With dozens of airlines and half a dozen cruise lines serving Hong Kong from around the world, it's certainly not difficult to get there. Your itinerary, the amount of time you have, and your pocketbook will probably dictate how you travel. Below are some pointers to get you headed in the right direction.
Because the flight to Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) is such a long one (almost 16 hr. from Chicago, 12 hr. from London, and 9 hr. from Sydney), you may wish to splurge for a roomier seat and upgraded service, including special counters for check-in, private lounges at the airport, and better meals, as well as a higher ticket price when choosing your carrier. You should also consider a mileage program, because this round-trip flight will earn you a lot of miles.
Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong's flagship airline, offers the most flights, with connections from North America, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Dragonair is a Hong Kong-based airline that serves many cities in Asia. Likewise, sister airlines Hong Kong Airlines and Hong Kong Express are both based in Hong Kong and service some 30 cities in Asia.
Arriving at Hong Kong International Airport -- No one who ever flew into Hong Kong's former Kai Tak Airport could likely forget the experience of landing in one of the world's most densely populated cities. The runway extended out into the bay, past apartments so close you could almost reach out and touch the laundry fluttering from the bamboo poles.
But Kai Tak, which ranked as the world's third-busiest airport in 1996, was retired in 1998. Taking its place is Hong Kong International Airport (tel. 852/2181 8888; www.hongkongairport.com), more than four times the size of Kai Tak when it opened and now consisting of two terminals. Situated just north of Lantau Island on reclaimed land, about 32km (20 miles) from Hong Kong's central business district, the state-of-the-art airport is one of the world's most user-friendly.
Regardless of which terminal you arrive at, after Customs you'll find yourself in the arrivals hall. One of the first things you should do is stop by one of three Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) Visitor Centres, where you can pick up maps, sightseeing brochures, and a wealth of other information, as well as get directions to your hotel. They're open daily from 7am to 11pm. The computers at iCyberLink provide access to www.discoverhongkong.com 24 hours a day.
Also in the arrivals hall is the counter of the Hong Kong Hotel Association (tel. 852/2383 8380 or 852/2769 8822; www.hkha.com.hk), where you can book a room in one of its 100-some member hotels without paying a service fee; it's open daily from 7am to midnight. You won't find any rock-bottom prices here, but they can book rooms in several low-priced lodgings.
If you plan on traveling to Macau sometime during your stay in Hong Kong, stop by the Macau tourist information counter, in the arrivals lobby of Terminal 1, at AO6; it's open daily from 9am to 1pm, 1:45 to 6pm, and 6:45 to 10pm. However, if you are traveling directly to Macau from Hong Kong International Airport via the Ferry Transfer service, do not pass through immigration. Rather, follow the signs FERRIES TO MAINLAND/MACAU to the ferry ticketing counter, where you can purchase ferry tickets and proceed directly to the ferry pie.
You can exchange money at the arrivals hall, but because the rate here is rather unfavorable, it's best to exchange only what you need to get into town -- about US$50 should do it.
If you need to leave luggage at the airport, a luggage-storage counter is located on the departure floor. Other facilities include a post office, a medical center, shops, and restaurants. Wi-Fi is available free throughout the entire airport.
Getting into Town from the Airport -- The quickest way to get to downtown Hong Kong is via the sleek Airport Express Line (tel. 852/2881 8888; www.mtr.com.hk), which you'll spot straight ahead of you after passing Customs and entering the arrivals hall. Trains run every 12 minutes between 5:50am and 1:15am and take 20 minutes to reach Kowloon Station (off Jordan Rd. and accessible to hotels in Tsim Sha Tsui and Yau Ma Tei) and 24 minutes to reach Hong Kong Station, on Hong Kong Island in the Central District. From both Kowloon and Hong Kong stations, free Airport Express Shuttle Bus service transfers passengers to most major hotels, departing every 12 to 20 minutes between 6:12am and 11:12pm (see www.mtr.com.hk for a list of hotels served). Otherwise, taxis are readily available from both stations.
Fares for the Airport Express are HK$90 to Kowloon and HK$100 to Central; round-trip tickets are HK$160 and HK$180, respectively. Or, if you're in Hong Kong fewer than 14 days, consider purchasing the tourist-only Airport Express Travel Pass for HK$300, which includes round-trip fare from and to the airport and allows unlimited travel by public transportation for 3 days; one-way airport travel plus the 3 days unlimited public transportation will only set you back HK$220.
In addition to the Airport Express train, dedicated airport buses connect the airport with major downtown Hong Kong areas. Easiest if you have lots of luggage is the Airport Hotelink (tel. 852/3193 9333; www.trans-island.com.hk), which provides door-to-door service between the airport and 100-some hotels. Tickets, available at counter B01 near exit B of the arrival hall, cost HK$130 to Kowloon and HK$150 to Hong Kong Island, with buses departing every 30 to 60 minutes. It takes about 30 to 40 minutes to reach Tsim Sha Tsui, depending on the traffic.
