Be in control of your destiny when you’re traveling and master the Hong Kong airport!
Ever looking to fly into Asia? Most likely you will make at least a connection in Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA).
Over almost a decade now I have been coming in and out of Hong Kong and this amazing airport. My friends and I are always sharing tips and tricks on how to maximize our time here. It is massive, and after reading today’s guide you will be able to get around like a “baller” next time you fly in or out of here.
I’m also hoping after you read this, you can share some of your tips and feedback. I will update this airport guide post so check back often.
Airport Layout & Structure
HKIA has 2 terminals, Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. But don’t worry about needing to take a different taxi or train to one or the other, they are within walking distance. All the flights take off from Terminal 1. Terminal 2 seems to be overflowing for the check-in counters. The public transportation area, as well, is located in this terminal. Flying Air Asia? Go to Terminal 2 for check-in like I did. Then, there is also the “North Satellite Concourse” which has gates in the 500 number range.
There are 7 levels (L1 to L7).
For the north Satellite concourse:
As you can see, the first level should be the basement. To get from each level you can take escalators or elevators.
Question on Transit Time from Terminal 2 to 1
Here’s a common question from readers about HKIA Terminal 1 and Terminal 2
Are you trying to get between terminal 1 and 2 in the Hong Kong Airport?
Planning your trip and have a connecting flight between these 2 terminals.
We know the stress – sometimes you have limited time between connecting flights and wonder how much time it will take to get from 1 terminal of an airport to another.
Hong Kong airport has 2 terminals, and today we received this question from a reader:
Hi! My flight will arrive at HKG Int’l Arrival Terminal 2. Is it possible to enter at HKG Arrival Terminal 1 because I need to pick up something at Klook counter? Thank you so much.Melvin
That’s possible Melvin. Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 are actually connected. Simply take a tram and you will be fine
Mike on our team often travels in and out of Hong Kong and practiced the time and directions to share a video soon.
Unrestricted Area (Don’t Need a Boarding Pass)
They call the area where the “public” can go, the unrestricted area. There are things you can do even if you don’t have a flight. There are quite a few things here that do attract people to come just for fun or work. My friend, Larry Salibra even likes to use the airport as a free co-working space!
Please note, that once you board your flight (enter the restricted area), you cannot exit and use these services. So make sure you check these out before your flight, or on your way into the city.
Now, let’s dig into some of the facilities and surrounding spots.
Here is where you can make a day trip out of visiting the airport.
Entertainment Zone (Terminal 2)
I watched an IMAX movie when I returned from a trip in Southeast Asia. Pretty amazing right? Land in Hong Kong and pick up your luggage, walk a few minutes and you can buy a movie ticket to see a massive IMAX movie. I think the screen went above my head as I was closer to the front of the theatre.
There are a couple screens, so check which ones before flying as they aren’t able to play all the latest movies.
Free Airport Wifi
I saw years ago people say how great Hong Kong was to provide free internet at the airport. I feel like this should be the default for all airports around the world, yet many skip this. The internet is fast and unfiltered, I’ve downloaded heavy media files with no issues or delays. Here are some tips and notes:
SSID: #HKAirport Free Wifi
Service Hotline: 2188 7799, or visit the customer service counters.
It will need to prompt you to agree to the Terms and Conditions.
Open any website on your browser and it will redirect to a login page. Please note, the website should be HTTP, not a secure / https page.
Please also be aware that the wifi will disconnect after 1 hour. You’ll need to then reconnect by re-agreeing to the terms and conditions.
Important Note: Use the official wifi. I have heard friends mention there are scammers making a fake hotspot to grab personal information. Below is the official name.
Emergency Phone Numbers
In a jam and need to escalate it to professional help? Hong Kong government services have your back. Here is a list of various numbers to call depending on your specific situation:
Airport Police – 3661-2000
Raffles Medical Center – 2261-2626 // 2261-0999
Aviation Security Company Ltd – 2183-9074
Airport Lost and Found – 2182-2018
Airport Enquiry Hotline 2181-8888
Hong Kong Airport Mobile App
I learned this one recently when I connected to the free wifi. A popup showed that the airport now has a free mobile app called HKG My Flight.
