Which Airport? Narita vs Haneda

airplane at airport

Are you a first time traveler to Japan? Do you get confused to which airport to fly into? Is Narita better than Haneda? These are tough questions to answer and the answer depends on where you are traveling to and from. However, if your first destination in Japan is Tokyo or if you are taking connecting flight to other parts of Japan, my short answer is Haneda and here is why.

Narita ( 成田 )

Narita is one of the two major airports serving the Tokyo metro area and is located 60 kilometers from Tokyo in Chiba Prefecture ( not in Tokyo ).
Pros:

  • International hub for Delta, United Airline and other major international airlines. More flight options for international flights as well as cheaper international flight through Narita Airport.
  • Although the airport is located 60 miles from downtown Tokyo, there are many public transportation options to Tokyo.
  • Easy connection to international flights.
  • Easier access when traveling to northern Japan by bus and other public transportation.

Cons:

  • Far from downtown Tokyo.
  • Public transportation is more expensive.

Haneda ( 羽田 )

The other major airport is Haneda and it is located in the heart of Tokyo.

Pros:

  • Serve as a primary base for All Nippon Airway and many other domestic airlines. In 2016, Haneda added extra runways to accommodate more international flights making it one of the busiest airport in the world.
  • 15 minutes to Tokyo by Tokyo Monorail or Keikyu Line.
  • Easy connection to domestic flights.
  • Personally, I think Haneda feels cleaner and more up-to-date than Narita

Cons:

  • It is a very busy airport.
  • When taking public transportations, one must transfer in Tokyo for major transportation.

Once landing at either airport and making it through immigrations and customs, there are a few things you can do to start your trip a little easier.

First, it’s a good idea to exchange some cash before you leave the airport. The exchange rates at the airport are very competitive, and this will save you the hassle of trying to find an open bank in Tokyo that can handle foreign exchange.

Second, your phone will not work in Japan, but there are many vendors selling portable hotspots and local phone services. It’s not a bad idea to pick up one of these devices to make communicating with friends and family more convenient. If you want to keep the expenses to a minimum, most hotels, train stations and convenience stores in Japan have free WIFI. There are apps available for Android and iPhone to help you connect to these networks.