This Nara Travel Guide helps you make the most of your day in the city. It features a well-thought-out travel itinerary and a detailed budget for the trip.
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Advisory: Please refer to the Embassy of Japan regarding the country’s latest travel advisories before planning your trip.
After a few days of feverish activities in Osaka, I found solace in Nara. The city is not as vibrant as Osaka. But, it offers a more relaxed and old-fashioned atmosphere.
Japan’s former capital shares a wealth of history and culture. It is home to age-old Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, notable monuments, and a yard to over a thousand Sika deers.
While other cities in Japan boast ultra-modern structures, Nara City hosts a collection of eight notable UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Hence, a testament to the city’s reputation as one of Japan’s spiritual seats.
Clear skies are a perfect match to interact with herds of northern-spotted deers roaming in the expanse of Nara Park. Although some are surprisingly aggressive, these mammals are a feast for the eyes.
Nara City had a significant position in shaping Japan’s glorious past. Its ancient temples and shrines and deep-rooted traditions indicate that the city is one of Japan’s cultural treasures.
Nara Travel Guide Contents
- Quick Fact About Nara
- Visa in Japan
- Time Zone in Nara
- Climate in Nara
- Best Time to Visit Nara
- Language in Nara
- Currency in Nara
- Modes of Payment in Nara
- Ways of Getting to Nara
- Getting Around Nara
- Areas to Stay in Nara
- Internet in Nara
- Power Adaptor in Nara
- Nara Travel Guide Itinerary
- Budget for Nara Trip
- Nara Guidebook Resources
In Shinto beliefs, deers are regarded as messengers of the gods and protectors of the city. Currently, over 1,200 Sika deers ramble in Nara City and are protected for their cultural significance.
Visa in Japan
Philippine passport holders traveling for tourism in Nara, Japan, require a tourist visa. Application for a Japan tourist visa needs no in-person interviews, except for some reasons. But, documents are to be handed in through an accredited travel agency.
Want worry-free online processing of your visa and other travel documents? Visit ivisa.com to know more.
Before departure, passengers must undergo stringent immigration procedures. Read the article, How to Avoid Getting Offloaded at the Philippine Immigration?
Time Zone in Nara
Nara is an hour ahead of Manila, Philippines.
Climate in Nara
Nara, the capital city of Nara Prefecture, is positioned in the Kansai region on the island of Honshu. Japan’s largest island, Honshu, is in the country’s temperate zone. Hence, Nara City experiences mild temperatures and occasional rainfalls.
Best Time to Visit Nara
Like Osaka and the rest of Japan, Nara is more appealing during spring and autumn seasons. However, these peak seasons are associated with hordes of tourists and pricier hotel rates.
March to May
Experience the more enthralling beauty of Nara from March until May, as it marks the cherry blossom season. Sakura trees flourish in March and reach their full bloom in April’s first week.
Nara Travel Guide Tip: Japanese observe the ‘Golden Week.’ This local holiday falls from the last week of April until the first week of May. So avoid the week as hotel rates soar and crowds of tourists are visible in many sights in Nara.
June to August
A warmer temperature welcomes visitors from June to August. While August is the warmest month, rains are more frequent in June and July.
September to November
The autumn season, beginning September until November is one of the best times to visit Nara. Its public parks are more stunning during fall as green leafage turns into warm shades of yellow, orange, and red.
December to February
Expect a colder and snowy atmosphere from December to February as it marks the winter season in Nara.
Language in Nara
Japanese is the widely spoken language in Nara, Japan. And it is a bit challenging for foreign tourists to communicate, as locals are not fluent in English. But, city tourist information centers are near transport stations and tourist attractions, while the public signs have English translations.
Here are essential Japanese words and phrases to learn before your trip to Nara, Japan.
- Ohayo gozaimasu – Good morning
- Oaidekite ureshi desu – I am glad to meet you
- Eigo o hanasemasu ka? – Do you speak English?
- Shitsumon o shite mo ii desu ka? – May I ask you a question?
