How to Get to Tokyo from Narita Airport

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

I went back to Japan recently and it was my second time arriving at Narita Airport. The first one was way back in 2012 and we got to Tokyo via airport transfers. The second time I was in Tokyo in 2015, my husband and I landed at Haneda Airport (which I still prefer) as it’s already in the city and the travel time to our hotel at Nihonbashi/Ningyocho was just about 30 minutes.

japan train pass and tickets

This year, we arrived again at Narita (Terminal 2) but we had to figure out how to travel to Tokyo on our own. We didn’t book any tours, not even a service that will pick us up at the airport. But that’s the beauty of traveling. You get to discover ways on how to get to your destination by researching, asking questions, and reading maps.

There are many ways on how to get to Tokyo from Narita Airport. In this post, I’ll be teaching you and giving you tips on what to ride, where to buy tickets at the airport, and what to do before leaving Narita.

First things first, let’s decide which one works for you (and your travel companions) the best.

•  Airport Transfers. Pros: This is still my most favorite mode of transportation from the airport going to the hotel. It’s super convenient, especially if it’s pre-booked. You don’t have to worry about lugging your suitcase and there’s always someone who will carry your luggage to the vehicle. Plus, airport transfers can pick you up anytime, even during the wee hours. Cons: Expensive for a single person or a couple traveling together. Usually the driver will only wait for you 60 to 90 minutes upon aircraft landing. You probably won’t have the time to go around the airport upon your arrival.

•  Taxi. Pros: Taxis are readily available at the airport and they are convenient as well, especially if you are arriving at Tokyo without an airport transfer, or if you arrived in Japan when public transportation is already non-operational. Cons: Taxis can be very expensive and limiting when it comes to the number of persons and the luggage space the taxi can carry. Depending on where you stay in Tokyo, taxis can set you back at least ¥10,000.

•  Airport Limousines. Pros: Airport limousines or buses are also convenient especially if you’re traveling alone or as a couple. There’s luggage storage in the bus, a timetable as well as designated bus numbers on certain destinations. You just sit on the bus until you reach your alighting point. Cons: Airport limousines stop by at certain landmarks, usually at big hotels only. If you’re booked at a smaller hotel, you still need to transfer by riding the train, subway, or taxi. Airport limousines also take about 2 hours of travel time from Narita to your Tokyo destination.

•  Narita Express. Pros: Taking the N’EX is probably the best way to discover Japan’s railway system and the fastest way to get to Tokyo during the day. It stops at central Tokyo station and from there, you can ride the local train or ride the taxi to your hotel. You also have the option to alight at other Tokyo hubs such as Shinagawa, Shibuya, and Shinjuku - wherever you are nearest. Cons: Upon alighting at your chosen station, you need to drag your luggage going to the local train or subway station or the nearest taxi stand. Not all stations in Tokyo have elevator or escalator access, so you might find yourself carrying your heavy luggage at staircases.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, I’ll walk you through some important tips and information on where to buy your tickets and how you can save on transportation costs in Japan.

Step 1 – Exchange currency at the airport.

Majority of the time, the conversion rates are better outside the airport. In Narita Terminal 2, however, the banks have better conversion rates as compared to currency exchange counters in Shibuya and Ginza stations (assuming you’re bringing in US$ as your pocket money).

Where to have your money changed: After immigration and customs, exit the arrivals door. The banks’ currency exchange counters are located on both sides of the exit door. If I remember it correctly, one of the banks is Chiba Bank. You just need to fill up their currency exchange form available at a table in front of their counter before lining up at the window.

Step 2 – Buy Tokyo Subway ticket at Keisei Bus counter.

Tokyo Metro is Tokyo’s subway system. For tourists, you can save a lot by buying their unlimited ride tickets valid for 24 hours (¥800 for adults), 48 hours (¥1,200 for adults) or 72 hours (¥1,500 for adults). Tickets for children are also available for half the adult price. Since we were in Tokyo for four days, we got the apple green card valid for 72 hours.

subway ticket
72-hour Tokyo Subway ticket bought at Keisei Bus counter. Adult price is at ¥1,500. I like how the ticket envelope includes famous tourist spots in Tokyo, accessible by subway.
ticket envelope with written guidelines
More information on how to use the Tokyo Subway ticket and its validity
Where to buy: Tickets are available at Keisei Bus counter at Narita Airport Terminal 2. Turn left upon leaving the arrivals exit door. Just a few steps, you will see the Keisei Bus counter on your right side.
ticket counter
Keisei Bus counter located at Narita Airport Terminal 2 (Ground Floor). Spot this sign to get your Tokyo Subway 24, 48, or 72-hour pass.

Step 3 – Locate the train terminal.

The train terminal can be found at Basement 1 of Narita Airport Terminal 2.
train signboard, escalator, people with luggage at the airport
Escalator going down basement 1 of Narita Airport Terminal 2.
Where to find the train and ticket counters: Turn right upon leaving the arrivals exit door. You will see an escalator going down Basement 1 and a sign that says “Train”. Upon reaching the basement level, turn left and go through another set of glass doors. You won’t get lost because many people who take the train will take this route.

Step 4 – Buy Narita Express tickets.

