Cheapest Transport to Get From Narita Airport to Tokyo

Get from narita to Tokyo on the Keisei Skyliner. Pic by Yuichi Shiraishi used under a Creative Commons license.
The prettier Keisei Skyliner. Pic by Yuichi Shiraishi used under a Creative Commons license.

For newcomers to Tokyo it can come as quite a surprise that Tokyo’s main international gateway – Narita Airport – is not really very close to Tokyo at all.  In fact it’s so rural and remote that the view on the first part of the train journey is predominantly of rice paddies – and a faux-Dutch windmill.

Windmill on the way to Narita
Photo credit: grrlie

While finding the cheapest transport to get from Narita to Tokyo is a worthy quest in itself, it has become more important because of the arrival of low cost carriers like Jetstar Japan - which use Narita as their base of operations for domestic flights out of Tokyo.  Some of the fares are cheap enough to make tourists coming to Japan consider whether they should get the JR Pass or just book a couple of flights on an LCC. However, since Narita Airport is not right in the middle of Tokyo (like the much more conveniently located Haneda Airport) transport costs to and from Tokyo should be factored into your overall costs.

Bus

Although the convenience of not having to cart your luggage around is great, the ‘Limousine Bus‘ service (the buses are in fact the least limousine-like wheeled transport you are likely to take) to major hotels all over Tokyo at 3,000yen each way is definitely not the cheapest option.

Considerably cheaper, is the Tokyo Shuttle.  The bus costs only 1,000yen 900yen and runs to the Yaesu exit of Tokyo Station from where you can easily jump on the subway or various JR Lines.  The service does have a few small conditions – you can catch it at any time of day without a booking from Narita Airport for the advertised 900yen.  However, when returning to Narita Airport from Tokyo, without a reservation, it will cost you 1,500yen for early morning and late night buses. Early morning buses are any that depart before 6am.  Note that unlike Limousine Buses, the first Tokyo Shuttle leaves Tokyo Station at 1:30am – which means you can catch those ridiculously early flights out of Narita. As an added bonus, you can pick up a 1-day Tokyo Metro pass for 500 yen – a 210yen saving on the regular price. You still have to take about four regular trips on the subway to make it worthwhile – which could be quite ambitious after a long haul flight!

access-narita

Another cheap bus option from Narita Airport is The Access Narita, which will drop you off at either Tokyo Station for quick access to JR Lines or Ginza Station so you can jump on the subway. The one way journey is only 1,000yen for adults and 500yen for kids. The Access Narita claims to be easier to use than the Tokyo Shuttle because you only have to line up at their bus stop rather than buy paper tickets at a counter.  Their buses do look rather nice and they also have toilets, which might come in handy after a long flight.

Regular Train

The cheapest regular trains that run the route from central Tokyo to Narita Airport run on the Keisei Line.  The good thing about the Keisei Line is that it connects with the Toei Asakusa Subway Line and the Yamanote Line so can be accessed from a lot of different stations in central Tokyo.  The bad news is that it’s a regular train – so catching it with your suitcase during rush hour (I’ve done this) can be hazardous to your health!

To help you on your first visit, here’s photo guidance of catching the cheap train from Narita to Tokyo,

Cheapest Train From Narita Airport to Tokyo – Keisei Limited Express

Here’s a summary of the route and cost to get from Narita Airport to some main stops in central Tokyo:

Destination Start Change at Next Train Total Cost
1. Ikebukuro Keisei Narita Limited Express Keisei Nippori JR Yamanote – for Shinjuku/Shibuya 1,200 yen
2. Shinjuku Keisei Narita Limited Express Keisei Nippori JR Yamanote – for Shinjuku/Shibuya 1,230 yen
3. Shibuya Keisei Narita Limited Express Keisei Nippori JR Yamanote – for Shinjuku/Shibuya 1,230 yen
3. Tokyo Keisei Narita Limited Express Keisei Nippori JR Yamanote – for Tokyo 1,190 yen
2. Asakusa Keisei Narita Limited Express Keisei Ueno Tokyo Metro Ginza Line – for Asakusa 1,200 yen

First Find The Keisei Line at Narita Airport and get on

Once you arrive at Narita, follow the signs for “Railways” taking the escalator down to the lower level. Once there, look for the nice blue Keisei Line:

Keisei Narita Airport Station

Ask for a ticket to your destination but not on the Sky Liner, or if you’re planning on having a few days in Tokyo, ask for a Pasmo card – this is a top up card usable on all trains, buses etc in the Tokyo area. You can also get a Suica card, from the JR station ticket office opposite – it doesn’t matter which one you buy, they both work on all trains and cost the same.

Next go through the (two) ticket barriers and down stairs to the Keisei platform N.B. NOT the Sky Liner platform.

