Getting there & away
Amazingly well connected, Hong Kong’s international sea, air, road and rail links make getting there and away easy and largely stress free. Equally, its excellent infrastructure makes it a breeze to get around within the Special Administrative Region (SAR), whether by bus, taxi, ferry, tram or train. Flights, tours and rail tickets can be booked online at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel_services.
Regularly scheduled ferries link the China ferry terminal (33 Canton Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui) in Kowloon and/or the Macau ferry pier (200 Connaught Rd, Sheung Wan) on Hong Kong Island with a string of towns and cities on the Pearl River Delta – but not central Guangzhou or Shenzhen.
CMSE Passenger Transport (2858 0909) runs some seven Jetcats (day/night sailing $110/145, 50 minutes) that link Hong Kong with Shekou (a port about 20km west of Shenzhen town and easily accessible by bus or taxi to the town centre) from 7.45am to 9pm daily. One of these (1.30pm) leaves from the China ferry terminal in Kowloon, while the rest (7.45am to 8.30pm) go from the Macau ferry pier on Hong Kong Island. Return sailings from Shekou are from 7.45am to 9pm.
Zhuhai can also be reached from Hong Kong on seven ferries a day ($178, 70 minutes) from the China ferry terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui (from 7.30am to 5.45pm) and on the same number from the Macau ferry pier in Sheung Wan (8.40am to 9.30pm) on ferries operated by the Chu Kong Passenger Transportation Company (2858 3876; www.cksp.com.hk). The 14 return sailings from Zhuhai ($175) run between 8am and 9.30pm.
Chu Kong also has ferries from the China ferry terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui to a number of other ports in southern Guangdong province, including Shunde ($195/$220/$240 for G Class/F Class/VIP Class, 115 minutes, six sailings between 7.30am and 6pm) and Zhongshan ($195/$225/$245 for G Class/F Class/VIP Class, 90 minutes, eight or nine sailings from 7.30am to 8pm).
Ferries run by Expert Fortune (2375 0688, 2517 3494) link the China ferry terminal with Nansha ($160/$210/$260 for Standard/First Class/VIP, five sailings daily) between 8am and 3.50pm, with return sailings ($140/$195/$245 for Standard/First Class/VIP) between 9.30am and 5.30pm. One daily ferry departs from the Macau ferry pier at 11.30am.
You can reach virtually any major destination in neighbouring Guangdong province by bus from Hong Kong. Mainland destinations and one-way fares from Hong Kong include Dongguan ($100), Foshan ($100), Guangzhou ($60 to $90), Huizhou ($100), Kaiping ($120 to $150), Shantou ($120 to $200), Shenzhen’s Huangtian airport ($90 to $160), Xiamen ($310 to $348) and Zhongshan ($100).
Buses are run by a multitude of transport companies and depart from locations around the territory; the list that follows is only a sampling. Schedules vary enormously according to carrier and place, but buses leave throughout the day and departures are frequent.
CTS Express Coach (2764 9803, 2365 0118; ctsbus.hkcts.com) Buses depart from locations throughout Hong Kong, including the CTS Wan Chai branch (2832 3888; Southern Centre, 130 Hennessy Rd) on Hong Kong Island and from just south of the CTS Mong Kok branch (2789 5888; 62-74 Sai Yee St) in Kowloon.
Eternal East Cross Border Coach (3412 6677, 3760 0888; 13th fl, Kai Seng Commercial Centre, 4-6 Hankow Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui; 7am-8pm) Buses leave from just outside the Hang Seng Bank next door.
Motor Transport Company of Guangdong and Hong Kong (GDHK; 2317 7900; www.gdhkmtc.com) Buses bound for destinations throughout Guangdong leave from the Cross-Border Coach Terminus (2317 7900; Ground fl, Hong Kong Scout Centre, 8 Austin Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui; 6.30am-7pm), which is entered from Scout Path.
