On my most recent trip to Kyoto, I landed in Fukuoka and then travelled up to Kyoto by train using a Seishun Juhachi Kippu. The Juhachi Kippu is the funnest thing to happen to trains since the invention of the whistle.
For 11500 yen (around $110 CDN) it gets you five days of unlimited travel on any JR line. The best part is that, unlike the Japan Rail Pass, which must be used on consecutive days, the Juhachi Kippu can be used on any five days within the given 30 day period. And it can be used by any person, or multiple people can use the same ticket. It's a far better deal than the Japan Rail Pass, not only because it's cheaper, but it's much more flexible.
The draw back is that the ticket is only available three times of the year: during the winter, spring and summer school holidays. Check online at http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2362.html for the specific dates as they change each year. You can't use the ticket for reservable trains but generally you can pay a small extra fee to get on.
Check www.hyperdia.com for train schedules. This site is also useful for arranging a long train trip with the least number of train changes possible.
From the airport, you can take the haruka limited express to the cities of osaka and kyoto. From outside the airport, there is a JR shop/counter whichever you want to call it. Exchange for your JR pass there (we had a 2-day JR west pass). For non reserved seats, it's cars no 4,5,6. They also divide it into smoking and non-smoking. It take about 1hr to reach kyoto.
I recommend you take the haruka if you have the pass, if not, it's not cheap at 2000+yen for a ticket to kyoto. The JR west rail pass we bought costs 4000yen for unlimited travel for 2 days. You have to buy the pass outside of Japan.
The Surutto Kansai Two Day Ticket and Surutto Kansai Three Day Ticket are rail passes, providing unlimited usage of trains, subways and buses in the Kansai Region (around Osaka and Kyoto), with the prominent exception of JR trains.
Perfect for daytrips outside Kyoto: Nara, Osaka, Himeji, Mount Koya, Arashiyama, Kobe etc.
See map for locations included in the Pass.
Surutto Kansai 2 Day Ticket: 3,800 Yen
Surutto Kansai 3 Day Ticket: 5,000 Yen
At first, the train station may be bewildering. But, take a deep breath and calm down. Usually all the signs are written in English and Japanese, and point you in the direction of which train you need to catch. If you are still confused, approach the man in the box office next to the ticket gates. Say to him ( place ) densha wa nan ban toraku desu ka? Translation: What track number is the Kyoto train?
BUYING TICKETS: above the ticket machines is a huge map of all the train's destinations.
EIther ask someone how much it costs to go to wherever you need to go, or study the map for a couple of minutes and find the name of the station you need to go to. Above the name are 2 fares. The higher fare is for adults and the lower fare is for children. Put in your money, a couple of buttons with amounts will flash, or a couple of choices of amounts will apprear on the screen. Either press the button with the appropriate fare, or press the screen with the appropriate fare. Your ticket will come out of a slot. Remember to keep hold of your ticket as you need it exit at the next station.
trains are really convienient! They are very regular and fast. Fares vary depending on how far you are going. Usually if you're travelling within KYoto, it'll be between 170-300 yen.
Because I don't recall all of the details from our travels around Japan I'll include a brief explanation regarding train travel around Kyoto which I've referenced from the Lonely Planet Kyoto guidebook (an excellent source if you're planning a trip to Japan).
There are several options for getting around Kyoto by train. For South Western Kyoto take the JR Tokaido Line, the JR San-In line runs into Western Kyoto, and the JR Nara Line runs into southern Kyoto and then onward into the city of Nara.
Getting to Kyoto from KIX International airport near Osaka is as easy as following well marked signs from the arrivals terminal to the JR station which is a short walk away. You can purchase either un-reserved tickets or reserved tickets for the trip to Kyoto via the JR Express train. We purchased un-reserved tickets and found a few available seats in the train cars which are designated for this type of seating (infants & toddlers ride for free). We paid about 750 yen for a one way ticket to Kyoto Station that took about an hour on the express train.
The Keihan line runs from Yodoyabashi to Kyoto regularly during the day for around Yen 400. The service includes express or local and there is no difference in price.
A limited express takes about 40 mins and is very comfortable
The Kansai Area Pass is somewhat similar to the Kansai Thru Pass, just that this Pass is offered by JR. You take the JR-West lines (except the bullet trains) if you use this Pass and you cannot seperate the dates you travel. It must be consecutive days.
There are a few types :
1-Day Pass : 2000 Yen
2-Day Pass : 4000 Yen
3-Day Pass : 5000 Yen
4-Day Pass : 6000 Yen
We used the Kansai Thru Pass when we were in Kansai Area. This pass is very useful when travelling in the Kansai Area. It is inclusive of all intercity train networks in the Kansai Area (except the JR lines) and city subways and city buses (except for Nara for example). There are 2 types, 1 the 2-day pass (3800 Yen) and the other, 3-day pass (5000 Yen).
What is good about this Pass is that you do not need to travel on consecutive days. You will only validate your pass on the day which you are using.
The Pass is useful if you travel within the Kansai Area for further distances. For instance, from Kyoto to Osaka, Nara, Kobe, Himeji, etc. This Pass was definitely useful and it even comes with discount coupons. For instance, we saved quite a bit on our entrance fee to Himeji Castle and Kobe Tower.
Note : Study the map carefully and check out the gray portions as some cities do not allow for bus travel using the Kansai Pass, for instance, Nara City.
You can purchase it from the Kansai International Airport if you arrive there.
When making side trips from Kyoto, always take the express trains.
You will find yourself upon arriving at Kyoto Station faced with a departure board with many departures to Nara or Osaka within the hour. And that it will also state that the next train leaves in 5 mins and you better hurry to the platform if you are going to catch it.
Take a moment and actually see if that was a local, rapid or express train. No point rushing for the local train, the one that leaves in 5 mins, when it stops at every stop on the way and takes ages to get to where you want to go.
You may discover that though the rapid or express train leaves a good 20 mins or 1/2 hour later, they stop at far less places, the seats are more comfortable, and you may get to where you want to go alot faster.
The electronic boards for arrivals and departures rotates between English and Japanese, very convenient.
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