Do you have a layover in Hong Kong? Check this article for tips and the most beautiful sights you can see in about 8 hours in this fun metropolis.
Layover in Hong Kong
When I traveled from Amsterdam to Australia, I flew with Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, I had about 13 hours between flights, which meant I had plenty of time for a layover in Hong Kong. I had more than 8 hours to spend in the city. What to do during a layover in Hong Kong? Continue reading if you’d like to know how to get from the airport to the city and what to do in Hong Kong.
At the airport
When you arrive at the Hong Kong International Airport, it’s easy to find your way, since most of the signs are in English. For most countries (EU, NZ, US, UK, AUS) you don’t need a visa for a stopover in Hong Kong (double-check this before you leave!), so when you arrive at immigration, you can just show your passport and continue traveling to the city. Your passport must be valid for at least 1 month upon departure and you can stay in Hong Kong for a maximum of 90 days.
Your checked baggage will be sent to your final destination, but if you have a lot of cabin luggage, you can drop it off at the luggage depot. This costs about €1.30 per hour or €15 for a whole day. Check this website for more information about luggage storage.
You can pay with your credit card in Hong Kong at most places, but it is always useful to withdraw some money at the airport, so you’ll have some cash. There are plenty of ATMs to be found at the airport, but please note that the numbers of the ATMs are in a different order than you may be used to. Instead of 123 456 789, it is 789 456 123. I almost lost my debit card because of this, so pay attention. Especially when you’re suffering from jet lag.
How to get from the airport to Hong Kong
You can easily reach the center of Hong Kong by train, which is called the Airport Express. You can buy a ticket online or at the counter. A return ticket costs about €23.
If you want to stay longer in the city, it is better to opt for the Octopus card, a kind of chip card on which you can put money. The train will take you to Hong Kong Central station in the city center in about 30 minutes.
What to do in Hong Kong? An itinerary.
If you only have a few hours to see the city, it is recommended to see two different places:
- Hong Kong Island – this is where you get off the train. This is a modern neighborhood full of skyscrapers.
- Kowloon – this is just across from Hong Kong Bay and feels more authentic.
Hong Kong Island
When you get off the train you are in the Hong Kong Island district, where you immediately see a lot of skyscrapers. This is the more modern part of the city. You will also feel the heat and the humidity right away, so get some water and take it slow.
Hong Kong Peak
A great first stop of your Hong Kong layover is the Hong Kong Peak. From here you have an amazing view of the city. You can get there by tram. The tram station for this is only a short walk from the train station. It’s easy to get there, you can just follow the signs (and they are everywhere). There are a few stairs because you have to go up the mountain a little bit.
It’s a steep drive, so it can be a bit scary. But when you reach the top, you will love it. The view of the Hong Kong skyline is incredible. There are many great viewpoints to explore, for example, the Lion’s Pavilion and the roof of The Peak Galleria (a shopping mall). In this shopping center, you can, of course, do some shopping, but there are also multiple places to grab a bite or a refreshing drink.
Old Peak Road & Botanical Gardens
To get back into the city, you can take the tram back, but if you’re up for a walk it’s a lot of fun to hike down the Old Peak Road. This is an old path, on which you will walk down through the jungle and have some amazing views of the city.
And the end of the Old Peak Road, it’s only a short walk to the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens. This is a very nice park to relax a little and escape the crowds.
Take the ferry to Kowloon
After a short break, you can walk back to Hong Kong Central Station. Here you will find the ferries, that will take you to Kowloon, the other side of Victoria Harbour.
With the Star ferry, you can easily get to Kowloon. You can buy a ticket at a machine near the entrance and it is really cheap (between 30 and 50 euro cents). The boat trip is a delight, thanks to a little breeze in the hot and humid city.
A very different part Hong Kong
When you’ve arrived in Kowloon, you’ll notice that it is completely different from Hong Kong Island. No skyscrapers and the buildings are much older, you’ll definitely feel like you’re in Asia. If I had a couple of days in Hong Kong, I would definitely explore this area a little better, there’s so much to see!
There are several large shopping malls to do some shopping, get a cheap and tasty meal in the food court, or just cool down thanks to the air-conditioning. In addition, you can see a lot of street art and interesting artworks in this neighborhood. There are also a number of parks (including the large Kowloon Park Chinese Garden) to explore.
Avenue of Stars
It’s also fun to walk on the Avenue of Stars, the walk of fame of Hong Kong. For example, here you’ll find the stars of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan.
From the Avenue of Stars, you have some great views of the skyline of Hong Kong Island and the bay. With a bit of luck, you will also spot some beautiful old fishing boats.
From here you can easily get on the ferry back to Hong Kong Central, and from there travel back to the airport with the Airport Express.
Additional tips for a layover in Hong Kong
Do you have more time in Hong Kong or do you just want to do something else? There are many more things to do during a layover in Hong Kong.
- Are you in Hong Kong at night? Make sure to visit one of the many night markets. For example, check out the Temple Street Market and the Ladies Market (both in Kowloon).
- Visit the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. You have to travel a bit to get there (about 50 minutes by metro from Hong Kong Central), but it’s a spectacular sight. A hill with dozens of golden Buddhas.
- Visit Hong Kong Disneyland. For the amusement park lovers: Hong Kong has a Disney park! The park is located between the airport and the city, so perfect to visit during a long layover in Hong Kong.
- Check out the view from the Sky100 Observatory. Would you like to see what the view is like from a high skyscraper? From the Sky100 Observatory you have a 360 degree view of the Hong Kong skyline.
In addition, these travel guides are also full of tips and beautiful sights:
DK Eyewitness Top 10 Hong Kong
How do you book a stopover or a layover in Hong Kong?
First things first: what’s the difference between a stopover and a layover? With a layover, you’ll only have a couple of hours between flights (maximum of 24 hours), and with a stopover, you have more time.
How to book a stopover or a layover? I personally booked my layover in Hong Kong through Skyscanner. Especially when you travel to Australia from Europe, you always have a transfer. On Skyscanner, you can immediately see how long this transfer is. If this is more than five hours, then you have plenty of time to check out the highlights in Hong Kong.
Skyscanner also has an option to book a multicity trip, this way you extend your stopover in Hong Kong by a few days. With some airlines (for example Cathay Pacific) the cost of your ticket will stay the same.
Go back to the airport about three hours before your next flight leaves. In this case, you’ll have enough time to pick up your luggage and go through all the checks.
Where to stay during a stopover in Hong Kong?
Do you have a long stopover and need to stay one or more nights in Hong Kong? You can easily book a hotel room via Booking.com. Here are some great places to stay in Hong Kong.
- City Oasis Guesthouse– basic and very affordable guesthouse near the airport.
- Tung Nam Lou Art Hotel – beautiful 3 star hotel in a good location in Kowloon.
- K11 ARTUS – luxury hotel with suites and apartments overlooking the harbour.
This way you can turn your stopover into a great Hong Kong holiday!
Do you want to read more about traveling in Asia?
Check out these articles:
- Stopover in Taipei
- Perfect 2-week itinerary for The Philippines
- How much does it cost to travel in The Philippines?
This article first appeared in September 2016. Last update: August 2021.
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