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Why Side Hustles Are Made For Modern Millennials
 

You can only connect the dots looking backwards.
— Steve Jobs

 
 
  Note: I was at the “basic needs” portion of this pyramid for most of my young adult life.

Note: I was at the “basic needs” portion of this pyramid for most of my young adult life.

 

Jennie here.

Up until five years ago, I was stuck at the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. After college I moved across the country to Boston, a city where I had no family, few friends, and no professional network. I even had to get a $2,500 loan from Ivan just to stay afloat, while I worked several part-time jobs for temp agencies and Club Monaco.

I was constantly hustling, going on failed interviews, and living paycheck to paycheck before I got my first job. At the time, taking side jobs was a necessity, not an option because I had real bills to pay. Rent, utilities, public transportation, food - it all added up to so much.

When I finally had a full-time salaried position - I thought I had made it. I thought there was nothing else I would need in this life except a stable job/income.

  We've all been there, right? Frustrated and in some sort of millennial, quarter life crisis?

We've all been there, right? Frustrated and in some sort of millennial, quarter life crisis?

But, five years into my career - I became stagnant. Things felt too cushy and easy. Slowly, I forgot what it was like to struggle.

That’s when I realized something:

  • I’m not even doing what I love.
  • I’m 100% replaceable at my job.

  • Is the rest of my life going to look like this?

At any point, my job could be replaced by more senior or junior roles, consultants, contractors, freelancers, or realistically - it could be moved offshore to cheaper labor or eventually automated. I realized that I was just a small cog in the machine and I had no real power. I felt powerless and frankly - it threw me into an existential crisis.

What was I going to do with my life?

What did I want to come out of it?

Am I really going to tie my self-worth to a job?

This is when I started reevaluating my entire professional career. And that evaluation led me back to the side hustle.  


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Side Hustles


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What is a side hustle?

According to research conducted by GoDaddy, 1 in 2 millennials have a side hustle. There are three consistent components across all side hustles:

  1. Side hustles are typically not your primary income.

  2. Side hustles should add, not subtract from your financial stability.

  3. Side hustles empowers you with the freedom/choice to decide when, where and how you want to work.

There are two primary reasons why people pursue side hustles:

  1. Some people pursue a side hustle as a means to make some extra cash - to add to their overall net worth. More money allows you the flexibility to buy / consume what you want. For example, you need more money to take that vacation to Hawaii or you want to buy that new laptop, or you simply want to save money for a downpayment on a house. I’ve met Uber drivers who are parents that work full-time and do Uber part-time just to help pay the bills or to cover private school expenses for their children. And that’s great! More power to you if you can make that conscious choice.

  2. Others pursue a side hustle with the intention of creating financial independence and/or pursuit of a longer term passion or dream. In this instance, a side hustle is an asset that works for you; you don’t work for it. A side hustle is not a part-time job, nor is it part of the gig economy. If the intention of a side hustle is to create financial independence, then working within the gig economy accomplishes the exact opposite. In a world where technology automates and streamlines everything, most businesses that participate in the gig economy are in a constant race to the bottom. Think about how freelancers compete against each other on Fiverr (Ivan hates Fiverr and this commercial)- then imagine a version of this happening (eventually) to every industry.

Editor’s note: I’d rather clean toilets for free than let Fiverr earn a cent of commission off my back. There’s more dignity in it.


Why should millennials have a side hustle?

  • It increases your earning power and in turn - increasing your choices. It’s crucial to diversify your income/revenue streams because it ultimately means more choices. We can choose to diversify our revenue through investing in our 401Ks / retirement funds; another way to have more income is to re-invest your incoming revenue/income to fuel a side hustle or passion project.
     

  • Side hustles hedge against becoming stagnant and feeling cheated in your life. There are higher stakes when money is involved. Think of it as an incentive against continuing a mundane life where you dream about having “something more”. Think about it: are you really doing what you want to do right now? If you are, then great...but for the rest of us - a job is often just a job.
     

  • You can build something that’s just yours. Startups are cropping up all over the place to fill industry gaps and solve inefficiencies in our daily lives. However, the people who add lasting value are the ones who can find creative solutions to reimagine the norm - and doing it with their own unique twist. What you can contribute to society? Do you have a special talent or ridiculous knowledge about one subject matter? I’ve always wanted to do well at my job (and still do), but I’ve found that tying my self worth with my job just isn’t making me any happier. I want to create something that no one else can take credit for.


