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Flights

Getting around by air

Narita Airport

Though modern and well-run, Narita Airport is inconveniently located 66km east of Tokyo. There are three terminals, with Terminal 3 handling low-cost carriers. All terminals have tourist information desks.

Only Terminals 1 and 2 have train stations; all terminals are accessible via coach lines.

A free shuttle bus runs between Terminal 2 and Terminal 3 approximately every five minutes (4.30am to 11.20pm); otherwise it is a 15-minute walk between the two terminals. Free shuttles also run between all terminals every 15 minutes (8am to 8pm) and every 30 minutes (7am to 8am and 8pm to 9.30pm).

When returning, note that there is a much better selection of shops and restaurants before security.

Bus

Access Narita (www.accessnarita.jp; ¥1000) Discount buses depart roughly every 20 minutes (7.30am to 10.45pm) for Tokyo Station and Ginza (one to 1¼ hours). There's no ticket counter at the airport; just go directly to bus stop 31 at Terminal 1, or stops 2 or 19 at Terminal 2, and pay on board. Luggage is restricted to one suitcase of less than 20kg. For return trips to Narita, buses depart from platform 7 at the JR Highway Bus Terminal at Tokyo Station. You can reserve tickets online, but only in Japanese; departures are frequent, so if you leave yourself a little extra time, you should have no problem.

Friendly Airport Limousine (www.limousinebus.co.jp; adult/child ¥3100/1550) Coaches run to major hotels and train stations in central Tokyo. The journey takes 1½ to two hours depending on traffic. Travellers are allowed two bags up to 30kg each. No advance reservations are necessary but you must purchase a ticket before boarding. You can purchase tickets for the next available bus from one of the kiosks in any of the terminals' arrivals halls. At the time of research, discount round-trip tickets (¥4500), good for 14 days, were available for foreign tourists; ask at the airport ticket kiosk. From Tokyo, there's a ticket counter inside the Shinjuku Bus Terminal; you can also reserve online up to the day before departure.

Train

Both Japan Railways (JR) and the independent Keisei line run between central Tokyo and Narita Airport Terminals 1 and 2. For Terminal 3, take a train to Terminal 2 and then walk or take the free shuttle bus to Terminal 3 (and budget an extra 15 minutes).

Tickets can be purchased upon arrival in the basement of either terminal, where the entrances to the train stations are located; you cannot buy tickets on the train. In general trains run slightly more frequently from the late morning to the late afternoon and less frequently earlier and later.

Limited Express Trains

Seats on Narita Express and Skyliner trains are all reserved; purchase them at a ticket window or from the touch-screen machines. It's usually possible to get a seat on the next available train, though those with departure anxiety may want to book their outbound ticket in advance. Speed and comfort level are pretty much the same; both have space in the front of the cars to store luggage. Generally, the Skyliner is more convenient for destinations on the east side of Tokyo while the Narita Express gets you to the west side of the city faster.

Keisei Skyliner (www.keisei.co.jp) Nonstop direct trains to Nippori (36 minutes) followed by Ueno (41 minutes) run approximately twice an hour between 7.30am and 10pm (adult/child ¥2470/1240). Transfer is available at Nippori Station for the JR Yamanote line and at Ueno for the JR Yamanote line and Ginza and Hibiya subway lines. Foreign nationals can purchase advance tickets online for slightly less (one-way/return ¥2200/4300).

Narita Express (N’EX; www.jreast.co.jp) Trains run between 7.45am and 9.45pm, departing Narita Airport for Tokyo Station (¥3020, 60 minutes) before splitting and heading out to other parts of the city. The most useful route runs approximately every half-hour to Shibuya (75 minutes) and Shinjuku (80 minutes); some trains stop first at Shinagawa (65 minutes) while others may continue to Ikebukuro (85 minutes). The price for all of the above destinations is the same: ¥3190. The ticket you purchase for your specific destination will ensure that you are in a seat in the right car – so it's pretty hard to mess this up! At the time of research, foreign tourists could purchase return N'EX tickets for ¥4000 (¥2000 for under 12s), which are valid for 14 days and can be used on any route. Check online or enquire at the JR East Travel Service Centers at Narita Airport for the latest deals. Long-haul JR passes are valid on N’EX trains, but you must obtain a seat reservation (no extra charge) from a JR ticket office.

Regular Trains

Regular Keisei line trains run parallel to the Skyliner but make stops, and are a good budget option. There are no reserved seats on these trains; if you (and your bags) can squeeze in, you can ride. Purchase tickets from the touch-screen machines. These options can be a little bit more confusing, so pay attention to the signboards.

