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GoWithGuideFind your perfect tour guide at GoWithGuide. Relax and cherish unforgettable tours with loved ones. Create personalized tours for a truly memorable trip!

Hiring A Guide In Kyoto: Pros & Cons

Ajitsa A.

by GoWithGuide travel specialist:Ajitsa A.

Last updated : Jun 03, 202422 min read

Travel Tips

 

I know what you’re thinking. At least it’s what I think whenever I try to plan my itinerary during any trip.  You want to do it all. If you’re trying to organize your Kyoto adventure, you might be wondering, “how can I attend the Miyako Odori Geisha Dance, and can I fit it in with a half day trip to Kurama & Kibune?” 

 

Planning is only one part of the journey, and you could go it alone, and stumble into some of Kyoto’s most magical sights and sounds, but, you also risk wasting time getting lost in some of the former capital’s biggest districts. To get a guide or not? That’s the ultimate question. We’ll give you the pros and cons of hiring a Kyoto tour guide, and let you decide your journey. Ready? Let's go! 

 

A Bridge Between: The Pros of Hiring A Private Guide in Kyoto

Kyoto can be a traveler’s paradise, but it can be difficult to navigate for newcomers. Here's how a guide can enhance you and your loved one's memories. 

 

 

  • Unlimited Cultural Information - Kyoto is the center of Japanese tradition and culture, so getting a local expert to explain the mysteries and impact of Gion gives more life and deeper meaning to the geisha culture, historical tea houses like Ichiriki, and the area's architectural gems, bringing on appreciation of Kyoto's traditions. 

  • You’ll Hear Of Hidden Gems - Beyond Kinkaku-ji Temple and Arashiyama is a version of Kyoto often overlooked by those following a social media based itinerary. Head to Eastern Kyoto with a local and experience Higashiyama and beyond, where temples like the lesser-known Kodai-ji, and enchanting preserved streets await. Locals know the pockets of peace Kyoto offers, and they’d love to share a different side to this tourist hub with you and your loved ones. 

  • You’ll Go Beyond The Language Barriers - If you’re asking, “do I need to hire a guide in Kyoto?” Language is the biggest reason why the answer is YES. Japan has low English proficiency in major cities like Osaka and central Kyoto, as you explore the prefecture, English becomes even less common. Around 10% of the population speak it fluently, so traveling solo without knowledge of English could create rough misunderstandings and lead to getting lost. Getting one of our English and Japanese-speaking Kyoto tour guides will ensure you fully understand your trip, and the people you meet. 

  • You’ll Save Precious Traveling Time - Wandering lost in a new city, and running into enchanting adventures, sounds like a movie. More often than not, real life travel is quite different. Getting lost in Kyoto and wasting time tracking down tickets, tour venues and trying to navigate a complex transport system shouldn’t take up your entire vacation time. With a local guide, time-wasting tasks like trying to secure a Kyoto private tour with a car, or figuring out whether you can travel to Arashiyama and Uji in one day are avoided. Their expertise becomes part of your itinerary, leaving you with plenty of time to actually enjoy your trip. 

 

 

Road Less Traveled: Cons Of Hiring A Guide In Kyoto

While getting a Kyoto guide can be a benefit to your trip, it’s not for everyone. If the following sounds like you and your travel team, you might want to skip the local guide and go it alone.

 

 

  • You Like To Go With The Kyoto Flow - Solo traveling, or free travel, is a great way to run into new challenges and face them with pure determination. If the idea of getting lost in Gion, or walking into the wrong ryokan doesn’t worry you, a guide may get in your way. Whether it's an impromptu visit to a charming tea house or spending hours navigating Kyoto Station, the lack of a set itinerary lets you embrace the randomness of exploration

  • Personal Reflection Your Way - Kyoto's Zen gardens, such as the one at Ryoan-ji, offer a serene atmosphere for personal reflection. If you’re looking to spend time alone and unwind without additional information, a guide might break your concentration. Solo travel allows you to fully dive into a meditative state. 