Four Things That I Did That Worked For My Side Hustle


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My own experience with side hustles:

  • How it began. It started when I realized that my job would always be tied to someone else’s business and someone else’s dreams. That’s when I ended up taking a real hard look at my life and what I wanted out of it. Think about it: what are you missing in your life? Do you want to travel more? Make more money? Pursue another career path?

    What do you want?

    For me, I wanted autonomy and more choice. I wanted autonomy and trust in my professional work. And I also wanted to travel and be location-independent. What’s more, I wanted the two choices to co-exist on the same platform.
     

  • How to begin. About six months ago, I started to look around in search of ‘gaps’ in the system. What could I do that was worthwhile to others, while also being fulfilling to me on a personal level? I realized that I had connections (or acquaintances) to startups that might need help with content generation. And how did I begin? I just started reaching out to several people that I knew to see if anyone would be interested in working with me. It took awhile but I started to get a few contracts. The money really wasn’t as important as proving to myself that I could start adding value anywhere.
     

  • Defining your side hustle goal. What is it that you want out of this experience? At first, Ivan and I had one simple goal: make enough cash (from our side hustles) to cover our monthly expenses (~$2,500). Once we had a number, we worked backward on how many projects and hours we would need to achieve that goal.
     

  • Being realistic about your side hustle. Let’s be real. Side hustles aren’t for everyone. And sometimes, it’s easier to just join the gig economy. But, if you don’t try...then how will you know?


* * *

To our wonderful readers, I’d love to hear about more of your thoughts and experiences on this topic!

  • Do you have a side hustle? Or are you considering one?
  • What does that do for you right now? And where do you want to take it?

* * *



Origami Guides: An Introvert's 3 Day Itinerary Through Toronto (Off the Beaten Path)
 Toronto, ON, Canada

Toronto, ON, Canada

 Downtown Toronto

Downtown Toronto

Ivan here. 

I’m sitting in our LA apartment, between mouthfuls of chicken biryani, thinking back on the three years spent in Toronto. 2012 to 2015. A dark period. Years 3 to 6 of a long distance relationship. Months 0 to 17 of a Kafkaesque immigration process. Despite making more money than I ever had (or have since), what Toronto really represented was a lot of wasted time living someone else’s life. 

There were good times with amazing people, of course. But the times in Toronto I remember best are the days spent alone, languishing in my favorite neighborhoods, waiting for Godot. As a result, I know all the places to go when you’re alone and just want to blend in; the A to Z of restaurants, bookstores, coffee shops, theaters and bars where a traveller can truly remain anonymous. 

 

Who should use this itinerary? 

Solo travelers looking for ways to avoid the tourist traps in favor of a quieter, slower pace of travel.
 

What are the best times in the year to visit?

My favorite month is September for the Toronto International Film Festival and Nuit Blanche, a night when all of downtown Toronto becomes an art installation. Springtime from April to June is also nice. Avoid the dreary winters. Canadians aren't nice all the time.
 

What’s the best way to experience Toronto? 

Toronto is not an “attraction” city, which are mediocre at best. Here's a list of all the places that won’t move the needle: CN Tower, Toronto Centre Island, Dundas Square, Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Second City, Casa Loma, and the Hockey Hall of Fame. 

I’m boring myself just typing this. The only way this list gets more generic is if I tack on a day trip to Niagara Falls.  

The best way to experience Toronto is to pick two or three neighborhoods to languish in and try to act like you live there. My favorites are The Annex and Kensington Market.  
 

 

Where should I stay in Toronto? 

Most Toronto hotels are overpriced so I’d recommend an Airbnb within walking distance of a TTC subway stop. My favorite neighborhood is The Annex (near Bathurst station). It’s grungy, artsy, and fun. 
 

How do I use this guide? 

The map is divided into three color-coded areas:

  • Day 1 attractions are in Blue 
  • Day 2 attractions are in Red 
  • Day 3 attractions are in Yellow 
  • The Green Martians...I’ll explain the Martians at the end
  • Grey attractions are optional 

An Introvert's 3 Day Itinerary Through Toronto


Day 1 (Blue) - A Perfect Day at The Annex

Morning

  • Land in Toronto. Avoid the long taxi ride from Pearson International Airport by flying Porter Airlines’ turboprop planes to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, located right near downtown. It’s the only civilized way to arrive in Toronto. Unfortunately, Porter only flies to/from major East Coast and Midwest cities in the US. 

