So, is one day in Kyoto enough?!
Well, probably not. 😉
But if it’s all you have, then here’s how to make the most of it!
First, the quick list of places to visit in Kyoto in one day.
Then, a little bit about taking the bus in Kyoto, with and without a bus pass.
Then, some more pictures of this one day Kyoto itinerary to see if it’s something you want to follow!
Best places to visit in Kyoto in one day with a bus pass
1. Nijo Castle (and teahouse)
2. Kinkakuji Temple
3. Ryoanji Temple
5. Chion-in Temple
7. Kiyomizu-dera Temple
How to get around for this Kyoto itinerary
- Kyoto Station to Nijo Castle bus
- Visit Nijo Castle (and teahouse)
- Nijo Castle to Kinkakuji bus
- Visit Kinkakuji Temple
- Kinkakuji to Ryoanji bus
- Visit Ryoanji Temple
- Ryoanji to Yasaka Shrine bus
- Visit Yasaka Shrine (Gion)
- Gion to Kiyomizu-dera walk
- Kiyomizu-dera Temple
- Kiyomizu-dera to Kyoto station bus
Kyoto map with attractions
The map may not work very well here on this page on mobile, sorry! In that case, see this Kyoto map in Google Maps!
Hotels in Kyoto
Put in your travel dates below (partner website) and you’ll be able to see the prices of the hotels in Kyoto on the map!
3 things you NEED for this one day Kyoto itinerary
Okay, you don’t NEED any of these things, but all of them will definitely make your life on the streets of Kyoto MUCH easier!
1. Wifi or data on your phone
Pocket wifi is a thing for travelers in Japan.
If you’re American and have t-mobile, most standard plans come with FREE international data so be sure to look into it! It’s only 2G, but it worked well for me for purposes of getting around Kyoto!
And if you have Sprint, also look into the Japan roaming plan (that’s a pdf), as it seems you can get unlimited text and data in Japan for $5! Not sure if this is a limited time offer, but worth looking into!
2. Google maps app on your phone
So the reason you will want to highly consider wifi is because Google Maps will make your life much easier.
Once you’re done visiting one place and you’re ready to move on to the next one, open up Google Maps with data/wifi and GPS enabled.
Then let it tell you the best way to get to your next destination by bus or by walking!
And when you’re on the bus, you can keep an eye on Google Maps to know when you’re getting close to your stop.
3. One day bus pass
Well, since this IS an itinerary that uses a bus pass, this will be useful to have.
You CAN follow this itinerary without it, but it WILL cost you more.
AND not only that, you’ll have to get out those coins every time you want to ride the bus. A one day bus pass really is just easier!
PLUS: Travel insurance for Japan!
This one’s not specific to Kyoto, but it can be a very good idea to have travel insurance like this for your trip to Japan in the unlikely even that something goes wrong!
My travel insurance covered me when I had to stay extra days in Japan due to a typhoon that closed Kansai Airport, and they’ll even allow you to buy a policy even if you’re already in Japan.
Is it worth it to get a one day Kyoto bus pass?
If you will be taking the bus more than 2 times in one day, then YES! It’s worth it.
If you follow this particular itinerary, you’ll be taking the bus 5 times, so it will more than pay for itself!
The one day bus pass costs 600 yen (US$5)
There are a few different types of buses that go around Kyoto, and this particular bus pass will cover 2 main types of buses:
- City bus
- Kyoto bus
How to get around Kyoto by bus
Generally speaking, a single bus ride will probably cost you around 200-400 yen (US$2-3) when you are paying for individual rides.
City bus without a bus pass
The city bus is a flat rate of 260 yen per bus ride.
You pay right before you get off the bus.
Kyoto bus without a bus pass
The Kyoto bus is based on where you get on and get off, so the exact bus fare will depend on your route, but it will probably be between 200-500 yen.
For this one, you’ll grab a ticket when you get on the bus, and there will be a number printed on it.
There’s a sign board at the front of the bus that will tell you the corresponding rate that you’ll pay once you’re ready to get off. The adult fare and child fare is shown.
Then you’ll pay that amount right before you get off the bus.
The city bus and the Kyoto bus are basically the regular buses.
And then there is also the Raku bus, which is actually a type of city bus, but it looks a little different from a regular city bus.
The Raku bus is basically a tourist bus with a route that caters to the Kyoto sightseeing spots.
The bus fare for the Raku bus is a flat 230 yen per ride.
How to get off the bus
When your stop is coming up next, you’ll push the button and then exit at the front of the bus.
The bus stops will be announced, and there is also a digital sign board at the front of the bus.
But follow along with GPS on Google Maps so you’ll know when your stop is approaching.
How to use the one day bus pass
The bus pass also doesn’t cover ALL parts of Kyoto.
That only becomes a concern if you are going on the outskirts of Kyoto, like to the more rural Ohara village.
