Kyoto Tourist bus – How to ride the Raku bus

If you’re travelling to Kyoto as a tourist, you’ll want to quickly familiarize yourself with the Kyoto tourist bus which is known locally as the Raku bus. Despite the fact that Kyoto’s public transportation network is quite good, it pales in comparison to Tokyo and your SUICA / PASMO card will be of limited use in the city. Trust me, Kyoto should be on your must see list even if you’re in Japan for just one week

The Raku bus is aimed at tourists and has three lines that go in a loop (Rakus bus 100, 101, 102). The buses are easy to spot since they’re all coloured pink. Some people refer to the Raku bus as the Kyoto sightseeing bus since you’ll pass by all the major tourist destinations on one of the lines, but it shouldn’t be confused with the “hop on hop off” buses you see in other countries. Below is a quick guide on how to ride the Raku bus in Kyoto

Raku Bus Kyoto

Kyoto travel guide: Raku bus cost

A single ride on the Kyoto city bus will cost you 230 yen for adults, and 120 yen for children under the age of 12. You board in the back with payments being made when you get off the bus at the front. Exact fare is always preferred, but there is a change machine available so you don’t need to worry too much.

Your rechargeable IC card (SUICA, ICOCA, PASMO, etc) will work on the bus, but if you’re taking more than 3 rides in a single day, you’re better off buying a one day Kyoto city bus pass for just 500 yen (250 yen children under the age of 12). The easiest place to buy your passes is at the “Kyoto Tourism Information Center” located inside Kyoto station, or the “bus ticket center” located outside Kyoto station (north side) where the buses depart. You can also purchase them from vending machines at major bus stops or directly from drivers on the bus, but they’re known to run out by the afternoon.

The Kyoto city bus pass is good for all buses (Kyoto tourist bus, and normal buses), but there’s an extra charge if you’re going outside the flat-fare zone. The pass does not include taking the subway. Check out the Kyoto city website for a detailed description and pictures on how to ride the bus in Kyoto.

Related: How much does it cost to go to Japan?

Kyoto tourist busImage courtesy: Victor Lee, Flickr

Kyoto Travel Guide: Raku bus routes

When you purchase your Kyoto city bus pass, be sure to pay attention to the map that they hand you. You’ll notice that all the major tourist attractions are shown, so it’s pretty easy to figure out which Raku bus you need to take. All the attractions are announced, but there’s also English text displayed so you should know when you arrive at your destination. Remember, every bus loops. Generally speaking, you can just get on the bus on the opposite side of the street if you want to go back. See below to find out what attractions you’ll come across on each Raku bus route.

Raku bus 100: Sanjusangendo Temple, Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Yasaka-jinja Shrine, Heian-jingu Shrine, Eikan-do Temple, Nanzenji Temple, Honen-in Temple, Ginkakuji Temple.

Raku bus 101: Nijo Castle, Seimei-Jinja Shrine, Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine, Hirano Shrine, Kinkakuji Temple

Raku bus 102: Ginkakuji Temple, Shokokuji Temple, Kinkakuji Temple, Daitokuji Temple.

If you look at the map below, you’ll see that the Raku bus 102 line connects with the 100 and 101 lines. Despite the fact that the map looks relatively small, it’s not realistic to do all 3 of them in a day. I would separate the Kyoto tourist bus route 100 and 101 to two separate days.

You’ll also notice that none of the buses go to the bamboo forest of Arashiyama. The easiest way to get there is to take the JR Sagano Line (also known as JR Sanin Line) to Saga-Arashiyama Station and then walk. Your JR pass will work on this line since it’s a JR line.

raku bus mapImage courtesy: welcome-to-kyoto.com

Kyoto Travel Guide: Kyoto transit passes

Kyoto City Bus & Kyoto Bus One-Day Pass – This is the pass that I’ve been mentioning above that gives you unlimited rides in the flat-fare zone. All the major tourist attractions fall within the flat-fare zone, but if you do venture further out, an additional charge will apply.

