Hong Kong arrival tips

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The fastest and easiest way to get to Hong Kong and Kowloon from the Hong Kong International Airport is the Airport Express train. There are several options in buying the tickets. After two trips to Hong Kong, Nov. 25-29 (staying at the Shangri-La Kowloon) and Dec. 27-29, ’05 (Holiday Inn on Kowloon), I pretty much figured them all out.

• On the first trip, my husband, John, and I cleared Customs and walked through the automatic doors. Immediately in front of us was a counter, where I purchased tickets for the Airport Express. For some reason, at this particular counter they only allowed me to buy one-way tickets. The man explained why, but his English was difficult to comprehend, so I let it go.

For two one-way tickets, it was HK$140, or about US$18. Credit cards were accepted. (Return tickets can be purchased at the MTR — the underground — station when you’re ready to leave Hong Kong and return to the airport.)

• A second option is the “Customer Service” counter, which is conspicuously located in the center of the terminal. They sell round-trip tickets, but I noticed that the line was usually excruciatingly long.

• A third option is using the Airport Express ticket machines, also located in the terminal. I tried using them twice, but some were out of order and the others were confusing to me. The machines only accept cash.

• The last option, and the easiest, which I discovered on my second visit, is the money-exchange counter. Once you have cleared Customs, walk through the doors into the terminal and bear right; you’ll see the counter on the right. They sell the round-trip tickets without charging a fee, and there usually wasn’t too long of a line. Plus I could use a credit card.

The Airport Express train departs every 12 minutes. It’s fast, clean, very safe and modern. It took about 22 minutes to reach Kowloon Station. Kowloon is opposite Hong Kong Island. Many people choose to stay in Kowloon for the spectacular view of the Hong Kong skyline.

When we arrived at Kowloon Station, a number of courtesy shuttle buses were available to take us to the various hotels. we waited no more than 10 minutes and jumped on the No. 5 shuttle to the Shangri-La. It was easy and convenient. The ride took about 25 minutes, and the bus made about three stops before we reached our hotel.
(If you would rather have door-to-door service, all of the luxury and high-end hotels will personally pick you up at the airport. Each hotel has a fleet of Mercedes. Check the price with your hotel and let them know your flight arrival information in advance.)

Backing up for a moment, in the airport terminal you will find automatic teller machines conveniently located. Once you leave Customs, hang a left into the terminal and on the left is a pod with three ATMs. (Across from them, to the right of the escalators, are located the Airport Express ticket machines.)

All the ATMs have English as an option. Make sure you contact your bank and credit card companies before leaving home so they don’t cut you off. You also might want to call the bank a second time to reconfirm that they know you’re going overseas. The customer service agent at my bank didn’t put the information in correctly, and when I attempted to get cash out of the ATM I was declined. For anyone who has a Bank of America account, there is a branch on Kowloon.

In the terminal, there are plenty of airport employees who are more than willing to answer any questions. They are service oriented, and I found them to be very helpful.

Riding the shuttle bus to the Shangri-La hotel, I wasn’t paying much attention to time because I was immersed in looking at the Kowloon sights. The first thing I noticed was the absence of honking horns. It was unlike New York City, where I’ve become immune to the constant honking of horns.

However, the traffic is insane in Hong Kong. Unless you like sitting in perpetual gridlock, taking a taxi isn’t worth it. I took taxis on three occasions and, although the cabs were inexpensive, the meter added up rather quickly in a standstill. The easiest way to get around Hong Kong is via the MTR underground and the double-decker buses.
The Octopus Card is an absolute necessity. It can be used for all MTR trains and KCR trains (to mainland China) as well as the double-decker buses and the Star Ferry. Additionally, the card can be used for purchases in any 7-11 store; these are all over Kowloon and Hong Kong.

Available at the customer service counter in any MTR station, the Octopus Card is purchased with cash only, beginning in increments of HK$150 (near $19), HK$50 of which is a deposit and is returned to you. When the balance becomes low, simply replenish it at any MTR customer service counter.

When we left Hong Kong, at Kowloon Station, where we got on the Airport Express back to the airport, we simply showed our Octopus Cards and received our deposits back — enough money for last-minute souvenirs at the airport.

