Monday, January 11, 2010

Transport Options from HK International Airport

Our Cebu Pacific flight bound for Hong Kong touched down at its expected time of 7:40 AM. Because of its popularity among Filipino vacationers, I thought getting past immigration would be swift. But heck no - or perhaps it was just that particular official, whom I want to proclaim "The Most Meticulous Immigration Officer of 2009".

After examining my passport and encoding it in his computer for more than five minutes, he asked "How long to Hong Kong?".

Was he trying to chitchat with me because he needed more time? Or was he really asking about the trip? Do I answer '2 hours'? I suddenly thought, he might be asking about the length of my stay. "I leave December 10", I replied.

I don't think he understood. He must have expected an answer which goes, '4 days'. He let me through anyway, that's what matters.

We then grabbed our backpacks from the belt, and searched for a currency exchange stall within the airport. We ended up with Travelex, where we changed US$200 to HK$1,413.40. Not bad. They accept pesos too but expect a bad rate. It's best to buy dollars (from trusted changers!) before leaving the Philippines.

Tip: When at the airport, exchange just enough amount that can take you to your hostel and pay for your first night. It's very much possible that money changers outside the airport offer higher rates.

Their cheery staff suggested we buy the Airport Express Travel Pass:

HK$220 for 1 Airport Express Single Journey + 3 consecutive days of unlimited travel on MTR + HK$50 refundable deposit


HK$300 for 2 Airport Express Single Journeys + 3 consecutive days of unlimited travel on MTR + HK$50 refundable deposit

Special offers for tourists, when you buy the Airport Express Travel Pass.

At the time of our visit (December 7 last year), if you purchase any of the above, you also get discount stubs for: Ocean Adventure, Wetland Park and Ngong Ping 360. So we all agreed to buy. My husband Sherv and I, who will be heading to China after four days bought the single journey. My sister Gabe on the other hand, who'll fly back to the Philippines from Hong Kong bought the roundtrip pass.

If you wish to take the Airport Express but not interested with the inclusions of the pass, you may just pay HK$100 to Central Hong Kong, or $90 to Kowloon. There is also the Airport Express Discounted Group Ticket ('group' meaning 2 persons above) which you can ask about at the service center.

Travel time from airport to Central Hong Kong via Airport Express: 25 minutes

A cheaper but slower option to get out of the airport is the bus. Just follow the sign that says "buses to the city". But before you get on, you need to buy an Octopus card. The Octopus card is a rechargeable stored value card that you can use to pay the MTR, buses, the Star Ferry, and HK's Tram. It can also be used at establishments like McDonald's and 7-11. To acquire this card, you need to pay HK$50 for deposit and HK$100 for the initial credits. For succeeding recharges, the cheapest you may purchase is HK$50.

Bus ride to Central Hong Kong is HK$40, Kowloon about HK$30+. Bus A11 for HK, and bus A21 for Kowloon. If it's your first time in the country, you may ask the driver about the place you are going to and where you can be dropped off.

Travel time from airport to Central Hong Kong via bus: 45 minutes day time, 30 minutes at night.

A taxi ride ranges from HK$250-$350 + bridge toll. Unless 4 people split the bill, it ain't worth it.

The Airport Express station at Central Hong Kong is just at the basement of IFC (International Finance Center) Mall. That's where our host picked us up. Will, my husband's colleague from U.S.A. has been living there for two years already to manage his own business. He and his fiancee offered their place to us as our accommodation for the next three days.

When we walked out of IFC to go to the taxi line, we shuddered as a harsh, cold breeze swept. The temperature was about 14°C. Thank goodness there was no queue for the cab. We hurriedly got it in.

Their building is located across University of Hong Kong, a 10-minute hilly ride from IFC. And their pad sits on the top most floor, which offers an unobstructed view of the harbor. We plopped our bags near the couch and took our seats. While Shervin and Will were busy catching up, I shut my eyes for a minute and suddenly felt fatigued. I didn't feel like talking to my sister who was mega-thrilled about travelling overseas for the first time.

In my mind I was thinking that we should go out once again and maximize the remaining half of the day. But the body was just so weak.

