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Tour guides in Tokyo and Kyoto - Worth the cost?


by GoWithGuide travel specialist:Kenzia V.

Last updated : Apr 28, 20228 min read


 I think we can agree that Tokyo and Kyoto are beautiful destinations offering many different attractions, and anyone who visits these places would want to experience them the best they could. One way to enhance a trip is hiring a guide, but is it worth the cost? 


With so much information available on the web and how helpful many travelers and internet users are, it won't take you more than a few minutes to find an answer. 


In this article, I will be able to help you answer whether tour guides in Tokyo and Kyoto are worth the cost or not, advantages and disadvantages of hiring guides in these cities, information on how much does a guide in these cities cost, and where to hire one. So, sit tight and read on! 

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Tokyo is a sprawling city with many different attractions, offering both a lively/busy side and a traditional/serene side. Kyoto is a stunning city with numerous temples, gardens, palaces, shrines and many traditional wooden houses.


If you are traveling to Tokyo and Kyoto, you might want to experience those places fully. You might be thinking whether you should or should not hire a personal tour guide to help enhance your experience.

Should you hire personal tour guides in Tokyo and Kyoto?

There are many aspects to consider when deciding to hire a guide for your trip in Tokyo and Kyoto. Having a tour guide with you during your trip can definitely enhance your experience in Tokyo and Kyoto, so should you?


Point is:

The decision to hire a guide or not is a personal decision. It is completely up to you. You decide according to your preferences and needs.


Here are some advantages and disadvantages you can read to weigh whether you should or should not hire a tour guide.

Advantages of hiring a tour guide for your Tokyo and Kyoto trip

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Helps you make the most out of your trip

Having a tour guide by your side during your trip can enhance your experience in Tokyo and Kyoto. A good guide will be able to explain the local culture and traditions, give you other local insights, and even take you to off-the-beaten-path spots.


You can have a richer, deeper understanding of the spots you visit in Tokyo and Kyoto because the guides will be able to tell you the history and context of the spots you visit from an insider/local perspective and answer questions you have about them as you will have the guides' full attention.


Kyoto, especially, has a lot of historical sites, you can discover unique stories and details about the destinations you visit with the help of a guide.

It’s convenient and time-saving

By hiring a guide, they can also get an itinerary which you can customize. A good guide will structure it to be convenient and time-efficient, possibly allowing you to visit more places. The guides can figure out the directions and transportation used to get around those places, saving your time as you don’t have to figure them out by yourself. 



Tokyo is a huge city and it can sometimes be overwhelming to travel around with the many different exits and entrances in each station. A good guide will be able to tell you where to go and make sure that it’s convenient and time-efficient.


A good guide will also know the best hours to visit the attractions to avoid big crowds, how to avoid rush hour, and tricks to let you experience the most out of major tourist destinations even with big crowds.

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Compared to group tours, you can have your own private tour by hiring a guide. You can experience so much more with private tours than joining group tours. You can customize the travel plan according to your preferences and needs, including visiting spots and attractions you want to visit instead of taking the standard tourist route. Private tours are not time and movement-restrictive.

You are being looked after

Private guides are locals who can help translate for you, so you don’t have to worry about language difficulties. They have a better understanding of how the local system operates and can help you with things in Tokyo or Kyoto that you are not familiar with.

They can give you cultural insights and make sure you don’t accidentally disrespect the local culture. You don’t have to worry about getting lost as well.


Tokyo and Kyoto are generally safe, but hiring a guide can offer extra protection as they will tell you which area where a little caution is beneficial.

Disadvantages of hiring a guide for your Tokyo and Kyoto trip

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Extra cost

Hiring a private guide in Tokyo and Kyoto will cost you money. It is more economical to purchase a good-quality guidebook and research as much as possible beforehand. But, keep in mind, that hiring a guide can be beneficial as they can tell you which way is more cost-effective, and can save you money. 

 Less interaction with locals

A big part of what makes a place special is the people. If you are someone who is looking to interact with locals as much as you possibly can, maybe hiring a guide will be disadvantageous. You still can interact with locals as the guides will not prevent you from doing so, but you will tend to depend more on a guide rather than figuring things out by interacting with locals. 

Recommended tour guides in Tokyo and Kyoto

If you are looking to hire a private guide in Tokyo and Kyoto, there are many places on the web where you can hire one. However, it is difficult to determine whether it’s good and trustworthy website or not. My recommendation is the GoWithGuide website. The website offers many local tour guides options in Tokyo from which you can choose according to your needs and preferences.


The guides are qualified and experienced. Through the website, you can watch the guides’ personalized videos, read the reviews of each guide, check their availability and service cost to help you find the right guide. The website allows you to use the trip plan provided by each of the tour guides, and customize it according to your preferences.

How much does hiring a guide in Tokyo and Kyoto cost?

blog imageNormally, a private tour guide salary will range from $35 ~ $45 USD. This may seem costly at first, but this is the cost for your entire group, not per person.


Here's a catch:

If you are a group of more than 3 people, it is likely that hiring a private guide will cost the same or less than going on a group tour. And the private tour guide service is worth the price as well since you'll not have the restraints of other tourists in your group, a set itinerary with little time that you cannot adapt to your needs. Having a local tour guide only for you and your group also ensures that they will be able to focus their attention on answering your questions and personally helping you learn how to get around the city.