- O-negai shimasu – Please
- Ima nanji desu ka? – What time is it?
- Mou ichido itte kudasai – Please say that again
- Wakarimasu – I understand you
- Arigato – Thank you
Currency in Nara
Launched in 1871, the Japanese Yen is the official currency in Japan. As of February 14, 2023, the exchange rate is JPY 1, PHP 0.42, or USD 0.0076.
Nara Travel Guide Tip: To save money, convert your currency to yen in downtown Nara, which offers better exchange rates. Otherwise, convert enough cash at the destination’s airport to cover your fare to the city center.
Modes of Payment in Nara
Although foreign-issued cards and stored value cards are accepted, having cash in Nara is essential, especially in making purchases.
Nara remains a cash-based society. And most commercial facilities and transport services in the city prefer cash as a mode of payment.
Debit and Credit Cards
In addition, debit and credit cards are accepted in upscale hotels, malls, and restaurants in Nara.
The IC Card or the Integrated Circuit Card is a reloadable smart card used as payment on public transport. Also, it is a cash substitute used in select commercial outlets in Nara.
Hence, the ICOCA is a convenient pre-paid card. It is used to pay fares for Japan Rail West trains and JR-covered transports in the Kansai region.
Nara Travel Guide Tip: Apart from ICOCA, rail passes are reliable tools to pay your fares across the Kansai region.
- Grab the Kintetsu Rail Pass that offers unlimited rides on the Kintetsu railway trains across Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara. Plus, board on Nara Kotsu Bus Lines that head you to Nara Park and various locations.
- Avail of a Kansai Thru Pass. This non-JR pass provides unlimited subway, tramway, and bus rides throughout the Kansai region.
- Or, use JR West Kansai Rail Pass. This unlimited and all-inclusive JR rail pass encompasses the entire Kansai region. However, the rail pass must be used for consecutive days.
- Are you planning to visit Tokyo and other far-off cities in Japan? Reserve a JR Nationwide Pass instead.
Ways of Getting to Nara
Japan is an archipelagic country having vast bodies of water surrounding it. Hence, traveling via air and water is the only viable option to reach Japan.
Nara is a landlocked prefecture located in the heart of the Kii Peninsula. It is surrounded by Osaka, the gateway to the Kansai region, to the northwest and Wakayama to the southwest. Moreover, the prefectures of Mie and Kyoto are located in Nara’s eastern and northern portions.
From its neighboring prefectures, getting to Nara City is around an hour’s journey via train, bus, and taxi.
Getting Around Nara
The main tourist attractions in Nara City are close-packed. Hence, they are accessible even on foot. However, ease of transfer can be relied upon to its efficient bus networks and rail service running throughout the city.
JR West and Kintetsu are two rail lines that connect Nara City from the rest of the Kansai region. However, two main areas within the city, Nara Park and Naramachi are inaccessible through these lines. Hence, reach them on foot or board a bus.
City buses are viable options for areas where trains are inoperative. Hence, Nara Kotsu Bus links the two major train stations and various corners of the city.
It operates in two different routes; loop line and regular line. The former compasses in central Nara, while the latter runs towards more distant areas in the city.
Loop lines charge JPY 210, PHP 87.32, or USD 1.59 for adults, while JPY 110, PHP 45.74, or USD 0.83 for children. Otherwise, use the more convenient payment method, the Kintetsu Rail Pass.
Nara Travel Guide Reminder: For Loop Lines, pay once you board at the front door and disembark using the rear door.
Conversely, when using the regular lines, embark at the back door and pay before dropping off at the front door.
Although quite pricey, taxi is an alternative for passengers seeking more convenient transfers around Nara City.
The base fare for a four-seater taxi in Nara is JPY 660, PHP 274.43, or USD 5.00. While an additional JPY 90, PHP 37.42, or USD 0.68, is charged for each succeeding 307 meters.
Ride a bicycle to explore the compactness of Nara at your phase. Several establishments in the city offer bike rentals, a cheaper option for navigating various sights of the city.
