One of my favourite places in Japan, and actually Asia so far would have to be Kyoto. Beautiful, historical, and completely special to everyone that visits, Kyoto has a vibe like no other.
Within a short train ride of stunning traditional temples, stunning countryside towns, iconic bamboo forests and mountain topped with cheeky monkeys, there’s really so much of Japan to explore if you make Kyoto your base in Japan.
Kyoto’s Location & Time Zone
Located in the southern half of Japan, Kyoto falls into the Japan Time Zone UTC +9.
Getting to Kyoto
The main airport in Kyoto is Kansai International Airport (KIX), with both international and domestic flights arriving daily. It’s located about 90 minutes away from Kyoto by direct express train.
Alternatively, if you’re arriving on a domestic flight from within Japan, Osaka Airport (ITM) is also a great option, only 50 minutes from Kyoto by airport limousine bus (many airlines will fly you here free from Narita if you fly with them internationally! Make sure you check out whether that’s an option when you’re booking your flights).
You can also arrive via bullet train – which is said to be the easiest and fastest way to get between Tokyo and Kyoto (as well as other major cities in Japan). A train option is also included if you have a Japan Rail Pass, making it cheaper than flying as well!
We took the Nozomi train, as it is the most frequent and fastest rail option, arriving in just 2 hours and 20 minutes. Travelling by rail also means you arrive right in the heart of each city, which means less time spent going to and from airports.
Read more: Catching a Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto
Language in Japan
The main language in Japan is Japanese.
Many people working in the tourism and travel as well as retail and hospitality industries (hotels, restaurants, shops, etc) speak good English or understand enough to help you out.
Climate in Kyoto
The climate in Kyoto is a subtropical climate with very humid hot summers and generally mild winters.
The summer time is also monsoon season, with spontaneous but extremely heavy rainfall at different times throughout the day. It’s a good idea to make sure you take an umbrella with you wherever you go, just in case!
The winter months are usually much drier, with much cooler temperatures.
Getting Around Kyoto
Similar to Tokyo, Kyoto has an extremely well developed transport network, with subways and trains being the most convenient and efficient way to get around the city.
Buses are less convenient but they cover almost the whole entire city and can be a great option when paired up with a train route. For a more casual option, you can also rent a bicycle and ride around Kyoto.
Read more: How To Navigate The Tokyo Subway
Money in Japan
Currency is Japanese Yen ￥.
ATMs are widely available, and credit and debit cards are also accepted everywhere. If you’re venturing out of the city however, it is a good idea to have some cash on you as some of the smaller stores, local markets and street food vendors might only accept cash.
Internet Access in Kyoto
High-speed wifi is available all over the city of Kyoto, including in hotels, restaurants and cafes, shops, along the main streets, as well as in every train station.
Where To Stay in Kyoto
Gion is Kyoto’s most famous geisha district, located around Shijo Avenue between Yasaka Shrine in the east and Kamo River in the west. It is the perfect place to base yourself in Kyoto, as it’s filled with shops, restaurants and ochaya (tea houses).
Close by, the Nakagyo Ward and Shimogyo Ward are also great places to base yourself, with more accommodation options that are still within a close walking distance to many of the major streets and sites.
Best Time To Go To Kyoto
Kyoto has a slightly more stable weather than Tokyo, making it a great place to visit year round.
Visiting in the spring months between March and May offers the chance to experience cherry blossom season, and is widely regarded as the best time to visit along with October and November in the autumn. Expect larger crowds during the cherry blossom season as well, with thousands of people flocking to experience the city during this beautiful time.
Similar to Tokyo, the summer months between June and August are hot and humid, while the winter months, between December and February are generally quite cold.
Can’t Miss Experiences in Kyoto
There’s so much to do in Kyoto, you could easily spend a whole week here and still not feel like you scratched the surface!
+ Explore Arashiyama and the Oi River
+ Take a peaceful stroll around the famous Bamboo Forest
+ Wander around the golden torii gates of Fushimi Inari-taisha Temple
+ Take a day trip out to Kibune and have lunch on top of a waterfall
+ Make friends at the Iwatayama Monkey Park on the top of Mount Arashiyama
+ Visit the beautiful shimmering Golden Pavilion – Kinkaku-ji
+ If you have time you could also take a day trip out to Osaka, only an hour away.
Good to know for your visit to Kyoto
It’s a good idea to buy a Japan Rail Pass before you leave for Japan.
The JR Pass gives you unlimited travel around Japan across every type of train, as well as buses and even JR ferries. The JR passes can actually be quite difficult to find once you’re in Japan, and there is a rumour that they’re not even sold over there, you can only get them before you arrive.
It’s a good idea to purchase your pass in your home country before you depart for Japan so you’re all ready to go when you get there and you don’t have any issues trying to find someone who sells them.