Airport to Tokyo: How to get to Tokyo from Narita or Haneda

Tokyo airports are more difficult than they need to be.

Like many things in Japan, getting from the airport to Tokyo can be needlessly complicated. Here’s why.

First of all: There are two major airports in completely different places.

Narita Airport is where you will probably be arriving if you’re coming from far away.

Haneda Airport is where you will probably be arriving if you’re coming from somewhere else in Japan or nearby Asia, if you’re lucky.

If you didn’t know that Tokyo had two airports, make sure to read this post, or risk having your travel plans completely derailed.

Scroll down to the bottom of the page if you ever find yourself in the frightening situation of needing to get between Haneda and Narita Airports.

Let’s start with Narita Airport.

Narita to Tokyo: A Tale of Adventure

Whoever decided to put Tokyo’s main international airport over on the other side of the neighboring prefecture was an idiot.

The journey from Narita Airport to Tokyo involves a whole lotta looking at nothing out the window of a train.
The journey from Narita Airport to Tokyo involves a whole lotta looking at nothing out the window of a train.

Here are your options for getting from Narita Airport to Tokyo Station:

Taking the train from Narita to Tokyo

The default option is to take the train. Easy enough? Luckily for you, there are several different trains to choose from, all taking completely different routes.

The trains don’t run between about midnight and 5 a.m., so take that into consideration if your flight is at a weird time.

Generally, the faster the train the more it costs.

Option #1: The JR Narita Express

As far as trains go, the Narita Express is the most reliable option for getting to Tokyo from Narita Airport and back.
As far as trains go, the Narita Express is the most reliable option for getting to Tokyo from Narita Airport and back.

The Narita Express running on the JR line will take you directly to Tokyo Station in a comfy reserved seat. A good, reliable choice if you aren’t on a tight budget. (Although the round-trip option is quite a good deal!)

Additionally, you can and should take this option if you have the Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) as you will be able to ride for free. Just don’t forget to pick up your pass at the airport.

Otherwise, you can just buy tickets at the station, but if you’re an enthusiast for details, check it out here.

Time: 51 minutes

Cost: 3,020 yen (4,000 yen round-trip valid for 14 days)

Noteworthy is that this train also continues past Tokyo Station and runs directly through Shibuya, Shinagawa, Shinjuku and Yokohama (although not all on the same line, make sure you’re on the correct one) and while it costs more for the one-way trip, the round-trip option is 4,000 yen no matter where you’re going. That’s right, the round-trip ticket to Yokohama is literally cheaper than the one-way ticket. Sigh. #Japan

 

Option #2: The Keisei Skyliner

It goes at 160km/h... to the wrong place. The Keisei Skyliner is a good option if you happen to be going to Northern Tokyo.
It goes at 160km/h… to the wrong place. The Keisei Skyliner is a good option if you happen to be going to Northern Tokyo.

This one is a bit of a hassle, as it involves changing trains. It runs between Nippori in northern Tokyo and Narita and takes just 36 minutes (insanely fast for the distance – trains go up to 160km/h) but after factoring in the hassle of getting to Nippori and changing trains, it isn’t much faster than the Narita Express.

More details here.

Time: 55 minutes (how fast can you run with that suitcase?)

Cost: 2,630 yen (2,470 + 160 on the JR Yamanote line to get to Tokyo)

 

Option #3: Dive into the mess of local trains at your own peril

Prepare to get lost in the suburbs of Chiba and miss your plane.
Prepare to get lost in the suburbs of Chiba and miss your plane.

Do you like adventures? Do you like getting lost? Do you like being stranded in the middle of countryside Japan with several suitcases and a rapidly approaching deadline? Try this one out!

You can get your train costs down to about 1,400 yen if you are willing to brave the labyrinth that is Japan’s train system and change trains 2-3 times somewhere in Chiba Prefecture. I don’t recommend it, especially if you are trying to get back to the airport, because the risk of getting lost and missing your plane skyrockets.

Try and work out your own route using this unreliable English train journey planner.

Time: 70~90 minutes

Cost: 1,400~1,900 yen (unless you botch the transfer and end up in India)

Taking the Narita -> Tokyo bus

Buses between Narita Airport and Tokyo are often overlooked and completely underappreciated. Being subject to risks such as potential traffic jams and the like, it might not be an option if you’re short on time and trying to get to the airport, but if time isn’t a concern, buses are an excellent option.

One thing to note: Buses in Japan are generally pretty damn nice. I’m not talking your average stop-every-hundred-meters-to-pick-up-another-old-lady buses, these buses have proper soft comfortable seats and are above all clean. Another reason to avoid the train.