1) Trains From Narita to Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Shibuya or Tokyo

For transfers on to the JR Yamanote Line, get off at Nippori. Look out for the notice on the train:

40-next-nippori

This is what the Nippori Station Platform looks like:
nippori station

Head up the escalator, following the JR signs:
nippori JR station sign

Go through the JR transfer gate – it’s marked as “This is not an exit”:
JR transfer gate nippori

Head to the JR Yamanote line – platforms 10 (to tokyo) and 11 (to Shinjuku/Shibuya)
yamanote platform number

  • 89-platform-10
    Platform 10 for Tokyo
  • platform 11 nippori station
    Platform 11 for Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Shibuya

And get on the train! (every train leaving from the platform is going in the same direction)
yamanote train

2) Trains From Narita To Asakusa

For this route, stay on the Keisei train till it reaches Ueno (usually the last stop). When you leave the ticket gate, head left, and down stairs following the signs for Tokyo Metro Ginza line (which should be orange)

You’ll then head through an underground walkway till you reach the Tokyo Metro Ginza line station.
ueno ginza line

And here’s a nice picture of the Ginza line platform – make sure you’re on the platform headed to Asakusa:
156995658_136eaa0787_b
Photo credit chezjulia

Sky Access Express and Sky Liner

Slightly more expensive than the regular Keisei train is the “Sky Access Express” (not to be confused with the Skyliner) which actually offers better access to central Tokyo than the Skyliner because it dives into the Toei Asakusa Subway Line instead of terminating in the relatively inconvenient Nishi Nippori or Ueno. You’ll pay an extra 180yen over the regular train so the trip from Narita to Shinbashi will cost you 1,280yen and take 1 hour and 7 minutes. The Skyliner offers the speediest travel time – just 41 minutes to Ueno – but it will cost you 2,400yen each way. This is the same company that runs the Tokyo Shuttle – so they also offer some discount tickets for the subway.

Narita Express and the N’EX TOKYO Direct Ticket

The recently introduced N’EX Tokyo Direct Ticket provides one way travel from the airport to the city for only 1,500yen for adults and 750yen for children.  The ticket will get you as far as Kurihama in Kanagawa Prefecture and Omiya in Saitama, which is extraordinarily good value.  The ticket is only available to foreign passport holders (you don’t need a tourist visa) and is not available for travel between Tokyo and Narita – so normal prices apply on your return journey.

Even if you can’t take advantage of some special ticket or pass, the Narita Express is still the most trouble free way of getting to the main JR stations in Tokyo as you don’t have to fight for a seat, there’s space for luggage and there’s no need to change trains. The regular price isn’t cheap though as it costs 3,190 yen each way. You can buy tickets at the JR station at Narita Airport. Also if you plan on traveling beyond Tokyo the same day, then you can use a JR pass (see below).

Sadly the excellent Suica + N’EX Pass deal has been discontinued, sad cheapo face :( .

The N'EX. Pic by Isriya Paireepairit used under Creative Commons.
The N’EX. Pic by Isriya Paireepairit used under Creative Commons.

JR Pass

Given that it doesn’t cost that much to get into Tokyo, you should think very carefully before you activate your JR Pass – especially if you plan to spend the first few days of your trip in Tokyo.  If you’re spending a few days in Tokyo first, you might want to choose another option to get into Tokyo and then activate the pass when you embark on a longer inter-city trip.

For the Stupidly Rich

Catch a Taxi for 20,000 to 25,000yen or charter a helicopter for 280,000yen.

This post was originally published July 30, 2012 and is regularly updated. Last update: July, 2014.

Greg has been been searching for a cheaper way of doing things in and around Tokyo for more than 12 years. Greg's qualification for being a cheapo include walking up to an hour across Tokyo to save on the 160 yen subway fare and still having clothes in his dresser from 1998. When not searching for the izakaya with the cheapest beer in Japan, he develops web sites.

  • http://japan-australia.blogspot.com/ Japan Australia

    A great list there of a wide variety of options that are available for transport out of Narita Airport. We usually use the JR Narita Express,  although its not the cheapest it is very convenient and has a lot of connections.

  • http://japan-australia.blogspot.com/ Japan Australia

    A great list there of a wide variety of options that are available for transport out of Narita Airport. We usually use the JR Narita Express,  although its not the cheapest it is very convenient and has a lot of connections.

  • http://twitter.com/RitsardoW Richard W

    JR Nex is good to get to central and southern Tokyo and Shinjuku, The Keio Skyliner and Cityliner trans are definitely the quickest option to get to Ueno and the east side of central Tokyo or to transfer to go to northern Tokyo.