Fast Facts/Helpful Info:
- Pick up free brochures for tourists from numerous stands dotted in the airport and malls. My top picks:

Hong Kong Visitor's Kit, Hong Kong Walks and Hong Kong Cultural Kaleidoscope.

- At the time of writing, HK$1 is more or less P6.00.
- Filipinos (visa not required) are permitted to remain for 14 days from the date of entry. Onward tickets are rarely inspected, but us Filipinos have them anyway (as required by Philippine Immigration).
- Electricity is also 220V, but uses the UK plug (three-pronged with a rectangular tip).
- Time zone, same as Philippines.
- Phone country code, +852.
- Vehicles are right-hand drive.
- Most restaurants add 10% service charge to your bill. If it's not included, tipping is discretionary.
- Convenience stores, big supermarkets and pharmacies charge HK$.50 for each plastic bag.
- Remember, you may claim your HK$50 refund once you return your Airport Express Travel Pass and/or Octopus card. Unless, you want to keep your card as a souvenir.
- Hong Kong is a tourist-friendly destination. But always be wary - especially after we have heard about the recent acid attacks at its famous tourist spots.


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pinoy boy journals said...
January 13, 2010 at 4:12 AM

when i was in hongkong it was mostly mtr but when lost ride the taxi hehe,hongkong was my first trip outside the philippines. back then i was wearing one of those afghan scarves for porma. hehe... at the phil immigration took time questioning me, at the hk immigration it was worse, they also got my luggage checked again personally by the airport personnel i guess i will never be caught wearing those afghan scarves again... i really look abu sayaf! LoL

☮Pinay Travel Junkie☮ said...
January 13, 2010 at 1:45 PM

perhaps they thought you were muslim, which is weird because malaysia's largest religion is islam. and maybe cause pinoys were the only ones sporting ghutras and keffiyehs back then, pero uso na sya ngayon all over southeast asia. even china. hehehe.

kat said...
January 20, 2010 at 11:10 PM

thanks, this is very helpful. am planning an HK/Macau trip this year. By the way, any idea if they still accept the green passport? it won't expire til 2012 but im concerned if some countries no longer accept the green passport.

☮Pinay Travel Junkie☮ said...
January 21, 2010 at 2:35 AM

hi kat! yes, green passport will still be accepted. mine will expire 2012 too, we can use them until their expiration date. found these links to back me up:

have a safe trip!

kat said...
January 21, 2010 at 10:16 AM

hi! thanks for the reply and for the links! :)

Anonymous said...
May 15, 2010 at 4:35 PM

hi kat !
just wanna ask if my green passport is still valid for travel in hongkong because i am scheduled to go ther this 19th day of the will be next week already and i had paid for the fare and accomodation but i am scared that my flight will be cancelled due to my green passport.
please help..
thanks a lot

☮Pinay Travel Junkie☮ said...
May 15, 2010 at 6:36 PM

All green Philippine passports are still accepted until their expiry dates (oh, but make sure that it's still good for 6 months when travelling abroad).

Karla Stride said...
June 4, 2011 at 11:22 AM

Thanks for the detailed info gurl! We are off to HK on an impromptu short trip tonight. Our first time to fly into HK as last time we took the ferry from Macau. 

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
June 4, 2011 at 12:06 PM

Glad you found this post helpful, gurl. Have a safe trip. Enjoy the rest of your free time!

Astrid said...
July 21, 2011 at 4:02 PM

Is the Airport Express Travel Pass worth it? I'm planning my HK trip for next year :)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
July 21, 2011 at 4:07 PM

So worth it! Especially it includes 3 days (coincidentally the duration of our trip) worth of MTR rides plus discounts to admission fees of theme parks. Check if they still offer it though.

keith said...
March 20, 2012 at 1:55 PM

hello just wondering if luggages are allowed in the mtr and is it really true that children below 11 pay half the price and those 3 below get in the mtr for free?

thanks...will be doing a diy trip this april with the family...thanks

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
March 20, 2012 at 5:59 PM

Luggage is allowed. Don't know about the fees of children though.

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