navigating narita

navigating narita

By Patricia Belyea

TOKYO JP  When you travel to Japan, your likely entry point will be Narita (NRT)—an international airport almost 50 miles from Tokyo. After your long flight, here are some tips for getting through the airport and on your way.

In-Flight Tips

Do not even think about taking any fresh food into Japan. Eat or dump any food you have with you.

You are given entry paperwork by your attendant. Be sure to have the address of where you are staying handy to fill out the forms.

Getting Into Japan

After disembarking, you walk through a portal where your body is temperature scanned with an infrared camera. If you have a fever, you may have a short discussion with a quarantine officer, or be taken to a hospital. So be sure to travel when you are healthy—it's better for everyone!

You line up to see an Immigrations officer. Then you continue into a huge room with baggage carousels where you grab your luggage before exiting through Customs. If you have a lot of luggage, carts are available. Note: no photography or cell phone use are allowed until you get into the main terminal.

Changing Money

Japan is NOT the Land of Credit and Debit Cards. Most small shops and restaurants only accept cash. So be prepared.

You need yen—Japanese currency—for your visit. One option is to order currency from your bank before you go. Another choice is to bring cash and exchange it at the airport where you get a much better rate.

The Currency Exchange will be on the left once you exit into the main terminal. Just fill out a Cash To Yen card and then stand in line for your currency exchange.

I have often carried around $1000 to $2000 USD worth of yen on my travels and have felt confident to leave the money in my wallet.

Pocket Wi-fi Pick-up

I’m zealous about traveling around Japan with a pocket wifi. It's half the size of a cell phone and makes me a roving hot spot. At my inexpensive hotel, I have a strong signal for all my internet needs—including calling home using FaceTime. When I am out and about, I can use the internet and the apps on my phone—especially navigation and weather apps.

I order a pocket wifi online, paying for the number of days I need one. (Renting a pocket wifi at the airport costs about twice as much.) To order a pocket wifi, +click here 

You need to order a pocket wifi at least 4 days in advance of your arrival. Your paperwork includes when and where you are arriving. If you are flying into Terminal One, you pick up the pocket wifi package at the Post Office on the 4th floor in the Shopping and Dining area. If you are arriving at Terminal Two, the post office is on the 3rd floor.

When you leave Japan, just place the pocket wifi in the supplied return envelope and drop it into a mailbox.

N’EX Train into Tokyo

There are a myriad of ways to travel from Narita to Tokyo. My fav is taking the N’EX (acronym for Narita Express) train into town. The cost is approximately $30 USD each way. It takes about one hour to get to Tokyo Station and 1.5 hours to get to Shinjuku Station in the heart of Tokyo.

Right across from the Terminal One Post Office is an elevator. Ride down to B1, to get to Terminal One Railway Station. Once in the basement, you follow the Train signs. Buy your ticket at the JR EAST Travel Service Center with the red sign.

Your ticket designates a reserved seat. The seat info includes car number and seat number. Head to Track 1 for the N’EX train and queue up for your car. Once the train is cleaned, you enter your car. Just inside the door, drop your big suitcase in the luggage area. (I don't recommend using the luggage locking device. It is just for scared tourists.)

It's now time to relax. JR East provides free wifi. And the signage and train station messages are in English so you will easily understand where to get off.

Once You Get To Tokyo

I suggest you head out to the taxi stand and take a cab to your final destination. Have your hotel or AirBNB address printed on a piece of paper to hand to your driver. (If you write the address out by hand, don't use cursive. Make the address large enough to read easily and as legible as possible to avoid confusion for your driver.)

Welcome to Japan!

To learn no-sweat Tokyo transit tips +click here