Narita Airport: getting there and what to expect

My Taiwan trip has officially begun. I've started writing this post thousands of feet above the ground... Actually there is a bit of turbulence right now. Thanks to the iPhone I don't have to worry much about spelling errors while typing this post out.

This is my first international vacation trip from Japan, and a few things are worth mentioning as I am in transit to my destination.

I took limited/express commuter rail (my cheapest option) the whole way from Koshigaya to the airport. The cheapest option took about an hour and 45 minutes, while taking the SkyAccess express train would have cost me about 2.5 times more and still would have involved 85-90 minutes of travel.

So why would someone choose SkyAccess? Well, you get a guaranteed, nice seat. The trip is smoother, and for anyone traveling anywhere along the Yamanote line, or transferring to trains heading out of Tokyo, there would be considerable time savings. I lucked out in that the Keisei Main Line which serves the airport also serves a station along my main line. Well, close - I had to make a quick transfer (three minute wait on the same platform) from local to express a few stations down the line.

Oddly enough, they check for ID when you get off the train at the airport. No big deal - just have your passport or alien registration card ready. There isn't a big security check at this point. I'm sure there's some reason for it.

The Narita Airport is big and can be confusing. Be sure you go to the correct terminal depending on your airline, then the correct floor for international vs domestic flights. However once you get moving there's a natural flow to the direction you travel. If you've flown before things won't be too different.

The real item of note is immigration. As a foreigner with an alien registration card, I need a special reentry permit before I leave. This is a little different from even a couple months ago. Now you fill out a small card at the airport and give it to the immigration officer. Note: fill this out before you get in line. They're available at the little tables next to the support columns.

Once you've passed security and customs (pretty quickly for me in an afternoon flight) there aren't too many eating options. You can buy plenty of perfume, liquor and tobacco duty-free though! And there are sure to be a few people you forgot to buy souvenirs for, and there's at least one shop for that. I found one with four favors of Kit Kat, including one I never had before. Sakura (cherry) flavor has eluded me for six months, but I had my first today. It was pretty good! But not as good as strawberry.

The airport is spacious and for the international terminal remarkably un-crowded. It's certainly a different feel from SFO or ATL, that's for sure.

Boarding then is pretty smooth, just like US airports.

And then you taxi the long way out to your runway and off you go!

Coming up next (probably), flying on Japan Airlines.

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