Whether you’re soul searching or simply enjoy your own company, solo travel is a brave endeavour that is hugely rewarding with the right preparation. Travelling to Kyoto will afford you some of the most magnificent experiences, including visits to intricate Japanese zen gardens, majestic temples and palaces, as well as long, serene walks through its dense forests and charming streets.
Kyoto is one of the best places in Japan to truly immerse yourself in the ancient culture of the country. Many customs and traditions are still respected here, such as kaiseki dining and geisha performances. You’ll also find that a number of the houses are still traditionally built out of wood and there are countless ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) available for travellers to stay in that allow for the most accurate traditional experience.
So where are the best places to stay while visiting Kyoto on your solo travels?
- Location: City located on the island of Honshu
- Population: 1.475 million
- Best time to visit: March to May and September to November
- Interesting anecdote: Kyoto was the former capital of Japan and is considered the Imperial Capital of the country
- Attractions: Fushimi Inari Shrine, Nijo Castle, Gion and ryokans (Japanese inns)
Types Of Accommodation In Kyoto
While staying in Kyoto, you have plenty of different styles of accommodation to choose from, but one of those choices simply must include staying in a ryokan. Although they can be a lot pricier than other types of accommodation, it’s worth forking up the extra money in order to enjoy a uniquely Japanese experience.
Traditional ryokan (not cheap)
Kikokuso is a family-run ryokan that has been in operation for 130 years. It’s a beautifully structured inn that offers guests the enjoyment of a stunning zen garden too. This is the true ryokan experience that is hosted by a husband and wife team who are only too willing to assist and serve.
This ryokan has five guest rooms. One is en-suite and the others share a bathroom with traditional stone bath. The rooms sleep between two and four guests and range from $150 to $450 per room.
Address: 357-1 Sumiyoshicho, Kawaramachi, Shichijyo Agaru Hitosujime Nishi-Iru, Shimogyo-Ku, Kyoto
According to a friend working in the travel industry in Kyoto Piece Hostel Sanjo is the most popular hostel in Kyoto among foreign travelers. It is a traditional Japanese ryokan that has been renovated into a hostel and should be an interesting place for people who want to experience Japanese culture at a budget. They’re apparently also opening up a new hotel in December this year, and are currently doing some opening promotions on their site. Most travelers visit to Kyoto either for the autumn leaf (kouyou) season or the cherry blossom (sakura) season, so you can save money on visiting Kyoto right before and right after these periods when the hotels have lower occupancy rates. – Anette, Adventures of Anette
Guesthouse in ryokan style
Gojo Guesthouse in Southern Higashiyama is known for its friendly owners and excellent, affordable accommodation. It’s an old Japanese home that has been converted into a guesthouse that is both inexpensive and offers the traditional ryokan style experience.
Choose from dorm rooms or single and twin bedrooms, where you will sleep on futons. You can rent bicycles for the day and there are English speaking staff members on hand to assist foreign travellers.
Dorm rooms range from $17 to $27, while twin rooms range from around $50 to $70 per night.
Address: 3-396-2 Gojobashi Higashi, Higashiyama-Ku, Kyoto
Telephone: +81-75- 525-2299
Travel to: Japan
Toyoko Inn, Gojo-Karasuma is known as one of the cheapest accommodation offerings in Kyoto, but that doesn’t mean it sacrifices anything in terms of comfort. It’s a part of the Toyoko Inn chains that are spread all over Japan and are renowned for decent accommodation that comes at a fraction of the price of regular hotel accommodation.
One night’s stay in a single room works out to on average of $60 per night and includes breakfast.
Address: 393 Gojokarasuma-Cho, Matsubara-Sagaru, Karasuma-Dori, Simogyo-Ku
Kyoto is such an amazing place to discover in Japan! My top tip to find a cheap accommodation there is go off-season. I’ve been twice in Kyoto: first time in December, when it is very quiet there, and second time in April during cherry blossom. Prices were more than doubled! If you go off-season, you can wait till the last minute to book a hotel and you will get better prices, but if you go during peak-season, book very early because everything gets booked really quickly.
My second advice is to skip Gion’s area which is the most touristic quarter in Kyoto and for sure the most expensive to stay. One of the best and economic area to stay is nearby Nishiki Market. It’s well located in the center and from there it’s very easy to go everywhere by public transport. Another cheap area is close to the railway station, but it’s a little bit dead at night, with less options to eat or go out. And since you are in Japan, I recommend you to try the local capsule hotels which are the better way to save some money while keeping some intimacy to sleep. If you don’t mind about sharing a room with other people, then try the traditional guesthouse with dormitory-style room with Japanese tatami and futons. A very local experience! – Sarah, Le Blog de Sarah
First Cabin is a one-of-its-kind accommodation option that is perfect for solo travellers as the rooms are modelled after actual cabins (like the kind one would find on a boat).
The accommodation here is simple and straightforward capsule style lodging, but more budget-friendly for those looking to save their money for activities. Cabins vary from $25 to about $90 per night, depending on the type of cabin required.
Address: Takanoha Square 4F, 331 Kamiyanagi-Cho, Higashi-Iru, Bukkoji-Dori, Shimogyo-Ku, Kyoto
Top Tips When Staying In Kyoto
Accommodation can be relatively pricey in Kyoto, especially if you’re paying for traditional experiences. It’s not a bad idea to stay one or two nights in the fully-immersive traditional accommodation, such as a ryokan or machiya, and then spend the rest of your budget on cheap, comfortable accommodation that affords you more money for food, drinks and adventures. Almost all accommodation venues will offer free wifi, which can be essential to your trip if you don’t buy the pocket wifi beforehand (as free public wifi is rare).
For a first time traveler to Kyoto, I would recommend staying at hostels that are near any train station or bus stop. Hostels often offer both dormitory style and private rooms so you can pick an accommodation that suits your preference. Kyoto is easily accessible and explored by a network of trains and buses so as long as you’re near a station or a bus stop, getting around and about for food and attractions is no issue. Some hostels do rent out bikes at a cheap rate (eg: 500yen for the whole day or free even if you stay more than a certain number of days) so that’s a budget friendly way to explore the city. On top of that, the staff are often the best people to ask for advice on the city itself. I also find them to be well-versed in multiple foreign languages including English. My two recommended hostels are Hana Hostel that is located 10 minutes by foot from Kyoto Station and Khaosan Kyoto Guesthouse, a 10 minutes walk to Nishiki market and Kawaramachi station. – Tania, Sugoi Days
Did we miss any tips on where to stay in Kyoto? Do you have a favourite, affordable place that we missed? Let us know in the comments and book your solo tour today.