Prior to 1998, travelers flying into Hong Kong experienced a suspenseful landing courtesy of high-rise condominiums set so close to the old Kai Tak Airport that passengers could see right into their living rooms as the plane made its approach. Then the Hong Kong International Airport, known locally as Chek Lap Kok, came along.
The Hong Kong government scraped a 300-foot-high island north of Hong Kong down to 22 feet above sea level and expanded it to more than four times the original area, eating up two neighboring islands in the process. The airport that came of it has become the world's busiest cargo gateway and one of the world's busiest passenger airports, seeing 70-some million passengers per year. There are a whopping 86 passenger airlines and 38 cargo airlines operating out of the Hong Kong International Airport, all coming and going from nearly 200 cities around the globe.
This makes Chek Lap Kok an easy starting point for adventures in Hong Kong and mainland China in the north.
Covering an area of about 5 square miles, it can be easy to get turned around when navigating Hong Kong's vast travel hub. There are 90 boarding gates dispersed between two terminals that are opposite each other and within walking distance. Despite its daunting size, though, Hong Kong International Airport's minimalistic layout aims to keep stress levels to a minimum, because that's what every traveler really wants.
Airport Code, Location, and Contact Information
- The Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) is located on its very own island just southwest of Hong Kong. It's connected to the mainland via Route 8, which runs along the coast of the adjacent Lantau Island and over the Ma Wan Channel (passing by Discovery Land and Disneyland along the way). Driving into the downtown area takes about 22 minutes.
- Website: https://www.hongkongairport.com/
- Flight Tracker: https://www.hongkongairport.com/en/flights/arrivals/passenger.page
- Map: https://goo.gl/maps/Mv6HMEAWxgSg7W8m9
- Phone Number: +852 2181 8888
Know Before You Go
HKG is divided into two terminals, with Terminal 1 being the second biggest terminal building in the world and Terminal 2 being merely a check-in point for travelers who are then transported over to Terminal 1, where their flights take off. Departures are located on the upper level of Terminal 1 and arrivals on the lower. Though it may service thousands of people per day, HKG's complex systems are set up for mass crowds, which means things run surprisingly smoothly. Immigration is typically brief—expect to wait up to 15 minutes—and luggage tends to hit the carousel between 10 and 15 minutes.
There are two arrival gates, with pickup points being located at Gates A and B. Transport between Terminals 1 and 2 is provided by a free Automated People Mover (a train with no driver, to put it more simply), which departs every few minutes. Those who are tasked with traveling from one end of the airport to the other should expect to walk long distances because, despite the train that connects HKG's two terminals and two concourses and the many moving walkways within them, the airport, in its entirety, covers miles of land.
In other words: wear comfortable shoes if you plan to be on the move.
There's certainly no shortage of dining and shopping options, not to mention plentiful entertainment (such as golf and an IMAX cinema—yes, really), too. The airport is open 24 hours a day, so not only can you spend a long afternoon layover here and probably never get bored, you can stake out a cozy place to spend the night as well, although its on-site hotels offer more comfort than a regular old bench could.
Hong Kong International Airport Parking
The Hong Kong Airport has about 3,000 spaces for hourly, daily, and long-term parking. Car Parks 1 and 4 are on either side of Terminal 1 and offer self-parking for an hourly rate of $3 USD. The daily max for Car Park 4 is about $25 USD (or $192 in the local currency). There are longterm parking options in Car Park 4's outdoor lot (in Zone 5/F), as well as Car Park 5 (past the Ground Transportation Centre) and the SkyCity Car Park (located on the other side of Terminal 2). They all cost $60 USD for the first three days, then $20 for every day thereafter.
Public transportation is so abundant in Hong Kong that most travelers don't need to rent a car. For those who insist on driving, however, the airport is about 22 minutes from the city center. Follow Route 8 to Lantau Island, then take the exit for Airport Road.
Public Transportation and Taxis
One of the easiest, fastest, and cheapest ways to travel between Chek Lap Kok and the downtown area is via the Airport Express. This train transports people between Central Station and the airport up to six times per hour (stopping at Kowloon Station, Tsing Yi Station, and AsiaWorld-Expo Station along the way) and takes about the same amount of time as a car would take. Tickets can be purchased from automated machines or at the Airport Express customer service desks. They cost $15 for a one-way ride.
