The majority of tourists visiting Kyoto will ride the Kyoto City Bus. Far too often I see these tourist having difficulty using the bus, so these quick tips will make your transit much simpler.
Get a Kyoto City Bus map
Ask for this at Kyoto Station’s information center, or at your hotel reception. This handy map will show you which buses go where and the routes they take. This will help you plan your bus trips in Kyoto.
Japanese are very orderly and considerate of each other. If there’s a line at the bus stop, join it, if there isn’t one then line up at the bus stop sign.
When your stop is next, press the button on the seat railings to signal that you’d like to get off.
Board via the rear door
The rear door of the bus is for entry and the front door for exiting. When you get on the bus, move away from the rear door to allow others to board.
Listen or look out for your stop
All buses have some form of display, at the front of the bus near the driver, which show the next stop. If you’re traveling to a major temple or shrine, the stop is almost always named after the location.
Pay for the ride
Using the bus within the city is a flat fee per ride: ¥230 for adults and ¥120 for children of 6 to 12 years old.
In the photo above you can see a fare machine to the left of the driver. Upon exiting the bus you pay for your ticket here. Simply place your coins in the plastic coin catcher on top (outlined with a red sticker in the photo above).
If you don’t have exact change, you can exchange ¥1000 notes or ¥500 coins, giving you the right amount of change to pay for your fare. On this bus (which is typical of many Kyoto buses) put your note or coin in the slots in the purple area. Make sure you do this before your stop, so you don’t hold up other people.
Save money on bus travel
If you’ll be making more than 2 trips in the city on the bus in one day, you can buy an all day bus pass: ¥500 for adults and ¥250 for children. This must be purchased before you get on the bus (there are vending machines at Kyoto station, most hotel receptions have them and you can also ask at convenience stores).
[well]Note: the all-day city bus pass is only valid in certain areas. It covers most, but not all, of the popular sites in Kyoto. Check the Bus Navi Kyoto area map (PDF) for details.[/well]
The all day bus pass will save you money and is very convenient. For your first ride, insert the card into slot of the fare machine and for every ride after that, just show the driver the side of the card with the date printed on it.
More information is available at the City of Kyoto’s public transport page.