Japan has a reputation for being an expensive travel destination. A trip to the country is also worth every penny so regardless of budget, I always encourage people to go. My cheap guide to Kyoto is a series that I hope will help my fellow travelers out.
It may appear daunting to the pocket at first but a budget trip to Japan is possible. I’m a student hence I’m conscious with how I spend money and I try to research as much as I can by reading various cheap guide to Kyoto and asking people for tips.
After several trips to Kyoto, I’ve come up with my own cheap guide to Kyoto for those of you who are interested in going to Kyoto on a budget. These are all practical tips without any extremities. Remember, do not compromise your well-being for the sake of savings. Travel is after all chance for you to immerse to another culture not be in danger.
Behold, here are some of my tips for you that could help you save time/money during your Kyoto trip.
Cheap Guide to Kyoto: Before you Go
1.) Get to know Kyoto and do a bit of research before you go
I just want to say that research or planning do not kill spontaneity in a trip. You don’t have to follow everything you’ve planned but knowing things such as train routes, places of interests, etiquette etc. would help you save resources (and avoid stress).
Japan in general, has an extensive transport network that could confused first time visitors so a little research in this part would help you tremendously! Getting lost is inevitable and one of the fun things you could experience in travel. However, don’t you find it stressful when you stop every time and ask every single detail of your route?
Also, doing a bit of research in your places of interest would give you a glimpse of what you can expect. Ask yourself, “Do I really want to visit this place now?” or “Would it be better if I go this place instead?”. There are plenty of resources available online or you could go to a local bookstore to browse some travel guides. Personally, I also find that getting know about a destination makes me even more excited for the trip.
2.) Mix and match your places of interests- You don’t have to visit everything at once
Just to put context to what I’ve said above regarding places of interest, Kyoto has a lot in store for any traveller. Kyoto is home to numerous heritage sites, shrines and gardens. Many of Japan’s iconic landmarks are also found in Kyoto. These just means you would never run out of things to do or visit. It is quite tempting to visit every place at one trip so this will be a bit tricky if you have limited budget.
Take considerations of the entrance fees and transport expenses. Y400 or Y500 might seem a small fee at a glance, but collectively you could spend more than Y3000 just for entrance fees. Add that to the accommodation, food and transport.
Like I mention before, try to get to know your places of interests. Assess if you really want to visit all of them in this trip or if you are quite determined to be there at all costs. You can choose to skip some areas for this trip and visit them when you on your next trip. Also check if there are cheaper alternatives. Believe it or not, you can enjoy free things in Kyoto as listed in my “Free things to do in Kyoto”.
3.) Assess which bus/subway pass will work for your itinerary
A JR pass do not cover for the bus and subway system in Kyoto. If you haven’t activated your JR pass yet, I suggest you activate it later and opt for a bus/subway passes. It is also alright if your JR pass is already active though a bus/subway pass is much more convenient since JR trains are not as extensive in Kyoto.
One subway or bus ride costs around Y210-Y250 so if you plan to use public transport, it will be worthwhile to use a pass.
I have only used passes on one or two occasions since I prefer walking most of the time.
4.) You can save if you choose to walk
I admit, walking is not for everyone for several reasons. It would take longer to reach your destination by walking, and of course, it is tiring. No one also wants to walk during bad weather (summer heat counts).
But walking means no transport fee and you get to exercise.
5.) Chose accommodations in a strategic location
Pick a place where you can easily reach your places of interest. This would help you save transport costs and time.
For instance, I stayed in place in Shimogyo-ku where I could explore Higashiyama (Gion, Yasaka Shrine, Philosopher’s path, Kiyomizu-dera), Shijo-Karasuma and other surrounding areas by foot. Hankyu Line (for Arashiyama) and Keihan Line were also minutes away by foot.
6. Stay in a hostel
Hostels are life-savers for many budget travellers. They are in central areas plus the social atmosphere is quite vibrant too, you get to meet fellow travellers and make friends. The hostels in Japan are expensive (Y2500-Y3000 for a bed in a dormitory) but their facilities/rooms are clean. Japanese hostels also have the cleanest bathrooms I’ve ever experienced in a hostel. Hostels also provide guests maps, their own cheap guide to Kyoto where you find recommendations for food, places or events. You can also talk to the staff or ask them for some tips.
This is the first part of my cheap guide to Kyoto so stay tuned for the next series! Meanwhile check out the best and free things to do in Kyoto here!