Understanding the Kyoto Bus System

Updated on February 9, 2018

The Route

Kyoto is a darling little city, and much more homey than urban Tokyo. You can experience more of Japan in Kyoto because there is a balance of history and entertainment in it. All four corners of this city are accessible by bus. For tourists, taking the bus is preferable because it has more stops directly near tourist spots. Buses pass through Arashiyama Area, Kinkakuji Area, Okazaki Area, Ginakakuji Area, and Higashiyama Area. A little downside is that traffic can be a bit heavy during rush hours, but compared to Manila? Pshhh...it's nothing.

You can download a copy while planning your IT but once you are at Kyoto, get a free one at the Kyoto Station Tourist Information Office. Click on this link to download the map:
You can download a copy while planning your IT but once you are at Kyoto, get a free one at the Kyoto Station Tourist Information Office. Click on this link to download the map: | Source

Bus Types

The Raku Bus 100 is a tourist favorite. It is a sight seeing bus that travels directly to tourist sports. The fare is the same with the regular buses but it is usually packed. This bus type is only available until 17:00 (5pm).

In case you missed your last bus ride, don't fret, Kyoto City Buses are available until late at night. We went home one time at 11:30pm and a bus was still available. I didn't check though if they're available 24 hours. Kyoto City Buses are Green and during our travel we rode this one more often.

Kyoto Buses are Cream in color. I remember only riding this going to Fushimi Inari Shrine because it is quite far from the city center.

Raku Bus 100
Raku Bus 100

The Fare

The flat rate is 220 yen for adults and 110 yen for kids. This means, even if you're disembarking on the next stop or at the 10th stop, it doesn't matter, you will pay 220 yen. If you choose to pay in yen, drop the coins in the hole on top of the machine beside the driver. Take note that no change will be given for coins. If you only have bills, you can insert the bill to the allotted slot and the machine will generate equivalent coins from it. You can use these coins to pay.

As a tourist, I am sure you're going to ride the train more than 3 times per day. So, I highly recommend the Kyoto Bus Pass because we saved a lot using it. You can buy from The Kyoto Information Station or from the bus driver himself. The 24 hour validity will start only when the card was first put in the machine. The machine will print the date at the back. After the first time, simply show your card to the driver before leaving the bus.

Understanding the Map

Now, you're ready to explore Kyoto!

The Kyoto City Bus Map will be your best friend. It is better than any online map while you are in Kyoto so remember to keep yours. With all the lines and colors, it can be very overwhelming but just keep an eye on the important map legends and you'll never get lost.

1. Big Squares = Major Stations

Stations in boxes on the map are main stations. The numbers inside the boxes are the Bus numbers that load/unload passengers in said stations. Also, pay attention to the color of the numbers. These colors trace the path of the bus' route.
Stations in boxes on the map are main stations. The numbers inside the boxes are the Bus numbers that load/unload passengers in said stations. Also, pay attention to the color of the numbers. These colors trace the path of the bus' route.

2. White Dots = Smaller Stations / Bus Stops

One bus stop is Nanajo Kawaramachi. Notice that there are 3 dots in it. This means that buses 17, 206 and 205 stop here. Look at the line colors carefully.
One bus stop is Nanajo Kawaramachi. Notice that there are 3 dots in it. This means that buses 17, 206 and 205 stop here. Look at the line colors carefully.

Sample Route

Your starting point is Kyotoekimae (ekimae means "in front of" btw :)) and you wnat to go to Gojozaka. Ride either bus 100 or 206. These two buses will both pass by Kyotoekimae and Gojozaka.

TIP: Look closely, Bus 206 has 6 stops (including white dots) and Bus 100 only has 3. This means that although both will pass by the same stop, Bus 100 will take you to your destination faster.

Look at the dots and details closely.
Look at the dots and details closely.

The Schedule

Buses in Japan, just like the trains, arrive on time. Every stop/station has a bus schedule posted. A tourist usually has a free schedule but this information comes in handy if you plan to stay out late or if you're catching a flight.

Below is the schedule of BUS # 208 in Higashiyama-dori Stop. You will see the BUS NO. (#208) and the time it arrives. This bus' first trip is 6:11am followed by 6:58am. The last trip is 9:57pm (21:57). Note that the bus schedule differs during weekdays, weekends and holidays.

Some slightly bigger bus stops have automated displays to let you know if you're bus is arriving or is 3 stops away.

Buses in Japan, just like the trains, arrive on time.
Buses in Japan, just like the trains, arrive on time.
Bus No. 91 is 3 stops away Bus No. 93 is now arriving at the station in a few seconds. An automated schedule, how cool is that??!
Bus No. 91 is 3 stops away Bus No. 93 is now arriving at the station in a few seconds. An automated schedule, how cool is that??!

Disembarking

You just have to listen well to know if the next stop is yours. There is a recording on board to remind each passenger of the upcoming stop. It is in Japanese, English, (and if I'm right) Chinese. More than that, there is a monitor in front of the bus indicating the next stop and the tourist stops easily accessible from it.

If you're alighting at the nest stop, press the red/yellow button found inside the bus to alert the driver. If you missed your stop, the bus driver will not let you out. You will have to wait until the next stop. Don't be a pain and cause a commotion. The Japanese will hate you for it. Be alert.

Remember to push this red/yellow button
Remember to push this red/yellow button

Conclusion

The bus route is circular but how will you know if the bus is uptown, downtown, north, or south? You might be expecting to alight on the next stop, but realize that the bus you're riding is counterclockwise. This we learned by experience and cannot be taught. There is a guide on the bus shed/station, but it is in Japanese. We got disoriented at first but not lost. Just stick to your map and you'll figure it out. You'll enjoy being a little lost somehow and the Japanese will surprise you with their helpful nature. My husband and I were arguing on which bus to take when a kind school boy offered to assist us. We ended up teaching him as well but it was an awesome experience just the same.

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