Thursday, November 20, 2008

Get in HongKong

Hong Kong maintains a separate and independent immigration system from that of mainland China. This means that unlike mainland China, most Western and Asian visitors do not need to obtain visas in advance. However, it also means that a separate visa is still required to enter mainland China from Hong Kong. Macau residents may enter using their identity card while other PRC passport holders and residents of Taiwan holding ROC passports need to apply for a separate visit permit. Detailed visa requirements are available from the Immigration Department. Those who require visas should apply for one at a Chinese embassy, but note that the Hong Kong visa has to be applied for separately from the mainland Chinese one. Anyone arriving at Hong Kong International Airport who requires an onward visa for mainland China, will find a kiosk in the foyer in the arrivals area that issues them. A photograph will be required and the staff will be happy to accommodate you.

By plane

Hong Kong International Airport

The Hong Kong International Airport which is also known as Chek Lap Kok (named after the small island it was built over), is the main port for visitors to Hong Kong by air. The architect for the impressive airport terminal was Sir Norman Foster. This modern and efficient building opened in July 1998, and it has since been named the best airport worldwide by Skytrax for five years.
There are many direct flights to Hong Kong from every continent in the world. Most major cities in Oceania, Europe and North America are all served with at least one daily flight. Sydney has 6 daily flights, Melbourne 5, London 10, Frankfurt 2, Paris 3, Amsterdam 2, Los Angeles 4, San Francisco 3, Vancouver 3, New York 3, Chicago 2 and Toronto 2.
Flights between Hong Kong and other major Asian cities are also frequent: up to 40 flights per day connect Hong Kong with Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Taipei, Tokyo, Shanghai, Manila, Seoul, Bangkok and Beijing. Other routes may be cheaper, however. For destinations within China, it is often cheaper to fly from Shenzhen than from Hong Kong, as flights from the mainland to Hong Kong are considered to be international flights and therefore, priced as such. For elsewhere in Asia, consider Macau. The discount airlines land there because it has lower fees than Hong Kong. There are also less frequent flights between Hong Kong and several mid-Pacific islands and nations including a twice-weekly service from Guam.

Cathay Pacific and its subsidiary airline Dragonair are Hong Kong's main carriers, with Hong Kong Express providing some welcome competition.

There are two terminals, creatively called T1 and T2. Signs on approach to the airport by car/taxi list the terminals and check in zones. The station is located between the two terminals, so follow the signs when you exit the station. Once checked in you can clear security at either terminal, there is an underground shuttle bus Outside the security area. There are probably more shopping opportunities before security at T2 before security, but the shops close earlier. There are lots of shopping opportunities after security as well. Travellers will find an efficient post office in the airport which provides boxes, wrapping material, scissors and tape.

There is a public lounge inside the airport with prices as follows (in HK Dollars):
• Shower Only $80.
• 2 Hours Lounge Use $250.
• 5 Hours Lounge Use with Seated Massage (15 mins) or Nap (2 hrs) $300.
• 10 Hours Lounge Use with Seated Massage (15 mins) or Nap (2 hrs) $350.
• Overnight Package with Shower + Nap (8 hrs) + Breakfast $450.
• Whole Day Package with Lounge Use + Nap (8 hrs) $600 .

Airport Express
The Airport Express is a fast and environmentally friendly form of passenger transport to and from the airport. The clean and efficient train speeds you on a journey that takes only 23 minutes, and there are plenty of baggage handling officers to help you get heavy bags on and off of the train. There is no need to tip them. Each way costs $60-$100, or a round trip for $110-$180, depending on the distance travelled. If you buy your ticket from a machine you will have to pay the standard fare, however, if you travel with other people you can get a discount from the staff at the counter. If in doubt, ask the staff for advice before you hand over your money. After arrival, free shuttle buses connecting to major hotels in Kowloon and Central are provided, or you can continue onward by the MTR or by taxi.

