Kyoto is the heart of traditional Japan, and when deciding on accommodation there, you’ll be torn between hostels, hotels and the tempting ryokan.

Kyoto deserves a few days of exploration and has very distinct areas to explore, each with their own unique feel and trend for accommodation. While Osaka might be the home of the capsule hotel, Kyoto is definitely the home of the ryokan, but they don’t come cheap. Depending on your budget though there are affordable options across the board, and hostels are always available for those don’t mind sharing a bathroom. 

Note: Below we have used pp to indicate if a price of per person, and pr to indicate if it is per room.

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Top tips when considering Kyoto accommodation options

  • A ryokan traditionally requires three main things that differentiate it from a regular hotel: tatami flooring with futon beds, full meals and a public bath or onsen. They almost always have shared bathrooms, even if you book a private room and they often have curfews in place.
  • Capsule hotels are often male only, although female floors are becoming more common, so be sure to double-check when you book!
  • If you are set on a private room, try hostels with private rooms as although you might be sharing a bathroom, it can be a nicer room than similarly priced budget hotels.
  • Prices for all accommodation fluctuates depending on the season, local events and national holidays, so be aware that price listed below may not be available on your dates, but they also might be better (we used a random date!)

Arashiyama: For the bamboo forests

Right by the bamboo forest and with a more relaxed feel, Arashiyama is an increasingly popular choice with travelers wanting to relax on their trip. It’s also perfect if you’re desperate for that empty-bamboo-forest shot that only comes with a very early morning. There are plenty of expensive ryokan here, but for affordability, hostels are your best bet.

Mulan Hostel  |  Hostel  |  From ¥3,800 pp  |  Dorm and private rooms

All brand new and shiny, the Mulan Hostel has only been open since May 2017 and is just a few minutes’ walk from Arashiyama Station. They have everything you need for a comfortable stay including the usual amenities and towels as well as wifi and retro-games consoles too. The design is light and modern and is a far cry from the stuffy, scruffy image of hostels that may spring to mind. The hostel is across the river from the bamboo forest and Tenryuji Temple so you can stroll out for sightseeing any time you like and there is a local onsen a few minutes walk away. They have a mixture of dorms and private rooms available, with dorm spots costing ¥3,800 and private rooms from ¥12,500 per night (shared bathrooms).

Tsubame-Ya Guesthouse  |  Hostel  | From ¥1,500 pp  |  Dorm and private rooms

The cheapest option by far, this guesthouse offers dorm spots with real beds and a fully equipped kitchen for guest use, meaning you can really cut down costs during your stay. The hostel has mixed dorm rooms and Japanese-style private rooms which cost ¥5,800 per night with shared bathroom use. They offer bike rental which is a great way to explore the area and in the summer they can arrange yukata rental for you too. The family-run hostel offers help with local sightseeing and recommendations for places to eat nearby, so you can enjoy the best of Arashiyama!

Shijo-dori area: Stay central

The main strip in Kyoto, this is where you want to stay if you plan on enjoying the nightlife of Kyoto or if you want to be up bright and early for sightseeing. The street has all the shops and restaurants you need, plus it’s right next to the Kamogawa River area and very well connected on the city bus routes. It may be slightly further from the station, but you’ll be well placed to get to any corner of Kyoto quickly from this base point. It is a particularly good area for cheap Airbnb apartments and hostels!

Centurion Cabin & Spa  |  Capsule hotel  |  From ¥2,600 pp

A great option if you aren’t bothered about space, capsule hotels offer more privacy than most hostel dorm rooms and are often equipped with nice public baths, like this one. The hotel is right between Karasuma Station and Nishiki Market, so you can pop out for a snack any time and there are numerous shops and restaurants nearby too. The capsules have charge points as well as wifi and TV. Girls can upgrade to a superior cabin if feeling fancy. The baths are divided by gender and include a radium bath as well as a sauna which are available 24 hours a day. Note that prices on their own site are sometimes double what they are on Agoda, for some reason, so be sure to check you have the cheapest price!

Guest House Origami  |  Hostel  |  From ¥1,500 pp  |  Dorm and private rooms

Definitely the cheapest option in the area, Guesthouse Origami offers smart but simple dorm rooms with bunk beds and hardwood flooring and a rooftop terrace. Just off the main street, you’re in easy walking distance of the river, restaurants and shops as well as the buses of course. They offer free wifi, friendly advice on the best places nearby and a small kitchen to prepare meals if you’re cutting costs. There is an option for a private room with four bunks for ¥7,000 which is pretty cost-effective if you’re in a group and don’t mind paying a little extra for some privacy.

