Transit in Hong Kong: my 6-hour stopover tour

Hong Kong is an important air hub connecting Asia and the rest of the world. I used Hong Kong airport for transit several times but only for short periods.

Asia's World City

Asia’s World City

So when I last booked a flight with Cathay Pacific, I planned a 6-hour stopover to explore Hong Kong for a short time. I was very glad to learn that there were great incentives for transit travelers:Β 1. the 120 HKD (15.50 USD) departure tax is waived for passengers arriving and departing within the day; and 2. the Airport Express train offers a free return journey for passengers traveling in the same day (100 HKD instead of 200 HKD for the two-way journey to Hong Kong Station). I had no reason not to go out of the airport!

Hong Kong from the plane

View of Hong Kong from the plane

Airport Express Train to Hong Kong Station

My flight to Hong KongΒ arrived at around 3 pm and my flight out was at 21:30 pm, so I had about 5 hours to spare (excluding time I have to spend at immigration). After about 30 minutes at the airport (I already have an onward boarding pass to my next destination and immigration procedures were very fast and efficient), I went out and bought same day return tickets for the Airport Express train to Hong Kong Station.

Same day return tickets for the Airport Express essentially gives you a free return trip!

Same day return tickets for the Airport Express essentially gives you a free return trip! (100 HKD instead of 200 HKD for a two-way trip)

Trains depart every 10 minutes and the ride from the airport to Hong Kong Station is only 24 minutes — comfy and fast!

Inside the Airport Express

Inside the Airport Express Train

Ferry from Central Pier to Hong Kong Station

When I arrived at Hong Kong station a little before 4 pm, I deposited my bags at the left luggage counter (check available station services at this link). It set me back 55 HKD, but at least I didn’t have to carry my heavy luggage around. After that, I walked around the connecting shopping mall for a bit… hmmm alright alright I didn’t know which way to go! But I eventually found the signs pointing me to the Central Pier. I followed the sign to Pier 7, where I rode the ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui (ferries depart every 10 minutes and the trip across is about 10 minutes long).

Hong Kong's Central Pier

Hong Kong’s Central Pier

The ferry ride only costs 2.50 HKD, and I happily inserted my coins into their automated machine to get a token and wait for the ferry.

The ferry that took me across Victoria Harbour

The ferry that took me across Victoria Harbour

"Beware of moving gangplank"

“Beware of moving gangplank,” when entering.

Inside the ferry

Inside the ferry

The view from the ferry

The view during the trip across the harbour

Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade and Avenue of Stars

I arrived at Tsim Sha Tsui Pier at around 4:15 pm, and walked the length of the Promenade. I passed by and took photos of the Clock Tower, the HK Cultural Center, the HK Museum of Art and other interesting statues before I arrived at the Avenue of Stars, where I found most of the crowds.

The Clock Tower and surrounding area

The Clock Tower and surrounding area

The Clock Tower is a declared monument, protected under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance. It was part of the Kowloon-Canton Railway Terminus.

The Clock Tower is a Declared Monument, protected under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance. It was part of the Kowloon-Canton Railway Terminus.

Hong Kong Museum of Art

Hong Kong Museum of Art

Look up!

Look up!

Commemorative Sculpture of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Torch

Commemorative Sculpture of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Torch

The Avenue of Stars

The Avenue of Stars

I leisurely walked along the Avenue of Stars and enjoyed seeing my fellow tourists gaily posing with the random statues lining the walk and snappily taking photos of each other.

A lot of statue lovin' at the Avenue of Stars...

A lot of statue lovin’ at the Avenue of Stars…

Tourists enjoying their photo session spree

Tourists enjoying their photo session spree

Guess what they’re taking a picture of?

They're taking a photo of Bruce Lee! This statue is the highlight of the Avenue of Stars

The Bruce Lee statue! This statue is the highlight of the Avenue of Stars.

My favorite part of the Promenade, however, was the view of Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong skyline. It was really impressive, although the weather was really gloomy (not so good for picture taking with my not so good camera).

