Hong Kong is an ideal city for a layover. Its compact size and efficient public transport make it a breeze to get out of the airport, explore the city, and return in time for your flight. How much ground you can cover depends on how long is your layover. Fortunately, we’ve got a few suggestions for you to maximise your time in the city.
We understand that heading out to the city during your layover may seem like a hassle because of things like immigration, currency exchange, luggage storage etc. So, in this post, we’ve not only included tips on where to go and what to do during your layover but also provided useful information on immigration, currency exchange, free WiFi, luggage drop-off and money savings tips.
Before you begin reading about what to do during your layover, you might find the following information useful.
Immigration & Visa
Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China and has its own immigration control and visa requirements. So the question you’re asking yourself is, “do I need a visa or transit visa to enter Hong Kong?”. Luckily, nationals of 128 countries are either eligible for a visa on arrival or don’t need a visa at all for short periods of stay (including a layover) in Hong Kong. To find out if you qualify for a visa on arrival, you can visit this site.
If you’re visiting Hong Kong as an Indian citizen, you need to apply for and obtain a Pre-Arrival Registration (PAR) slip before you go. You can get this with an online eVisa service like https://www.byevisa.com. Here you can learn all the information you need and apply ahead of your trip
Once you’ve figured out your visa situation, the actual immigration and customs clearance processes are relatively quick and efficient. And you can leave the airport during your layover.
Airport Luggage Storage
The airport offers baggage storage facilities at both terminals. The Terminal 1 luggage storage facility is located on Level 5 of the arrivals area. This facility is only closed from 1:30 – 5:30 AM.
The Terminal 2 storage lockers are available on Level 3 and can be accessed between 9 AM – 9 PM. Baggage retrieval, however, can be done anytime.
The standard storage rates are HK$ 12/hour (US$ 1.50/hour) or HK$ 140/day (US$ 18/day). In any 24-hour period, storage is charged at the hourly rate or the daily rate, whichever is less.
Wi-Fi in and around the Airport
One of the best things about Hong Kong is free and ubiquitous Wi-Fi. The airport offers free Wi-Fi and so does the Airport Express train.
If you want to download any offline maps, check your mail or do any last-minute research before you leave the airport, simply connect to the free Wi-Fi and you’ll be good to go. If you need more information about the Hong Kong International Airport or want to learn more about their facilities, check out their website.
You can easily buy Hong Kong Dollars (HK$ or HKD) inside the Arrival Hall at the Hong Kong International Airport. It’s worth noting that while most places such as restaurants and malls accept credit cards, you will need cash to use in public transportation and taxis.
The Octopus Card
However, there is a quick and easy alternative to cash for the city’s public transportation (bus, MTR, tram). It’s called the Octopus Card and you can pre-order it online (for a discount), and pick it up at the airport.Pick up a preloaded Octopus Card at the Airport
The Octopus Card comes pre-loaded with a value of HK$ 50. The card works in the MTR, buses, mini-buses, trams, and even some shops and restaurants. Once you have the Octopus Card, you won’t need more than HK$ equivalent to US$ 50 to 75 in cash for your outing.
Now, let’s talk about the city.
About Hong Kong
Hong Kong consists mainly of 4 parts – Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, New Territories, and the Outlying Islands. It’s worth noting that Hong Kong International Airport is on an island called Lantau (the southwest corner on the map below). And the main city is confined within the north of Hong Kong Island, and south and centre of Kowloon.
Airport to the City
To get to the city from the airport is a short 24-minute ride via the Airport Express train. It’s fast, convenient, and efficient. And, if you buy the train tickets online, you can save up to 40% on the ticket price. The Airport Express runs every 10 minutes from 5:50 AM to 1:15 AM daily.Save upto 40% by booking Airport Express Tickets Online
You can also take a taxi to the city, but I would recommend the train especially if time is of the essence.
So, once you’ve cleared immigration, dropped off your luggage, and collected your Octopus Card, it’s time to begin exploring Hong Kong!
Here is the list of our recommendations and some ideas on what to do during a 6, 12, or overnight layover in Hong Kong. For all our recommendations we have taken into account that you will require 45 minutes of travel time (to and from the Hong Kong International Airport), and will need to return 2 hours before your next flight.
6 Hour Layover in Hong Kong
Hong Kong probably has the most iconic skyline in the world. And what better way to experience the skyline and hills, than in viewing them from the middle of the harbour!