There are three ways in which you can buy N’EX tickets. First is via the ticket machines which are on the right side, immediately found after you entered through the doorway. Second is via the ticket office which can be found by turning right (corner of the ticket vending machines), just before entering the automated ticket gates. One-way tickets cost ¥3,020 going to Tokyo station (¥3,190 for Shinagawa, Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ikebukuro) on ordinary, reserved cars. Roundtrip N’EX tickets for Narita Airport-Tokyo-Narita Airport route is discounted at ¥4,000 on ordinary, reserved cars. Lastly, you can also purchase N’EX tickets at the JR East Travel Service Center, which is located just across the ticket vending machines (left side upon entering the doorway).

train ticket office, automated gates
Narita Express Ticket Office located before entering the automated ticket gates
jr east ticket office, people with luggage at the airport
JR EAST Travel Service Center located at Basement 1 of Narita Airport Terminal 2.
tokyo wide pass, train ticket
Here's the JR TOKYO Wide Pass booklet together with the Narita Express train ticket going to Shibuya. Both must be presented to the officer manning the ticket gates.

JR TOKYO Wide Pass

Let me talk briefly about the JR TOKYO Wide Pass and its benefits for tourists. Before coming to Japan, I already planned on going on a ski trip to Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort. I researched on how to get there, posted a question on TripAdvisor, and found out that purchasing a JR Tokyo Wide Pass would save us money. A one-way ticket on the Joetsu Shinkansen that goes directly to Gala Yuzawa costs more than ¥6,000. However, buying a JR Wide Pass allows you unlimited train rides on the Joetsu Shinkansen and other valid JR lines for three (3) consecutive days for only ¥10,000. That already includes our one-way ticket on the Narita Express going to Shibuya station.

Additional Tip: There’s Family Mart at basement 1 where you can buy drinks and snacks before entering the ticket gates. Grab some drinks and snacks before catching the train if you still have the time. Vending machines for drinks are also available at basement 1.

Step 5 – Proceed to N’EX Platform.

Once you have your ticket, you can now proceed to the automated ticket gates. If you bought tickets via the vending machines or ticket office, you can insert the ticket at the automated ticket machine. Get your ticket immediately before leaving the gates. You will need this upon exiting the terminal at your destination. If you have your JR Wide Pass, present your N’EX ticket together with your JR TOKYO Wide Pass booklet at the manned gate (the staff/guard/officer wears a uniform so you won’t get lost).

train signs, train map, train station
Finally reached the signboard going to N'EX platform at Basement 2.
train map
A closer look at the N'EX map.
train platform sign, pair of black boots, feet
Lining up at the platform leading to car no. 11
How to get to the platform: After entering the ticket gates, walk a few steps pay attention on the right. There are N’EX signs pointing to which directions your reserved cars are. If the sign boards don’t show the station you’re alighting to (ex: Shibuya), don’t worry. Just refer to your N’EX ticket and take note of your car number and you won’t get lost. Since me and my company were all assigned to car no. 11, we followed the sign going down another level.

Step 6 – Ride the Narita Express.

After placing your big luggage at the end of each car, locate your seats as printed on your ticket. For  hand carry items, you can place them on the racks above your seats (which are very spacious, too). The train ride from Narita Airport to Tokyo station takes about 60 minutes (or a bit less). We were alighting at Shibuya station so our travel time was 1 hour and 16 minutes. The entire ride in N’EX was smooth and pleasant.

train ticket
Here's a sample N'EX ticket given at the JR EAST Travel Service Center. The ticket indicates the terminal (Terminal 2-3), destination (SHIBUYA), date the ticket is valid (Feb 8), time the train departs (13:17 or 1:17 PM), the arrival (14:33 or 2:33 PM), the car number (No. 11), and the seat number (5-A).

Step 7 – Get off your destination and transfer via subway or take a taxi.

Since we booked our accommodations at Hotel Grand Fresa Akasaka, we need to transfer to the Tokyo Subway to reach Akasaka station. We got off at Shibuya station and walked towards the bridge that connects the N’EX and JR platforms to the Shibuya Station Building.

japan train and platform
Shibuya station where we got off
bridge, people walking
A bit of a long walk from the JR platform going to the Tokyo Subway line

How to transfer to Metro Subway line: Get your N’EX tickets ready at the automated exit gates. If you are holding a JR Wide Pass, present the Wide Pass booklet together with the N’EX ticket at the manned gate. After exiting, you may find yourself going down a flight of stairs with your luggage, so keep in mind not to bring too heavy or too much stuff. Once you get down the flight of stairs, turn right and keep walking until you reach the end. Turn left, then follow where the escalator leads and you will see the Tokyo Metro subway logo.

tokyo subway logo
Tokyo Metro Subway Logo. Image from

Tip: Download the Tokyo Subway app on your phone. It’s easier to navigate metro subway stations via the app than the map. The app also shows you the best stations where you can transfer the quickest going to your destination. In addition, it already shows you how much the train ticket costs.

train navigation app
Tokyo Subway navigation app compatible on Android and iOS. Image from

What’s the most convenient and easiest way for you to reach Tokyo center coming from Narita Airport? Have you tried the Narita Express? How was your experience? Comment down below – I’d love to read your thoughts!

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