Afternoon

  • Take a 10 minute taxi ride to Bathurst Station near The Annex. Check into your Airbnb.  
  • Have your first Canadian poutine at Smoke’s Poutinerie. Forget the unnecessary toppings and just stick with the classic: cold cheese curds and hot gravy on fries. 
  • Grab a coffee at the Green Beanery. The coffee won't blow you away, but its location on the intersection makes it the best place to people watch. 

Evening

  • Walk over to BMV Books, my favorite bookstore in North America. BMV has no theme, no ambiance, no quirk. The only thing BMV cares about is selling cheap books, books made even cheaper by the current US/CAD exchange rate. 
  • Dinner at Yummy Korean Food Restaurant. I had to look for the name of this place online. I know it as the giant orange sign with the photo of the smiling Korean lady on it. This place is cozy and the food is fantastic (if you like homestyle Korean). A lot of singles dine here. Like we were all invited over to some lady’s house. 
  • After dinner, stop by Doug Miller Books and say hi to the rabbit for me. Hope it’s doing ok. 
  • Two options to cap off the night: existential pinball and beer at Tilt Arcade Bar or a documentary at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. Or why not both? 

Day 2 (Red): High Park & Drinks at Kensington Market

Morning

  • Take a 20 minute stroll down to Kensington Market. Breakfast on the covered patio of Our Spot. 
  • Make your way through Chinatown enroute to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), a building most recently renovated by Frank Gehry. I hate sharing so I usually get here when they open at 10:30 (closed on Mondays, free admission on Wednesday nights from 6-9). 

Afternoon

  • Walk to St. Patrick Station. Take the TTC to High Park. 
  • High Park in the springtime (late March to early April) is full of cherry trees in bloom. Visit the free High Park Zoo to see the llamas and capybaras. But mainly, just sit on a bench and read the Toronto Metro daily or a BMV paperback. 

Evening

  • Back to Chinatown. Dinner at whatever hole-in-the-wall restaurant catches your eye. I like to get my takeout from Buddha’s Vegetarian Restaurant (open 11-9, cash only). The portions are unreasonably large. 
  • End your night with beers or cocktails at Poetry Jazz Cafe. There’s a $10 cover charge for live performances which start at 9 PM. I’m never disappointed.  
  • Soak up the alcohol with some late night pho at Pho Pasteur (open 24 hours, cash only).  Sometimes all you need is good broth, Thai chili and dandelion leaves. 

Source: Buddha's Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurant by StevieSurf


Day 3 (Yellow): Scarborough Bluffs & The Performing Arts

Morning

  • Wake up whenever you want. Check on Mirvish.com (my favorite Mirvish venue is the Princess of Wales Theatre) or the Young Performing Arts Center for available shows that night. Reserve tickets.
  • Take the green line (aka The Suburbia Express) from Bathurst Station east to Warden Station.
  • Grab enough food for breakfast and a brown bag lunch at Cafe on the Go (it's the one on the right) inside Warden Station. In the early mornings their Jamaican patties are still piping hot from the oven (Jamaican patties are to Toronto what $1 pizza is to NYC). Order one spicy, one chicken. You're welcome. 

Afternoon

  • Take an Uber or taxi down to Scarborough Bluffs Park.
  • Hike the path up to the cliffs, hop a wooden fence and be rewarded with the best and least known view of Toronto. 
  • Picnic, read, and nap under a tree. What's the rush? 

Evening

  • Take an Uber or taxi to Sukhothai for dinner. There are multiple locations, but I can only vouch for the original spot on Parliament Street. I lived in Thailand for two summers and I think this place may serve the best pad thai in North America (2018 update: Was informed by one of our readers that the quality at the Parliament location has gone downhill. Over-expansion and new management. It's a shame.)
  • Depending on where you reserved your tickets: Taxi to downtown King Street for Princess of Wales Theatre or make your way to the Distillery District for the Young Performing Arts Center. End the night with the internal satisfaction of knowing that you couldn't have played this city any better. 

Princess of Wales Theatre


PostScript: The Green Martians

Truly far out options. These inconspicuous places make perfect hideaways for the visiting Martian who wants to study our species. The most cost effective way to reach them is to take the TTC to Finch Station, then transfer to an Uber or taxi. 