What do you need a dedicated mobile app for a trip to the airport? Well, it came in handy when I was a couple hours early for my flight and they didn’t yet announce the gate. I asked customer service for a “best guess” on which gate range or area the flight may take off from. But they said there is no standard way to predict, I just need to wait.
So with this mobile app, I put in my flight number and it allowed me to turn on push notifications. I got an alert that they announced my gate (while typing up some of this guide’s outline) and was able to stroll over there. This is helpful when you’re traveling alone (like I was) and don’t want to get up and check the flight information screens area.
Things You Can Only Do / Access When Arriving at the Airport
So it is worth making a section in this airport guide for services that are only available for you if you are in the arrivals section. Remember the restricted area is for those who land in Hong Kong. This means, you can’t come to the HK airport from Central and check into your flight and find these services.
Get a China Visa
Want to enter Mainland China? There is a counter in a restricted area as you leave the arrivals area. You’ll see the booth at Section A and you can wait in line to apply or inquire.
Location Terminal 1, Arrivals Hall, Counter A04
Telephone – 852 2261 2472
Hours: 7am to 10pm, 7 days a week.
Hong Kong Arrival Customs
Entering into Hong Kong will have the customs border check, as any country has. It is a wide room with lots of sections and lots of tellers. A trick for me is to walk all the way to the right, as it is the furthest from where the gates are. The lines will be much shorter.
Apply For a HK Frequent Traveler Pass
This is a big tip! We are all so tired when we arrived at the airport. We just want to get home, right? Well, you can (if you have the energy) look RIGHT after you get through HK customs. There will be a booth that has a sign for the Hong Kong Frequent traveler program.
The frequent traveler booth shouldn’t have more than 1 or 2 people in line at a time. You’ll apply, and pay a fee, 575 HKD.
What is the HK frequent traveler pass? In short, it lets you get through HK customs faster in the future by going in the “VIP” lane. This is not just for holders of this Frequent traveler pass, there are other VIP programs as well.
Free Local Hong Kong Phones
This was a life saver for me on my first trip to Hong Kong in 2007. After you get out of Hong Kong customs, and claim your luggage, you will start to move towards the “unrestricted area”.
There is Exit A, and Exit B. Either will work to find the phone. But you cannot go back once you leave the exit, so look close. You will see a few phones on a pole that allow you to make free phone calls to anyone with a Hong Kong number.
Why a life saver for me? Well, I landed and somehow they lost my checked luggage. I think someone took my bag by mistake, as there was a similar bag by itself on the rotary belt. I filed my claim with lost and found and luckily I had my college friend Cyril’s phone number on my carry on bag. Made the phone call and waited for him to help pick me up.
It is just critical to not leave the restricted area until after you finish making the phone calls. This is because security is pretty tough about letting you back in.
Automated People Mover (Tram)
Funny name! But useful service. On Level 1 (L1) – which I would consider the basement or underground – is a tram. Clean and top of the line. Just a few cars and most people can fit on it – and only maybe 4 to 6 seats on each car so the majority of people will need to stand.
There are 3 stops. One is from terminal 2 to the check-in counter of terminal 1. Then there is one for those who are already checked in to get from the check-in counter to further back gates in terminal 1.
It is super fast and frequent. I think about 5 minutes to and from each stop. My son loved watching through the big window at the front of the tram – the window is massive and it feels like you are driving.
Depending on your gate you may or may not need to take the automated people mover / tram. But if you want to take a joy ride, why not, it is free!
Here’s an interesting question from a reader regarding the tram:
I am arriving by Cathay Pacific on Terminal 2 and have to take a connecting Cathay Pacific flight to Vancouver, Canada . The layover is only 1 hour between the flights. My bags will be already checked in. But still I am told, people often miss this flight due to the transfer from terminal 2 to terminal 1.
Can I book an automated people mover in advance ? What do you advise? What can i do to speed up the transfer process between the two terminals . It is very important for me to reach Vancouver ASAP. My son is not well there, needs hospitalisation. Please help !Radhi
Hi Radhi, we want to help you really. However, the Automated People Mover cannot be booked in advance.
We suggest coordinating with Cathay Pacific if they can do ground arrangements to ensure that you can get on your flight to Vancouver.
Various Cultural Displays
I’m not flying international so much these days, but each time I come to the airport there is always some new artwork on display.
The last time I was walking around the theme was on Sichuan, China artwork. Had tons of masks and other iconic figures from the old days.
