This article provides a list of things to do during three days in Kyoto on a budget, budget hostels in Kyoto and how to get around Kyoto.
Kyoto, our second stop in Japan, was Japan’s former capital. It is a beautiful, charming and surprisingly quiet city. First thing I wanted to do was to see a geisha with my own eyes. We were looking forward to : geishas, beautiful temples, tea ceremonies and to continue to discover the local cuisine.
How To Get From Tokyo to Kyoto
Read all about it in our Tokyo guide.
How to Get Around In Kyoto– Local Transportation in Kyoto
Ride the Kyoto City Bus: Very easy to navigate. You can buy a day-pass for 500 JPY in front of the Kyoto train station – unlimited bus rides. JR/subway lines are very limited in Kyoto so best is to use the bus system. All major tourist attractions can be reached by bus.
Ride a bicycle: An excellent way to discover and explore Kyoto if it is not too cold.
Where to Stay in Kyoto: Kyoto Hostels
Unable to find a couchsurf host (if you know your itinerary, search for a host early on) we were able to find a room at Backpacker’s Hostel Tour Club. The hostel is close to the JR Kyoto train station (10 minutes by foot), offers a traditional Japanese living room and has private rooms or capsule bed in dormitory rooms. Japanese-style bedrooms available in this property.
Amenities: The rooms are extremely clean, WiFi available in the entire property, shared or private bath available. They even give us a pair of chopsticks as souvenirs the day we left. There is also free coffee and tea in the common living-room available.
Price: We paid about USD $25 per person per night for a triple room with shared bath.
What to do in Kyoto – Sights and Activities in Kyoto
There are many UNESCO World Heritage Temples to visit in Kyoto
Ginkaku-Ji Temple (The Silver Pavilion) Extremely crowded but beautiful temple. We enjoyed walking around the temple and admiring the zen garden. The temple is not silver unlike its suggested name but would have been when finished. Entrance fee: 500JPY (USD $4.20)
Watch our video of Gingaku-Ji, Tokyo
Kinkaku-Ji Temple (The Golden Pavilion) A three-storied zen temple, which inspired the Silver pavilion, with the top two stories covered in pure gold leaf. Entrance Fee: 400 JPY (USD $3.50)
Nijo Castle Beautiful temple and garden. A must-visit when in Kyoto. Entrance Fee: 600 JPY (USD $5.00)
Kiyomizu Temple A big complex built around the temple with street shops, restaurants and tourist activities. A great half-day activity.
Chion-In Temple One of the most popular temples in Kyoto. Grand and impressive gates at the entrance. Entrance Fee: Free
Nishi-Hongan-ji Temple A large Buddhist Temple in the center of Kyoto.
Fushimi Inari Shrine An important Shinto shrine located in the south of Kyoto. Also, a popular photoshoot place for tourists, known for its orange and black gates called Senbon Torii. The gates cover the trail to the top of the mountain, which takes about 2-3hrs round-trip. Entrance Fee: Free
Spot a Geisha in Gion: Not as easy as expected but it happened! As we were heading home after dinner, we saw a geisha getting in a taxi. A short but elegant sight (so short I didn’t have time to capture it).
Philosopher’s Walk in Northern Higashiyama, a lazy stroll along a peaceful stream with cafes on the route. A lovely and quiet way to spend an hour or so in Kyoto. Located nearby the Silver Pavilion.
Eat at Yuki: The best izakaya (Japanese-style pub) found during our three day-stay. We found it by chance while walking around Gion. We knew we made the right choice after opening the door and found the place filled with locals having a great time. A must-try when in Kyoto.
Observe a Tea Ceremony: We booked a tea ceremony at En. Learn about the tea ceremony and the etiquette attached to it. The groups are small and the ceremony last about 45 minutes. A very recommended zen experience. The cost is about 2,000 JPY (<USD $17) per person but well worth it. Located right next to the Chion-in Temple.
Watch our video of the tea ceremony here.
From Kyoto to Osaka by Train
Taking the train is the easiest way to get from Kyoto to Osaka. Train tickets can range from 400 to 1420 JPY (USD $3.50 to USD $12) depending on the type of train. 400JPY for a 40-minute ride on the Hankyu Railway and 1420 JPY for a 15-minute ride on the Shinkansen.
What did you do in Kyoto? Anything else that could be added to the list of must-dos? Share your travel experience with us! We love to hear from you.
Happy Travels !!xx
Catch up on other travel tips and articles about Japan here.
If you found this post useful, don’t forget to LIKE our Facebook page and FOLLOW us on Twitter!
Great info, thanks! We were in Japan a couple of weeks ago and it was a truly phenomenal experience. We can’t wait to go back. We visited Kyoto over a period of two days, during which time we visited Nijo Castle and Kyoto Tower. I would definitely add Kyoto Tower as one of the must-dos. The width and breadth of the city from up there is breath-taking – it’s especially beautiful during sunset/moonlight hours – romantic, too, as the inside is lit with ethereal lighting.
One thing we particularly want to try next time is the Tea Ceremony as it sounds incredible. Kyoto was an incredible city to visit. We visited Osaka and Kyoto, but a lot of our time was spent in the Wakayama Prefecture among the mountains and relaxing onsen.
I miss Japan! Can’t wait to return!
I can’t wait to go back to Japan either, thank you so much for your suggestion! I wish we would have gone to the Kyoto Tower, I can only imagine how beautiful the view must have been, even more so since it was cherry blossom season!
The tea ceremony is a must, a very informative and relaxing experience – hope you’ll enjoy it when you get to go back. Happy to hear you had an amazing time in Japan and thank you for sharing!
Thanks to this blog, people can now go to Kyoto confidently even if they are on a tight budget. Castle viewing is a great way to see the history and culture of Kyoto, and it’s wonderful that there are still real Geishas in Gion. That Philosopher’s Walk has my name on it, it won’t be hard to just walk around Kyoto and think about life and things. Thanks for these tips!
It is true that it is not hard to walk around Kyoto and think about life – that charming town does that to you! Thanks for reading and for your kind words. Looking forward to share more travel tips with you!