• The Airport Express Tourist Octopus 3-Day Hong Kong Transport Pass gives you an Octopus card (see Get Around) good for 3 days of unlimited MTR travel, plus one ride on the Airport Express (for $220) or two (for $300). In effect, you're paying $70 for 3 days on the MTR, which is a fair bit of travel but might be worth it if you're planning to visit the Lantau Island or the New Territories. You can return the card after use to get back $50 deposit, or keep it for your next trip — any leftover value will remain valid for 3 years [you can also add money to the card, which you can use for payment for the busses, the tramway, at many vending machines, some stores, and when taking the Star Ferry]. Around 50% of the trip will be underground and at least 20% of the "above-ground" travel is through "covered" tracks.

If you want to enjoy the view while going to the city, then you should consider taking a bus.
Taking a bus to the airport is cheaper, but slower than the train. For example, the A21 ($33) bus will take you down Nathan Road, the main artery of Kowloon, stopping outside many hotels and hostels. Lines A10, A11 and A12 go to Hong Kong Island ($48, $40 and $45 respectively). Alternatively, take bus S1 to Tung Chung ($3.50) and connect to the ordinary MTR for a cheap ride to the city (Kowloon $17, Hong Kong $23). The free Airport Express shuttle buses connect Kowloon and Hong Kong airport express stations to various hotels in each area.

For a full listing of buses available at HKIA refer to the Hong Kong airport website.

If you are on a budget, take an "E" route bus rather than the "A" routes bus, they take about 20 minutes longer (50-60 min instead of 35-40 min) and are about half price (e.g. $21 for the E11 from Central). These 'External' buses are aimed more at airport workers, so they make several detours around Tung Chung. They will give you a nice tour around the airport island. However, E21 (Kowloon KCR Station to Airport) takes about an hour to the airport comparing to A21 (as E21 tour around not only airport island but Kowloon peninsula).

A taxi from the airport to the city (Central/Mid-levels) will cost you around $350 depending on your exact destination. If you have three or more people travelling together, it is generally cheaper to travel by taxi than by Airport Express, but you may have a problem fitting so many bags into the taxi. Use a red taxi for destinations to Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, Green taxis are restricted to the New Territories and blue taxis are for Lantau Island.
There is a large chart at the exit to the taxi stand, on the approximate fares to most destinations. The law is strict on taxi drivers who must charge according to the meter. The meter fare does not include the luggage fee, toll fee, waiting fee, pet fee.
Taxis from the airport to downtown Kowloon do not suffer from much traffic congestion. If you are going to Hong Kong Island, tell the taxi driver to use the "Western Harbour Crossing" to avoid congestion, but it will attract an additional surcharge.
From the airport there are private cars and vans operating illegally as taxis. Do not take these as they are not licensed and in case of accidents, your insurance will not cover you.

Shenzhen International Airport
Because flying from Hong Kong to the mainland is considered an international flight, flying around mainland China using Shenzhen Airport (IATA: SZX) is often significantly cheaper. There is a new convenient bus connection from Kowloon to Shenzhen Airport. It is not cheap as foreigners need visas at $1040 single entry 2-3 days in HK, and most flights leave late. In the recently completed Elements shopping centre above the Kowloon MTR station on the Tung Chung and the Airport Express line, there is a shop front waiting room where you can check-in and receive your boarding pass, and then board a bus direct to Shenzhen airport. This in-town check-in is completely separate from the in-town check-in provided for Hong Kong International Airport. Take the escalators up from the AE/MTR station to 1/F of the Elements Mall, turn right, and then look for Starbucks. It is opposite Starbucks. The bus uses the new western passage immigration facilities where both Hong Kong SAR and Chinese immigration formalities are completed under one roof. The cost of the service is $100 and the bus is advertised to take 75 minutes (more like 90 minutes in reality). Buses currently run every half an hour from 7:30am to 5pm at Hong Kong side, and from 10am to 9pm at Shenzhen side.

Macau International Airport
Because of higher fees at Hong Kong International Airport, it is often cheaper to fly out of Macau International Airport (IATA: MFM). Air Asia has set up a hub at Macau and flies to destinations such as Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Sydney among others. Macau International Airport is easily reached by ferry from Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and Hong Kong International Airport. Before completing immigration formalities at the ferry terminal in Macau, one can take a direct bus to Macau Airport without going through Macau immigration.

