Kyoto travel passes are easily the best way to save yourself a bunch of money when traveling around the ancient capital. But, the main attractions are spread out all over the city, and not all discount passes will get you where you want to go. So here’s everything you need to know to help you choose the best pass for your trip to Kyoto.

Kyoto travel passes

Kyoto skyline with Kyoto Tower
The Kyoto skyline at dusk. | Photo by Getty Images

There are a whole range of Kyoto travel passes available. The key to picking the best one for you is deciding just which attractions you’d like to see and what you’d like to experience in Kyoto. Otherwise, you risk spending a lot of money on a pass that doesn’t serve your purpose. For those staying in Kyoto we recommend the Subway & Bus 1-Day Pass for its affordability and large area of coverage, or the Skyhop Bus for its multi-lingual audioguides. If you’re just day-tripping from Osaka, the Kyoto-Osaka Sightseeing Pass or the Hankyu Tourist Pass are good options.

Want to know more about the various transport options in Kyoto? Then check out our complete guide to getting around in Kyoto.

JR Pass and JR regional passes

Starting at ¥2,400 for a 1-Day Kansai Area Pass
Buy a Kansai Area Pass here

Suggested Activity
Save with the Klook Pass Osaka
Get up to 43% off your tickets to Osaka’s popular attractions, including the Harukas 300 Observatory, Legoland, teamLab Botanical Garden and more. ...

In addition to the classic country-wide JR Pass, there are JR West Passes and Kansai Area Passes. In most cases you’ll need to buy your pass before arriving in Japan. With any of them, you get unlimited rides on JR trains and buses in the validity area. While there are all sorts of things that you need to consider when buying a JR Pass, when it comes to getting around in Kyoto the main thing to keep in mind is that you can only use the JR Pass on JR lines. So if you’re planning on a full day of sightseeing you might want to check whether you can get to where you want to go using only JR trains. Otherwise, a different pass might serve you better.

Skyhop: Hop-on hop-off Sightseeing Bus

¥3,500 (1-Day Pass) or ¥5,000 (2-Day Pass)
Buy here

Heian shrine of Kyoto
Heian-jingū Shrine | Photo by iStock.com/SeanPavonePhoto

If you want to hit a lot of places in one day, this is the pass for you. While it’s definitely on the pricier end, it follows a loop course that hits all of Kyoto’s major attractions like Kinkakuji Temple, Heian-jingū Shrine, and Kiyomizudera Temple. There is free Wi-Fi onboard and also multi-lingual audio guides in the bus, so you can learn about Kyoto’s history and culture as you travel around. If you get the 2-Day Pass you must use it on consecutive days. You can buy Skyhop tickets online, in-person at a ticket counter, or as you board the bus.

Subway & Bus 1-Day Pass

¥1,100

This pass is valid on all Kyoto City Bus routes and both subway lines. It’s also valid on some Kyoto Bus, Keihan Bus, and JR West Bus routes. Because the pass combines bus and subway options, it covers a broad area. You can use it to get from Kinkakuji Temple in north-western Kyoto all the way to Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto’s south-east, although it would take a fair amount of time. The Subway & Bus 1-Day Pass can only be bought in person. There are several places that sell it, but the most convenient option is the Kyoto City Bus and Subway Information Center outside Kyoto Station’s Central Exit.

Subway 1-Day Pass

¥800

nijo castle
Nijō Castle | Photo by iStock.com/coward_lion

The Subway 1-Day Pass is a scaled back version of the Subway & Bus 1-Day Pass, that logically only covers Kyoto’s two subway lines. This makes it a bit more limited, but you could still use it to get to places like Nijō Castle, the Higashiyama District, and Nishiki Market in Shijō. Keep in mind that only one of Kyoto’s subway lines, the Karasuma Line, connects to Kyoto Station. Like the Subway & Bus 1-Day Pass, you need to buy this pass in-person and the most convenient location is the Kyoto City Bus and Subway Information Center outside Kyoto Station’s Central Exit.

Bus 1-Day Pass

¥700
Not available for purchase after September 30, 2023

This is the bus-only version of the Subway & Bus 1-Day Pass, but it’s being phased out in an attempt to tackle over-tourism and make the buses more available for locals. You will not be able to buy the pass after September 30, 2023, and passes bought by this date are only valid for use until March 31, 2024. Instead, tourists are being encouraged to make use of the subway along with buses, so the Subway 1-Day Pass and the Subway & Bus 1-Day Pass will still be available. Like those alternatives, if you want to get your hands on this pass, you’ll have to buy it in person.

