Hong Kong Layover: How To Plan For Your Extended Layover And Explore The City
The key to having a perfect Hong Kong layover is preparation and planning. With as little as 6 hours, you can still make your way into Hong Kong for some delicious eating or sightseeing.
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Step 1 – Figure out how long you have and what your top Hong Kong layover must-dos are
If you have less than 5 hours, I don’t suggest leaving the airport. You never know how long security and immigration will take. Don’t worry though!! HKG airport has free WiFi, good food, and shopping. You’ll be fully entertained!
If you have more than 5 hours, you have enough time to leave the airport and explore during your Hong Kong layover if you have a plan. While I was in Hong Kong for the second time on my round the world trip, my friends Erik and Dana had a layover on their way home to North America from Thailand. They messaged me for some suggestions and rather than make suggestions, I met them and showed them around.
Step 2 – You’ve landed at HKG. Now what?!
The Hong Kong Airport is one of my favourite in the world because of “Airport Express“. It’s a line on the MTR, Hong Kong’s public transportation system, which connects the airport to urban areas.
Once you have cleared customs, look for the Airport Express kiosk. From here you will choose the stop you want to get out at and buy your ticket. Buy a return ticket since you will be coming back to the airport and it is cheaper to buy a round-trip ticket. Just be sure to stick to your schedule and give yourself time for return and to go through security again.
Airport Express Fare prices (Oct 2015)
Airport to Kowloon – $160HKD
Airport to Hong Kong – $180HKD
Check the website for current fares prices. Credit cards are accepted.
If you are considering a taxi or car service for speed, the ride on Airport Express is the fastest and cheapest way into the city.
Step 3 – Head into the city
Choosing your stop depends on what you want to do while you’re in Hong Kong and how much time you have.
If this is your first time to Hong Kong, I suggest you make your way to the Kowloon stop on Airport Express.
- Getting around Hong Kong is simple. The subway is efficient, clean, and cheap. Remember, Hong Kong used to be an English colony until 1997! There are signs in English to help you navigate.
- Getting your subway ticket is really easy; you pick out your destination on a map, your fare is displayed, you pay, and it dispenses a ticket. Boom. Remember to hang onto your ticket! In order to get out of the station, you will need to feed it into a gate to get out.
- If you want to get around faster, taxis within Hong Kong are super cheap. Most taxi drivers understand but if you are concerned about language, map out your destinations on Google maps, snap a photo on your phone, and show it to the driver.
Step 4 – Pick your Hong Kong layover activities from the suggestions below
**If you want to see the Tian Tan Buddha, I would only suggest going there if you have more than 6 hours and have access to a shower if plan on walking up the stairs. Hong Kong is hot and humid and I probably had my second sweatiest day going up. It’s located on Lantau Island, which is close to the airport but not near the city. If you go there, you won’t have any time for anything else. It may be better to ride the gondola but do check if it’s running. When I went it wasn’t. I have a post about Lantau here.**
- Avenue of Stars – you’ll get a great view of the beautiful Hong Kong Harbour and see Bruce Lee’s statue
- Food – loads of great things to eat in Kowloon. Have had great dim sum at Crystal Jade (many locations), the best soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung (a couple of locations), Peking duck at Peking Garden (many locations)
- Shopping/Dining at Harbour City – if you want to get your shop on, Harbour City is a dream. Every luxury brand has shops in Hong Kong and they all have a shop in Harbour City. If you want to eat at Harbour City, you’ll find restaurants like Jaime by Jaime Oliver or L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon and even Laduree macarons from Paris. There’s a great coffee shop in Habour City called Coffee Academics. They don’t open till about 10 or 11 though.
- Shopping in TST or Tsim Tsa Tsui – lots of boutiques
- Night Markets – if you are arriving at night, I suggest visiting Temple Street Night Market. Eat at one of the outdoor cafes that line the market. You get to pick out your seafood, they cook it for you, and then you eat it. It’s amazing! The markets are fun and great for people watching. I don’t really buy much at the markets but if you’re looking for knick-knacks or fun gifts for family and friends back home, there are great ones here.