Slower and cheaper, with more stops along major streets near hotels, are Cityflyer buses operated by Citybus (tel. 852/2873 0818; www.nwstbus.com.hk) and city buses operated by Long Win (tel. 852/2745 4466; www.kmb.hk), both with ticket counters in the arrivals hall (if you pay onboard, you must have exact fare or use an Octopus card). Most important for tourists are bus A21, which travels through Mong Kok, Yau Ma Tei, Jordan, and down Nathan Road through Tsim Sha Tsui on its way to Hung Hom Station; and A11, which travels to Hong Kong Island, with stops in Central, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay, and North Point. Buses depart every 10 to 30 minutes from about 6am to midnight, with fares costing HK$33 to Kowloon and HK$40 to Central and Causeway Bay. There's also night bus service, with N21 traveling to Tsim Sha Tsui and N11 traveling to Hong Kong Island.
The easiest way to travel from the airport, of course, is to simply jump in a taxi, since taxis are quite cheap in Hong Kong but expensive for the long haul from the airport. Depending on traffic and your final destination, a taxi to Tsim Sha Tsui costs approximately HK$300 and takes 30 to 45 minutes, while a taxi to the Central District will cost about HK$365 and will take 35 to 50 minutes. An extra luggage charge of HK$5 applies to each piece of baggage.
Departing from the Airport -- Passengers flying Cathay Pacific, Continental, Delta, United, Virgin Atlantic, and many other airlines are offered the extra benefit of being allowed to check in for return flights at one of two satellite train stations -- at Hong Kong Station in Central and at Kowloon Station, both served by the Airport Express Line and subway lines. Both allow you advance check-in any time from 24 hours to 90 minutes before your flight: You'll get your boarding pass, and your bags will be transferred to the airport. In addition, a left-luggage service is available at both stations, daily 6am to 1am and useful if your flight is later in the day and you want to do some sightseeing before heading for the airport. Rates per piece of luggage weighing up to 30kg (66 lbs.) are HK$40 for up to 3 hours and HK$55 for 3 to 24 hours.
If you travel directly to the airport and go through check-in there, plan on arriving about 2 hours before departure of your flight.
A final note about departing: Travelers may not bring sharp objects (knives, cutters, scissors, razor blades, household cutlery) in their carry-on but may pack them in checked bags. Also, gels, aerosols, and liquids in carry-on baggage are limited to containers not more than 100ml (3 oz.) and must fit into one quart-size clear plastic bag; otherwise, check it or it will be confiscated.
It's unlikely you'll arrive in the SAR by train, unless, of course, you're traveling via China. The Beijing-Kowloon Intercity Through Train provides a direct link between the two cities in approximately 24 hours. One-way tickets cost HK$1,191 for a bed in a deluxe, two-bed cabin, HK$934 for a "soft bed" in a four-bed cabin, and HK$574 for a "hard bed" in a six-bed cabin. Service is also available from Shanghai in about 19 hours (HK$508-HK$1,039 one-way) and from Guangzhou (formerly Canton; HK$190-HK$230 one-way) and taking less than 2 hours.
The end terminus for train travel to Hong Kong is Hung Hom in Kowloon, with Mass Transit Railway (MTR) service onward to East Tsim Sha Tsui Station with its many underground passageways to area hotels.
Some 30 international cruise ships make Hong Kong a port of call each year. The SAR's main docking facility for cruise liners is Ocean Terminal, located in the heart of Tsim Sha Tsui and part of a massive shopping complex which includes 700 shops and 50 restaurants. Just a stone's throw away is the Star Ferry with service to Hong Kong Island. To accommodate growing demand, another cruise terminal is planned for the former Kai Tak airport runway, with a scheduled opening in 2013.
Extensive ferry service from neighboring Guangdong Province, across the border in mainland China, is offered by the Chu Kong Passenger Transport Co. (tel. 852/2858 3876; www.cksp.com.hk). Ferries from Nan Hai (port of call for Guangzhou), Zhu Hai, Shantou, Sanbu, and a dozen other cities arrive at the China HK Ferry Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui.
TurboJet (tel. 852/2859 3333; www.turbojet.com.hk) operates jetfoil service from Macau and Shenzhen to the Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal on Hong Kong Island, with MTR connection to the rest of the city. A limited number of jetfoils also go to the China HK Ferry Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui.
The CTS Express Coach, a branch of the China Travel Service (tel. 852/3604 0118; http://ctsbus.hkcts.com), operates an extensive fleet of cross-boundary buses that travel some 90 routes between Hong Kong, Macau, and destinations in Shenzhen and Guangdong, with numerous departures daily. Buses from Guangzhou to Wan Chai MTR station, for example, cost HK$80 one-way.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.