Flying time to Hong Kong is around 16 hours nonstop from Newark/New York, 15½ hours nonstop from Los Angeles, or 14 hours nonstop from San Francisco.
Airlines and Airports
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Airline Security Issues
Transportation Security Agency (www.tsa.gov/public.)
Modern, easy to navigate, and full of amenities, Hong Kong International Airport (HKG)—also known as Chek Lap Kok, after its location—is a traveler's dream. Terminal 1, the third-largest terminal in the world, services the departures for most major airlines, as well as all arriving flights. The newer but smaller Terminal 2 handles all other airlines, including budget carriers.
Given the size of Terminal 1, it's advisable to check in early, at least two hours before departure (although check-in counters usually close 50 minutes before departure). Some boarding gates are quite far from immigrations, and you will need to take a short train ride to reach them. Most major airlines let you use the In-Town Check-in service at the Hong Kong or Kowloon Airport Express stations anywhere from 24 hours to 90 minutes before your flight (confirm with your airline first), and you can check luggage as well, saving you the bother of lugging bags out to the airport.
Once you're at the airport, there are multiple options for meals and refreshments, from fast-food outlets and cafés to restaurants and bars. Many open as early as 6 am and close as late as midnight. Beyond immigrations in Terminal 1, you'll find a few places that are open 24 hours, including Café de Coral and McDonald's on Level 7 of the Departures East Hall and the Starbucks at Departures Central Concourse, Level 6, and Departures Check-in Hall, Level 7.
You can also do some last-minute shopping in both terminals, although most luxury brands can be found only in Terminal 1. Travelers who would rather find a place to relax before their flight can do so in one of the four fee-for-use lounges. Three of the lounges are in Terminal 1, while the Plaza Premium Lounge is located at the Arrivals Hall between the two terminals. These 24-hour lounges have rest areas, showers, massages, Internet access, TV, reading materials, and hot meals. A 10-hour package costs HK$700, and shorter stays are correspondingly cheaper.
There are also free resting lounges (without showers and other perks) and miniature gardens with comfortable seating at the Departure Level near Gates 21, 26, 34, 41, and 61. You can also access free public Wi-Fi or use one of the 56 computers available at 28 different locations in Terminal 1. There are also three nondenominational prayer rooms in the airport, two of which are open 24 hours.
When arriving in Hong Kong, you'll be asked to fill out an immigrations form. An immigrations officer will collect the arrivals slip, and you will have to keep the departure slip to show immigrations when you leave Hong Kong. Airport tax is normally included in your ticket price. If it's not, a fee of HK$120 is payable on departure from the country. It's levied only on those 12 years and older and is waived for all transit and transfer passengers who arrive and leave on the same day.
Hong Kong International Airport (2181–8888. www.hongkongairport.com.)
Plaza Premium Lounge (2261–0888. www.plaza-network.com.)
The Airport Express train service is the quickest and most convenient way to and from the airport. Gleaming, high-speed trains whisk you to Kowloon in 21 minutes and Central in 24 minutes. Trains run daily every 10 minutes between 5:54 am and 11:28 pm and every 12 minutes between 11:28 pm and 12:58 am. The last train from the airport departs at 12:48 am. The trains have Wi-Fi, plenty of luggage space, legroom, and comfortable seating with video screens on the backs of the passenger seats showing tourist information and the latest news. Although this is the most expensive public transport option, the speed and dependability justify the extra cost.
The Airport Express station is connected to the MTR's AsiaWorld-Expo, Tsing Yi, Kowloon, and Hong Kong (Central) stations. Excluding the AsiaWorld stop, all stations connect to the MTR. One-way or same-day return fare to or from Central is HK$100; to and from Kowloon, HK$90. Round-trip tickets valid for one month cost HK$180 for Central and HK$160 for Kowloon. The Airport Express Travel Pass is an option if you are planning a very short stay, as it allows you unlimited travel on the MTR for 72 hours after activation; the HK$220 pass includes a single airport journey and the HK$300 pass includes an airport round-trip.
Tickets are cheaper if purchased online or through a travel agent. The Airport Express also provides its customers with free porter service, and shuttle buses run every 12 or 20 minutes between major hotels and the Hong Kong and Kowloon stations—there are seven routes, and a list of stops is displayed prominently at the boarding area. Service begins at 6:12 am and ends at 11:12 pm. To board, you must show your Airport Express ticket and airline ticket/boarding pass.
Citybus runs five buses ("A" precedes the bus number) from the airport to popular destinations. They make fewer stops than regular buses (which have an "E" before their numbers) do, so the fare is higher. Two useful routes are the A11, serving Central, Admiralty, Wan Chai, and Causeway Bay and ending in North Point; and the A21, going to Tsim Sha Tsui, Jordan, and Mong Kok. The A11's operating hours are from 6:10 am to 12:30 am, while the A21 runs from 6 am to 12 am. Should you arrive in Hong Kong outside of these hours, you can take the N11 or the N21, which are overnight buses serving the same routes. The buses are comfortable and provide free Wi-Fi. There is adequate space for luggage, and the onboard announcements are in Cantonese, Putonghua, and English, so you won't miss your stop.
Several small shuttle buses with an "S" before their numbers run to the nearby Tung Chung MTR station, where you can get the MTR to Central and Kowloon. MTR trains run parallel to the Airport Express route, but they cost much less (HK$22.50 from the airport to Central). However, you won't have the same amenities, and travel time is longer as the trains make more stops.
Taxis from the airport are reliable and plentiful. Trips to Hong Kong Island destinations cost around HK$280, while those to Kowloon are around HK$230. There is also a HK$5 charge per piece of luggage stored in the trunk. Trans-Island runs the Airport Hotelink coach service, which stops at 45 hotels on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. The coaches depart every 30-60 minutes for HK$150 to destinations on Hong Kong Island, HK$130 to those in Kowloon. Parklane Limousine Service's coaches run at 30-minute intervals, with fares for Hong Kong Island at HK$140 and Kowloon at HK$130. Parklane also offers Mercedes-Benz limousine transfers for HK$550-HK$850, depending on the destination and type of car.
Airport Express (2881–8888. www.mtr.com.hk.)
Citybus (2873–0818. www.nwstbus.com.hk.)
Parklane Limousine (2730–0662. www.hongkonglimo.com.)
Trans-Island Limousine Service (3193–9332. www.trans-island.com.hk.)
Vigor Airport Shuttle Services (2186–6883. www.vigorholding.com.)
Cathay Pacific is Hong Kong's flagship carrier. It maintains high standards, with friendly service, good food, an extensive in-flight entertainment system, and an excellent track record for safety. Cathay has nonstop flights from both Los Angeles and San Francisco on the West Coast and from New York-JFK on the East Coast, with connecting services to many other U.S. cities. Singapore Airlines is also another highly rated airline with flights to Hong Kong from multiple American cities, including daily flights from San Francisco. However, these are not nonstop, as the routing usually includes a stopover and/or change in Singapore.
If you are on a tight budget, Air China and China Airlines offer lower-cost flights between New York and Los Angeles and Hong Kong, although the savings are reflected in the service and amenities. Several other airlines also offer service from the United States to Hong Kong, usually with connections in Asia.
If you're planning to travel to three or four Asian destinations, you might want to consider a One World's Visit Asia Pass, which provides travel throughout Southeast Asia via a consortium of airlines. Cities are grouped into zones, and there's a flat rate for each zone. The pass doesn't cover flights from the United States, Europe, or Australia and New Zealand, however. Inquire through American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, or any other One World member.
One World (www.oneworld.com.)