How do I get to and from Kansai International Airport?
Kyoto city actually does not have an airport, due to its mountainous surroundings. Most travelers to Kyoto will fly into one of Osaka’s airports.
Kansai International Airport (KIX) is the largest, built on a man-made island outside of Osaka City, and serves as the primary airport for all international flights. This airport is about 100 kilometers (by rail) away from Kyoto’s center.
The different forms of transportation between KIX and Kyoto include the Haruka Limited Express Airport Train, JR Line commuter trains (requires transfers), airport limousine buses, taxi cabs, and rental cars.
The other airport is Osaka International Airport Itami (ITM), which ironically is domestic only, and primarily serves the region’s domestic traffic.
Transportation from Osaka International Airport Itami to Kyoto include airport limousine buses, taxi, rental car, and commuter trains (monorail and Hankyu Railway).
Kobe Airport is also nearby but is an even smaller domestic airport. Kobe Airport is accessible by bus and Port Liner (monorail) to Sannomiya.
Can I take public transport to and from Kansai International Airport?
Yes, Kansai International Airport is accessible by train, limousine bus, and taxi.
The fastest and most convenient option is the Haruka Limited Express airport train, which runs directly between Kyoto and KIX.
The trip is 75 minutes one way, and services run every half hour. The Haruka is a limited express is operated by JR West, and tickets cost JPY 2850, since a limited express ticket is required in addition to the standard fare.
The train includes three non-reserved cars, two reserved cars, and one Green car (business class). Holders of the JR Rail Pass can also reserve seats free of charge. Tickets are available at automated ticket machines, the Midori No Madoguchi ticket offices, and online.
If you want to avoid standing in line, you can book a ticket through Klook and redeem the physical ticket at Kansai Airport. Booking through Klook is also much cheaper than buying it in Japan!
JR Rapid, Osaka Loop Line and S-Rapid to Kyoto
The other railway method would be to use the JR Rapid trains.
You can take the Kansai Airport Rapid train to Tennoji station, then transfer to the Osaka Loop Line train to Osaka Station (clockwise train), then onto the S-Rapid to Kyoto station.
This path is much more complex and takes 100 minutes, but costs just JPY 1880. Tickets can be bought at the station; JR Rail Pass can be used. This is the cheapest method.
Airport limousine bus to Kyoto
Airport limousine buses run frequently between Kyoto Station and Kansai Airport. The ride takes 100 minutes and it costs JPY 2600.
Tickets can be bought at the automated ticket machines at the bus terminal. Buses board from Hachijoguchi bus terminal at Kyoto station.
At Kansai International Airport, buses stop in front of Door D on floor 1 of Terminal 1. This is the best blend of comfort, convenience, and price.
You can buy discounted Haruka tickets at the Midori No Madoguchi prior to boarding. The Haruka Discount Ticket is available for just JPY 1000 if you have/buy an ICOCA IC card.
I highly recommend you get the IC card, which is JR West’s metro card. This card works on all railways in the region, buses, vending machines, and even some shops.
IC cards eliminate the hassle of buying tickets, which can get annoying when transferring between lines operated by different companies. The ICOCA card costs JPY 2000 with a JPY 500 deposit.
You can buy an ICOCA IC card before you go via Klook.
The JR Rail Pass is a great pass that covers the entire JR railway network (the nationwide rail operator of Japan, which also runs the bullet trains).
If you are planning on staying in Japan for several days and plan on visiting multiple cities (say, Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima), the JR Rail pass is a great deal. This pass covers all commuter trains, limited express trains (which normally have surcharges), sleeper trains, bullet trains (minus the Nozomi and Mizuho services), and buses operated by Japan Railways Group (JR).
Pass pricing details are available on the website, but the standard pass is 7 days and costs just JPY 29,110. Considering a round trip Shinkansen trip between Kyoto and Tokyo costs JPY 28,000, this is an amazing deal!
How much is the taxi fare from Kansai International Airport to Kyoto?
Taxis usually cost at least JPY 30,000 (plus toll road fee) between Kyoto and Kansai International Airport.
Taxis take about 100 minutes to Kyoto Station, but depending on the location of your accommodation this can take anywhere from 90 to 130 minutes.
There is no airport surcharge for cabs, but they do have a toll road fee (highways are toll roads in Japan) of JPY ~2000 in addition to your fare.
Taxis usually have a base fare around JPY 660 and add JPY 80 per every 296 meters.
Taxis are for the time-conscious who don’t care for price.
However, the more cost effective option may be shared taxi rides. These are larger vans (Toyota Hiace) are operated by major taxi companies and can take you directly to your hotel as well, but they usually pick up multiple parties thus take much longer (100 to 200 minutes).
Shared taxis cost JPY 3000 per person (one free suitcase). They are for the budget-conscious who don’t care for time.
Both of these options are great for travelers who want direct transport to their hotel.
Can I rent a car at Kansai International Airport?
Yes, you can rent a car at Kansai International Airport.
Car rental desks are located in the Aeroplaza/Hotel Nikko Kansai airport. Go past the JR Station and enter the building, then turn left and there will be several counters.
