Whether you have just three hours in Hong Kong or 24, there are a myriad of ways to spend your layover. Rather than count the minutes until your next flight, Culture Trip shares the best ways to make the most of your visit to Hong Kong.
Will you need an entry visa?
If you are planning to leave the airport during your layover, then consider visas/customs requirements in Hong Kong. Travelers from the United States, Australia and European Union do not require a visa to enter Hong Kong. Check Hong Kong’s official immigration website for visa entry requirements. Regardless, it’s recommended to allot at least an hour to go through customs both ways – make sure to factor this into your layover time.
Will you need to store your luggage?
If you’re not spending the night in Hong Kong, then you will likely require luggage storage lest you find yourself lugging suitcases through the city’s busy streets. According to Hong Kong International Airport’s site, a baggage storage facility can be found on Level 3 of Terminal 2. The luggage storage is open from 5:30am to 1:30am and charges an hourly storage rate of $12 HK ($2 USD).
Will you need a hotel?
Depending on the length of your layover, you may need a hotel. Culture Trip recommends the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong – a tier 5 property offering enviable views of the entire city. The Ritz Carlton Hong Kong is one of the most luxurious hotels in the Tsim Sha Tsui area, located on floors 102-118 of the International Commerce Centre. Home to OZONE – the highest bar in the world at 490 meters above sea level – the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong is conveniently located off the Kowloon stop, a mere 20 minutes from the airpot via the Airport Express Line. While most visitors to Hong Kong will wait in line for the tram ride to the top of Victoria Peak, a stay at the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong offers 360 degree views of the city from your bed.
How will you get to and from the airport?
Luckily, transportation to and from Hong Kong International Airport is seamless and efficient. Here are the three ways to get to and from Hong Kong’s city center.
Airport Express – Departs every 10 minutes and will whisk you away to the heart of Hong Kong within 20 minutes for $100 HK ($13 USD).
Public Bus – A cheaper alternative to the Airport Express, Hong Kong International Airport is well served by the public bus system. Routes A11 and A21 typically are the popular choice for tourists looking to visit Hong Kong’s main tourist areas. Tickets can be purchased at the Customer Service Center located in the Airport’s Ground Transportation Center.
Taxi – While more expensive, taxis are a great choice to find transportation on your time and schedule. Taxis in Hong Kong are color coded based on the areas they serve; if headed into the city center you will want to take a red taxi. Taxi rates vary based on where you are going, but will start at $200 HK ($26 USD).
How much time do you actually have?
Perhaps the most essential thing to consider for your Hong Kong layover is time. After you factor time to get through customs, store your luggage, travel into the city and then come back with enough time to check into your flight; how much time will you have to explore the city?
The Po Lin Monastery & Big Buddha
Recommended: 6+ hour layover
One of the most popular attractions in Hong Kong is to visit the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island – the largest island in Hong Kong. Po Lin is an active Buddhist monastery that is home to the largest sitting Buddha statue in the world. A visit to the monastery also boasts scenic views of Hong Kong and hiking opportunities to the top of Hong Kong’s second highest mountain. You can reach the Po Lin Monastery a couple of different ways:
By subway – Take the subway to the Tung Chung Station, and then take the New Lantau Bus No.23 to Ngong Ping.
By ferry – Take a ferry at the Central Pier No.6 to Mui Wo on the Lantau Island, and then take the New Lantau Bus No.2 at the Mui Wo Bus Station to Ngong Ping.
By tour – Reserve a pre-packaged tour, which will include a ride on the Ngong Ping Cable Car, a vegetarian lunch and a visit to the monastery and nearby attractions on Lantau Island.
