One of the most frequently asked questions we receive @ Next Stop Hong Kong is related with stop-over or layover itineraries in Hong Kong. Arriving in Hong Kong is actually very convenient and Immigration, Airport facilities as well as Customs are very well organized and optimized. Having this efficient environment plus the opportunity of stop-over options from different airline companies make it easy to opt for a stop-over in Hong Kong.
Since there are several airlines and travel agencies (including special sightseeing promotion deals) offering different stop-over options we thought it might not be a bad idea to provide you a general overview what you need to consider when doing a stop-over in Hong Kong. In addition, we would like to give some ideas and advise what you can do in and around Hong Kong within a few hours plus what you need to consider and to be aware of that you have an enjoyable stop-over time in Hong Kong.
Stop Over Time in Hong Kong – Minimum Time Requirement
Depending where you are coming from, which flight carrier you are flying with as well as how your connecting flight is scheduled, stop-over time can range from just a few hours (3-4 hours) to half a day (12 hours) or even complete days (24 hours or more). When you plan a stop-over you need to consider the variables of time as well as the location of the sight-seeing attractions you would like to visit. Below are some questions people have been asking us and/or you should ask yourself before planning a stop-over in Hong Kong.
Q: Is it worthwhile to use stop-over time in Hong Kong and get out of the Hong Kong International Airport to for sightseeing and/or shopping?
Clearing Immigration and Customs can take 30 – 45 minutes (depending on time and day). This estimate can be considered as an average “best-case scenario” (there have been times I cleared Immigration and Customs in roughly 20 minutes, but there have been times I have been waiting more than 90 minutes). Taking the Airport-Express to Central (Hong Kong Island) or the Kowloon side will take another 30 minutes for a single ride. Looking at these two time variables you already can see that if you have only a 2 – 3 hour stop-over in Hong Kong that it is NOT do-able, unless you would like to miss your flight.
In case you really have a 2 – 3 hours stop-over in Hong Kong we highly recommend taking a look around in the airport area. There are several options you can consider including shopping, dining, taking a spa treatment or simply sit down in a lounge and relax.
The time requirement for exiting and entering the airport plus traveling to/from the downtown area via the Airport Express can be estimated with 2.5 – 3 hours (round trip), but we recommend planning some buffer time. Taking this estimate as a basis you can consider to do some shopping or sightseeing when you have a stop-over for at least 5-6 hours. Deducting the travel and waiting time at Immigration will leave you with about 1.5 – 2 hours to enjoy Hong Kong. Please consider that in case your flight has been arriving with a delay that this will automatically shorten your stop-over time. Don’t forget you need to be at least 40-45 minute ahead of taking-off time at the gate for boarding.
An ideal stop-hour time would be 7 – 8+ hours. This would leave you enough time to enjoy some sightseeing places without worrying to much about catching the outbound flight as well as being too much in a rush.
Q: Do I need to go through Immigration and/or Customs?
Unless you are in Transit and stay inside the airport every passenger wishing to exit the airport needs to pass Immigration and Customs. Procedures are very easy and efficient, but keep in mind that there are certain Visa requirements depending which passport you hold (so double-check if you need a Visa to enter Hong Kong – European, US, UK, NZ and AUS passport holders don’t need a Visa. Simply present passport and get it stamped). First you have to clear Immigration. Behind the Immigration are the luggage belts which you usually don’t need to bother since your main luggage is kept by the airline company or already checked through to your final destination. Simply take your carry-on luggage and pass Customs. That’s it. Please read our related article for more information about arriving in Hong Kong.
Q: Can I leave my luggage somewhere during my Stop-over?
There is a secure short-term baggage storage facility located on Level 3 of Terminal 2. Storing your bags is available on an hourly charge for HK$ 10/piece. The daily fee is HK$ 120. The luggage facility is open from 5:30am – 1:30am. For enquiries you can reach them under + (852) 2261 0110.
Q: Which sightseeing attractions/shopping arrangement are do-able during my Stop-over in Hong Kong?
It all depends how long your stop-over time is. Naturally, the longer, the more you can see and explore. In addition, budget is always a constraint and since you only have a few hours you probably need to depend on taxis which are faster, but also more expensive than the average public transportation. Below we have some suggestions what is feasible to do within a short period of time assuming you arrive during day and attractions are open.
Hong Kong’s most famous and iconic attractions must be Victoria Harbour and Victoria Peak (The Peak), thus if you have sometime to stay in Hong Kong, we would highly recommend these two attractions. Also Hong Kong is known as “Shopping Heaven” since here is generally tax-free. You also can consider shopping in some shopping malls.
If you would like to use your limited time only on shopping (3-4 hour stop-over time), there are two shopping malls very close to the airport : Maritime Square and Citygate Outlet. Please click the link to check the detailed information about these two shopping malls and what you can expect there. Besides, inside the Hong Kong International Airport there is a large shopping mall called “Hong Kong International Airport SkyMart and SkyPlaza“, where have numerous shops , stores and restaurants with a large variety of choices.
Insider Tips: Hong Kong International Airport was/is on the list of Skytrax as the “World’s Best Airport” in the last ten years (including 2011).
If you would like to do some sightseeing, it requires you to have a little bit more stop-over time since both Victoria Harbour and Victoria Peak are in the downtown area. We suggest unless you have more than 5 hour stop-over time, no need to consider going too far away from the airport.
