One of the most frequently asked questions we receive @ Next Stop Hong Kong is related with stop-over or layover itineraries in Hong Kong. Questions like “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 ?“, “How much time do you need to enjoy a stop-over visit in Hong Kong ?” etc.
Arriving in Hong Kong is actually very convenient. 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.
If you have several hours before your connecting flight and don’t want to waste in the airport, here is a general overview what you need to consider when doing a stop-over visit in Hong Kong, as well as 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.
Minimum Time Requirement for Stop-Over Visit
For Stop-Over Tour, the most critical part is time management if you don’t want to miss your flight. 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.
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.
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).
If you have a connecting flight to catch but would like to enjoy the stop over time in Hong Kong, you may want to drop your hand luggage and enjoy you visit relaxed.
There is a secure short-term baggage storage facility located on Level 3 of Terminal 2. It is about 15min walk from the Arrival Hall of Hong Kong Airport. Storing your bags is available on an hourly charge for HK$ 12/piece. The daily fee is HK$ 140. The luggage facility is open from 5:30am – 1:30am (Monday to Sunday). For enquiries you can reach them under + (852) 2261 0110.
Taking the Airport-Express to Central (Hong Kong Island) or the Kowloon side is a fastest and most direct way to downtown areas. It will take roughly 30 minutes for a single ride. You also can consider taking airbus to downtown, which takes about 45-150 min depending on your destination.
Plus another 30 min travelling back to the airport and 1-1.5 hour before boarding your connecting flight, it is only possible to make a visit to downtown Hong Kong if you have over 6-8 hours in-between. An ideal stop-hour time would be above 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.
Important: 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.
How to Manage the Limited Time and See The Most of Hong Kong ?
The arrangement of itinerary is majorly depends how long your stop-over time is and what your interests are. Naturally, the longer, the more you can see and explore. As I have mentioned above, it is only do-able to take a look of downtown Hong Kong if you have over 6-8 hour time before your connecting flight.
In addition, budget is always a constraint and since you only have a few hours, sometimes you probably need to depend on taxis which are faster but also more expensive than the average public transportation. Taxi is not always the best option especially when it’s the high traffic areas or period.
We suggest unless you have more than 6 hour stop-over time, no need to consider going too far away from the airport. Here are some advices for your reference to plan your time wisely while you wait for your connecting flight.
In case you have only 2 – 3 hours stop-over in Hong Kong, I am afraid that you don’t have sufficient time to travel outside airport. I would recommend to take a look around in the airport area. Hong Kong Airport has a large shopping mall called Skymart. There are several options you can consider including shopping, dining, taking a spa treatment or simply sit down in a lounge and relax. 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.
Hong Kong is also known as “Shopping Heaven” with tax-free. You also can consider shopping in some shopping malls on the way. 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 Outlets. Please click the link to check the detailed information about these two shopping malls and what you can expect there.
The shopping malls in Hong Kong usually open around 10:30am – 11:00am daily and close around 10:00pm – 10:30pm.
If you have only 5-6 hours and would like to travel to downtown, you may merely have 1.5-2 hours to look around. I would usually not recommend people to do that in a hurry. However, you can consider to visit the Lantau Island and Big Buddha near the airport or do some shopping in the Citygate Outlets, which are only 10 min bus drive away from the airport. Bus S1 can take you directly from the airport to Tung Chung Citygate Outlet.
Important: Please keep in mind that Giant Buddha is one of the most popular attractions in Hong Kong. The most efficient way for climbing up to Giant Buddha is to take the Ngong Ping Cable Car. Be prepared that you may end up in waiting line for 30-60 min for the cable car (one way). The ride of cable car is approx. 25-30 minutes.
When you have 7-8 hours or above time before your connecting flight, you have a good chance to enjoy your time in the downtown areas and do some sightseeing.
Besides, the following attractions/routes are on the recommended list. 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 and 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)
- Experience the local life style among Street Markets
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.
Wanna See The Most and Don’t Miss Your Flight ?
Headache with all the arrangements and time management?
We offer customized Private Walking Tour around your interests. Let our experts show you a fascinating Hong Kong. All you need to do is to enjoy the time and stop worrying about missing your flight.
You can choose to be picked up from the airport or meet our guide in any other locations more convenient for you.
Here are some brief suggestions on how to get to all these attractions efficiently. For more details, you can check our full reviews on this site.
- The Closest Attractions to the Airport
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 recent year Hong Kong Disneyland has expended their park and unless you have over 6-8 hours, I 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.
- To the Peak
When you arrived in Central (best way is by Airport Express), walk to the Star Ferry Central Pier and take Bus 15C (about HK$ 5) to The Garden Road Peak Tram Lower Terminus (15C starts 10:00 am daily. 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$ 80).
Insider Tip: Depending what 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 visiting the Sky100 Observation Deck. Taking Airport Express and get off at Kowloon Station and walk to the Sky100.
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.