    I once landed before the fast train services started and used a local morning commuter service to get to Tokyo. It took longer and cost less, became very crowded, but was a great experience! Not for the faint hearted or claustrophobic though.

  • http://twitter.com/RitsardoW Richard W

    JR Nex is good to get to central and southern Tokyo and Shinjuku, The Keio Skyliner and Cityliner trans are definitely the quickest option to get to Ueno and the east side of central Tokyo or to transfer to go to northern Tokyo.

    I once landed before the fast train services started and used a local morning commuter service to get to Tokyo. It took longer and cost less, became very crowded, but was a great experience! Not for the faint hearted or claustrophobic though.

  • Fellow Bargain Hunter

    The best way I’ve found to get to Narita is the Keisei line, which you
    mentioned. Having taken this route many times, I have a few thoughts to
    add.

    If you take the limited express Keisei line and board at Ueno (where the
    train route commences), you can almost always find a seat.

    Now I have to out-cheapskate you. (sorry!) If you buy the ticket at a
    discount ticket shop, it will cost around 850-880 yen each way. (The
    tickets are good for either direction and are valid for several months,
    so if you’re coming back to Tokyo, you can buy your tickets to and from
    Narita at the same time.) Super cheap – and a pretty fast and convenient
    ride.

    By the way, there are ample direct trains from Ueno to Narita. No train
    changes are needed from that point. The train is also easily accessed at
    Nippori station, which is of course on the reliable (and cheap)
    Yamanote line.

  • Fellow Bargain Hunter

    The best way I’ve found to get to Narita is the Keisei line, which you
    mentioned. Having taken this route many times, I have a few thoughts to
    add.

    If you take the limited express Keisei line and board at Ueno (where the
    train route commences), you can almost always find a seat.

    Now I have to out-cheapskate you. (sorry!) If you buy the ticket at a
    discount ticket shop, it will cost around 850-880 yen each way. (The
    tickets are good for either direction and are valid for several months,
    so if you’re coming back to Tokyo, you can buy your tickets to and from
    Narita at the same time.) Super cheap – and a pretty fast and convenient
    ride.

    By the way, there are ample direct trains from Ueno to Narita. No train
    changes are needed from that point. The train is also easily accessed at
    Nippori station, which is of course on the reliable (and cheap)
    Yamanote line.

  • http://snipr.com/sdr002 Steve De Rose

    I’ve ridden the el-cheapo Keisei line from Narita Airport seven of the eight times I’ve visited Tokyo. {The eighth time was last December, when I got a cheap connection flight from LAX to Haneda on ANA.} The Keisei Main line (as it is now known) is a lot of fun. I typically put my carry-on bag (my one piece of luggage) on the overhead rack. I am stunned you have not yet mentioned Hyperdia (or even Jorudan) on this weblog. Hyperdia is entrancing. It is fun to play with. One of the tasks you can accomplish with it is finding the few trains each day which run directly to|from Narita and Haneda. On my trip next week, my flight arrives at NRT @ 14:30. I’m staying again in Yokohama. [I've been credentialled into the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2012.] I figure it will be around 16:00 before I depart the airport (Immigration, Customs, money exchange, buying the Tokyo Metro 2-day open ticket.). Hyperdia is showing two routes: My usual ¥1450 ride over the Main line (see picture of ticket), with a transfer at Aoto (Aoto is a fascinating station where to take train pictures.) @ 16:10, or a direct train (no transfer) via the Sky Access line for ¥1630 @ 16:06. I’m unsure which I will choose. I’ll let you know. I have an opinion about JR passes, but I’ll post that under that rubric. 3=D)

    • CheapoGreg

      Hi Steve, I must admit I’m not too familiar with English tools for checking train schedules – I generally use either the Japanese version of the Jorudan app or Google Maps. Recently I’ve been using Google Maps more and more – the public transport info is excellent and it factors in the walk from where ever I am to the station and the walk from the station at the other end to my destination.

      • ☞ Steve De Rose ☜

        I seemed to rave about Hyperdia. But now, I am puzzled by what this paper schedule for Yokohama Sta. displays compared to it. For all the scoping and planning I did, it nearly went astray on Tuesday morning when I overslept by 20 minutes. I didn’t panic. I just had to contemplate my alternative routes to Narita. I got to Yokohama Sta. @ 6:21. The next up train was a Shinagawa local. The train after that was not a Haneda Airport Express, which I had anticipated, but a train through to Aoto (6:29). So I rode that to its upward terminus. (However, I had paid for the Sky Access Route.) So I still got to Narita in a swift time. But somehow, this 6:29 train does not seem to appear on Hyperdia. (I will try another weekday. Maybe I’m running into a holiday schedule.) The image is the paper schedule for weekday trains @ Yokohama. Upward trains on the left, downward trains on the right. The legend of each train was so small I physically upgraded each with an easier-to-read one (by standing at the big map in the unpaid area and noting each terminus). Trains to Aoto were circled. Trains direct to Narita Airport were squared. The diagonal dashes are trains to Takasago, and the underlying semi-circle went to Imba-Nihon-Idai. Haneda Airport expresses, Shinagawa locals, and the two-door limited expresses to Sengakuji (every 20 minutes in green) remain unannotated. I keenly feel Keikyū and Toei need to go to a larger form for this. This is nearly impossible to decipher without magnification. {Zoom up yourself.}

