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How to Travel to Kyoto From Osaka: The Fastest and Cheapest Ways
We compare the prices and travel times for accessing Kyoto from Osaka for each means of transportation: bullet trains, regular trains, buses, taxis, and rental cars. Information on local railways and their respective day passes is also included!
Accessing Kyoto from Osaka Is Surprisingly Simple
Osaka and Kyoto are very close being neighboring prefectures with simple accessibility. This article introduces a complete guide on major travel routes from Osaka to Kyoto.
The travel time from Osaka to Kyoto is 15 minutes by shinkansen (bullet train), 30 to 50 minutes by train, and around an hour and a half by bus or taxi. Let’s take a look at the respective features of each transportation method.
Table of Contents:
1. Bullet Train: The Fastest Method
2. Train (JR, Hankyu, Keihan Lines): The Most Recommended
3. Bus and Taxi
4. Cars are Convenient for Road Trips
5. Train Ticket Deals Between Osaka and Kyoto
6. Frequently Asked Questions
Bullet Train (Shinkansen): The Fastest Method
The Shinkansen (bullet train) is the fastest way to travel between Osaka and Kyoto. You can reach JR Kyoto Station from JR Shin-Osaka Station, a single stop away on the Shinkansen, in just 15 minutes.
However, the difference in travel time when compared to taking a train is about 15 to 30 minutes. If you’re not in a rush, avoiding using the Shinkansen is more cost efficient, since it is 1,420 yen more (unreserved seat) compared to the train at 1,000 yen.
We do recommend this method if you’re an overseas visitor with a Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) since it grants unlimited rides on Shinkansen trains. Please remember that you cannot board the Nozomi trains since the JR Pass only allows ride access to the Hikari and Kodama trains on the Shinkansen line.
Train (JR, Hankyu, Keihan Lines): The Most Recommended
To travel from Osaka to Kyoto, the train is the best option after considering the balance between cost efficiency and speed.
There are three routes available: the JR, Hankyu, and Keihan Railways. The platforms and departure stations will differ for each railway, so please use the railway that best fits your travel purposes.
JR: Fast and Easiest Route to Understand - Osaka Station → Kyoto Station
Traveling on a JR Line has the benefit of shorter travel times and ease of use.
Take the special rapid bound for Kyoto on the JR Kyoto Line from JR Osaka Station to arrive at JR Kyoto Station in 30 minutes. It costs 570 yen.
If you plan to take the train from JR Shin-Osaka Station, it takes 25 minutes to JR Kyoto Station and costs the same 570 yen.
The travel time is shorter than the Hankyu Railway. It is easy to understand how to use this line being a direct route from Osaka Station to Kyoto Station.
Please note that Kyoto Station is quite a distance from places in the downtown area, like Kawaramachi.
Hankyu: Access Downtown Kyoto Without Transfers - Osaka-Umeda Station → Kyoto-Kawaramachi Station
If you plan to take the Hankyu Railway, you will board a train from Osaka-Umeda Station located adjacent to JR Osaka Station. You can easily access Kawaramachi, Kyoto, near central Kyoto, without any transfers.
Take the limited express bound for Kyoto Kawaramachi on the Hankyu-Kyoto Main Line from Hankyu Osaka-Umeda Station. You will arrive in 45 minutes. It costs 400 yen (the JR Pass cannot be used on this route).
You can access Kyoto-Kawaramachi Station near Gion and shopping areas without any transfers.
Osaka-Umeda Station is adjacent to Osaka Station. Please note that walking to the station will take about 5 to 10 minutes.
Keihan: Easy to Access Sightseeing Spots - Yodoyabashi Station → Sanjo Station
Photo by Pixta
The Keihan Railway services areas further from the city center compared to Hankyu Railway. But this is what contributes to its unique charm.
The shops inside the station and posters on the walls are visible differences between stations serviced by Keihan or Hankyu Railway. It might be fun to spot the differences between the respective railways!
Take the limited express bound for Demachiyanagi from Yodoyabashi Station, Osaka, to Sanjo Station, Kyoto for 50 minutes. It costs 420 yen (the JR Pass cannot be used).
Keihan is known for servicing stations near sightseeing spots. For example, Yodoyabashi Station is near the Nakanoshima Museum of Art Osaka. Sanjo Station is also near Heian Shrine and Yasaka Shrine. Additionally, it’s a convenient train line when visiting destinations like Fushimi Inari Grand Shrine, Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine, and a local amusement park called Hirakata Park.