Trans-Island Chinalink (2336 1111; www.trans-island.com.hk) Buses depart from Prince Edward MTR next to the Metropark Hotel. Cars and vans leave from Portland St opposite the Hotel Concourse Hong Kong.
In addition, at Chek Lap Kok buses run by China Travel Tours Transportation Services HK Ltd (2261 2472, 2261 2147; ctsbus.hkcts.com), Eternal East Cross Border Coach (2261 0176) and Trans-Island (%2261 0296; www.trans-island.com.hk) link Hong Kong International Airport with many points in southern China, including Dongguan ($200 to $230), Foshan ($250), Guangzhou ($250) and Shenzhen ($150 to $180).
You can now book cross-border train tickets online via the website of MTR (2947 7888; www.it3.mtr.com.hk). You have to sign up, but it’s a useful service. Reaching Shenzhen is a breeze. Just board the MTR East Rail at East Tsim Sha Tsui station (1st/2nd class $73/36.50) or at any other MTR East Rail station along the way (such as Hung Hom, Kowloon Tong or Sha Tin) and ride it to Lo Wu; China is a couple of hundred metres away. The first train to Lo Wu leaves East Tsim Sha Tsui station at 5.28am, the last at 11.05pm, and the trip takes about 48 minutes.
The most comfortable way to reach Guangzhou by land is via the Kowloon–Guangzhou express train (usually via Dongguan), which covers the 182km route in approximately 1¾ hours. High-speed intercity trains leave Hung Hom station for Guangzhou East train station 12 times a day between 7.25am and 7.24pm, returning from that station the same number of times from 8.19am to 9.32pm. One-way tickets cost $230/190 in 1st/2nd class for adults and $115/95 for children aged five to nine. Adults/children are allowed one piece of luggage, weighing up to 20/10kg. Additional bags cost $3.90 per 5kg.
There are also direct rail links between Hung Hom and both Shanghai and Beijing. Trains to Beijing West train station (hard/soft sleeper from $574/934, 24 hours) depart on alternate days at 3.15pm and travel via Guangzhou East, Changsha and Wuhan, arriving at 2.51pm the following day. Trains to Shanghai (hard/soft sleeper from $508/825, 20 hours) also depart on alternate days at 3.15pm and pass through Guangzhou East and Hangzhou East stations, arriving at 11.10am the following day.
There is one daily departure to Zhaoqing (adult/child $235/117.50) via Dongguan, Guangzhou East and Foshan at 10.42am, arriving in Zhaoqing at 2.29pm. The train departs Zhaoqing at 3.10pm, reaching Hung Hom at 6.49pm.
Immigration formalities at Hung Hom are completed before boarding; you won’t get on the train without a visa for China. Passengers are required to arrive at the station 45 minutes before departure. To reach Hung Hom station from Tsim Sha Tsui by public transport, take the MTR East Rail for one stop, bus 5C from the Star Ferry pier, or the green minibus 6 or 8 from Hankow Rd.
One-way and return tickets can be booked 60 days in advance through CTS, including at CTS Hung Hom station branch (2334 9333; 6.30am-8pm) and at MTR East Rail stations in Hung Hom, Mong Kok, Kowloon Tong and Sha Tin. Tickets booked with a credit card via the Tele-Ticketing Hotline (2947 7888) must be collected at least one hour before departure.
A cheaper but much less convenient option is to take the MTR East Rail train to Lo Wu (or to the Shenzhen Metro via Lok Ma Chau), cross through immigration into Shenzhen and catch a local train from there to Guangzhou. There are frequent high-speed trains (RMB75 to RMB101, 60 to 90 minutes) throughout the day.
The Airport Express line of the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is the fastest – and most expensive – way to get to and from Hong Kong International Airport. A gaggle of much cheaper buses connects the airport with Lantau, the New Territories, Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.