  1. Le Cafe Michi: Nothing about this restaurant makes sense: not the quality of their sashimi, their Japanese chefs, their gourmet fucking desserts, or prices totally at odds with the shabbiness and remoteness of their surroundings. Is Le Cafe Michi a run-down suburban strip mall joint? A high-end French boulangerie? A sushi bar serving chef special omakase sets that's way higher quality than it has any right to be? The answer is all of the above. 
  2. Pacific Mall: If an entire block in Hong Kong was suddenly transported to the middle of bum-fuck nowhere and gets sealed off from the rest of the world until the place becomes both sentient and sad, the end result would be P-Mall. 
  3. Seoul Zimzilbang Korean Sauna:  Tired of staying in nice, tastefully curated hotels? Why not spend the night in one of Toronto's weirdest 24 hour Korean saunas, located in a garage-like building behind a Home Depot parking lot? It costs $25 to get in (stay forever).  Seoul Zimzilbang is an oasis for Korean families and Russians hiding from the cold. You get to wear funny towel hats while ordering from a number of Korean restaurants who deliver directly to this modern sanitarium, while you make the rounds between sauna rooms named after different power crystals.  


Origami Guides: A 3 Day Itinerary Through Okinawa (Without a Car)

Naha, Okinawa
那覇市, 沖縄

Jennie here!

After our wedding reception, Ivan and I went on a three-day honeymoon to Okinawa. Okinawa is like Japan’s younger, more easy-going brother. The language and the traditional Japanese politeness are the same, but Okinawans are also more laid back in attitude with a slower pace of living. For us, the experience was like visiting a completely different country.


Who should use this itinerary?


Solo travelers and couples who are time constrained and prefer to get around by public transportation.


What are the best times in the year to visit? 


We recommend visiting Okinawa in late October/early November to avoid typhoon season, which runs from July to early October in some years. It still feels like summer this time of year, and you avoid the tourists and salarymen who flock to the island in the spring (from March to June). 


How do I get to Okinawa? 


If you want to avoid a 40+ hour ferry ride, your only option is to fly. From Tokyo, it’s a 2.5 hour flight. Most likely, you’re going to begin and end your trip in Naha International Airport. 


Where should I stay in Okinawa? 


For the Budget-conscious:

  • Myplace Guest House - If you’re comfortable staying with shared rooms, then Myplace Guest House is the place to be. And at a hard-to-beat price of ~$24 USD per night, it’s hard to complain. Also, it’s great to keep in mind that these hostels also have fantastic partnerships with diving/snorkeling tour groups and plans that often include island hopping, rental gear, lunch, and transport back to your hostel.

Moderately Budget:

  • Estinate Hotel - For a single standard room, the prices in November ranges between $70 to $79 per night. This being our honeymoon, Ivan and I were looking to take it easy and go a little bit above our normal budget. We booked our stay with Estinate Hotel (through Agoda.com) for three nights in Naha. The total (including taxes) came to $77.80 USD per night. The room was small, clean and had everything we needed.


How do I use this okinawa guide? 


The map is divided into three color-coded areas:

  • Day 1 attractions are in Blue
  • Day 2 attractions are in Pink
  • Day 3 attractions are in Orange
  • The grey markers are for optional sites

For simplicity’s sake, this itinerary assumes that you’ll be based in Naha City.

Note: Feel free to add this map to your own Google Map list. You can also filter out different days of this guide on the map by clicking the top left icon on the map title bar.


Day 1: WWII, Soba, Castles, and Gardens in Naha, Okinawa (BLUE)


Note: Remember to show your Yui Rail Day Passes to get admission discounts for several attractions in Naha. Discounts will vary, but you will save a few dollars at each attraction.