The Tram to Victoria Peak
Recommended: 8+ hour layover
According to the Hong Kong tourism site, “if there is only one thing you can do in Hong Kong, go to The Peak. If you have many things to do here, still go to The Peak.” The view from Victoria Peak is considered the can’t-miss attraction of Hong Kong as it offers the ultimate view of the city’s vast skyscrapers and glittering Victoria Bay. The ride to the Victoria Peak is an attraction in itself as it offers soaring views of Hong Kong on your way to the top. Allow plenty of time for a visit to Victoria Peak as wait times for the tram can run long. To get to the tram, you will likely take a bus. The Hong Kong tourism board suggests the following bus routes:
Bus 15C – Take 15C from Central Pier 8 or walk from MTR Central Station Exit J2 to take the Peak Tram from the Peak Tram Lower Terminus on Garden Road.
Bus 15 – Take 15 from Exchange Square bus terminus (near MTR Hong Kong Station, Exit D).
Minibus 1 – Take the Minibus from the public transport interchange at MTR Hong Kong Station, Exit E.
A Hike in Kam Shan Country Park
Recommended: 8+ hour layover
Perhaps one of the more under-the-radar attractions of Hong Kong is Kam Shan Country Park, home to thousands of wild Macaques monkeys. Upon arriving at Kam Shan Country Park, you’ll be greeted with a Nature Trail and Reservoir Trail to hike. If keen on spotting wildlife, Culture Trip recommends taking the Reservoir Trail for more monkey sightings. Because these are wild monkeys, safety is key. Monkeys should not be fed, pet or bothered in any way – instead, come here to simply walk amongst the wildlife. The best way to get to and from Monkey Mountain is by taxi or bus.
A Visit to the Wan Chai District
Recommended: 4+ hour layover
Known as the “Starstreet District,” this is the place to immerse yourself in Hong Kong’s evolving culture. The Starstreet District is tucked between old buildings and modern boutiques; a visit of the area will reveal ample food halls, boutiques, artisan shops and tea parlors. The best way to reach the Wan Chai District is by taking the Airport Express to the Western Market – Shau Kei Wan subway line.
Exploring a Local Market
Recommended: 5+ hour layover
Markets are an excellent snapshot of a local culture – from savory street snacks to artisan crafts, if pressed for time in Hong Kong then a local market is your best bet. Unfortunately, after 160 years the iconic Graham Market – famously featured in the film Rush Hour 2 – closed down in 2015 to make way for urban redevelopment. Thankfully, other markets and local shopping streets still stand the test of time.
Cat Street – No, you won’t find cats on Cat Street; rather you’ll find art dealers, antique shops and bargains for jade and silk.
Chun Yeung Street – Know as the Wet Market, Chun Yeung Street is where you’ll find meat, fruits and local produce being sold in busy stalls. To get to Chun Yeung Street, take a tram to North Point at Causeway Bay.
Flower Market – Hong Kong’s Flower Market is a photographer’s paradise where exotic plants and blossoms spill from woven baskets lining the many stalls.
Goldfish Market – As the name suggests, you’ll find shops lined with fish and impressive tanks here at Goldfish Market.
For Cat Lovers: Hello Kitty Restaurant and Ah Meow Cat Cafe
Recommended: 5+ hour layover
One of the more popular novelty restaurants in Hong Kong is the famed Hello Kitty Restaurant on Canton Road by the Austin station. The restaurant is renowned for serving dim sum styled to look exactly like Hello Kitty. While the food is hardly the best you’ll have in Hong Kong, the experience – and photo – is well worth the trip. Another cat lover’s haunt is Ah Meow Cafe in Hong Kong’s Times Square, where guests can sip tea and snuggle with curious kittens.
Aviation Discovery and UA IMAX Theater
Recommended: 2+ hour layover
If your layover is less than four hours, there are still ways to enjoy your time within the airport. Hong Kong International Airport is considered one of the best in the world, and offers a variety of shops and entertainment within its walls. In Terminal 2, Level 6, you can find both the UA IMAX theater (the largest IMAX theater in Hong Kong) as well as the Aviation Discovery Center where plane lovers can explore Hong Kong’s aviation history.