Victoria Harbour

Victoria Harbour

Fishing at the harbour

Fishing at the harbour

Mong Kok Ladies Night Market and Sneakers Street

After an hour, I left the Avenue of Stars and walked towards Tsim Sha Tsui Station and rode the MTR to Mong Kok using the Tsuen Wan Line (7 minutes, 5 HKD). I arrived at Mong Kok around 5:30 pm, and was greeted by lots and lots of merchandise. The street was filled with an assortment of clothes, bags, toys, souvenirs and other oddments, most of which are intended for tourists.

The Mong Kok Ladies Market is not as crowded in the early weekday evening

The Mong Kok Ladies Market is not as crowded in the early evening.

I window shopped while walking the streets of Mong Kok, until I came upon Sneakers Street. Unlike Mong Kok that sells its wares on the street, Sneakers Street have large sports shops that sells, well, lots and lots of shoes. I was really planning to buy trekking shoes as my old pair was ready to retire, so I thought the Sneakers Street was a good place as any to look for a replacement. It took me a good while walking back and forth the shops before I finally decided on a pair that I really liked. So after 45 minutes, I left Sneakers Street wearing a new pair of shoes πŸ™‚

New shoes from Sneakers Street

New shoes from Sneakers Street

Central Station and (supposedly) The Peak

From Mong Kok, I took the MTR Tsuen Wan Line to Central Station (12 minutes, 11.50 HKD) and made my way to the J2 exit of the station to ride the tram at the Peak Tram Lower Terminus. I initially planned to go to The PeakΒ for its nice night view of Hong Kong, but it was very cloudy when I stepped out of the station. The Peak had been covered in clouds all day, so I figured I wouldn’t see the stunning view that I was expecting, and there would be no point in going if I’ll be standing in a cloud. So I just walked idly around Central’s tall buildings before deciding to return to the airport.

Hong Kong's Central area is full of these tall buildings

Hong Kong’s Central area is full of these tall buildings

I followed the signs from Central Station so I could get back to Hong Kong Station to take the the Airport Express. I got back to the airport at around 8 pm, plenty of time for dinner before my 9:30 pm flight.

So that was my very short Hong Kong tour. Too bad I couldn’t visit The Peak because of the weather, but I don’t mind. I have that, and a lot more places, to visit when I go back to Hong Kong for another stopover… or maybe a proper trip next time πŸ™‚

Expenses summary:

Airport express (round trip) – 100 HKD

Left luggage fee – 55 HKD

Star ferry from Central Pier to Tsim Sha Tsui – 2.50 HKD

MTR Tsim Sha Tsui to Mong Kok – 5 HKD

MTR Mong Kok to Central – 11.50 HKD)

[The Peak Tram (round trip tickets – 40 HKD]

*Total expenses (without left luggage fee) would have been around 159 HKD (20.50 USD) if I went to The Peak.

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85 responses to “Transit in Hong Kong: my 6-hour stopover tour

  1. Maybe I should think about doing it the way you did, when our family goes to Japan this fall… A side trip in HK would be fun πŸ™‚ hehe

  2. The same-day rail ticket is great. We’re doing a 12 hr layover on our way to N. America. Looking forward to it.

  3. I have a 12 hour layover in November and was nervous about heading out into the city. This has definitely made me feel better!!

  4. Thanks for this info, it is very informative. I’ve got a 12 hour stop in HK and I’m looking forward to using all your tips.

  5. This is great! You covered quite a few places in just no time. I have a similar six-hour stopover(Arrival: 16:10, Departure: 22:40) in HK this Saturday and I’m sure your post is going to be of great help. Also, I am planning to visit “The Peak” and “The Avenue of Stars”(I also want to take the ferry from Central Pier to Tsim Sha Tsui). Which place do you think should I go first? Thanks for the post!

  6. I have 5 hours layover, will land at 9 and have connecting flight to SFO at 2. Whats your recommendation?

    • Hi! Be very quick in exiting the plane and falling in line for immigration. But the roundtrip discounted ticket and head for victoria harbour for the avenue of the stars and vicinity. Try crossing by ferry to central before heading back to the airport. Make sure you arrive back at the airport an hour before your next flight, so you should leave the city a little past 12:30… Good luck an enjoy!

