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 the Arrivals hall to your destination. Let’s go!

What a lot of travelers to Tokyo don’t realize is that Narita Airport is actually in Chiba—the next prefecture over. Getting from the airport to the big city can take a little longer and can be a bit more complex than expected. Luckily, both the Keisei Line and Japan Railways (JR) run trains throughout the day, including dedicated airport expresses. If you’re happy to pay extra 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.

Keisei Skyliner Express from Narita to Tokyo
The sexy Skyliner. | Photo by iStock.com/amnachphoto

Catching the Keisei Line from Narita Airport: First steps

Your journey starts when you wheel your luggage through the Arrivals gate and the overhead signs saying “Train” appear in front of you. Head in the direction indicated on these signs.

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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 Keisei Ticket Counters located at Narita Airport Terminal 1 or 2. If you’ve got a lot of large luggage, you might want to arrange for those to be ported before you continue on your way to the train.

Note: If the Keisei ticket counter nearby isn’t closed or crowded, you can also buy your train tickets on the day (though this is more expensive than buying them online). If it’s a no-go or you have a voucher, you can always 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).

Narita trains
Follow those signs. | Photo by Carey Finn

You may need to roll down a ramp if you’re particularly burdened with luggage.

keisei line from narita
You’ll get there eventually. | Photo by Carey Finn

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).

Keisei line from Narita
The place you’re headed. | Photo by Carey Finn

At the Information Center, which is open from 7am to 9pm, staff speak English, Chinese, Korean and Japanese. Here, you can exchange your e-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 so it’s best to opt for an in-person purchase. Bear in mind that it can get busy around here, so you might have to wait for a while.

Choosing which Keisei train to take

There are three different types of trains on the Keisei Line from Narita: the Skyliner, Access Express or Keisei Skyaccess, 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.

Keisei Skyliner

This is the fastest (and 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 first class on your flight.

You can book discounted tickets here, for ¥2,300.

Keisei Access Express/Keisei Skyaccess

If you want to save money, but also get into Tokyo reasonably quickly, the Access Express or Keisei Skyaccess is a good choice. It has more stops along the way compared to the Skyliner from Narita Airport but it still beats taking a local train (that stops at every station). A speedy take on the regular commuter train, the Access Express can get you from Narita Airport to Ueno in about 65-70 minutes, to Asakusa in 58, and Shinagawa in 83 minutes (those two stops are on a different route to Ueno, which switches to a Rapid-Limited line at Keisei-Takasago Station). If you’re needing to get to either of the latter stations (or Ginza or Shimbashi), the Access Express makes a bit more sense than the Skyliner, as it’s (sometimes) direct.

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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. Keep in mind that there are no reserved seats—it’s first come, first served. You’ll also have to keep your luggage with you.

Note: Multiple Keisei Line trains (both the Skyliner and Access Express) leave every hour. They start running around 5am and shut down just after 11pm.

Keisei 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 or local trains stop at every station and do not have anything resembling seat reservations or luggage racks. 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).

regular keisei train
A regular Keisei train, still pretty sexy. | Photo by iStock.com/winhorse

Discounts on Keisei train tickets from Narita Airport

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 from Keisei directly, 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 ¥2,890, which saves you a solid ¥480. A return Skyliner ticket with the same subway pass is ¥4,880, which translates to savings of over ¥1,060. Here’s a table of the various options, for the sake of comparison:

Combo Ticket TypeSkyliner One-WaySkyliner Return
24-hour subway pass¥2,890¥4,880
48-hour subway pass¥3,290¥5,280
72-hour subway pass¥3,590¥5,580

The subway pass is valid on all Tokyo Metro lines and Toei Subway lines which means you won’t be able to use it on any JR lines. 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, we recommend playing around on the free train information site, Hyperdia or Google Maps. You can read about other discount Tokyo train passes, too.

If you’re going to be doing lots of train-changing, it might be a good idea to get a rechargeable train card like a 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.

Suica Pasmo Travel IC Card
Photo by Lily Crossley-Baxter

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 tap your IC card then head for the platform that corresponds with your train.

japan ticket barrier station
Look out for this panel if you’re using an IC card. | Photo by Victor Gonzalez

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.

Keisei Narita Station
Take care not to roll through the JR gates by mistake. | Photo by Carey Finn

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 but the Access Express can go to Haneda Airport or Ueno so take a minute to check 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.

Keisei Main Line from Narita
Don’t worry – the sign switches to English. | Photo by Carey Finn

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 Terminals 2 and 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 a route planning site like Hyperdia or Google Maps. If you have any doubts, 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. Be careful, especially if you have a lot of luggage. It’s easy to get stuck in the crowds during busier periods. Take care not to accidentally exit the station, making your way to the JR transfer gate instead—it’s marked with “Not for Exit”.

narita to tokyo
This is the gate to go for. | Photo by Chris Kirkland

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 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.

nippori transfer
The Yamanote Line is marked in green. | Photo by Chris Kirkland

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 packed during the morning and evening rush!

A relatively empty Yamanote Line train. | Photo by Chris Kirkland

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.

narita to Ueno
You’ll get there eventually | Photo by chezjulia

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 fo1km 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.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. This post was first published in 2017 by . Last updated in May, 2022 by Heidi Sarol.

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