Public transport from Narita Airport to Tokyo and Yokohama

Here is a great tip from my friend Wayne Johnson, a long time resident of Japan, about the best ways to use public transport to get into central Tokyo and Yokohama (Wayne lives in Yokohama, so he thinks everyone should go there at least once, even if it’s just to have a beer with him).  Wayne wrote this in Japanese, I speak only Lithuanian so used Babelfish to translate it into English – I think they did a good job. Enjoy!

There’s one thing for sure when you visit Japan. You get looked after. If you plan with a travel agency you can have almost everything done for you in advance. However, if you want to be a do it yourself visitor to Japan, one of the most daunting aspects – apart from the language and not being able to read very much – is the trip from the airport into Tokyo.
There is the Narita Express which can get you to various parts of central Tokyo, and it’s surrounding former villages of Yokohama and Saitama. If you have a Japan Rail Pass, then you can book the Narita Express when you arrive at Narita by going to the JR desk after clearing customs. However, if you plan to stay longer than your rail pass term of use and want to save it for the shinkansen (bullet train) trips up and down the islands, then you should consider other options from and to the airport.
The newest one, and the reason why this post is late and therefore put me in Grumpy’s grumpy book, is the Narita Sky Access. It’s not a helicopter service, and there is one of those to central Tokyo for a pretty yen. The NSA is a very fast train, fifteen minutes faster than the Narita Express, to Nippori which is good enough for central Tokyo since its on the Yamanote Line – a service which rotates trains around the heart of Tokyo. You save time and money but you have to change trains. We all have to change trains at some time so start early and use the NSA. You can’t validate your Japan Rail Pass with the privately-owned Narita Sky Access because the rail pass is for Japan Rail only.
Both the Narita Express and the Narita Sky Access (and the older Skyliner Airport Express to Nippori) require a subterranean walk into the nether regions of the airport. Trains usually depart every thirty minutes.
My recommendation, and a very common and convenient service is the bus. When you walk out of Narita Customs the Airport Limousine counter is there before your very tired eyes, with ladies prettier than Grumpy. They speak English (and Japanese), and will tell you the best service for you if you tell them were you need to go. There are close to thirty destinations (many to the more well known hotels) so they could get quite smug (in a Japanese way which means not showing it) about giving you the shortest shift.
Once you have your departure point number it’s less than a minute to the bus departure point. The luggage staff also speak English (and Japanese), although since you are now outside the terminal it could be hot, or cold depending on the time of year – ask you weatherman for more details. I’ve never had to wait longer than 15 minutes.
Although the buses are not cheaper than the trains and a little less comfortable, it always suits me, the Yokohama resident. Also, I’ve never been unduly delayed by traffic – although I wouldn’t take a bus at 7 o’clock in the morning or 5 o’clock at night. Even at those times the drivers have ways to get you ‘there’ more often than not faster than a train can.
The prices into Tokyo? Narita Express is 2,940 yen. Narita Sky Access is 2,400 yen and the Skyliner Airport Express is 1,920 yen. A better deal than the bus if you’re going to central Tokyo, and not staying at a well-known hotel. The Airport Limousine is 3,000 yen but more likely to get you to your destination without changing trains, and therefore buying another train ticket – if you can find the ticket machines while keeping an eye on your luggage and avoiding the bustle.

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