      Sent from my iPhone

      >

  7. I just printed the whole page hehehe. Thank you for sharing the details of your very nice short trip. I’ll be transiting in HKG for 9 hours on Dec 26 on my way to Penang MY, and I think your itinerary is perfect. With longer time I can spare, I can see & relax li’l bit more before heading back for my onward flight. Salamat. πŸ™‚

  8. Hello geoventurer,

    Thanks for the useful guide! I had my layover of 9 hours today and used your blog post as a basis. Unfortunately, due to Christmas approaching, it was extremely busy in the city. I skipped the avenue of the stars and instead went to Kowloon park to relax a bit.
    Your guide made me feel a lot more confident about leaving the airport. The knowledge that there was a same day return ticket also saved a lot of waiting in cues.
    I was pleasantly surprised about the efficiency of customs. Max waiting time was 4 minutes!
    I can recommend everyone to follow this guide πŸ™‚
    happy travelling!

  9. I have a 9 hour layover in HK from 10 am to 7 pm. Planning to use tips from your itinerary. Is the left baggage facility secure, does it have lockers or is the luggage placed in an open and accessible space? Just wondering about safety of valuables and electronics if left behind.

    Thanks!

    • Heya thanks for dropping by. The left luggage has an inner room for the stuff left to them, an you deposit and claim your luggage over the front counter. If you want to be super sure you might want to have a lock? But it’s safe anyway

      Sent from my iPhone

      >

  10. Hi, I am planning to do what you did but unlike you I am not a traveller so I feel a little scared. 😦 But I would still do it! Question though, I would like to skip going to the market , how can I go back to the airport from the avenue of the stars, do you know what route to take? And when I am really lost, do you know much taxis cost?

    Thanks, this post is so helpful.

    • From the Avenue of Stars, either you take the train (MTR Tsim Sha Tsui station) then get off at Central Station or you can take the ferry back to Central Ferry the way you came. Then you just walk to the Airport Express Line Hong Kong station. If you want to be sure, you can check out this link: http://www.mtr.com.hk/

      Also, make sure to get a map from the tourist info at the airport. That way in case you get lost, just point to the airport train station at the map and people will point you to it πŸ™‚

      Good luck and enjoy HK!

  11. Hi, it’ll be my and my daughter’s first time to have a 5hr lay over on June. I am a bit scared and ignorant of what to do after exiting the Cathay plane from Cebu. Sorry for this newbie question. But I am quite confused as to what steps to do after disembarking, where to go to check-in or get an onward boarding pass for Japan, our next destination as we plan to stroll around TST during the lay-over. Or will the boarding pass for Japan be given already at Mactan airport? Do I have to have a boarding pass first before going out of the airport? Or is the same procedure as one way trips where we can do a “normal” check-in at the counters. Thank you very much in advance! πŸ™‚

    • Hello, sorry for the late reply. If you booked for a trip to Japan with a transit in HK via Cathay, the onward boarding pass should be provided in Cebu. The baggage will also be tagged to Japan unless you specify otherwise.
      If they did not give you your boarding pass in Cebu, you should ask for assistance at the transfer desk. It’s better to have a boarding pass before going to immigration, it will make everything faster. Enjoy and good luck!

      • Thank you for the reply, at least it eased my mind from most of my fears. We really would like to stroll around TST even for a few hours. Your blog is really helpful to us. Thank you again. πŸ™‚

      • Thanks for your detailed information on short HK visit during transit. I would appreciate if you let me know the charges for keeping luggage. Is this charge per cabin bag basis? We may have three cabin luggages and how you pay charges not only in air port, even for ferry to Tshim Sha Tsui? It would be very helpful if you let us know how far the Central Pier Water Front from Hong Kong station? Is it walkable with a kid and easy to reach there to catch a ferry?

        Waiting for your reply soon.

