We ended up spending almost 16 hours at Hong Kong airport transit area because of our PAR fiasco (Read more about why you should apply for Hong Kong pre-arrival registration well in advance in my next post). Our flight landed in HK at 11:40 pm and next flight to Siem Reap was at 4:40 pm following day. Here is a guide to what to do during long layover at Hong Kong airport.
Hong Kong Pre Arrival Registration
This is relevant only for Indians. All Indian tourists travelling to HK require a pre-arrival registration (PAR); except those who are transiting & do not need to go through immigration. This is not equivalent to visa but is mandatory for a visa free entry to Hong Kong. One can apply for PAR maximum 6 months before the travel date and at-least a day before your travel.
I recommend Indians transiting through Hong Kong also to apply for PAR for 2 reasons:
- Airline staff / Indian immigration authorities are very fidgety about passengers travelling to Hong Kong without PAR. You may only be transiting through HK and don’t need to pass through immigration; but it is difficult to explain to airline staff. Apply PAR for your peace of mind.
- If you have check-in bags and your airline does not have inter-airline agreement; you will have to go through immigration, collect bags and check-in with the 2nd airline.
What is the transit process at Hong Kong airport?
The transit process is same at most of the airports. However, the facilities in the transfer/transit area differs everywhere. You can spend your time either in the transit area or proceed to security check/departure level. However, once you cross the security check; you are not allowed to come back to transit area.
- If you have boarding pass for your next flight AND do not have check-in bags: If you are travelling light with only cabin bags, you need to proceed to security check and then to departures level.
- If you do not have the boarding pass AND have check-in bags: I would NOT recommend doing this at all. You may be denied boarding your flight to Hong Kong in India itself if you do not have boarding pass and do not have PAR also.
- If you have the boarding pass AND have check-in bags:
- Flying with the same airline (same PNR with through check-in): If it is the same airline to and from HK, they would issue you a boarding pass with bag tags attached to them till your final destination. You do not have to worry about anything in that case. You can proceed to security check and departures.
- Flying with a different airline or same airline with different PNR: If you have check-in bags, you need to make sure your airline has inter-airline agreement to get your bags transferred. Unless there is an inter airline agreement, they cannot get your bags transferred. You will need to go to the transfer desk for your next airline and get your boarding pass and ask them to get your luggage. There are 4 transfer desks at HKIA and find out which transfer desk your airline uses.
Facilities available in the transit area of Hong Kong Airport:
(before you do security check and move to departure level)
Internet access at Hong Kong Airport:
I guess this features on top for most of the transit passengers because its the only way to stay connected to rest of the world 🙂 The good news is – Hong Kong airport has 24/7 free internet. Unlike many airports where they have 3-6 hours of free internet, HK lets you be connected throughout your stay at the airport. You do not even need to register your device to use the internet.
Sit / Sleep at Hong Kong airport transit area:
There are sofas in most of the transit area. They are however not designed to sleep, as you can see in the pictures below. Most of them have one or two charging points attached to the sofas. There are some seating chairs as well. Some of them do not have arm rests in between so can be used for sleeping as well, but you may be asked to leave by the security personnel. Most of them are priority seats and are anyways not meant to sleep. Unfortunately, there are no recliners/straight sofas in the transit area.
Free showers at Hong Kong airport:
This is one great thing about Hong Kong Airport transit area.
Location of the shower: Between Gate 20 and Gate 22, Arrivals Level (L5), Terminal 1 (Restricted Area).
Things to note when using complimentary shower facility at Hong Kong transit area:
- The facility is open 24/7. There are separate showers for men/women as well as for handicapped passengers.
- These are available only in the transit area. Make sure you use them before security check. There is no way to come back to transit area once you do security check and reach departures level.
- The showers have liquid soaps, shampoo, paper towels and hair dryers.
- The showers do not have towel. If you need anything (towel, roll-on deodorants, sanitary pads, shaving kit etc) that you do not have, you can use international credit card to buy the same. You can also use Octopus card or We Chat pay if you have them.
- The shower area is separated by a glass door so one has space to keep a small trolley/hand bags.
- There are no toilets in the shower area.
