Planning a trip to Japan? Being the largest city in Japan, it’s no wonder that Tokyo is often the city of choice for those who are coming to Japan for a holiday.
The first thing you should figure out is how to get from Narita airport to your accommodation in Tokyo.
When we first arrived in Japan, we had no concrete idea of how we’d get to Tokyo from the Airport, instead opting to make it up as we went along.
The only problem was that our flight arrived at night – around 7 or 8PM.
It took us over an hour to get through immigration and get our visas and residence cards, and we also had to try and figure out how to get some Japanese Yen at the airport after that…
…so by the time we even started to think about getting on public transport to our accommodation in Tokyo, we were starting to worry about last trains/services.
Because of this, we ended up just booking whatever we could using the automated ticket machines.
Long story short, we fumbled our way onto the Narita express train (actually a shinkansen), and it ended up costing us just shy of 3,500Yen each in total train fares to get to our AirBnB in Ota-Ku.
What’s annoying is that I now know that we could have easily done the same journey in a pretty similar amount of time for nearly half the cost; just by using different trains and searching a little more wisely.
So in this article, I’ll be giving you a few options and tips on how to avoid paying too much when traveling from Narita Airport into Tokyo.
Narita Airport To Tokyo – Public Transport Options
Narita Airport is about 80km from the central parts of Tokyo like Shinjuku/Shibuya where most tourists tend to want to stay.
Taking a taxi is a definite no-no for the budget traveler, as it can take between 1 – 1.5 hours to get from the airport to the city, plus tolls; which equates to a big bill.
If you want to save money where you can, your options are:
- Train – This is the most popular option as it’s super convenient. However the fare cost can vary by a great deal depending on which trains you catch, so it’s worth trying to find the best option for you beforehand to avoid paying too much.
- Bus – I didn’t actually learn of the bus option until later. This can be cheaper than the trains, but of course, there’s always the chance you can get delayed in traffic.
Despite sounding straightforward, it can actually get quite complicated with the amount of options available. While there are websites that have a compliation/summary of the costs, I would recommend getting the fare information and times directly from the transport providers, as there’s no telling if things have changed since the summary post was published.
The Best Way Will Depend On Where You Are Staying
Since there are so many transport options from Narita Airport into Tokyo, it’s worth pointing out that the best option really depends on where you are staying.
For example, the bus option presented below takes you to Tokyo station in central Tokyo. However, if you are actually staying on the Western side of Tokyo, it may not make sense to catch a bus into the city, and then backtrack out to the Western suburbs – it may be faster and cheaper to catch the train directly to that area instead.
Don’t forget to also consider travel times and number of changes when trying to determine the best option for you.
For instance, many travelers may be getting off a 8 – 12 hour flight, and at this point you might not be interested in saving $10 or so for a transport option that requires more changes and takes longer.
Catching The Train From Narita Airport
It’s quite easy to catch the train from Narita Airport, and there are signs in English which will direct you straight to the train platform from the arrival hall at the airport.
There’s also an Information Desk right as you walk out, with English speakers available, if you need any extra help.
The train platform is just a few floors down from the arrival hall. You can buy tickets from the vending machines (which have English as an option) using cash. We didn’t try using our foreign credit card for this occasion, so I can’t vouch for if they would work or not in the machines.
The Narita Express is a shinkansen bullet train which runs from Tokyo to the airport.
This train requires you to have a seat reservation (which is charged as a separate fee, unless you have aJR Pass, in which case it is included).
This train is the option of choice for those who hold a JR Pass, as the fare is covered by the JR Pass. However, you will still need to reserve a seat ahead of boarding.
If you have a JR Pass and are landing at Narita Airport, this video shows what you need to do to activate it at the airport and then how you can use it to get into Tokyo (If you don’t have a JR Pass, then skip this and keep reading):
For those without a JR Pass, I’d recommend other trains if you’re cost-conscious, as they can be a little cheaper (more on this next).
The Narita Express (NEX) costs around 3,000 Yen for a one way trip to Tokyo station. It takes about one hour and the services depart every 30 and 60 minutes.
This video shows a live stream of how you can catch either the NEX or Keisei Skyliner to Tokyo:
There are tons of options listed here for trains and particular train lines, if you choose not to use the Narita Express train.
This can get confusing fast, so here’s the thing:
The easiest way I have found to make sense of these and work out which services are actually relevant to you, is to use the Hyperdia website or Japan Navitime Travel app on your smartphone (both of these use the same database so will provide the same information).
Simply type in your departure station as Narita Airport, and your desired station, as well as a rough time of day, and you can see a bunch of options and from there manually sift through these to find the best price/number of changes/journey time etc.
One thing to be aware of is that if you aren’t on a ‘fancy’ train which requires you to reserve a seat, it’s not always guaranteed that you’ll be able to get one.
Especially in peak hours, the trains can get crowded, so keep this in mind (especially if you’re travelling with a lot of luggage).
Catching The Bus From Narita Airport
There are expensive and cheap options for buses from Narita Airport.
The more expensive option is the Limousine Bus, which costs approximately 3,000 Yen one way to get to central Tokyo Station from Narita Airport.
However, there is also a cheaper bus option. The video below explains how you can get the cheap bus from Narita Airport to Tokyo station.
Pros are that it’s direct, there are no changes, and you’re guaranteed a seat.
Cons are that it may be possible for delays due to road traffic, you need to go line up to buy a ticket, and you may need to change to another mode of transport once you arrive at Tokyo station anyway.
Still, for under 1000 Yen, you can’t argue that this isn’t a good deal.
That concludes a few options for getting from Narita Airport to Tokyo. At the end of the day, it’s best to come up with a custom plan that suits your travel needs – and don’t forget to allow some time at the airport to do things like getting through immigration, picking up your luggage, getting some Yen in cash, and even getting a SIM card (if you don’t plan to get one from somewhere else).