November 20, 2012

Traveling from Narita Airport to Tokyo with a Bicycle


A question I'm asked time and time again is:

"Upon arriving in Japan, how can I transport my bicycle from Narita Airport to downtown Tokyo?"

Of course, you could ride, but after a long flight I doubt you'd be alert nor energetic enough to navigate the 76km from Narita Airport to central Tokyo. It's an option if you're up for the challenge but not one I'd recommend if this is your first trip to Tokyo.

JR East's Narita Express train runs between Narita Airport and major metropolitan stations including Tokyo, Shinagawa, Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ikebukuro. Depending on your destination, ticket prices vary from 3,000 to 4,500 yen and the trip takes about 55 minutes to Tokyo Station.

At the rear of each passenger carriage on the Narita Express is a space for storing luggage, and behind the very last row of passenger seats there is enough space to stow a bicycle. Japan Rail rules state that a bicycle must be covered in order to be taken on a train and this applies to most trains around the country. Given you've just arrived in Japan it is safe to assume that your bicycle is already boxed or bagged so you're good to go*.

While the Narita Express is fast and efficient, the departure platform is many levels below the airport's arrival gates so be prepared to haul your luggage and bicycle a long, long way.

Another option at your disposal is the luxurious-sounding Limousine Bus service. As with the Narita Express, Limousine buses operate between Narita Airport and major stations and hotels in Tokyo. Depending upon traffic the trip to Tokyo Station can take anywhere between 75 and 130 minutes and most tickets are around 3,000 yen.

Limousine Bus tickets can be purchased right outside the arrival gates at Narita Airport, and buses also depart from directly in front of the terminal building on the same level as the arrivals hall (meaning no long walk with your luggage and bicycle). Staff will stow your bicycle in luggage space underneath the bus, leaving you free to enjoy the journey into Tokyo. While the Limousine Bus trip does take longer than the Narita Express, you do get to see much more of the city from high up in a bus on an expressway than on the Narita Express which travels mostly at, or under, ground level.

Narita is, as one would expect, also serviced by a number of taxi companies, but a ride to Tokyo will set you back anywhere between 15,000 and 26,000 yen depending on your destination in Tokyo, so for most of us that's not an option worth considering.

If you really feel like splashing out, you could take a helicopter from Narita Airport to Roppongi Hills in Tokyo, which costs 50,000 yen per passenger one way, but I doubt they'll transport your bicycle.

If you're not in a hurry, I'd recommend the Limosuine Bus service for its convenient boarding and disembarking locations, trouble-free storage for bicycles, and the scenic value of the ride into the city atop the expressway.

For more information, including current prices and timetables, please visit the Narita Express or Limousine Bus websites (English available).

* This is a guest post originally written for Surviving in Japan, a goldmine of useful information for foreigners living in or visiting Japan.

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