Jan 18, 2016
*Article updated April 2019
Getting from Tokyo to Kyoto couldn't be easier with a myriad of transportation options available departing from the current Japan capital to a former one. If there is any difficulty here, it might be deciding which way of getting to Kyoto is best for you -- a choice that will likely come down to Shinkansen bullet train, flight, or bus. Looking at how much it costs to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto then may help the traveler make a decision based on time and budget. In short though, travelers are looking at travel costs of somewhere between around 5,000 and 20,000 yen (one way) which gives us a lot of scope in terms of options, and their convenience and comfort.
(All the fares from Tokyo to Kyoto below are based on making bookings a month in advance, directly with the operator. Fares are listed in Japanese Yen)
Summary of costs to get from Tokyo to Kyoto
|Flight||from ~7,000 yen (LCC)|
2.5 - 3 hrs
(with travel from Kansai airports to Kyoto)
|Shinkansen||10,300 - 13,080||from 2 hrs 10 mins|
|Trains||8,000 - 14,000||~ 8 hrs|
|Highway bus||2,000 - 13,000||~ 9 hrs|
For those travelers with a comfortable budget the Shinkansen bullet train has to be the best way of traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto. Shinkansen services plug the traveler directly into Kyoto Station saving time on awkward transfers from the Kansai airports to the city itself. Depending on your distance from departure station in Tokyo, Shinkansen will likely be the fastest way for getting to Kyoto.
Travelers on a budget should look to the highway bus. While the lower 2,000 yen fares may be a challenge to find for the traveler who cannot navigate a Japanese-language website, fares in the 4,000 - 6,000 yen range should be easy enough to find.
Flights from Tokyo to Kyoto
Flights from Tokyo to Kyoto arriving at the above airports take around 1 hr 10-20 min.
Low cost carriers
Fares for flights from Tokyo (Narita) to Kansai (Kansai International)
|Peach||4,290 - 8,620||8,630 - 17,290|
|Jetstar||4,280 - 5,200||8,980 - 9,900|
Fares in the tables below include taxes / surcharges
ANA - (Haneda Airport to Itami Airport)
|Super Value 55||7,950||18,300|
|Super Value 45||8,250||18,900|
|Super Value 28||8,850||20,100|
|Value Premium 3||24,550||49,100|
Cost of ANA flights to Kansai International Airport (KIX) are largely the same.
Flying with JAL from Tokyo to the Kansai airports will likely be cheaper although there will be less choice of seat / fare type (possibly a good thing).
There are many more daily departures from Haneda than there are from Narita (from which there are just one or two).
|Haneda||7,950 - 11,350||9,850 - 26,750||18,300 - 24,300||24,300 - 41,200|
|Narita||12,300 - 12,900||~ 26,900||24,600 - 25,200||~ 42,500|
Itami Airport to Kyoto Station
Taking the train from Itami Airport to Kyoto Station will involve around three transfers. An example route is as follows:
OSAKA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT - Osaka Monorail Main Line - HOTARUGAIKE - Hankyu Takarazuka Line Exp. - UMEDA(HANKYU) - walk - OSAKA - JR Special Rapid Service
(980 yen / ~ 66 min)
Osaka Airport Transport operate an airport limousine bus service to Kyoto Station. Fares are 1,310 yen for the 50-minute journey.
Kansai International Airport to Kyoto
From Kansai International Airport to Kyoto, fast trains to Kyoto Station like the Limited Express HARUKA take 1 hr 20 min.
|Unreserved seat||2,850||Reserved seat||3,370||Green seat||4,130|
A cheaper, slower route from Kansai International Airport to Kyoto might be thus:
KANSAI AIRPORT - Nankai Airport Exp. - SHINIMAMIYA - Osaka Loop Line - OSAKA - JR Special Rapid - KYOTO
(1,840 yen / ~110 mins)
Kansai Airport Transportation Enterprise operates buses between KIX and Kyoto Station. Fares are 2,550 yen for the 90-minute journey.
(Shinkansen from Tokyo (above) may not be the cheapest way to get to Kyoto, but they could well be the most convenient)
Shinkansen bullet trains from Tokyo to Kyoto
Kyoto’s main train station is a massive operation which handles plenty of services arriving from Tokyo. This hulking building in no way matches Kyoto’s image, but it is an important point of entry to the city.