 

Option #4: The “Tokyo Shuttle” (The Holy Grail of Speed and Cheapness)

The cheapest option for getting from Narita Airport to Tokyo.
The cheapest option for getting from Narita Airport to Tokyo.

Rivaling the fastest trains for speed, and beating the slowest trains on price; if your schedule allows it, opt for the Tokyo Shuttle for optimal efficiency. You can dump your luggage underneath, fall asleep in your seat and wake up at Tokyo Station in no time. You don’t have to fight with the salarymen for a seat or constantly move your enormous suitcase out of everyone’s way, you don’t even have to wake up halfway through to change trains. This is what it’s all about.

Also, it sounds like the name of a spacecraft, so there’s that.

Time: 60+ minutes (If you’re extremely unlucky, bad traffic could turn that into 2-3 hours)

Cost: 1,000 yen at the counter, or 900 yen with reservation (2,000 yen for late night / early morning buses)

They also run some super late / early services in case your flight gets in at a weird time. Just ask the information people at the airport, they should be able to help you out if you’re stuck.

For a full timetable and booking information, visit here.

(Actually you might want to set an alarm, because Tokyo Station isn’t necessarily the final destination… Don’t say I didn’t warn you!)

 

Option #5: The “Access Narita” (It’s Essentially the Same as the Other One)

Comfy seats and a toilet await you in the "Access Narita" bus.
Comfy seats and a toilet await you in the “Access Narita” bus.

This service is basically the same, although apparently you can just hop on the bus and pay the driver directly. There are toilets on board, and you can go all the way to Ginza if you feel like it. One disadvantage is that the last bus leaves at 22:45, so it might not work with those late-night arrivals.

Check out the timetables and more here.

Time: 60+ minutes (If you’re extremely unlucky, bad traffic could turn that into 2-3 hours)

Cost: 1,000 yen upon boarding

 

Option #6: Take a “Limousine Bus”

There is nothing remotely "limousine" about this "Limousine Bus," except perhaps that it's friendly. Why does it even exist.
There is nothing remotely “limousine” about this “Limousine Bus,” except perhaps that it’s friendly. Why does it even exist.

Or don’t. No idea why they decided to call it a limousine bus (perhaps because it is long?) but the only advantage of these buses is that they might take you directly to your hotel, for about three times the price.

 

If you absolutely must, check it out here.

Time: 60+ minutes (If you’re extremely unlucky, bad traffic could turn that into 2-3 hours)

Cost: 3,100 yen

 

Other options for getting to Tokyo from Narita

Think outside the box. Why take a train or a bus like a normal person, when you can post awful Instagram selfies in any of the following?

Option #7: Take a taxi

Take a taxi, they said. Get stuck in traffic, they said. Throw away 200 bucks, they said. This is the quintessential "taxi from Narita Airport" experience.
Take a taxi, they said. Get stuck in traffic, they said. Throw away 200 bucks, they said. This is the quintessential “taxi from Narita Airport” experience.

Do you happen to have 20,000 yen lying around that you don’t need? Do you like sitting around in traffic while an old man tries to use you as English practice? Well the taxi option might just be for you!

Time: 60+ minutes (If you’re extremely unlucky, bad traffic could turn that into 2-3 hours)

Cost: 20,000+ yen

 

Option #8: Minibus – the poor man’s taxi

Peace is what you will feel when you take the minibus to Tokyo. (This may not be what it actually looks like.)
Peace is what you will feel when you take the minibus to Tokyo. (This may not be what it actually looks like.)

Okay, maybe “middle-class man’s taxi” would be more accurate. Buses run around the clock directly to your hotel, although you might have to share with some other stinky humans.

More details here.

Time: 60+ minutes (If you’re extremely unlucky, bad traffic could turn that into 2-3 hours)

Cost: Approx. 5,000 yen

 

Option #9: The fastest option – private helicopter

The helicopter from Narita to Tokyo is clearly the most economically sensible option of the lot.
The helicopter from Narita to Tokyo is clearly the most economically sensible option of the lot.

If you’re really in a hurry, hop on a helicopter from the Ark Hills building in Roppongi and you’ll be there in no time.

Time: 15-20 minutes

Cost: 280,000 yen

(Actually the website’s dead, so I can’t guarantee they haven’t gone out of business already.)

Haneda Airport to Tokyo: A Much Shorter Adventure

Haneda Airport is significantly more manageable.

The journey from Haneda Airport to Tokyo is made much easier by the fact that the airport is actually in Tokyo.
The journey from Haneda Airport to Tokyo is made much easier by the fact that the airport is actually in Tokyo.

Getting to Tokyo from Haneda via train

Haneda Airport is extremely accessible via train. It doesn’t cost much and is more straightforward than Narita for getting to various places in Tokyo. The only downside is that there is no train that goes directly to Tokyo station, just a bunch that go near it.