- The Closest Attractions
The closest attractions from the airport should be Hong Kong Disneyland and Ngong Ping (Ngong Ping 360 and Big Buddha). Hong Kong Disneyland even provides a In-Transit Promotion for those stop-over visitors. However unless you have more than half day, we think going to Disneyland will be a waste. Ngong Ping 360 is very close to the airport and from the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car ride you even can see the airport. It takes only 10 minutes by bus from Hong Kong International Airport to Ngong Ping Cable Car Terminus. The ride of cable car is approx 25-30 minutes, however, don’t underestimate the time waiting in line.
-Having at least 5-6 hour stop-over time to spend
If you have around 5-6 hour to spend, the following attractions/routes are recommended. Basically you only can plan to do one or max two sightseeing routes. Please check the individual articles (links below) for information about “How to Get There”.
· Sky100 Observation Deck & Shopping at Elements Mall
· The Peak, Sky Terrace 428, Peak Galleria & Shopping at IFC Mall
· Taking the Star Ferry, Victoria Harbour, Clock Tower, walking along Tsim Sha Tsui Waterfront Promenade & Avenue of Stars
· Shopping at Harbour City Shopping Mall in Tsim Sha Tsui
· Riding the Ding Ding Tram
· Taking an afternoon tea-time at the famous Peninsula Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui
· Enjoying some of Hong Kong’s most famous dishes e.g. Dim Sum (this can be done in the airport)
Reminder: For Sky100 Observation Deck, Peak Tram and Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car, don’t forget to calculate the time that you need to standing in line. However, all of them has fast pass ticket package that you can consider.
Q: Could you provide me some sample itinerary for a 5 – 6 hours Stop Over in Hong Kong?
Deducting the necessary time for clearing Immigration as well as for taking the Airport Express to Central will leave roughly about 4 hours for sightseeing and/or shopping. The following is a suggestion for the 4 hours stop over:
1) Arrival and Money Exchange
After you passed Immigration and clear through Customs you will be led in the Arrival Hall. In case you don’t have HK Dollars with you there is an option to exchange money before you exit the restricted area and enter the Arrival Hall. But no need to worry, there are several options to exchange money inside the Arrival and Departure Hall. Make sure to get some coins as well so you can tender bus drivers the exact fare (they don’t change money). As a rough estimate I would consider to have about HK$ 20/person in coins. We often get the questions “How much money do I need to exchange for the stop-over time” or “Is amount xxx enough”. These questions are very hard to answer since they depend on your personal (travel) preferences and what you would like to see in the short period of time.
2) Leave your luggage
When you finished changing your money, walk to Level 3 of Terminal 2 and store your carry-on luggage for the time of the sight-seeing in one of the secure lockers.
3) Take public transportation to downtown
Then proceed to the MTR counter in the Arrival Hall to purchase a MTR Airport Express Same-Day-Return Ticket for HK$ 100. The MTR Airport Express will take you within 24 minutes to Central Hong Kong Island. The MTR Airport Express trains will depart every 10 – 12 minutes.
- To the Peak
When you arrived in Central walk to the Star Ferry Central Pier and take Bus 15C (about HK$ 10) to The Garden Road Peak Tram Lower Terminus (alternatively you can take a taxi if you are pressed for time). Then take the Peak Tram up the Peak and enjoy the stunning views of Hong Kong from the Sky Terrace 428 (roundtrip ticket plus Sky Terrace 428 is approx. HK$ 70).
Insider Tip: Depending which time of the day you arrive at the Garden Road Peak Tram Lower Terminus it can be quite crowded. If you see people already lining up outside you might want to consider taking a taxi instead of the funicular Peak Tram up the Peak (approx. HK$ 50).
If you are tired or hungry you can grab something to eat. There are several restaurants and fast food chains on The Peak including Starbucks, McDonalds and Burger King.
- To Tsim Sha Tsui
When you have enough of the beautiful views take the Peak Tram or taxi back to the Star Ferry Central Pier. Then then take the Star Ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui. Fare for single ride is below HK$ 4.0 and takes about 9-10 minutes (waiting time is around 5-10 minutes). Enjoy the crossing of Victoria Harbour and when you arrived in Tsim Sha Tsui you can take some pictures of the iconic Clock Tower, walk along Tsim Sha Tsui Waterfront Promenade to the Avenue of Stars. In case you are there around 8:00pm you also can enjoy the daily 15 minutes A Symphony of Lights Show.
For those wishing directly go to Tsim Sha Tsui, just transfer to MTR from Central after getting off the Airport Express at Hong Kong station (Central) and get off at Tsim Sha Tsui station which takes about 15 minutes.
If you still have some time left you either can stroll along Nathan Road or do some shopping in the Harbour City Shopping Mall. Alternatively, you can take the Star Ferry back to Central take a look inside the IFC Shopping Mall and head back to the airport again.
-To Sky100 Observation Deck
As an alternative to The Peak you also can consider to visit the Sky100 Observation Deck. Taking Airport Express and get off at Kowloon Station and walk to the Sky100.
-To Tung Chung
If you have more than 5 hours you can consider taking the Bus S1 to Tung Chung and visit Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car and Big Buddha plus do some shopping at the Citygate Outlets Shopping Mall afterwards.
The Bottomline: For visitors who plan to stay Hong Kong longer, you can read our article “Arrange Your Stay in Hong Kong” where we make an itinerary for 1-5 day tour in Hong Kong.