There’s not really much that will make a traveler’s butt pucker faster than realizing that they inadvertently booked a Tokyo connection which involves flying into Hanada and departing out of Narita (or vise versa). It’s a very easy mistake to make actually, since many airlines and multiple airline alliances have a large presence at both airports and it’s often necessary to transfer between the two in order to get the best flight options.
Having two major airports serving the same city certainly has its advantages, but it also causes a heck of a lot of confusion sometimes. Especially here in Tokyo! Haneda and Narita airports are very far apart from one another, and depending on freeway traffic (which is usually just nuts), it often takes over an hour to get between the two.
You need to pay especially close attention whenever you book a flight that involves a transfer in Tokyo, because you just may end up having to do the Haneda to Narita shuffle.
Thankfully, the Japanese are experts in areas of public transportation and customer service. The Haneda to Narita airport shuffle probably sounds really scary to anyone who hasn’t done it before, but I’m here to tell you that it is extremely easy and I had no issues with it at all – which was surprising to me considering that my Japanese vocabulary consists of roughly 10 words and two short phrases.
“Nice to meet you” and “My name is Scott” certainly does come in handy now and then when traveling around Japan, but it did absolutely nothing to assist me in figuring out how to do this one-hour bus ride.
Step 1: purchase a ticket
First thing you need to do is find the kiosks that sell bus tickets. There are several bus ticket kiosk stations in the arrivals hall of both airports, so follow the signs (which are also in English by the way). Look for the orange kiosks – those are the ones that sell the airport-to-airport bus tickets.
The first screen of the kiosk will ask you to choose a language, and from there just follow the prompts and insert cash or coins whenever it tells you. Trust me, I’m an idiot
sometimes (always) when it comes to figuring out public transportation, but these kiosks are super easy to use and I had a bus ticket in my hand in less than 30 seconds.
Step 2: find the bus!
Once you have a ticket, follow the signs to the bus terminal. Your ticket will say which platform the bus is leaving from, so just make your way down to the bus terminal and find the platform which is printed on your ticket. All signage is in Japanese and English, so it’s super easy to figure out.
I was about 10 minutes early for my 11:00 AM ride to Narita, so I hovered around a little bit waiting for it to arrive. But this is Japan, where order and organization are the pillars of the culture, and I soon found myself being herded into a very neat and orderly line (behind a clear marking on the ground) by one of the bus company employees who was attending this platform.
He took my ticket, thanked me profusely for waiting, and I stood there for a few minutes longer until the bus arrived.
Step 3: enjoy the ride
I had well over five hours before my flight to San Diego would be departing Narita, so I wasn’t feeling any stress or anxiety at all as I boarded the bus and waited for it to fill up with other passengers. So even if traffic was going to be really bad this morning, it wouldn’t have bothered me any because I had plenty of time to kill and I was in no worry of missing my flight.
The good news is that there were absolutely no delays on the way over to Narita, and all in all it ended up being a really nice relaxing ride. I’ve been to Japan many times over the years, but I’ve never once had the opportunity to explore Tokyo (as odd as that may sound). I felt just like a kid with my nose pressed the window watching the city roll by right in front of my eyes.
Total travel time between Haneda and Narita today was one hour and 10 minutes, which left me gobs of time before my connecting flight home to San Diego. You know that means: I had time to check out the JAL Sakura Lounge!