Since we wanted to see many sites in Kyoto as well as the Jidai Matsuri, we used Kyoto as a base and took day trips to the other Kansai cities. But if you are more of a city person, you’d probably like staying in Osaka better than Kyoto.
Our itinerary was like this:
Day 1: Arrive in Kyoto
Day 2: Kyoto – Fushimi Inari – Uji – Nara – Kyoto [Kansai Thru Pass] Day 3: Kyoto
Day 4: Kyoto – Osaka – Kyoto [Kansai Thru Pass] Day 5: Kyoto – Nara -Kyoto [JR] Day 6: Kyoto (Jidai matsuri)
My mom and I are temple, old building lovers so three days in Kyoto was fine. (Although we did spend a large part of our last day napping in the public bus.)
Saving on transport
Since we did not buy a JR Pass, I had to think of other ways of saving on transportation. I had different strategies depending on where we were visiting that day.
For trips in Kyoto, the 500-yen one day bus pass is quite sufficient. My mom and I usually buy one the night before from the vending machines at Kyoto Station so that we can use it immediately when we leave the hostel the next morning. But you can also buy it directly from the bus driver.
For the first time you are using the pass, you’ll need to slot it into the machine which will print out the date behind. On your next trips, you’ll only need to flash the date at the bus driver.
As Kyoto’s bus system is very compact, we didn’t buy the subway+bus pass which is about 1,200 yen. When we needed to reach the location for Jidai Matsuri, we bought a one-way ticket which was a lot cheaper than the pass.
Away from Kyoto
For our Osaka/Nara trips, we used a 2-day Kansai Through Pass which costs 3,800 yen.
The pass covers a large portion of the private railway lines, subway and bus in the Kansai region. You won’t be able to take JR trains–including the Shinkansen–but there are plenty of equally timing saving alternatives around.
The pass is great since we can start using it on the bus immediately in Kyoto to get to the main terminal. For our Osaka trip, I’m not sure if it would have saved us money if we bought a combination of Kyoto bus pass, return train trip to Osaka and Osaka subway pass, but it sure saved us time buying tickets.
Do note that the train stations for these private lines might be different from the JR ones, even if they had the same name. I had to ask around for the line that goes to Fushimi-Inari.
Oh, you won’t be able to use the pass for buses in Nara. Boo, when we wanted to visit the Yurara-no-yu onsen.
We also took a JR train. For our second day in Nara (the Jidai Matsuri was cancelled because of the rain), we had exhausted our Kansai Through Pass so we bought one-way tickets to and from Nara. The scenery on JR seems to be more scenic than the private rail.
So that’s how we used Kyoto as a base for exploring Kansai. Do you have similar experiences?
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