Making Your Money Go Further: Top Money-Saving Tips for Visitors
Compared to bigger cities, Nara is very reasonable; you don’t have to spend much to have an unforgettable time. After all, it costs nothing to climb a mountain and watch the sunset, stroll the back streets or connect with friendly locals.
When you’re travelling, you want to maximise your budget. You’ll find accommodation in Naramachi, Nara Park and other popular sightseeing areas like Asuka from 2,500 Yen a night if you don’t mind sharing a room.
To help you save money on transportation, Nara Kotsu, the local bus company offers a range of different passes. The 1- Day Pass lets you travel on any bus within the city area, as far as Yakushiji Temple. The 1-Day Pass Wide will take you all the way to Yatadera Temple, Jikoin Temple and Horyuji Temple. There are also two-day passes available. All passes come with a handy route map and various discount coupons.
Look out for the blue and red Gurutto buses. Both buses cover the Nara Park area, but their routes are slightly different, with the blue buses serving the Former Site of Heijokyu Imperial Palace and the area west of Nara Station. Working out the fare is easy: one trip for 100 yen. The yellow City Loop Bus costs 210 yen per trip.
Nara Visitor Center & Inn
Nara Visitor Center & Inn should be one of your first stops when you reach Nara. This information centre with free Wi-Fi and helpful, multilingual staff is a good place to plan your visit. The daily cultural activities such as tea ceremony and origami classes are either free or offered at a minimal cost. They also organise cost-effective tours to more distant attractions.
Many museums in Nara are free or discounted for foreign visitors if you show your passport. You can get a full list at any of the local information centres. Nara Prefectural Art Museum focuses on traditional art. The exhibitions are well organised and there are often free activities related to the current exhibition.
Further afield in Asuka and Katsuragi, the Nara Prefecture Complex of Man'yo Culture and the Katsuragi City Sumo Museum are both worth visiting, and entirely free with your passport.
Next to Isuien Garden, Yoshikien Garden shares some of the same landscape but is free for visitors with a foreign passport. With a pond, a moss garden and a tea ceremony garden, it is a great way to explore traditional garden design or just admire the natural beauty.
At many shops and shrines, tea is free. Just across from Sakurai Station, Mahoroba-no-Sato Himiko is a small sweet shop staffed by very friendly ladies. For a few hundred yen you can buy some skewers of freshly made dango sweets to enjoy with a free cup of tea in the cafe.
A few years ago, Japan raised its Consumption Tax to 8%. At many shops, overseas visitors are exempt from the tax. You will see Tax Free stickers on store windows all over Nara. Be sure to carry your passport with you to take advantage.
Festivals & Events
Whenever you decide to visit Nara, there are sure to be a variety of festivals and events going on. Most are free, and many have histories running back for hundreds of years. Nara Rurie, an illuminations event held throughout Nara Park in the run up to Valentine's Day, and Heijo Tempyo Summer Festival are more recent events, yet both quite magical. Check at an information centre for a list of events taking place during your stay.