Morning

  • Purchase the Yui Rail One Day (~$6.40). When you arrive at Naha airport, the first thing you should do is follow the signs to the monorail station and purchase your Yui Rail Day Pass from the machines outside. This pass not only gives you 24-hour access to the monorail but also provides discounts to several attractions. There’s also a two-day option for those that are less time constrained.
  • Begin your day early and get to the Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters (Tomigusuku) (opens 8:30am - 5:30pm). Out of all the attractions, this was probably our favorite. The only word to describe it is eerie. It’s also not for the faint of heart. You can actually walk through the system of underground bunkers and tunnels where the Japanese made their last stand in WWII. The bullet holes on the walls are from the soldiers who committed suicide. A lot of local Okinawans died here and it’s a disturbing reminder of the horrors of war.
    Note: This place is a bit of a pain to get to because it’s not close to a monorail station. I’d suggest taking a taxi from Onoyama Koen monorail station. 
  • Lunch at Shuri Soba ($4 - $6, opens at 11am - 2pm -- or until they run out; closed on Sundays). Hop on a train and head over to Shurijo (aka Shuri Castle) station to grab a bowl of Okinawa soba at Shuri Soba (首里そば). Okinawa soba is like the best of both worlds between ramen and udon. The broth is light, the noodles chewy, and it’s usually topped with marbled cuts of pork.
  • Stop by Sairaiin Temple (Free). Located right across the street from Shuri Soba. This Buddhist temple is not a tourist attraction so much as a window into the spiritual lives of Okinawan suburbanites.
  • Shurijo (Shuri Castle) (~$7.50; opens 8am–6:30pm) and the Tamaudun Mausoleum (~$3, opens 9am - 6pm). Honestly, we weren’t all that impressed with Shuri Castle. The majority of the castle was completely ‘modernized’ and rebuilt due to the destruction from the war. It’s an obligatory stop more than anything. The Tamaudun Mausoleum (玉陵) on the other hand, which houses the royal family of the Ryukyu Kingdom, is well worth seeing.

Afternoon

  • Stroll through Fukushu-en Garden (Free; opens 9am to 6pm, closed Wednesdays). Hop back onto the monorail and head towards Kencho-Mae Station (県庁前駅) and take a five-minute walk to the garden. It’s nice to get away from the hustle and bustle and you won’t come across many other tourists.

Evening

  • Stroll around Makishi Market (Free, unless you buy stuff; opens 8am–9pm). For anyone interested in checking out souvenirs, I’d check out this market. But I’d definitely urge anyone to beeline straight to the Fish Market. You can check out vendors and fresh seafood; you can also buy seafood and have it made right in the building! I actually saw the largest lobster that I’d ever seen in my life in one of those tanks.
  • Dinner at Yunangi (opens 12–3pm, 5:30–10:30pm, closed on Sundays). If you’re up for trying anything, you should order the dinner set menu for about $27. You’ll get everything including: chanpuru, pig ears, tofu, grilled fish, braised pork, miso soup, and rice. It’s very filling and is a perfect amount for two people.  Get there early, it gets crowded early and often.
  • Get a Single or Double Scoop of Blue Seal ice cream (hours vary by location). The quintessential Okinawan ice cream chain. A daily of our visit. Our favorite combination was Okinawan salted cookie and beni imo.
  • Check out Parker's Mood (opens 10pm - 1:30am). A jazz club hidden on the 5th floor of an apartment complex. There’s usually live music between 9:00pm and 12:30am, but I think the owner, who’s an amazing jazz guitarist, just plays whenever he feels like it. We love jazz so we sat and listened for a few hours and chatted about our lives together while enjoying a local Orion beer and ume-shu (plum wine).

Day 2: Going Outside of Naha - Aquarium, Aimless Wandering, and Simple Meals (PINK)


Morning

  • Take the Yanbaru express to Northern Okinawa (~$18 one-way).  The two hour bus ride will go from Night Takahashi (Tomari Port Tomarin) at (departing at 6:56am) to Churaumi Aquarium (arriving at 8:58am).
    Note: If you miss the scheduled bus, there won’t be another one for about two hours. Check the bus schedule here. And the last departing bus headed back to the Naha area is around 4 - 5pm.
  • Arrive at Churaumi Aquarium (~$17 admission; opens 8:30am–5:30pm) Get there early to check out the main highlight of this aquarium: The Kuroshio Sea Tank. It’s Japan’s largest aquarium and is full of diverse marine life.

Afternoon

After staring deeply into one of the world’s largest marine tanks, try wandering around the area and villages outside of the aquarium.

