Hong Kong Airport Guide
Chek Lap Kok Shines as a Popular Hub
An architectural marvel when it opened in 1998, Hong Kong International Airport, also known as Chek Lap Kok, continues to feel like a new and state-of-the-art facility. The airport was designed with growth and passenger efficiency in mind, and no detail has been spared. Case in point: the airport rests on man-made Lantau Island, created specifically for this mega hub, which is the 11th busiest airport in the world and the busiest cargo hub worldwide.
An architectural accomplishment of the airport is its ability to filter and provide natural light across the airport’s expansive arched ceilings. Initially it operated as one continuous terminal -- which made it excellent as a transfer hub. But it now has a satellite terminal, accessible by shuttle bus, and Terminal 2, accessible by passenger train.
The underlying achievement of Hong Kong Airport, however, is something travelers won’t notice if they aren’t looking: efficiency. Travelers seldom have to wait in line for security, immigration or luggage. From the Airport Express to the moment you board or disembark, the airport is designed to whisk you on your way and do it in the most pleasant way possible. It’s not a bad place to have to linger either, so here are a few pointers.
Coming and Going
Hong Kong Airport features the state-of-the-art Airport Express, designed to whisk travelers to and from Hong Kong Island and Kowloon in 20 minutes ($13 USD per trip). The main feat of the Airport Express is not its speed; rather, this nimble train allows travelers to check in baggage and secure a seat before boarding the train.
At the airport, travelers have the option to travel by ferry to neighboring Macau (45 minutes) or to points in the Pearl River Delta within China, to such cities as Guangzhou or Shenzhen. If boarding within the airport, travelers can bypass Hong Kong customs and go directly to the immigration checkpoint of their final destination.
For travelers needing to stay overnight, the adjacent Regal Airport Hotel offers 1,171 guest rooms and a full spa. Travelers will need to exit the airport to access the hotel. Special day rooms, which include shower and bed, are offered at rates up to $243.
For a less expensive option, a number of airline lounges within the terminal offer rest and relaxation. For $51 or more, travelers can access one of the traveler’s lounges located throughout the airport, and receive up to 5 hours of computer access, a shower, a complimentary 15-minute massage, unlimited food and beverages, and a cocktail.
For a less expensive option, look for lounging areas, specifically near gates 21 and 43, that include chaise lounges shielded by tall plants to provide privacy that will help you catch a few hours of sleep.
An Hour or a Day at the Airport
As one can imagine of a city that loves to shop, Hong Kong Airport offers a plethora of shopping options within the main terminal. Visit the duty-free boutiques of brands such as Prada, Cartier, Zara or Agnés B. A few highlights include the Design Gallery, sponsored by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, which features products and souvenirs from local designers. One of the best places to drop by before a flight is Muji to GO, a travel concept from the Japanese retailer located in the check-in area of the terminal that’s stocked with travel-sized supplies such as combs, bags, toiletries and luggage.
Dining options are plentiful throughout Hong Kong Airport and most are located in 2 main areas -- a grouping of restaurants near the entrance of the terminal right after security, and another grouping at the far end of the main terminal, near gate 65. Options range from Pizza Express to fast-food options, as well as the standout culinary Taiwan Beef Noodle for a hearty braised beef broth, Itacho Sushi for fresh fish and Toasty Toasty to find out why dai pai dong toast is so popular with locals.
One reason to love Hong Kong Airport: free wireless internet. For those traveling without devices of any kind, internet kiosks are located throughout the terminal. As these kiosks are usually sponsored and the computer terminals not particularly abundant, those who need reliable online access are better off buying into one of the premium lounges.
NYC-based writer Andrew Yang lived in Shanghai from 2007-2010 and frequently used the region’s airports, including Chek Lap Kok.