Your first impression of any city (after the airport and immigration/customs) is the transit from the airport into the city. Some cities make it easier than others. This article explains how to take the Airport Express train into Hong Kong (and back to the airport).
East, Fast, Comfortable
Taking the Airport Express train from the airport into Kowloon or Hong Kong is easy, fast and comfortable. There’s really no reason to consider any other method of transportation. The trains are modern, clean and air conditioned.
The other amazing benefit: when going from Hong Kong or Kowloon to the airport, the train stations have airport check-in desks where you can check your bags. No need to carry your large luggage with you on the train.
The trains run every 10 minutes, with the first train from both the airport and city leaving around 6am, and the last trains leaving around 12:45am (just after midnight).
The journey to-and-from Kowloon is about 22 minutes, and to-and-from Hong Kong is about 24 minutes. And you don’t have to worry about traffic.
Signage and voice announcements are in English and Cantonese.
You have 3 options for purchasing tickets:
- Purchase online before your trip
- If you have a mobile device, you can purchase a QR code ticket that will let you board the train directly. The MTR website indicates you need a data connection, so I didn’t try this. (If you have done this without a data plan, let me know in the comments!)
- Pre-pay online and pick up tickets at the service counter at the airport (or at the city train stations for one-way trips to the airport). Note: There is no real benefit to doing this, since you’ll wait in the same line as people buying tickets at the service counter. You’ll need to show them your order email (on your phone is OK) and the credit card used to buy the tickets.
- Buy at the Airport Express service counter at the airport or city train stations. Payment can be made by cash or credit card. The service counter usually has a short line. You might wait 10-15 minutes.
- Buy at the ticket vending machines. These might have 1-2 people in line, so they’re faster than the service counter. The machines are easy to use with both English and Cantonese instructions. They only accept cash (Hong Kong dollars). Change is provided.
If you just need transportation to-and-from the airport, then a single journey (one-way) or round trip ticket is what you want. Prices vary slightly whether you’re going into Kowloon or Hong Kong. If you’re not returning from the same station (e.g. going into Hong Kong, but returning from Kowloon, then purchase 2 single journey tickets).
If you are in Hong Kong for a few days and are planning on taking the subway, then you can purchase the Airport Express Travel Pass. This provides a return trip on the Airport Express (a single journey travel pass is also available) and 3 consecutive days of unlimited travel on the subway. This is easier than trying to buy a separate subway pass.
Returning to the Airport
When returning to the airport from either the Hong Kong or Kowloon Airport Express stations, you’ll see airport check-in counters. You can use these just like the counters at the airport, to get your boarding pass and to drop off checked luggage. This means you don’t need to carry your large bags with you on the train. (No issues with our bags making it to our destination.)
You will need your Airport Express ticket in order to enter the area with the check-in counters. After dropping off your bags, you’ll leave this area, and proceed to board the train. In Kowloon station, this was on a lower level.
When the train arrives at the airport, be aware that Terminal 1 exists on one side of the train, and Terminal 2 exists on the other side. This is clearly indicated on the train doors, but make sure you know your terminal.
And that’s it! It’s all pretty easy.