- Star Ferry – take the ferry from Kowloon over to Hong Kong. This is my favourite attraction in Hong Kong. It costs under $3 HK which is roughly under 50 cents (US). It’s the best budget-friendly and scenic experience in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong suggestions:
- IFC Mall – If you’re in the mood to shop and/or eat, head over to IFC Mall from the Star Ferry dock. Lots of great shopping and restaurants here. If you’re a food nerd like me and like to check out grocery stores in other countries, I’m a huge fan of City Super. I buy candy and snacks and check out what’s happening in the food world in other countries. There are also restaurants and cafes inside like Crystal Jade (Chinese), Sen-Ryo (Kaiten sushi or sushi train), and Pierre Herme macarons (from Paris). If you’re a tea lover, there’s a TWG tea salon. I’m more of a coffee drinker these days but TWG tea service is a wonderful experience. If you’re looking for coffee, Fuel Espresso makes great flat whites and order the banana bread. Trust me!
- Wan Chai shopping – Over on Sun Street in Wan Chai are cool shops like Monocle, Kapok, Le Labo, etc.
- Victoria Peak – If you love good views, Victoria Peak is epic. It is a popular tourist attraction but day or night, the views are worth it. I went in the evening for some beautiful night photos but would love to return for some daytime shots of the city and the harbour.
- Causeway Bay – another shopping district. They have their version of Times Square and it is busy too. If you are not a fan of crowds, don’t come here. You can find shops like Muji (different items from the US versions), Japanese department store Sogo, 852 (skate shop), and Juice (streetwear).
- Lan Kwai Fong – a party zone is the party area. If you’ve arrived in Hong Kong at night and want to go for a drink and are the partying type, this is where you should go. It’s very chaotic but you’ll have a lot of choices. The bars spill out onto the streets and it’s very ex-pat centric. There is a really awesome bar called Lily and Bloom that’s above all the madness. Amazing cocktails. For Mexican food and cocktails, check out Brickhouse.
- Foot Massage – if you want a foot massage, I was a fan of Ten Feet Tall and Happy Feet. At Ten Feet Tall, they’ll give you a binder of menus, order your food delivery for you, and massage your feet!
- Man Mo Temple – Man Mo Temple is in Central right on Hollywood Road. It’s a Cantonese transliteration of Wen Wu temple, a temple for the worship of the civil or literature god Man Tai / Man Cheong and the martial god Mo Tai / Kwan Tai. It’s free and a really great place to stop in for photos
- Noodles – my favourite noodles is Kau Kee at 21 Gough Street. There are usually lines but they move pretty quick. A bowl of amazing beef brisket with noodles is about $1. The curried beef noodle is also amazing.
- Mid Levels Escalator – the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world.
- Kennedy Town – an up and coming area of HK and has a new MTR stop.
- Major Recommend – If you’re in HK at night, go check out Yardbird or Ronin, owned by my friend Matt Abergel and his business partner. Yardbird is a Japanese yakitori spot. Major lines but soooo amazing. My favourites menu items are the KFC (Korean Fried Cauliflower), chicken liver mousse, sweet corn tempura, the chicken meatball, the chicken oyster, and the specials. The whiskey lemonade is amazing as is the Jolly Rancher if it’s in season. Everything is fantastic. Ronin is more seafood based. Super tiny but also amazing. The uni with panko and the sashimi were my faves. They specialize in Japanese whiskey so whiskey lovers rejoice!! I drank many a whiskey and sodas here.
- SASA – a beauty store for the ladies!! Skincare and beauty stuff from all over Asia. Locations everywhere. I go nuts in here and bring back amazing mascara, sheet face masks, and more.
Here is a Google Map of Hong Kong:
Some photos from Hong Kong to get you visually inspired:
Hong Kong Airport
Taking the MTR!! So easy!
Modern and old school all at once
The neon signs in Mong Kok
Step 5 – Head back to Hong Kong Airport
Once you are done exploring on your Hong Kong layover, head back to one of the Airport Express Stations, either Hong Kong or Kowloon. Get on the train to the airport. Go back through security to your flight!
If you have a longer Hong Kong layover, I hope you have an enjoyable one. It’s one of my favourite cities in the world!!
If you want to stay connected while you are in Hong Kong, considering renting a Y5 Buddy wifi hotspot. I was given a complimentary trial while I was in Hong Kong and I was able to connect several devices at one time. They let me test it but for around $5/day, it’s worth it if you are travelling with friends, business colleagues, or a partner. You can also check out their rates for other countries in Asia.
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