Welcome to Hong Kong. Are you confused yet? If the time zone changes and the long flight to get here haven’t completely scrambled your mind, the airport arrival will certainly get you going a little bit more. Thankfully, with a little explanation, I call let you know what you will see coming in the airport, and how to make your arrival smoother and more reasonable.
First off, Hong Kong airport has two terminals, but the vast majority of the flights come into Terminal 1. For the moment, I will concern myself with your arrival into this modern, spacious terminal. Get your hiking boots on, because almost without exception you are going to be doing some walking. Like most modern airports, the gates are fairly far away from the main terminal building. Depending on what gate you come in, you may have to take a “people mover” train to get to the main terminal building.
The look of the people mover station is pretty much Hong Kong subway standard, so this is a look you will see over and over again during your stay. The people mover has (at this point anyway) only one station. So if you have to take it, just get on, ride it to the end, and get off. Keep following the signs (and the crowd) towards customs. Make sure you have your passport, your Hong Kong arrival card filled out, and any other document you may require such as a visa depending on your country of registry. Your next step is customs.
Now, for obvious reasons, I don’t have images here of the customs area. It is a security area, please make sure you turn off your phone and don’t use your camera. Follow the indications to the correct line (normally the visitors line is the longest). Don’t worry about your bags yet, they will be on the other side of customs. Hong Kong has very few true restrictions in customs, there are strict limits on booze and smokes, and other than that, you are generally good to go with normal legal stuff. When your passport gets stamped, they will give you one copy of the arrival card. You will need this to leave Hong Kong, so don’t lose it. Generally, I tended to leave it inside the passport, on the same page that was stamped, as the form is small enough for the normal passport.
After customs, you will hit the baggage area. There are screens that you will see indicate which number carousel will have your bags. Normally baggage comes along fairly quickly here. There are free luggage carts at Hong Kong Airport, so grab one and head off to reclaim your bags. Make sure you have absolutely all of your bags and head toward the exit. Remember, if you forget any bag at this point, it’s a truly nightmare scenario to get back in. Just don’t forget any bags and life is good.
As you head out of the final exit from the security area, you will have to make a big of a turn and an up and down. There are a number of bus, tour, currency exchange, and similar shops here, as well as hotel shuttle connections. If you have some specific instructions from a tour company or hotel to use this area, please go ahead. For most of you, just keep going. Generally I suggest you avoid the airport money exchange services as their rates are not very competitive. There is a solution at hand for your lack of currency though, and I will get to that in my terminal and ground transportation post in a bit. Keep going, you will make a U turn and you will be out in the main terminal, seeing something like the image at the top of the post.
Important note: Hong Kong airport terminal 1 has two exits from the security area, marked A and B. They are basically at opposite ends of the arrivals area, but not that far apart, only a few minutes walk. Passengers can exit either of the doors, depending mostly on which exit you took after your got your bags. So if you were planning to meet someone, you might want to pre-arrange which exit to meet at. If you come out at the wrong one, just head down the terminal to the other end, and you will find the other door. In a future post, I will show you some good places to meet up with people that are easy to find even for confused first time visitors.
Welcome to Hong Kong. You have cleared customs and are now in the main arrivals building. Ready for the next step?