Airport Express (AEL; 2881 8888; www.mtr.com.hk) has trains departing from Hong Kong station in Central every 10 to 12 minutes from 5.50am to 12.48am, calling at Kowloon and Tsing Yi stations before arriving at Airport station. The last train leaves the airport for all three stations at 12.48am. Running at speeds of up to 135km/h, trains make the journey from Central/Kowloon/Tsing Yi in only 23/20/12 minutes.
From Central/Kowloon/Tsing Yi one-way adult fares are $100/90/60, with children three to 11 years paying half-fare. Adult return fares, valid for a month, are $180/160/110. A same-day return is equivalent to a one-way fare.
Airport Express has two shuttle buses on Hong Kong Island (H1 and H2) and five in Kowloon (K1 to K5), with free transfers for passengers between Hong Kong and Kowloon stations and major hotels. The buses run every 12 to 24 minutes between 6.20am and 11.10pm. Schedules and routes are available at Airport Express and MTR stations and on the Airport Express website.
High-speed ferries run by Fortune Ferry Co (2994 8155; www.fortuneferry.com.hk) link Tung Chung New Development ferry pier opposite the airport (and accessible from the terminal on bus S56) with Tuen Mun in the New Territories. Ferries depart from Tuen Mun between 7am and 7pm; the first ferry from Tung Chung pier leaves at 7.30am and the last at 7.30pm and the journey takes 30 minutes (one way $18).
A fast ferry service called the Skypier (2307 0880) links Hong Kong airport with five Pearl River Delta destinations: Shekou near Shenzhen, Shenzhen Fuyong, Humen in Dongguan, Zhongshan and Macau. At the time of writing the Turbojet service linking Hong Kong International with Shenzhen Airport was suspended. For updates call the hotline (2859 3333).
One of the companies operating from the Skypier is Turbojet Sea Express (2859 3333; www.turbojetseaexpress.com.hk), sailing six to eight times daily to Macau (adult/child weekdays $134/123, weekends $146/131).
Another operator, Chu Kong Passenger Transportation Company (2858 3876; www.cksp.com.hk), sails 13 times daily to Shenzhen Shekou ($220/$240 Economy Class/First Class) and six times daily to Shenzhen Fuyong ($295/$325/$355 Economy Class/First Class/VIP Room).
The service enables travellers to board ferries directly without clearing Hong Kong customs and immigration. Book a ticket prior to boarding from the ticketing desks located in the transfer area on Arrivals Level 5 close to the immigration counters. An air-side bus then takes you to the ferry terminal. Ferries to Humen depart five times daily and take an hour ($290/340/390), while ferries to Zhuhai depart three times daily and take 50 minutes ($260/315/345). Once a day, a ferry sails to Zhongshan, taking one hour ($250/280/300).
Most major areas of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, the New Territories and Lantau are connected to the airport by buses, of which there is a huge choice. The buses are run by quite a few different companies.
The most useful for travellers are the Citybus ‘airbuses’ A11 ($40) and A12 ($45), which go to or near the major hotel and guesthouse areas on Hong Kong Island, and the A21 ($33), which serves similar areas in Kowloon. These buses have plenty of room for luggage, and announcements are usually made in English, Cantonese and Mandarin notifying passengers of hotels at each stop. But they are also the most expensive; there are cheaper options, such as taking ‘external’ bus E11 ($21) to Hong Kong Island or ‘shuttle’ bus S1 ($3.50) to Tung Chung and then the MTR to Kowloon or Central. There are also quite a few night buses (designated ‘N’) costing from $20.90 to $31.
Bus drivers in Hong Kong do not give change, but it is available at the ground transportation centre at the airport, as are Octopus cards. Normal returns are double the one-way fare. Unless otherwise stated, children aged between three and 11 and seniors over 65 pay half-fare.
Some of the New Territories buses terminate at MTR stations, from where you can reach destinations in Kowloon and on Hong Kong Island at a lower cost than the more direct buses. You can also reach Shenzhen and other points in southern China directly from the airport.
The following lists give the bus numbers, service providers, routes, one-way fares and frequencies for the airport buses most useful for visitors. For full route details see www.citybus.com.hk.
