Rent a Car for Travel in Kyoto

Renting a car can be an excellent way to explore Kyoto and visit surrounding cities and scenic areas. Navigating Kyoto’s narrow streets may seem difficult but this guide will walk you through everything you need to know about renting a car for travel in Kyoto.

Rent a Car for Travel in Kyoto

How to Rent a Car in Kyoto

Follow these key steps for a smooth rental experience:

Compare Rental Companies

Research rates and policies across major chains like Nippon Rent-A-Car, Toyota Rent-a-Car, Times Car Rental and local outfits. Consider:

  • Rental costs
  • Vehicle options
  • Pickup/dropoff locations
  • Mileage fees, parking costs
  • Insurance choices

Reserve Your Rental Car

Once you’ve selected a company, book your rental providing:

  • Pickup/dropoff dates
  • Pickup/dropoff branch
  • Vehicle type
  • Any equipment rentals
  • Driver details and payment

Reserve early for best availability and rates.

Know the Requirements

Common requirements for renting a car in Japan are:

  • Valid driver’s license from your home country
  • International Driving Permit recommended
  • Minimum age, typically 21-25 years
  • Passport required
  • Deposit with credit card

Pick Up the Rental Car

Go to the rental branch at the booked time. Finalize paperwork, inspect the car, and drive away.

Driving in Kyoto

Here are some tips for getting around Kyoto’s streets and roads:

Getting Used to Driving

Kyoto has congested roads and limited parking. Useful tips:

  • Use navigation apps like Google Maps
  • Follow all signs and speed limits
  • Watch for bicycles and pedestrians
  • Drive defensively


Finding parking in central Kyoto can be extremely difficult. Understand regulations:

  • Metered parking has limits on duration
  • Public garages near attractions are expensive
  • Validate parking tickets from hotels/restaurants

Tolls and Gas Stations

Pay highway tolls via ETC card devices in rental cars. Fill up at self-service gas stations like those run by JA.

Road Rules

Follow all rules and regulations:

  • Drive on the left side of the road
  • Legal alcohol limit of 0.03%
  • Seatbelts mandatory
  • No mobile phone use while driving
  • Yield to pedestrians

Where to Rent a Car in Kyoto

Major rental companies have branches across Kyoto including:

Kansai International Airport

All major agencies have rental counters in the airport arrival lobby. Pickup right after landing.

Kyoto Station

Desks for Times Car Rental, Nippon Rent-a-Car, Toyota located inside the train station.

Downtown Kyoto

Numerous rental offices near hotels, attractions, and shopping areas.


Rent a car in Osaka to drive to Kyoto. Returns may be possible in either city.

Other Cities

Pickup may be possible in other cities like Tokyo, Hiroshima and bring car to Kyoto.

Types of Rental Cars in Kyoto

Consider these popular rental car choices:

Compact Cars

Good for Kyoto’s narrow streets. Models like Honda Fit, Toyota Tank, Nissan Dayz. Seats 4.

Standard Sedans

Midsizes like Toyota Corolla, Nissan Note, Mazda Axela. Balance of space and efficiency. Ideal for 2-4 people.

Vans and Wagons

Toyota Hiace and Nissan Caravan fit 7-8 with maximum luggage capacity. Easy access for strollers.

Premium Vehicles

Luxury Lexus sedans, Audi wagons, BMW convertibles. Higher rates but include extra services.

Kei Cars

Tiny cars best for narrow alleys and lanes. Limited availability at standard companies.

FAQ About Renting a Car in Kyoto

1. Is an International Driving Permit required in Kyoto?

Having an IDP is highly recommended along with your native license, but not legally mandatory.

2. What insurance options should I get?

Personal accident coverage is recommended. Collision damage waiver also useful to reduce financial liability.

3. Are rental cars equipped with GPS?

Most rentals will include built-in GPS with English navigation. Confirm GPS when booking the car.

4. Can I take the rental car out of Kyoto?

Yes, no restrictions on taking your rental car outside Kyoto region if you inform the company beforehand.

5. Are child seats available for rental?

Yes, reserve infant/child seats in advance though inventory is limited. Verify rental costs.


Renting a car enables you to visit top sites in Kyoto and make convenient side trips at your own pace. Booking the right rental car along with mindful driving will ensure you have a smooth experience. Don’t miss out on scenic drives to nearby cities like Nara, Osaka, Himeji and more


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