Friday, May 2, 2014

Transport options - From airport to hotel

What's the best way to get from the airport to my hotel in Hong Kong? A very frequently asked question.

There are a few ways, and how I decide depends mainly on (a) the location of my hotel and (b) the number of people travelling with me.

(1) Cityflyer airport bus
(click here for bus routes)

This option is the most economical for solo travellers if your hotel is within short walking distance from one of the airport bus bus-stops. This does mean you need to study the map a little to find out where your hotel is located and where the bus-stops are. If your hotel is not near a bus-stop, it's probably not a good idea to take this bus, since you'll have to lug your luggages with you.

It might require a bit of confidence to take this bus, if you feel that you're not that familiar with the country. But it's actually not that difficult. There are digital signages inside the bus that indicate the upcoming bus-stop. Just have a copy of the bus route with you, and you'll be fine. The bus itself is comfortable to ride, and there are areas to stow luggages.

Since I always stay in Kowloon, I take the A21 route which goes down Nathan Road, through popular areas many tourists like to stay - Mong Kok, Yau Ma Tei, Jordan and Tsim Sha Tsui. Fares to Kowloon cost just HK$33 one-way, and can be paid via the Octopus card if you have one. The Octopus card is a reloadable card, similar to our EZ-Link card in Singapore. You can buy it from the airport or any MTR station.

If you don't get a chance to buy an Octopus card from the airport, you can pay the fare by cash (no change given). If you don't have small enough notes for the fare, buy a bus ticket from the ticketing office near the bus bay.

While affordable, the downside to this transport option is that it is not the fastest. On a recent trip, it took me 50 minutes to get from the airport to Tsim Sha Tsui. On the return leg, it took me 60 minutes to reach the airport. Take the bus ride as a good chance to see the city. :)

(2) Airport Express
(click here for group ticket promotional prices; click here for complimentary shuttle bus transfer)

The Airport Express train, on the other hand, is about the opposite from the Cityflyer bus. It's a quick way to get into the city, but not that cheap.

A single ticket to Kowloon costs HK$90.

There are, however, promotional prices for group tickets for 2, 3 or 4 persons. To enjoy the promotion, don't buy your group tickets from the fare ticketing machines; buy them from the Airport Express customer service counters.

While the train journey itself is short, most of the time, your hotel won't be within walking distance of the Airport Express Kowloon or Hong Kong station. This means you need a transfer to another mode of transport.

Complimentary shuttle bus transfers are provided to selected hotels. A single bus will serve a few hotels, so if yours is the last on the route, bear in mind that it'll take you some time to get there.

If your hotel is not served by a complimentary bus, you'll have to take a cab, unless your hotel provides their own free shuttle service from the Kowloon or Hong Kong station.

As such, price wise, I find that the Airport Express will work best if the travel party is made up of two people, and if the hotel chosen is served by the complimentary bus. If you need to transfer to a taxi, the cost may add up to be just slightly lower than taking a taxi directly from the airport. Weigh for yourself the cost savings against the extra time spent on the journey.

This option might also work for a travel party of 4 people who can't all fit into one cab (e.g. if the passengers are all on the bigger side, or if there are too many pieces of large luggages). Even if you need to transfer into 2 cabs from Kowloon or Hong Kong station, together with the cost of Airport Express group tickets, it should still be cheaper than taking 2 cabs straight from the airport.
(3) Taxi
(click here for estimated taxi fares to various locations)

Cabs in Hong Kong can take either 4 or 5 passengers (this will be indicated via a signage on the taxi). For groups of 3 people, you'll most likely all be able to fit into one cab. Well, provided you are carrying a reasonable number of luggages that can fit into the cab!

In this case, it will make a lot more sense to just take a cab straight from the airport to your hotel. A ride to Mong Kok will cost about HK$240 (plus HK$5 for each piece of luggage). Travelling time will be about 30 minutes.

(4) Hotel coach
(click here for more information)

The last option is one that I have never used. It typically costs HK$130 or more per person taking such a coach. Whether you have 1, 2, 3 or 4 persons travelling together, the first 3 transport options still appeal more, cost-wise. Besides, because such coaches typically stop at several hotels on any given route, travelling time is between 60 and 90 minutes.

The only advantage perhaps is that the coach will drop you right at the doorstep of the hotel. That is, if your hotel is among the list of those served.

* * * * * * * * * *

Personally, I usually consider transport options before booking a hotel. Hotels that are more easily accessible or are served by the airport bus or Airport Express complimentary bus service will offer me some savings. For practical reasons, I have thus far always chosen hotels in Kowloon rather than in Hong Kong Island. Kowloon is nearer to the airport, so I save not only money but travelling time.


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