The costs of tour guides in Tokyo differ, some can be cheaper and some can be more expensive. However, keep in mind that hiring a private guide with the average cost of US$40 per hour can still be cheaper to hire for groups compared to joining regular tours. Generally, regular tours charge per person and can get expensive for groups with more people. Meanwhile, when you hire a private guide, you are only paying a fee for the guide's service for your group.

So is hiring a guide in Tokyo and Kyoto worth the cost?

Bottom line?

Compared to traveling without one, or joining some group tours, hiring a private guide can cost you more money, but you can experience Tokyo and Kyoto so much more with a guide, so I think that it is worth it to hire a guide. 

Where can you hire a tour guide? 

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If you decide that hiring a guide in Tokyo and Kyoto is the best options for you, here is a list of great tour guides in Tokyo, and another one for Kyoto tour guides. And if you are looking for guides in other areas of Japan, you may want to click here.


If what you are looking for are private tours with set itineraries that you can customize when you book, here are my recommendations for Tokyo recommendations for Tokyo and also the tour recommendations for Kyoto and other areas of Japan



I hope this article helps you figure out the cost of guides in Tokyo and Kyoto, whether or not its worth it to hire one, and some additional information where you can hire tour guides for your Tokyo and Kyoto trips. I hope you have a great time in Japan! 

Tokyo Tour Guide - Yasuro C.

Yasuro C.

4.80 / 5
(64 reviews)

Hello, my name is Yasuro (Mr). I was born and brought up in Kansai, graduated from a univ in Kobe city, after moved into Kanto, 30 years in Tokyo, 2.5 years in Nagoya city, 7.5 years abroad (KL & S'pore) as a rep of a construction company and I got the National Guide Certificate in 2011. My hobbies are making Haiku poems, singing various songs (voice-training for 18 years), playing the folk-guitar, trekking in mountains like Takao and Okutama in the West of Tokyo, visiting museums like in Ueno Park and travelling around Japan to make Haiku poems. Thank you for your attention.                                                                                                                                 

Yokohama Tour Guide - Haruo T.

Haruo T.

4.90 / 5
(10 reviews)

I live in Yokohama, Kanagawa prefecture. I have a license to teach in high schools and was admitted to the degree of Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Second Language in the University of Birmingham. Until 2015 I had been teaching English at public high schools in Kanagawa for 37 years. During that time, I had some experience of guiding students from overseas through sister-school relationship around Tokyo and Kanagawa. Therefore, I had good command of English with the TOEIC score of 935. As for a tour guide experience I earned the certificate of National Government Licensed Guide-Interpreter in English and since then I have guided tourists to the popular sites around Tokyo, Yokohama, Kamakura and Yokosuka. My guiding focuses on introducing not only Japanese historical and cultural backgrounds but also giving tourists some tips to travel Japan only by themselves, such as how to use trains and subways, find good restaurants, reserve tickets, buy survenier, and speak basic Japanese. In addition, my tour includes opportunities to experience Japanese culture like Zen meditation, ninja performance, visiting anime's location sites based on tourists' request. Besides, by means of my hobbies of writing English Haiku and Waka (traditional Japanese poems) and performing Rakugo (traditional Japanese funny story telling) in English, I can surely entertain tourists during the tour. My moto as a tour guide is let the tourists have a once-in-a-lifetime experience in Japan with my profound, intelligible and interestiog guiding.                                                                                                                                 

Tokyo Tour Guide - Grant A.

Grant A.

5.00 / 5
(14 reviews)

My name is Grant I lived more than 10 years in Japan. I graduated University and translation school in Tokyo. I am fluent in Japanese. I have a degree in Asian studies and have expert-level knowledge of Japanese culture and history. I have memorized the JR rail system across all of Japan, I use the same train timetable calculators as the station staff, and I have experience using bullet train passes that are exclusive to foreign visitors. I can optimally navigate the Tokyo underground and maximize value from a Tokyo metro pass and also understand Tokyo above ground which will allow for seamless transitions between different metro stations and landmarks with minimal backtracking. *There will be a price revision at the end of June* My tour fee is Half-Day Tour: 30,000yen for 1-5hours Full-Day Tour: 50,000yen for 5-12hours The time transiting to and from your hotel for pick up or drop off within Tokyo 23wards does not count towards the time. I am also able to guide historical sites and cities such as Kyoto, Kanazawa, Nikko, and Kamakura on request if you pay my rail fare. If your group is not a tour company and you simply ask me kindly for a 10,000yen discount and I will reduce the price of your tour until the end of June.                                                                                                                                 

Kanagawa Tour Guide - Kaneo U.

Kaneo U.

4.98 / 5
(43 reviews)

I’m so excited to have a chance to show you around my favorite spots in Kanagawa prefecture. I was born in Kanagawa. I spent my whole school life, including university, here in Kanagawa. I worked as a high school English teacher here for 40 years. I love Kanagawa so much. We have many interesting tourist spots, like Hakone, Kamakura, Enoshima and Yokohama. I got my tour guide license in English in 2009. I am still an English teacher. To give an interesting and impressive lesson to young high school students, I’ve learnt and gathered many kinds of information. I also have a license to teach social studies, so I have a wide range of knowledge about Japanese culture and history. I’m sure to provide you an interesting tour.                                                                                                                                 

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