Border Hop Between Hong Kong & China (A Day in the Life)

Michael MicheliniBlog, Lifestyle, Travel0 Comments

Curious how it is to live on one side of the Hong Kong / China border and cross over for the day?

Our post on the Border Crossing Guide for Hong Kong and Shenzhen, China has been quite popular.

We now know we’re not the only ones crossing across on the regular.


There are millions of people who cross the Shenzhen and Hong Kong borders each day. But not much talk about it online.

Today, let’s see an example of how it would go, one day in Hong Kong, and then back.

I have been living like this for years.

5:30am: Wake Up

Early risers stay ahead of the game with the one day border hopping trip. I love my mornings, so this is a true advantage for anyone trying to keep ahead.

I have a morning routine and then days I’m going into Hong Kong, I aim to leave my apartment complex at 6:30am.

6:30am: Taxi to Huanggong Border

I’m living in Futian, Shang Xia neighborhood which is close to both Futian Kou Wan border as well as Huang Gang Kou Wan. I choose Huanggang because I prefer to take the coach bus instead of the MTR.

7am: Arrive Huanggang Border

Taxi could be less than 30 minutes, the ride is only about 12 – 15 minutes. But the long part is the queue of taxis waiting to get to the drop off area. The line can back up to the highway and they won’t let me get out and walk to the border. The meter ticks up a bit more as well. Taxi for me is about 25 Chinese Yuan (4 USD). A couple times I was not paying attention and they short my change by 10 yuan or so…

7am to 7:45am: Cross The Borders (Yes, It’s 2)

After off loading from the taxi, I normally just have my trusty, over packed backpack – I rush to the border exit line.

There are normally 1 to 3 beggars almost blocking the escalator begging for money. Sadly I do wish I could fix their problems and feel guilty passing by them each time. At least they normally have all their limbs, there are extreme cases in parts of China (and yes, in Hong Kong too) where there are beggars with missing arms and/or legs. So sad.

The time at the border can be hit or miss. I have recently gotten an interal APEC card that lets me go to the “special line” – but seems there are a lot of special people as that line has been just a little bit faster.

It depends on your luck. You’ll also see a lot of school children crossing the border at about this time. There are many kids who do this daily commute for school.

Also watch out for big Chinese travel groups. You will see them wearing the same color hat and having a tour guide with a flag. At all costs try to get in line ahead of them. Sometimes the customs officials will set up a special line for groups – but many times they are lumped together with everyone else.

After crossing the China exit border, I buy my bus ticket to Wan Chai. They take Hong Kong Dollars (HKD) – so make sure you have HKD on you, or an Octopus card. There have been times I only had Chinese Yuan (RMB), and they will take it. But the bad part about that is they give you exchange rate of 1 RMD = 1 HKD, a 20% loss on the current exchange rate! 50 RMB is about 61 HKD so you’ll lose 11 HKD on the exchange rate. Maybe you can ask someone in line for a better rate, if you want to be social!

Why the Coach Bus over the MTR?

Many ask me why I don’t take the metro down to Hong Kong. For me, it is simple:

* Coach bus guarantees me a seat – a lot of times if you take the MTR it will be jam packed! Standing only, holding the handle bars, or even having to grasp closely the billboard of the metro map as there isn’t anywhere else to grab. The MTR is overcrowded, whereas the bus, they can only sell as many seats the bus can fit.
* Coach bus seat is more comfortable – These are the same coach buses I loved during school day trips back in the day! Sometimes I don’t even have a fellow passenger next to me, I can just spread out 2 seats wide.
* No transferring on the bus – while there may be a stop or a few, you don’t need to transfer buses. Most of the time it is direct to Wan Chai, or sometimes I take the bus to Jordan.
* Price is about the same – MTR depends on which stop in Hong Kong you get off on. But from Futian Checkpoint (Lok Mau Chao) to Wan Chai is and the coach bus costs 50 HKD.
* Huanggang border is 24 hours / 7 days a week – Huanggang is the only border you don’t need to worry about what time to cross. My friends and I have crossed it all hours of the day and night. 4am I think was the craziest time, that was the end of a long day in Hong Kong. And the earliest was 5am for a flight from Hong Kong airport.

So it would be great if the coach buses were at Futian Checkpoint border, but instead they are only at Shenzhen Bay Border or Huanggang Border. From where I live now, it is much easier to go to Huanggang.