Cost: 500 yen for adults, 250 yen children under the age of 12

Kyoto Sightseeing Pass – The Kyoto sightseeing pass gives you unlimited bus rides in the flat-fare zone as well as access to all Kyoto City Subway trains. You’ll also get discounts at select stores and temples.

Cost: One-day pass – 1,200 yen (Children 600 yen), Two-day pass – 2,000 yen (Children 1,000 yen)

Kyoto City Subway One-day Pass – If you plan on riding the Karasuma & Tozai lines a lot in one day, then you’ll want to get this pass. Note that it doesn’t include the Sagano and Nara lines which are operated by JR.

Cost: 600 yen for adults, 300 yen children under the age of 12

JR Pass in Kyoto – Unfortunately, your JR Pass will give you limited access to public transportation in Kyoto. You’ll only be able to take the Sagano and Nara lines which are good if you’re heading to the bamboo forest of Arashiyama, the Fushimi Inari Shrine, and Nara. To find out if a JR Pass is worth it, read my blog post now.



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By |2018-08-07T16:45:57+00:00September 12th, 2016|Destinations, Travel|

32 Comments

  1. Valerie January 6, 2018 at 11:39 am - Reply

    Thank you so much. the informations you mentioned are very helpful especially to first timer visitor in Kyoto like me. Thank you again.

    • Barry Choi January 6, 2018 at 7:29 pm - Reply

      Valerie,

      I know you’ll have a great time in Kyoto!

  2. Windi Andriani January 15, 2018 at 11:22 pm - Reply

    Barry,

    With the Kyoto Sightseeing Pass – is it only cover the 2 subway lines (Karasuma and Tozai line)?
    What about the Keihan and Hankyu line, can you use the pass?

    Thanks in advance

  3. Elizabeth February 15, 2018 at 8:55 am - Reply

    Thank you for the information. It is very useful. Is it possible to hail the Raku bus once it has left Kyoto Station or do I have to get on at the station in order to use the service?

    • Barry Choi February 15, 2018 at 5:07 pm - Reply

      Elizabeth,

      You can get on the Raku bus at any of its stops.

  4. Angie March 6, 2018 at 5:17 pm - Reply

    Hi Barry

    Thank you for this informative piece. I’m going with my family of 8. Would like to know is it better to do Raku bus or the Kyoto sight seeing tour as we are going to Kyoto 12 april when it’s really crowded .

    • Barry Choi March 6, 2018 at 7:35 pm - Reply

      Hi Angie,

      It’s really a personal choice. A sightseeing tour makes things a lot easier since it requires no planning, but the odds are things will be quite rushed. The Raku bus will get you to all the main attractions and you can spend as much or as little time at each spot.

      Kyoto has A LOT to see, you could easily spend 2-3 days there and not even come close to seeing all the major attractions.

  5. Pearl April 14, 2018 at 7:59 pm - Reply

    What time the the Kyoto City Bus start and end their operations daily?

    • Barry Choi April 14, 2018 at 9:42 pm - Reply

      Pearl,

      The Raku bus starts at roughly 8am and ends at 4:30PM

  6. lei June 2, 2018 at 1:21 am - Reply

    hi,
    my husband and I will be in Japan from Nov 12-19. we will arrive in Narita and planning to go nearby city of tokyo including Kyoto.Any recommendation for our itinerary?

    It is our first time in Japan,.

    Thank you in advance.

  7. Elizabeth July 9, 2018 at 9:44 pm - Reply

    Thanks so much for this information. My mother and I will be in Kyoto for 6 hours before heading to an Onsen. Can you see the sites from the Raku bus or do you have to get off at each stop to see the sights? If you had to choose only one route which would you recommend?

    • Barry Choi July 10, 2018 at 5:40 am - Reply

      Hi Elizabeth,

      You sort of can, but not really as most of the sites are behind gates or trees. With 6 hours, I would advise picking 2-3 spots within the same area and then taking the bus or cab to get them.

