One of the most common questions for tourists visiting Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara is: "Should I use public transportation? Should I rent a car? Should I hire a driver? What is the best means of transportation for those areas?
In this Q&A article, I will help you understand your options and take a decision.
Can I go everywhere just by public transportation?
The simple answer is yes. Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara are super well connected by public transportation. You may need to walk a little bit from your location to the nearest station or bus stop, but it is never a big problem.
In Kyoto and Nara, you may need to walk a little bit more if you want to go from one tourist spot to the next one or wait a while for the bus to arrive.
I would encourage using public transportation, walking around those blessed places is of the joys of traveling there.
Can I use only trains? Or do I need other means?
In Osaka yes, Osaka is very well connected by subways and trains. But in Kyoto and Nara no, you will need to combine the train system and the bus system to go from one place to another.
In which cases do I need a car?
You only need a car if your group includes someone that cannot walk long distances. In that case only, I would recommend getting a car, otherwise, the public transportation will serve you perfectly well.
How much is a car with a driver / guide?
The prices vary from 150USD and 500USD depending on your group size, the tour duration and the inclusion of a guide.
How can I rent a car?
The average rental fees are around 5000 yen for a 24-hour period if you are hiring a sub-compact car. For a compact car, it would be 7500 yen. Mid-sized cars 10,000 yen, 15,000 yen for full-sized cars and 20,000 yen for vans.
Keep in mind that rates are sometimes increased during peak seasons.
You will need a special permit to drive in Japan. Foreigners can drive in Japan with an International Driving Permit (IDP) for a maximum of one year, even if the permit is valid for a longer period.
International driving permits are not issued in Japan and you should obtain yours from your home country in advance. The permits are usually issued through your country's National Automobile Association for a small fee.
It is important to note that Japan only accepts the International Driving Permit based on the 1949 Geneva Convention. Please check if your country is in the list of the countries that are parties to the convention through this link.
Although it may seem complicated, it is quite simple to make your IDP and it is recommended for people who want to drive in Japan. Also, driving in Japan is not as difficult as one would imagine due to the English hand and the language. The roads are friendly, organized and simple to navigate.
Should I hire a guide?
Absolutely! This entire area is full of history and mystery, a local guide will most certainly make your trip much more meaningful and memorable. Every corner of these cities have a story or a hidden interesting thing that you can only learn about with a professional tour guide, so please, absolutely hire a tour guide and have a wonderful time creating beautiful memories in Japan.
A tour guide can also help you learn about the local train and bus systems, give you tips on where to eat in the best local places, help you with Japanese translations and teach you anything you want to know about Japan.