Keisei Main Line Rapid tokkyū (特急) trains run roughly every 20 minutes (from 6am to 10.30pm) to Nippori (¥1030; 66 minutes) and Ueno (¥1030; 71 minutes). There are also local trains that take significantly longer; make sure you get the tokkyū.

Keisei Access Express Approximately every 40 minutes (5.40am to 11pm) there are trains making limited stops on the same route until Aoto, after which they hook up with the Toei Asakusa line, running south to Asakusa (¥1290; 50 minutes), Nihombashi (¥1330; 59 minutes), Shimbashi (¥1330; 62 minutes) and Shinagawa (¥1520; 72 minutes).

Taxi

Fixed-fare taxis run ¥20,000 to ¥22,000 for most destinations in central Tokyo, plus tolls (about ¥2000 to ¥2500). There's a 20% surcharge between 10pm and 5am. Credit cards accepted.

Haneda Airport

Closer to central Tokyo, Haneda Airport has two domestic terminals and one international terminal. Note that some international flights arrive at awkward night-time hours, between midnight and 5am, when the only public transport to central Tokyo will be infrequent night buses and taxis.

There’s a tourist information centre in the international terminal, on the 2nd floor of the arrivals lobby.

Bus

Purchase tickets at the kiosks at the arrivals hall. In Tokyo, there's a ticket counter inside the Shinjuku Bus Terminal.

Friendly Airport Limousine (www.limousinebus.co.jp) Coaches connect Haneda with major train stations and hotels in Shibuya (¥1030), Shinjuku (¥1230), Roppongi (¥1130), Ginza (¥930) and others, taking anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes depending on traffic. Buses for Shinjuku depart every 30 to 40 minutes (5am to 11.30pm) and at 12.20am, 1am, 1.40am and 2.20am; departures for other areas are less frequent. Fares double between midnight and 5am.

Monorail

Tokyo Monorail (www.tokyo-monorail.co.jp) Leaves approximately every 10 minutes (5am to midnight) for Hamamatsuchō Station (¥490, 15 minutes), which is a stop on the JR Yamanote line. Good for travellers staying near Ginza or Roppongi.

Train

Keikyū Airport Express (www.haneda-tokyo-access.com) Trains depart several times an hour (5.30am to midnight) for Shinagawa (¥410, 12 minutes), where you can connect to the JR Yamanote line. From Shinagawa, some trains continue along the Asakusa subway line, which serves Higashi-Ginza, Nihombashi and Asakusa Stations.

Note that the international and domestic terminals have their own stations; when travelling to the airport, the international terminal is the second-last stop.

Taxi

Fixed fares from designated airport taxi stands include: Ginza (¥5900), Shibuya (¥6600), Shinjuku (¥7100), Ikebukuro (¥8900) and Asakusa (¥7200), plus highway tolls (around ¥800). There's a 20% surcharge between 10pm and 5am. Credit cards accepted.

Feature: Airport Transport & Subway Pass Package Deals

The following packages combine airport transport and an unlimited-ride Tokyo subway pass (good on Tokyo Metro and Toei lines, but not JR ones).

Limousine & Subway Pass (www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/guide/ticket/subwaypass.html) One-way travel on the Friendly Airport Limousine from Narita or Haneda Airports to most (but not all) stations and hotels serviced by coach routes and a 24-hour subway pass; or round-trip travel and a 48- or 72-hour subway pass. Coming from Narita this package is cheaper than buying a regular return ticket. Any ticket packages can be purchased on arrival at the airport; one-way packages can also be purchased at Shinjuku Bus Terminal.

Skyliner & Tokyo Subway Ticket One-way or round-trip travel on the Skyliner between Narita Airport and Ueno plus a 24-, 48- or 72-hour subway pass. Purchase online in advance or on arrival at the ticketing counter for a saving of ¥540 to ¥2240 off the total combined price of the individual tickets included in the deal.

Feature: Baggage Shipment & Storage

Baggage couriers provide next-day delivery from Narita and Haneda airports to any address in Tokyo (around ¥2000 for a large suitcase) or beyond, which frees you from having to lug stuff on public transport. Look for kiosks in the arrival terminals. If you plan on taking advantage of this service, make sure to put the essentials you'll need for the next 24 hours in a small bag.

You can also have your bags shipped back to the airport, where you'll pick them up at a kiosk in the departures hall. Hotels can help you arrange this and some Tourist Information Centers (TICs) have baggage-forwarding counters. Many services also offer temporary baggage storage, which is useful if you want to take a detour to Mt Fuji or to an onsen resort without bringing all your stuff.

Courier services in Japan are very reliable. For more information and a list of courier counters, see www.jnto.go.jp/hands-free-travel.