      E.g. Golden temple and Arashiyama or going to East Kyoto

  8. Chan Huat Low July 29, 2018 at 9:20 am - Reply

    Thanks so much for painstaking work in preparing such valuable information. It really helps the first timer visitor like me in particular. May you be well and happy always.

  9. […] A one day pass will cost you 500 yen (250 yen for children under the age of 12). Read my Kyoto tourist bus guide for more […]

  10. Vivian August 19, 2018 at 5:50 pm - Reply

    Hi Barry,
    Thanks for your post. Can I use Kyoto Bus One Day pass on Raku buses? If I go to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, how can I pay the extra fare since it is not located in the flat-fare zone?

    • Barry Choi August 19, 2018 at 8:08 pm - Reply

      Vivian,

      The Raku 101 connects to the Keifuku Railway which will get you to Arashiyama (extra fare is required). That being said, most people will take a taxi from the Golden Temple to Arashiyama because it’s much quicker. Alternatively, you can take the JR line to Saga Arashiyama and then walk to the main area. I personally took the JR line since it was the quickest and I had a JR pass.

  11. Vivian August 19, 2018 at 9:09 pm - Reply

    Thanks for your reply, Barry. I am actually going to visit Arashiyama Bamboo Grove area first and going to Golden Temple from there. I see Google map states Kyoto city bus can get me from Arashiyama Bamboo Grove to Golden Temple with transfer. Does this mean I can use Kyoto Bus One Day pass without extra fare? Would appreciate your help.

    • Barry Choi August 20, 2018 at 9:07 am - Reply

      Hi Vivian,

      I believe you can use the regular bus pass on the Raku buses, but I’m going to double check and get back to you.

  12. Annabel Tan September 10, 2018 at 8:53 am - Reply

    Hi Barry

    I am visiting Osaka/Kyoto next month but staying at Osaka all the way. I planned to travel to Kyoto on 2 days to visit the Bamboo Grove, Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kiyomizu-Dera Temple and Nara Deer Park, Tōdai-ji Temple. Any idea how to plan these? Since i am not staying at Kyoto so i try to not end too late to travel back to Osaka,

    • Barry Choi September 10, 2018 at 9:14 am - Reply

      Hi Annabel,

      What you want to see is kind of all over the place, so not easy to do.

      This is what I would consider. Take the train directly to Nara from Namba Station in Osaka. When you get to Nara, purchase an all day bus ticket for about 500 Yen which will take you right to Todai-ji. When you’re done, the deer are literally outside the entrance to the temple. Once you’re done, take the bus back to the train station, but this time, take the JR Nara line towards Kyoto and get off by Fushimi Inari Shrine. Explore the gates and then head back to Osaka by heading to Kyoto station first.

      On the second day, go to Kyoto station and then take the JR train to get to the Bamboo forest. Kiyomizu-Dera Temple is on the other side of town so you’ll have to either take a cab or train back to Kyoto station and then take the Raku bus.

      Note that there is A LOT to see in Kyoto so 1 day there is likely not enough.

  13. Annabel Tan September 10, 2018 at 9:24 am - Reply

    Hi Barry

    Thanks for taking time to provide me such detailed information. Certainly a great help for me to plan my Kyoto trip!

  14. Sarah September 21, 2018 at 6:13 am - Reply

    This is very helpful, thank you! How long does a loop on the 101 take altogether (or do you know where I can find that information)?

    • Barry Choi September 21, 2018 at 8:20 am - Reply

      Hi Sarah,

      I don’t know how long it takes to do the entire loop, but I’m guessing 1.5 hours?

  15. Pam September 22, 2018 at 12:01 pm - Reply

    1. Is the 2 day bus-subway pass good for the Raku Bus?
    2. How should I link: Kinkakuji / Arashiyama / Gion / Kyoto Handicraft Center / Nijo Castle using the bus subway pass?

    • Barry Choi September 23, 2018 at 8:19 pm - Reply

      Hi Pam,

      I believe the 2day bus-subway pass is good for the taku bus but I’m not 100% sure.

