Wallet Friendly Wanderlust: 3 days in Kyoto for under $150

Kyoto is a city full of history and culture - and you can lap it all up without worrying about your cashflow! $50 a day (or approximately 5000 yen) for three days is a very manageable budget to keep for all your meals, transport and attractions. It's enough to make you not feel like you're on a budget - and isn't that the goal?!

Like my three day Tokyo Itinerary for the same budget of $150, we're going to start off assuming you've got 500 yen each day for breakfast. This is achievable at convenience stores or at Japan's chain coffee stores that have awesome breakfast sets for 500 yen or less. That's 1500 from the budget already. But never fear - you've still got loads left to play with, and plenty of fun sights to see and experiences to have!

Note: Accommodation isn't included in the $150 budget, but when I first traveled to Kyoto I stayed at K's House Backpackers. It was very clean, the staff were friendly, and it was around $25 a night - not bad at all! Plus it is an easy walk to Kyoto Station, which makes getting around a breeze.

Day 1 - Temples, Shrines and Culture


Cost: 300 yen

Kiyomizudera opens bright and early at 6am, and I would say the earlier you get there the better. It's a beautiful spot, and beating the crowds makes the experience all the more tranquil.

via https://www.flickr.com/photos/vee_smith/2753819080/sizes/l/

Gion - Walk around & enjoy a tea ceremony

Cost: 2000 yen

When it comes to Japanese traditions, one that immediately springs to mind is the beauty of a traditional tea ceremony. Kyoto is a great place to check one of these out - and in the Kiyomizudera/Gion area is Camellia, where you can experience a tea ceremony (in English) and then learn how to make the tea yourself. Gion is also a fascinating spot to walk around and you might bump into a real geisha or maiko. 

via https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/14653798377/sizes/l/

Conveyor Belt Sushi Lunch at Sushi no Musashi at Kyoto Station

Set aside 1500 yen for this

A conveyor belt sushi experience is always fun - and Sushi no Musashi at Kyoto Station has quite reasonable prices. Most plates are 146 yen + tax, with some of the special plate sushi being 346 yen + tax a plate. Setting aside 1500 yen for lunch here will see you with a full belly and possibly some change.

via https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/32943739601/sizes/l/

Golden Pavilion

Cost: 400 yen

It wouldn't be a trip to Kyoto without visiting the Golden Pavilion. It's beautiful no matter the season, and is as breathtaking in person as it is in pictures. The picture below was from one of my Kyoto trips taken in September - it was a perfect day to visit and I got some awesome shots. 

Dinner at Sukiya

500 yen

Gyudon bowls are a traveler's best friend - cheap and filling. Sukiya is a chain (there are locations close by to Kyoto Station) where you can get a good sized meal for less than 500 yen. Score!

Day 2 - Nature and Wildlife

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Cost: Free

The Bamboo Forest is a pleasant spot to walk along or bike through - I love how the sunlight peeks through the plants! It can get quite crowded at times, but it's definitely worth a look (and especially since it's free!)

via https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/12361372864/sizes/l/

Arashiyama Monkey Park

Cost: 550 yen admission, an extra 300 yen for monkey snacks = 850 yen

One of my favorite things I've done in the Kyoto area is visiting the Arashiyama Monkey Park. It is a bit of a hike up a hill, but when you get to the top you'll be rewarded with great views over Kyoto, as well as getting to see monkeys hanging out just doing their thing. Inside a small building at the top of the hill you can pay a few hundred yen extra to get some apple slices to hand feed the monkeys through a mesh wire wall. It's worth every bit!

Convenience Store Lunch

Set aside 500 yen for this

Before heading back into Kyoto, pick up some lunch at a convenience store for a great price. Perhaps some onigiri or sushi sounds good (and yes - convenience store sushi here is not only fresh but delicious - nothing sketchy at all about it!)