K’Loop Sightseeing Loop Bus

¥1,500

Another hop-on hop-off bus option is the appropriately named K’Loop Bus. At the moment there are three routes; the Kinkakuji Temple/Nijō Castle route, the Heian Jingu Shrine/Kiyomizu route, and the Fushimi Inari Shrine/To-ji Temple route. There are also plans to start an Arashiyama route in the future. A ¥1,500 1-Day Pass gives you unlimited rides on all three routes, so it’s very good value for money. However, it doesn’t have Wi-Fi or audio guides like the more expensive Skyhop Bus. Departures are also less frequent, and you can only buy tickets in-person from the bus attendants.

Kyoto-Osaka Sightseeing Pass

¥600 (1-Day Pass) or ¥1,400 (2-Day Pass)
Buy here

Tea fields in Uji, Kyoto | Photo by iStock.com/TokioMarineLife

The Kyoto-Osaka Pass covers travel on the Keihan Line and the Otokoyama Cable Line. You can either buy it online in advance or in-person from select Kansai Tourist Information Centers, train stations, and hotels. Some overseas travel agents also sell them, but the cost may be higher. The pass is valid for either one or two days, and there’s also a Kyoto-only version that’s valid for just one day. If you get the 2-Day Pass, it can be used on non-consecutive days. This pass gives you good access to places like Gion, Fushimi Inari Shrine, Uji, and Osaka Castle. Note that the Kyoto-Osaka Sightseeing Pass is only available for foreign tourists to Japan.

Hankyu Tourist Pass

¥700 (1-Day Pass) or ¥1,200 (2-Day Pass)
Book here

If you’re planning to make a day-trip from Osaka to Kyoto, the Hankyu Tourist Pass might be what you’re looking for. You get unlimited rides on Hankyu Lines for either one or two (consectutive) days, which you can use to get to Arashiyama’s Bamboo Forest, and Kyoto-Kawaramachi Station which is right by Gion (a neighborhood known for geisha-spotting). This pass can also get you to Kōbe, or Minō so the 2-Day version is a good idea if you’d like to visit one of them too. Keep in mind that the Hankyu Tourist pass is only available to foreign tourists to Japan. You can buy the Hankyu Tourist Pass online or in-person at Hankyu Tourist Information Centers and at a select number of other locations.

Kansai Thru Pass

¥4,380 (2-Day Pass) or ¥5,400 (3-Day Pass)
Book here

Nara Todaiji Deer
Meet the locals in Nara | Photo by Lily Crossley-Baxter

Another pricier pass, the Kansai Thru Pass is suited for wider travel in the Kansai region. It’s valid on a wide range of private train lines, subways, and buses, but not on JR trains or buses. For travel in Kyoto, you can use it on the Hankyu Line and the two subway lines, but if you’re only traveling in Kyoto there are other travel passes that are more affordable. However, the Kansai Thru Pass can get you to Osaka, Kōbe, Wakayama, Nara, and Himeji so if you’re planning day-trips from Kyoto it may well be worth it, especially because the pass is valid on non-consectutive days. Keep in mind that this pass is only available for foreign tourists to Japan. The Kansai Thru Pass can be bought online in advance or in-person at a number of Tourist Information Centers, hotels, and Bic Camera stores in the Kansai region.

Frequently asked questions

Can I use my JR Pass in Kyoto?

If your JR Pass is valid for use in Kansai, then yes you can use your JR Pass to get around in Kyoto. However, there aren’t a lot of JR Lines there, so depending on where you go you may have to pay for the use of private rail or bus routes.

Are travel passes worth it?

Most travel passes are worth it if you use them for a whole day and visit more than just one or two attractions. Check the routes in advance and plan your day carefully in order to make the most out of them.

What transport card is used in Kyoto?

In Kyoto (and Kansai in general), the main transport card is the “ICOCA.” Its name is an abbreviation of “IC Operating Card” and also a pun because it sounds like “let’s go” in the local Kansai dialect. You can also use other IC Cards like Suica or Pasmo in Kyoto.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change.

Written by:
Filed under: Travel

Get the best Japan Cheapo hacks direct to your inbox

Recommended hotels located nearby