You arrive to Narita airport and miss your connecting flight, thought it would take you more than planned to get to the airport and arrived 5 hours before needed or, for some reason, the only available connection included a few hours at Narita…
Waiting at an airport can be boring so here you have a lot of tested options to enjoy your time at Narita airport, ordered by the free time available:
- For those who have 2 hours or less
- For those who have up to 4 hours at Narita
- For those with up to 6 hours
- For those with more than 6 hours
1. For those with 2 hours or less at the airport
2 hours between flights is not a long layover: if your first flight arrives late you will just run through the airport to your next door. And if you have to change to a different terminal building, running faster.
My recommendation? Use the free wifi from Narita airport. It is not encrypted but you also have a safer pay service with wireless LAN. There are also computers where you can connect to the Internet (10 minutes for 100 yen, but you need to bring japanese cash for that.)
Once you arrive to your next door, if you have some spare time, the airport has lots of shops, from the traditional airport shops like Loewe and Ferragamo, to all sort of Japanese sweets and weird stuff. Take your time to explore the japanese goodies and buy the weird Kit Kats, mochis or even sake. There are also duty-free and pharmacies, so it’s also a great place for cosmetics.
You will find USB outlets all around and ATMs (the ones from Seven-Eleven are work better with international cards). And if your next gate is near terminal 1 or terminal 2, you will also find couches you can sleep on or relax.
2. If you have up to 4 hours between flights at Narita
When you have more than 2 hours and less than 4 you can stay at the boarding area, but I would “risk” it a bit to the outer area, because you will find more interesting options. The bad side is that you will have to go through the security controls (liquids and those things) and most probably passports again (count at least 20 minutes and up to 1 hour when you arrive to the country).
If you don’t want to step out of the boarding area, you can add to the ones above:
- Experimenting a bit of japanese culture at the Japanese Culture Corner. They change the program each month, but you will find activities at both terminals and they include things like dressing a yukata or like a samurai, a tea ceremony or similar. But, most of them happen in the evening.
- Learn more about traditional japanese theatre at the Kabuki Gate in Terminal 1. It won’t take more than 10 minutes to see this expo that explains what kabuki is and how it is connected with Narita city. Plus, you can take your own selfie with the Kumadori make up on (with Augmented Reality) and they send it to your email.
- Take a shower or sleep a bit. Taking a shower for 30 minutes will cost you about 7€ (including towel and amenities) and taking a nap for one hour about 13€. You can book it online, but these rooms won’t be available to spend the night (it wouldn’t be cost-effective either), you have a capsule hotel for that at the airport and a great number of hotels near Narita, most of them with a free transfer.
- Enjoy the TravelLounge of the T1 or the Rassurants at the T2: illimited food and drinks, local press, wifi for about 10€ and you can go in and out as you want. Tha bad side is that they close by 9:30 PM, so it is better for early connecting flights, alcohol is pay and you already have free wifi outside.
- Get a feet massage at the Raffine, which accepts both yen and dollars and have great reviews online.
But if you take a step out of the boarding area, you will also find:
- Traditional dances / bonsai exhibitions / etc. the Japanese Culture program has some more activities outside.
- Eat Japan: sushi, tonkatsu, ramen, udon… you can it them all at the airport. The outer area of the airport (between the check-in desks) has all sorts of restaurants (you can count with about 10 japanese restaurants at the T1 alone, plus Starbucks, McDonald’s, Subway…)
- Buying traditional souvenirs, sweets, books… The Airport Mall has a few more options than the inner area. Here you will find from small shops Uniqlo to Muji shops, to craft shops with some of the most popular japanese items.
- See planes as they come and go from the Observation Decks at the airport terraces. There are seats and tables available and you will see both people hanging out there and people taking pictures.
- Buy at a real konbini. There is a Lawson next to the Observation Deck at T1 and one Family Mart next to the JR train station. They are pretty basic but they are sure an interesting japanese experience with mostly everything you will find at a konbini in any japanese town.
- Spend your yen at the gashapon machines (those machines that give you surprise gifts inside a big ball), you will find them, for example next to the Observation deck.
- Buying books at Tsutaya, which also has some English mags (The Economist, HBR and the like.)
- Fix your luggage or your shoes, make a copy of your keys… there are plenty of services around.
But, take into account that you will need yen cash for the cheaper things and credit cars for all the rest. 7-eleven ATMs will work with international cards, but you can also exchange at different spots inside and outside the boarding area.
