I have an 8h layover in Hong Kong, is it worth getting out of the airport? If you ever find yourself asking that question, the answer is simply YES!
On our way to Europe in August we had just over 8 hours between our flight from Melbourne and the next one to Zurich. We’ve never been to Hong Kong before, so we had no idea if we can manage to see the city, travel there and back, nor where exactly we should go and how.
Hong Kong layover planning
I did some research, found useful information on various websites and felt fairly good about the idea of a small city trip in-between the flights. “We’ll go if we land on time and if it’s not raining“. And there also was another factor to consider – we were flying business class and had access to Cathay Pacific’s lounges, of which I have read some raving reviews. Do we really want to get out and face the unknown, or sit comfortably in some of the best lounges and take advantage of the complimentary food and free-flowing alcohol?
Heading out of the Hong Kong airport
As we were landing in Hong Kong the weather looked perfect so the decision has been made for us – we’re heading out.
We changed into our summer attire, stuffing long sleeve shirts and trousers in our backpacks, and went straight to the train tickets counter. There are special tickets offered to those travelling there and back in one day – same day return Airport – Hong Kong for HKD115/adult (~AUD19).
It took us about 25 minutes to reach Hong Kong central station. From there we walked to the waterfront and were already very happy with our choice – instead of spending about 30 hours in airplanes and airports we were able to walk outside, breathe fresh air (as fresh as it gets in Hong Kong) and help our bodies deal with jet lag by soaking up the sun and watching a lovely sunset.
Where to go during a layover in Hong Kong?
From the waterfront, we went on the Star Ferry ride to the Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) side. It costs only HKD3.10/person (~AUD0.50) and really is a fun way to travel. Be aware the tickets can be purchased by cash only (unless you own an Octopus card).
We gave ourselves 2 hours for walking around, having just a general idea of what we want to see. We walked along the waterfront from the Clock Tower, admiring the views and then aimlessly around random streets. If you have time, stay for the Symphony of Lights at 8pm or visit Victoria Peak.
At one point, when we were heading towards Kowloon, we stumbled upon a popular, Michelin guide recommended stand with pan-fried buns called Cheung Hing Kee Shanghai Pan-Fried Buns and purchased the signature buns (4pcs) for HKD30 (~AUD8). I wouldn’t stop at just one serving if it weren’t for the fact we had a business lounge with unlimited noodles and other delicacies waiting for us at the airport. With that in mind, it was time for us to catch the train from the Kowloon station back to the airport.
During our 5-hour visit to Hong Kong, we managed to walk everywhere with a paper map in hand. It was quite easy to navigate. The worst part was carrying our over-stuffed backpacks. We couldn’t leave them at the airport, as they were our carry-ons but it’s time to rethink our packing strategy. Maybe it’s not the best idea to carry not only my DSLR but also the heaviest lens I own. That and the hot weather took its toll. The last 200m of our walk to the station I couldn’t stop thinking about taking the backpack off my back, having a refreshing shower and a nice cold beer.
Lounge time – the Pier Business Lounge
All those dreams came true in the Pier Business Lounge. The rain shower was exactly what I and my aching body needed. I stood there and wept for a good 5 minutes before I was able to move. Later on, after that cold beer I promised myself, we checked out all that the lounge has to offer. We were very impressed by the quality of food at the noodle bar section and the vast choice of teas in the teahouse. The disappointment came only in the bakery when the beautiful loaves of bread and pretzels turned out to be only a pretty display and the baked goods weren’t as great.
The lounge, cleverly divided into zones has a gorgeous interior that feels like a 5-star hotel and it’s easy to forget that you’re actually at the airport. Truly the best lounge we’ve ever visited.
What to do during an 8h layover in Hong Kong?
Head out to see the city! It’s fascinating, busy and full of interesting things. Our 5-hour visit (which included passport control, return train ride & going through security) was enough for a photo walk, ferry ride, soaking up the views and finding & eating pan-fried buns. Having 8 hours you can do all this and go to Victoria Peak or the Symphony of Lights show. Do not stay at the airport for 8 hours, even if you have access to the business lounge.