There are other types of buses in Kyoto, but the city bus and Kyoto bus will be able to get you around to the main attractions of Kyoto well.
The first time you use the pass, you’ll put it through the card machine when you get off the bus. You can think of this as the way to activate the bus pass.
After that, to use your bus pass, you’ll flash the back of your pass that has the date on it to the bus driver as you get off.
These instructions are on the back of the bus pass.
If you’re unsure of anything, just make gestures to the bus driver about whether or not you’re doing the right thing. (Most probably don’t speak much English.)
If you follow the route outlined on this one day itinerary, you’re likely to mostly end up on a city bus or Raku bus.
Using the ICOCA card on the bus in Kyoto
If you won’t be using a bus pass, you can also use an ICOCA card.
This is basically a recharge card, and you’ll put money on this card ahead of time so all you have to do for trains and buses is to swipe or insert your card to pay.
You’ll pay the regular bus fare, and this in no way will save you money. It’s just highly convenient.
You can get an icoca card at the Kyoto train station.
If you are in Tokyo before Kyoto, you can get a suica card or pasmo card, and then you can use these cards wherever icoca cards are accepted.
If you’ll be taking a lot of local buses and trains for travel within cities, you’ll want to highly consider getting one of these cards. They can make your life MUCH easier!
One of the biggest advantages for the train is that you won’t have to buy individual train tickets. For buses, you don’t have to be concerned about always having exact change.
These cards cost around 500 yen (US$5), although technically this is just a deposit and you can return the card at the end of your Japan trip to get the money back. But also consider keeping the card as a souvenir! 😉
Where to buy a one day Kyoto bus pass
These are probably the 2 easiest ways to buy a Kyoto bus pass:
- Bus ticket center at Kyoto station
- Bus ticket machine at Kyoto station
So the Kyoto station is home to both the train station and bus station.
When you exit the Kyoto station at the main exit (the central exit), you’ll pretty much immediately see the area for the buses.
1. Bus ticket center at Kyoto station
Exiting from the train station, the ticket center is located in a building to the right of all the bus stands.
You can go in and buy a bus pass directly from a person.
There’s also a small cafe inside if you want to grab a quick snack.
2. Ticket machine at Kyoto station
Similarly, once you exit the train station, you can locate a ticket machine directly to the right of the bus stands, almost alongside the road.
Here you’ll be able to purchase a bus pass as well.
What about the bus timings?
When I did this, I wasn’t concerned about specific bus timings.
The most important thing is the frequency of the buses.
And since these places to visit are popular areas, the frequency of the buses between the various tourist attractions is good enough.
You generally won’t have to wait too long for the next bus.
When you’re ready to move on to the next attraction, just consult Google Maps!
What if you need help at the Kyoto bus station?!
If you see people dressed in purple, they are there to help you!
What’s the WORST part about getting around Kyoto by bus?!
There IS a possibility that you’ll end up on a crowded bus.
This means that you might end up standing for much of the time that you’re in transit.
But don’t worry, there are plenty of areas to sit and rest up along the way at the sites of the tourist attractions once you’re off the bus. 😉
And there IS a chance that you COULD end up on an empty bus!
What about the JR pass to get around Kyoto by bus?
If you want to consider doing Kyoto sightseeing exclusively with your JR pass by bus, there is a JR bus which means free bus rides to get around Kyoto.
The route is a bit more limiting, but you can still see a number of places.
Of the attractions that are a part of this list with the one day bus pass, you can get to the following attractions by taking the JR bus:
- Kyoto Station
- Nijo Castle
- Kinkakuji Temple
- Ryoanji Temple
So this is basically the first part of the itinerary (in this exact order), and the castle and temples are some of the top UNESCO world heritage sites in Kyoto.
See more of the JR bus route.
Now, to see if you want to follow this plan…
How to spend one day in Kyoto!
This was my exact route in August 2018.
Kyoto Station to Nijo Castle bus
So once you get to Kyoto station and you have your one day bus pass, onward to getting to the right bus stand!
You can ask the good people in purple…
And you can also look at the information board to find out where the bus to Nijo Castle is.
You’ll find a section that lists the platform of all the top Kyoto attractions.
The bus to Nijo Castle will be at platform B1 and B2.
As a popular tourist attraction, it’s possible there will already be a long line when you arrive.
Off to Nijo Castle you go!
The bus will drop you off right in front of Nijo Castle.
Nijo Castle (UNESCO world heritage site)
Cost: 600 yen (US$5)
You’ll probably end up spending 1-2 hours on a visit to Nijo Castle.
Nijo Castle teahouse
Consider stopping by the Waraku-an teahouse that’s on the grounds of Nijo Castle.
You can make your own matcha green tea straight from the matcha powder!
Nijo Castle cafe
There’s also a little cafe near the exit if you want to sit down for some snacks too.
Nijo Castle to Kinkakuji bus
Once you’ve finished your visit to Nijo Castle, next up is Kinkakuji Temple!