Ryoan-Ji (Rock Garden)

Cost: 500 yen

You might think of gardens as plants, grass and trees - but a rock garden is just as relaxing and incredibly beautiful in it's own way. This one has been around since the year 1450, so there's plenty of history as well as beauty there. If you think 500 yen is steep for a rock garden, it's worth noting that there is a large botanical garden on the premises as well - so it's a bit of a two for the price of one deal!

via https://www.flickr.com/photos/albertohierro/4974129994/sizes/l/

Convenience Store Dinner

Set aside 500 yen for this

I know - you might be saying ugh, not again! But there is just so much selection as well as reasonable prices for convenience store meals that it's a no brainer.

Day 3 - Hands on, historic and quirky

Kyoto Handicraft Center

Cost: Prices vary - most inexpensive crafts are 1950 yen

Sometimes, a hands on experience really helps you connect with a different culture - and the Kyoto Handicraft Center presents you with that. You can choose from a number of different handicrafts to experience - the least expensive ones are 1950 yen, but are worth every bit of it. It's also fun because you get a souvenir to take home with you! You can check out the options for the hands on experiences at the link here.

via https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/2709446489/sizes/l/

Heian Shrine

Cost: Free

Right by the Handicraft Center is Heian Shrine - perhaps not as well known, but one that has just as much charm as others do. It has large grounds and makes for some great pictures.
via https://www.flickr.com/photos/uptonia/34817417802/sizes/l/

Convenience Store Lunch

Set aside 500 yen for this

Before your next stop, pick up a ready meal at a nearby convenience store. There are plenty of inexpensive food options, from chicken or pork katsu and rice, to Japanese curry, to meat sauce pastas - nothing should really set you back more than 500 yen. 

Kyoto Manga Museum

Cost: 800 yen

If you're a fan of all things manga, you'll love this place. One of the best things about the museum here is that they often have hands on experiences where you can take part in learning to draw your own manga characters, for instance. Super interesting!

via https://www.flickr.com/photos/tkosaka/752840007/sizes/l/

Nijo Castle

Cost: 600 yen

It wouldn't be a trip to Japan without a castle, right? Nijo Castle has been around since the early 1600's and was used as an Imperial Palace for a period of time. 
via https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/35407617524/sizes/l/

Dinner at Ippudo Ramen

Cost: 1000 yen

Ippudo Ramen is a popular spot for visitors to check out - tasty ramen, at reasonable prices. Leave yourself 1000 yen to get some grub here.

via https://www.flickr.com/photos/martianman/14466491578/sizes/l/

The Totals

Breakfast for 3 days @ 500 yen a day = 1500 yen

Day 1
Kiyomizudera 300 yen
Tea Ceremony 2000 yen
Conveyor Sushi Lunch 1500 yen
Golden Pavilion 400 yen
Dinner at Sukiya 500 yen
4700 yen

Day 2
Monkey Park and Monkey Snacks = 850 yen
Convenience store lunch 500 yen
Ryoan-Ji = 500 yen
Dinner = 500 yen
2350 yen

Day 3
Handicraft Center = 1950 yen
Convenience Store Lunch = 500 yen
Manga Museum = 800 yen
Nijo Castle = 600 yen
Ippudo Ramen Dinner = 1000 yen
4850 yen

Transportation - save 1500 yen (more about this in a minute!)

Total: 14,900 yen!

Transportation Costs

In Kyoto I found that buses were much more the go-to form of transport as opposed to trains. Don't get me wrong - trains have their place - but everywhere I needed to go was easily accessible by bus. Kyoto offers unlimited daily bus passes for 500 yen, and they cut down on your travel costs massively, instead of paying for an individual ticket each time you hop on board. You can purchase the passes at Kyoto Station and at a number of accommodation facilities (I got mine when I went at the hostel I was staying at!)
PC: http://tincowashere.blogspot.jp

Hopefully this helps with planning out an itinerary that won't blow your budget, but won't make you feel like you're scrimping or missing out on all Japan has to offer, either. I think around $50 a day for eats, sightseeing and transport is very achievable - and in fact, you could realistically do things much cheaper if you needed to, by subbing out some of the more expensive activities for cheaper or free ones.

Enjoy Kyoto, and Happy Travels!

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