But Huanggang makes you get off the bus between the China and Hong Kong borders, and transfer to the next customs checkpoint. All the other borders both sides of the border (China and Hong Kong customs) are on the same station.

But I just play my meditation music on my bluetooth headset and try to be zen during this stressful period.

7:20am – Bus from China border to Hong Kong entry customs border

I’m budgeting 20 minutes to get out of China, pay and get onto the bus. They wait for the bus to fill up a bit before departing, and that can be fast or slow. Most of the time it’s pretty fast in the mornings as there is a decent amount of border hopping commuters.

The bus is only about 5 to 10 minutes drive to the Hong Kong entry side.

7:30 – 7:45am – Get Through the Hong Kong Entry Customs

This is another hit or miss. If you don’t have HKID or APEC card, you’ll be mixed with the Mainland Chinese who are coming in for the day. And if you hit a time when there is a massive tour group, the lines can go out the door.

This is one of the main reasons I go so early in the morning. You’ll get the commuters and the students, but the tour groups don’t go until 7:30am or 8am. I’ve been through these times where I’ve had to wait multiple hours to get through. I have seen the pain and agony friends have been through waiting by watching some pictures being posted on Wechat moments.

This is why I tell you to go as early as possible.

7:45am – Take Bus From Hong Kong border to Wan Chai

So let’s hope it only takes you 15 minutes to get into Hong Kong. Now we get back on the coach bus and head to Wan Chai. You have about 45 minutes, so if you can stomach it, pull out your laptop and start writing blog posts. I have written quite a few of them on this post!

8:30am: Arrive in Downtown Hong Kong, Wan Chai district

On average it is less than an hour to get to downtown Hong Kong. Wan Chai is the common drop off stop, though there are others that go to multiple stops (at Shenzhen Bay I have noticed that).

I just default to Wan Chai. You will be a block or two away from the MTR station (also called Wan Chai) which can get you to Central in less than 10 minutes, and most other major business centers in Hong Kong.

9:00am: Get to A Coffee Meeting

This is a tricky one, when should you book your first morning meeting? 9am is risky – as you can’t predict the traffic and border crossing congestion. I’d say maybe its safer to say 9:30am for your first meeting. I try to book the meeting in Wan Chai district, or maybe in Central – since it is just a couple subway stops away.

10am: Banking Checkups (Or more business meetings)

11:30am: Early Lunch Meeting. As people who read this blog know, I love visiting lots of Hong Kong banks. . Most mornings are quieter for the banks, and you won’t get stuck in a long queue. Take it from someone who has been doing it for years – lunch time is the worst time to go to a bank, and afternoon is not as bad, but still pretty jam packed.

Hong Kong is like a massive bank, with more banks on street corners than 7-11s and Starbucks! Try to pick your favorite branch and get to know a representative there if possible. It’s getting harder as the banking issues in Hong Kong are tightening up more and more – but if you can make a personal relationship it is worth it!

11:30am: Early Lunch Meeting

I’m starving by 11am, it’s been an action packed morning. If you use a fit bit or a step counter, you’ll have reached your daily goal by this time! Hong Kong is a lot of walking! Good excuse to get some exercise. And you’re carrying a backpack as well, so even more calories getting burned!

Of course it’s better to have a meeting for business during lunch rather than eating on your own. But a lot of people in Hong Kong are late eaters and will be shocked to hear a lunch meeting at 11:30am. Even some restaurants aren’t open yet. Maybe if you want to follow the crowd and have your lunch 1pm or so, I’d recommend bringing a snack in your day bag.

Regardless of what time I eat lunch, I try my best to maximize the time by inviting a business associate out and get some working and networking done with them.

1pm: Shopping For Baby Milk Powder & Other HK Goodies

Those following my wechat (ID = michelini) and Instagram will see that I am constantly carrying baby milk powder across the border. My wife makes me do it, heh! But I schedule my shopping in the afternoon, as somewhat of a mental break from my work.

Depending on how packed my day bag is, hopefully I can fit the 2 milk powder cans in my bag so that I don’t need to tie up one hand holding a plastic shopping bag all afternoon.

