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 from Narita to Tokyo is predominantly of rice paddies—oh, and a faux-Dutch windmill.
And as Tokyo is such a vast city, there’s unfortunately no “one size fits all” answer as to which method or route is cheapest/best. However, for certain major locations in Tokyo, first have a look at our mini guides (they cover the fastest, cheapest and easiest transport options):
- Narita to Shibuya
- Narita to Shinjuku
- Narita to Roppongi
- Narita to Ikebukuro
- Narita to Ueno
- Narita to Asakusa
- Narita to Disney
If you don’t mind spending a little extra for ease of transfer after your arrival, we suggest the simple option with airport-to-hotel shared taxi service—you can book your transfer here with this shared taxi service for about ¥5,680. Also worth a mention is the speedy Keisei Skyliner train available for booking online here.
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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 fees to and from Tokyo should be factored into your overall costs.
Limousine 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 around ¥3,100 each way (and ¥4,500 for a return ticket) is definitely not the cheapest option.
Tokyo Shuttle: Considerably cheaper is the Tokyo Shuttle. The bus costs only ¥900 with a reservation (and ¥1,000 cash without a reservation) 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 (buses leave every 20 mins!) for the advertised ¥900. However, when returning to Narita Airport from Tokyo, without a reservation, it will cost you ¥2,000 for early morning and late-night buses. Early morning buses are any that depart before 6 am. Note that unlike Limousine Buses, the first Tokyo Shuttle leaves Tokyo Station at 1:30 am—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 ¥600—a ¥110 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!
The 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 ¥1,000 for adults and ¥500 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. Its busses do look rather nice and they also have toilets, which might come in handy after a long flight.
Buses to other places in Kanto: Getting to slightly more far-flung destinations around Tokyo by bus is a little difficult, as buses can rarely be booked from the airport. However, Japan Bus Online has information on routes direct to Mt. Fuji/Kawaguchiko and Hakuba. While scheduled services from the airport are rare, there are plenty of buses in the other direction from places like Nikko and Omiya.
A regular taxi from Narita to central Tokyo is very expensive–usually over ¥20,000. However, there is a cheaper taxi-like service that will take you directly to your hotel:
Shared minibus: A nice personal service and direct to your hotel, these are the most expensive bus services we recommend, but probably the most convenient. There are a couple of minibus/shared taxi services covering all hotels in the 15 most central wards of Tokyo, and they operate 24 hours a day. The driver will collect you at Departures and drop you off at your hotel, and for the fraction of the price of a normal taxi. For example, this one on Voyagin starting from ¥5,680 is a pretty good deal.
The cheapest regular trains that run the route from central Tokyo to Narita Airport are 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 it 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 can be hazardous to your health!
Here’s a summary of the route and cost to get from Narita Airport to some of the main stops in central Tokyo:
|Destination||Start (from Narita Airport)||Change at||Next train||Total cost|
|Ikebukuro||Keisei Narita Limited Express||Nippori Station||JR Yamanote – for Shinjuku/Shibuya||¥1,200|
|Shinjuku||Keisei Narita Limited Express||Nippori Station||JR Yamanote – for Shinjuku/Shibuya||¥1,230|
|Shibuya||Keisei Narita Limited Express||Nippori Station||JR Yamanote – for Shinjuku/Shibuya||¥1,230|
|Tokyo||Keisei Narita Limited Express||Nippori Station||JR Yamanote – for Tokyo||¥1,190|
|Asakusa||Keisei Narita Limited Express||Ueno Station||Tokyo Metro Ginza Line – for Asakusa||¥1,200|
If you’re wanting to take one of these cheapo options, ask for a ticket to your destination (but not on the Skyliner), 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 (¥500 for the card + the amount you wish to charge it with).
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 arriving at the relatively inconvenient Nishi Nippori or Ueno stations. You’ll pay an extra ¥190 over the regular train, so the trip from Narita to Asakusa will cost you ¥1,290 and take about 58 minutes, and (¥1,330 and around 83 minutes to Shinagawa).
The snazzy Skyliner offers the speediest travel time—just 36 minutes to Nippori or 41 to Ueno—and it will cost you ¥2,470 each way if you purchase a ticket online before coming to Japan). This is the same company that runs the Tokyo Shuttle—so they also offer some discount tickets for the subway.
Again, we recommend looking at our dedicated guide to taking Keisei trains (regular, Access Express or Skyliner) from Narita to Tokyo—it’s chock-full of useful info and discount hacks.
The Narita Express and N’EX Tokyo Round-Trip ticket
Introduced in March 2015, the N’EX Tokyo Round-Trip ticket provides round-trip travel from Narita to Tokyo and back for ¥4,000 for adults and ¥2,000 for children. The ticket will get you as far as Kurihama in Kanagawa Prefecture and Omiya in Saitama, which is extraordinarily good value. It’s only available at Narita Airport to foreign passport holders (you don’t need a tourist visa) and has a validity period of 14 days.
N’EX trains leave from Narita Airport Terminal 1 Station every 25-40 minutes or so, and stop at Narita Airport Terminal 2|3 Station on their way out. You can check the departure timetable here. All N’EX trains go to Tokyo, but if your destination is Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro or another station further afield, you’ll need to check which N’EX trains will take you there (otherwise you’ll have to transfer). The timetable shows you the exact time N’EX pulls into the station; if there’s no time listed, it doesn’t stop there.
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; it costs ¥3,190 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).
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. 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.
Catch a taxi for ¥20,000 to ¥25,000 or charter a helicopter for ¥270,000.
For more helpful info on getting around once you’ve made it into the city, as well as other essential Tokyo basics, check out our eBook guide.
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