Just remember that liquid restrictions are the same as in other airports, so you cannot go out with a whisky bottle, nor in with a sake bottle. So don’t buy outside what can’t go through security control.
3. For those that have up to 6 hours between connecting flights
You can do all the above, but also heading outside the airport (not only outside the boarding area.)
What would be the best options to explore around the airport?
- Go shopping to AEON shopping mall. I know, you already have plenty of shops at the airport ant the mall is not an incredible shopping mall (just a few shops, a gym and a big supermarket) but you will find here some of the most interesting (and fun) spots to shop in Japan. For example, a bigger Muij and Uniqlo, a Daiso (the 100-yen shop), BookOff, etc. And the supermarket is great when you are looking for something specific to bring home and cheaper than the airport (the supermarket). There is a direct bus from the airport to the Shopping Mall for about 250 yen and it takes about 20 minutes to get there. Just remember to take the schedule with you, timings change depending of the time of the day.
- VIsit Narita on your own. You can see the temples, Omotesando street, eat unagi… There is a direct train from the airport to the JR and Keisei stations at Narita. It takes about 10 minutes and costs 240-260 yen (both stations are next to the other and cost about the same, so you can choose depending on the schedule). There are also buses that take you there.
- Go shopping to the Shisui outlets. I haven’t been there (I’m not a great fan of outlets) but it’s a popular option for some travelers, so I’ve added them. You have a direct bus that goes there every 30 minutes and takes about 15 minutes to get there. It costs 250 yen to go there and you will find most international brands and a few japanese ones.
- Visit the MEGA Don Quijote store for funky gifts and best prices in things like the green tea kit kats. You will need to go to the Keisei Narita Station and then take Route 6 of the Chibakotsu Bus (about every 15 minutes)
- Relax in a Onsen (traditional japanese Spa).
- One of the most easy options is the Narita View Hotel, which has a free bus transfer and is only 20 minutes away from the airport. Access costs 1500 yen (towel included) if you are not staying at the hotel and they have open air onsen as well as inner one. But, they won’t let you in if you have a tattoo. Plus, from here you do have a free bus to Narita city and the AEON shopping center.
- There are more onsen in the area, such as Yamato-no-yu. You will need to take a train to ShimousaManzaki and then walk for about 20 minutes or go to Aijiki and then take a 5 minute taxi ride (around 1.500 – 2.000 yen). The pros are: they allow tattoos in, they don’t allow kids in and you can book private onsen rooms with open air bath where you can spend the whole day with your friends and family (plus using the public area.)
- Travel 150 years back in time to traditional Japan to open air museum Chiba Prefectural Boso no Mura Sakae. An EDO time village at which you can see traditional crafts and workshops. It closes on mondays and you need to take a bus from Narita city JR station to get there or you can book a tour that takes you there.
- Visit the Air Science Museum and it s plane observation deck. Technically the museum is next to the airport, but it isn’t easy to go there since there is only 5 buses a day to go there by bus. But if you catch it, it only takes 20 minutes and costs about 200 yen.
Tip: There is a transit program for layovers in Narita. They provide with free volunteer guides (the guide is free but you will have to pay for trains, tickets and whatever you spend on) that will take you to Narita and other spots. The guides can be booked at their website or go directly to the desk they have at their airport to see if they have any available.
Note: you will be needing cash in many of these places, as they won’t accept credit cards for payment. Plus, you will need to be able to legally entry Japan (not kidding, some people forget this…)
And if you don’t want to carry your hand luggage around, you will find lockers at the airport (pay).
4. For the longest layovers (or if you lost your flight or prefered to sleep at Narita before your flight)
You can do all the above, plus a few other ideas:
- Sleep at a capsule hotel: the 9 hours is another “typical Japanese thing to do” and you can suffer/enjoy it without leaving the airport. They have separate areas for men and women, showers, amenities, lockers for luggage, etc.
- Go down to Tokyo, even if it’s only to say that you’ve been there (you should keep it in your list for another trip, I must add). Tokyo is huge and going there and coming back takes at least 3 hours, so it is only worth if you have over 6 hours of layover in Narita. Just take into account that museums and temples close around 5:00 pm, so plan accordingly
- Book a half day or full day guided tour by bus. JR offer a few of them that you can book at their travel center in the airport. The morning one departs at 8:15 am from the airport and returns at 12:50 (aprox.). The evening one departs from the airport at 13:00 and comes back at 17:05 (aprox.) but they might be delayed depending on traffic.
- Take a private guided tour that picks you up at the airport, such as this one with sake tasting.