  • Grab a quick lunch at Coco Shokudo (コッコ食堂 ) (~$10; opens 11am - 5pm, limited hours on the weekend). The humble family-owned restaurant serves dishes centered around eggs.
  • Walk along Emerald Beach and take in the ocean scenery (Free).
  • Enjoy the gorgeous gardens at the Tropical Dream Center (~$6.30 and ~$3.30 if you visited the aquarium; opens 8:30am - 5:30pm).
  • Bise is a small village by the Aquarium and known for is its little alleyway that is flanked by Fukugi trees (Free)
  • Take a 20-minute walk to Bise no Warumi to experience a private beach where the Gods first descended. (Free)

Evening

  • Head back to Naha via the Yanbaru Express bus (~$18 one-way). Leave around 4:30 to 5pm and get back into the city around 7pm.
  • Grab a simple dinner at Mikasa near the hotel (less than $10). Huge portions and the restaurant is open relatively late; finish up and get ready for an early day tomorrow morning.

Day 3: Beautiful Beaches, Relaxation, and More Okinawa Soba  (ORANGE)


Morning

Early Afternoon

  • Pick an island and go snorkeling. If it’s still warm enough to swim, I’d suggest checking out one of the Kerama Islands for some snorkelling or diving. The islands are so beautiful and the water is super blue and clear. Choose any of the islands to settle into and you should be able to rent snorkeling gear for about less than $10 USD. Ivan and I spent $80 USD for an umbrella, chairs, and snorkeling gear.
  • Relax for a few hours. It’s vacation after all. Swim, snorkel, and soak in the beautiful son, clear waters, and likely a sparse/tourist free beach.

Evening

  • Take a ferry back to Naha and walk towards Makishi Market for a bonus Okinawa soba round (~$3.60, opens 11am - 5 or 6pm, depends on the mood of the owner). Soki Soba (aka Country Side Public Market on TripAdvisor). The place is small and seats about 10 people. A bowl of soba is super cheap! The broth is light and fragrant and the pork meat practically melts away in your mouth.
    Note: If Soki Soba is closed, head over to our alternative soba restaurant here: Gabusoka Shokudo Miebashi Ekimae
  • And to finish off the evening -- do whatever floats your boat after swimming and travelling for several hours. In our case, we grabbed some more delicious Blue Seal ice cream. Yes, it’s that good. And a perfect ending to our Okinawa trip.

We hoped this was helpful! If you liked this post, be sure to check out a related Okinawa post we published titled "11 Things We Like and Dislike About Okinawa"



Origami Guides: A 3 Day Itinerary Through Kyoto (on a Budget)

Kyoto is the city where we met and fell in love. During the twelve months that we lived there, we biked through every square inch of the city and remember it with greater clarity than the places where we grew up. 

Over the years, a lot of friends have asked us for suggestions on what to do when they visit our favorite city. In the future, we can just refer them to this post. 

In this guide, we’ll show you how to experience Kyoto as a local for $100 a day. 


Who should use this itinerary? 

Budget conscious solo travelers, couples or small groups of 3-5 looking for ways to avoid the tourist traps in favor of a quieter, slower pace of travel.

What are the best times in the year to visit? 

There are only two correct answers to this question: 

  1. During the first two weeks of April or, 
  2. During the last two weeks of November  

For reasons that should be obvious:                                

             First two weeks of April

           First two weeks of April

                              Last two weeks of November

                            Last two weeks of November

And here’s what you can expect when you visit outside of Spring and Fall:

                                          Summers in Kyoto

                                        Summers in Kyoto

                                              Winters in Kyoto

                                            Winters in Kyoto

What’s the best way to experience Kyoto? 

By bicycle.

Where should I stay in Kyoto? 

Western Kyoto (near Arashiyama) is an extremely peaceful and underrated area. Staying here allows you to steer clear of downtown and the accompanying tourist traffic. 

The Utano Youth Hostel is located right across the street from the dorms we stayed in during our one year abroad. You can get a room for as little as $35 per night. Plus they offer bike rentals for $6 a day on a first-come first-serve basis. 

How do I use this guide? 

The map is divided into three color-coded areas:

  • Day 1 attractions are in Blue (Western & Northern Kyoto)
  • Day 2 attractions are in Red (Eastern Kyoto)
  • Day 3 attractions are in Yellow (Southern & Downtown Kyoto)
  • The grey markers are for optional sites

For simplicity’s sake, this itinerary assumes that you’ll be visiting in the springtime. If you’re visiting during the autumn, just replace Ninnaji Temple and Hirano Shrine with Tofukuji (grey) and Eikando (grey). Kodaiji Temple (grey) is probably the best place to see the momiji/autumn leaves light-up after sunset. 