      As for your route. It depends on how much time you have. Let’s assume you only have one day. I would take the Raku 102 bus to Kinkauji. Once you’re done there, take a cab to Arashiyama. After that take the JR Sagano Line from Saga Arashiyama to Nijo station then walk to the castle. Once you’re done at the castle, go back to Nijo station (different entrance) but this time take the Tozai line to Higashiyama station and then walk to the Koto Handicraft Center. You can then walk to Gion. I personally would consider taking a cab between Nijo castle and the Handicraft center to save time. Cabs in Kyoto are not that expensive

  16. Cleo September 30, 2018 at 1:56 am - Reply

    Hi Barry,

    I plan to split the Kyoto trip into 3 sessions. Day 1 from Kinkakuji to Daitokuji. Day 2 from Arashiyama, Fushimi, Kiyomizudera, Gion District and Ginkakuji (may I confirm is Ginkakuji is in Higashiyama District?). And Day 3 is Nishiki, Daigokuji and Nijo Castle. Please advise if the arrangement is good to proceed.

    • Barry Choi September 30, 2018 at 9:48 am - Reply

      Kinkakuji to Daitokuji are relatively close to each other and won’t take more than an hour each. You could go to Arashiyama after and spend the rest of your day there. Alternatively, you could add Nijo to this day save Arishayma for another day

      Ginkakuji, Kiyomizudera, are both in Higashiyama, Gion and Nishiki are between the two, but are better done in the afternoon / evening.

      Daigoji is somewhat close to Fushimi so those two might be better done together.

  17. Eva October 2, 2018 at 9:53 am - Reply

    Hi barry,

    I want to explore kyoto and nara in 1 day please help how to get there from namba station or nippinbashi station.is it helpful if I will buy a kansai pass? I want visit kinkakuji and ginkakuji temple,kiyomizudera,fushimira inari shrine,bamboo groove and narra park.Is it possible the we can make it in 1 day? we family of 5 the youngest is 7 yrs old.please help me the etirenary.thank you very much in advance.God bless you!!

    • Barry Choi October 2, 2018 at 12:08 pm - Reply

      Hi Eva,

      We spoke briefly on FAcebook, but I’m answering here anyways. What you’ve currently listed is too much. You either need to drop things or spend more time in Kyoto / Nara.

      I would advise choosing which site is on your MUST SEE list and then build a realistic itinerary around that.

  18. Michelle November 11, 2018 at 1:32 am - Reply

    Hello, Barry!
    May i ask for your advice. I will just have a quick half day visit. I am planning to visit Arashiyama Bamboo Forest early in the morning then go to Kinkakuji Temple.
    – from Arashiyama, is it ok to go back to Kyoto Station and take the Raku Bus 101?
    – will riding the bus going to Kinkuji temple cost me 230yen flat rate, then another 230yen in going back to Kyoto Station?
    – lastly, approximately how much time will it take to reach Kinkakuji temple from Kyoto station via Raku Bus 101?
    Thank you very much, in advance for your help. May you be blessed more!

    • Barry Choi November 11, 2018 at 8:37 am - Reply

      Hi Michelle,

      If it’s just a quick day visit I would advise taking a taxi between the two which should cost you just under 3,000 Yen. You can take the JR Sagano line to saga-arashiyama from Kyoto station and then walk to the forest. Once you’re done, take a taxi to Kinkakuji to save time. Once you’re done there, you could take the 101 bus back to Kyoto station. It takes roughly 40mins to get to Kinkakuji to Kyoto station by bus. The JR train from Kyoto station to Saga-arashiymama is about 20-25 mins and then it’s a 8-10 min walk to the forest.

      Alternatively you could take the Randen tram between the two.

      https://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowTopic-g298564-i2712-k11096195-Arashiyama_Kinkaku_ji_Golden_Pavilion-Kyoto_Kyoto_Prefecture_Kinki.html

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