Trains are not very convenient for sightseeing in Kyoto city. Two lines of the City Subway, JR, and several other local lines are operated by different companies, so they aren’t connected each other under one network. That’s why the City Bus is more common transportation for tourists. (see the another article  Kyoto City Bus)

Still, there are some cases that you should use trains to visit specific sites as follows.

  1. For the access to Arashiyama district, JR is the fastest train from Kyoto station. Randen, which is the slow tram, is still the fastest from Shijo Omiya and the City Bus is the last choice because it takes 40 to 60 minutes to get to Arashiyama.
  2.  Kyoto City Subway is particulally convenient for visiting Nijojo Castle, the Imperial Palace, and Nanzenji. Keep in mind that the streets under which the City Subway runs are not normally the City Bus route. So you have to go a long way round to visit those three sites only using the City Bus.
  3. When you travel to Nara or Osaka from Kyoto, it’s good to stop by some sites in Kyoto’s suburb. Fushimi Inari shrine is on the way to Nara by the JR or to Osaka by the Keihan line. Uji city is on the way to Nara by the JR.

View Trains in Kyoto larger map
Besides those three cases, there are more reasons to take train rather than the City Bus:

  • Kyoto City Bus has so many lines which may confuse you, and stops are very frequent which may cause a long ride, and often get very crowded. So you get tired before arriving your stop if a seat is not available. Particularly the elderly may want to use train which is less crowded and has seats available except for the commuting hours.
  • If you don’t have time and want to see the major temples and shrines in the most cost-efficient way, you should use both the City Bus and City Subway.

Pass for a day

Each train company offer the pass which allows you an unlimited use of their all lines for a day or two. They are normally more values than the price when you ride three times or more in a day.
City Subway has “One day free ticket” (600yen), and “Kyoto Sightseeing One Day (Two-Day) Pass” which are valid for both Subway and Bus (One Day 1200yen, Two-day 2000yen). Passes for a child are half price.

Randen has “One day free ticket” (500yen, child 250yen), “Subway and Randan One day free ticket” (1000yen, not available for child), and “Arashiyama Sagano Bicycle Ticket” which is a combination of one ride of Randen and two-hour bicycle rental in Arashiyama district (500yen, not available for child).

Randen Shijo Omiya station