Day Trip to Nara

deer group photo nara budget guide

When people talk about Nara, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the free roaming deers. Indeed, we loved the interactions with the deers, especially how polite they were when scoring deer crackers from us. However, it’s important to remember that Nara is not just about deers, it’s a cultural site of Japan and here’s how we spent a day there!

Also read: Kyoto Budget Guide and Osaka Budget Guide

Nara Budget Breakdown

Boarding the train in hopes of catching some sleep, I was (un)pleasantly surprised we arrived at Nara station in less than 45 minutes from Kyoto! We then took a 15 minute walk to our hostel, lugging our bags up the seemingly never-ending stairs (which thankfully ended).

That very night, we planned some temple-hopping and set aside a decent amount of time for the deers the next day – which we obviously overshot because animals possess strong attraction powers.

A quick plot of attractions in Nara revealed its shockingly small area – all its attractions were within a kilometre from one another. As such, we opted to cycle around Nara. Bike rentals are very accessible and easy to find around Nara, and we were on our way in no time!

We grabbed breakfast from a pretty big supermarket at the main station, had a late lunch at a cafe and grabbed a couple more snacks from the supermarket before leaving for our next city.

Here’s a rough breakdown of what we spent for a day in Nara:

Local Transport: ¥‎700
2-way Transport from Osaka to Nara: ~¥‎1120 (there are numerous routes so the exact price may vary)
Activities: ¥650 (including deer biscuit)
Food: ¥‎1200

Total/Day: ¥‎3,470/day (S$43.00)

Things to do in Nara

1) Nara Deer Park (奈良公園)

cherie surrounded by deers nara deer park - nara budget guide

The innately strong attractive powers of deers distracted us from our original plans as we jumped off our bikes at the first sight of the deers. After taking tons of photos, getting chased around, bowing to them and getting bowed to… we realised it was close to noon. #timeflies

Some deers can get slightly aggressive when they know you have food on you, so you might want to think twice about letting young children hold the crackers!

Cost: ¥150 for a stack of crackers (specially for the deers)
Nearest Station:
 Kintetsu Nara Station

Pro-tip: Deers are everywhere in Nara, visit other attractions first because they have opening hours but the deers will always be around (although they’re a lot less active at night)

2) Todaiji Temple (東大寺大仏殿)

todaiji temple - nara budget guide

Crowned the largest wooden structure in the world, Todaiji Temple should not be missed! It’s also one of the landmarks of Nara (other than the deers of course), you just cannot miss without visiting. Be wowed by the vast size of the statues as you walk up the knee-high steps leading up to the entrance.

Cost: ¥500 
Opening Hours:

8:00 am – 16:30 pm (November to February)
8:00 am – 17:00 pm (March)
7:30 am –  17:30 pm (April to September)
7:30 am – 17:00 pm (October)
Address: 406-1 Zoushi-cho, Nara-shi
奈良市雑司町406-1
Nearest Station: Kintetsu Nara Station

*Pro-tip: We happened to go on a day an entire school outing was arranged – which explains the sea of uniformed kids in the picture. Go early if you prefer to enjoy the sight in a more zen state!

3) Kasuga-taisha Shrine (春日大社)

rachel cherie dingy jump shot kasuga taisha shrine nara budget guide

We wondered our way there, delighted to find more deers and more shops selling deer crackers at the entrance of the shrine. Stone lanterns lined the pathway towards the shrine giving a clandestine ambience. You will be able to take some Instagram-worthy photos as you take a stroll along their pebbled route!

Cost: Free (garden area only)
Opening Hours:
6:00 am – 6:00 pm (April -September)
6:30 am – 5:00 pm (October – March)
Address: 160 Kasugano-cho, Nara-shi
奈良市春日野町160
Nearest Station: Kintetsu Nara Station

Pro-tip: As usual, deers are everywhere so try not to be distracted by your original plans (we know its tough)!

4) Yoshikien Garden (吉城園)

yoshikien garden nara budget guide
Credit: Japan-Guide

If you want to visit somewhere scenic and quiet, head to Yoshikien Garden! The lush greeneries in this hidden gem will not only be the perfect place to escape the crowds, but to take a break at the same time. The best part? Free entry for tourists!

