Japan is one of the most popular countries in the world to visit. It is a country where you can find old traditions mixed with modern technology.
And depending on which city you choose to go to, you’ll find vast differences between each one of them. For instance, Tokyo might be the city surrounded by technology, but Kyoto is the city known for its old traditions and temples all around.
Spring time in Kyoto
Which is why if you decide to visit Kyoto, you will be stunned by all the amazing traditions this city has kept. From the old shinto shrines to temples to bamboo forests to even geishas. You will feel like you traveled back into the past and get a first hand look at just what Japan was like in the older days.
There is simply so many things to see and do. And it is because of these things that many people will often think that visiting Kyoto is a very expensive thing to do.
And to be honest…Sure there are some expensive things here in this city, but it isn’t as bad when compared to some of the other countries in the world.
Kyoto On A Budget: Travel Tips
Path to Fushimi Inari Shinto Shrine
There are many things you can do here in this city for either a low cost or no cost at all. It is totally possible to save money when you are visiting Kyoto. Which is why in this post I’ll be detailing all the tips and tricks for you to visit Kyoto on a budget.
So let’s get started!
Finding Cheap Accommodations
As we know, one of the most expensive parts of a travel trip is the place we stay at.
So the first thing on our list of budget tips is on how to choose your accommodations wisely.
Good thing for you is that there are a variety of cheap accommodations in the city that you can choose from.
In this list, we’ll be starting with the most basic of places to stay at and then move slowly up to the more higher end price points.
A capsule hotel is basically a hotel that rents out small cubicles. The size of the entire cubicle is not very big and can only probably fit 1 person max. Even though it is small, it is a popular choice for many people to stay in if all they really need is a bed to sleep on. So if you don’t mind small spaces, then this will be perfect for you.
Typical Price: $10 – $15 USD a night.
This is something where a lot of people might be familiar with. They are basically communal places where you stay with a lot of people. One room might have many beds for a bunch of people to sleep in or depending on which hostel you decide to use, they may offer private rooms.
Typical Price: $10 – $50 USD a night.
This is one form of accommodation where I think everybody should be familiar with by now. It is incredibly popular in Japan as there are many houses available for you to choose from at affordable prices. Although it is a bit pricier than some of the other options, it is still cheaper than a hotel.
Typical Price: $20 – $50 USD a day
Just like every other city in the world, there are many hotels for you to choose from in Kyoto. Although the price point tends to be on the higher end of things, it may be something you’ll consider.
Typical Price: $80 – $100 USD a night
Using Public Transportation
When you are going to be traveling around Kyoto, there are a few methods you can use.
Trains, Buses and Taxis are going to be your friend. Now depending on where you are going, you might not even need them.
I personally recommend that if the destination is less than 30 minutes away by foot, I would just walk to that destination instead. Or, if you don’t feel like walking, there are some bike shops around that’ll let you rent out a bike to ride.
But if the destination is a little bit far, I would try a Public Bus first as they are relatively cheap. However if the Public Bus is not able to reach your destination, then I would try a Taxi.
Do know that taxi’s are actually quite cheap here in Japan compared to some other parts of the world. They are great to use especially if you are late for something or you missed that last subway or bus home.
Furthermore, here are some tips that can help you make traveling around the city more easier for you.
Download Google Maps if you do not have it yet. This is literally a god send and can help you out if you ever get lost. Google Maps is also able to give you accurate recommendations for different modes of transportation when you are trying to figure out your journey. So overall, it is a must have app for travel.
Download CityMaps2Go app for your phone to plot your destinations. This is a great app to use especially if you don’t have wifi because it works offline and is able to help you identify where you want to go.
If you are going to be using the train system here in Japan, then I would highly suggest you download Navitime for Japan Travel as it can help you figure out where you are going.
Finding Food To Eat
Fried pork with onions
This is the part everybody is probably waiting for.
You’ll be happy to know that eating food in Kyoto is incredibly affordable and cheap. Plus, the food is at a real high quality as well so you know you are getting some good food.
However, you do have to know where to go before you go buy your food. Mainly because, not everything is cheap in Kyoto.
Tip: Try to go where the locals eat. Avoid the restaurants that are geared towards tourists and go find some hole in the wall restaurant where locals eat. This will guarantee you save some money as foods tend to be cheaper here.
Note: The only problem in this approach is that they probably won’t speak or understand English so you might need a translation software or do some hand signs. Perhaps, learn a few common Japanese words, numbers, and phrases.
Also please note that these places might be a bit hard to spot if you don’t know what you are looking for. Typically you can find these places by going to any residential neighborhood and finding a place that can only sit 5 to 8 people only.
Street food is another type of food you can buy for a very cheap price.
You can find street foods by going to any of the street markets here in the city. And once you are there, you’ll be able to enjoy an assortment of different and delicious tasting foods.
Some of the foods you can find are:
Tempura – This is basically a fried Japanese dish that can consist of mostly seafood and vegetables. The batter is light yet crispy and makes for a delicious bite. Also, it is usually less oily than the other regular fried foods you’ll find in other countries.
Takoyaki – Takoyaki is basically a fried octopus ball and can be found all throughout Japan. They basically take a piece of octopus and cover it in dough batter and cook it into a ball shape. After that they top it with a sweet sauce, bonito flakes, and also Japanese Mayonnaise.