        Regards,

        Chumki

        • Hi Chumki,

          I left my cabin luggage at HK station so I did not have to bring it to the ferry (I don’t know if there are baggage charges for the ferry. I haven’t seen any big luggages brought to the ferry, it’s takes only 10 minutes to cross and you’ll be walking around so it’s best to leave the luggage at HK station.)
          Charges for left luggage are on a per item basis (check this link and look for the left baggage service details: http://www.mtr.com.hk/en/customer/services/aestations_hk.html#1)

          It took me 5 minutes to walk from HK station to the Central Pier, but I walk fast. With a kid it should take you 10-15 minutes and there is an elevated walkway so it’s very convenient. Catching a ferry is easy, as I described in the post the ferry leaves every 10 minutes so you should have no problems.

          Enjoy and take care!

  12. Hello, i’m newbie here, I will have 9 hours transit time in HKIA before catching my flight to London. So if i have my luggages tagged to London and boarding pass to London too then i just walk to the immigration and go out as a tourist? do i need special visa to go out?

  13. Hi, my family and I will be transiting from Cebu on the way home back to the US with Cathay Pacific in January 2015. We are US Citizens and we will have an 8 hour layover at HKG. If our checked bags are tagged to LAX, we shouldn’t have to worry about them, is that correct? I also researched that HKG International has lockers for 12 HKD per hour where we could leave our carry on bags. Your posting is very helpful and informative, please let me know if you have any other advice, recommendations or suggestions (i.e. good places to eat or things to see), thanks!

    • Hello! Yes, you don’t need to worry about your luggage during transit, you will get it in LAX.
      Yes, there are lockers in the airport and in the Hong Kong Airport Express train stations as well (check my post for details).
      You can enjoy a nice dinner at the peak for a nice view of the city. Enjoy Hong Kong!

  14. Hi!

    I have a layover in HK for nine hours (from midnight to 9am) in December 2014. Will it be smart to go out and see the city (and if so, then how would you recommend doing it)? I can’t find a lot of info about sightseeing night time πŸ™‚

    Thanks for this blog, I’d sure follow your experience if my time was somehow appropriate to do so πŸ™‚

    • Hello AsiaNewbie!

      Your situation is a little difficult because almost all of the attractions close at midnight, at the latest and opens at 8 or 9 am (The Peak, Avenue of Stars, night markets). Also, the last train is a little before midnight so I’m not sure if you’ll be able to catch it.
      Sorry I couldn’t be of more help, but if you do find things to do after midnight please drop a line here to share the information.

      • Thanks for your prompt reply! I’ll definitely let you know in case I’m able to figure out something to do at that time.

        If I don’t.. well, it will be a lot of shopping & eating at the airport.. πŸ˜‰

  15. Hello Geoventurer!

    I already made my own itinerary after reading this. thanks for this very informative post. I will have around 10 hours stopover in HK ( 3pm – midnight) this October. I will be going there with my friend. For the transportation (Airport Express “Same day Return” + MTR + Ferry + or Bus) Do we need to buy Octopus Card in once or buy a single ticket for every type of transportation we use? How about deposit in Octopus Card? can we use all amount of the deposit to pay fot the transportation?

  16. Outstanding post, you have pointed out some fantastic points, I as well think this is a very great website. efbekgeekcee

  17. We just got back to Sydney this morning after a flight from Prague via Helsinki and Hong Kong. We didn’t have as much time as you but did the train to Central/ferry to Kowloon/wander about/train from Kowloon MTR station back to the airport. It was great, thanks for your detailed info.

  18. Hello Geoventurer!

    I already made my own itinerary after reading this. thanks for this very informative post. I will have around 10 hours stopover in HK ( 3pm – midnight) this October. I will be going there with my friend. For the transportation (Airport Express β€œSame day Return” + MTR + Ferry + or Bus) Do we need to buy Octopus Card in once or buy a single ticket for every type of transportation we use? How about deposit in Octopus Card? can we use all amount of the deposit to pay fot the transportation?

    • Hi Rayna,

      I never used the octopus card I just bought single journey tickets (except the one day train from and to the airport) so I can’t help you with this so sorry!

      I hope you have a nice trip! Enjoy HK!

