If you’re going to be taking the Keisei Line from Narita Airport to your accommodation in Tokyo, you might want to give this walk-through a read first. To make your experience as smooth and stress-free as possible, we’ve put together a guide on getting from Point A (the Arrivals hall) to Point B (your destination). Let’s go!
What a lot of travelers to Tokyo don’t realize is that Narita Airport is actually in Chiba—that’s the next prefecture over. Getting from the airport, which is out in the sticks, to the big city can take a little longer and be a bit more complex than expected. Luckily, both the Keisei Line and Japan Railways run trains throughout the day, including dedicated airport expresses. If you’re happy to pay for speed, Keisei’s fastest option, the Skyliner, can get you to downtown Tokyo in as little as 41 minutes. There are also a number of other ways to get from Narita to Tokyo.
Catching the Keisei Line from Narita Airport: First steps
Your train journey starts when you wheel your luggage through the Arrivals gate and see the overhead signs saying “Trains” or “Railways” appear in front of you. Head in the direction indicated on these signs.
Wait! Hit the brakes on that trolley. If you’ve booked a Keisei Skyliner ticket online, you’ll need to exchange your e-voucher for a real voucher before going anywhere. To do this, head over to the relevant travel agency counter (most likely near the gate you just popped out of). If you’ve got a lot of luggage or particularly gigantic and unwieldy bags, you might want to arrange for those to be ported too before you continue on your way to the train. Now’s also as good a time as any to ditch the trolley. If the small Keisei ticket counter nearby isn’t closed or crowded, you can buy your train tickets there. If it’s a no-go or you have a voucher, simply wait till you get to the B1 floor.
Keep following those train signs. You’ll see they lead you down to the floor below—you can take the escalator or elevator down. Once you’re there, you’ll see more of the train signs (they’re pretty prolific and hard to miss).
You may need to roll down a ramp. Random info: That yellow suitcase you see below contains our friends the Two Hot Flamingos.
Follow the signs until the area opens up and you see the Skyliner & Keisei Information Center. Assuming you’re in Terminal 1 (passengers arriving at Terminal 2 should also follow the train signs downstairs and navigate to Keisei from there), you’ll see a FamilyMart (here’s your chance to get a can of soda and an onigiri for the ride), as well as a small Starbucks.
At the Information Center, which is open from 7am to 9pm, staff speak English, Chinese, Korean and Japanese. Here, you can exchange your voucher for an actual train ticket, purchase tickets and make reservations for your return trip (with a round-trip ticket), plus get the details needed to use wifi on the Skyliner. If you’re not sold on the Skyliner, the staff can help you decide which alternative Keisei train to take. You can also buy tickets from the train ticket vending machines, but this can be confusing—if it’s your first time traveling Keisei, opt for an in-person sale, rather.
Choosing which Keisei train to take
There are three different types of train on the Keisei Line from Narita: the Skyliner, Access Express and Main Line (the regular commuter train). Which one you take depends on where you’re going, how fast you want to get there, and how much you’re prepared to pay.
Skyliner: This is the fanciest (and also most convenient) option. A dedicated airport express train with reserved seats, the Skyliner can get you from Narita Airport to Ueno Station in just 41 minutes. If you’re getting off at Nippori Station, you’ll be there even faster—it’s the (only) stop before Ueno. The Skyliner has racks for your luggage and some of the snazziest seats this side of well, somewhere with really nice seats. Traveling in style ain’t cheap, though, and for a one-way ride on the Skyliner you’ll pay ¥2,520. But it is possible to get a discount—see more on that below.
The most adorable place in Japan.
Access Express: If you’re wanting to save money, but also get into Tokyo nice and quick, the Access Express is a good choice. A speedy take on the regular commuter train, the Access Express can get you from Narita Airport to Ueno in about 70 minutes, to Asakusa in 58, and Shinagawa in 83 minutes (those two stops are on a different route to Ueno). If you’re needing to get to either of the latter stations (or Ginza or Shinbashi), the Access Express makes a bit more sense than the Skyliner, as it’s (sometimes) direct. It costs ¥1,270–¥1,470, depending on where you’re disembarking—this works out to only about ¥200 more expensive than the regular Keisei Main Line trains, so it’s a pretty good deal. Note, though, that there are no reserved seats—it’s first come, first served. You’ll also have to keep your luggage with you.
