The Fast Boat to China (from Hong Kong Airport)

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Reader Anders H. from Spain saw the 24-hour Hong Kong itinerary and wants to know about transiting directly from Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) to Mainland China and Macau.

In years of China ‘visa runs’ to Hong Kong, The Rapid Traveler has tested about every legal mode of transport for crossing that border. Hong Kong proper has myriad connections to the Mainland and Macau, but the airport also has direct links.

This can save time, save costs from Hong Kong’s relatively expensive flights, and provide access to a wider variety of nonstop flights to Chinese cities, with more frequency, at Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport (SZX). Nonstop flights are key because airports in Mainland China do a poor job of handling transfers except for ‘direct’ flights with a stop, where transfer passengers often wait on the plane.

Photo by DoNotLick

Macau International Airport (MFM) is rather sleepy but has budget flights on superlative Air Asia (Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur) and Tiger Airways (Singapore) as well as a lot of duplication with Hong Kong that may be worth price comparison, especially for those with a desire to see underrated Macau.

Hong Kong Airport’s website is a thing of beauty. There is great info on ferry connections, schedules and through check-in, and similarly for coach connections, schedules, and through check-in.

This can seem overwhelmingly complicated, but here are the keys:

  • Through check-in is nice, but not mandatory to achieve the purpose of arriving at the intended destination. First-timers might do better giving this a pass.
  • The right port/station, however, is mandatory:
    • For Shenzhen Airport the ferry is Fuyong and the coach is Bao’an. NOT Shekou.
    • For Macau Airport, the ferry is Taipa, NOT Maritime Ferry Terminal.
    • The ferries are great fun but infrequent and subject to weather. For Shenzhen, unless the timing is right, the coach should be the default.
    • For the coaches, consider potential border crossing delays at rush hours. The borders are efficient but the volume of traffic is significant.
  • Chinese is not mandatory for the Shenzhen connections but a minor sense of adventure is.
  • A China visa is required to cross to Shenzhen and not available at the border (except a Shenzhen pass the prohibits travel outside Shenzhen).

There are further ferry and coach connections to other points in Guangdong Province that primarily serve business travelers. Guangzhou is too far and onward plane tickets too expensive; stick with Shenzhen.

Update on July 8: Tiger Airways has been grounded in Australia (the airline’s official statement is here).

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