There are many ways to get from Narita Airport to Tokyo and back. We break it down and show you all the options, with the costs and benefits of each, so you can make the best choice for your own situation.
So you’ve got your flights and accommodation booked and now you’re counting down to your arrival in Japan. Perhaps you’ve heard that Narita Airport isn’t actually in Tokyo and you are wondering what is the fastest, easiest or most economical way to get into Tokyo city after you land.
Over the past 10 years, we’ve done this trip many times and made use of the various options for covering this route. More and more flights are now arriving into Haneda Airport within Tokyo but while it is physically quite a bit closer to the city I don’t really find it more convenient than Narita as an arrival and departure point.
There are quite a few options for getting from the 3 terminals at Narita airport into the city and back again. I’m going to cover the JR NEX train, the Airport Limousine bus, the Keisei Skyliner train, other JR train services, a taxi and private transfers.
Each of these options will suit some travellers and not others so we’ll talk through who each option is the best suited for so you can choose between them confidently.
Table of Contents
- By Train – The Narita Express (NEX)
- By Bus – Airport Limousine Bus
- By Train – JR trains to other parts of Tokyo
- By Train – The Skyliner
- Narita Airport to Tokyo by shuttle transfer
- Taking a taxi from Narita Airport to Tokyo
- Summary of the various ways to get from Narita Airport to Tokyo
- A few more tips to get the most out of your time in Tokyo
By Train – The Narita Express (NEX)
Who should consider using the Narita Express?
The Narita Express, known as the NEX, is run by Japan Rail East and is a dedicated airport service. This option is going to be great if you have a Japan Rail Pass that you are planning to activate immediately as the cost of the ticket will be included.
However, you don’t need a JR Pass if you will spend the bulk of your trip in Tokyo or any other single city. We have an article dedicated to the Japan Rail Pass and recommend checking it out before you buy, even if just to be sure you don’t spend the money when it’s not needed.
The Narita Express is also convenient if you are headed to its major connection points including Tokyo Station, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro and Yokohama. You can get to other stations but that will usually involve changing to a local train or subway somewhere along the way. Those aren’t quite so easy with luggage, especially if you are arriving at a busy time of day.
On the NEX there are dedicated areas to place your larger suitcases. This option to store your bag is the big difference between the Narita Express and most other trains in Japan, even the bullet trains. The storage areas are camera monitored and there are locks to secure your bag, we’ve never felt the need to do that on a Japanese train but if you feel more comfortable the option is there.
There are two classes on the Narita express. These are the same as on other JR long-distance trains, you need to choose between ordinary and green classes. The green class has slightly more seat room, legroom and the seats recline but honestly, the ordinary cars are still very comfortable on this relatively short trip.
How much does the Narita Express Cost?
The base fare from Narita Airport to Tokyo Station is Y3270 in the ordinary class and Y4640 in the green class. It will cost slightly more to other stations on the line such as Shibuya and Shinjuku as they are a little further on.
If you are going through to Yokohama from the airport the fare is Y4570 in ordinary class and Y5940 in the Green Cars.
Saving money on your NEX ticket
There are a couple of options here. If you have a Japan Rail Pass you can exchange that at the JR office at the Airport and immediately book the next NEX train to your destination.
If you aren’t using the JR pass, a discount of around 33% is available by booking a return ticket rather than one way if you need that option.
There used to be a NEX SUICA combo that was good value but that is no longer available. I’m still hoping JR East will bring it back. Having a SUICA or one of the IC cards (PASMO and ICOCA work just as well) is useful for most visitors to Japan. You can use them across almost all train, subway and bus companies nationwide.
How long does the Narita Express take to get to Tokyo?
The trip from Narita Airport to Tokyo station takes slightly under an hour, 80 minutes to Shibuya and 85 minutes through to Shinjuku. If you are taking the Narita Express through to Yokohama it will take 90 minutes.
The NEX has a couple of different routes it travels from Narita Airport so you won’t need to switch trains to get to your endpoint but be sure to specify the station you need when you make your booking so you catch the right one.
Where to buy tickets for the Narita Express
The Narita Express is a limited express train so you’ll need a reserved seat. Although most express trains also have an unreserved section that isn’t the case with the Narita Express, every seat must be booked.