The JR Tokaido Shinkansen handles services from Tokyo (departing Tokyo Station) to Kyoto Station. Nozomi are the fastest trains, taking 2 hrs 10 mins. The table below details the costs from Tokyo Station.
|Service||Unreserved seat||Reserved seat||Green seat|
Hikari and Kodama Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto take around 2 hrs 40 mins and 3 hrs 30 mins respectively. Given the almost negligible difference in fares between these bullet trains and the Nozomi, it would seem to make little sense to travel by any service other than the latter.
First and last direct departures from Tokyo / Kyoto:
Platt Kodama (ぷらっとこだま) plan
For cheaper Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto make use of the Platt Kodama (ぷらっとこだま).
Run by JR Tokai Tours, this plan offers fares on Kodama Shinkansen to Kyoto at 10,300 yen (a saving of around 3,000 yen).
Tickets are available from JR Tokai Tours offices and need to be booked in advance.
How much does it cost to get back from Kyoto? No special ‘return fares’ with the Shinkansen. Just double the price of getting there.
The Japan Rail Pass can be used on Hikari and Kodama Shinkansen. It is not valid for Nozomi.
Express / rapid / local trains from Tokyo to Kyoto
A combination of express, rapid and local trains can get the adventurous (or foolhardy) traveler down to Kyoto in around eight or nine hours without much in the way of breaks.
The cheapest routes will be around 8,000 yen. Greater use of express / rapid trains will bring journey costs up to around 14,000 yen. Given that Shinkansen fares to Kyoto start from around 13,000 yen and take only about 2.5 hrs there seems little point in using express / rapid / local trains to make the run.
That being said, during holiday periods, budget travelers can get good value out of the Seishun 18 Kippu. Travel as far as one can bare on local trains for as little as 2,370 yen per day. The trip from Tokyo to Kyoto could be broken into a couple of days to make things more pleasant. See an earlier post about this ticket on City-Cost here.
Buses from Tokyo to Kyoto
Highway buses between Tokyo and Kyoto take around nine hours (day and night services available).
In Tokyo, most departures are from Shinjuku (Busta) Station. One way fares start from 3,000 yen. Going up to the 10,000 yen range will buy plenty of comfort.
WILLER has plenty of information in English. Below are examples of some of their fares (one way, based on bus/seat type).
Day time - Shinjuku Station (Busta)
|RELAX[NEW]||4,000 - 5,400|
Night time - Shinjuku Station (Busta)
|NEW PREMIUM Single||from 6,600|
|NEW PREMIUM Economy||from 7,600|
|NEW PREMIUM 2 rows||from 8,100|
Night time - Tokyo Disneyland / DisneySea
|RELAX with USB||from 4,500|
|RELAX (extra space)||from 5,900|
|NEW PREMIUM 2 rows||from 8,100|
|NEW PREMIUM Single||from 8,600|
|BEAUTE Economy (from DisneySea)||from 7,100|
|BEAUTE (from DisneySea)||from 7,400|
Night time - Ikebukuro
With BUSReserve.JP you might be able to find significantly cheaper fares than those listed above, but you'll have to be able to do it in Japanese. We found fares to Kyoto for as low as ~ 1,700 yen.
Other highway-bus options can be found at JR Bus Kanto where booking can be made through Japan Expressway Bus Net (in English). Fares from Shinjuku (Busta) to Kyoto Station start from 3,800 yen going up to 8,500 - 13,500 yen for the luxury Dream Relier services.
At highwaybus.com travelers can make bookings for Keio Dentsu buses. These services go as far as Kosoku Nagaoka-kyo next to Nishiyama-Tennozan train station. From here it takes around 20 minutes on the Hankyu Kyoto Line into Karasuma Station (270 yen).
Fares on the Keio Dentsu buses from Shinjuku (Busta) start from 7,400 yen.
Driving from Tokyo to Kyoto
How much does it cost to drive from Tokyo to Kyoto? Expect to pay around ~ 11,000 yen in highway tolls (source: NEXCO - Nippon Expressway Company).
The drive takes about 5 hrs 30 mins for those who know the way. Starting from Shibuya in Tokyo, a likely driving route would be to exit the city on the Metropolitan Expressway No.3 Shibuya Route before joining the Tomei Expressway. Just north of Nagoya, join the Meishin Expressway exiting at Kamogawa-nishi (鴨川西) 2-3 km south of the Kyoto Station area.
The cost of renting a car isn't necessarily expensive in Japan ... if you return it to where you picked it up.
For a Tokyo pick up / Kyoto drop off on the same day costs might be in the 35,000 - 40,000 yen range for a simple k-car. By way of contrast, the same car might be rented with a pick up / drop off in Tokyo over four days for around 20,000 - 25,000 yen.
(NB* This post was updated as of April 2019)
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