The first time I visited Tokyo many years ago I wanted simplicity. I took the Airport Limousine Bus, which drops off at hotels. By the time I had gotten out of the airport I was on a bus departure after 5 p.m. and we got stuck in terrible traffic. The ride took almost three hours, and the bus seats weren’t particularly comfortable. I never did that again.
Taxis just aren’t an option from the airport in my view, they’re just too expensive, the idea of spending hundreds of dollars for a car and getting stuck in traffic doesn’t appeal to me either.
I think the simplest way into the city is the Narita Express train. I was headed to Shinjuku station, which is near the Park Hyatt where I was staying. There are trains running about every half hour, although the wait was longer than I’d have liked because I came out of the customs hall just as I’d missed one.
Coming out of the customs hall there was a ticket booth directly in front of me in terminal 1 of Narita airport. The price is ~ $30 one way or $40 roundtrip. (“Green car” is first class and really isn’t meaningfully different than coach.)
The escalator down to the train was immediately to the left. Narita Express is easy to find because of the red branding.
When the inbound train arrived passengers got off and then staff closed off the train. You don’t board the train right away because they clean it.
The seats on the train are large and comfortable and there’s plenty of legroom. There’s also free wifi, which seems to go in and out. No seat power though and no refreshments onboard.
There’s luggage storage near the door to the train car, and locks available, although I didn’t use a lock. There’s also storage for small bags above your seat.
The longest stop along the way was at Tokyo station, where the train split in half. The car I was in headed on to Shinjuku, but part of the train did not. That’s why it’s important to go to the train car on your ticket. The Skyliner train is actually faster to Shinjuku but requires a transfer. With luggage I’ll take Narita Express and have the train split for me, my ‘transfer’ happens sitting in my seat.
I enjoyed the hour and 25 minute trip, looking out at the scenery along the way and even the advertising on the train — including from American Airlines.
Once at Shinkuku station I followed the signs for a taxi, it was easy to find even though it meant going outside the station and up an escalator. A cab from Shinjuku station to the Park Hyatt was less than $8, and easier especially with luggage than tracking down the hotel’s free shuttle which isn’t at the station proper.
On the return I used my ticket to get down to the tracks but had no problem using a self service machine there to change to an earlier train.
And the thing about Japanese trains is they are on time. I started wondering if our train would be late when it was just a couple of minutes to departure time and it hadn’t arrived. But it pulled up as expected, and we were off.