Main Line: For the true cheapo, the Keisei Main Line offers a glimpse of what daily commuting in Tokyo is like (especially if you take the train in the early morning or evening). These regular trains do not have anything resembling seat reservations or luggage racks, and can get quite crowded. Like the Access Express, they run to both Ueno (via Nippori) and the Asakusa, Shimbashi and Shinagawa set of stations. Fares are between ¥1,050–¥1,430, depending on where you alight. Travel time on limited express trains is about 80 minutes to Ueno, 80 minutes to Asakusa and 104 minutes to Shinagawa (again, the latter two stops are on a different route to Ueno, and on the Main Line they require a transfer along the way).
Note: Multiple Keisei Line trains (both regular and Access Express) leave every hour. They start running around 5am and shut down just after 11pm. The exception is the Skyliner, which starts up around 7:30am and stops around 10:30pm.
But wait! There’s a money-saving hack that lets you ride the Skyliner and gives you discounted access to the Tokyo subway system. When buying your ticket, you can ask for one of six Keisei Skyliner & Tokyo Subway Ticket combo deals. All of them include a trip on the Skyliner—you just need to decide whether you want a one-way or return, and whether you would prefer a 24-,48- or 72-hour subway pass. The basic one-way Skyliner+24-hour subway pass package costs ¥2,840, which saves you a solid ¥580. A return Skyliner ticket with the same subway pass is ¥4,780, which translates to savings of over ¥1,160. Here’s a table of the various options, for the sake of comparison:
|Skyliner One-Way||Skyliner Return|
|With 24-hour subway pass: ¥2,840||With 24-hour subway pass: ¥4,780|
|With 48-hour subway pass: ¥3,240||With 48-hour subway pass: ¥5,180|
|With 72-hour subway pass: ¥3,540||With 72-hour subway pass: ¥5,480|
The subway pass is valid on all Tokyo Metro lines and Toei Subway lines. You won’t be able to use it on any JR lines, however. Before committing to a three-day pass, it’s worth figuring out just how much train-hopping you’ll need to do to visit the key places on your tourist to-do list. For that, I recommend playing around on the free train information site, Hyperdia (no, I wasn’t paid to say that). You can read more about the various other discount Tokyo train passes that are available here.
If you’re going to be doing lots of train-changing, it might be a good idea to get a rechargeable Pasmo or Suica IC card. You can ask for a Pasmo at the Keisei ticket office (Suica is the JR option); the card itself costs a refundable ¥500 and needs to be charged with a minimum of ¥1,500 to start.
You can also technically save ¥200 by booking your Skyliner ticket through the Keisei website, but we recommend using Voyagin, as they make the booking process super easy and have great English support.
Finding and boarding your train
Once you’ve got your tickets, it’s time to head to the platform. Look for the signs saying Keisei Line Narita Airport Terminal 1 (or 2|3) Station—be careful not to get confused with the JR version. Pop your ticket into the slot in the barrier gate (don’t forget to retrieve it on the other side), or touch your IC card, and then head for the platform that corresponds with your train.
Note that you’ll have to go through two ticket gates to get there. If you’re taking the Skyliner or Access Express, make sure you follow the color-coded signs (in orange) all the way to the special platform—you don’t want to end up accidentally stuck on the regular commuter train!
Once you’ve found the right platform, double-check that the train that’s coming is a) the one you’ve booked for (in the case of the Skyliner) and b) that it’s going in the right direction. The Skyliner always goes straight to Nippori and Ueno, so it’s easy, but the Access Express can go to Haneda Airport or Ueno (and, though less often, a couple of smaller stations too)—so take a minute to eyeball the map and make sure the train is the one you wanted. If you do end up getting on the wrong train, you can always change to the right one at Aoto Station. It may be helpful to remember that most of the Access Express trains are bound for Haneda during the day, and Ueno in the evening. Almost all of the Keisei Main Line trains are bound for Ueno.