Buses to Hong Kong Island:
A11 (Citybus) Sheung Wan, Central, Admiralty, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay, North Point Ferry pier; $40; every 15 to 30 minutes from 6.10am to midnight.
A12 (Citybus) Tsing Ma, Kowloon Station, Wan Chai, North Point, Quarry Bay, Sai Wan Ho, Shau Kei Wan, Chai Wan, Siu Sai Wan; $45; every 20 to 30 minutes from 6am to 12.10am.
E11 (Citybus) Tung Chung, Tsing Ma, Kowloon Station, Sheung Wan, Central, Admiralty, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay, Tin Hau MTR; $21; every 15 to 20 minutes from 5.20am to midnight.
N11 (Citybus) Same routing as E11; $31; every 30 minutes from 12.50am to 4.50am.
Buses to Kowloon:
A21 (Citybus) Sham Shui Po, Mong Kok, Yau Ma Tei, Jordan, Tsim Sha Tsui MTR, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Hung Hom KCR; $33; every 10 to 15 minutes from 6am to midnight.
N21 (Citybus) Tung Chung, Mei Foo Sun Chuen, Lai Chi Kok MTR, Mong Kok, Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry pier; $23; every 20 minutes from 12.20am to 5am.
Buses to Lantau:
A35 (New Lantao) Tong Fuk village, Mui Wo; $14 ($23 on Sunday and public holidays); every 40 to 60 minutes from 6.30am to 12.25am.
N35 (New Lantao) Same routing as A35; $20 ($30 on Sunday and public holidays); departures at 1.30am and 4am.
S1 (Citybus) Tung Chung MTR; $3.50; every six to 10 minutes from 5.30am to midnight.
S56 (Citybus) Tung Chung New Development pier (ferries to/from Tuen Mun); $3.50; every 30 minutes from 9am to 10.40pm.
Buses to the New Territories:
A31 (KMB) Tsing Yi, Kwai Chung, Tsuen Wan MTR; $17.80; every 15 to 20 minutes from 6am to midnight.
N31 (KMB) Same routing as A31; $20.90; every 20 to 30 minutes from 12.30am to 5.05am.
Hong Kong’s importance as an international hub for China and much of East and Southeast Asia ensures excellent international air connections, and competition keeps the fares relatively low to most places – except China.
A proliferation of budget airlines in recent years has only increased competition and downward pressure on many shorter-haul fares in particular.
Tickets are normally issued the day after booking, but you can usually pick up really cheap tickets (actually group fares) at the airport from the ‘tour leader’ just before the flight. Check these tickets carefully as there may be errors (eg the return portion of the ticket being valid for only 60 days from when you paid for a ticket valid for six months).
You can generally get a good idea of what fares are available at the moment by looking in the classified section of the South China Morning Post. Otherwise try any of the following websites:
Bargain Holidays (www.bargainholidays.com)
Last Minute (www.lastminute.com)
You’ll find travel agencies everywhere in Hong Kong, but the following are among the most reliable and offer the best deals on air tickets:
Concorde Travel (2526 3391; www.concorde-travel.com; 1st fl, Galuxe Bldg, 8-10 On Lan St, Central; h9am-5.30pm Mon-Fri, 9am-1pm Sat) This is a long-established and highly dependable agency owned and operated by expats.
Phoenix Services Agency (2722 7378; Room 1404, 14th fl, Austin Tower, 22-26 Austin Ave, Tsim Sha Tsui; h9am-6pm Mon-Fri, 9am-4pm Sat) Phoenix is one of the best places in Hong Kong to buy air tickets, get China visas and seek travel advice. It is also the agent for student and discount group STA Travel in Hong Kong.
Traveller Services (2375 2222; www.taketraveller.com; 1813 Miramar Tower, 132 Nathan Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui; h9am-6pm Mon-Fri, 9am-1pm Sat) Very reliable for good-value air tickets.
