Kyoto is laid out on a grid system, with north-south running streets crossing those running east-west. Many of the major sights are close enough to be explored on foot (if you enjoy walking!) but at some point in your travels you will almost certainly need to use local transport if you really want to know how to get around Kyoto like locals.
Public buses are well posted by sign, frequent and reliable, and due to the number of tourists using the major bus routes, you often get announcements in English. All buses depart from clearly marked platforms at the Karasuma exit in Kyoto Station. Bus 100 runs every 10 minutes and plies a route that goes past or near many of the city’s major attractions in east Kyoto including Kiyomizu Temple, Gion, Nanzenji and Ginkakuji. For an inner city trip expect to pay 220 Yen (or 500 Yen for an all-day-pass). You can pick up a map of major bus routes at the Bus and Subway Info counter or the Kyoto Tourist Information Office.
Kyoto keeps it simple by having two subway lines: the Karasuma Line (north and south) and the Tozai Line (east and west). With subway tickets costing just slightly less than a bus ticket, it’s a good option to consider if you don’t mind a bit more of a walk to get to your destination (as opposed to buses that tend to stop closer to major sites).
If you plan on doing a lot of travel by bus and subway you can buy combination transport tickets for one or two days. It is also possible to purchase a Kansai Thru Pass (Surutto Kansai), which allows for subway and rail travel (excluding JR trains) throughout the region, including Osaka, Kyoto and Nara. Information on these travel passes can be obtained at the airport (Kansai International) or at the Bus and Subway Info counter in Kyoto Station.
If you’d rather not mix with the masses, you can hail a cab or book one from a taxi stand or hotel. Fares start at 660 Yen.
Seeing the city under your own steam is not as crazy as it sounds. Kyoto is relatively flat and easy to navigate, and at peak times, bikes can be faster than a taxi!
Book a Kyoto bike tour.