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Areas to Stay in Nara
Main attractions and cultural-relevant sights are thronged in Central Nara, Downtown, Nara Park, and Naramachi. Hence, most tourists go for a short visit to Nara and spend more time in larger cities like Osaka and Kyoto.
However, a few more places of interest are in store for visitors who wish to soak in its historical and cultural wealth. Spend your night in a ryokan or a traditional Japanese house, and plan to visit Nishinokyo the next day.
Transport convenience, shopping center, and nightlife – are the main draws in Downtown Nara. The two main rail stations and various retail outlets, restaurants, and bars are found in this bustling neighborhood.
To get closer to Nara’s main attractions, stay within the areas surrounding Nara Park. The expansive public park is home to noteworthy temples and shrines, gardens, and bunches of brown-spotted deer.
Nara Park is about 1.5 kilometers from the city’s main train stations. Reach the public park using the loop lines, or walk for about 20 minutes.
Experience the old-fashioned atmosphere in Nara’s old merchant district – Naramachi. It has traditional structures transformed into cafés, boutiques, and restaurants, lining up alongside its alleyways.
Spend a night in Naramachi, and you are steps closer to Gangoji Temple – a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A neighborhood detached from Central Nara, Nishinokyo is a historical site and home to the Heijo-kyo (Nara) Imperial Palace. Its location, away from the city center, makes it an ideal place to stay on a budget.
Internet in Nara
In a city like Nara, where most locals don’t converse in English, it is essential to use a navigation map. Having reliable internet on your smartphone may avert you from getting lost in unfamiliar places.
Power Adaptor in Nara
Nara operates on a 100 V supply voltage with a frequency of 60 Hz and it has two types of power adaptor:
- A or has two flat parallel pins
- B or has two flat parallel pins and a grounding pin
Nara Travel Guide Itinerary
Day 1 - Central Nara
Nara Travel Guide Reminder: For this tour, walking from points A to B requires about a kilometer.
08:30 am Arrival in Nara, Japan, from Osaka
08:30 am – 08:45 am Head to accommodation
- From JR Nara Station
- Walk toward accommodation
08:45 am – 09:15 am Hotel check-in
09:15 am – 09:30 am Head to Nara Park
- From accommodation
- Walk toward JR Nara Station East Gate Bus Stop No.2
- Take the Nara Kotsu (Yellow) Loop Line Bus No.2 (Clockwise) toward JR Nara Station
- Alight at Kencho Mae Bus Stop
- Walk toward Kofukuji Temple
09:30 am – 05:30 pm Explore Nara Park and have lunch
Opened in 1880, Nara-Koen, or Nara Park, is a vast expanse of an urban park at the foot of Mount Wakakusa. Within the park’s grounds are temples and shrines, museums, gardens, and numerous shops. It is also the sanctuary of over a thousand freely roaming Japanese deers.
Nara Travel Guide Tip: Want to feed these adorable brown-spotted deers? The Shika Senbei, a deer cracker made from rice hull, is vend in several stalls within Nara Park. A bundle of 10 crackers is sold at about JPY 150, PHP 62.30, or USD 1.14.
Erected in 710 A.D., the Kofuku-ji Temple is a complex of structures, including the five-storied wooden pagoda – Japan’s second tallest. The 50-meter pagoda has been the symbol and a historic landmark of Nara.
Temple grounds are open for free. However, a few attractions require an entry fee. The halls and museum admit visitors from 9:00 am until 4:45 pm daily. While admission starts at JPY 300, PHP 124.60, or USD 2.27
Nara National Museum
Inaugurated in 1889, the Imperial Museum of Nara, or the present-day Nara National Museum, displays a collection of Buddhist artworks. The western-style main building houses a permanent collection of Buddhist artifacts, while its east and west galleries showcase special exhibitions.
Nara National Museum is open to visitors from 9:30 am until 4:30 pm every Tuesday through Sunday. The admission fee is JPY 700.00, PHP 290.77, or USD 5.30.