Alternatively, there's the public bus whose A11 route stops at City Hall. While tickets are cheaper (about $5 USD), the bus leaves less frequently and takes about four times as long. For a splurge, opt for a convenient taxi ride instead. They cost about $50 USD (although fares are not fixed, so ask ahead of time). If you are traveling to the city center, you must hail one of the Urban Taxis, which are red.
Those who wish to travel into other parts of China may need to obtain a Chinese visa ahead of time. Travel agents at the airport can help with the process, but it cannot be completed on the spot. In some cases, travelers can take a bonded ferry to Shenzhen without ever having to clear Hong Kong immigration. There are a slew of coach companies to choose from, too.
Where to Eat and Drink
HKG is big enough to offer something for just about every palette and budget when it comes to dining and libations. As far as fast food goes, Chek Lap Kok is home to a number of quick Asian takeaway places and two of only four Burger Kings in Hong Kong (on the departures level of both Terminals 1 and 2). There are about 60 restaurants, coffee shops, and concession kiosks to choose from. Highlights of HKG's culinary scene include Chao Inn near the food court on the departures level; Crystal Jade (a xiao long bao chain) and Ho Hung Kee (Hong Kong's first wonton noodle shop to be recommended by Michelin), both located in the arrivals hall; and Chee Kei, at the food court near Gates 40-80; all offering Asian delights.
Western palettes might rather prefer the hamburger selection at Beef & Liberty, Dean & Deluca (both on the departures level of Terminal 1), or Wolfgang Puck Kitchen in the Arrivals Hall. There are familiar Pret A Mangers and Starbucks dotted around the airport as well.
Where to Shop
There's simply no need to go shopping while in the city center when you've got the kind of couture selection the Hong Kong Airport offers. You've got Gucci, Saint Laurent, and Zara near Gate 5; Burberry, Hermès, and Moncler near Gate 11; Furla and Michael Kors near Gate 40; and Chanel, BVLGARI, Dior, Miu Miu, and more after departures.
How to Spend Your Layover
There are plenty of ways to pass the time during a layover at the Hong Kong International Airport. The Aviation Discovery Center on level 6 of Terminal 2, for instance, is a lesson in the history of Hong Kong aviation that appeals to kids and adults alike. HKG has been known to put on local educational programming—such as tea-making demonstrations and Chinese medicine workshops—throughout the airport, too.
The on-site IMAX theater or GreenLive AIR (also located on level 6 of Terminal 2) could also help to occupy your mind while waiting for a flight. The latter is an 18-hole indoor golf simulator in addition to the real Sky City Nine Eagles Golf Course that's located near Terminal 2, a short shuttle ride away.
If you'd like to spend the night in a bed rather than a public bench, the Hong Kong Airport has two dedicated hotels: Refreshhh by Aerotel and the massive Regal Airport Hotel, both airside in Terminal 1.
HKG has a handful of lounges that can provide travelers with a little slice of peace and quiet in the midst of the chaotic Hong Kong Airport. Among them are four Plaza Premium Lounges (located in the East Hall, West Hall, and near Gate 1 in Terminal 1 and also landside in Terminal 2), all of which offer private resting areas and showers. There's also the Centurion Lounge near Gate 60 for American Express Platinum and Centurion cardmembers, the Qantas Club above Gate 15, and United Club near Gate 61.
The Plaza Premium Lounges in the East Hall and West Hall offer day passes and the airline-affiliated lounges offer pay-at-the-door.
Wifi and Charging Stations
Wifi is free, unlimited, and available throughout all of HKG's terminals. There are thousands of charging points throughout the airport and also 36 locations that have public-use computers, including the Internet Zone in the North Satellite Concourse.
Airport Tips and Tidbits
- The design of the Hong Kong International Airport, itself, is worth noting. A Sir Norman Foster masterpiece from the late '80s, this modern (and enormous) airport was voted one of the Top 10 Construction Achievements of the 20th Century by the Construction Industry Manufacturers Association.
- There are designated resting lounges throughout HKG, including the Relaxation Corner near Gate 23, which was renovated in 2019. Here, you'll find cozy recliners, charge stations, and nearby massage services.