Cheap flights to Osaka leave from Cairns, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. Options include transiting through Singapore, Hong Kong or China. Australians do not need a visa to visit Japan, if the intended stay is less than 90 days. Kyoto is located south of Osaka’s Kansai International Airport. Trains are the fastest way to get to Kyoto. Kansai Airport Station is opposite the arrival lobby. Buy a one-day JR West Kansai Area Pass and take the Haruka Limited Express, which is then free for those who purchase a pass. Trains leave every half hour and take about 75 minutes to get to Kyoto. Local trains and buses are also an option, with local trains slightly cheaper than buses, but they do require several transfers.
Kyoto has two subway lines. The Tozai Line crosses the city east to west and the Karasuma-dori Line from north to south. Visitors can transfer at Karasuma Oike Station where they cross. The Tozai Line also connects with the Keihan Train Line, which runs north-south parallel to the Kamogawa River and can be used to access Gion, southern Kyoto, and several eastside attractions. Kyoto's subways are cheap and easy to use, but are limited to the area around the city centre. The train system is a good way to access attractions outside the city. Kyoto has a good bus system with signs and announcements in English. Most buses leave from Kyoto Station, though some depart from Sanjo-Kawabata Station near the Sanjo Keihan Station on the subway's Tozai Line. Many of Kyoto's attractions can only be reached by car or bus, so buses to top tourist attractions tend to get crowded on weekends and holidays. Passengers get on the bus through the back door and fares are paid when you get off the bus. The Raku Bus is operated for tourists going to attractions. They don't stop at many of the regular stops and are often faster than other buses. The Kyoto Sightseeing Card is good option for unlimited travel on Kyoto City Buses, Kyoto Buses and both subway lines.
Kyoto is famous for its many temples. One of the most impressive is the Byodoin Buddhist Temple in Uji, with its Phoenix Hall, constructed in 1053, surrounded by a scenic pond. The Golden Pavilion is the most famous Buddhist temple in Kyoto as it is literally covered in gold. Daigoji Temple, a classic Japanese temple, is famous for its five-storied pagoda, cherry blossom viewing in spring and traditional Japanese garden. The district of Gion is home to many geisha houses and traditional tea houses, while the Shinto shrine Heian Jingu has the largest torii (traditional Japanese gate) in Japan. For impressive views of Kyoto head to the Kiyomizu-dera Temple and its vast veranda.
The soul of Kyoto’s nightlife is between Shijo-dori and Sanjo-dori, sandwiched by the Kamogawa River to the east and Kawaramachi to the west. Club Metro is a friendly underground disco and music club at Jingu-Marutamachi station on the Keihan line. For live music head to Live Spot Rag, which is a well-established jazz venue that attracts both international and Japanese acts. Pontocho is a narrow food street just east of Kiyamachi, with numerous cheap restaurants and bars overlooking the Kamogawa River. For a cheap meal try Obanzai, which offers a vegetarian buffet, and is very popular with locals. Just off bustling Shijo-dori visitors can find the best udon (thick wheat) noodles in Kyoto at a great price. Kyoto's main shopping district centres on the area where the streets Shijo-dori and Kawaramachi-dori intersect. The area between Kawaramachi-dori and Karasuma-dori contains smaller, independent specialist shops and boutiques selling both traditional crafts and the latest fashion trends. Japanese comics and film fans should head for Teramachi-dori, one of Kyoto's biggest shopping arcades, which runs between Oike and Shijo-dori. Kyoto is famous for its arts and crafts shops, and the best one for tourists is the multistorey Kyoto Handicraft Centre, which sells a wide range of cheap handicraft products and souvenirs.