Isuien and Yoshikien Gardens
Aside from Nara’s ancient structures and the wandering Sika deers, the city’s beautifully landscaped Japanese gardens offer a pleasant outlook. Two of the most well-liked are the Isuien and Yoshikien gardens – located beside the river of Yoshikigawa.
Isuien Garden shelters many tea houses and a museum that exhibits a collection of ancient artifacts. On the other hand, Yoshikien Garden features a variety of well-arranged Japanese gardens.
Admission is between 9:00 am to 5:00 pm daily. While Yoshikien Garden requires no entry fee, Isuien imposes JPY 600.00, PHP 249.23, or USD 4.54 entrance fee.
A grand Buddhist temple erected in 752, Todaiji, Japan’s most influential seat of religion during those times. Its strong presence led to the transfer of Japan’s capital from Nara to Nagaoka in 784.
Todaiji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a complex of religious structures notable for its main hall – the Daibutsuden. It is the world’s largest wooden structure, which also shelters the highly revered 15-meter tall seated bronze buddha statue – Daibutsu.
To get into various attractions on the temple grounds, visitors will pass through the large wooden gate – ‘Nandaimon Gate.’
Daibutsuden Hall, the temple’s main attraction, is open to the public from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm from April through October. And gates are open from 8:00 am until 5:00 pm from November to March. The admission fee is JPY 600.00, PHP 249.23, or USD 4.54, while other attractions require separate fees.
Kasuga Taisha Shrine
Dedicated to the god who protects the city, the Kasuga Taisha Shrine is Nara’s most revered Shinto shrine – known for its legion of lanterns.
Notice strings of stone lanterns as you go past the main building, and in the shrine are manifold bronze lanterns. Hence, they are lit in February and August to celebrate the lantern festival or Mandoro.
Kasuga Taisha Shrine is free of charge unless you are going to see up close the shrine’s interiors. The shrine’s admission fee is JPH 500, PHP 207.82, or USD 3.79.
It is open from 6:30 am to 5:30 pm from March to October and from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm from November through February.
05:30 pm – 05:51 pm Head toward the JR Nara Station
- From Kasuga Taisha Shrine
- Walk toward Kasuga Taisha Omotesando Bus Stop
- Take the Nara Kotsu (Yellow) Loop Line Bus No.1 (anticlockwise) toward JR Nara Station
- Alight at JR Nara Station Bus Stop
- Walk toward accommodation
05:51 pm – 09:00 pm Have some rest, dinner, and nightlife
09:00 pm Sleep
Day 2 - Kyoto
Budget for Nara Trip
In 2022, I spent P 2,966.25 for one day and one night in Nara. However, costs may still vary depending on your travel lifestyle. For more thrift tips, consider several ways to save money for your next trip.
Below is the Nara travel guide budget for your reference
- One day and one-night accommodation with breakfast, PHP 2,650.50 x 2, PHP 1,325.25
- JR Nara Station to Nara Park via Nara Loop Line Bus No.2, PHP 89.00
- Isuien Garden entry fee, PHP 234.00
- Lunch, PHP 400.00
- Todaiji Temple admission fee, PHP 234.00
- Kasuga Taisha entrance fee, PHP 195.00
- Nara Park to JR Nara Station via Nara Loop Line Bus No.1, PHP 89.00
- Dinner, PHP 400.00
Nara Travel Guide Resources
I have compiled handpicked travel resources to help you plan your trip. These are the brands that I highly recommend for their top-notch offers.
Nara Travel Guide Question: What is the world’s largest wooden building found in Nara?
Please drop your answers or messages in the comment section. Thank you, and see you on the road!
About the Author
J. Sac is the author of ‘Nara Travel Guide: An Excellent Guide to the World.’ He is also the founder of Traveledictorian – a travel blog that publishes well-thought-out travel content.
His passion for writing, photography, and travel fueled him to explore Asia and the rest of the world. He also plans to undertake humanitarian work in his travels. Read his inspiring story and follow him on social media!
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