What to Know Before Traveling to Kyoto
With good planning and common sense, you can make your trip to Kyoto the most memorable adventure yet.
The one-time capital of Japan, Kyoto keeps many of their old traditions alive to this day. It’s a modern city that still holds so many temples and shrines festive and in great conditions.
Kyoto isn’t exactly a go-to destination for people who want to ride roller coasters or go surfing. But it’s an excellent spot for anyone hungry for Japanese culture and history.
Although there’s much to see, you can’t book a vacation in Kyoto unprepared. You run the risk of missing out on unique opportunities and experiences. Use this as your guide to having the most amazing vacation possible.
Planning Is Everything When Visiting Kyoto, Japan
Kyoto is rich in culture, history, and landmarks. It’s not one of the biggest cities in the world, but it still has so much for you to see.
When booking a vacation in Kyoto, the best advice anyone can give you is to plan ahead. Take some time and do some research. Better yet, try to find a local guide to point you in all the right directions.
The selection of temples, shrines, eateries is massive. It’s easy to miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity without good planning.
Bring the Right Clothes
Kyoto’s seasonal weather is something you should prepare for before leaving. Summers get very hot while winters have freezing temperatures. Note that for three months, Kyoto isn’t just very hot but also very humid.
Make sure you pack enough layers if you plan on traveling to Kyoto after October. And bring enough light shirts with you when visiting in the summer.
Always check the weather forecasts for advanced warning. Don’t forget your comfiest pair of shoes either. You’ll do a lot of walking and sightseeing after all.
The Transportation System Isn’t Tourist-Friendly
Even the locals think that the transportation system is too complicated.
You’ll see lots of busses and so many lines that intersect. The trains can help you get to places faster, but they don’t always stop near popular hotspots. You can’t always walk to your destination, either.
In an effort to save time, consider buying a one day pass for the metro or busses.
Managing Crowds and Expenses
There’s a bigger issue than wondering where to stay in Kyoto. Sometimes it’s best to think harder about when you should go.
Thousands of tourists plan on visiting Kyoto every year. This means that you’ll find cheaper accommodations in the offseason and more vacancies.
It’s also a good idea to avoid the months of April to May if you don’t want to deal with masses of tourists. Interestingly enough, even the locals seem more welcoming in the offseason, which can lead to a more immersive experience for you.
How to Find the Best Value Meal
Many tourists travel on a tight budget. But that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy the full experience of the local cuisine.
When traveling to Kyoto, take some time to research local eateries near your hotel. You should also know that every Kyoto restaurant offers multi-course meals at lunch and dinner.
If you want the best value, try to make your lunch the most important meal of the day. Many restaurants offer sampler menus. It can save you quite a few yen for other activities.
Set Money Aside for Tours and Attractions
There are many conflicting numbers regarding how many temples and shrines are in Kyoto. But you can bet that it’s not the City of Temples for no reason. But some say that there are at least 1,600 temples in the area, in addition to a couple of hundred shrines.
While most of these sites are free to enter, some charge admissions. And there are a couple of other attractions that charge for tours.
Enjoy most of the free activities that you can plan for. But set some money aside for paid tours, too, to avoid missing out on unique opportunities.
How to Exchange Your Money
If you want to buy or pay for something, you need to have some Japanese yen on you. So, it’s important that you exchange your money once you get there.
The best places to exchange currency are always banks and post offices. Yet, they’re not the most pleasant because of the wait.
An alternative is a kinken shop. These places also exchange unused event tickets.
If you want to withdraw your yen from an ATM, you can do that, too. Beware the conversion fees, though. Most ATMs will ask you if you wish to proceed with the conversion but always check the NO box to avoid the terrible rates of foreign banks.
How Much Should You Stay in Kyoto for a Full Experience?
In just three days, you can see most of the must-see Kyoto attractions. Unfortunately, that also means sticking to a strict and packed itinerary.
The best way to experience Kyoto is to go for a longer stay. Try to book a five-day or seven-day trip to take in more of what the city has to offer.
An extended visit will give you some flexibility and allow you to enjoy the sights even more. It will also give you time to explore the parks, gardens, and sample more of the local cuisine.
Besides, many of the top attractions aren’t in the city. Some of the most notable attractions involve taking a half-day trip beyond the city limits.
Enjoy Your Stay
Traveling to Kyoto demands good planning. Sure, it’s still exciting to discover things on your own, even if you are to get lost.
But it’s also a big area with lots to offer in and around the city. Take some time and think things through before you leave. Make sure that you get the best weather and enough time to do all the things you would enjoy.
If you do it right, Kyoto won’t burn a hole in your pocket by any means. And it also won’t hurt to study some Japanese etiquette before you go. Some locals may not be too fond of strangers that don’t know how to talk or behave around them.