 

Special Note: if you’re touring temples and shrines without the knowledge of a guide, read up on best practices and proper behavior to not offend fellow temple goers and religious patrons. 

 

  • You’ve Got All The Time In The World - For you, traveling through Kyoto isn’t just a two-week affair. You’ve got all the time you need to explore, and so having an efficient, and time friendly itinerary isn’t your focus. A guide is supposed to maximize your time, but if you’ve got time to spare, spending a few days in Takao or Nishijin without a plan isn’t a problem. 

 

 

The Art Of Touring: Traditional Tours vs GoWithGuide Private Tours

If you’re thinking of touring Kyoto with a guide, but can’t stand the idea of a large crowd of random travelers being pushed from one crowded site to the next, we’ve got you covered. GoWithGuide Private tours look completely different from traditional group deals, and here’s how…

 

Traditional Tours...

 

 

 

GoWithGuide Private Tours...

 

 

 

How To: Hiring A Guide In Kyoto In 3 Steps

Okay, so you’re considering a private guide, but don’t want to add any extra work added to your already packed traveling plans. Well, can you hire a private tour guide in Kyoto? Yes, and it’s as easy as these three steps. 

 

 

  1. Start with our Kyoto local guides page and select guides that feature the districts you’re interested in (Downtown Kyoto, Nishijin, etc.). Need a tip? Pay attention to positive reviews and a smiling face! 

  2. Okay, step two. If you see a guide you like, and their bio sounds great, and you’ve seen the perfect tour, you can book instantly and be done. If you’re still on the search, and would like to add/remove elements from a tour or create your own, click the blue “Message” button. You can contact multiple guides at the same time to see if the feeling is right. 

  3. Now comes the fun part, customization! Let your guide know your ideas, preferences, travel plans and anything that would enhance the tour. Once you’re done, hit send and let the perfect itinerary be created! 

 

 

The Guide To Guided Tours: Kyoto Edition

Okay, so now that you’re getting a private guide, let’s look at how you can make your experience the best one. 

 

 

Dos

 

  • Ask Your Guide About Temple/Shrine Etiquette: As a traditional city, Kyoto has stood the test of time by maintaining its world honored sites. To ensure you carry this respect, ask your guide about etiquette at shrines and temples, some of which have been around for over 1000 years.
  • Be Open To Lesser Known Sites: Kyoto has some of the most popular tourist sites in Japan, but if you want to see the city from a local’s perspective, don’t be scared to let your guide show you quiet corners and less toured villages.
  • Pay Attention To Street Manners: Kyoto has experienced a tourist boom, which has had negative effects on how locals live every day. So refrain from eating while walking, crowding public transport with suitcases, or asking Geisha and Maiko for selfies/taking pictures of them. 
  • Ask About Amazing Accommodation: Known for its beautiful and calming ryokan, Kyoto is a great place to experience authentic Japanese hospitality. Instead of getting a typical hotel, let your guide recommend relaxing and less crowded ryokans. 

 

 

Don'ts

 

  • Disrespecting Sacred Spaces: Avoid inappropriate behavior in temples and shrines. Refrain from touching artifacts, speaking loudly, or taking photos where it's not allowed. Follow your guide's cues on when to maintain silence and mindfulness.
  • Overburdening the Schedule: While flexibility is an advantage of private tours, avoid overburdening the schedule with too many activities in a short time. This could lead to a rushed and less enjoyable experience. Trust your guide's expertise in balancing the itinerary.
  • Ignoring Dress Code: Some cultural sites may have specific dress codes. Follow your guide's advice on appropriate attire, especially in places like temples and traditional tea houses. Modest clothing is often preferred in these settings.
  • Talking Loudly/Gesturing Loudly While Touring: The same rules that apply to most Japanese settings apply in Kyoto, as public peace and quiet is valued highly. Observe the same tone and volume of your guide and you should be fine.