Food at Hong Kong airport:
There are quite a few restaurants in the transit area. However, I want to mention 7/11 because that reasonable and is more than just a restaurant. You can get everything right from milk, bread, cake, sandwiches to ready to eat meals and drinks. Like all other convenience store they also have over-the-counter medications etc. 7/11 also has a microwave that can be used to heat up your ready to eat meal. That’s very useful! Ready to eat meals are also reasonably priced, I got a pack of rice and chicken curry for 28 HKD.
Note about vegetarian food: This is a problem at Hong Kong airport; especially if you are still in the transit area. Most of the restaurants do not have anything veg and you may have to rely on 7/11 bread or sandwich.
Money Exchange/ Banking at HKIA:
There are couple of money exchangers at the transit area. These are however open only from 6:30 am – 11:30 pm. There are some international bank ATMs as well.
Entertainment/ Play at HKIA transit area:
There are no entertainment centers or play area in the transit. You need to go to departure gates for the same.
Facilities available in departure level of Hong Kong Airport:
Sleeping at Hong Kong airport departures:
There is a very good free relaxation lounge near gate 23 at a level below the departure gates. It has 15 recliners and charging points next to each of them (carry adapters and multi-pin plugs if you have more than 1 device). There are no washrooms though, for which you will have to go up near gate 23.
The free lounge may not be available most of the time so you may have to wait. There are few high chairs with working desks at the lounge so you can wait till someone vacates a recliner. It also has paid massage/spa in the same lounge.
Note about the free relaxation lounge near Gate 23: This lounge is next to a paid airline lounge which operates between 6:00 am and 1:30 am. The airline lounge puts a notice at 1:30 am at the departure gate level about being closed. This confuses passengers who want to go to the free lounge too! You can ignore the notice and still go to the free lounge.
Other places to relax on HKIA:
- A relaxing bed near Gate 214.
- Terminal 1, at Gate 26, there are some permanently-reclined lounge chairs located behind the bathrooms and water station, facing the tarmac.
- Recliners near departures Level near Gates 21, 34, 31, and 61.
Food at HKIA:
There are many restaurants at Hong Kong Airport. If you are specifically looking for veg options, you can try the food court near Gate 40-80 at Departures Level 6. It has burger king and Old Town White Coffee. While Burger king has vegetarian choice, Old Town White Coffee also has Indian veg and non veg options like paratha and pulao.
Plaza Premium Lounge:
If you hold a credit card that gives you access to Plaza Premium lounge, you may want to check-in to one of the lounges. Unlike other lounges, premium plaza lounge also allow travellers to pay and use the lounge. Charges depend on which card you use to pay for the lounge. Lounges have shower facilities, WiFi, TV and buffet meals. However, there are only 2 plaza premium lounge and they are ALWAYS crowded. If you are around the one of the lounge before breakfast, lunch or dinner; expect to be in the queue for an hour or so!
Location of the lounges are:
- Level 7, Departures Level, Terminal 1, Hong Kong International Airport (use escalator or lift near Gate 40)
- Level 6, Departures Level, Terminal 1, Hong Kong International Airport (near Gate 1)
- There is a Plaza Premium first lounge also located near Gate 1; available but it is available only to selected corporate clients
Play area for kids at Hong Kong International Airport:
If you are travelling with kids, spending long time at airports can be daunting. Hong Kong airport has 2 colorful play area for kids in the age group of 2 to 9 years.
Location of the play area:
- Terminal 1 Departure Lounge between gates 23 and 25
- Terminal 1 near Gate 509 and 510, Departures Level, North Satellite Concourse
TV lounge for kids – There are 4 TV lounge playing cartoons for kids. They also have Lego blocks and some other small games available. They are located near gates 1, 15, 40 and 60.
Work Stations at HKIA:
As mentioned earlier, Hong Kong airport has 24/7 free WiFi. There are many desktop computers also at various locations which are usually available. 94 desktop computers are available at 36 locations on the Departures Level of Terminal 1 and the Midfield Concourse. At the North Satellite Concourse, the Internet Zone on the Departures Level has six desktop computers with free broadband access.
Have you had long layovers at Hong Kong airport and have suggestions on how to spend time at the airport? Do share your views in comments.