I was wondering if there was anything I can do in Hong Kong for a small amount of time, aside from just hanging around in the airport.

Are there nearby places reachable within 30~ minutes of transport or less? Street food, parks, or anything at all?

  • 25
    Change gates... ;) Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 15:46
  • 4
    I'd honestly say, "Better safe than sorry." Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 16:39
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    Depending on when you arrive the security between arrivals and departures at HK can be 5 min or up to about 35 min. In my experience (about 10 HK transfers) the gate you arrive at is very likely far away from the gate you leave (30 min walking). If I have 1 hour to cross the airport I will be in the end of the line getting on the plane. With hours I can comfortably get breakfast (line about 20 min) eat, and then use the good free wifi to make a few calls.
    – Phil
    Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 17:52
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    traveling outside of an int'l airport sounds like an appealing thing to do, but unless your layover is overnight or 10 hours at the very least, you just aren't going to have time to do anything. airports are boring and layovers suck, but that's unfortunately just the way travel is.
    – user428517
    Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 18:04
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    There are lots and lots of stores and restaurants at the airport. Go check them out.
    – user27699
    Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 22:03

5 Answers 5


Enjoy a nice lunch at one of the restaurants.

3 hours at any international airport is not enough time to leave. 30-60 minutes to deal with immigration, same again on the return (security, be at gate 30 minutes before departure etc. etc.) leaves you with an hour. Given HKG's location you won't be going anywhere.

  • 7
    Breakfast, actually. :D But I think this is solid advice. The stress of rushing to get back to the airport might not be worth the sidetrip. I'll just return to Hong Kong on a different date. :D
    – Zaenille
    Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 15:48

On paper it's theoretically possible, in reality -- having flown into, out of and through HK a fair amount -- I doubt it will work unless you're extremely lucky.

Assuming you want to get to your departure gate thirty minutes before take-off then you have 150 minutes of spare time. You might push that to getting to your gate twenty minutes before take off depending on the flight and airline but some airlines will close the gate and not let you get on (other airlines tend to wait for customers for a bit longer, particularly if they know they should be in the airport).

HK is a big airport, so you might spend ten to fifteen minutes just walking to immigration. Depending on the time of day immigration can take thirty minutes or more. Then you have to factor a potential walk to the departure gate as well as another twenty or thirty minutes getting back through immigration into the airport.

If all the gates are close by and immigration is quiet you might manage the back and forth in thirty minutes, but it's unlikely and in my experience you'll be looking at around at around ninety minutes total for immigration both ways, security coming back in and all the walking. Which, on average, leaves you about an hour to try to get somewhere.

Trains run around every ten minutes, and the closest place is Asiaworld-Expo as Rory Alsop says. So the chances are you'd get there and have to turn around and get back on the train to go back to the airport ...

Also, HK immigration may decide to pull you for extra screening -- they often do this with citizens from certain countries travelling on their own, but the fact that you're trying to leave the airport in such a small window may raise a flag on it's own.

Now, if you have a diplomatic passport, an APEC card, the frequent visitor e-card or something else that would let you bypass the immigration queues it might be a different story. Alternatively if you arrive early you might consider trying to get to immigration and looking at the queue, baring in mind the time it'll take you to get back from wherever you're going.

For completeness I'll add that trains to the city are 24 minutes to Hong Kong station in Central about 18 to Kowloon but neither station is really near anything interesting apart from shopping malls -- and even getting out of the stations can be a bit of a trek.

Like I say, it's theoretically doable, if you really want to risk it but I strongly doubt it's worth it (remember you'll have to pay for transport as well). It depends how comfortable you are with the chance of missing your next flight and generally being in a rush for all of the time.

The airport has a food court (Terminal 1, Terminal 2) which has a bunch of Western and Asian chain fast-food places, so you can get some interesting-ish food there. There's are other restaurants scattered about and your normal shopping places.

There are a few things, including an Aviation Discovery Center, outside the secure zone. I've never been but if you really don't want to sit around air-side it might be worth trying that.


I can only think of two that would be easy to get to:

  • Citygate Outlets is about 25 minutes away by bus - a wide range of shops, restaurants etc. On that route there is also the Ancient Kiln Park and Hkia Hostorical Garden.
  • Asiaworld-Expo centre is less than 10 minutes away - check out the link for events that will be on when you are there.

There's a chance you won't even get past the immigration officials. A friend of mine had a 9 hour layover and tried to leave the airport to do a little sightseeing. The immigration agent asked him what hotel he was staying in. My friend (a U.S. citizen) said he didn't have one and he was just leaving to sightsee for a few hours. He wasn't allowed past immigration.

Even if you did get past immigration, 3 hours isn't enough time. I've been to Hong Kong a few times and the traffic, taxi queues and distances to anything worthwhile makes it undoable.

  • 2
    My own experience on a single-day layover was exactly opposite. There must have been something wrong with your friend.
    – ach
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 12:40
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    @AndreyChernyakhovskiy Did you say it was a single-day layover? That might have been the difference.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 18:06
  • @Zibbobs, why, I cannot see any difference. I didn't stay overnight.
    – ach
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 19:44
  • My friend was allowed in before and after this incident for visa runs (where you have to leave one country because you're only allowed in for 30 days or so without leaving and coming back in). Each time it was a 3 day weekend and had no problems those times so there was nothing wrong with him. I guess it depends on the agent you go to so I edited my answer to indicate that.
    – Tim T
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 21:34

There are places within 30 minutes, but what you have in mind is generally a bad idea.

Do the math, 30 min + 30 min return to the city center. That leaves 2 hours, but you should be careful, and plan a longer journey back, in case you don`t find it right away, or there are traffic jams and the like. Add 30 min to the journey.

That leaves 90 min, when you could do something, however, in my experience, you'll be a lot of stress for just walking into a place looking at something and checking the clock each 5 min to get back.

The only trip I'd recommend is the AsiaWorld-Expo, which is just 1 min away from the airport. However, it might be interesting only depending on the exhibitions and events of the day you go there.

Alternatively, you could just hang around the airport, take pictures, have a meal, go to a newspaper stand and the like. That's not all too much time.

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