Compared to Tokyo, Kyoto is a lot less complicated when you want to explore the place. You just need to understand how stuff works and life would be much easier.
Before starting your trip, one must know the places you plan to visit. You can check these places here. Once you’re set, it is easier for you to prioritize which ones to go first and which ones will go last. Just place them all up in a map and you will clearly identify your route.
Here’s one thing you need to know about Kyoto, all the buses that go to almost all places start at the Kyoto station. In short, it’s the most ideal place to start your journey. Also, Kyoto station has a tourist information center that you can visit to get information, free maps and everything you need to know about this amazing place.
Now that you have your list to visit and you already know where to start, let’s move on to familiarizing the bus routes in Kyoto. Traveling by bus is the most practical and widely used mode of transportation in Kyoto so I recommend you travel only by bus. There are two major companies that operate in Kyoto. One is the Kyoto City Bus and the other is the Kyoto Bus. If you are planning to go around the central city area (where most of the spots are located), take the Kyoto City Bus.
Bus routes are identified by number and in Kyoto station you will see many terminals assigned with various bus numbers. In your map, you will see that these routes are represented by colors. Find the first place you want to visit and identify which bus number goes there. It’s going to be the same process once you move to your next destination. Sometimes, there are locations that require you to ride twice in different buses but if you understand the map well enough, you’ll be alright. Also, the names of the bus stations are indicated in the map. It is important that you know the names of the stations.
Important Things You Need to Know
1. Bus Stations
The picture below is a station post with a symbol that essential means the bus stops there. Some bus stations have waiting sheds but others are just bare without anything but this post.
In most bus stations there are schedules that you can check. The schedules vary depending on the day of the week. You should also consider holidays. The picture below shows that you are in Horikawa-dori St. The bus that will stop at this station is Bus number 9 with the color blue. The schedule is divided into three (Weekdays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays). It’s not really hard to understand but maybe I can site an example. For Sundays & Holidays, the number 7 means 7 in the morning and there are 6 schedules for 7 AM. That’s 7:06, 7:18, 7:29, 7:39, 7:49, and 7:59. An average of 10 minutes interval. One of the hardest to figure out in a bus station is the name of the bus station itself. There’s just too many words and the names are sometimes located in really hard to find places. 🙂
The directory is not always the same in every station. Some have really animated stuff that updates you on the number of minutes you need to wait for the next bus but it’s basically following the same principle.
2. Bus Fare
The bus fare is ¥230. It is fixed regardless of the distance but if you purchase the all-day pass, you can get it for ¥500. It will save you hundreds of yens. The all-day pass can be purchased once you are already on-board the bus. When you purchase the all-day pass, the date of purchase will appear at the back-bottom portion of the card. Before getting off the bus, show the date to the driver.
3. Bills and Coins
You need to prepare coins before riding the bus but incase you need to change your bills to coins, there is a machine inside the bus (near the payment slot) that can do the job for you. How cool is that?! You can ask the assistance of the driver.
4. The Red Button
I don’t really know what this one is called but if you need to stop at the next station, just push this red button. It’s literally everywhere inside the bus so you don’t need to worry about not being near it.
You need to understand that Japanese people are known for their discipline. This is evident even in their transportation system. Always remember that the door in the middle is the entrance and the front door is the exit. This is the most strategic place for the exit as it is near the payment slot machine.
6. TV Screen
In order to monitor your travel, you need to pay attention to the monitor near the bus driver. It shows the current bus stations and the upcoming stations. When you press the red button, the monitor flashes a pink screen with the words “Bus Stop”. It means that the bus will stop at the next station.
Bus is the easiest and cheapest way to go around Kyoto that’s why I highly recommend it but it should not limit you from exploring other modes of transportation there. If you’re in a hurry, you might need a faster mode but if time is on your side, go and try the bus. And don’t forget to research for other places to explore aside from the ones that I suggested. Hope this could help you! Enjoy Kyoto! 🙂