If you find yourself stopping in Hong Kong International Airport for a layover that’s over 8 hours, there are a few ways to take advantage of your time there. These include sightseeing in Hong Kong itself or taking a day trip to Disneyland. Here are some of the most feasible options for you.
Take the cable car up to Ngong Ping 360
One of the easiest activities to do from Hong Kong Airport is to take an excursion via cable car up to Ngong Ping 360 on Lantau Island. The cable car station is just 10 minutes outside the airport by bus (S1, S56, S64, and S64X) or taxi. From the Tung Chung Cable Car Terminal, you’ll take a 25-minute cable car to the peak of Ngong Ping Village. Some of the cable cars even have a glass bottom so you have a view of absolutely everything around and below you. Or, you’ll have a 25-minute panic attack depending on how you see it.
At Ngong Ping Village, you’ll have plenty of places to eat and shop. But the big draw of Ngong Ping Village is the Big Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery. It’s about 10 minutes’ walk from the cable car terminal.
The caveat about this excursion is that, like everything else in Hong Kong, there’s quite a line to get up there, and subsequently back down. Prebooking tickets may help matters, but there is still a line to redeem the voucher for actual tickets, and then a line to board. Some people have reported waits anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours. So be careful in your planning if this is what you intend to do with your layover. You can always take a taxi down from Ngong Ping if you’re pressed for time and the cable car line is ridiculous.
Go to Hong Kong Disneyland
If you want to experience the Hong Kong version of Disney, this is another fairly easy-to-reach option from the airport. Like all the Disney parks, Hong Kong Disneyland has thrill rides, children’s rides, shows, character meet-and-greets and many dining options. If your connecting flight departs late, you can even stick around for the evening fireworks show.
Getting to Disneyland is a little convoluted by public transportation and takes at least an hour, no matter which route you choose. But it’s less than 15 minutes by car, so you can save yourself the hassle and take a taxi. You can expect to pay up to $20 each way. A one-day park ticket is around $80.
As with Ngong Ping (and all Disney parks for that matter), you can also expect lines here, especially for some of the popular rides like the Iron Man Experience and It’s a Small World. But if you come mentally prepared for that, you’ll likely have a magical time. Everything is better at Disney.
Go sightseeing in Hong Kong Island and Kowloon
If you have a whole lot of time to explore, you can take the Airport Express into the city, which has a stop directly in either Kowloon or Hong Kong Island (or both). Victoria Harbour separates Hong Kong Island from Kowloon, which is the mainland part of Hong Kong. The harbor is a good place to start as it has some of the most iconic views of the city’s skyline. At the harbor you’ll find the Avenue of Stars, the Hong Kong version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. (Note: This site is under construction until early 2019.)
If you’re visiting during the day, Kowloon Park is a nice place to escape the traffic and crowds. You’ll also find the cartoon version of the Avenue of Stars, where there are larger than life size statues of movie, TV, and comic book characters. For nightlife, shopping, and all the neon you can handle, take a walk down Nathan Road or head to the Temple Street Night Market.
Over on Hong Kong Island, the most popular attraction is Victoria Peak. You can get there by taxi or by tram, the lower station of which is located near Hong Kong Park. Round trip tram tickets are around $13. From the peak, you’ll have some of the best views of the Hong Kong islands and the harbor. Peak Tower also houses a ton of restaurants and stores. If you want to stay closer to the ground, you can enjoy view of the harbor by taking a ride on the Hong Kong Observation Wheel, which gives you day and nighttime views of the surrounding area.
Stay in the airport and relax
I’ll be honest. Even after a ton of research and meticulous planning, by the time I made my way back to Hong Kong for my second layover, I took one look at the immigration line to exit the airport and decided not to go anywhere. I had had enough of Hong Kong’s shit with the overcrowding and lining up for everything after the two days I spent there. And I’m from Florida, so I’ve seen plenty of Mickey Mouse.
Luckily, there’s a lot to do in the airport itself. Like all major airports, you can expect a lot of shopping so you can pick up some last minute souvenirs or some travel accessories. There are also a good amount of eating options, though be aware that you’ll be queuing up for those too. There’s lines to get a table at the sit-down restaurants, and even bigger lines to get a Big Mac. The airport is a pretty accurate reflection of what Hong Kong is actually like in that way.
If you’re up for a little entertainment, there’s an IMAX theater in the non-restricted area of Terminal 2. There’s also a mini-museum called the Aviation Discovery Centre, also in Terminal 2. It includes some informational exhibits about air travel, and a SkyDeck from which you can see planes take off.
Perhaps more important than all of that, there are complementary showers and a relaxation zone with beds. The showers are at the Arrivals Level (L5) in Terminal 1. If you want to use them, do not go through security to access the departures area because you will no longer be on the same level as the showers and have no way to get back. You can buy towels and toiletries, which are not otherwise provided. So if a layover shower is in your plans, I suggest you pack a quick dry travel towel.
The Relaxation Corner, which is basically a room full of beds where you can rest and charge your electronics, is located in Terminal 1 between gates 24 and 25 in the departures area (post security). You can also get a massage here. Otherwise, you can rest and listen to other people getting massages for free.
Get the GPS-guided version of this and other Hong Kong guides on GPSmyCity here.