Now that you have decided on going to Tokyo and decided on where to stay, you need to decide which airport to fly in and fly out from.
Haneda or Narita Airport?
There are 2 airports in Tokyo – Narita airport and Haneda airport.
Narita Airport is located 70km from central Tokyo and takes around 45-90min to reach central Tokyo. Haneda airport is much closer to town and you can reach the airport in as little as 30minutes. A shorter distance also means that you will save on the transportation cost! Of course, Haneda is a much smaller airport so do not expect many duty free shops as compared to Narita. At this juncture, Haneda would seem the obvious choice right? However, where you are planning to stay will also have an impact on which airport you should choose.
a) Narita Airport
Buses take around 120min to reach Central Tokyo, and limousine buses that are frequently advertised cost around 3000 yen. However, there are cheaper options available! The Tokyo Shuttle costs only 900 yen and is bound for the Yaesu exit of the Tokyo station. Do note that there is no advanced reservation and you have to purchase the ticket from the Bus Ticket counter on the day of arrival. When returning from Tokyo to Narita Airport , it will cost 1500 yen.
The other cheap alternative is the Access Narita. At just 1000 Yen each way, it is a direct competitor to the Tokyo Shuttle, and you can reserve a seat online! The buses come with toilets which can come in handy during the 70min journey. Do note that the Access Narita goes to Tokyo station where you can connect to the Yamanote line or alight at the Ginza station where you can take the subway.
The train service from Narita airport can be further subdivided into the express option versus the normal train service. I will strongly discourage taking the regular train if possible as the Japanese trains are known to be packed like sardines and with bulky luggages it is definitely a nightmare!
A. N’Ex (Narita Express)
The N’Ex train is an express train that heads from Narita Airport to Tokyo, Shinagawa, Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ikebukuru. The travel time varies from 59 min to Tokyo Station to 83min to Shinjuku and 90min to Ikebukuro. There was an option of a return ticket + Suica card (similar to our ezlink) at a reduced price but this has since been removed from their website. The original price of the train is 3020 yen to Tokyo and 3190 yen to Shinagawa, Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ikebukuro, but there is a promotion at 1500 yen for a one way ticket from Narita Airport to any of the stations listed above. However, this discounted fare is not applicable to the trip from central Tokyo to Narita airport. The good thing about the N’ex train is that it is usually not very full and there will be seats available so it is definitely a very comfortable ride to the city.
Another option of express train service is offered by the Keisei Railway which has direct access to Ueno via the Skyliner in only 41 min. However, the cost is much higher at 2470 yen one way (2200 yen if purchased online from outiside Japan). If you are planning to head to Tokyo, Shinagawa or Shinjuku, then there is a need to switch to the JR Yamanote line. The cheaper option is to consider the Keisei Sky Acesss which goes to Shinagawa at 1520 Yen or the slower main line at 1330 Yen. See the Keisei website for more fare details.
In summary, if you are staying in Shinjuku area, the best option would be the N’ex train from the airport since it is discounted at 1500 Yen. But do note that the trip back to the airport would be pretty expensive. People who wish to stay around the Tokyo station will have more options – either the Tokyo Shuttle or Access Narita buses or N’ex. People staying in the northeast region such as Ueno may consider Keisei skyliner but it is a more expensive option.
b) Haneda Airport
The limousine bus has routes to most of the major stations – Tokyo for 930 yen, Shinjuku for 1230 yen, Roppongi/Asakusa for 1130 yen.
A. Tokyo Monorail
Compared to the train prices to Narita, the Tokyo monorail is much cheaper at 490yen per way. However, it stops at Hamamatsucho station along the Yamanote line so for most people there is a need to transfer to other lines. Neverthless, it takes only 14min for one to travel from the international terminal to Hamamatsucho station, so travel time is definitely shorter as compared to Narita.
B. Keikyu Limited Express
The Keikyu Limited Express goes to Shinagawa station in 12 minutes and you need to transfer to other lines to get your destination . Also, unlike the Tokyo monorail, from the international terminal, you need to take the inter-terminal shuttle bus or walk to the the train station under the domestic terminal.
In short, the train is a better option as compared to buses since it is a cheaper option. The Tokyo Monorail will definitely be better for those staying around Hamamatsucho station or anywhere along the Yamanote line. However, do note the hassle of transfering to a normal commuter line with your luggage at peak hours!
Stay tuned for part 3 – local sim card or portable wifi?