There are two airport stations, one that services terminal 1 and another that services terminals 2 & 3. Access is internal, easy to navigate and well signposted from all immigration points, just follow the ‘Trains’ signs in English along the way.
You can purchase tickets online in advance, through the JR Ticket Office at the airport or by using the reserved seat ticket machines, they have a very helpful ‘English’ button.
There’s also a convenience store down by the JR ticket office which is handy if you want to pick up a drink or snack on the train. You can eat and drink on limited express trains, just be sure to pack up your rubbish and take it with you when you get off.
By Bus – Airport Limousine Bus
Who should consider the Airport Limousine Bus?
If you’ve had a long flight to Japan and think you will be tired, you are travelling with young children or you are concerned with handling your luggage on the train and out to the hotel then the Airport Limousine Bus can be a great option.
If your hotel is on one of the routes and you are arriving or departing during a time serviced on that route then it can be a simple and stress-free way to get to your hotel that first night. One of our 5 criteria in selecting where to stay in Tokyo is convenient access with luggage from our arrival and departure point.
You exchange your voucher or buy your ticket at the office in the terminal and wait at the allocated bus stop. The staff label and load your suitcase and you sit back and relax, or make use of the free wifi until they pull up at your hotel and hand your bags back to you.
We’ve used this service a few times as two of our favourite Tokyo hotels, the Hotel New Otani in Akasaka and the Tokyo Park Hotel in Shimbashi are conveniently located on an Airport Limousine Bus route.
The Limousine bus does take longer to get into the city, this is mainly because it stops at a range of properties often taking you right to the lobby of your hotel. When comparing the time taken to other options don’t forget to allow for any subway connections, taxis or walking with your luggage required.
Buying your Airport Limousine Bus ticket
You can order your ticket in advance online for the date of your arrival (or departure) and pay for it in your local currency, there is usually a small discount through the online supplier when you do this. We use this one for our Airport Limousine tickets.
Having a pre-booked voucher you go through a separate line and our experience has been that you either go directly through or at least the queue is much shorter. They’ll issue you tickets for the next bus and give you directions to the bus stop. You might want to stop and get drinks from the convenience store on the way past.
If you haven’t pre-booked, or don’t want to, you can buy your tickets at the office inside any of the three Airport terminals. It will usually cost a little more doing it this way but we still consider it a good option depending on our flight times and choice of hotel.
By Train – JR trains to other parts of Tokyo
Why would you take a JR local train not the NEX
The NEX, or Narita Express, is a JR train with a purpose fit-out for the Airport route. There are luggage storage areas in the carriages for bigger suitcases so you don’t need to hold on to them for the duration of the trip.
However, the NEX doesn’t go to all stations around Tokyo. You could catch the NEX into Tokyo and then change to take the subway or local train to your destination but generally, it’s easier if you don’t have to switch lines with luggage and this is when you might consider a local train from the airport.
For example, on a recent trip, I stayed at The Tobu Levant Hotel in Kinchisho near Asakusa and the Skytree. It has a good JR and subway station located just a few hundred metres from the hotel but the NEX doesn’t go there. I was arriving on my own in the evening so I opted to use the JR Sobu/Narita line.
The JR team at the station speak good English. They found and booked me on the next direct train, I had less than 5 minutes to wait on the platform and it took 77 minutes to get to my stop. I had no problem getting a seat at the Airport stop and these trains have seats that face the centre so it’s a lot easier to hold onto a suitcase without blocking anyone’s path.
A local JR train is also an option if the cost is your primary consideration. In the example above the ticket to Kinshicho station, near Asakusa cost Y1320 against the Y3270 for the NEX to the city plus a subway to a closer station.
Although a local train isn’t my first choice to transit to and from the airport it all went very smoothly. In this situation, it offered a direct train option rather than transferring to the subway or another train line with my luggage. I was arriving too late in the evening to make use of the Airport Limousine bus on this trip so it was a good option and one I would happily use again in a similar situation.
By Train – The Skyliner
The Skyliner is run by the Keisei Electric train company and is their dedicated airport service. it’s the fastest route to the city and has only 2 stations, it stops first at Nippori and then at Ueno.
While I like Ueno and it does offer some good accommodation options it’s not one of the most popular destinations for first-time visitors to the city to stay although I would argue with its great food options, many things to do, easy connectivity to other parts of the city and the Skyliner for getting to and from the airport it’s a base more people should consider.
