bus in central Kyoto and nearby areas (e.g., Ohara and Arashiyama).  First, you may want to download this route map (in Japanese) provided by www.kyotobus.jp.

From 岩倉実相院 to 大原

Here is a case study—how to ride a bus from 岩倉実相院 to 大原 by route map.  Click below map to enlarge.

There is no direct bus route from 岩倉実相院 (at left center of the map) to 大原 (at top right of the map).  In this case, you need to take bus 21 or 23 (green line) to 花園橋 (at bottom center of the map) and then transfer to bus 16-19 (red lines) or bus 96 (green line) to 大原.

Notice that from 岩倉実相院 to 花園橋, there is another bus stop named 花園町 which differs from 花園橋 only by the third character of name.  Don't get off at 花園町 as the mistake that I have made.  Finally, to take bus 16-19, you also need to walk across the street.  So, if you cannot find the connecting bus stop after you get off the first bus, check it the stop is located across the street.

How to ride a bus

Normally, there are no English displays or announcements on the local bus and there are different ticketing systems depending on bus companies.  However, most bus systems in Kyoto area operate similarly in the following ways:
  1. Buses are boarded through the back door and exited from the front door.
    • Payment is made at the front when you exit
  2. When entering, pick up a numbered ticket (see above photo) from a small machine next to the door. If you use an IC card to pay the fare, touch your card against the sensor. 
    • Rechargeable IC cards such as SUICA, ICOCA and PITAPA can be used on all Kyoto City and Kyoto Buses. Outside the flat fare zone you should touch your card to an IC card reader when you enter the bus and again on your way out.
  3. A display above the driver shows the next stop and the fares for that stop in yen. 
    • To determine your fare, match the number on your ticket with the number and fare on the display. If you use an IC card, then you do not need to worry about this. 
    • For example, the number I got was "6" (means zone "6") and it matches the fare of 160 yen at that time (see below photo).  
      • However, the fare will increase from stop to stop.  The farther you ride, the higher the fare will become.  One time I have prepared the fare displayed when the bus stopped at the one before my destination.  However, when the bus started, the fare immediately change to a higher fare.
  4. When your stop is approaching, press one of the buttons on the wall to signal the driver that you wish to get off at the next stop. 
  5. You should pay with the exact fare. If you do not have the exact fare, use the changing machine to get small coins. 
    • In this case, 1000 yen notes become handy.  
    • None of the buses or trains I have taken in Kansai region accept credit cards (it's cash only).
  6. When getting off, put your ticket and the exact fare into the box next to the driver. If you use an IC card, touch the card against the reader near the driver.

If the bus run in the central Kyoto (the flat fare zone is marked on the map with a red line), a flat fare (230 yen in 2016) applies. In other words, you will pay the same price no matter how far you travel with the bus.  Some bus terminals have ticket booth, it's recommended to buy your paper ticket in advance especially when you carry luggage(s).  At 大原 (Ohara) bus terminal, it also has coin lockers to store away your luggage(s).  But, not sure if all bus terminals have coin lockers or not.

Please read the following article for more details:
Taking a Bus in Kyoto


  1. Taking a bus in Kyoto
  2. Kansai airport limousine bus between Kansai airport and Kobe
  3. Kansai airport limousine bus between Kansai airport and Nara
  4. Arukumachi kyoto route planner (bus and train)
  5. Utilizing Storage Locker
    • コイン ロッカ (coin locker) — あり (yes)
  6. 京都バス
  7. Local Buses (important)
  8. お得な乗車券 (Discount Bus Tickets; in Japanese)
  9. Kyoto Bus Route Map (pdf)
  10. Travel: How to Ride a Train in Japan (Travel for a Purpose)

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