The car rental companies that have a presence at the airport include Toyota Rent-A-Car, Nissan Rent-A-Car, Nippon Rental, Orix Rental and Times Rental Car.
It doesn’t make much sense to rent a car in Japan unless you are exploring the deep rural areas (far from Kyoto) or if you are in Hokkaido or Okinawa. Cars are usually a hassle to park and can be expensive to rent.
What is the cheapest way to travel to and from Kansai International Airport?
The railway is the cheapest way to travel.
The Rapid train is the cheapest at JPY 1880, but the Haruka Limited Express is almost as cheap (JPY 2850 standard fare or JPY 1000 with ICOCA card) and much more convenient.
What is the fastest way to travel to and from Kansai International Airport?
The Haruka Limited Express takes up to 75 minutes and is the fastest way to get to Kansai International Airport.
How far is Kansai International Airport from Kyoto?
The airport is about 100 kilometers away from Kyoto’s city center. By rail it takes 75 minutes on the Haruka Ltd Exp or 100 minutes by Rapid train. By road it can take anywhere from 100 to 200 minutes.
Traffic is not so bad on the highways since they are toll roads, but in the city traffic can add up to 30 minutes to your journey.
What are the chances of getting scammed by taxi drivers in Kyoto?
Taxis are extremely safe and reliable in Japan.
Taxi drivers are very polite and their vehicles are impeccably clean. All taxis are metered (except for shared ride or reserved taxis) and their fare is clearly marked on the exterior of the vehicle.
I’ve never heard of anybody getting scammed on taxis, so it is completely safe to use them. Taxis are usually the most convenient (sometimes fastest) way to travel within Kyoto, but are the most expensive.
Are there any alternatives to taxis in Kyoto?
Ride-sharing is very limited in Japan, and almost impossible to find in cities. Apps such as Uber have almost no presence in Japan. Especially in major cities, taxis are easier, cheaper, and safer.
Is public transport in Kyoto any good?
Yes, Japan is famous for its public transport, and Kyoto is no exception.
Kyoto has about 20 different train, subway, and tram lines, and an extensive bus network. Trains such as the subway have fares based on distance (about 100 to 120 yen for the first ride, then add 10-20 yen for each station), while trams, light rails and most buses have a flat fee (100 to 230 yen per ride).
Buying an IC card eliminates the hassle of buying tickets. A universal one day pass does not exist because several operators control the lines, but the closest thing available is the Kyoto City One Day pass, which can be bought for JPY 900 and covers the Kyoto City bus, Kyoto bus (most), Keihan bus (most), and Kyoto City Subway Tozai and Karasuma lines. The JR Rail pass can be used on the JR Tokaido, Biwako, Kosei, Nara, Sagano-Sanin lines, and the JR Buses.
Can I rent a bicycle or a motorbike in Kyoto?
Bicycles can be rented in Kyoto for starting prices as low as 1000 yen per day. However, biking in Kyoto is a bit confusing due to vague traffic rules regarding bikes.
If you are an avid mountain biker Kyoto is a great place to hit the mountains. Mountain bikes start at 1500 yen per day.
Is it expensive to go from Kyoto to other cities in Japan?
Transportation is relatively cheap around town, but long distance trips can get costly.
However, long distance transportation becomes relatively affordable when using the JR Rail Pass (only available to those holding foreign passports). Although prices vary, the standard 7 day pass is 29,110 yen and covers all JR operated trains, buses, Shinkansens (minus Nozomi and Mizuho), express trains, and JR partner and sister company lines.
Considering Kyoto-Tokyo costs 14,000 yen one way, Kyoto-Hiroshima costs 10,570 yen one way, and Kyoto-Fukuoka 15,120 one way (double these prices for round trip), this pass is a great deal.
Aside from railways, long distance buses can be an affordable albeit slower means of transport, costing slightly less.
By rail, Kyoto-Tokyo is 2h 20min, Kyoto-Osaka is 20min, Kyoto-Kobe is 35min, Kyoto-Nagoya is 45 min, Kyoto-Hiroshima is 1h 15 min, Kyoto-Fukuoka is 3h, Kyoto-Izumo is 3h, Kyoto-Sendai is 4h.
Google Maps and other online timetable sites are great for checking times. The time is takes to transfer between cities will vary based on the type of train and number of stops.
For shorter distances, trains operated by JR and other private railways are pretty affordable. Many of these lines allow you to use IC cards.
Buses are also quite cheap and easy to find, and either charge per distance or have a flat fare. Taxis are pricey for intercity transport.
For accessing far-fetched destinations such as Kagoshima, Sapporo, Aomori, or Okinawa, the airplane is often cheaper and faster than the train.
Flights on budget airlines such as Peach Aviation, Skymark Airlines, Jetstar Japan, Spring Airlines, Starflyer, and AirAsia Japan offer significantly lower costs than the legacy carriers ANA and Japan Airlines.
However the price difference between legacy carriers and LCCs is smaller than in most countries due to the relatively cheap domestic flight costs. For example, a flight from Osaka Itami to Sapporo costs USD 57 on Jetstar and USD 89 on ANA (as of November 2019).
Flight prices do change depending on the date and time.