SUSAN FOGWELL
Princeton, NJ

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The fastest and easiest way to get to Hong Kong and Kowloon from the Hong Kong International Airport is the Airport Express train. There are several options in buying the tickets. After two trips to Hong Kong, Nov. 25-29 (staying at the Shangri-La Kowloon) and Dec. 27-29, ’05 (Holiday Inn on Kowloon), I pretty much figured them all out.

• On the first trip, my husband, John, and I cleared Customs and walked through the automatic doors. Immediately in front of us was a counter, where I purchased tickets for the Airport Express. For some reason, at this particular counter they only allowed me to buy one-way tickets. The man explained why, but his English was difficult to comprehend, so I let it go.

For two one-way tickets, it was HK$140, or about US$18. Credit cards were accepted. (Return tickets can be purchased at the MTR — the underground — station when you’re ready to leave Hong Kong and return to the airport.)

• A second option is the “Customer Service” counter, which is conspicuously located in the center of the terminal. They sell round-trip tickets, but I noticed that the line was usually excruciatingly long.

• A third option is using the Airport Express ticket machines, also located in the terminal. I tried using them twice, but some were out of order and the others were confusing to me. The machines only accept cash.

• The last option, and the easiest, which I discovered on my second visit, is the money-exchange counter. Once you have cleared Customs, walk through the doors into the terminal and bear right; you’ll see the counter on the right. They sell the round-trip tickets without charging a fee, and there usually wasn’t too long of a line. Plus I could use a credit card.

The Airport Express train departs every 12 minutes. It’s fast, clean, very safe and modern. It took about 22 minutes to reach Kowloon Station. Kowloon is opposite Hong Kong Island. Many people choose to stay in Kowloon for the spectacular view of the Hong Kong skyline.

When we arrived at Kowloon Station, a number of courtesy shuttle buses were available to take us to the various hotels. we waited no more than 10 minutes and jumped on the No. 5 shuttle to the Shangri-La. It was easy and convenient. The ride took about 25 minutes, and the bus made about three stops before we reached our hotel.
(If you would rather have door-to-door service, all of the luxury and high-end hotels will personally pick you up at the airport. Each hotel has a fleet of Mercedes. Check the price with your hotel and let them know your flight arrival information in advance.)

Backing up for a moment, in the airport terminal you will find automatic teller machines conveniently located. Once you leave Customs, hang a left into the terminal and on the left is a pod with three ATMs. (Across from them, to the right of the escalators, are located the Airport Express ticket machines.)

All the ATMs have English as an option. Make sure you contact your bank and credit card companies before leaving home so they don’t cut you off. You also might want to call the bank a second time to reconfirm that they know you’re going overseas. The customer service agent at my bank didn’t put the information in correctly, and when I attempted to get cash out of the ATM I was declined. For anyone who has a Bank of America account, there is a branch on Kowloon.

In the terminal, there are plenty of airport employees who are more than willing to answer any questions. They are service oriented, and I found them to be very helpful.

Riding the shuttle bus to the Shangri-La hotel, I wasn’t paying much attention to time because I was immersed in looking at the Kowloon sights. The first thing I noticed was the absence of honking horns. It was unlike New York City, where I’ve become immune to the constant honking of horns.

However, the traffic is insane in Hong Kong. Unless you like sitting in perpetual gridlock, taking a taxi isn’t worth it. I took taxis on three occasions and, although the cabs were inexpensive, the meter added up rather quickly in a standstill. The easiest way to get around Hong Kong is via the MTR underground and the double-decker buses.
The Octopus Card is an absolute necessity. It can be used for all MTR trains and KCR trains (to mainland China) as well as the double-decker buses and the Star Ferry. Additionally, the card can be used for purchases in any 7-11 store; these are all over Kowloon and Hong Kong.

Available at the customer service counter in any MTR station, the Octopus Card is purchased with cash only, beginning in increments of HK$150 (near $19), HK$50 of which is a deposit and is returned to you. When the balance becomes low, simply replenish it at any MTR customer service counter.

When we left Hong Kong, at Kowloon Station, where we got on the Airport Express back to the airport, we simply showed our Octopus Cards and received our deposits back — enough money for last-minute souvenirs at the airport.

SUSAN FOGWELL
Princeton, NJ