By ferry
Hong Kong is only a 1 hour hydrofoil ride away from Macau, and there are good connections to mainland China as well. The main terminals are:

Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Pier, 202 Connaught Road (Sheung Wan MTR exit D), Central.
o TurboJet, 24 hours a day to Macau plus 6-8 times a day to the Shenzhen airport.
o Cotai Jet, every hour to/from Macau from 0700 to 1700.

Hong Kong China Ferry Terminal, 33 Canton Road (Tsim Sha Tsui MTR exit A1), Kowloon.
o Chu Kong Passenger Transport, to Zhuhai and various points in Guangdong.
o New World First Ferry, every 30 min to Macau.
o Xunlong to Shekou in Shenzhen.
o TurboJet to Shenzhen airport.

Tuen Mun Ferry Pier
o Hong Kong North West Express Limited offers trips to Zhuhai and Shekou, Shenzhen.

By cruise
The Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui is one of the hubs of Star Cruises. Cruise ships leave from here for various cities in Vietnam, mainland China and Taiwan. There are even long haul service all the way to Singapore via various points in Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia.

By land
Crossing the border to Mainland China puts you in Shenzhen, a well-developed boomtown. Please note that there are special visa regulations if you plan to visit Shenzhen.
There are six land checkpoints between Hong Kong and mainland China, namely Lo Wu, Lok Ma Chau Spur Line, Lok Ma Chau, Man Kam To, Sha Tau Ko and Shenzhen Bay. Lo Wu is a train and pedestrian crossing; Lok Ma Chau spur line is a pedestrian crossing; Lok Ma Chau and Sha Tau Kok are road, cross-boundary bus and pedestrian crossings; while Man Kam To and Shenzhen Bay bridge are road and cross-boundary bus crossings.

Lo Wu: This control point can only be accessed by the MTR East Rail Line and the crossing can only be done on foot (unless you take a through-train from Hung Hom where the train will not stop at all. See "By train" section below). It is often congested with travellers during weekends and holidays, so if you want to avoid for the long queues, please use the other control points on holidays. Visa-on-arrival can be obtained on the Chinese side.Getting there/away: Trains from Tsim Sha Tsui East to Lo Wu run every five to eight minutes. Shenzhen city centre lies just beyond the Chinese immigration checkpoint.
Lok Ma Chau Spur Line: This crossing can be accessed by the MTR East Rail Line, by bus/minibuses or by taxi, and the crossing can only be done on foot. Using the double-decked Lok Ma Chau-Huanggang pedestrian bridge, passengers will find themselves at the FuTian immigration checkpoint of the PRC. The control point is not popular and thus less crowded than at Lo Wu. Travellers should note that its opening hours is slightly shorter than that of Lo Wu. Getting there/away: While 1 out of 2/3 northbound East Rail Line trains terminates at that station, the control point can also be reached from Yuen Long by KMB bus number B1 or by minibus number 75. On the Shenzhen side, Huanggang metro station is just after the immigration checkpoint.
Lok Ma Chau: This crossing consists of separate facilities for pedestrians which is accessed by bus and for road vehicles, and is the only border control point which offers 24-hour immigration services. A shuttle service, known as the "Yellow Bus", operates between the Lok Ma Chau Public Transport Interchange located at San Tin and Huanggang Port of the PRC side. Alternatively, travellers can board the express buses from urban areas of Hong Kong which will carry their passengers directly to the control point. For both modes, passengers after passing through Hong Kong Immigration control has to board the same bus at the other side of the control point, which will then carry them to Huanggang port of Shenzhen side, where they need to get off again and pass through PRC immigration control. Getting there/away: The Lok Ma Chau Public Transport Interchange is served by KMB buses 277, N277, 76K, and 276B, and passengers can board the "Yellow Bus" shuttle there. Alternatively, passenger can board the buses to the port at urban areas in Hong Kong (See "By bus" section below). Over in Shenzhen, a large taxi stand and a bus terminus is right outside the control point but its no where near the Huanggang metro station .
Man Kam To: This crossing is mostly used by private vehicles and cross-boundary buses. See "By bus" section below.
Sha Tau Kok: Located furthest east, this control point can be accessed by taking the cross-boundary coach. It is quite a distance from the centre of Shenzhen and is relatively quiet. There are no Chinese visa-on-arrival facilities. See "By bus" section below.
Shenzhen Bay Bridge: This control point links Hong Kong directly with Shekou, Shenzhen. It can be used by private vehicles and cross-boundary buses. See "By bus" section below.