If you’re taking the Skyliner, you’ll need to find the area of the platform where the car you’re going to be sitting in stops. Car numbers are conveniently marked in little squares on the platform itself. Double-check your seat number, and remember to stow your bags in the luggage area when you board. This doesn’t apply to the Access Express and Main Line trains—on those, just try to find a seat and prevent your luggage rolling away. Remember, they can get crowded! All trains stop at the station serving Terminal 2|3.
Transferring to other train lines
Before catching the plane to Tokyo, it’s a good idea to map out the route to your accommodation. Assuming you’ll have a SIM card or pocket wifi router, you can fine-tune the rest of your routes after arrival. You’ll quite likely be tired after your flight, and keen to check in and chill. To make the trip from Narita as quick as possible, work out which station you need to transfer at (if at all) in advance using Hyperdia. If you have any doubts or confusion, you can always ask the staff at the Skyliner & Keisei Information Center before boarding the train.
If you’re needing to change from the Keisei Line to a JR train to reach your final destination, you’ll likely have to get off at Nippori Station and hop onto your next train there. Keisei-Ueno Station is also a major transfer point, and is a short (walkable) distance from JR Ueno Station. Cheapo tip: The Ueno area is worth exploring if you have time to do so on your visit to Tokyo.
To make your train transfer mission a little easier, we’ve put together some photo guidance for the necessary moves at Nippori and Ueno Station.
Transferring at Nippori Station
Once you’ve disembarked from your Keisei train at Nippori, head up the escalator (or elevator), following the JR signs.
Take care not to accidentally exit the station, making your way to the JR transfer gate instead—it’s marked with “Not for Exit”.
If you’re needing to get onto the JR Yamanote Line (the city loop line), follow the signs that point in that direction—they’re coded in green. Cheapos heading for Tokyo Station will need to go down to Platform 10; those zooming off to Ikebukuro, Shinjuku or Shibuya will want Platform 11. If your stop isn’t one of those, and you can’t remember what platform was listed when you looked up your route, have a quick peek at the information board or ask one of the ticket gate staff. Nippori is a busy hub of a station, so expect crowds at all times of the day. If you get stuck, pull over to the side to allow Tokyo traffic to flow past you.
Once you’re on the right platform, you can get onto the first train that arrives—there’s one every couple of minutes, and they all go in the same direction. Be warned that the trains can get really squashy during the morning and evening rush!
Transferring at Ueno Station
If you’re heading to Asakusa, you might need to transfer at Ueno Station. To do this, go out of the ticket gate at Keisei-Ueno Station (the barrier gate will probably swallow your ticket at this point), then head left and downstairs, following the signs for the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line (this line is orange). You’ll then go through an underground walkway until you reach the subway line.
Quickly grab a ¥170-ticket from the ticket vending machine (it has an English option) for this part of the journey, or use your IC card to swipe through the gates (you can also use your subway pass if you’ve decided to activate it for the day). Check the signs for the platform with trains heading to Asakusa, and hop onto the train.
What do I do once I get to my final station?
Simply disembark and head for the exit gates. If you’ve been using a paper ticket, the gate will probably swallow it—if you’ve been using an IC card, just touch the card panel on the gate and walk through.
The closest station (and exit) to your accommodation should be listed on your booking form. If it’s not, just punch the address provided into Google Maps and see what comes up. If the station is < 1km from your hotel or Airbnb, and you don’t have any special needs, you can probably walk there after getting off the train—any further, and you’ll want to take a taxi (unless you’re traveling super light, in which case you can probably just walk).
Note: If you have a JR Pass, you will not be able to use it on any trains on the Keisei Line, as Keisei is a different rail company to JR. Travelers who want to start using their JR Pass immediately after arriving in Tokyo can take the Narita Express.
This post was last updated on October 18, 2019 by Mareike Dornhege.
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