How to get to Hong Kong
Hong Kong is China’s best-served international gateway and some of the cheapest China flights you’ll find from North America, Europe and Australasia head here. The airport is also linked to most major cities and tourist destinations on the mainland, although you’ll find cheaper onward flights into China from Shenzhen, which is just an hour over the border by boat or bus.
If you want to look for the cheapest details, some online booking agents are worth checking out.
Hong Kong Airport
The award-winning airport on Chek Lap Kok, north of Lantau Island is said to be the largest covered space in the world, and after a few initial hiccups, it has proved to be a phenomenal success and remains one of the world’s busiest airports. The airport was designed by the British architect, Sir Norman Foster (who is also responsible for the HSBC Headquarters on Hong Kong Island) and the sweeping curves of its façade hold a light and airy interior – the antithesis of the crowded and gloomy airports of yesteryear.
Relocating the airport here involved not only putting together the enormous edifice of the terminal itself, but the leveling of an entire island and the construction of three bridges, including the impressive Tsing Ma Suspension Bridge.
Inside the airport, the giant terminal has enough amenities and facilities to make it a small city unto itself. Along with banks, restaurants, shops, Internet cafés, foot massage parlors and phone recharging facilities, there are helpful and well-stocked tourist offices between customs and the arrivals hall, which are open from . All passengers leaving Hong Kong by air must pay a departure tax of HK$120, which is usually included in the flight ticket price.
Getting into Hong Kong
There are three main ways of getting from the airport into town – by the airport express train, bus or taxi. The express is the quickest option and my favorite way to get to town, but buses are cheaper, at around HK$30-45, though slower, taking around an hour to reach downtown. While taxis will take you from door to door, they are not much quicker than the bus and they’re expensive, costing around HK$280 to Kowloon or HK$340 to Central.
This speedy service takes just 23 minutes from the airport to Central and costs HK$100 to Central or HK$90 to Kowloon. If you’re going to be using a lot of public transport and are taking the Airport Express, it makes sense to buy a tourist version of Hong Kong’s stored value Octopus card. There are free shuttle buses every 15 to 25 minutes (daily ) from a number of hotels around both Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, which will take you to the nearest station to catch the airport express.
In Hong Kong Island, route #H1 stops at the Island Shangri-La, Pacific Place and the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, while route #H2 goes to the Excelsior in Causeway Bay. There are five shuttle bus routes on Kowloon and stops include Hung Hom Kowloon-Canton Railway (KCR) Station, Jordan Mass Transit Railway (MTR) Station, the BP International Hotel, the Holiday Inn Golden Mile, the Intercontinental and the Peninsula.
Getting to China from the Airport
If you’re heading straight into China and don’t want to go into Hong Kong, you can arrange both visas and onward transport at the airport. The airport China Travel Service (CTS ;tel. 00852-2261-2472; daily ) is located at counter A4 in the arrivals hall and should be able to get you a visa within a few hours.
But the greater cost of getting a visa from the airport and the fact you’ll have to sit around here for half a day makes it infinitely preferable to head into Hong Kong, pay less and do some sightseeing or shopping while you wait.
In addition to far-flung Chinese cities served by air from Hong Kong, there are also land and water options for closer mainland destinations. Several companies, including CTS at counter A10 in the arrivals hall (same telephone number as above) and E.E. Busat counter A8 (tel. 00852-2261-0176) operate buses from the airport to Shenzhen (40 mins, HK$100-120) and Guangzhou (4 hrs, HK$250).
There are also fast boats from the airport’s Skypier to Fuyong (for Shenzhen airport; 40 mins, HK$230) and Shekou (for Shenzhen; 40 mins, HK$200) and Macau (45 mins, HK$180) operated by Turbojet (www.turbojetseaexpress.com.hk ), which avoid Hong Kong immigration. You can buy boat tickets from a counter just before immigration in arrivals and if you have checked baggage it will be retrieved for you and transferred to the boat.