Hotel Unizo Shijo Karasuma  |  Budget hotel  |  From ¥9,200 pr

A budget hotel that doesn’t feel so budget, Unizo has some traditional Japanese touches as well as a great location right on Shijo-dori. The rooms are all en-suite and are a decent size for a budget Japanese hotel, with amenities, hair dryers and all the usual perks. They offer laundry services and have a restaurant although you are in an area packed with restaurants and Nishiki is round the corner, so maybe venture out a little farther for dinner. They have a couple of other locations in central Kyoto, so consider checking them if the cheaper rooms have gone.

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Kyomachiya House IZO | Vacation Rental  |  From approx. ¥5,000 pp  |  Up to 5 Guests

While there are plenty of airbnb-type houses and apartments to choose from in this area (and we mean plenty), you’re in Kyoto, so you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to stay in a traditional Machiya (townhouse.) You can sleep in a comfy bed for about ¥8,000 each if there are two of you, and extras can sleep on futon. You’ll have wifi, a kitchen, bathroom, and washing machine too—all withing walking distance of the main street and sights!

Gion/Higashiyama: Going traditional

Just across the river from Shijo-dori, Gion has a much quieter and more traditional vibe,  with temples, shrines, kimono-clad women and the winding streets you recognize from the guidebooks. Unfortunately all this adds up to some higher prices than the other locations, but not to worry, there are still some wallet-friendly options.

Gion Ryokan Q-Beh  |  Ryokan/Hostel  |  From ¥2,800 pp  |  Dorm and private rooms

The ideal combination of budget ryokan and hostel means you can stay in the heart of Gion without spending a fortune. Ryokan Q-Beh offers a mixture of dorm rooms with Western bunks and Japanese private rooms along with public baths, free wifi and optional bike rental. While they do not serve meals, there is a shared kitchen available—plus plenty of restaurants to explore by the river. The bath can be reserved when you check in if you want to try it privately (great for families or couples). And you can always ask for advice on where to start your explorations! The private Japanese double rooms start from ¥10,000 a night and might be the perfect way to try the ryokan experience in one of Kyoto’s most beautiful areas.

Kyo no Yado Sangen Ninenzaka  |  Ryokan  |  From ¥8,000 pr

A more traditional ryokan experience, this small family-run business has only private rooms available and an open-air bath to tempt you in. The rooms have tatami flooring and futons as well as a seating area and a fridge so you can at least keep some basic provisions. Breakfast is available for an additional ¥1,200 and the property has a traditional Japanese garden to relax in too. The best part, though, is the balcony bath which offers city-wide views with pagodas and temples peaking out across the Higashiyama skyline as you soak away the aches of a day’s explorations.

Kyoto Station: For the transport

If being near the station is your priority in Kyoto, you won’t struggle to find somewhere to stay in an area filled with hostels and budget hotels galore. Strategically, this is a great location as you will be near trains and the main bus station and can get to any of the sights quickly.

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Kyoto Station
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Tanaka Gokurakudo Guest House  |  Hostel  |  From ¥2,000 pp  |  Dorm and private rooms

Only opened in 2017, this guesthouse has a smart finish with a nice combination of modern and traditional aspects that work nicely to create a relaxed feel. You can book a dorm spot (with female-only available) or you can book a single room for only a thousand yen extra, which is a fantastic deal. Private tatami and twin rooms are available. but the bathroom is shared. The hostel has a fully equipped kitchen, a washing machine, dryers and bikes are available to rent too!

Hotel She  |  Hotel  |  From ¥6,000 pp |  Private only

A ten-minute walk to the station, this hotel has a more interesting design than most and has great room rates to boot. For two people you can nab a double room for ¥7,560 (cheaper if you’re on your own) and that gets you all the usual amenities, towels, en-suite  as well as access to a shared kitchen which is the best of both worlds! They have fun additional bits like interactive maps, smartphones in the rooms and staff speak Japanese, English and Chinese and are more than willing to help travellers out with reservations, etc.

5-bed Machiya Townhouse |  Airbnb  |  From ¥3,400 pp  |  Up to 5 guests

Yes, you read that right! You can fit 5 people in this spacious traditional townhouse and it’s at a ridiculously cheap price! Only 10 minutes from the station, this is perfect if you’re in a group or family as you can all fit in together without being too cramped. The apartment has a full kitchen and bathroom as well as wifi and Apple TV for nights in. There is a bed as well as futons on tatami and a personal touch stops the space from feeling too minimal.

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