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I will be travelling to Kyoto for one week and would like to know the cheapest method of travelling from Osaka Kansai to Kyoto and back.

I have looked into the JR east pass which costs ¥2060 for one day. Of course I will need to buy two of these, one for the way out and one for the way back (is this even possible)?

Of course the route I take should accommodate luggage (2 big suitcases) :) .

  • Do you mean Osaka International Airport (大阪国際空港 ITM), or Kansai International Airport (関西国際空港 KIX)?? – hippietrail Apr 8 '14 at 8:56
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    Osaka-Kansai = KIX. Despite the name, Osaka-Itami "International" doesn't actually have any international flights. – jpatokal Apr 8 '14 at 12:24
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The sane way to travel from Kansai Airport to Kyoto is the direct JR Haruka service, which would usually cost ¥2,980, but as you've figured out is covered by the ¥2060/day Kansai Area Pass. Now you could buy two one-day passes... but there's an even better option!

Available at Kansai Airport only, and only for non-resident foreigners with a return air ticket, the "ICOCA & HARUKA" pass gets you a round-trip from the airport to a Kansai city of your choice (including Kyoto) on the Haruka express (plus local connections) for ¥4060, plus an ICOCA smart card preloaded with ¥1500 of credit that can be used anywhere in the Kansai region, including Kyoto buses and subways, or even drink vending machines etc. This means you basically get the round-trip for ¥2560.

However, if you're really pinching pennies and were planning on walking or biking around Kyoto all day every day (not recommended, it's a big city), you could cover the distance for ¥1720 one-way by taking the Nankai "rapid service" (not to be confused with the premium rapi:t service, which is twice the price) to Namba, crossing Osaka on the Midosuji subway line, then taking the JR Special Rapid to Kyoto. (Route #4 in this Hyperdia search.) The hassle of two extra transfers is highly unlikely to be worth the minor savings though.

And finally, I presume this was just a typo, but the JR East Pass isn't going to help you, it's only valid on JR East routes north of Tokyo.

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    Thank you for your amazing answer! Yes the East Pass was more of a conflict of two thoughts - I'm also looking into my trip to Tokyo a few weeks later and got muddled up.. My plan is to get the ICOCA & HARUKA card and use it for the two days I will be in Osaka/ Nara, but whilst I am inside Kyoto (apart from airport transfers) I will get the ¥500 all-day buss pass or rent out a bike. Do you know if there are limitations to the bus pass, or is it truly unlimited and can reach a lot of tourist spots? – Keir Simmons Apr 7 '14 at 13:32
  • Buses are the main mode of transport in Kyoto, so yes, it should cover you pretty well. Please accept the answer if you like it ;) – jpatokal Apr 7 '14 at 22:04
  • Yes @Keir, the Kyoto unlimited bus pass is really unlimited for that day. You can do a lot of sightseeing on it, just have to get up early (most of the sightseeing places close at or before 5pm). Renting out a bike is a great way to see the city, as it isn't that big, and the city itself is pretty flat and good for bike riding (though temples are often up the mountains). – jmac Apr 18 '14 at 0:19
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    A year on, would just like to say as this is receiving a lot of views - I went with the ICOCA & HARUKA option above and everything worked out as suggested. I definitely recommend this route as it worked out cheaply and I couldn't see anything cheaper on arrival. – Keir Simmons Apr 19 '15 at 13:53
  • The Icoca & Haruka offer recently got a major overhaul. In particular, the one-way trip to Kyoto now costs ¥1,600 excluding the price of the Icoca card (so it is still the cheapest and recommended rail option). westjr.co.jp/global/en/ticket/icoca-haruka – fkraiem Jul 8 '16 at 15:51
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I strongly recommend MK Skygate Shuttle Service. They will take you door to door between the airport and your hotel, and that is just so much easier than taking a train. Cheaper too (3,500 yen round trip).

You have to reserve ahead of time, but it if your hotels and flights are already decided, I cannot recommend this service enough for anyone visiting Kansai.

  • Thank you. I'm staying in a hostel but I will definitely look into this :) . – Keir Simmons Apr 18 '14 at 9:23
  • Hotel or Hostel shouldn't matter -- they will take you door to door no matter where you're staying (though you may need to give the hostel phone number and let them know that you are arranging it ahead of time). The MK service is tops in all of Kansai for taxis in general, and that shuttle is tremendous if your hostel is far from a station (especially after a long flight). – jmac Apr 18 '14 at 9:52
  • fantastic tip... – Fattie Oct 19 '15 at 15:13
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The cheapest way to travel between Kansai Airport and Kyoto area is Kyoto Access Ticket for KIX->Kyoto (sold at Nankai ticket counter) and Kanku Access Ticket for Kyoto->KIX (sold at major station on Hankyu railway), both cost 1230 yen. You can go to Arashiyama, Kawaramachi, which is a short distance from Gion, or Karasuma, which connects with Kyoto subway. It requires you to connect at Tengachaya station, and possibly Awaji station, though it is cheaper than JR Haruka at 1600 yen. Note that this option does not go to Kyoto station.

Though if you also plan to sightsee, the usually better option is actually Kansai Thru Pass (4000yen/2day, 5200yen/3day). It allows you to takes the same route as the above tickets, but also includes all Kyoto bus and non-JR trains, etc. It can be used on non-consecutive days too.

Of course, the most sane way is still JR Haruka, which is much more convenient, requiring no transfer and has much more comfortable seating. I'd still recommend the 3-day Kansai Thru Pass if you are going to sightsee the same day as your travel.

EDIT: Additional advantages I forget to mention is that these Access Tickets can be used by everyone, including Japanese people, while other train tickets mentioned in this thread requires temporary visitor status. This might come in handy if you are travelling with Japanese friends or foreign students who aren't temporary visitors.

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    Oh, yes, I had forgotten about those. They only became cheapest when the Icoca & Haruka was changed this year; before that it was cheapest at 1,030 yen (excluding the price of the IC card, which everyone buys anyway). – fkraiem Jul 14 '16 at 4:33

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