Head spinning and dying to fall asleep, I watched the buildings gradually grow in density from my train window as we got closer to Tokyo. There were forty more minutes till we reached Ueno station. (Ueno station? No I had no clue either). But how much longer till I could get to my new apartment? How many more trains?
If I'd known about the Narita airport limousine bus before I first arrived in Japan, my first journey into the city would have been a much smoother ride. Unfortunately I didn't. But that's no reason why you shouldn't.
Well it's a bus as the name suggests! But more than just a bus, it's a service that's designed to make arrivals (and departures) from Japan as smooth as possible. Especially if you're traveling with heavy bags or young children. Whether you're landing at Narita airport or the all new international terminal at Haneda airport, there is an airport limousine bus that can get you into the city.
It's all because of the way it works. Let's flashback for a second. My first arrival in Japan saw me lugging my bags around the airport and down to the train platform that's underground. This first train took me a to a central hub station in the city where I needed to change trains again... which included further lugging of bags and cursing as I tried to figure out which line I needed for the next stage of my journey. And on it went.
Compare that to the airport limousine bus service. You walk into the arrival hall at Narita or Haneda airports. You look for the airport limousine bus stand counter which is inside the arrival hall. You go and talk to the staff about where you need to go, in English, and they tell you the price and issue you a ticket on the next bus. Where does the bus go from? Right outside the arrival hall doors.
Now which one would you rather do if you have heavy bags or young children?
So now imagine you're in that central train station in Tokyo with all your bags or your gaggle of little ones and you're trying to figure out where you need to go next. You're tired after the long haul and tempers are starting to fray. You just want to get to your hotel.
Or... you could be on the airport limousine bus which not only picks you up right outside the airport, it also drops you off at the door of the major hotels in Tokyo. Even if it doesn't stop at your exact hotel, the staff will work out the closest place they can drop you to where you need to go. And they'll tell you how to get from your final stop on the bus to your final destination.
The seats on both the buses and the trains are comfortable in Japan. That's not what we're thinking about here. No. We're thinking about the mental comfort of being able to sit back and relax knowing everything is sorted and under control.
When you board the airport limousine bus, the driver will securely store your bags underneath the bus so you can forget about them until you get to your hotel. There's no limit to the amount of baggage you can carry so no problem there. You know you're not going to have to change buses so you can sit back and enjoy the ride into Tokyo, without worrying about what the next step's going to be when you arrive at the final stop. It's a truly chilled out way to start your vacation in Japan.
Of course it's up to you whether you choose to complete your journey into Tokyo by train or by bus. Maybe you're a train fan and are really looking forward to your first experience on the trains in Tokyo. Or maybe your hotel is at one of the major train stations and you're confident you don't need the door-to-door service. That's cool. And we totally understand. We love our train rides into Tokyo too.
But if you're feeling at all queasy about what you're going to do once you arrive at the airport in Japan, the airport limousine bus is the best solution for a smooth and hassle free ride. Especially if you're carrying heavy bags or dealing with little ones.
Like we said earlier, when you get through customs and through to the entrance hall in Narita or Haneda airport, look for a counter near the exit doors that says 'Airport Limousine Bus' service. This is where you book and pay for your tickets to your selected destination.
Once you have your seats reserved you just need to go to the bus stands which are on the same level as the entrance hall (so there are no stairs involved). Just straight out the doors and the bus stops are right there. If you happen to be a smoker this is also where you'll find the smoking areas so you can relax before you set off on the last leg of your journey into the city.
An adult fare into the city of Tokyo will cost about ¥3,000, (approximately US$35) while children from 6 - 12 years old will pay half the adult rate. You can get cheaper rates on the trains but then you don't have the luxury of just sitting back and enjoying the scenery until you arrive at your destination. How much is ¥3,000 in Japan terms? A few plates of good sushi a few beers in a city pub.
And here's an extra tip. If you have children aged 5 and under, if you're willing to have them sit on your lap for the duration of the bus ride, then you only pay the adult fare for the seat. Your child rides for free. If you want them to have an individual seat then the cost is the same as the normal child rate. The bus has good sized seats so if you want to hold your toddler on your lap it's not an uncomfortable experience.
As a nice addition, there is a special discount ticket available if you plan on spending some time in Tokyo. It's a combo deal between the limousine bus and Tokyo metro, the main subway company. In addition to your airport limousine bus ticket, the deal includes a one or two day pass for unlimited use of the Metro in Tokyo. If you're interested,see this link for more information.
There is a visitor voucher available for tourists coming to Tokyo which you can only buy before you arrive in Japan through authorised overseas agents. In addition, the vouchers are only valid for specified routes. To see if this an option that would work for you, check out the official visitor voucher page and see if your route's on the list.
If you know you'd rather take the airport limousine bus than the train, the best thing to do is to book a hotel that's on the door-to-door list of the limousine bus. For prices and information of the hotels available visit our Tokyo hotel page for more information.
P.S. What happened to me on my train ride in to the city? Well four trains later I arrived at my station well and truly worn out. At the time it wasn't the best introduction to the city but thankfully I had a lot longer than 10 days to create some great memories here. If I could go back in time would change my mode of transport? In one word... yes!
Wouldn't you love to find a guidebook that is just for first-time visitors to Tokyo. Find those all important things that only a local would know like: what to expect at the airport, what Japanese is most useful for a traveler to know, what packing tips are specific for Tokyo, what should you do in an emergency, the basics of using the trains, and much more. Head over to Taming Tokyo today and judge for yourself.