On my most recent trip to Manila, I connected through Narita, Japan – the Asian hub for Delta Airlines and world SkyGate for passengers to connect to other destinations in Asia. Traveling internationally is one of the most rewarding experiences which allows you to see first-hand the culture, the people and the history of many countries, however no matter how much you plan, travel is uncertain. Flight delays, cancellations and misconnections can often time lead to frustrations, anxiety and worse a layover not planned in a country you may not be familiar with.
As I travelled to Manila, it became evident on my international segment that I would miss my connection and would have to stay overnight in Narita, Japan. For most travelers this can be overwhelming and stressful, however Narita airport is a wonderful airport with many facilities available to travelers. Here are a few tips to prepare yourself in case you find yourself on an extended stay in Narita, without breaking your wallet.
Narita Airport is made up of three terminals and all are accessible by a free shuttle bus on the lower floor once you arrive. Finding your way is easily marked by numbered signs once you exit the terminal, for instance if you arrived in Terminal 1 (Oneworld Alliance) you can proceed to Bus Stop 16, where shuttle buses run every 20 minutes – travel time is about 5 minutes. Terminal 2 is comprised of Star Alliance carriers like JAL, All Nippon Airways, Delta and Lufthansa.
One of the best things to do in Japan is the shopping! Like most international airports, big brand names fill the concourse with beautiful displays and high-end fashion; however, there are more retail stores throughout the terminal where you can find gifts, souvenirs and other goods that you may not find elsewhere. One of the best features that really stand out and which separates this airport is that the shopping area is outside of the security. If you are stuck and have to stay in Japan longer than expected, you can easily spend a few hours shopping which have stores for everyone. From specialty urban apparel stores like UNIQLO and DesignGraphicTees to more specifics like custom-made stationary sets and cultural stores that offer high quality sake – there is something for everyone. I always find myself shopping in the (find the brand that you lie to shop at). It is easily to find yourself adding more and more bags to your already packed suitcase.
Not only do you have lots of shopping available to you, the food in Narita airport is awesome. Unlike US airports, which are usually filled with chain restaurants and fast food places, you can find authentic Japanese cuisine all around the terminal. You do not need to go into the city to enjoy some of the local food such as ramen soup bowls, teriyaki chicken and of course sushi. Most of the restaurants are on the top level, right behind the check-in counters. You will need to go up the escalators and browse through the many selections. One of my favorite places to eat is Kineyamugimaru (located in Terminal 1 on the 5th floor) which has some of the best udon noodle soup I can remember. I always stop by and get some soup and of course a good cold mug of Kirin beer. If you really want to experience some amazing food, also check out ……………………
TRAVEL TIP #1 – To enjoy some of the best views at this airport, go to the top floor and find the Observation Deck, where you can go outside and see the planes land and take-off. This is one of my favorite places to go and relax while waiting for flights because of the view and the serenity of the area. One thing to keep in mind though, if you are a smoker, you cannot smoke anywhere. Throughout the terminals, inside and outside, you will find smoking lounges, which are designated for smoking. It is illegal to smoke in public areas.
Now if you are stuck overnight in Japan, you do not have to worry about trying to find a comfortable couch to sleep. There are many hotels close by the airport, which you can book directly at the airport. Do not waste your time trying to get online and booking online. It is usually cheaper to book a one-night stay at the Hotel Registration areas on the lower level by the arrival areas. They have negotiated rates for travelers and you can find a hotel for about $50 a night including Wi-Fi. For budget travelers, I would suggest trying Hotel Tobu or Hotel Nikko, which are about 5-10 minutes away and only, cost about $50 a night for a single traveler. Note: There is a big difference in price and the size of room when booking a single or double occupancy room. In addition, all the hotels have a free shuttle bus to and from the airport, just ask the information desk for the schedule of pick up times. Japanese people are very punctual, so the pick-up times are usually on time. In addition to hotels, there are also capsule rooms at the airport, which you can stay in. These rooms are like studio apartments with a bed and access to a shower and bathroom.
Now if you are traveling internationally, it is safe to say that you probably have large suitcases with you and it can be very strenuous carrying them around the terminal.
TRAVEL TIP #2 – Find the luggage storage areas which is a paid a service to store your bags while you go around and explore the airport. They have luggage lockers which you can store one to two luggage for about $5 for 3 hours. You may not want to spend the money, however think about this what is $5 dollars when thinking about how annoying it is to lug around your bags and then to carefully watch them at all times. Do yourself a favor and just throw down some money.
Now if you find yourself adventurous, traveling to Tokyo is only 26 minutes away by high-speed train. This is really a great adventure and is really a great experience. Go downstairs and find the many trains, which are easily accessible for a one-day pass. You can travel throughout Japan on these high-speed trains and make the better of your one night.
TRAVEL TIP # 3 – Make sure to take advantage of the FREE WIFI. The internet in Narita is high speed and you can stream videos and check your Facebook to let your friends and family know you are safe. Remember to preload you phone with apps such as VIBER, Vonage and even use Facebook to call using their VOIP service.