There is a saying that visitors only go to Osaka because there’s no airport in Kyoto, and — no shade to Osaka — in some ways this is true. Indeed, Kansai International Airport is the main airport for the Kansai region, and therefore the main gateway for foreign tourists wanting to visit the ancient capital. But how do you get from one to the other?
While Kansai International Airport (sometimes refered to by its airport code ‘KIX’) is built on a man-made island in Osaka Bay, Kyoto is located inland to the north-east of the airport. As the crow flies, there’s about 80 km between the two locations. There are a few transport options for getting from one to the other, so let’s get into it.
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What are the options for getting from Kansai International Airport to Kyoto?
While there are a few ways to get from Kansai International Airport to Kyoto, we recommend taking a train. In particular, the Haruka Express can get you to Kyoto fast, with no transfers and free Wi-FI. If you buy your ticket online it’s also the most affordable option. However, if you’re not eligible for the Haruka Express discounts, taking the Airport Rapid Service and JR Kyoto Line Special Rapid is an affordable option.
|Mode||Approx Cost||Travel Time||Frequency||Booking Method||Notes|
|Fastest train: Haruka Express||¥2,900*||80 mins||1 to 2 per hour||In person/Online|
|Cheapest train: Airport Rapid Service||¥1,910||95 mins||~4 per hour||In person|
|Limousine Bus||¥2,600||90 mins||1 to 2 per hour||Online|
|Taxi — Regular||¥30,000||Varies||On demand||In person||Can transport up to 4 passengers|
|Taxi — Private prebooked||From ¥25,000||100 min||On demand||Online||Extra services available|
*Discounts are available, read on for more details.
NOTE: Unless otherwise indicated, transport times and prices are calculated from Kansai International Airport to Kyoto Station. Kyoto Station is the main train station in Kyoto, and has good transit connections to the rest of the city.
Rail options getting from Kansai International Airport to Kyoto
There are a few rail options for getting to Kyoto, however we believe these are the best two. They get you to Kyoto Station with minimal transfers for reasonable prices. From Kyoto Station, you can transfer to a number of local train lines to get to your accommodation.
Not sure where to stay in Kyoto? Check out our complete Kyoto accommodation guide to get you started.
Fastest option: Haruka Express80 minutes
¥2,900 (discounts available)
The Haruka Express, also known as the Kansai Airport Express, is a speedy and convenient option for getting from Kansai International Airport to Kyoto. It makes the journey in 80 minutes, and requires no transfers. While the price point is high, there are some discounts available that we’ll get to in a moment.
Facilities onboard the Haruka Express include free Wi-Fi and dedicated luggage storage areas. There are also options for seat upgrades and reservations. However, keep in mind that there are only one to two departures per hour.
Okay, so let’s talk discounts. The easiest option by far, is to buy your ticket online. It will cost you just ¥1,800 one-way, and you can buy it ahead of time to save yourself some hassle. You can also opt for a combo ticket that includes the Haruka Express ticket and a ticket to Kyoto Railway Museum for ¥2,100 total. At full price these tickets would cost you ¥4,100 altogether, so that’s some significant savings.
Another option is to pick up a ICOCA and Haruka set for ¥3,800 one-way or ¥5,600 round-trip. This set includes a Haruka Express ticket, and an ICOCA card (a type of IC card or prepaid transport card). The ICOCA will have ¥1,500 loaded on it and a refundable deposit of ¥500 if you return the card at the end of your trip. A nice bonus with this set is that the ICOCA cards have limited edition designs that you can only get at Kansai Airport.
Alternatively, if you already have an ICOCA card you can just get the discounted Haruka Express ticket. It’s ¥1,800 one-way and you will need to show your ICOCA card when collecting the ticket.
The ICOCA and Haruka set or the discount Haruka Express ticket can be purchased at the airport, or online in advance.
NOTE: All three discounts are only available to foreign passport holders with a valid temporary visitor stamp.
Cheapest option: Airport Rapid Service and JR Kyoto Line Special Rapid95 minutes
1 transfer at Osaka Station
If you’re not eligible for the Haruka Express discounts, this is the cheapest way to make the trip from Kansai International Airport to Kyoto Station. Instead of the Haruka Express, take the slower Airport Rapid Service to Osaka Station. At Osaka Station transfer to a JR Kyoto Line Special Rapid.
As this is the cheaper option, it’s not surprising that the trains don’t have the same facilities as the Haruka Express. There’s no free Wi-Fi or dedicated luggage storage space on either train. However, departures are more frequent — there are about four Airport Rapid Services per hour, and about three JR Kyoto Line Special Rapid services per hour.
NOTE: You could also take a JR Kyoto Line Local train from Osaka Station, but these services cost the same as the Special Rapid and are slower.
Bus options for getting from Kansai International Airport to Kyoto¥2,600
If you’d rather kick back and not think about transfers or luggage, the Limousine Bus is a good option. Once you’re on board, you’ll be dropped off directly at Kyoto Station in about 90 minutes. You do pay for the convenience though, as this option costs much more than many of the rail options. Also, there’s no free Wi-Fi.
Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic the bus services are reduced, so the only stop in Kyoto is at Kyoto Station. However, in normal times the Limousine Bus also stopped at a number of other stations in Kyoto, so once those start up again it will become even more convenient.
Tickets can be easily purchased online.
Taxi options for getting from Kansai Internaional Airport to Kyoto¥25,000 to ¥30,000
If you are traveling in a large group you may want to consider taking a taxi. While certainly not the cheapest option, it can be convenient as it’s guaranteed to take you exactly where you want to go. For a regular taxi that can fit up to four passengers, expect to pay around ¥30,000 (or ¥7,500 each) for a trip to Kyoto Station. A cheaper option is to book online in advance. Prices start from around ¥25,000, and you can filter for extra services like child seats and boosters.
Frequently asked questions
Can I use my JR Pass to get from Kansai International Airport to Kyoto?
Yes, you can use the JR Pass on both of the train routes we suggested, however, we don’t recommend it. Instead, for the best value use your JR Pass for longer Shinkansen trips.
What about taking the Shinkansen?
It’s possible, but not really worth it. To travel by Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka Station to Kyoto Station it takes 15 minutes and costs ¥1,440. To get to Shin-Osaka Station from Kansai International Airport you take the Haruka Express, which — as we discussed earlier — will actually take you all the way to Kyoto without transfers. So you’re adding a transfer to a journey that doesn’t need one, and adding ¥1,440 to the cost. You save 15 minutes, but accounting for the time it takes to transfer and buy new tickets it will balance out. Even if you use a JR Pass to avoid the extra cost, we don’t see much point.
Can I drive from Kansai International Airport to Kyoto?
Yes, you definitely can. There are a few car rental options in the airport. Renting might work out a bit cheaper than a taxi, but once you consider the cost of tolls and parking it could well balance out.
Information is subject to change. This post was originally published in December 2015. Last updated in December 2022 by Maria Danuco.