More than 70 international airlines operate between Hong Kong International Airport and some 130 destinations around the world. You can check flight schedules and real-time flight information for both Macau and Hong Kong airports at www.hktimetable.com.
Among the major airlines serving Hong Kong are the following:
British Airways (BA; 2822 9000; 24th fl, Jardine House, 1 Connaught Pl, Central)
China Eastern (MU; 2861 1898;www.ce-air.com; Unit B, 31st fl, United Centre, 95 Queensway)
China Southern Airlines (CZ; 2929 5033; www.cs-air.com; Unit B1, 9th fl, United Centre, 95 Queensway)
Dragonair (KA; 3193 3888; www.dragonair.com/hk; Suite 1808, 18th fl, Tower 6, The Gateway, Harbour City,9 Canton Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui)
Northwest Airlines (NW; 2810 4288; www.nwa.com/hk)
Qantas Airways (QF; 2822 9000; www.qantas.com.au; 24th fl, Jardine House, 1 Connaught Pl, Central)
Singapore Airlines (SQ; 2520 2233; www.singaporeair.com.hk; 17th fl, United Centre, 95 Queensway, Admiralty)
Virgin Atlantic Airways (VS; 2532 6060; 8th fl, Alexandra House, 16-20 Chater Rd, Central)
Hong Kong International Airport (2181 0000; www.hkairport.com), which was the world’s largest civil engineering project when it opened in mid-1998, is on Chek Lap Kok, a largely man-made island off the northern coast of Lantau. It is connected to the mainland by several spans. Among them is the 2.2km-long Tsing Ma Bridge, which is one of the world’s largest suspension bridges and is capable of supporting both road and rail transport, including the 34km-long Airport Express high-speed train from Hong Kong Island to Chek Lap Kok via Kowloon.
The futuristic passenger terminal, designed by British architect Sir Norman Foster, consists of eight levels, with check-in on Level 7, departures on Level 6 and arrivals on Level 5. Outlets (including bank branches, moneychangers and five ATMs) total 150, and there are more than 30 cafes, restaurants and bars, and more than 280 check-in counters.
The Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB; 2508 1234; www.discoverhongkong.com) maintains information centres on level five. On the same level you’ll also find branches of China Travel Service (CTS; 2261 2472, 2261 2062; www.ctshk.com; 8.45am-10pm), which can issue China visas, and counters run by the Hong Kong Hotels Association (HKHA; 2383 8380, 2769 8822; www.hkha.org; 6am-midnight). Be advised that the HKHA deals with midrange and top-end hotels only and does not handle hostels, guesthouses or other budget accommodation.
If you are booked on a scheduled (but not a charter) flight and are taking the Airport Express to the airport, most airlines allow you to check in your bags and receive your boarding pass a day ahead of your flight at the in-town check-in counters at the Hong Kong Island or Kowloon Airport Express stations between 5.30am and 12.30am. You are required, however, to check yourself in at least 90 minutes before your flight. Some airlines, including Cathay Pacific Airways, China Airlines and Thai Airways, allow check-in a full day before your flight. See the airport’s website for details.
Hong Kong’s airport departure tax – $120 for everyone over the age of 12 – is always included in the price of the ticket. Those travelling to Macau by helicopter must pay the same amount.
Competition (of sorts) is driving prices down slightly, but expect to pay a premium to fly between Hong Kong and China as the government regulates the prices. Depending on the season, seats can be difficult to find due to the enormous volume of business travellers and Chinese tourists, so book well in advance. Destinations and sample adult return fares valid for a year from Hong Kong are Beijing ($4290), Chengdu ($4650), Kunming ($2840) and Shanghai ($3060), although you should be able to find better deals. One-way fares are a bit more than half the return price.
You should be able to do better than that, however, on both scheduled and charter flights, especially in summer. If you plan to fly to a destination in China from Hong Kong, you can save at least 30% on the above fares by heading for Shenzhen by bus or ferry and boarding the aircraft at Huangtian airport there.