2pm: More Coffee Meetings

Even though I stop drinking caffeine at 2pm, I go to a lot of coffee shops in Hong Kong! Normally I’ll just buy bottled water or other things to keep my sugar and caffeine intake down.

3pm – 5pm: Podcast Interviews, Networking

The afternoon is pretty flexible. Either more networking, or I may find a quiet place to do a podcast interview with a guest.

Quiet place in Hong Kong is a rarity. Maybe some listeners to our podcast will see that there has the somewhat small background noise. Try to imagine me and a guest in a corner of a cafe in busy downtown Hong Kong doing a recording.

Update: now that I have my own dedicated office in TST, I can record in a studio environment. Life continues to improve!

5pm: Try To Get Back to Wan Chai District

I want to get back to Shenzhen for around 9pm, 10pm latest. I budget a couple hours for transit time, so I try to leave by 7pm latest. So, if you like this schedule, I’d recommend book any late afternoon meetings in Wan Chai.

As you can guess, I’m an early eater! Dinner I like to have at about 6pm, so if anyone else is up for an early (is that really early? Well for Hong Kong it is) dinner, they can join me.

A lot of times that is in a noisy pub, get a glass of wine and try to have a casual and un-wind conversation with a business friend.

6:30pm: Start to Wrap Things Up

Did I buy all the stuff for the family in China? Check. Get all the meetings done, the banking. Maybe some small shipments. Check check check.

A lot of times, as in any busy city, people shuffle meetings around. This is because others are late, they are late, etc etc. Sometimes I will have people who are behind schedule, and we shift things around for the end of the day.

It can be hectic at this time of the day if there are a few last minute changes and meetups before I head back. Try to scramble to finish all this so that I can head to the Wan Chai coach bus terminal.

Note – Before I had a Kid I’d Stay Later

You may think getting back by 9pm is a bit too early. Ya, I used to go to happy hour events in LKF and leave about 9pm from Central. I’d get back to Shenzhen about midnight or so in those cases.

So it depends how long of a day. There are always tons of networking events and speaker series in Hong Kong – so if you have the energy and want to maximize your day, go for it!

And to those hard core party animals – you can take the bus back to Shenzhen from Wan Chai 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I have seen a lot of drunk party go-ers crossing the Hong Kong / China border. One to note was a Chinese businessman having a few of his colleagues taking turns holding him up at the customs line.

That may be a bit risky to go to a customs official intoxicated, but I have yet to see someone get rejected due to it. If you have experience with this, I’d love to hear it. When I was crossing the Mexico / USA border, I saw an American girl get arrested for being intoxicated, a few people ahead of me. But in my 8 years crossing back and forth haven’t seen this happen.

7pm: Hop on the Wan Chai Coach Bus

The bus terminal in Wan Chai is kind of near the HKTDC building. Basically there is an elevated walking platform for 8 blocks or so. So from almost anywhere in Wan Chai district, take the escalators to the raised platform, and walk towards HKTDC.

The bus terminal has been under construction, so ask around where it is now. The fee is 48 HKD (50 HKD if paying in cash, yes, it is cheaper for Octopus card holders!) and stand in line at the bus stop. The line will be long at this time, it is rush hour. It may be a line that is longer than 1 bus can fit, believe about 40 people fit per bus load.

Before I get in line, I’ll buy a big water bottle at the 7-11 as well as some nuts or beef jerky. The water I think is really important to make sure I stay hydrated after a long day.

Once on the bus, I have my portable wifi hotspot and whip out the laptop. I’ve written weekly newsletters, long email followups, and even had skype calls on the bus.

Related post – Don’t have a wifi hotspot or data, check out our post on offline tools for Asia travel.

Summary of a 1 day Hong Kong Business Trip

Just writing this up got me exhausted! What do you think, something you’re interested to do?

If you want to relax a bit more, you can always get a hotel for the night. There are quite a few times I have been so exhausted in the evening I opt to finding a cheap hotel nearby.

First time to HK and looking for what to do in Hong Kong on just 1 day? Check out our Hong Kong business traveler guide.

Have Any Tips or Tricks?

Hope you enjoyed this guide. Am I crazy to try to do this much on a one day business trip in Hong Kong and return to China? You doing similar? I’d love to have others share their experiences and recommendations so we can all learn and improve together.

Or maybe I missed something here, if you have comments or questions, please feel free to share in the comment section below!

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