Last Modified: 14 Sep 2012
Highlights of Kyoto
Trip code: CJAK-O
Validity: 01 Jan 2011 to 31 Dec 2012
Japan is a kaleidoscope of contrasts and few other cities fuse the ancient and the modern in the way Kyoto does. Participate in a traditional tea ceremony, enjoy delicious cuisine, visit ancient temples steeped in history and keep your eyes peeled for elegantly attired Gion geisha. Experience all the charm and tradition on offer, and discover hidden treasures around every turn in fascinating Kyoto.
Table of Contents
- Original trips are classic Intrepid adventures. With a mix of included activities and free time, they offer plenty of opportunities to explore at your own pace and take part in activities that really get beneath the skin of a destination. While the occasional meal may be included, you'll have the freedom to seek out your own culinary adventures. Accommodation is generally budget or tourist class (2-3 star), but you're as likely to find yourself as a guest of a local family as staying in a hotel or camping. Transport will vary as well. Depending on the destination and the itinerary you could find yourself travelling on anything from a camel to a train or a private safari vehicle. It's all part of the adventure! Original travellers have a desire to make the most of their travel time and really get to know a place, its people and cultures.
Short Breaks - Independent Adventures
Day 1 Arrive Kyoto
Konnichiwa! Welcome to Japan.
To stay in a ryokan is a traditional Japanese experience, as this is how a typical family lives. Rooms have a tatami (straw) mat floor and are sparsely furnished, often with just a low table. You will sleep in the traditional style, using a futon, which is spread out on the tatami mat. During the day the futon is kept in the closet, then in the evening the ryokan staff will prepare your bed for you. Shoes are removed at the main entrance to the ryokan, where you put on the slippers provided. Slippers are used for walking around but should be removed before stepping onto the tatami mat. A yukata (Japanese bathrobe) is also provided, to be worn during your stay. The yukata can be used for both walking around the ryokan and as pyjamas. All these customs may take a bit of getting used to, but travellers find staying in ryokans a trip highlight.
Ryokan (1 nt)
Days 2-3 Kyoto
Kyoto has more than 200 temples and shrines, so we have selected a few of our favourites to share with you over the next two days.
The 400-year-old residence of a powerful shogun, Nijo Castle is fitted with an ingenious ancient security system - 'nightingale' floors that sing and squeak with every footstep.
Ryoan-ji has a Zen rock garden neatly designed for quiet reflection and the magnificent golden building of Kinkaku-ji is enchantingly beautiful throughout the year, rain or shine.
Built to pay homage to the 1,000-armed Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy, the amazing Sanjusangen Temple has over a thousand statues of her placed in 33 bays.
The view of Kiyomizu Temple's pagoda and main hall, built on the edge of a hillside and supported by a system of wooden pillars and juts, is breathtaking. Take a peaceful stroll following the Path of Philosophy, which runs alongside a canal lined with cherry trees.
Later, visit the Nishiki-koji market and familiarise yourself with an array of Japanese ingredients, from seafood to pickles and dried bonito flakes. Participate in a traditional tea ceremony, then take an evening walk through the district of Gion, famous for its geishas. Learn about these beautiful women and their important contribution to keeping traditional Japanese arts alive.
Again, this is a flexible itinerary designed so that you can see what you really want to see. There's plenty of free time so you can take off on your own to explore the charming streets, be part of the parade if the famous Gion Festival is on during your time here or simply relax in a traditional Japanese bath.
- Philosopher’s path
- Ryoan-ji Temple
- Kyoto - Ryoanji Zen Garden
- Kiyomizu Temple
- Kyoto - Gion district walk
- Kyoto - Nishiki-Koji Market
- Sanjusangendo Temple - JPY600
- Bike hire (per day) - JPY800
- National Museum - JPY500
- Onsen (japanese bath) - JPY500
- Train to Fushimi Inari shrine (return) - JPY300
Ryokan (2 nts)
Day 4 Depart Kyoto
The following day is free to explore more of Kyoto - a chance to buy some special souvenirs perhaps, or to do some final sightseeing. Your guide can offer advice on how to make the most of your time before your departure. Please note that hotel check-out time is 10:00 am unless you negotiate late check-out directly with the hotel.