Okonomiyaki – A common street food (as well as commonly served in many restaurants) you might run into while in Japan is one called Okonomiyaki. It is basically a savory pancake excepted it is pressed on a griddle with a very diverse amount of ingredients. You can find them topped with all kinds of toppings such as cabbage, bacon, egg, seaweed flakes, and much more.
Yakitori – Yakitori is another street food you might run into while in Japan. Basically it is a grilled chicken skewer that has been cooked over a hot charcoal fire. It is a pretty cheap dish that is highly popular in pubs where people sit down and enjoy it with a glass of beer.
Donburi – Another simple dish you can find in Japan is one called a Donburi. It is a very cheap and affordable dish that is also very filling. The name Donburi means rice bowl and it can consist of many different types things added together with the rice bowl. It is a common item that you can find almost anywhere in Japan, as there are even fast food chains that sell this delicious item.
Donburi – this one is a traditional rice bowl with eggs
The best thing about this is that most of the street foods you buy are only around $5 bucks or less. So you can eat quite a bit without having to break the bank.
Another place where you can find some cheap and affordable food is at convenience stores all over the country. These stores are on a whole different level than those you can find back in the States.
Plus, they don’t just stock food, but they have literally anything and everything you can ever want.
One of my favorite things to get at these stores are the Ramen bowls. You can get them for as little as $0.50 cents and they will fill you up just nicely. Plus you can grab a drink and a dessert and make it a full on meal. How great is that?
So if you are wanting to save some money, I highly suggest you visit the convenience stores located in the area. They are amazing!
Places To Shop At
To be honest, Kyoto isn’t really the city to be shopping in as there are not that many stores around. If you are wanting to shop, I would recommend taking the 1 hour train ride to the city of Osaka where you can find literally anything and everything you want.
However what Kyoto does have is something called “Kyoto’s Kitchen”, which is the number one place for you to go buy all your food ingredients.
That place is the famous NISHIKI MARKET.
Nishiki Market is popular with both locals and tourists as it offers you a glimpse into what a traditional Japanese shopping street looks like. This is the place to find all your traditional Japanese ingredients as well as fresh seafood. They also have takeaway food stalls and even restaurants selling all kinds of delicious and yummy foods at affordable prices.
Definitely recommend coming here if you are looking to try new foods.
Free Or Cheap Places To Go Visit
Did you know that you can visit a bunch of different attractions for either no cost or low cost price?
It’s true! There are literally a ton of things that you can do for either a low cost or no cost budget!
So lets see what you can see for FREE or very little entry fees:
Fushimi Inari Shinto Shrine
This is probably the number one attraction of Kyoto. The famous gates of the Fushimi Inari Shrine. The gates form a line and go all the way up the mountain of Southeast Kyoto. Definitely a must see attraction as it is something you’ll never find anywhere else.
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is one of the most beautiful sights here in Kyto. It is favored by many people from all around the world for its beautiful bamboo. Walking along the path of these bamboo shoots will make it feel as if you are going through a different dimension. There are also some local temples nearby which you can visit as well.
Tenryu-ji Temple is the most important temple in Kyoto’s Arashiyama district. It is the head temple of the Tenryu sect of Rinzai Zen Buddhism and is ranked first among Kyoto’s top five Zen temples. It is also here where you can find a beautiful Zen garden that dates back to the 14th century. It is one of the most beautiful Zen gardens in all of Japan.
This is a small and interesting temple that is located close to the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and is known for its picturesque view of its moss garden, bamboo grove & maple trees.
Kinkakuji Temple is a unique temple because it is all Golden yellow. Heck, even the top two floors are covered in gold leaves. Although you are not able to enter this temple, it is still a beautiful sight to see.
Nanzen-ji temple is said to be one of the best temples in Northern Higashiyama district. It is one of the most important Zen temples in all of Japan as well as being the head temple of one of the schools within the Rinzai sect of Japanese Zen Buddhism. It is a magical place where you’ll have to really visit it to understand everything it has to offer.
Cost: Free to explore
Philosopher’s Path (Tetsugaku no michi)
If you want to see something truly beautiful, then head to Philosophers Path. It is a 2km long walkway that follows a canal and is surrounded by hundreds of Cherry Blossom Trees. If you come during the right season, the trees will be in full bloom and full of color making the area extremely beautiful to walk along in.
Kiyomizu-dera Temple is a Buddhist temple that is unlike any you ever seen. It is one of the most celebrated temples in all of Japan. What makes this temple famous is that it has a wooden stage that juts out from its main hall.
This stage allows visitors to a nice view of the surrounding area. Not only that, but there is also a shrine here that is popular among women for it is said to be the shrine to the god of marriage. Definitely a must see temple.
Gion Street is a famous geisha district that is filled with shops, restaurants and teahouses. It is here where you’ll be able to see many geiko’s and maiko’s roaming around trying to entertain people.
Cost: Free to roam
As you can see, there are quite a bit of things for you to see and do for either a low cost or for no cost at all. Hopefully this post was able to show you that you don’t have to spend a lot of money in Kyoto just to have fun.
So next time you plan a trip, you might want to consider traveling to Kyoto and enjoy all it has to offer.
Let me know how your trip goes!
Wayne is a part-time traveler and a firm believer that anybody is able to travel no matter how busy they are in work or life. He wants to show you how you can travel better and smarter like never before. So, if you want to check out his travel blog, you can do so by visiting Daily Tourist.