Flying to Tokyo – choosing between Haneda and Narita

Flying to Tokyo? You may be enticed with the “cheap” air tickets to Tokyo but I would like to remind you that the name of the airport do matter – a lot.

Tickets to Narita Airport (be it on Scoot, ANA or JAL) are generally cheaper but we have to be aware of the “hidden” cost.

Time & Cost (Narita/Haneda to Shinagawa – somewhat central Tokyo)

Narita
1. Train (Narita Express) – 1hr 5 mins  – 3,190Y
2. Train (requires 1 transfer) – 1hr 3 mins – 2,670Y
3. Bus (Narita Bus) – 1 hr 30 mins – 3,100Y
4. Keisei Skyliner – 41 mins to Ueno – 2,470Y (discount available)
5. Keisei Mainline – 1 hr 30 mins to Shinagawa – 1,030Y

*Newly added info, may affect airport decision

Haneda
1. Train (Keiyu Line) – 20 mins – 410Y

It will cost 4,520Y (approx 50 SGD) and 80 minutes more traveling time for both ways if you choose Narita Airport.

This amount is exceptionally significant when it comes to choosing whether to fly budget or not for the domestic flight (assuming that you will start and end your trip in Tokyo).

E.g.

Vanilla Air from Tokyo to Hokkaido cost approximately $140 + approx $22 for 20kg luggage
ANA from Tokyo (Haneda) to Hokkaido cost $242 and it includes baggage.

Cost savings by taking Vanilla Air (Budget): $242-$142 = $100 – $50 (difference in airport transport) = $50; but you spend 80 minutes more on commute which is worth 62 cents per minute.

Conclusion

I highly recommend flying in and out from Haneda airport if you’re planning to visit Tokyo. However, if you are not visiting Tokyo and solely using Tokyo as a transit to Hokkaido/other places, it doesn’t matter which airpot you fly to as long as it is the same airport.

It is pretty dumb and troublesome to transit between Narita & Haneda airport. From my parents experience, (at least for JAL back in 2013) they do not help you transfer your luggage between Haneda & Narita and there is no free shuttle bus/train between both airports.

What I love about Haneda Airport

1) Very accessible to tokyo central

Train ride to Shinagawa (Main Terminal) is only 10 to 20 minutes away and it wouldn’t really matter much if you can’t get a seat. Paying 470Y (slightly cheaper with Pasmo/Suica card) to get to central Tokyo is like 1/6 the price compared to commuting from Narita..

2) CONVENIENT LUGGAGE STORAGE

On my return trip from Hokkaido to Singapore, I had a 9 hour transit in Tokyo. Collected my baggage from the Domestic Terminal and took the free shuttle (frequency of 5 to 10 mins) to the International Terminal. Placed my luggage into the 600Y coin locker which is situated right at the train station area, which is also conveniently beside my mobile wifi rental booth – Ninja Wifi.

*Updated from user on hardwarezone: Narita airport has convenient and accessible luggage storage too and it only cost 500Y for a large locker.

IMG_1605 IMG_2065 (2)

3) Custom COUNTER only after clearing Immigration

We were very much confused with the tax free and customs policy in Japan. In Japan, tourists are entitled to tax-free if you spend more than 5,001Y on consumables (food, alcohol, cosmetics) or 10,001Y for non-consumables (electronics, bags, clothes, shoes).

Unlike my experience in Korea and Europe whereby the tax refund is credited back to your account/given cash when you leave the country, the tax refund in Japan is usually done at the time of purchase.

Look for “tax-free” signs in the shops and inform the staff that you would like tax-free for your shopping. You will have to pass your passport to them and the staff will help you fill up a form and you will have to endorse on it. After which, the form would be folded and stapled inside your passport.

If you are purchasing consumables, your items will be sealed in a clear plastic bag with “Do not Open before leaving Japan“ stickers/printed on the bag.

So.. our complex situation happened when we combined our purchases to meet the minimum amount for tax-free. The next day, we suddenly realised that we were all flying back to Singapore on different dates and timing and that if the customs officer check our items at the airport, we are kind of screwed if not all items are present.

Well, we could just make the person who claim the tax refund bring all the items back to SG right? If only it was that simple.. our purchase was like 5 bottles of Sake which exceeds the limit of tax-free alcohol in Singapore. So.. we might risk paying taxes either ways..

After a few days of pondering, the conclusion was that we go to the airport, find the customs counter and pay the 8% taxes for the 5 bottles of Sake. We removed the “Do not open before leaving Japan” plastic and split the alcohol.

Upon reaching the airport, I looked for the information counter and asked the staff where is the customs counter and she said it was after Immigration. I’m like.. so do you mean I can check in my purchases without showing the customs officer? She said yes and I’m like wow. I asked her again and she said something like “Only in Haneda, customs counter after immigration.” Right, so our worries were unfounded. *phew* (An online contributor commented that customs counter is after immigration for Narita Airport as well)

We didn’t have to pay 8% Japan taxes and had 0 risk in exceeding the alcohol limit in Singapore as we managed to split the bottles. Best of both worlds.

** Contribution from online community – both Haneda and Narita Airport has the customs after luggage check-in and checks are rarely, if not never done. Feel free to pack your items into your luggage. Information accurate as at July 2015 **

What I don’t like about Haneda
It’s such a popular airport that by the time I entered the departure hall at 10pm, Potato Farm (Hokkaido snack) and Royce Nama Chocolate was sold out >_< 

I usually purchase my Japanese food souvenirs at the airport before I board the plane a it would be tax-free and I wouldn’t have to fill up those forms. This is the first time (out of my previous 3 trips) that the food souvenirs that I wanted to purchase is sold out.. I guess I need to change my strategy in my next trip. Seems like last minute airport purchases are not as reliable as before..

*Do check back for more entries with regards to my 9D Tokyo/Hokkaido self-drive trip*

Slowly but surely coming your way..

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