Note: All currencies below are in USD.

A 3 Day Kyoto Itinerary

Day 1 (Blue) 

Morning

  • Rise early. Breakfast at Utano Youth Hostel ($6) or stop by a Japanese bakery on your bike ride to Arashiyama. Bakeries open as early as six. 
  • Rent a bike ($6) from the hostel and make your way to  Hirosawa Pond (free). We went on our first date here and not many people know about this place. It’s perfect for a secluded picnic or to watch the sunset. You can also rent little rowboats and head out onto the water. 
  • Arrive at Arashiyama, it’s a popular weekend spot for locals so you should arrive early to avoid the crowds. Walk through the Bamboo Forest (free). If you insist on visiting a temple here, we suggest Adashino Nen-Butsu ($5, opens at 9) to see 8,000 moss-covered Buddhist statues. 
  • Visit the Arashiyama Monkey Park ($5.50). Hide your food and watch out for poop.
  • Find the super secret temple. It’s called Senko-ji ($4). When you come down from Monkey Park, stay on that side of the river and walk until you see a narrow flight of steps to your left. At the summit of this magical trail is a tatami hut lined with calligraphy boasting an equally magical view of Kyoto. Sign the book before you leave. You’re welcome. 

Afternoon

  • Lunch at Unagiya Hirokawa for grilled eel. Basic grilled eel set costs around $20-25. Get some cherry blossom flavored ice cream for dessert from one of the Arashiyama vendors. 
  • Ditch Arashiyama before the tourists arrive. Head to Ninnaji Temple ($5) and local favorite Hirano Shrine (free) for cherry blossoms. 
  • Make the obligatory stop to the Kinkaku Temple/Golden Temple ($4). In our opinion, this is the most overrated of Kyoto’s well-known attractions. Looks way better in photos.   
  • Visit Kitano Tenman-gu ($3). This temple is popular with students studying for exams. It’s known for its plum blossoms in late February and the flea market held on the 25th of every month.  

Evening

  • Head back to Hirosawa Pond to watch the sunset. 
  • Dinner at Jumbo Okonomiyaki ($5-10, closed on Mon & Tue). This place serves jumbo-sized okonomiyaki and yakisoba.  A popular spot for broke university students looking for huge portions on the cheap. 
  • If Jumbo is closed, head over to Kura Kaiten ($1 per plate) for some conveyor belt sushi . 
  • End the night in a karaoke booth at Karaoke Build Kitano Hakubaicho Branch ($5 per hour)

Cost of Day 1

Hostel ($35) + Travel costs ($68.50) = $103.50 (+$15 optional costs)

Day 2 (Red)

Morning

Afternoon

Evening

  • Whatever you want. Hang out by the Kamogawa River. Be free!

Cost of Day 2

Hostel ($35) + Travel Costs ($33) = $68

Day 3 (Yellow)

Morning

  • Check out of hostel. Take the bus or train down to Kyoto Station ($2).  
  • Leave your bags at a coin locker or with the luggage storage office ($3-7) at Kyoto Station.
  • Bus to Fushimi Inari Taisha ($2), the temple with the orange gates. Admission is free and it’s open 24 hours. But try to get there early in the morning to avoid the crowd. 

Afternoon

  • Lunch at Roan Kikunoi Restaurant for traditional Japanese kaiseki cuisine. Typically places like this start at $100, but Roan does pretty decent lunch sets for $40 and $70. Without reservations, you should get here as soon as it opens. 
  • Walk through Nishiki Market (price varies)

Evening

  • Kiyomizu Temple ($4) is not quite as overrated as Kinkakuji, but is also four times as crowded. The trick here is to buy your tickets 45 minutes to an hour before it closes at 6. They stop selling tickets a half hour before closing time, so you’ll have the whole place to yourself. 
  • Explore the Gion District & Pontocho Alley. Where the geisha and maiko hang out. Drinks here will destroy your wallet. 
  • Dinner at Sushi Musashi ($1.5 per plate) near Kyoto Station. Higher quality conveyor belt sushi that’s popular with the downtown crowd. 

Cost of Day 3

Hostel ($35) + Travel Costs ($66) = $101

And if you're having trouble deciding which temples and shrines are worth going to in Kyoto, we've ranked the Top 30 temples and shrines here to help you narrow down your list!