There are a few spots in the airport with a lot of cultural experience, but even in small corners you’ll sneak some awesome decor.
Drinking Fountains & Hot Water Stations
While you may be hesitant to drink tap water in most parts of Asia – Hong Kong water is drinkable. So if you believe me and the other pubic standards, you can skip buying bottled water and find a public drinking fountain.
Another station you’ll see at the HK airport as well as most airports in Mainland China is the hot water stations. There are usually a couple machines where you can get hot water, warm water, or cold water. Some ideas for using this would be:
So maybe pack some snacks and drinks that you can mix with hot water if you have a long layover in HK. Don’t believe they have these kinds of stations in US or European airports. Hot water machines come in quite handy if you’re prepared ahead of time.
The first time I saw the logo for the prayer room I was pretty confused. No text, just a “bathroom stick figure” that was kneeling down. Tweeting it on social media, I found out this was a prayer room.
Pretty respectable right?
If you need some quiet space to pray or meditate, finding a prayer room may help you out.
Hong Kong Post Office
Need to ship some goods? Maybe you have too much in your checked luggage and instead of paying the overage fees you can mail it instead.
There is an official post office right in the airport. If you’re going on a shopping spree, remember there is the free offer to ship your purchases free. If your purchases exceed 1,000 HKD (check the shopping section earlier in this guide).
I need to confirm if there are post stations in both the restricted and unrestricted area, anyone know?
Post stations can be found in the following locations:
- Check-in Hall of Terminal 1 near Check-in Aisle F
- Departures East Hall, Level 6, opposite to HUGO BOSS, Terminal 1 (Restricted Area)
- Near Gate 41, Departures West Hall, Level 6, Terminal 1 (Restricted Area)
- Near Customer Services Centre, Departures Hall, Level 5, Terminal 2 (Non-restricted Area)
Nice Western-Style Bathrooms
Flying in various parts of the world over the years, I have had to stoop pretty low when entering an airport bathroom. But not in Hong Kong.
Full time cleaning attendants, on average 2 per bathroom, are on call. They are immediately cleaning up the bathroom as the travelers come in and out. Tons of urinals (for the guys) as well as toilets, so even with the high volume of travelers coming in and out there isn’t ever too long of a wait.
And, yes, it is Western toilets – meaning you get a seat. I’ll keep it at that, but things are hygienic and safe – no need to bring your own toilet paper either, it is well stocked!
China Visa Application (If Needed)
Talked about earlier in the Arrivals only section.
Location Terminal 1, Arrivals Hall, Counter A04
Telephone – 852 2261 2472
Hours: 7am to 10pm, 7 days a week.
Make sure you have the visa before you take the Mainland China bus. They should check it anyway, but I’m sure no refunds from the bus company if you’re rejected at the border.
Bonus: Hong Kong or Shenzhen Airport?
Many ask me, I live in Shenzhen – why do I take Hong Kong flights most of the time?
The Shenzhen airport is another massive and new international airport which is great but it is further away for me.
Another reason is that there are more international flight choices from Hong Kong. The higher volume of international travelers demands more selections as well as lower ticket fares.
There’s another reason why international flights are cheaper in Hong Kong – taxes. Hong Kong tax is lower, and thus you realize these tax savings as the traveler. Shenzhen has VAT tax on everything and you’ll be paying that tax on top of the cost of the air fare.
But there are times I take the Shenzhen airport flights – for domestic China. So when I fly to Shanghai or Beijing (or any city in China) I book it from SZ airport. Going into China from Hong Kong isn’t as practical. Most of my Hong Kong friends venture into “big and bad” Shenzhen (as they don’t come too often) to fly to other cities in China.
Airport Departure Tax Refund
Question here: has anyone ever gotten the Air Passenger Departure Tax back when flying in and out of HK? And if so, how did you get it back? Do you have to take the ferry to get it back? Thanks
Answer from someone in our wechat group:
just went to the desk on the way out. They gave me cash.
So I hope this helps you master the HK airport. It is a massive place and can keep us occupied well over any layover we could have. I still have a lot to explore and I will try my best to update this post as I go.
Did I miss anything? Is HKIA one of your favorite airports? I am loving it, and feel blessed it is the main airport I get to use for my international travels.