Shinkansen costs too much?
Do consider taking the overnight Highway bus!
Cheap and convenient way to get to and from Kyoto via Tokyo., saving you 1 night's accomodation cost.
Willer Bus company offers online booking in English.
There are various price tiers depending on the seat types (3000yen to 11000yen), but the seats are wide and very comfortable. And can be tilted back to 140º. Free water and blankets are provided. In some cases a coupon for free coffee at Macdonalds at your destination is offered.
Seats : http://willerexpress.com/x/bus/dynamic/3/en/html/pc/bus/index.php
Prices tend to be higher on Fridays and days before public holidays.
Pickups in Tokyo are usually done at Disneyland, Shinjuku, Shinagawa, Tokyo Stn and occasionally Ikebukuro.
They now have a Bus Pass, where you can take unlimited highway buses within a certain time period (You cannot book premium seats with the pass though), which can mean very considerable savings especially if you are visiting multiple cities.
A 3 day pass is 10000yen, 4 day is 12000yen and 5 day is 15000yen.
Most short-stay visitors will use the trains, but those looking to save money, especially on long-distance travel, can do so by taking a highway bus!
Because it is such a popular destination, buses come and go from Kyoto to many parts of the nation. You can go as far north as Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures by nightbus. Much of the Kanto area, including Tokyo, and Chubu region can be accessed from Kyoto by bus. To the west, you can go to nearly all of the Chugoku region, including the San-in Coastal prefectures of Shimane and Tottori, every prefecture on the island of Shikoku, and parts of northern Kyushu.
There are no highway buses to Hokkaido, Okinawa (obviously!), or the southern parts of Kyushu. Some prefectures in-between may also have no buses available from Kyoto, but it is likely that you can get close via another prefecture. It's also good to check and see if Osaka Station has what you are looking for, because it's so close.
For some examples of savings, you can travel to Tottori city for about 4000 yen by highway bus. If you take the train, you'll pay about 1000 yen more; Tsuyama by highway bus is 3000 yen, but most trains to Tsuyama will cost 4000.
Those destinations are relatively close to Kyoto. For even further distances, like Tokyo, you'll pay about 5000 yen by highway bus, but the Shinkansen will cost about 8000 yen.
The buses are clean and usually have bathrooms inside. They also have short pitstops where you can go to the bathroom or buy some snacks. For night buses, you can also take into consideration that you won't have any hotel fees, so you can easily save 6000 yen or more and arrive at your destination early enough to get a lot of sightseeing in!
See the website for information about travel between Kyoto and other areas. There are different opperators, each with their own booking numbers. You can also make reservations directly at Kyoto station (or your departure station, if you are trying to get to Kyoto. Just make sure you are at one of the stations where the highway buses operate).
One of the best, cheaper ways to travel Japan is by overnight highway bus.
We took an overnight highway bus (starting around 10:15 PM and arriving around 6:15 AM) from Niigata city to Kyoto. Overall, the buses are more comfortable than travel by train. And one big advantage is the windows are covered with curtains so that the passengers can sleep. The buses usually make a few rests stops on the way.
Cost wise, we ended up spending about 15,000 each on round trip tickets.
Took an overnight bus from Tokyo in Kyoto. The bus moved very slowly (7-8 hours) and stopped to arrive at Kyoto in the early morning. So can save on accommodation and is much cheaper than taking the bullet train. Of course, most of the passengers are Japanese. Slippers, pillow, blankets as well as tea bags and hot water provided.
Our travelagent reserved seats for us on the Nobi Highwaybus to Takayama. We bought the tickets in Osaka at the OCAT busstation, 2nd floor.
Then we had to go to Kyoto Fukakusa busstop. This stop is along the Meishin highway. So we walked from Takeda station, which is 800 meters from the busstop, along the highway to find the busstop. But there were no exits, just a screen against the noise high above our heads. We reached the next station and knew we missed it. So we headed back again and started walking in the other direction from Takeda station. But no busstop at the nearest exit here. So once again we walked along the screen and then we found this door. An escapedoor, it seemed. But if we could have read the japanese it would have been clear, behind this door is the busstop!
Luckely this entire adventure happened the day before we had to catch our 9:00 h bus to Takayama......
The next day we walked the 800 m from Takeda in just under 15 minutes. If you have lots of bagage it might be a good idea to take a taxi.
The Nouhi bus took us to Takayama in 4 hours. We had two stops on the way at servicecentres along the highway. Here you can go to the toilet or buy something to eat and drink. Just be back in the bus by the time indicated by the driver. (It was indicated in japanese only!, So learn times in japanese or ask them to point it out on your watch)
We paid 4650 Yen for a one way ticket.