Hong Kong has been on my mental list for quite some time. My travels abroad have been to Europe and South America but never to Asia. I was so excited for this trip for a number of reasons! I am going to outline my trip including everything from travel/lounges, sights, a spa visit, shopping, restaurants, and cocktails. My husband and travel companion had been to Hong Kong four times previously which did make my trip a little easier. For the remainder of my research and planning, I used the Fodor Hong Kong book.
Premium Economy Seat
Travel: My airline ticket was purchased about 3 months prior to the trip. Due to the length of the trip, I chose a premium economy seat on the flight from LAX. I felt that ticket prices were pretty reasonable with the economy seats in the $800 range. My ticket for premium economy traveling to and from San Diego was a little over $1300. I have been in premium economy on another international flight and felt that it was a nice option. Different food selection, larger seat with foot rest, and amenity kit are all nice benefits. For such a long flight, this seemed worth the extra money. Due to status with American, we were able to enjoy several of the airport lounges. On the way over, we spent our long layover (7 hours) in the Qantas lounge in LAX and also the American Flagship lounge. I honestly feel with the lounge access it really isn’t necessary to spend the extra money on a business class seat. We had a great meal and enjoyed plenty of free champagne prior to leaving.
On the way back, we spent some time in the Cathay Pacific Lounge. This place is absolutely remarkable. Several of my friends commented on how amazing it is and every word was true. I could have stayed there all day without any difficulty. When you walk in, to the left there is the bar and multiple seating areas. To the right, there is a spa area where you can sign up for a neck/shoulder massage. Unfortunately, they were completely booked during our time in the lounge. If you are interested, walk over to inquire right when you arrive. Further down the hall, there is the more formal dining area where you can order off the menu. We started with snacks and drinks by the bar and eventually had a sit down meal later. Initially, we hoped to spend hours in the Cathay Pacific Lounge. However, because American Airlines does not have a consistent number of flights leaving, they showed up to the check in counter about 4 hours prior to the flight. Unfortunately, this really limits your time in the lounge. If you just had carry on bags, you could spend so much longer … keep this in mind.
Best time to travel: Being ignorant, I was completely unaware of the typical weather in Hong Kong. In the summer months, it is evidently very hot and also humid. In the winter time, the temperatures seem to be ideal. I was very comfortable the entire trip and thought the weather was perfect. It was never too hot during the day or too cold at night. Overall, I think that November/December are great months to travel to Hong Kong.
Hotel: Our hotel was booked through Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts. We booked roughly two months prior to the trip. Our final decision was between Upper House and Island Shangri-La. Ultimately, we decided to go with Island Shangri-La. I cannot tell you what exactly led to this final decision, but we had an amazing experience that I will share in another upcoming post.
Currency: Prior to arriving, I got $350 in Hong Kong dollars. I knew that I wanted to do some shopping at the markets and would need some cash. In addition, we frequently rode the subway and used the money to pay for all of our subway trips. I think that the amount you bring could vary widely based upon what your interests are. For dinner and shopping, I used my credit card.
Transportation: Let’s start with transportation to and from the airport. As part of our stay at Island Shangri-La, we did receive one complimentary airport transfer either upon arrival or departure. We chose departure anticipating heavier/more luggage when leaving. The hotel Island Shangri-La provided us with detailed instructions outlining a number of ways to get there. Our choice was the train, MTR Express. You do not have to step foot outside the airport to get the train. We took the train directly from the airport to its final stop. You can buy the ticket at a desk or use a kiosk. After leaving the train at the final stop, free hotel shuttles were easily visible. Our hotel instructed us to take bus H1 to the Pacific Place. This was simple, and we did not run into any problems.
The remainder of the trip we utilized the subway to get everywhere. Above is what the subway map looks like. The stops are listed in English, as you can see. In addition, the screen is in English as well and prompts are easy to follow. You click on the map at the stop you would like, the screen on the right will then give you a price, and you follow prompts to pay. After one use, it becomes relatively simple. The Fodor book I used tells you what stop to get off at along with which exit once you leave the train for the sights. To clarify, once you get off at the appropriate stop you are not there. Each subway station has multiple exits labeled by letters. There are maps in the subway telling you what letter to take for most tourist sites. The subway is very clean, and I always felt safe. I have been on the subway in many cities, and I thought their subway system was one of the best I have seen. We never waited long for a train and the temperature was always comfortable.
The subway takes Hong Kong dollars for payment. It is best to have smaller bills available. If your ride is over 30 HKD it will let you pay with a 50 dollar bill. However, having smaller denominations such as 10s and 20s is ideal.