We also recommend
If this trip is not quite right for you, cast your eye over these alternatives:
- Highlights of Tokyo & Kyoto (CJAZC-O)
- Highlights of Tokyo & Kyoto (CJAZC-O)
- Winter Japan (CJSF)
Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. For the latest updated Trip Notes please visit our website: www.intrepidtravel.com
Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route.
This is the least confronting of Intrepid's product range. English is the native language and the food, customs and access to services will be similar to home.
Some easy physical activities included in your trip. No physical preparation is required to make the most of the journey.
In Japan many of our travel connections are made at fast pace and require you to walk up and down stairs at fast walking pace. Please make sure you have an adequate level of fitness.
Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are for entrance only and don't include transport costs to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Optional activities aren't necessarily endorsed or recommended by Intrepid nor included in price of this trip. If you do any optional activities, you do so at your own risk and it must be clearly understood that your participation is your own decision and doesn't form part of your contract with Intrepid. You may be required to sign/complete a waiver form or a receipt for some optional activities.
Many sights and attractions are closed on Mondays.
The official currency of Japan is Yen (JPY).
Japan is predominantly a cash society and locals carry large amounts of cash for daily business.
Changing cash and travellers' cheques is possible in major cities although the use of travellers' cheques is quite limited and exchanging can be very time consuming. International credit cards can usually only be used at major department stores or large restaurants but cash from non-Japanese bank accounts can be withdrawn via the Cirrus and Maestro systems by direct debiting (as well as Mastercard and Visa cash advance). This is now available at all post office ATMs around the country, as well as 7 Eleven convenience store ATMs, making it very easy to get access to cash throughout the trip at each location 24 hours a day.
We recommend you arrive in Japan with as much Yen as you feel comfortable carrying. If your arrival day is on a weekend please ensure you have enough money for the first few days, either by bringing it with you, or changing it at the airport. Although most locations will have access to a 7 Eleven store with an ATM, be prepared that ATMs may not be available at all times of the day in the immediate area.
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
Tipping in Japan is not generally viewed as part of the culture, and as such is not expected. If you have a local guide during the trip you might consider tipping them for outstanding service. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline US$1-2 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
Age restrictions apply to this trip - minimum age 5.
On some trips accommodation is available only on a shared basis with other travellers, who might not necessarily be Intrepid travellers. Arrangements vary depending on the trip from twin to multishare, so refer to the daily itinerary for more details on your accommodation. In some situations you may have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure you have your own room.
Ryokan (3 nts)
The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in your selected accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for your arrival, especially if you're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible, which means you won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, you can store your luggage and explore the new destination.
If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.
While travelling with us you'll have the opportunity to experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility.
Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less.
Bus, Ferry, Metro
Independent Intrepid Short Break Adventures are not accompanied by an Intrepid Group Leader. Local guides may be used on some itineraries.
725 Heian - cho, JR Kyoto-ekimae
Joining point description
This lovely ryokan (traditional Japanese Inn) in Kyoto has a small garden, tatami mat rooms and a shared onsen (bathhouse). It's within easy walking distance of Kyoto station.
Joining point instructions
On arrival in Kyoto, you need to make you own way to the Heianbo Ryokan - it is an eight-minute walk from the main train station. After you arrive in Kyoto Station, follow signs to the Shinkansen Central Exit. After you exit the Shinkansen (bullet train) area, you need to head to the north side of the station. Look to your right after you exit the Shinkansen Central Exit. You should see escalators and a staircase about 40m ahead of you. Go up the escalators and walk straight along the corridor. You'll see a grocery store, coffee shop, and the Isetan department store on your left. When you get to the end of the corridor, go down the escalators.
Once you're out of the station, you should see Kyoto Tower across the street in front of you (a tall orange and white tower). There will be rows of bus stops directly in front of you. You should also see Kyoto Central Post Office on your left about 100m away. Walk towards Kyoto tower, veering right of the bus stops. You should be able to see a Starbucks coffee shop in the building underneath and to the right of Kyoto Tower, on the north-west corner of a large pedestrian crossing. Cross the streets and turn left at the Starbucks. Walk west along the main street that runs in front of Kyoto Station. You'll soon pass a row of UFJ bank ATM machines on your right, and then you should see a tall yellow building also on your right. Turn right at this yellow building.
Once you've turned onto this smaller street, on your left you'll see a small standing-room-only bar, and then a parking lot. Turn left on the small street just north of the parking lot. The Heianbo Ryokan is the salmon-coloured building on the right hand side of the small street just north of the parking lot.
