The first part of this post is about our personal experience with a long layover in Hong Kong and our video and Top 10 tips to make the most of your Hong Kong layover is at the end.
Have A Long Layover In Hong Kong?
When booking our flight to Da Nang, Vietnam we specifically chose a flight that gave us a long layover in Hong Kong. The best we could find was 8 hours and 30 minutes between flights.
Hong Kong Layover: Can I leave the airport?
Not only is it a big YES! But, it is also incredibly easy. Read on to see what we did with our 8.5 hours layover at Hong Kong International Airport.
If you consider the roughly 30 minutes it takes to get off the plane and out of the airport and the more or less 90 minutes we’d need to get through security in time to board our next flight, we had just about 6 hours to explore Hong Kong city!
This is the ambitious itinerary we planned for our Hong Kong layover:
- Take the Airport Express to Hong Kong Station
- Take the tram to The Peak.
- Visit Man Mo Temple
- Go on the Ferris Wheel
- Take the Star Ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui
- Enjoy the skyline
- See the Avenue of Stars and the Clock Tower
- Take the subway to Mong Kok
- Eat Dim Sum At Dim Dim Sum
- Explore the streets
- Take the subway to Kowloon station
- Airport Express back to Hong Kong International Airport
Sound great, right?
Too bad we failed to realize that after a 13 hours flight with a one year old in tow, we’s lack a bit of pep in our step getting off the airplane at Hong Kong international airport. In fact, with not being able to get some sleep during the journey, we were basically zombies. But we had a plan and we were going to stick to it, or try our best anyway.
It took us a bit longer to make our way to Immigration, as we had trouble finding an unoccupied family bathroom to change Bo’s diaper, get some fresh clothes clothes on him and feed him.
Once we managed to take care of that though, our next mission was to get some local currency. This part was easy. We spotted an ATM right away and withdrew some crisp Hong Kong Dollar bills.
Next we spotted a 7/11 to get a tourist Sim Card. This was also easy, and the sim card cost only $45 HKD (at the time of publishing this article) and gives you 500mb for 2 days. There was also another option for about $75 HKD that would last for 5 days.
While it was easy enough to get and install the card, I guess it takes a while to activate, because when we tried to add it to Uber, we didn’t receive the verification code until a while later.
How to get a Hong Kong layover visa?
The great thing about Hong Kong is that you don’t need to have a visa prepared before your journey. Just before you reach the immigration counter, they direct you to a table with pens and little papers to fill out with your personal information. At the counter, they take a copy of the paper and leave the rest in your passport.
Do not lose this. It’s your visa. Your passport does not get stamped and that little paper is your ticket out of Hong Kong.
How to get from Hong Kong Airport to Central Hong Kong or Kowloon?
Once you’ve cleared immigration, there’s plenty of signs pointing you to the airport express into the city. We paid $220 HKD for 2 return tickets and it is a comfortable 24 minute trip each way.
You can also grab a taxi or a bus, but the express is by far the fastest and easiest way in our opinion.
So, here’s what we ACTUALLY ended up doing during our layover in Hong Kong:
Since we couldn’t activate Uber right away, we decided to walk to Man Mo Temple – it was just over a km away. BIG MISTAKE. We couldn’t figure out how to cross the road, since it was not pedestrian friendly and didn’t realize there’s pedestrian bridges until we’ve struggled for way too long. We got extremely overwhelmed by the traffic and general craziness.
After a while we gave up on going to Man Mo Temple, AND going to the Peak, because we wasted too much time and the crankiness of no sleep coupled with a slightly fussy one year old AND a stroller filled with crap was just too much to handle lol.
We see signs pointing to the Star Ferry, so we decide to skip everything on this side of the river and go on the ferry! We get a little steamed bun from a cute shop and a Mango Iced Tea from Starbucks before boarding.
Once we arrive at Tsim Sha Tsui after the short, but fun little ferry ride, we see signs telling us that the Avenue of Stars is closed. Sad face. So, we see a cute polar bear setup and let Bo play a little bit instead.
We enjoy the view of Hong Kong’s skyline, forget about the Clock Tower, and end up strolling through Harbour City.
By this time it appears that sitting down to eat an early lunch would probably be our best bet and hopefully give us an energy (and morale) boost. Instead of trying to figure out the subway to take us to Mong Kok for Dim Dim Sum, we choose to walk to a closer Dim Dim Sum location (which ends up still being pretty far away).
We make it to Dim Dim Sum and manage to squeeze into a corner with all our crap. We order a bunch of the popular items on the menu and wait excitedly! Once the food arrives we both have a big question mark on our faces.
Westernized Dim Sum and authentic Dim Sum is not quite the same, so we’re slightly disappointed at what we thought would be the highlight of our quick visit to Hong Kong lol. It’s not that it was “bad”, it was just strange lol.
With our bellies full, we walk the streets back to Kowloon station slowly. We see lots of interesting and fun things a long the way and soak in the atmosphere (which is pretty smokey, because it appears that every other person smokes and there’s no escaping it).
Eventually we make it back to the airport, and had the expedition of a lifetime in search of bottled water before boarding our next flight to Da Nang!
So, here’s what we took away from this crazy little stop in Hong Kong:
Our original itinerary is probably possible if you are a solo traveller or a couple, but it is definitely too ambitious for a family with a small kid. In hindsight we would have left everything except our cameras and money at the airport luggage storing.
I don’t know what made us decide against it, but iff you are on the fence about it – JUST DO IT. Don’t try to carry your stuff in the city even if you think it’s light.
We had a 13 hour “overnight” flight to Hong Kong and couldn’t sleep, so not only was our timing off, we’re also not used to big cities. That definitely explains why we felt so overwhelmed!
We still thoroughly enjoyed seeing and being in the craziness and definitely plan to go back for a proper visit.
Top 10 Tips To Make The Most Of Your Layover in Hong Kong:
1. Be Rested
If you have a long flight before reaching Hong Kong, be sure to get some sleep on the plane. You’ll need to be as fresh and energized as possible for this bustling city.
Leave two hours for customs. (30 minutes on the way out and 90 minutes on the way back). Triple check the boarding time of your next flight and plan accordingly!
3. Travel To and From Hong Kong International Airport
Consider the 24 minutes into the city and 24 minutes back on the Airport Express.
Store any unnecessary luggage at the airport. You’ll want to be as lightweight as possible in the city!
5. Get Connected
Buy a Tourist Sim Card at 7/11 inside the airport. It’s very easy to find and setup. We paid $45 HKD for a 2 Day/500MB sim. There’s also a 5 day option for around $75 HKD.
6. Get some $$HKD
The quickest and easiest way to get foreign currency is to draw some from an ATM. There’s plenty all over the place once you get off the plane.
7. Local Transportation
Figure out your transportation in the city ahead of time. Whether it’s Uber or public transportation, make sure you know exactly how it works and exactly where you need to go!
ALLOW MORE TIME FOR EACH ACTIVITY THAN YOU ANTICIPATE. Also, remember to factor in the travel time between activities as well.
Don’t be overeager. If you have a long flight before reaching Hong Kong, be prepared the compromise on certain aspects of your plan. Have your 2-3 “must-see” items, but be willing to skip others if your miscalculated the time needed
10. Have Fun!!