Please note that all the crossings, save for Shenzhen Bay Bridge, are located in the Frontier Closed Area and everyone is required to have a permit to be there unless crossing the border. Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau can be easily reached by train, but if you are just there to look around, be ready for some security questioning. It is also not easy to directly access the train departure area from the arrivals area.

By bus
There are some Cross Boundary coaches operating from the business districts in Kowloon or Hong Kong Island to the Chinese side of the checkpoint. If you take these coaches, there is no need to change for the yellow shuttle bus and hence it is a good choice for boundary crossing to avoid the queues. There are 6 lines of short trip cross boundary coaches serves the port,
1. Jordan, Kowloon departs from Scout Centre, Austin Road, Tsim Sha Tsui (5 mins walk from Jordan MTR).
2. Mongkok, Kowloon departs from Portland Street, near Metropark Hotel Mongkok (exit from Prince Edward Hotel).
3. Wanchai, HK Island departs from Wanchai Ferry Bus Terminus.
4. Kwun Tong, Kowloon departs from Lam Tin MTR, stops at Kwun Tong APM Shopping Plaza and Kwun Tong Rd, Kowloon Bay MTR.
5. Tsuen Wan departs from Discovery Park Bus Terminus (10 mins walk from Tsuen Wan MTR).
6. Kam Sheng Road departs from Kam Sheung Road West Rail Station.

Except the route to Kam Sheng Road, 24 hour services are provided with half hourly or hourly departure in midnight and around 10-20 mins per bus during the day and evening.
Lok Ma Chau is a around-the-clock border crossing ; visa-on-arrival can be obtained on the Chinese side (subject to nationality, at the present, applications from USA passport holders are not accepted).

Man Kam To control point can be accessed by taking the cross-boundary coach on the bus interchange under the shopping centre of West Kowloon Centre, Sham Shui Po (near Sham Shui Po MTR)in Kowloon, which costs $35, the bus calls at Landmark North also, which is just adjacent to Sheung Shui KCR Station, with section fare of $22. It is seldom crowded with travellers even during holiday periods. You can also enjoy the free shuttle service outside the Chinese checkpoint, which takes you to the central area of Shenzhen. However, no visa-on-arrival can be obtained on the Chinese side, which means you need to arrange for your visa in advanced before arrival.
It is the best route to go to the downtown in Shenzhen especially during holidays.
Sha Tau Kok control point can be accessed by taking the cross-boundary coach on the bus interchange at Luen Wo Hui in Fanling and Kowloon Tong. It connects the eastern boundary of Hong Kong and Shenzhen and it is a bit remote from the central part on Shenzhen. As a consequence, only very few passengers choose to cross the boundary using this checkpoint. No visa-on-arrival can be obtained on the Chinese side.
Coaches departs from Kowloon Tong MTR from 7:00 to 18:30 every 15 minutes which costs $20, which is also the cheapest direct coach to Shenzhen.
Shenzhen Bay control point links Hong Kong directly with Shekou, Shenzhen, and can be accessed conveniently by public buses. Route B2 departs from Yuen Long Railway Station via Tin Shui Wai Railway Station to Shenzhen Bay, while B3 departs from Tuen Mun Pier. There is also a express coach service departing from Sham Shui Po to Shenzhen Bay.

By train
MTR Corporation runs regular Through Train service between Guangdong Province, Beijing and Shanghai. The through train terminus is Hung Hom Station on the Kowloon side, while the current terminus of the domestic service is East Tsim Sha Tsui station.
The destinations of the Intercity Passenger Service are Guangzhou (East), Dongguan, Foshan and Zhaoqing in Guangdong Province, as well as Beijing and Shanghai.
The online directory of MTR Corporation provides information on the timetable and fare information of the Intercity Passenger Service.
Train service between Hong Kong and Mainland China stops before midnight as the border, at Lo Wu, is closed at midnight.