If you have just a few hours to spare during your layover in the city, there’s no better way to experience Hong Kong’s grandeur than via a Star Ferry ride.
Cross Victoria Harbour on the Star Ferry
The Star Ferry, which costs only HK$ 3.7 ( US$ 0.50) one-way to cross the Hong Kong Harbour, is the best way to enjoy the city’s skyline in our opinion. The ferry takes 10 minutes to cross from Central (on the Island) to Tsim Sha Tsui (in Kowloon). As you begin your journey, watch as the skyline expands behind you. It’s magnificent!
When you arrive at the ferry pier in Kowloon, walk along the harbour towards Avenue of the Stars. This promenade along the harbour commemorates Asian actors who made it to Hollywood. Here you can pose with Bruce Lee’s statue or admire the hand-print plaques of numerous actors.
If you happen to be at the Avenue of Stars at 8 PM, make sure you catch the Symphony of Lights. Rated as the best light show in the world, this sound and light show is a dazzling display of the Hong Kong skyline dancing to a very catchy tune.
How to get to the Star Ferry
Once you reach Hong Kong Station, the last stop on the Airport Express, walk to the MTR exit A2. Exit and take the escalator up to the bridge connecting the MTR to IFC Mall. Walk on the footbridge (with the Apple shop on the left) for about 5 minutes. The footbridge ends at Central Pier Number 7, which is for the Star Ferry.
Grab a bite at Canton Road
Hong Kong is known for its amazing eateries and numerous Michelin Star restaurants. Although there are numerous restaurants on Canton Road (the high street next to the harbour), the one we’d recommend is Din Tai Fung. Although originally from Taiwan, Din Tai Fung has branches all over Hong Kong.
This is the perfect restaurant to visit before a flight. The food is light and easy to digest. Don’t forget to try their Xiao Long Bao (dumplings filled with soup)!
Shop 306, 3/F, Silvercord, 30 Canton Road Tsim Sha Tsui
Be conscious of how much time you have before your flight as the wait time for a table can be as high as 30 minutes during peak hours. Of course, there are numerous options along Canton Road, especially within the Harbour City Mall. Once you’re done eating, hail a cab to Kowloon Station. From here, take the Airport Express train back to the airport.
6 Hour Layover Summary
- Hong Kong Airport to Central via Airport Express train: 25 minutes
- Walking to the Star Ferry Pier in Central: 15 minutes
- Crossing Victoria Harbour: 10 minutes
- Walk along the Avenue of the Stars: 30-45 minutes
- Walk to Din Tai Fung on Canton Road: 10-15 minutes
- Eating at Din Tai Fung (including wait time): 1 hour
- Canton Road to Kowloon Station by taxi: 15 minutes
- Kowloon Station to Airport via the Airport Express: 20 minutes
9 to 12 Hour Layover in Hong Kong
If you have anywhere between 9 to 12 hours to spare in Hong Kong, there are a lot more touristy things that you can cover.
In this section, we’ll take you on a tour of Hong Kong’s skyline, a meal at the city’s cheapest Michelin Star restaurant, and a local shopping experience. Let’s start by heading to Victoria Peak.
The Peak in Hong Kong has some of the best views of the city’s skyline. If you’re lucky to have a layover on a clear day, you can see miles into Kowloon. Of course, the view from the Peak looks equally stunning at night too. Just keep in mind that most buildings turn off their lights by 11 PM.
There are numerous ways to get to Victoria Peak, but the most popular transport mode (for first-timers) is the Peak Tram. The tram offers a unique and exciting way for passengers to experience the vertical beauty of Hong Kong. The Peak Tram starts from the Garden Road in Admiralty and takes you straight up to the Peak.
Keep in mind that the lines at the terminus can very long! Fortunately, you can save your limited time (and money), and buy a fast-track ticket online! And while you’re at it, get the tram fast-track ticket combo, and opt for access to the rooftop of the Peak Tower (Sky Pass). This will get you the best views of the entire city. I highly recommend it!
How to get there
Once you arrive at the Hong Kong station on the Airport Express, the easiest way to get to the Peak Tram is by taking the Peak Tram Shuttle. The shuttle departs from next to Central Pier Number 7 (the Star Ferry Pier). The shuttle has a number, 15C, and a frequency of 20 minutes. It charges HK$ 4.2 (US$ 0.55) to the Peak Tram Station.Save time and money, buy Peak Tram Sky Pass tickets online
Alternatively, you can take the less exciting bus number 15 straight to The Peak. This bus also departs from opposite Central Pier Number 7.