Opening Hours: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm (closed January – February)
Address: 60-1 Noborioji-cho, Nara-shi
奈良市登大路町60-1
Nearest Station: Kintetsu Nara Station

Pro-tip: Remember to bring along passports as entrance fees are waived only for foreign tourists!

What to eat in Nara

Nara is scattered with many restaurants and cafes that serve possibly amazing food, at not-so-amazing prices. An unplanned discovery of a supermarket delayed our itinerary by almost an hour, as we just could not leave the food heaven!

Local Supermarkets

supermarket food nara budget guide

Walking down the aisle of the food shelves was a test of discipline and self-control. The glistering sauces on their ready-to-eat bentos, savoury fragrance of freshly fried foods, mouthwatering desserts…  Subconsciously picking up almost everything and scrutinising it thoroughly to find (odd) reasons not to purchase them, we probably covered every tile of the fresh foods section in the supermarket!

Kakinoha zushi

kakinoha zushi eat nara budge guide

Their local delicacy – Kakinoha zushi can also be found in supermarkets! Unlike the usual sushi, the kakinoha zushi is wrapped in persimmon leaves. And because of that, the rice tasted a little of mackerel and the mackerel had an interesting flavour – like it was marinated in rice… You have to try it!

Shizuka (釜飯 志津香)

shizuka kamameshi set nara budget guide
Credit: Let’s Talk Food and Etc.

Known for its kamameshi, Shizuka is a very popular restaurant situated at a walking distance from Todaiji Temple. Kamameshi is a delicate traditional Japanese rice dish served in a small metal pot. We spotted a long queue but our rumbling tummies didn’t allow us to wait patiently in line. Do let us know if you’ve tried it!

Opening Hours: 11:00 am – 7:30 pm (closed on Tuesdays and randomly once a month)
Address:  59-11 Noborioji-cho Nara 
奈良市登大路町59-11
Nearest Station: Kintetsu Nara Station

Pro-tip: Be prepared to queue a little even if you visit during late lunch hour!

Where to stay in Nara

yuzan guest house nara budget guide
Credit: Yuzan Guest House

There are a couple of budget options in Nara and we stayed at in a mixed dorm at Yuzan Guest House. The hostel had a nice cosy common area, wifi was pretty alright but the dorm room wasn’t spectacular.

We didn’t include this in the overall cost as honestly, Nara can be covered in a day. What more with Kyoto and Osaka being under an hour away by train. You can grab food from Kyoto and Osaka at night or spend more time at other areas!

Getting around in Nara

Bicycles

bicycles transport nara budget guide

As the attractions were really close to one another – 1km away on average, we concluded that the best mode of transport around was cycling! Thankfully, bike rental shops are rather common around Nara. We rented ours near the main Nara train station for ¥700.

The roads in Nara are pretty bike friendly with big walk ways and even designated areas on some of the roads. There are bike parking areas outside every main attraction (just remember not to park your bikes in front of shops – especially if you’re not buying anything)!

Nara Park 1-Day Bus Pass

Alternatively, if you prefer not to cycle, a Nara Park/Nishinokyo 1-Day Pass is available. At a price of ¥500, you will be able to board the Nara Kotsu buses around central Nara and Toshodaiji area for an unlimited number of times. You can get them from bus ticket offices inside JR Nara station or across the street from Kintetsu Nara Station. You’re welcome!

Scoot to Japan~

Having tried a handful of budget airlines, it was a pleasant surprise on Scoot’s 787 Dreamliner when I realised I could stretch out my legs.. and not hit anything/anyone.

We were seated at the Super Stretch section, which is the very first row of the ScootInSilence section. The cushioned seats were also wider and I was even able to share the seat with a bottle of water, a DSLR, a bar of chocolate and nap comfortably (very aunty, I know)! Their adjustable headrest also made sure I didn’t wake up with a sore neck, great touch of comfort!

Scoot also offers other seat types – ScootBiz, Super as well as Standard, with varying legroom. Even the standard seats are more spacious and include adjustable headrests are available for most of their seats, making longer flights more enjoyable and comfortable. I really loved my experience with Scoot!

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