        • CheapoGreg

          Tried Google Maps or Jorudan yet? The public transport integration is very, very good on Google Maps. That timetable is probably just designed for portability and it says ‘weekdays’ so it’s a normal schedule. I’d say it’s most likely Hyperdia is just wrong.

  • James
  • Sara Abbate

    Hi Greg, I was wondering if you can help me.
    I am going back in Tokyo in short time, I thought this was a cheap way (I live In bunkyo ku)
    http://www.keisei.co.jp/keisei/tetudou/skyliner/us/nrt_access/tokkyu.html
    This is the train you are talking about ? On the map seems like we dont have to change, but the very first time I came in Tokyo I THINK I took that train and I got lost. I am not sure, since it was years ago… and maybe things have changed.

    If this is the same as yours, can you tell me if from Terminal 1 to Ueno I have to change train ? Thanx !

  • Patrick

    I’m getting married in Tokyo in April, and will be arriving a couple of weeks before my guests. Besides arriving and leaving myself, I’m going to make another two more trips between Ikebukuro and Narita to pick up and see off family members.
    I have a couple of quesitons: does the “Tokyo Direct Ticket” on the NEX take you to Ikebukuro?
    Also, can I buy several Suica & NEX deals for myself during the one stay in Japan?

    • http://www.mrkirkland.com/ mrkirkland

      Yes the Tokyo Direct Ticket includes Ikebukuro, you can see on the prices here section http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/pass/nex_oneway.html

      I don’t think there’s any restrictions with how many you can buy.

  • Monner Laura

    Hi – We are taking a trip in October and will layover in Tokyo for about 8 hours between 12am and 8 am. Any thoughts/ideas/tips on what to do those hours, how to get there from Narita, and general info about anything considering the time frame available- thanks in advance!!

    • msupp

      I’m not sure its worth your while going into Tokyo for such a short time. The cheaper transit options will take well over an hour, and the Nex Express as the article mentions isn’t cheap (even with the 1,500 ticket into the city). I don’t know what’s around Narita, though.

  • Sherry

    Can guide me about which train I should catch up in midnight? As I arrival in Haneda airport 10.30pm and need to be in Narita at 6am to Sapporo. Just realize not yet search info for transportation. I’m flying next week. Please help me!!!

  • Laurent

    Hi .. Could you tell me if it is better to take Narita express or Limousine bus from Narita to Shibuya station , as my wife and I will arrive a saturday morning , around 9am ? Regardless of the fare of both options ..

    Is the traffic ok on a saturday morning ?

    We will have two luggages .
    Thank’s a lot for your help

    • CheapoGreg

      The traffic is hardly ever heavy in Tokyo unless you’re travelling at the start or end of a long weekend/public holiday so I wouldn’t worry about that. They’re both a similar price so if you’re going to Shibuya Station to change trains then you might as well catch the Narita Express. The only issue I’ve had with the Narita Express is that it sometimes takes a while to get going. You have to line up to buy tickets and then wait for the next train. Buses seem to leave more frequently but they’re slower – so take your pick!

      • Laurent

        Thank’s Greg

        We will take the Narita express train
        :)

  • Traveller

    Hi … I’m arriving at Narita from New Zealand, at around 5pm on a Fri night, and catching a flight from Haneda to France at 10pm. Is it best to jump on the bus or take the train? I’m assuming both options give me enough time to catch my flight rather than watch it depart!
    Cheers
    Bob

    • CheapoGreg

      Damn, I hope your flight doesn’t arrive late! Around that time of day there aren’t any trains that go direct from one airport to the other so if you’re just worried about getting to the other airport, I’d take the bus. Tokyo’s road system is highly levied so big traffic jams are rare. However, if you want to see a glimpse of Tokyo, you probably won’t see a lot from the bus. If you want to take a the train instead, you’d catch the Skyliner to Nishi-Nippori then take the JR Yamanote Line around to Hamamatsucho, then take the Monorail to the Haneda International Airport terminal. Oh, just remembered something :) The Yamanote line is a regular commuter line and around about the time you would be using it, it will be jammed with people. I’d take the bus if I were you!