Grab a bite at HK’s Cheapest Michelin Star
You can’t come to Hong Kong and leave without tasting some delicious dim sum (Dim means ‘Touch’ and Sum means ‘Heart’). We guarantee that at Tim Ho Wan – Hong Kong’s cheapest Michelin Star restaurant – the dim sum will not only touch your heart but also feed your soul.
Located in IFC Mall in Central, this restaurant has a queue at any time of the day. The wait time can range from anywhere between 5 minutes to 45 minutes, but the food is worth it in our opinion. And the best part – a meal will cost anywhere between US$ 10 to 15 per head.
How to get there
Tim Ho Wan is located directly below the check-in counters at the Hong Kong Station in IFC Mall. The best way to get here from the Peak is via bus No 15, which drops you off at the Exchange Square, right next to IFC Mall. Or you could take a taxi too.
Address: Shop 12A, Hong Kong Station Podium Level 1, IFC Mall, Central
Visit Mong Kok’s Ladies Market
Known as the most densely populated neighbourhood in Hong Kong, Mong Kok captures the essence of the city in all its entirety.
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Mong Kok is the Ladies Market. But don’t let the name fool you. This outdoor market is open throughout the day and specialises in branded knock-offs, children’s toys, curios, trinkets and other knick-knacks. It’s a great place to pick up a souvenir or two to remember your layover in Hong Kong.
Pro tip: Haggling is the name of the game. Be sure to bring the price down by 70% to get the best bargain!
How to get there
Mong Kok is the 6th MTR stop on the Red Line going from Central to Tsuen Wan. Once you reach Mong Kok, take exit E2, turn left on Nelson Street and take the second left towards Tung Choi Street. You can’t miss the line of stalls selling handbags and accessories.
When it’s time to head back, take the Red Line from Mong Kok to Central. Walk within the station to Hong Kong Station where you can board the Airport Express train to go back to the airport.
9 to 12 hour Hong Kong Layover Summary
- Hong Kong Airport to Central via Airport Express train: 25 minutes
- Walking to the Star Ferry Pier in Central: 15 minutes
- Central to Peak Tram terminus: 10 minutes
- Wait time for the Peak Tram: 15 minutes (if you have the fast pass, else up to 45 mins)
- Tram ride to the Peak: 10 minutes
- Explore Victoria Peak: 45 minutes
- Bus to Central: 35 minutes
- Locate Tim Ho Wan: 10 minutes
- Wait time at Tim Ho Wan: 30 minutes
- Eating at Tim Ho Wan: 45 minutes
- MTR to Mong Kok: 10-15 minutes
- Explore the Ladies Market: 45 minutes
- Train back to Central: 10-15 minutes
- Airport Express to Airport: 25 minutes
Overnight Layover in Hong Kong
If you have an overnight layover in Hong Kong, and you’re not particularly in the mood to sleep through it, there are plenty of things for you to discover and experience. Maybe you want to explore the nightlife or just fight your jet lag. So, here are some ideas from eating, shopping, admiring the skyline to partying and grabbing a bite past midnight.
Admire The Sound and Light Show and the Skyline
If you can make it to the city by 8 PM, head over to the Avenue of the Stars to catch the Symphony of Lights. A dazzling display of lights and lasers, across the Hong Kong Skyline, synchronised to music. Not only do you get to admire Hong Kong’s magnificent skyline but also watch an award-winning show (for free).
After the show, you can continue to admire the skyline from the harbour or head up to Victoria Peak for a different vantage point. Just keep in mind that most of the buildings turn off their lights around 11 PM.
How to get there
Take the Airport Express to Kowloon Station. At the station, grab a taxi and tell the driver to take you to the Star Ferry Harbour in Tsim Sha Tsui.
From there, you can then take the Star Ferry across to Central. Keep your camera ready as the views from the middle of the harbour are spectacular! Once you arrive in Central, take a taxi up to Victoria Peak.
Shop At Temple Street Night Market or Mong Kok Ladies Market (open till 11 PM)
Located in Jordan in Kowloon, Temple Street comes to life at night! From local roadside eateries to Hong Kong’s famous night market. And what’s more, Jordan very convenient to reach via the MTR.
Grab a bite at one of the local seafood restaurants and then walk around the night market that sells gadgets, counterfeit bags, souvenirs and trinkets. It’s a perfect place to pick up a souvenir of your layover in Hong Kong.
