Friday, June 4, 2010
Like many other major cities around the world, Tokyo's main international airport is not within the city's limits. In Tokyo's case, it's not even in Tokyo. In case you didn't know, Narita International Airport is located in, well, Narita which is in Chiba Prefecture. It`s some 60 odd kilometres from downtown Tokyo. This makes getting to and from the airport a little more difficult for the first time traveller to Japan. Not to worry though. Japan's famously efficient public transportation will save the day.
Upon arrival at Narita you will find the "Airport Limousine Bus" ticket counters just across from the arrivals gate. This bus service is great if you are staying at one of the major hotels in Tokyo. Buses also go to popular transit hubs such as Shinjuku, Shinagawa, Shibuya and Tokyo stations. You can even take the limousine bus to outlying suburban areas as well as Yokohama. Depending on where you are going, the journey into the city is usually around 3000 yen (one way). Being a bus means they are at the mercy of traffic conditions. If the roads are relatively clear, expect a travel time of one hour to reach the inner city.
Make your way downstairs from the arrivals gate and you're on your way to the train stations. Both terminals at Narita are serviced by two railway companies. JR (Japan Railways) and the Keisei Railway Company. Directions to both are clearly marked. The Keisei Skyliner Express train is cheaper (1900 yen one way) than the JR Narita Express (2500 yen one way), but the JR Narita Express has the advantage of stopping at Tokyo, Shinagawa, Shinjuku, Shibuya and Yokohama stations. The Keisei line only goes as far as Ueno in Tokyo`s north east. Both trains only stop once or twice between the airport and the city. Travel time is approximately 80-90 mins depending on where you are travelling to. More adventurous and thrifty souls may like to try taking the local commuter trains on these lines. Word of warning though. You will have to transfer a few times. This can be quite disorienting for a first time visitor.
To sum it all up, there are three main options you have to reach Narita airport. The limousine bus isn't the cheapest or fastest option but it is convenient. You won't need to negotiate busy train stations with all your luggage either. JR and Keisei express trains guarantee you a fast and easy way to and from Narita but are only available at certain stations. Local trains are the cheapest way to Narita but can be very confusing, not to mention slow. If you don't mind splashing out, you could take a taxi which will set you back a few hundred dollars US, or you could take the helicopter service between Narita and Roppongi for a mere US$600 one way. In any case, here's a particularly useful video explaining how to get to the city upon arrival at Narita airport.