The Kyoto city buses are an economical and convenient way to travel around the city. Most start at a terminal in front of Kyoto Station. Routes are marked by number and have lists of popular sites they go to. Away from Kyoto Station, stops are well marked and usually have a small shelter. The only problem is that buses tend to be extremely packed, which can be a problem if you are traveling with a stroller or small children.
Most routes are about ¥220 yen. You board from the rear and pay the driver at the front when you get off. Try to have the exact fare because some buses do not give change. Maps of the bus system are available in many places around Kyoto, including the bus information center to the right of the bus terminal as you exit Kyoto Station. It is down a few steps and there is frequently a long line.
There is also a special day pass for adult ¥500 / child ¥250 that lets you ride any number of buses on a given day. Another pass is the Kyoto Sightseeing One and Two-day Pass Card which costs All-day Pass Adult ¥1,200 / Child ¥600, Two-day Pass Adult ¥2,000 / Child ¥1,000 and can be used for the City bus, Subway line and within one section of Kyoto Bus Route and gives unlimited use for the same or two-days.
Get the pass at the bus information center. You can buy all of the passes you will need in one visit because they are not valid until you use them. Give the pass to the driver on the first bus you ride that day. It will be stamped with the date, and you can use it as much as you want until that day is over. Kids may like to keep them as souvenirs of the trip as they are compact, durably made and the graphic on the cars can be very cool.
For more information on city buses: http://www.city.kyoto.jp/koho/eng/access/transport.html which has detailed procedures on boarding, paying, etc in english. Also at the bottom there are Route Maps for the City Bus suggested sightseeing maps “Busnavi” which are a nice reference and easy to print out or keep on your cell phone digitally. The ‘Kyoto City Basics’ card is shown above.
A convenient map of bus routes to use when sightseeing in Kyoto City: http://www.city.kyoto.jp/koho/eng/access/img/basunabieigo-rosenn.pdf which also shows the area the day pass can be used in.
There are also trains and subways in Kyoto, but the systems are not nearly as extensive as the buses. Check the routes to see what arrives closest to your destination.