Greater Bay Area

How to Travel from Guangzhou to Hong Kong International Airport

Ferry and high-speed train are two easy ways Guangzhou-based travellers can reach Hong Kong International Airport. Which is best? We put them to the test and share a step-by-step recap of what to expect

In light of the evolving situation regarding the novel coronavirus, the following Cathay Pacific services have been temporarily suspended as of February 2020: Air + Land packages and cross-border service transfer to Hong Kong International Airport. Passengers who have purchased an Air + Ferry package and are transiting through Hong Kong (not entering) without any flight/ship changes will not be affected.

Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) is one of the best-connected transportation hubs not only for travellers from its home city, but for those from the surrounding region as well. A growing infrastructure network gives Greater Bay Area residents convenient access to HKIA so they can take advantage of Cathay Pacific’s extensive route map.

For travellers based in Guangzhou, the most popular methods of reaching HKIA are by ferry and high-speed train, both of which I recently put to the test. Read on for my first-person account of each experience, including tips to set yourself up for a hassle-free transit from Guangzhou to Hong Kong International Airport.

Credit: Man Chan

How to Travel by Ferry to HKIA

Guangzhou Lianhuashan Port is located in a quiet neighborhood in the rural Panyu district, and the easiest way to get there is by taxi or hired car. It can also be accessed from Shiqi Station on Line 4 of the Guangzhou Metro, followed by a 10-minute ride via taxi or the port’s free shuttle bus.

Ferries bound for HKIA leave daily at 8.20am, 8.40am, 1.10pm and 2.20pm. I wanted to catch the 2.20pm ferry and so arrived at the ferry terminal 90 minutes in advance to allow enough time to purchase my ticket, check my baggage and clear China customs.

Upon entering the main terminal building, my baggage was scanned at the security checkpoint. I then went to purchase my ticket from the counter located on the left-hand side of the waiting hall. (Tickets can also be purchased online via Ctrip or on WeChat by adding account ID ‘gh_f5b3b1469bf8’.)

One major perk of accessing HKIA via ferry is the ability to check your luggage and collect your Cathay boarding pass at the port. Baggage deposit is done at the CKS desk across from the ticket counter.

Once I had all my travel tickets in hand and baggage checked through to my flight, I headed over to the China customs checkpoint area located to the left of the waiting hall, scanning my ferry ticket to open the entry gate. After passing customs formalities, I boarded the ferry and settled into a seat for the 100-minute trip through the Greater Bay Area.

The comfortable and scenic ferry ride ended at Hong Kong SkyPier at HKIA. As I had already checked in for my flight back in Guangzhou, there was no need to stop at the ticket counter here. Instead, a Cathay ground attendant pointed me towards the Air Passenger Departure Tax (APDT) refund counter: passengers arriving by ferry who head for onward departure in Hong Kong are eligible for a HK$120 refund. I then took the Automated People Mover to the airport departures hall.

Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon passengers can purchase Air + Ferry passes online. The pass includes a round-trip ferry ticket between seven major ports in the Chinese mainland’s Greater Bay Area and HKIA, plus a round-trip flight ticket to fly from Hong Kong. It is APDT free, so there is no need to queue up for refund.

Keep in mind that you’re required to check in at Guangzhou Lianhuashan Port at least 180 minutes before flight departure – or, if waiting to check in at Hong Kong SkyPier, at least 110 minutes before flight departure.

How to Travel by High-Speed Train to HKIA

It was big news when the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link launched in 2018. The high-speed train service between Guangzhou and Hong Kong cut the travel time from over two hours to just 45 minutes, making Hong Kong more accessible for day trips from the Chinese mainland as well as onward travel via HKIA.

I booked an advance ticket from Guangzhou South Railway Station to Hong Kong West Kowloon Station through 12306 China Railway (website in Chinese). This saved me from queuing to purchase a ticket at the station – instead, I simply picked up my ticket from the collection window on the ground floor. You can also purchase or collect your ticket from an automated machine, but note that a Chinese ID card is required to do so.

After collecting my ticket, I headed to the ticket-check booth and then up two sets of escalators to the third floor, where the security screening area and departure hall are located. Clearance for both China customs and Hong Kong customs are done upon arrival in Kowloon, which makes departing Guangzhou a breeze.

I made my way to the departure gate, which opened about 15 minutes before the train’s scheduled departure time. On board, I was pleased to find the train largely empty, likely due to the early hour of the service – 6.40am.

After the 45-minute ride, the train pulled into Hong Kong West Kowloon Station. Elevators whisked travellers from the arrival platform to the customs hall, where I formally exited China before taking a two-minute walk to the Hong Kong checkpoint. Be sure to hold on to your train ticket until after you’ve cleared Hong Kong customs, as you’ll need to scan it to leave the customs area. (I had dropped my ticket prior to China customs, so a gate attendant had to take me aside and record my passport information before I was allowed to leave.)

A Tourist Services booth is located right outside the Hong Kong customs hall that provides maps, MTR tickets and helpful information. There, I purchased a one-way ticket for the Airport Express to HKIA, and an attendant pointed me in the direction of Kowloon Station, the closest stop on the MTR line.

But first, I stopped by the HKIA Customer Services desk, where I could check in to my flight and also check my bags (expect to pay a HK$80 delivery fee per checked item). Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon passengers can check in four hours before departure.

From there, I took an elevator up to start following the signs leading to Kowloon Station. Walking the route takes slightly over 10 minutes, crossing an open-air footbridge and passing through Elements, a large shopping, dining and entertainment complex.

Another option is to hop on the free shuttle bus that takes just five minutes to drive to Kowloon Station. Tip: Download the MTR Mobile app to view the up-to-date bus schedule.

At Kowloon Station, there are vending machines for Airport Express tickets, if you didn’t purchase one earlier. There is also a Cathay Pacific check-in counter, where you can check in bags up to 120 minutes ahead of your flight.

I headed to Level 2 to board the Airport Express. The ride from Kowloon Station to HKIA takes around 30 minutes and is incredibly scenic. When the train pulls into the airport, have your flight ticket ready, as you need to show it to enter the terminal.

The Verdict

The high-speed train is more convenient in terms of immigration processes, with both the China and Hong Kong border controls located at Hong Kong West Kowloon Station. However, the ferry from Guangzhou Lianhuashan Port is the most seamless and straightforward of the two options. Although the port has less convenient access than Guangzhou South Railway Station (which is directly served by the metro), taking the ferry means no transfers – it’s smooth sailing straight to HKIA.

Psst! Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon passengers in premium economy, business or first class may be eligible for free cross-boundary shuttle or private car service;  find out more here.

Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CAN) vs Hong Kong International Airport

While Guangzhou does have its own international airport, HKIA serves considerably more international destinations and also boasts greater flight frequencies. This allows travellers to pick a flight that best suits their schedule and avoids layovers. A quick comparison of 2019 data shows why HKIA is a preferred option for many travellers from the Chinese mainland.

Annual passenger traffic:

CAN: 69,700,000 vs HKIA: 72,900,000

Number of destinations served:

CAN: 100 (mostly domestic) vs HKIA: 220

Frequency of flights to London:

CAN: 1x to 2x daily vs HKIA: 8x to 10x daily

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