Yodoyabashi Station is around 15 to 20 minutes on foot from Osaka Station.
Bus and Taxi
Photo by Pixta
Buses depart for Kyoto Station from Hotel Keihan Universal Tower and Universal Studios Japan (USJ). There are no buses that service the route between Osaka Station and Kyoto Station, so please take note of this.
Travel time from Hotel Keihan Universal Tower to Kyoto Station ranges between one to two hours. Fares start from 700 yen. Since the travel time and pricing are subject to change, make sure to confirm these details on the Highway Bus WILLER website.
If traveling by taxi, then the travel time will be an hour and a half, priced at 15,000 yen. Taking a taxi is a good option if you are traveling with multiple people and have a lot of luggage or wish to travel directly to your destination.
Cars are Convenient for Road Trips
Photo by Pixta
You can arrive in approximately one hour by driving on the expressway from Osaka to Kyoto. Highway toll fees are roughly 3,000 yen one-way.
Honestly, a rental car isn’t an appealing option if you plan on sightseeing within central Osaka and Kyoto.
However, many spots are easier to travel with a rental car in the Kansai region. Some of these destinations include Amanohashidate, ranked among the three most scenic views in Japan and located in Kyoto, Ine, and Maizuru for their historical landscape and scenery. A rental car would also make visiting popular cafes and other places in the area easier when traveling around major sightseeing destinations.
Several car rental companies are available in Osaka and Kyoto. MATCHA has a 10% discount coupon when renting a vehicle from Nippon Rent-A-Car. Please consider using this coupon on your next rental!
Train Ticket Deals Between Osaka and Kyoto
The information above should be sufficient if you only plan to travel between Osaka and Kyoto.
However, if you plan to travel around Osaka and Kyoto for sightseeing, please know there are day passes sold for a great deal. Be sure to check them out!
For example, Hankyu Railway sells several day passes for a bargain. This includes the Hankyu Hanshin 1-Day Pass (Japanese), which allows unlimited rides for one day on all lines serviced by the Hankyu, Hanshin, and Kobe Rapid Transit Railways.
Keihan Railway also offers budget passes. The Osaka-Kyoto 1-Day Sightseeing Pass can be used to receive specific benefits at shrines, temples, and facilities along the Keihan Railway.
Day Pass Deals for Overseas Visitors
Transportation companies also offer unlimited ride pass deals marketed to overseas visitors.
For example, the JR Kansai WIDE Area Pass gives you unlimited rides on regular trains, limited express, and Shinkansen (bullet trains) serviced by JR. This pass can, of course, be used in Osaka and Kyoto. It can even be used further out in Kobe and Okayama.
The Kansai Thru Pass is an unlimited ride pass for lines on metro services in Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe, but excludes the JR lines. It also includes lines serviced by Keihan Railway, Hankyu Railway, Kintetsu Railway, and Nankai Electric Railway.
There’s also a day pass called the Hankyu Tourist Pass. This pass can be used exclusively on the Hankyu Railway at a discounted price.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1: Are there sightseeing trains to enjoy in the Osaka and Kyoto areas?
A: Yes. Options include the Aoniyoshi, a sightseeing limited express by Kintetsu that travels from Osaka to Kyoto via Nara. There's also the Kyo-Train Garaku serviced by Hankyu that connects Osaka-Umeda Station with Kyoto Kawaramachi.
Q2: Can I cycle around Osaka or Kyoto?
A: Yes. There are various cycling courses in Osaka and Kyoto. Please read Osaka Prefecture’s official website for details on Osaka and read Kyoto City Tourism Association’s official website for details on Kyoto.
Furthermore, the total distance between Osaka and Kyoto is around 40 to 50 kilometers. Look up “Osaka Kyoto cycling” to find several personal blogs and cycling media articles. They will introduce a route that starts in Osaka and ends in Kyoto along the Yodo River. Please check it out if you’re interested.
Travel the Way That Best Fits You
The most convenient way to access Kyoto Station from Osaka Station is by train.
However, every method of transportation will have its respective pros and cons. Decide which transportation to take according to your schedule and travel route!
Main image by Pixta
*This article is an updated 2023 version of an article published on March 18, 2018.