If you’re planning a visit to the city of Kyoto, then may I recommend taking the bus as one of the more affordable ways to get around town. For ¥500 a day, you can buy a Kyoto City Bus pass for unlimited rides on most of the buses in the city. The only down side to all of that is that things to go slower on the bus. However, all the major attractions are easily accessible by bus; whereas, the trains do not get close to all the major sites.
Now buses in Kyoto are very interesting and require a different mindset when boarding. When a bus arrives at a stop, it will first open the front door. Contrary to some people’s expectations, the front door is actually for passengers unloading from the bus. They pay as they exit the bus. Or if you have a bus pass, you put the card through the reader as you exit. Once all the passengers who want to get off are off, then the driver will proceed to open the rear door which is meant for loading passengers. Some buses have card readers at the back of the bus and some don’t. If there is a card reader, then you’re supposed to slip the card in to register your card for the bus stop at which you boarded. That way, the bus knows how much to charge you, if there is a charge.
The fare machines on a Kyoto bus can give change if necessary. Because of the nature of charge-by-distance fares, you need to have pretty exact change when paying by cash. So if you are paying by cash, you have watch the fare board at the front of the bus carefully. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t figure out how to read the board. That’s why if you’re a tourist, get the bus pass. It will be way easier and less confusing. And after 3 rides on the bus, then you’ve already recouped your ¥500.
The Kyoto City Web page has detailed information about riding the bus and subway in Kyoto. I guess they know that it can be confusing for foreigners to figure out the system, so they have the complete rundown on their page.