In this article we will look at all your options for traveling between Narita Airport and Kyoto Station. It is possible to make this journey by train, bus, plane, and car, but by far the easiest and most convenient way to go is by train. Although there are no direct trains between these two destinations, it is a simple matter to make a transfer in Tokyo.
From Narita Airport you can take the Narita Express train into Tokyo, and then transfer to a shinkansen bullet train for Kyoto. Times vary but this route can cover the distance in just 3 hours and 30 minutes. Let’s look at the details of this train route first and then consider other options.
Traveling by Train
When traveling from Narita Airport, we recommend taking the Narita Express train for a fast and comfortable ride into Tokyo. You can take this train to either Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station and then transfer to the shinkansen bullet train. Times vary but the Narita Express can get you to Tokyo Station in around one hour for 3,020 yen, and to Shinagawa Station in around 70 minutes for 3,190 yen. Whether you choose to transfer at Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station will depend on the time of your departure from Narita Airport. Sometimes traveling via Shinagawa Station will get you to Kyoto sooner, and because Shinagawa is a smaller station, it is also easier to navigate than Tokyo Station.
From Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station there are three types of shinkansen you can take to Kyoto. These are the Nozomi, the Hikari and the Kodama. You should not take the Kodama because it stops at every station on the way and takes about four hours. The Nozomi is the fastest and most frequent train as it travels between Kyoto and Tokyo in just 2 hours and 20 minutes. However, the Nozomi is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass. If you wish to use the Japan Rail Pass, your best choice is the Hikari which takes just two hours and 40 minutes to cover the distance. The normal fare from Tokyo or Shinagawa to Kyoto is 13,080 yen.
When traveling from Kyoto Station to Narita Airport you can simply take the same route in reverse. However, remember that Narita Airport has two stations: one for Terminal 1, and another for Terminals 2 & 3. Be sure to get off at the station that serves your airline.
For Narita Express timetables and information about discounted round trip tickets check the official Narita Express website. To plan your overall route we recommend using online English language route finders like Jorudan and Hyperdia.
Traveling by Bus
It is possible to save some money by taking a shuttle bus from Narita Airport into Tokyo before transferring to a shinkansen for Kyoto. A shuttle bus between Narita Airport and Tokyo Station costs just 1,000 yen, and should take around 1 hour and 20 minutes. However, the journey time can vary greatly depending on the traffic conditions, so it is harder to schedule your ongoing journey. For information about shuttle bus services check the Keisei Bus website.
There is also a long distance highway bus, called the Nankai Express, that runs overnight all the way between Narita Airport and Kyoto Station. Traveling from Narita Airport, the Nankai Express departs from Terminal 2 at 21:35 and from Terminal 1 at 21:40. The bus arrives at Kyoto Station’s Hachijoguchi exit at 6:25 in the morning.
Traveling from Kyoto the bus departs at 22:15 from the G3 bus stop. This is located outside the KKD building directly across from the southern side of the Kyoto Station building. The bus arrives at Narita Airport’s Terminal 2 at 6:51 am and at Terminal 1 at 6:56.
This overnight bus service is run by the Nankai Bus company and costs just 8,740 yen for a one way ticket, and 14,910 yen for a round trip ticket. This is fairly economical, and if you can sleep on the journey, it could also be a good way to save you the cost of one night at a hotel. However, if you are a light sleeper and find your bus seat uncomfortable, then you won’t be able to sleep and the trip will be very tiring.
It is possible to buy Nankai Express tickets on the day of travel, but it is better to reserve them in advance to avoid disappointment. Tickets can be booked up to one month in advance of your journey, but online reservations can only be made in Japanese, so it is better to have a tourist agency organize this for you. In Japan you can book these tickets with major travel agencies like JTB and Nippon Travel Agency. For more information on the Nankai Express bus check the Nankai Bus company’s English website.
Traveling by Air
At Narita Airport it is possible to transfer to a domestic flight and fly into one of two airports in Kyoto’s neighboring city Osaka. These airports are Osaka Itami International Airport and Kansai International Airport. Osaka Itami Airport is closer to Kyoto, but Kansai International Airport has the advantage of being serviced by more flights at cheaper prices.
Traveling via Osaka Itami Airport:
Every day there are four flights each way between Narita Airport and Osaka Itami Airport. These flights take just 1 hour and 20 minutes. Because these flights are run by the major Japanese airlines ANA and JAL, a one way ticket could cost somewhere between 11,000 and 26,000 yen. However, if you can get a deal from the airline flying you into Japan from overseas, then it is possible to get this domestic flight for free.
You can travel between Osaka Itami Airport and Kyoto by either limousine bus or taxi. The limousine bus costs just 1,310 yen and takes about 55 minutes. Traveling from Kyoto Station you can get on the limousine bus at the G3 bus stop directly across from Kyoto Station’s southern exit.
MK Taxis also run a shuttle service between Osaka Itami Airport and Kyoto. This costs just 2,400 yen and can take between 1.5 to 2 hours. If you are traveling into Kyoto, they will also take you directly to your hotel.
Traveling via Kansai International Airport:
Every day there are 7 flights each way between Narita Airport and Kansai International Airport. Because these flights are run by the low cost airlines Peach and Jetstar, it is possible to get extremely cheap tickets. A flight lasting just 1 hour and 30 minutes can cost as little as 3,990 yen.
There are various options when traveling between Kansai International Airport and Kyoto, but the easiest and fastest option is the Limited Express Haruka train which takes just 75 minutes for 2,850 yen. For more details check our article: Traveling Between Kyoto and Kansai International Airport.
Traveling by Car
It is possible to drive between Narita Airport and Kyoto via the Chuo Expressway or the Tomei Expressway. This could take 6 or 7 hours depending on traffic. However, when you consider the expressway toll fees of around 10,000 yen this does not seem cost effective. For information about car rental companies at Narita Airport check the airport website. For information about car rental companies near Kyoto Station check our article: Car Rental in Kyoto.
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.