With a peerless public transportation network and an increasing number of multilingual signage, getting around Tokyo is becoming relatively stress-free. With a JR Rail Pass or travel card, you can navigate stations, hop on and off buses and even take waterbuses with ease. Traveling overground, underground, at slow-speed or ultra-fast-speed are all options in the city.
The streets are crowded with taxis—many with English signage—and a vast network of buses criss-cross the city. Central Tokyo itself is relatively small meaning renting a bicycle is a practical and fun way to navigate the city. Here is a guide to how to get around Tokyo, introducing all the different routes you can take based on how you like to travel.
Getting between airports and the City
Traveling around is always exciting until you find yourself there in a country and don’t know how to get around. Getting from the airport to the city is always a pain in the ass because airports are usually built in rural areas far away from all the hotels and tourist spots. You can always choose to take a taxi or Uber, but what’s the fun without a little adventure?
Narita Airport (NRT)
Terminal 1 and 2 each have a railway station in their respective basements. Terminal 3 serves low-budget airlines and is connected with terminal 2 by a pedestrian walkway. Free shuttle buses operate between all three terminals.
JR Narita Express (Direct, 60 minutes, around 3000 yen, 1-2 connections per hour)：The most comfortable way of travel between Narita Airport and Tokyo Station is the JR Narita Express (NEX). The one-way journey takes roughly one hour, costs around 3000 yen and is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass, JR Tokyo Wide Area Pass and some other JR passes. There are departures every 30 to 60 minutes. The NEX Tokyo Round Trip Ticket for 4070 yen provides foreign travelers with a discounted round trip from the airport into Tokyo and back within a 2-week period.
JR Sobu Line(Direct, 90 minutes, 1340 yen, 1 connection per hour)：The JR Sobu Line (Rapid Service) is the slower but cheaper JR alternative to the Narita Express. The one-way trip takes roughly 90 minutes and costs 1340 yen. There is about one departure per hour.
Keisei Skyliner (1 transfer, 55 minutes, 2410-2680 yen, 2 connections per hour)：Take the Keisei Skyliner from Narita Airport to Nippori Station (about 40 minutes, 2520 yen) and transfer to the JR Yamanote Line or JR Keihin-Tohoku Line to get to Tokyo Station (10 minutes, 160 yen). There are connections every 20-40 minutes. If purchased in advance online or via a travel agent outside of Japan, foreign tourists can ride the Skyliner for just 2250 yen.
Keisei Limited Express(1 transfer, 90 minutes, 1210 yen, 3 connections per hour)：Take the Keisei Limited Express from Narita Airport to Nippori Station (about 75 minutes, 1050 yen) and transfer to the JR Yamanote Line or JR Keihin-Tohoku Line to get to Tokyo Station (10 minutes, 160 yen). There are connections every 20 minutes.
Limousine bus： (Direct, 100 minutes, 2800 yen, 3-4 connections per hour)Limousine buses to Tokyo Station depart Narita Airport every 15 to 20 minutes. The one way journey takes about 100 minutes and costs 2800 yen. In addition, there are direct limousine bus connections to several major hotels in the Tokyo Station area. A special round trip ticket for only 4500 yen is available to foreign tourists exclusively.
Haneda Airport (HND)
Tokyo Monorail (1 transfer, 30 minutes, 660 yen, frequent connections)
Take the JR Yamanote or JR Keihin-Tohoku Line from Tokyo Station to Hamamatsucho Station (5 minutes, 160 yen) and transfer to the Tokyo Monorail to Haneda Airport (20 minutes, 500 yen).
Keikyu Railways (1 transfer, 35 minutes, 470 yen, frequent connections)
Take the JR Yamanote or JR Keihin-Tohoku Line from Tokyo Station to Shinagawa Station (10 minutes, 170 yen) and transfer to the Keikyu Airport Line to Haneda Airport (20 minutes, 300 yen).
Limousine bus (Direct, 40-55 minutes, 950 yen, 1-2 connections per hour)
Limousine buses to Haneda Airport depart Tokyo Station every 30 to 60 minutes. Depending on the traffic situation, the one-way journey usually takes between 40 and 55 minutes and costs 950 yen.
Getting around Tokyo City
To the uninitiated, the train and subway system in Tokyo can seem incredibly complicated. There are two different subway operators (Tokyo Metro and Toei) as well as one major rail company (JR) and a multitude of private line operators. In general, these are well-priced compared to other major cities. In terms of cost savings, the less you change between the different operators on a single journey, the cheaper your trip will be.
If you’re staying for more than 24 hours, the best idea is to buy a Suica/Pasmo IC card. These are credit card size cards that you charge up with credit and are usable on all lines and they work all across Japan. The cards are available online or from ticket offices or vending machines located in the stations. When the funds are depleted, you can top the card up at any station. When you’re finished with the card hand it back for a refund of your deposit (¥500) and any remaining funds on the card.
Trains and Subways
By far the best way of getting around Tokyo is via the trains and subways. There are thirteen subway lines in Tokyo. They are run by two interlinked subway systems, the Tokyo Metro Subway, and the Toei Subway. The most important of the train lines is the JR Yamanote Line. It is commonly known as the Japan Rail Loop Line because it runs around the outskirts of the city. It has stops in most of the surrounding districts. The JR Chuo Line runs from east to west through the city. The yellow trains stop at every station along the way. The red trains are rapid transit and do not.
Buses in Tokyo are relatively cheap and they are a good option for areas not adequately covered by the subway system. The problem with getting around Tokyo on a bus can be the language barrier, which makes it difficult to work out which bus to take and where to get off. Only the end destination appears on the bus and most bus drivers do not speak English.
The most expensive of the Tokyo transportation options and are really only worth taking when several of you are going to the same destination or where you have little other option.