If you have any problems with finding the ryokan, please feel free to give the friendly staff a call on 075 371 5538 from one of the many public pay phones on the streets around the station.
Exit JR Kyoto train station and go to Karasuma Dori (Karasuma Street) which runs directly up from the train station. Go up Karasuma Dori on the left side. When you pass the Kintetsu Department Store, take a sharp left down a narrow street and you will find Heianbo (a reddish building on your right side just past a parking area.
If you are arriving late in the evening please let our sales team know at time of booking so that we can advise the hotel.
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your trip as scheduled, please refer to the Joining Instructions section above for who to contact.
If you have pre-booked an airport transfer (where available) and have not made contact with our representative within 30 minutes of clearing customs and immigration, we recommend that you make your own way to the starting point hotel, again following the Joining Instructions in these trip notes. Should this occur, please apply to your travel agent for a refund of the transfer cost on your return.
No refund is available on missed transfers or portions of your trip owing to a different flight arrival or delayed flight arrival. Any additional cost incurred in order to meet up with your group is at your own expense.
725 Heian - cho, JR Kyoto-ekimae
Finish point description
This lovely ryokan (traditional Japanese Inn) in Kyoto has a small garden, tatami mat rooms and a shared onsen (bathhouse). It's within easy walking distance of Kyoto station.
Finish point instructions
The Heianbo Ryokan is a 5 minute walk from Kyoto station.
To get to Kansai Airport (Osaka) take the Limited Express Haruka (1 or 2 per hour depending on time of day). The fare is 3,690 yen or free with a valid JR Pass.
To get to Narita Airport take the Hikari Limited Express to Tokyo station (2.5 hours) then change onto the Narita Express. The fare is 16,330 yen or free with a valid JR Pass. Please be aware that the Narita express requires a seat reservation as there are no unreserved cars. This can be bought / reserved at any JR Green ticket window. Find out before you board which terminal you need to go to (Terminal 1 or 2) by looking at your ticket or checking details on www.narita-airport.jp. If you need to go to Terminal 1 this is the final stop of the train and the station name is 'Narita Airport'. The station name for Terminal 2 is 'Narita Airport Terminal 2'. Please do NOT get off at 'Narita' station; this is the city, not the airport.
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
Australia: No - not required
Belgium: No - not required
Canada: No - not required
Germany: No - not required
Ireland: No - not required
Netherlands: No - not required
New Zealand: No - not required
South Africa: Yes - required in advance
Switzerland: No - not required
United Kingdom: No - not required
USA: No - not required
Issues on your trip
While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
What to take
What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we recommend keeping the weight under 10kg / 22lb.
Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.
You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.
Many inns do not allow suitcases with wheels to be wheeled across rooms with tatami mat floors. If you do bring luggage with wheels, be prepared to carry your luggage in traditional inns.
Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please consider water purification techniques such as iodine or micropur and use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation. When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day
Cold tap water in Japan is generally safe and good to drink so you can avoid the purchase of bottled water by refilling from the tap or public water fountains.
All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
In addition to any included activities on your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. Our local representative may be able to assist you with available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that our local representative has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.
Some hotel balconies don't meet UK standards in terms of the width of the balcony fence being narrower than 10cm.
TRAFFIC AND DRIVING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD:
Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!
Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in the western world or from your home country and not all the transport which we use provides seat belts.
PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
While life jackets are generally available on water craft, there may be occasions where they are not provided and child size life jackets are not always readily available. If travelling with children and this safety issue concerns you we will be able to advise alternative methods of transport (where available) for you to travel to the next destination. You can choose to travel independently for this leg of the journey. This would be at your own expense.
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the trip until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by our local representative.
If you have credit card insurance our local representative will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact telephone number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller:
While Japan is known for its 'out there' fashions overall it is quite a conservative country. Please remember that we spend time at temples, working monasteries, holy shrines, recreated villages and castles, cooking schools and ancient gardens. At these places it is important to be respectful to the staff and other visitors by wearing clothing that covers your shoulders and knees.
A couple of rules
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our local representative has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
The Intrepid Foundation
Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your group leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
Carbon Offset C02-e 200.00 kgs per pax.
After your travels, we want to hear from you! This is so important to us that we'll give you 5% off the price of your next trip if your feedback is completed online within 4 weeks of finishing your trip.