      >

  19. Very useful – looks like I will have 6 hours in transit, and it would be a cying shame to spend it in a terminal building.
    Thanks for the excellent advice.
    Regards
    Cathy (a fellow recovering geologist)

  20. Superb Post!!! I am going to use this as my itinerary. But I have a 14 hr 50 minutes transit time. so, probably I have 12 hrs of time to spend outside. Can you please suggest some more places to check out apart from the ones above?

    Thanks for your help!!

  21. Hi Geoventurer,

    Good to have your article while browsing net for HK stopovers. My layover is approx.11 hrs from Cathay Flight to Dubai…I would like to explore The Peak and Avenue of Stars but would skip Market.

    Can you pls.suggest any other destination to explore. Early reply would much appreciated my friend.

    Thanks a ton.

    Panks

  22. Thanks Geoventurer, I had a nice trip to HK with all set patterns by your itinerary and few other things I have covered…it was so exact and precise to visit places as I was a second time visitor.

    Thanks a ton again…

    Panks

  23. Hi!is it advisable for first timers to do the tour on their own even if they are alone? And is it easy to explore hong kong coz honestly i am not good in reading maps!thanks

  24. Going there too this Jan! (Ony for 10 hours tho) Flying with Etihad, I purposedly picked this route so I can have side vacation apart from my actual destination hehe. Your post are really helpful, I think Im going to follow every bit of it! Anyway I have few questions, would be great if you could help! :

    1) How abt Internet connection there? Will there be free wifi hotspot or something like that in the city and the airport?

    2) Did you shopped for souvenirs? Where is the best markets for those?

    Thanks in advance!

  25. Excellent post! I am flying cathay pacific tonight and have about a 6.5 hr layover in HK on the way to JFK. Do you think it is worth checking out the causeway area which I believe is very similar to the NY times square or do you think all buildings look the same and it is not worth it?

    • Hi! If you have a layover between 6-9 pm the lights show will be worth the visit πŸ™‚ HK has its own charm which is also quite unique from NY I think. If you have the time and energy it would be nice to just look around πŸ™‚

  26. Thanks. Just competed similar transit tour as yours. Your post was very helpful.

  27. Twenty_Rothmans

    Thank you – this is invaluable advice for a friend of mine for a friend of mine who has two layovers in HKG next month.

  28. What an awesome and detailed post! Thanks for sharing this 6 hours with us! This is all I needed to know ^^ Cheers! πŸ™‚

  29. nice blog. gave me an idea. I have a more or less 3 hours layover in HK. it’s from 11:45 noon to 2pm, plane leaves by 4. What areas can you suggest that i can go to with a very tight timeline? I’d consider even one. hehe

  30. Hi Geoventurer,
    Thanks for your detailed posting !
    Could you please guide me on effective use of layover time at Hong Kong Airport. I will be on the way to Bangalore and The layover time is only 12 hours at Hong kong ,I cannot explore entire Hong kong in 12 hours but wanted to transit Hong kong, would like to visit best tourist places around.

    Even I thought of keeping longer transit by layover time of 1 night ..yet to find best place visit around.

  31. hi!! i have a lay over of 24 hours . Can u pls suggest me few places that can be visited during this course of time.

    i will reach HK at 9 am and my connecting flight is at 9.30 am the next day

  32. HI, good info. I have a small doubt. I am an Indian travelling from bangalore to SFO in B1 visa. To go out into Honk kong, outside airport, do I have to have honk kong visa or some legal documentation. Transit time 12 hours

  33. Hey, great write up. Thank you. Do you know if a transit visa is required to go out and how much that cost. I’m travelling from LA to India and I’m holding Indian passport.

  34. Hellow… our flight will arrrive in HK at 8:00pm and the next fligh is at 8:35 am the next day… is it good for us to go out of the airport and enjoy HK a little.. i mean the rides out and to from the airport.. i guess trains stations and buses might not be moving at certain times…thank you..

