Your quick travel guide to Kyoto

Car Rental in Kyoto: the city os spectacular sights

Before Tokyo became the capital of Japan, Kyoto was the country’s seat of power for over 1000 years. The city is also known as Japan’s most beautiful city, though Kyoto makes you work for the sights. You will certainly want to spend a good deal of time exploring the districts that surround Kyoto’s city center, though it is recommended to explore Kyoto’s surrounding countryside as well. Make the most of your visit by staying mobile via rental car. Book your car today!

The weather is fairly temperate year-round in Kyoto, and you can avoid the rain by visiting the city in the shoulder seasons, from March to May and October to November.

Japan is an incredibly homogeneous country and its inhabitants speak almost universally Japanese. Many younger Japanese people speak English, particularly in large cities and near popular tourist destinations. Have a notepad and pen on hand, as many Japanese people can read and write English better than they can speak it.

The currency is the Japanese yen and cash is still the preferred method of payment in most stores and agencies. Exchanging currency outside of major airports can sometimes be a challenge, though the US dollar is widely accepted. Many ATMs will not accept non-domestic credit cards, though you’re likely to get lucky using a foreign card at ATMs in post offices and 7-11 convenience stores.

Kyoto is in the Japan Time Zone, UTC+9.

Automobile hire is available in 8 locations throughout Kyoto, including at Kawaramachi Station, Kadono Hachijo, Fushimi, and downtown.

Visa Regulations

Most nationalities can visit Japan visa free, though restrictions vary according to methods and locations of arrival and departure, and forms of identification. Double-check visa regulations for your country before you depart, particularly as a visa received prior to entry is necessary for some nationalities. All foreign nationals age 16 and over will be fingerprinted and biometrically photographed upon entry.

Driving in Kyoto

Though Kyoto is smaller than Japan’s other major cities, its roads are still very congested, making driving slow going, and parking very difficult. Book your rental car accordingly, to only be responsible for it on the days you plan to drive outside of Kyoto itself.

Left-Hand Driving

  • Traffic drives on the left-hand side of the road throughout Japan.

Speed Limits

  • Expressways: typically 80 to 100 km/h
  • Metropolitan areas: 40 km/h
  • Residential areas: typically 30 km/h
  • Local highways: sometimes as low as 50 to 60 km/h
  • Traffic in Kyoto can be congested all day, but you should still make a point of avoiding peak traffic periods during morning and even rush hours, particularly around 8 to 9 am and around 5 pm.

Other Regulations

  1. Parking is a challenge in Kyoto, so consider parking outside the city and taking public transportation into the city center during your visit.
  2. An international driver’s license based on the 1949 Geneva Convention is required for all car rentals and must be carried with you at all times. Make sure you have acquired an international driver’s permit for Japan before you arrive. Some international driver’s permits are not recognized in Japan, but a Japanese translation of your license will often suffice. Be sure to check country-specific regulations on licensing before you leave your home country.
  3. It is unlikely that your domestic car insurance—even that issued through credit cards—will be valid in Japan, so make sure to double-check before you hire your car.
  4. There are numerous toll roads in and around Kyoto, and they are very expensive, so be sure to check the costs of your chosen route before you depart.
  5. You must carry your passport with you at all times throughout Japan.
  6. The minimum driving age in Kyoto is 18 years. The minimum age to rent a car depends on the company, through you are likely to face young-driver surcharges until the age of 25.

Cheap Car Rental in Kyoto

Automobile hire in Kyoto typically starts at around $56 a day. Here are some of the best deals in Kyoto:

  • Mazda Demio or similar (economy class) – $56/day
  • Mazda 2 or similar (economy class) – $57/day
  • Nissan Note or similar (compact class) – $69/day
  • Toyota Corolla Estate or similar (compact class) – $72/day
  • Toyota Prius Hybrid (intermediate class) – $89/day

Note that prices vary depending on the availability of each specific car and the season in which you rent. For the most accurate offers, use the search bar above.

Tips for Renting a Car Inexpensively in Kyoto

While there appears to be no significant seasonal variation in price for rental cars in Kyoto, make sure that you book your rental car within 4 months of your arrival to get the best price and the most diverse car options.

Europcar is the cheapest rental agency from which to book your car throughout Kyoto, regardless of location, such as Kawaramachi Station or Kadono Hachijo. They typically beat other agencies’ prices by around $8 a day.

You can also typically save $1 a day by extending your rental period to over a week.