The Skyliner is very convenient if you are staying around Ueno. It’s the fastest way to get here taking only 42 minutes from the airport and you can buy Skyliner tickets online in advance.
The Skyliner is also a little less expensive than many of the other dedicated airport services, its base price is Y2520 one way. The Skyliner and subway ticket combo (1,2 or 3-day) can be a good choice too if you have a few days you plan to spend exploring the city, the subway is usually the quickest and easiest way to get around.
If you aren’t staying in Ueno or Nippori, the other major station, you will need to take the subway or taxi from here to your destination which might still make it the fastest option and cost-effective but not quite as simple.
Narita Airport to Tokyo by shuttle transfer
These are a transfer service into the city directly to your accommodation. The driver will meet you from your flight in the arrival hall with a sign showing your name, this will allow for long-distance flights arriving ahead of schedule or late. They will also take care of loading luggage into the vehicle.
There is a shared and private shuttle option and the price per person is quite similar. It’s significantly more expensive than catching a train or the Airport Limousine bus to Tokyo but for an individual traveller, it may be around half the cost of a taxi.
Why use a shuttle transfer service
The shuttle service offers direct transfer to your destination, while the Airport Limousine Bus does this for a long list of hotels you’ll have more flexibility with a shuttle. It is also an option when you have a late, or early flight as the Limousine Bus does not work all hours flights are coming into the airport particularly if you are flying on low-cost carriers.
The shuttles are vans and may offer more room for large suitcases than a standard Japanese taxi although do be aware that oversize items such as ski gear are an additional fee.
If you are one person the shuttle might cost around half the amount of a taxi but be careful if you are 2 or more, it could work out costing more as you are paying per passenger.
Taking a taxi from Narita Airport to Tokyo
Most people will choose to avoid taking a taxi from Narita Airport to Tokyo simply due to the distance and therefore the cost involved. Narita Airport is located in Chiba Prefecture which is a long way into the city and there are tolls along the way that add to the passenger’s fare.
There are convenient taxi stands at each of the three terminals at the airport. Be aware that most taxi drivers while very polite don’t speak English so have your hotel or accommodation details printed out in Japanese if you are thinking of using this option. It’s actually a good thing to have in your wallet during your trip anyway in case you get lost but I normally just get a card with the details when I check-in.
In Japan it is safe to use a taxi, drivers are polite, honest and you can trust the metre. You also don’t tip. If you are happy with the cost but want more certainty about the fee, there is a fixed-price taxi option you can choose from the airport.
The cost is the drawback of using taxis and it’s a big one, to get somewhere between central Tokyo or the Shinjuku area from Narita airport you are likely to pay a fare of Y22,000 to Y27,000.
For inner-city taxis in Japan, the pricing is similar to what it would be here in Australia. We use them from time to time if we need to save a bit of time or to get from a train station to our hotel with luggage. The costs from Narita though are next level and regardless of my budget, it’s an amount that is hard to justify spending.
Summary of the various ways to get from Narita Airport to Tokyo
|Transport||~ Cost||~ Time||Destinations|
|JR NEX train||Y3270||60+ minutes||Tokyo, Shinjuku, Shibuya|
|Keisei Skyliner||Y2520||42 minutes||Ueno|
|JR Local Train||Various|
(e.g. 76 minutes)
|Airport Limousine bus||Y3200||Ginza |
|Hotels all around Tokyo|
|Shuttle||Y12,000||~ 70 minutes||User-defined|
|Taxi||Y22,000 – Y27,000||~ 70 minutes||User-defined|
A few more tips to get the most out of your time in Tokyo
✈ For all the essential tips to help plan your visit to Japan beyond Tokyo see our comprehensive and FREE Japan guide.
✈ Free WIFI isn’t widely available in Japan. For translation, directions, timetables and other information on the go a mobile connection or personal WIFI is now one of our essentials. We look at the options in our cheat sheet to staying connected in Japan.
✈ The Japan rail pass isn’t needed if you will stay mostly within Tokyo but if you’re travelling longer distance by train the JR Passes can be a bargain. See if they suit your trip and check prices with our preferred supplier.
✈ Looking for a great place to stay in Tokyo? We use and trust Booking com for their great selection, independent reviews and their change and cancellation period that takes the stress out of plans changing.
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