On my trip home back from Sri Lanka, I had the opportunity for a stopover in this incredible city. I wanted to write a long layover guide to Hong Kong, as it seems a very popular place to stop on flights back to the US. It’s truly the most ideal city I’ve been to on a layover when it comes to ease of getting in and out of the city — the transportation is fast, convenient, and set up in a way that is easy to understand.
At first when I landed from a red-eye flight, I thought I would skip heading into Hong Kong, but after thinking it through, I realized there was no way I was going to spend the entire day in the airport. So instead of turning right to connecting flights, I made my way to immigration.
A quick ten minutes of passing through, I was out in Hong Kong airport. What was a caffeine-fueled adventure, turned into one of the best days I’ve spent exploring by myself in a city. Whether it was the delirious state of mind or lack of sleep, Hong Kong woke up a new side of curiosity for me. I realized something when I was there — traveling alone requires a lot of self-motivation. It would have been so much easier to sit at the lounge in the airport, read my book, take a nap and hang out. It took a lot of mental energy to push through to go explore. Self motivation is something I am always wanting to get better at, whether it’s small things like going to the gym, taking the 5 minutes to make the bed, or in this case, heading out to explore Hong Kong. This is what I love about travel — the opportunity to sharpen skills and refine ourselves. Anyways, back to Hong Kong.
The Long Layover Guide to Hong Kong
Whether you’re stopping for 5 hours or in my case 12, you can easily access the airport. It is vital you calculate how much time it will take to get back, plus the time to get through security and passport control before your flight. I breezed through on the way in but that may not always be the case.
I would suggest that you need at least 5 hours to get in and out of the city and to get back in time for your flight. First calculate how much time you will have.
Travellers from the US do not need visas to enter, so it makes passport control uber easy. For other passengers, be sure to checkout the Visit Visa Website as per Hong Kong guidelines.
I had a small backpack and a carry-on with me when I got off the plane in HK and I surely wasn’t going to drag it around while visiting. Hong Kong Airport has a great service in Terminal 2 on level 3, where they will store your bags securely for around $2 an hour. You simply go to the counter and they weigh it in and in return give you a slip of paper. Here’s more information on their site.
Getting to and from the airport
This was the easiest part. The fastest way in is with the Airport Express which is right in the middle of Terminal 2. It departs about every 10 minutes, and gets you right into the heart of the city in around 24 minutes for $14. I’d recommend going all the way to Hong Kong Station to see more of the city. There are other stops that are closer like Kowloon Station. Simply purchase a roundtrip ticket at the counter and keep it with you to enter/exit at each station. More information on the Airport Express.
Things to do on your layover
Explore a local market (5+ hour layover): There is Cat Street where they are selling art, Chun Yeung Market where local produce, Flower Market, and Goldfish Market is popular.
The Tram to Victoria Peak (8+ hour layover): This is one of the most popular things to do in Hong Kong, as it provides an unparalleled view over the city. However, you will need a bit of time as often there is a wait to go up. Take the Bus 15 from Exhange Square bus terminus near MTR Hong Kong Station, Exit D.
Walk the neighborhood (as much time as needed): This is what I did while I was in Hong Kong. I got off at Hong Kong Station, and started walking. I knew I wanted to see Man Mo Temple and grab coffee, with a lunch eventually at Kaum at Potato Head . So I headed out on foot and got to see much of the neighborhood this way.
Take the Star Ferry (5+ hours): Get off at Kowloon Station and grab the ferry over to Hong Kong island for under a dollar. It’s scenic and gives you a great view over the area.