Narita Airport - an (old) gateway to Tokyo, Japan
Narita airport is located over 70km southeast of central Tokyo and is the international airport in Japan opened in 1978.
Narita airport has been the gateway to Japan for most foreign tourists and gateway to the world for Japanese tourists travelling overseas until the busiest international airport in Japan is replaced by Haneda airport (Haneda used to be a domestic airport and changed into international later).
The official name of Narita airport is 'New' Tokyo International Airport. It is named as 'new Tokyo', but actually, it's NOT in Tokyo. It's in Chiba prefecture and many Japanese often joke about this (Tokyo Disneyland is actually the same, it's in Chiba, but still call themselves Tokyo Disneyland. It's so humiliating for Chiba residents, but it looks like they want to hide it!)
As mentioned, Narita airport is not in Tokyo and located a bit far (70km) from central Tokyo, so how to get out of the airport and get to central Tokyo is a very important issue for most tourists who arrive at Narita.
When you arrive at Narita, you'll find many options to access to Tokyo. And people think, 'Wait a minute. We did arrive in Tokyo, right? Why do we need to move to Tokyo from here now?'
Unfortunately, the fact is that you didn't quite arrive in Tokyo yet.
This blog will let you know what option is the most suitable for different type of travellers. I believe this is useful information unless you can pay 200 dollars for a taxi to Tokyo.
How to get to central Tokyo from Narita airport
1. Budget Traveler (with less luggage)
For a budget traveller who is willing to walk up and down with your luggage, a local train is a good option to get to central Tokyo. You can immediately experience super-local Japan as well.
First, follow the sign of the railway station and get to the train station which is located B1 floor (downstairs) both Terminal 1 and 2. When you arrive at Terminal 3 (LCC terminal), you first need to come to either Terminal 1 or 2. Don't worry, you can alternatively easily walk from Terminal 3 to 2 just for 10 minutes.
This is Narita airport station (Terminal 1)
Now you need to buy a ticket. Beware, the ticket system is extremely confusing and even Japanese people sometimes cannot fully understand (I mean it).
First, two companies running the different lines from Narita airport. One is JR (Japan railway) and another is Keisei Line.
And Keisei Line has 3 different trains to central Tokyo.
Skyliner (most expensive express), Access Liner (mid-expensive) and Keisei Main Line (cheap and less fast)
You're a budget traveller, you should buy Keisei Main Line's ticket (or Keisei-honsen in Japanese). You can directly reach Ueno, Asakusa or Shinagawa station.
Do not take Skyliner or Access Line by mistake. You need to buy another additional ticket for it.
Even if your hotel is not in these areas and you need to go to another destination, you need to change a train and buy a train ticket once again. So, just say your destination station name of Keisei main line to the staff at the ticket counter (main stations are as below for your reference).
Price to Ueno station is 1,030 yen (7.5 pounds / 9 dollars).
Time to Ueno Station is 80-90 minutes.
Remember, the one you take is Keisei Main Line (Keisei-Honsen)!
Cheap (same as limousine bus)
Can experience local Japan immediately (you will face the challenge of Japanese crazy train in rush hour)
Faster than limousine bus
Not so foreign tourists-friendly as this is the local line.
Not all stations have lifts(elevators) & escalators.
The chances are you cannot find a seat (basically always busy).
2. Budget Traveler (with heavy luggage)
If you're a budget traveller and like a simple and easy option, limousine bus would be the best option.
First, find the ticket counter right after the exit gate. Several companies operating buses to central Tokyo. But, we recommend these two companies.
You will see something like this.
Ticket Price to Tokyo Station, Ginza 1,000 yen (7 pounds / 9 dollars)
Estimated time is 90 - 120min (depending on the time of day)
The Access Narita is a ticketless operation. So, you can just go to the bus stop outside the airport building and pay directly to the driver.
Normally, this is how the bus looks like (this is Keisei Bus).
No seat reservation, so you have to wait for the next bus if it's full. But, such a case is extremely rare. All bus companies are running very frequent service, so normally you won't wait more than 30 minutes.
Easy. Get on the bus. Then just sit down and relax.
Hands-free (staff will help you to put your luggage underneath)
Frequent service (of course not as frequent as local train, but the most frequent time they run every 15 minutes or so which is very nice).
Limited destinations (go to main stations in Tokyo, you need to go to your hotel from there)
May take longer in case of traffic jam.
3. Affluent Traveller who is willing to pay more for quicker access
For those who would not mind spending a bit more for the time and comfort, the express train should be the best option.
Two services operating from Narita airport and each service has different destinations, so you can choose depending on where in Tokyo you want to go.
Destination: Shinagawa, Tokyo, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro
Time: 60 minutes to Tokyo Station
Price: 3,020 yen (22 pounds / 26 dollars (to Tokyo Station, Ordinary/2nd class seat)
This line is operated by JR (Japan Railway) and ticket counter is like this.
Arguably, the poshest (and the most expensive) way to central Tokyo other than taxi. Inside the train is quite neat, of course.
This line is operated by Keisei line which is the same company run Keisei Honsen mentioned earlier as a budget option.
Skyliner is their express train service. It's not as fas as Shinkansen (bullet train in Japan), but recently renewed faster train can run at up to 160km/h and reach Tokyo in quickest time in all options.
If your hotel is in Ueno area (east part of Tokyo), it's a good option with no doubt.
Time: 36 minutes (to Nippori station) 41 minutes (to Ueno Station)
Price: 2,470 yen (17 pounds / 21 dollars)
Of course, inside the train is as nice as NEX, it's very new and clean. Your comfortable travel (less than an hour, though) is guaranteed.
On time - unlike a bus, train time is pretty accurate (and don't forget this is Japan!)
All reserved seats (means you can sit down)
Foreign tourists friendly - station staff speak English and English (Chinese and Korean) announcement on the train
Not so frequent service at night time
You (still) need to carry luggage in the station
Recommendation from Tokyo Direct
We definitely recommend you to use the bus. It's frequent and cheap, very easier to use than all other options.
Of course, it may take longer than the estimated time during rush hour. But, it's actually a quick journey than you expect in most of the cases.
When you come back to the airport...Always check which terminal you use in advance. And in case you get off at the wrong terminal, don't panic. Between terminal 2 and 3, you can easily walk. For others, you only have to take free shuttle bus running between all terminals.
Thank you for reading!
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