Narita Express VS Keisei Skyliner: Which is the Better Option?

Because I wanted to save on transport, I’ve once tried to use the local train lines to get to downtown Tokyo from the Narita Airport just to save on my pocket money, but I got a little bit overwhelmed with all the transfers I had to make in random faraway train stations just to get to the city so I had to get ask help from random strangers who thankfully knew the way.

The anxiety was real, I don’t want to do this again.

Thankfully there are two train lines that can take you direct from Narita Airport straight to Tokyo without having to figure out transfers and routes – and looking back, these direct trains are not really too expensive. These train lines are direct and very straightforward (to soothe your travel anxieties), plus, they can take you to the city in the least amount of time.

These are the Narita Express (aka N’EX), and the Narita Skyliner, both train lines whose ultimate goal is to take you from Narita Airport to Tokyo and vice versa and at the same time let you experience Japan’s love affair with trains right off the airport.

I already wrote separate blog posts about the Narita Express and Keisei Skyliner, but now the question (especially for first time travelers to Tokyo) would be: “what is the better option?”

I had that same issue from when I was still figuring out which is the best trip to take. I’ve been there. My considerations were:

  • Since time is golden and limited, I wanted the quickest trip option.
  • Has the most number of available trips per hour just so that I don’t waste precious time in case I miss my train.
  • Has the earliest available departure time so that I could arrive back to the airport early enough to catch my flight.
  • Value for money – I want the cheapest option possible.

I hate to say this, but after having the pleasure to try both Narita Express and Keisei Skyliner, the answer is it really depends on your own unique travel plans. Although it entirely depends on you, in this blog post of mine let me help you decide by giving you the differences between each and the advantage of picking one over the other.

Table of Contents

Narita Express versus Keisei Skyliner: Destinations Covered

Although they both take you from Narita Airport to downtown Tokyo and back, the route and destination stations covered by both Narita Express and Keisei Skyliner basically makes up the biggest difference between the two.

Narita Express versus Keisei Skyliner routes and destinations
Both Narita Express and Keisei Skyliner trains depart from Narita Airport, but have different destinations in Tokyo.

The Narita Express (aka N’EX) takes you from Narita Airport (Terminals 1 and 2-3) directly to the following major train stations in Tokyo:

  • Tokyo Station
  • Shinagawa Station
  • Shibuya Station
  • Shinjuku Station
  • Yokohama Station
  • Ofuna Station

The Keisei Skyliner on the other hand has a different route – it takes you from Narita Airport (Terminals 1 and 2-3) directly to the following train stations in Tokyo:

  • Nippori Station
  • Keisei-Ueno Station

From the coverage alone it can easily help you decide which train to take on your trip – take the train that serves the station that’s nearest to your actual destination in the city.

The N’EX is connected to the JR Network for easier transfers to a wider network, but for Skyliner you can also make a transfer to the JR network via Nippori Station and the Keisei-Ueno station is also just a few steps away to the JR Ueno Station. You can also make easy transfers to the Tokyo Metro subway using both N’EX and Skyliner so transfers should not really be an issue.

Narita Express versus Keisei Skyliner: Trip Schedules

Another main thing to consider between the two is their schedules. Which can take you to your destination the fastest, especially in cases when you lost control of time at the konbini and now you’re trying to make it on time to the airport to catch your flight?

All in all, both the Narita Express and Keisei Skyliner pretty much runs on a schedule that runs often and gets you to your destination in the least amount of time. They’re pretty much similar in this case.

Narita Express Schedule

  • A Narita Express service departs twice an hour and goes up to 3 or 4 an hour during peak times.
  • Earliest train from airport to the city is 7:40AM with the last train departing at 9:47PM.
  • Earliest train from the city to the airport is 7:17AM with the last train departing at 9:12PM.
  • To give you an idea, the travel time from Narita Airport Terminal 1 to Tokyo Station takes around 53 minutes. Add a few more minutes as you go deeper into the other stations in the city.
  • Note: Time and schedule here are for general information only and can change anytime or may depend on the actual date your traveling, so please check out this Narita Express timetable for the actual schedule to help you plan your trip.

