Hong Kong travel tips

I haven’t even been home for a week when I was off again to Hong Kong to meet my friend Aya, who was coming from the US. We haven’t seen each other in two years, and had no common free time in Manila so we decided to meet out of the country.

Upon disembarkation in HK Terminal 1, I had to take the (free) train to the immigration. Just follow the people, and there are guides who will point you toward the train. Get off at the last stop and just follow the signs toward immigration. I had pre-paid for a 4G sim card via Klook so instead of going straight for the Airport Express Train, I went to counter B, showed the Klook voucher on my phone, and got my sim card.

Airport Express Train

That done, I went straight to the Airport Express Train (there are plenty of doors and signs directing people toward the Train) and boarded it. I bought the roundtrip ticket to Kowloon, because that’s the major train station nearest to our accommodation in Tsim Sha Tsui.

There are two train cars with in-seat phone charging ports. Free WiFi is also available throughout the journey. I used the journey to download the MTR Mobile app and Octopus app for Android. The MTR app is what I used to plan our travel time around Hong Kong. I just used the Octopus app to track my balance.

I got off at Kowloon Station and went to the turnstiles. There are several turnstiles, but you have to look for the one with the QR code reader. Tip: These are the two turnstiles nearest to the customer service counter. I looked like an idiot trying to scan my phone several times because I didn’t take the time to look for a QR code reader.

If you bought the Airport Express Train ticket, you can avail of the free Airport Express shuttle service from Kowloon Station to several hotels. Since we were only staying in a guesthouse that wasn’t listed in the bus stops, I looked for the nearest hotel to Yiu Fai. I initially planned to take the K2 bus, but when I used the MTR app, I found that the K3 bus goes down at Mody Road, which is just one street behind Yiu Fai.

How to find your Airport Express Shuttle bus with the MTR app:

1) Open the MTR app and click on Airport Express (2nd column, 2nd row, green button)

2) Click Free Airport Express Shuttle Bus

3) You can either choose Area served or Hotel/Railway Interchange

At first, I checked Hotel/Railway Interchange to find my guesthouse. Since it’s not there, I clicked on Area served. I looked at the Tsim Sha Tsui streets and looked it up on Google Maps to see how close it is to Yiu Fai.

How to board the Airport Express Shuttle bus in Kowloon Station & back to the airport:

After passing through the turnstiles, walk straight ahead until you reach the escalator. Go up one floor, turn to the right. There’s a corridor and there’s a sign for the Express Shuttle bus. Go up to the desk, show your Airport Express ticket (I showed my Klook* voucher) and say which bus you’re taking. They will direct you to the correct waiting lounge or bus, if it’s there already.

Waiting lounge/door for the K3 bus

I got on the bus and we waited for a few minutes for more passengers. There were only 4 of us on the bus, and I was getting off at Holiday Inn Golden Mile Hong Kong, the first stop on the K3 route. I didn’t know how to tell the driver I needed to get off, but it turns out the bus stops at every point of the journey to both pick up and drop off passengers (I found this on my return trip) so just sit and relax.

The Airport Express shuttle is free for the return trip back to the airport as well. On the day of my flight home, I went back to Holiday Inn and waited for the bus. The MTR app says the schedule is real-time but when I arrived at Holiday Inn, the bus was just leaving the driveway, and I had a 40-minute wait for the next one. I almost went to a coffeeshop to wait it out, but Aya said she was fine just standing there and wait with me. After 10 minutes, another K3 bus arrived. I don’t know if it was just that day or the schedule isn’t followed, but it’s a good thing I didn’t leave.

Accommodation

Aya had already come from Macau when we met up in Yiu Fai Guesthouse around lunchtime. Our room was only 400 HKD per night for 2 pax. The room is tiny but the beds could fit 3 adults. The bathroom is small but surprisingly clean and well maintained. There was a water heater and free coffee sachets provided but we didn’t use those. There’s no luggage rack or a closet, but there were plenty of hangers behind the door. We were also provided free liquid soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, and towels that were changed everyday. There’s no bidet, but the shower head was removable, but it has a holder that can be tilted up and down

Yiu Fai Guesthouse is good for those on a budget, but is too small for families or those with claustrophobia.

Yiu Fai is located on the 5th floor of Golden Crown, which is right beside Standard Chartered Bank. There’s no signage for Yiu Fai outside so you have to look for Golden Crown. If you’re not careful, you’ll miss it. In fact, Aya and I missed it on our third day!

