Nara is easily reached from Kyoto Station on two lines: the JR Nara Line and the Kintetsu Limited Express. If you have a Japan Rail Pass, you'll probably want to take the commuter JR Nara Express, which departs about four times an hour and takes 43 to 57 minutes depending on the train; if you don't have a pass, the trip costs ¥690 one-way. If speed or luxury is of the utmost importance, the deluxe Kintetsu Special Limited Express whisks you to Nara in 35 minutes, guarantees you a seat (all seats are reserved), and costs ¥1,110; departures are every 30 minutes (if it's peak season, it's a good idea to buy your ticket in advance). A slower Kintetsu ordinary express takes 45 minutes and costs ¥610.
You can also reach Nara from Osaka in about 30 to 50 minutes, depending on the train and the station from which you leave. The Kintetsu Nara Line, departing from Namba Station, takes 40 minutes and costs ¥540; JR railways departs from Osaka Station, takes 50 minutes, and costs ¥780.
There are tourist information offices at both JR Nara Station (tel. 0742/22-9821; daily 9am-5pm) and Kintetsu Nara Station (tel. 0742/24-4858; daily 9am-5pm). Both have good brochures and maps with useful information on how to get around Nara by foot and bus, as well as city magazine Nara Explorer. For more detailed information on Nara, visit the Nara City Tourist Center, 23-4 Kami-sanjo-cho (tel. 0742/22-3900; daily 9am-9pm), located in the heart of the city on Sanjo Dori between both stations and about a 5-minute walk from each. Finally, there's Sarusawa Information Center (tel. 0742/26-1991; daily 9am-5pm), located at Sarusawa-ike Pond, south of Nara Park and not far from Nara's many attractions. Websites with information on Nara include www.city.nara.nara.jp; www.pref.nara.jp; and www.naraexplorer.jp.
If you take the Kintetsu Line, you'll arrive at Kintetsu Nara Station; if you take the JR train, you'll arrive at JR Nara Station. Both stations are about a 10-minute walk from each other and are within walking distance of Nara Park and its attractions. Kintetsu Station is slightly closer, about a 5-minute walk to the entrance of the park, while the JR Station is about a 10-minute walk to the park. Keep in mind, however, that Nara Park is quite large and its major attractions are far-flung; it takes about 20 minutes to walk from Kintetsu Nara Station to Todaiji Temple. Around the stations themselves is Nara's small downtown area, with Sanjo Dori serving as the main shopping street and running from JR Nara Station to Nara Park.
If You're Heading to Horyuji -- If you plan to visit the Horyuji Temple area, the cheapest and fastest way to get there is from JR Nara Station on the JR Kansai Yamatoji Line going in the direction of Namba (in Osaka); departures are every 10 minutes or so and bring you to Horyuji Station in 13 minutes (fare: ¥210). From there, you can either walk to the temple area in about 20 minutes or take a bus (fare: ¥170), which departs two to three times an hour from 10am. Alternatively, there's bus no. 97, an excursion line that runs between Kasuga Grand Shrine and Horyuji, passing Todaiji Temple and both train stations on the way, but it takes about an hour and costs ¥760 one-way, with seven departures daily. Obviously, because it takes quite a bit of time getting to and from Horyuji, you must limit your sightseeing to only the major attractions if you plan on visiting both Nara Park and Horyuji in 1 day.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.