Keisei Skyliner Schedule

  • A Keisei Skyliner train on the other hand departs once every hour and it goes up to 3 times per hour during off peak hours.
  • Earliest train from airport to the city is 7:23AM with the last train departing at 11:00PM.
  • Earliest train from the city to the airport is 5:40AM with the last train departing at 8:20PM.
  • To give you a general idea on how long the trip takes, the travel time from Narita Airport to Nippori Station takes around 36 minutes, while Narita Airport to Keisei-Ueno station takes around 41 minutes.
  • Note that this is just a general guideline and schedule here can change any time and can depend on the actual date you’re travelling. To help you plan ahead with accurate schedule, check out their official timetable.

As you can see, Keisei Skyliner kinda wins on the schedule wars because it has a much later ‘last trip’ schedule from the airport to the city – this is very helpful when your flight arrives much later. Keisei Skyliner also has a much earlier ‘first trip’ than N’EX when going to the airport so you can catch the trip to the airport much earlier with the Skyliner, although its last trip to the airport is a little bit earlier than N’EX, with N’EX winning just on this part.

Also regarding travel time – though they both may differ in travel time with N’EX taking a bit longer, it’s because the destination stations served by N’EX are much farther from the airport and the difference is just a few minutes, so basically they both tie in the travel time wars.

Narita Express versus Keisei Skyliner: Ticket Prices

Both the Narita Express and Keisei Skyliner have an almost similar pricing, so this should not be your top concern.

Buying Narita Express N'EX ticket from the ticket counter
Buying Narita Express N’EX ticket from the ticket counter.

Narita Express Ticket Prices

  • Regular Rates range from 3070 to 4700 (half the price for kids) depending on the destination:
    • Tokyo Station – ¥3,070
    • Shinagawa, Shibuya, and Shinjuku Stations – ¥3,250
    • Yokohama Station – ¥4,370
    • Ofuna Station – ¥4,700
  • You can also buy discounted Round Trip tickets for ¥5,000 (limited to foreign passport holders only)
  • Check here for more info on ticket prices and how to buy
Ticket Price from Ueno to Narita Airport
Keisei Ticket pricing information at the Keisei Ueno Station going to Narita Airport

Keisei Skyliner Ticket Prices

  • Regular ¥2,570 one way regular adult price (half the price for kids)
  • Special discounted foreigner rates are as follows:
    • One-way – ¥2,300 (adult), ¥1,150 (child)
    • Round trip – ¥4,480 (adult), ¥2,240 (child)
  • Check here for more info on tickets and how to buy

The N’EX tickers are a little bit more expensive probably due to the fact that the destinations it servss are much farther away from the airport.

Narita Express versus Keisei Skyliner: The Experience

This is probably the last thing of your concerns when comparing between the two. Both the Narita Express and the Keisei Skyliner are almost identical in terms of comfort, safety, efficiency, and functionality.

Inside Narita Express Train
On-board the Narita Express. It’s so spacious and quiet inside.

Both have spacious seats with power outlets and free WiFi on-board, as well as spacious storage areas for your bags and luggages, and they both have clean and spacious lavatories as well.

The entire journey is equally pleasant for both, with large windows offering sweeping views of the city and the countryside.

Inside the Keisei Skyliner train
On-board the Keisei Skyliner, which is equally calm and comfortable.

Probably the only noticeable difference aside from the obvious style of the train and the color theme? Though I personally like the design of the Narita Express more which is very subjective and is still subject to debate (for me it’s iconic), the Keisei Skyliner has vending machines inside the train cabins while the Narita Express does not. So I guess it’s fair enough to say that the Keisei Skyliner wins on the “experience” front. 🙂

Do you have any questions, or have any tips to share on deciding between the Narita Express and the Keisei Skyliner? Feel free to comment down below and I’ll get back to you the soonest! 🙂

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