Despite the recent strength of the yen, Kyoto is a bargain compared to cities like London, Paris, New York or Sydney. In fact, for less than you might spend on a good hotel in any of these cities, you can get a comfortable room, eat two good meals, see some incredible sights and have enough left over for a drink in the evening.
Kyoto is packed
with reasonably priced accommodations. For about 8,000 yen you can get a twin
room in a mid-range “business hotel”, where rooms are usually small, but spotless
and fitted with all the amenities a business traveller would need. Good
business hotels in Kyoto include the Toyoko Inn Kyoto
Gojo-Karasuma and the Kyoto
Palace Side Hotel.
If you do
not mind sleeping in a space the
size of a roomy telephone booth, then consider one of Kyoto’s affordable capsule
hotels, which offer sleeping pods just big enough for you and your iPod
(bathing facilities are shared and luggage is stored in lockers). You can
choose from the ultramodern 9h (Nine Hours) or
the wonderfully quirky Capsule
Ryokan Kyoto, which offers capsules in the style of a traditional ryokan (Japanese inn). A capsule at
these places will set you back between 4,000 and 5,000 yen and Capsule Ryokan
Kyoto offers excellent twin rooms from 8,000 yen).
have your accommodation sorted, it is time to explore the city. Kyoto may be Asia’s
most bicycle-friendly city – it is mostly flat and drivers are relatively sane
– so consider renting wheels at a place like Kyoto
Cycling Project (from 1,000 yen
per day). You will save on bus and subway fares, and be able to move around at
will. If you opt for public transport, pick up a one-day bus/subway pass for 1,200
some of Kyoto’s most impressive attractions are free -- such as all four of Kyoto’s
imperial properties: the Imperial
Palace, the Sento
Rikyu Detached Palace and Katsura
Rikyu Detached Palace. Just bear in mind that you will need to make
reservations at the Imperial Household Office, and that people younger than 20
years of age are only allowed into the main property, the Imperial Palace.
cannot secure a reservation, there are plenty of other places that are free and
can be visited without a booking. One of Kyoto’s most beautiful Zen temples, Nanzen-ji,
can be toured free of charge (but there is a fee to enter the enclosed rock garden).
Likewise, there is no entry fee at Chion-in,
which some people call “the Vatican of Pure Land Buddhism”. Sitting in the
soaring main hall listening to the monks chant is magical. Other free-of-charge
temples include Tofuku-ji and
an exquisite little temple that many visitors overlook.
exploring the world of Japanese Buddhism, step back in time and enter the realm
of Shinto, Japan’s indigenous religion. Almost all Shinto shrines in Kyoto can
be visited for free. Fushimi-Inari-Taisha,
in the southeast of the city, is one of Japan’s most incredible sights,
consisting of hypnotic arcades of vermillion torii (Shinto shrine gates) cascading across a green mountainside. You
have probably seen pictures – but no camera can capture the atmosphere of this
If you fear
that eating out in Kyoto will require a second mortgage on your home, you are in
for a very pleasant surprise. An excellent sit-down dinner can be had for 1,000
yen per person. And if you want to go cheaper, sample a tasty bowl of noodles
(ramen, soba or udon) for around 700 yen – try ramen shop Karako
in the northern Higashiyama sightseeing district. If you want to experience one
of Kyoto’s sublime kaiseki (haute-cuisine)
restaurants, do like the locals and go at lunch when you can usually get a set
meal for around 3,000 yen per person.
At the end
of a great day in Kyoto, settle in for a couple glasses of the good stuff (1,200
yen) at a sake bar like Yoramu.
The article 'Kyoto on a budget' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.