You’ll take a bus ride and then walk a little bit to get to the Kinkakuji entry.
You can also find some snacks on the way to Kinkakuji Temple.
Kinkakuji Temple (UNESCO world heritage site)
Cost: 400 yen (US$4)
Maybe you’ll spend an hour here.
Kinkakuji to Ryoanji bus
Next up, you’ll take another bus ride, followed up with a short walk to get to the Ryoanji Temple entry!
Throughout the day, you’ll come across many vending machines so you can stay well-hydrated. (And you will have no problem finding a toilet at the tourist attractions.)
Ryoanji Temple (UNESCO world heritage site)
Cost: 500 yen (US$5)
This is considered to be a zen temple, and it’s also famous for its rock garden.
This is a place you can spend a short time if you want to make this a quick visit, or you can spend longer if you like the atmosphere.
Ryoanji to Yasaka Shrine bus
This will be a bus ride to Gion where the Yasaka shrine is located.
You’ll be dropped off on the streets of Gion, and this is a place that can be good to do your souvenir shopping or gift shopping.
From the bus stop, it’ll be a short walk to the Yasaka Shrine.
This is another place that can be a quick visit where you can spend a short time roaming around the grounds of the shrine.
Yasaka Shrine to Chion-in Temple
Start of Gion to Kiyomizu-dera walk
Once you’ve finished up at the shrine, you’ll start your walk from Gion to Kiyomizu-dera.
It’ll be a short walk to get to Chion-in Temple.
Cost: 500 yen (US$5)
You can walk around the grounds of the temple for free!
Chion-in to Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka walk
Once you’re finished walking around the grounds of the Chion-in Temple, next up is to continue in the direction of Kiyomizu-dera Temple.
In order to see a bit of “classic Kyoto,” you’ll want to be sure to pass by the streets of Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka along the way, so that’s where you’re headed next!
Cost: FREE! (These are regular streets)
This can be another good place to do some souvenir shopping, gift shopping, and even take in a tea ceremony!
Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka to Kiyomizu-dera walk
And then it’ll be a final short walk to get to Kiyomizu-dera Temple!
Kiyomizu-dera Temple (UNESCO world heritage site)
Cost: 400 yen (US$4)
You’ll likely want to spend at least 1-2 hours here, and you’ll find places to eat around here too.
Kiyomizu-dera to Kyoto station bus
And finally your last bus of the day!
Head underground at Kyoto station for a network of restaurants so you can finish off your day with some Japanese food!
You might need a big meal to refuel after all the walking that you did!
HAPPY ONE DAY IN KYOTO!
Do you have more than one day in Kyoto?!
Use this Kyoto tourist map to plan out your 5 days in Kyoto!
- Day 1: Top tourist spots with one day bus pass
- Day 2: Fushimi Inari Shrine hike through 1,000 torii gates
- Day 3: Philosopher’s Path walk
- Day 4: Arashiyama and Sagano
- Day 5: Kurama Kibune Ohara with one day pass
More quick tips for planning your trip to JapanThere are affiliate links on this page that take you to partner websites.
Hotels in KyotoSearch for deals on Kyoto hotels here.
For hostels across Japan, try this top backpacker's hostel chain.
Kyoto can also be a good place to stay at a Japanese-style ryokan, like this one. Or if you're on more of a budget, try this one.
Also use the map below to see more hotels in Kyoto!
Shoes for JapanFor summer travel, hiking sandals can be perfect for walking around cities and for many of the short day hikes! See travel sandals like these for women and these for men.
Japan is a mountain country so be sure to get in some hikes!
See trail running shoes too (for women - for men) for other solid hikes including climbing Mt Fuji.
Speaking of hiking, I love this daypack.
The super fast train in JapanIn general, 2 long-distance shinkansen train trips will likely end up making it so the JR pass will be worth it.
See the current price of a JR pass from an official vendor.
See an example of traveling by the fast train from Tokyo to Kyoto.
Natural disasters in JapanUnfortunately, Japan can be prone to natural disasters which means risk for travel delays. So be sure to look at travel insurance for natural disasters.
My travel insurance took care of my accommodation and food costs when I was forced to stay extra days in Japan because of a typhoon.
See how much insurance costs for your trip.
Best travel guides for JapanIf you're at step 1 in your planning process, have a look at this Discover Japan book.
For "books" that won't take up space in your suitcase, see the best PDF guides.
See more of the best books for Japan trip planning.
Cheap(er) flights to JapanI used this website to find the cheapest flight and to book my recent flight to Japan.
Sometimes it makes sense to book direct - my preferred way!
But this booking site will search a combination of airlines, including those who aren't partner airlines, which means that they can help you find cheaper flights by booking individual flights for you as part of one flight itinerary. This can be especially helpful if you're not flying out of a major hub with direct flights to Japan.
I've missed a flight booked through them and it was taken care of with hotel and new flight.
See more tips for finding cheap flights to Japan.