You could alternatively head down to the Ladies Market Mong Kok. In our opinion, the range of products at the Ladies Market is wider than that at the Temple Street Night Market. The Ladies Market also happens to much bigger in scale.
Keep in mind that both night markets close at 11 PM.
How to get there
Jordan is the 4th stop on the Red Line going from Central to Tsuen Wan. If you are coming from the Avenue of the Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui, Jordan is only 1 stop away.
Mong Kok is on the same red line, just another 2 stops ahead of Jordan. Follow the signs at Exit D for Tung Choi Street. I prefer emerging from Exit D3 and walking a few metres to the start of the market. Alternatively, you can exit from E2. Just follow the signs to the Ladies’ Market.
Bar Hopping at Lan Kwai Fong and Soho
If you’ve still got a lot of energy after your flight, or just want to check out Hong Kong’s party district, head down to Lan Kwai Fong (LKF). Located in Central, this little neighbourhood is jam-packed with bars and clubs that are open till early in the morning.
Located next to LKF is Soho, another favourite for bar-hopping locals. The area between Wyndham Street and Hollywood Road is always screaming with life at night. And while you’re there, check the picturesque Pottinger Street between Wyndham and Hollywood.
And if it’s not too late at Soho, hop across the road into Tai Kwun – Centre for Heritage and Arts. What was once a massive police station and prison is now a gentrified area with bars, restaurants, and a whole lot of art.
Late Night Eateries in Hong Kong
While travelling, hunger can strike anytime. You might be in Hong Kong, but your body is still at the time of where you came from. Or perhaps, you just went partying at LKF and now need something to eat.
So, here are some of our favourite restaurants in Hong Kong that are open late.
- Burger Circus
- 22 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong (Google Map link)
- Open till 3 AM on Fridays and Saturdays.
- Delicious burgers and amazing milkshakes. Located in Soho.
- The Flying Pan
- Multiple locations all over Hong Kong. But the one closest to LKF is located at 5 Lan Kwai Fong, Central, Hong Kong (Google Map link)
- Open till 6 AM from Sunday to Thursday, and till 7 AM on Friday and Saturday.
- Greasy kebabs, and rolls. Perfect for an after-party bite.
- Under Bridge Spicy Crab
- Shop 6-9, G/F, 429 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong (Google Map link)
- Open till 6 AM.
- Incredible delicious spicy crab. Grab anything you fancy on the menu.
- Shop F-I, G/F, Lockhart House Block A, 440 Jaffe Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong (Google Map link)
- Open 24 hours.
- One of the best ramen restaurants. Delicious comfort food! It’s almost impossible to get a table during the day, so perhaps you have better luck in the middle of the night.
Hotel Options for your Layover
Of course, if you’re way too tired and just want to get a good night’s sleep too, we can provide you with a couple of hotel recommendations for your layover. Ideally, you would want to stay near the airport, or next to the two stops on the Airport Express Stations (Kowloon and Hong Kong). That way, you’re always within 30 minutes of the airport.
Hotels Near the Airport
Hotels near the airport offer free shuttle service to the terminals.
Hotels Near Kowloon Station
Hotels near the Kowloon Station have the advantage of being located near Tsim Sha Tsui, Temple Street Night Market, and Mong Kok.
The Kowloon Station is located in the basement of Hong Kong’s tallest building, the ICC. There are two luxurious hotel options within the ICC – The W Hong Kong and The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong. If you feel like splurging and want the best views of Hong Kong, there are no better hotels than these two.
Also, the ICC also boasts of Sky100, a 360-degree indoor observation deck on the 100th floor. You can book tickets online to the Sky100 to get the best view of Hong Kong.Save 47% On Sky100 Tickets
Hotels Near Hong Kong Station
Hotels near Hong Kong Station are located in Central, Hong Kong. They’re within walking distance from LKF, Soho, and IFC.
If hotels aren’t in your budget, you can always check out some of the facilities offered by the Hong Kong International Airport for passengers with long layovers, such as:
A Comprehensive Hong Kong Layover Guide
We hope you found this blog helpful and that you have a better idea of how to spend your layover in Hong Kong. Again, I can’t stress this enough, Hong Kong’s efficient transport and compact size make it an ideal layover destination. But it’s also an amazing city to visit, and if you ever plan to visit Hong Kong, make sure you check out our itinerary.
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