 

 

Time To Tour Kyoto: Crafting The Perfect Itinerary

Alright, now that you’re getting a Kyoto guide, it’s time to pick the experiences that would make your itinerary worth it. These tours are a great starting point. 

 

 

  • The Highlights of Kyoto Tour: Immerse in Kyoto's splendors on this “greatest hits” tour. Visit iconic landmarks like Kinkaku-ji and Fushimi Inari Shrine. A knowledgeable guide unveils the city's rich history and cultural treasures, ensuring you witness the essence of Kyoto's charm.

  • Geisha Experiences In The City: Step into the enchanting world of geisha culture. This tour offers an authentic glimpse into Gion's historic streets, where geisha traditions thrive. Witness a traditional performance and gain insights into the intricate world of these captivating artists.

  • Tea Ceremony Experiences In The City: Embark on a serene journey through the art of tea. This immersive experience introduces you to the rituals and tranquility of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Under the guidance of a skilled tea master, savor the beauty and mindfulness woven into every sip.

  • Sipping Sake Tours In Kyoto: Indulge your senses in Kyoto's sake culture. This guided tour takes you through the city's historic sake districts, where you'll visit traditional breweries. Sample a variety of sake flavors, learn about the brewing process, and discover the nuanced world of Kyoto's beloved rice wine.

 

Conclusion

It’s time! Imagine discovering the enchanting beauty of Nanzen-ji Temple and its serene surroundings, or taking a tour of Kyoto’s street food scene without the planning hassle. You can curate your ultimate adventure with a Kyoto tour guide today, and see Kyoto through authentic eyes!

Shiga Tour Guide - Koichi W.

Koichi W.

4.95 / 5
(56 reviews)
Japan

Hi! I'm Koichi. I was born in Osaka, I studied in Kyoto when I was a university student. Now I live in Shiga next to Kyoto. I am a national government licensed tour guide. I have been guiding about 160 groups over the past twelve months. I usually guide my customers mainly in Kansai region including Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Kobe and Shiga by public transportation systems. Well, I am curious about Japanese history, especially the history of Japan's ancient times since I was raised next to the world biggest mausoleum of the ancient Emperor called "Nintoku" in Sakai city Osaka which has just become one of the world cultural heritage sites. I dug out some ancient earthen ware vessels around there when I was a primary school student like the adventure archaeologist “Indiana Jones" (It’s our secret!!). That was my hobby. Now, one of my hobbies is outdoor activities such as mountaineering, kayaking, skiing and others. So I would like to take you to some good places where you can enjoy Japanese unique nature. I love to guide foreign visitors from all over the world. I think it is my calling or heavenly given job. Let's go and enjoy together! I hope to see you soon.                                                                                                                                 

Osaka Tour Guide - Takashi M.

Takashi M.

5.00 / 5
(17 reviews)
Japan

Hi, my name is Takashi!! When I go abroad, I think that how nice it would be to have a friend there and hang out together. I want you to feel like you have a friend in Osaka and we can go around and explore the city. I was born and grew up in Japan. And I speak English, Spanish and Japanese. I can be the perfect guide for you!! I can also guide you any other cities in Japan, just let me know where you wanna go :)                                                                                                                                 

Osaka Tour Guide - Kazuyoshi M.

Kazuyoshi M.

5.00 / 5
(5 reviews)
Japan

This tour mainly tours Osaka and Kyoto. I have lived in Osaka for 10 years and have been to Kyoto 300 times through tourism. I can also offer hands-on guided tours. I can offer maiko and geiko viewing, furoshiki (wrapping cloth) making, matcha (powdered green tea), professional acupuncture in ninja costume, and introduction-type experiences. My Instagram account has been viewed by 130,000 people in one month. Not to mention famous places. I can also guide visitors to places where foreign tourists do not usually go. I can be flexible. Best regards.                                                                                                                                 

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