Kyoto is famous for its classical Buddhist temples, imperial palaces, Shinto shrines, and traditional wooden houses. It used to be the capital of Japan and is one of the best places to get a feel for Japanese traditions from the iconic Edo Period.
The distance from Narita Airport to Kyoto is around 520 kilometers (323 miles). Although there are closer airports to Kyoto (such as Kansai International Airport) often it’s cheaper to take a flight to Narita as it’s the country’s busiest airport.
Narita Airport is 67 kilometers east of Tokyo so to get from Narita Airport to Kyoto it’s normally best to go via the capital first. With a JR Pass you can catch a Shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto and cover the distance in just over a couple of hours.
Alternatively you can catch a bus, fly by plane or drive. This guide will go through all the options explaining the prices and the durations of each of these ways of making the trip.
Narita Airport to Kyoto by train
To get to Kyoto from Narita Airport by train, the quickest route is via Tokyo. The Narita Express is the fastest way of getting into the capital, it only takes approximately an hour and it’s covered by your JR Pass (3,020 yen if you don’t have one).
The Narita Express either takes you to Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station depending on the time of your departure. Traveling via Shinagawa Station can be quicker as it’s a much smaller station than Tokyo (which saves you time when changing trains).
From Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station you can catch 3 types of Shinkansen bullet trains to Kyoto Station, on the Tokaido Shinkansen line: Nozomi, Hikari, and the Kodama. The Nozomi is marginally quicker than the the Hikari but isn’t covered by your JR Pass.
The Kodama is the slowest as it takes around 4 hours and stops at every station. If you have a JR Pass, the Hikari is the best one to take, it takes 2 hours 40 minutes, which is just 20 minutes slower than the Nozomi.
Narita Airport to Kyoto by bus
If you don’t have a JR Pass this is a cheap alternative. You can catch a shuttle bus from Narita Airport to Tokyo and it costs just 1,000 yen and takes around 1 hour 20 minutes. However, the journey can take longer depending on the traffic. You can then catch a Shinkansen to Kyoto.
There is also a long-distance bus, called the Nankai Express, that runs between Narita Airport and Kyoto overnight. It departs from Terminal 2 at 21:35 and from Terminal 1 at 21:40. The bus arrives at Kyoto Station at 6:25 in the morning. The bus costs 8,740 yen one-way as is run by the Nankai Bus Company.
It is a fantastic option if you’re not a light sleeper and it’s also fairly economical. Tickets are available on the day but to avoid disappointment it’s best to book in advance.
Taking a plane
From Narita Airport you can take a domestic flight to Kyoto’s neighboring city: Osaka. There are two airports there, Osaka Itami International Airport and Kansai International Airport. Itamis is closer to Kyoto but Kansai is busier and tends to offer cheaper options.
Every day there are 4 flights between Narita Airport and Osaka Itami Airport and the flight takes around 1 hour 20 minutes. If you’re flying from overseas you can often find discounts for domestic flights. It takes around an hour to get to Kyoto from Osaka Itami Airport.
Read more: How to get from Kansai Airport to Kyoto
Traveling by car
Finally, you can also drive between Narita Airport and Kyoto on the Chuo Expressway or the Tomei Expressway. It takes around 6 to 8 hours depending on the traffic.
The toll fees are expensive (around 10,000 yen) which on top of the cost of fuel and renting a car isn’t much of an economical option, besides being slower than the Shinkansen.