There are two ways to enter Golden Crown: the main entrance located along Nathan Road and an entrance beside a tailor shop and Tsui Wah Restaurant along Carnarvon Road. And on the 5th floor of Golden Crown, there are several guesthouses. There are two Yiu Fai guesthouses too: the old and new. If you book through the website above, that’s for the old Yiu Fai guesthouse where we stayed. The other Yiu Fai guesthouse is just across the elevator banks. For the old Yiu Fai, coming from the elevator bank from the Nathan Road entrance, turn left, then turn another left.

From Yiu Fai, getting around is very easy. There’s a train station right outside Yiu Fai but it was under construction at that time. There’s another station just at the end of the street, along Humphreys Ave. There are also buses going around Hong Kong but I couldn’t find the bus schedule anywhere so we used the train or walked when there are no train routes available.

The owner allowed us an early check-in but our room wasn’t ready yet because official check-in was at 3pm supposedly. However, she gave us the key and let us leave our luggage already, and promised us the room will be ready after we have lunch.

The penne pasta was tasty but not anything special. It’s a bit pricey at HKD 98 but it was surprisingly filling.

We had lunch at Urban Coffee Roaster, a small cafe I passed by on my way from Holiday Inn to Yiu Fai. It’s right across Starbucks at the K11 Art Mall.

We both had blue cheese penne pasta, and Aya ordered a smoothie while I had a cup of mocha. The waitstaff didn’t tell us that the mocha was free with the pasta. We only found out upon checkout. One thing we did not expect upon dining out in HK was the 10% service charge in some food establishments. That kind of messed up my budget.

After lunch, we went back to Yiu Fai. True to her word, our room was ready. We got our bags and we went to the TST station.

Locals use the Octopus card not just for their train and buses but also for some convenient stores and restaurants. What I love about the Octopus card is that tourists can get the card and remaining balance refunded. We went to the customer service and bought the On Loan card, which is the refundable Octopus card. We tried to understand the train station using the MTR app but it was a little trickier for us, so we just memorized the routes we needed to get back and forth to Yiu Fai.

I realized too late that all our activities were mostly based in Lantau Island, and I wondered if we could have saved on train fare if we just booked our accommodation in Lantau. However, I did have fun walking around Hong Kong and seeing how different and clean it is now compared to when my family and I visited in 2001.

Flying home from Hong Kong Airport T1

The Airport Express shuttle bus driver dropped me off at Kowloon Station, right by the escalator to the Airport Express train. I had my On Loan Octopus card refunded at the Customer Service counter just inside the doors. I went down the escalator, scanned my Klook voucher pass in the turnstile with the QR code reader, and waited for the train to arrive.

The train was full this time since it was coming from another station. We still had one more stop to go, and some people ended up standing until we got to the terminal. It’s a good thing I listened to the announcement because the Airport Express train stops in between Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. If you’re going to Terminal 1, take the left door exit. If Terminal 2, take the right door exit.

Upon arriving, check out the departure board to see where you will check-in. This is where I got confused because after check-in, I didn’t know where to go. I went back to the Cebu Pacific check-in counter and asked for directions. Thankfully, he was extremely kind and helpful.

After checking-in, pass through the security. The CebPac staff directed me towards the left security gate. After passing through security, you will pass through immigration. After immigration is the food court. If your gate is departing on the side where you will need to take the airport train again, there are very limited food choices, so best to buy from the food court after immigration. There are no more security checks after immigration so you can buy water. I kept trying to find a water refill station but I couldn’t find anywhere, even at the boarding gate.

The last leg of my Hong Kong trip was where I got so frazzled because I didn’t know where to go. The airport directions weren’t as easy for me as when I traveled to Kuala Lumpur by myself.

The 3-day trip was, surprisingly, much more fun than I expected. HK wasn’t on my list to revisit because I’ve been there, but I was able to see a side of it I haven’t seen the first time. Maybe there is something to be said for revisiting a country, although I’d prefer to visit a different city — except for Paris and Sydney, which I would revisit again and again if I could. I love going on vacations — the moments I am free of expectations and everyday worries — but while sitting at the airport waiting for the plane, I suddenly realized the one place I really wanted to go to at that moment was home. 🙂

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