The trains stop running at around midnight and start again around 5 a.m., so take that into consideration if your flight is at a weird time.

Here are your options.

Option #1: Hop on the Keikyu line

The Keikyu Line is the most efficient option for getting to Shinagawa from Haneda Airport.
The Keikyu Line is the most efficient option for getting to Shinagawa from Haneda Airport.

You can ride the Keikyu line directly to Shinagawa in just 20 minutes, but you will need to change to the JR lines to get to Tokyo Station from there. Westbound bullet trains go through Shinagawa, so this is a good option if you’re looking to hop on one of those straight from the airport.

Time: 35 minutes

Cost: 580 yen

 

Option #2: Ride the monorail

A little bit more expensive, but infinitely cooler: The Tokyo Monorail.
A little bit more expensive, but infinitely cooler: The Tokyo Monorail.

The Tokyo Monorail (run by JR) takes you directly from Haneda Airport to Hamamatsucho, just south of Tokyo Station. From there you can change to the regular JR lines and finish the journey.

It’s marginally quicker and marginally more expensive – although it’s covered by the Japan Rail (JR) pass, so this is your best option if you have that. Just remember to pick it up at the airport before you hop on.

Time: 30 minutes

Cost: 650 yen

 

Haneda to Tokyo via bus

If you’re wanting to go directly to your hotel, or directly to Tokyo Station for that matter, a limousine bus could makes sense. However, there are no cheap long-distance options like there are for Narita, so don’t expect it to beat trains on price.

There are, however, some services that run through the night, so if your flight is at some strange time then this could be a cheap(er) way to get where you need to go.

Option #3: Take a “Limousine Bus”

The "Limousine Bus" from Haneda Airport to Tokyo. At least it's friendly.
The “Limousine Bus” from Haneda Airport to Tokyo. At least it’s friendly.

The “Limousine Bus” (it’s not a limousine, sorry) will take you directly to your hotel or the nearest station, provided it’s in central Tokyo. The buses are comfortable and you can throw your suitcases in the luggage compartment and not have to worry about changing trains. This is a good option if you are intimidated by the complicated train system and/or just want to fall asleep for half an hour.

Check it out here.

Time: 30+ minutes, depending on traffic and where your hotel is

Cost: 1,230 yen (depending on destination)

Worth noting that you can actually use this service to get to places all around the Kanto region, not just Tokyo. Feel free to check out the timetables, but the information counter at the airport will probably be the most helpful.

 

Your other options for getting to Tokyo from Haneda Airport

No public helicopter services for Haneda, but some of these options might be a bit more realistic than they are for Narita.

Option #4: Take a taxi

The taxi option is much more sensible for getting from Haneda Airport to Tokyo.
The taxi option is much more sensible for Haneda than it is for Narita.

Haneda Airport is not that far from central Tokyo. If you are used to taking taxis from airports in major cities, it won’t set you back that much more than you are used to.

Time: 30 minutes (depending on traffic/destination)

Cost: 5,000 yen (or more, depending on destination)

Bonus round: Getting from Haneda Airport to Narita Airport and vice versa

I’m not going to ask how you got yourself into this situation, but just know that I feel for you. You have a couple of options.

Option #1: Take the Keikyu/Keisei line

You get to pass people going in the opposite direction. Don't you wish you could have just switched flights with them?
You get to pass people going in the opposite direction. Don’t you wish you could have just switched flights with them?

This option is surprisingly cheap and easy. The only downside? It takes nearly two hours.

It goes something like this:

HANEDA <===Keikyu line===Toei Asakusa line===Keisei line===> NARITA

You don’t have to change trains – this is all the same train, it simply traverses the territories of three different railway companies. And it takes forever. Seriously, it feels like it stops every 10 meters.

Time: 112 minutes

Cost: 1,570 yen

 

Option #2: The “Limousine Bus” that isn’t a limousine

Look at all these lucky, happy people about to embark on a journey between Narita and Haneda Airports.
Look at all these lucky, happy people about to embark on a journey between Narita and Haneda Airports.

This is a quicker option, provided you don’t run into any traffic on the way.

Check out the details here for timetables and more.

Time: 65~85 minutes (unless you get stuck in traffic)

Cost: 3,100 yen

 

Wrapping up

In general, if something seems jawdroppingly expensive, it’s probably the wrong option. Remember that thousands and thousands of people are using these airports every day – if they all had to pay a small fortune each time, there would be riots in the streets.

While they seem cheap, I don’t recommend using the local lines to get to places like Narita. The stress of needing to change trains on the go at stations you’ve never been to with several suitcases means it really isn’t worth it.

Oh, and if you’re trying to decide between which airport to fly into, go for Haneda. In case that isn’t clear already.