Mainland destinations served by flights from Hong Kong
Beijing (frequent, 3 hrs 40 mins); Chongqing (5 daily, 1 hr 50 mins); Guangzhou (5 daily, 40 mins); Guilin (3 daily, 1 hr 10 mins); Hangzhou (12 daily, 2 hrs); Huangshan (1 daily, 1 hr 50 mins); Shanghai (11 daily, 3 hrs); Xi’an (daily, 2 hrs 30 mins).
HelicopterFor those with money to burn or no time to spare, Heli-express has flights to Macau that leave from the Macau Ferry Terminal on Hong Kong Island. Flights on the 12-seater copters take just 16 minutes and offer great views in clear weather, but cost a whopping HK$1,700/1,800 (off-peak/peak).
There are flights every 30 minutes between and and you need to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to departure. You can buy tickets at the Heli-express office at Room 1603, 6F, China Merchants Tower, 200 Connaught Road in Central (tel. 00852-2108-9898, http://www.skyshuttlehk.com/ ; Mon-Fri , Sat ).
Hong Kong is a major stopping off point for cruise liners in this part of the world, but there are also regular boat services from Macau, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. There are two principal docks, the China Ferry Terminal in Tsimshatsui and the Macau Ferry Terminal in the Shun Tak Centre on Hong Kong Island, although there are also services to Macau and Shenzhen from the Skypier near the airport. On arrival at either end, you’ll have to clear customs and immigration.
The easiest way to get to or from the China Ferry Terminal is to take a taxi, but it is also accessible by bus #14 in Kowloon. Macau Ferry Terminal on Hong Kong Island is close to Sheung Wan MTR station.
Boats are operated by two principal carriers, Turbojet and First Ferry, but CKS has two daily boats to Guangzhou (2 hrs 30 mins, HK$190) that leave from the China Ferry Terminal. Turbojet (www.turbojet.com.hk) offers speedy jetfoils from both terminals.
The one-hour trip to Macau from the Macau Ferry Terminal leaves every 15 minutes between and , with a few services running through the night. Tickets cost HK$138 for economy class and HK$240 for super class, which offers more comfortable seating and includes a newspaper, drink and snack. Turbojet also operates seven services a day to Fuyong (for Shenzhen; 1 hr) that leave from the China Ferry Terminal.
First Ferry (tel. 00852-2131-8181, www.nwff.com.hk) runs slightly slower catamaran services for HK$137 (1 hr 10 mins) to Macau every 30 minutes from both the China Ferry Terminal on Tsimshatsui’s Canton Road and the Macau Ferry Terminal.
Hong Kong’s trains serve three regions on the mainland. There are intercity passenger services to the Pearl River Delta (Shenzhen and Guangzhou), and long distance lines to Beijing and Shanghai. The principal station is at Kowloon’s Hung Hom, and this is the only station that serves mainland destinations, but you can buy tickets at Mongkok and Kowloon Tong stations or online (www.kcrc.com).
The easiest way to get to Hung Hom is by taxi, though if you’re in the south of Kowloon the KCR from Tsimshatsui East runs there, as does bus #8 from the Star Ferry terminal.
Destinations, frequencies & durations
Beijing (1 every other day, 24 hrs, HK$601/934 hard-sleeper/soft-sleeper); Guangzhou (12 daily, 1 hr 45 min, HK$145); Shanghai (1 every other day, 24 hrs 30 min, HK$530/825 hard-sleeper/soft-sleeper); Shenzhen (frequent, 40 min, HK$34).
Various companies run buses from Hong Kong to Pearl River Delta destinations, including Shenzhen and Guangzhou. For services to Guangzhou you’ll have to get off the bus at the border and proceed on foot through immigration and customs with your bags, then you change buses. You’ll be labeled with a sticker which will help the staff on the other side of the border get you to the right bus.
Both E.E. Bus and China Travel Service run services to Shenzhen (1 hr, HK$35-50) and Guangzhou (4hr, HK$100). E.E buses leave from outside the BP International Hotel on Austin Road and from the Concourse by Prince Edward MTR station. CTS also use the Concourse, but has other services from the Coliseum by Hung Hom KCR Station, CTS House on Connaught Road and the MTR Park Hotel on Tung LoWan Road in CausewayBay. The same companies also run buses to Shenzhen and Guangzhou from the airport.
How to get around
Hong Kong travel guide homepage