    • Hello! You definitely have time. You can check the train schedule from the link on my blog for the last train back to the airport, it’s around midnight… πŸ˜€

      >

      • Thanks for the reply… but we decided not to pursue..technically we only have 2 hours to be away from the airport if we have to take the train’s last trip back to the airport… again thank you.. will recommend your blog to others as it is very informative… ^_^

  35. Hi. My daughter will be in transit in Hong Kong for about 10 hours in December. Is it safe for her to do this on her own?

  36. Thanks for the post. I have a 7.5 hours layover in the morning and I will be doing exactly what you did.

  37. Thanks for the post. I have a 7.5 hours layover in the morning and I will be doing exactly what you did. (accidentally post it before I ended). I went to HK 13 years ago and would love to visit it again. Did you get a chance to see the Buddha that’s near the airport?

  38. Sister, Im so going to print this! I will be in HK for stop over aroun 5 hours so I will be doing this. Thanks so much!

  39. Hi,

    I have 5.5 hours layover on my way to Chicago. I am hoping the time would be enough.

  40. Every bit of info here is just amazing, I’m gonna be doing a similar day trip like you on my way to SFO, however I’ve got a quick question on the currency you paid for the airport express, ferry, mtr etc? If Honk Kong dollars(I’m sure), did you already have some, if not, where did you do the exchange and when?

  41. I have a layover of 9.00 hrs. From 9.45 am to eveng 6.45 pm. Could you please guide me to visit the best places in HK.

  42. Hi! I am about to have a short stop over in HK on Aug.10 and I want to know if it would be convinient for a firstimer to try roaming arpund while waiting for my next flight. I would also want to know how many hours before your flight should you be around (in HK) is it like here in the Philippines where you normally allot 3-4 hours window time before your designated flight? Thank you. Very much!😊

  43. Very informative posts. Can we get HK $ at the Airport at nominal exchange rate? If so at which location?

  44. Hi , I am reaching Hk on 29th Nov a@ 5.30am and hv next flight @ 5.00pm Could you pl suggest some siyte seeing tours of Hongkong.

  45. I am travelling to North America via Hong Kong and have a Lay Over of about 9 hours. Will have to check in for the next flight 3 hours prior.
    My flight arrives HKG at 7 am and departs 4 pm. So what would you suggest I could do from 7 am to 1 pm. Also what would be good for lunch?
    What can I shop for?
    Awaiting your recommendation?

  46. Wow!! What a useful blog! Thank you! I Am having 10hr transit in total (10am to 8pm)…how long should I leave safely for walk around?
    Worst case scanerio if running late how long and how much would a taxi from the central points you visiated would be?
    And finally the Peak …that’s the train journey with the skyline?
    Thank you for the useful info!

  47. Hi, I wonder why go to Central Station and then take the ferry to Kowloon? Would not be easier to go to Kowloon station directly? Is it because the Ferry ride is actually fun?
    Do you think i can buy a same day ticket to Central but take the return train from Kowloon?
    Cheers, Josh

    • Hi Josh, I really wanted to take the ferry and visit Central area that’s why πŸ™‚ You can actually take the train to Kowloon directly. Not sure if a different return station is possible with the return ticket… Enjoy HK!

  48. Thanks for the great information.. we have 7 hours lay over..from Dubai to Manila via Cathay pacific this coming March… I will definitely..follow this guide for our HONGKONG tour.βœˆπŸš„πŸš‡. Thanks a lot… Godbless po..πŸ˜ƒ

  49. Do you have a guide for going to the Big Buddha?

  50. Excellent,nice way of narration for new Traveller.Thanks a lot.

  51. Hello Geoventurer!

    Beautifully described the entire journey. Excellent !!!!
    Me too have 9 hours of stopover @Hong Kong in the month of October this year. I heard that There one Octopus card which can be purchased at Airporrt and can be use for other transport also. DO U HAVE HAVE ANY IDEA ABOUT THIS CARD? IS WORTHWHILE TO BUY THIS CARD DURING TRANSIT PERIOD?
    What is your suggestion as things must have changed quite a lot after your visit of 2013. Thanks in advance….

  52. This is a great help. I have 8 hours lay over and planning to take a look HK.

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