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Photograph: TA

Travelling to Hong Kong? Here's what you need to know

A step-by-step guide to help you prepare for your return to the city

Tatum Ancheta
Written by
Tatum Ancheta
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With flight bans now lifted from April 1, Hongkongers stranded abroad can return to the city without the need to 'washout' in other countries. And with mandatory quarantine now down to seven days (from the previous 14), residents who have been travel deprived are finally booking vacations abroad. If you're one of the many who already started planning their trip or are entering the city this month, we've compiled a guide to help you with everything you need to know when returning to Hong Kong, from things to prepare to all the steps you have to take as soon as you land.  

RECOMMENDED: Keep updated with the latest Covid measures in the city. Planning your trip abroad? Here’s a list of top travel destinations where vaccinated Hongkongers are allowed to enter

Who can return to Hong Kong now?
Photograph: TA

Who can return to Hong Kong now?

Only fully vaccinated Hong Kong residents are allowed to enter the city. Hongkongers who cannot get vaccinated for Covid-19 due to medical reasons must have valid proof.

Returning Hongkongers stranded from banned countries, including Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, India, Canada, France, Nepal, Pakistan, and the Philippines, can now enter the city from April 1. Group specifications for countries are also abolished, which means all returning Hong Kong citizens from overseas will be able to board a flight to the city. 

Unfortunately, the city is still closed for non-Hong Kong residents, except travellers from mainland China, Taiwan, and Macao. However, starting May 1, Hong Kong will finally allow non-residents to enter the city, but visitors will have to undergo the same testing and quarantine requirements imposed for inbound Hong Kong residents. We will update this space once more details are revealed. 

Will they allow entery if my visa is expiring?

If you're not a permanent Hong Kong resident and travelling under a work visa, ensure your visa has a sufficient validity period, or you will be denied entry. 

The Immigration Department (ImmD) provides electronic services for visa application and 'e-Visa' arrangements, allowing applicants to complete the entire process without going to the immigration office in person. Suppose your visa renewal is currently in progress and flight suspensions delayed your return to Hong Kong before your visa expired. In that case, it's best to send an authorised representative to the ImmD office to fix your reentry. Emails and phone calls will take a long time since some government employees are still working from home.

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What are the requirements to enter Hong Kong?

Though flight bans are scrapped, border control measures are still in place. Requirements to enter Hong Kong include:

  • Recognised vaccination records
  • Negative RT-PCR test result taken within 48 hours, including proof that the lab is ISO15189 accredited or government recognised 
  • seven-night room reservation confirmation from designated quarantine hotels dated the same day of your arrival to HK; or 14 nights if you want to extend your stay and not opt for early discharge from compulsory quarantine 

 

How long is the quarantine period? 

Returning Hongkongers are required to book a mandatory quarantine for seven nights at any of the designated hotels. 

From April 1, quarantine stays were decreased to seven nights. If your current 14-night accommodation is already booked, contact your hotels for necessary adjustments, but note that not all hotels are willing to refund the extra seven days. 

Note: The date of your arrival in Hong Kong counts as day 1. Your quarantine period will last from day 1 to 11:59pm of the last day of compulsory quarantine, so you will need to stay an extra night in the hotel. Make sure that your quarantine hotel booking is the same date as your arrival to Hong Kong regardless if your estimated arrival time to the hotel falls on the following day.

Here's a guide to the best quarantine hotels in the city. To accommodate the demand for quarantine hotels, seven hotels initially used for community isolation and accommodations for foreign domestic helpers will be converted to quarantine hotels. From April 14, some of the new additions will start to accept bookings. If you need to check available rooms, visit this link from the government.

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What are the available flights coming into Hong Kong? 
Photograph: TA

What are the available flights coming into Hong Kong? 

Though bans imposed on nine countries have been lifted, flight-specific suspensions are still in place. If an inbound flight takes a certain number of positive cases upon arrival, these airlines will not be allowed entry to Hong Kong for a week. So, booking can be tricky, and available flights change frequently. Check with your airline on possible reentry once you get a flight cancellation. 

Here's a compiled list of all confirmed flight cancellations from the HK Quarantine Support Group on Facebook. To stay updated on the news about flight suspensions, tune in on the government's daily press releases.

So, you finally booked your flight, what to do next?
Photograph: TA

So, you finally booked your flight, what to do next?

To ensure a smooth and efficient arrival, prepare hard copies of your ticket, confirmed quarantine hotel booking, vaccination record, and negative RT-PCR test results. Digital versions of hotel confirmation are accepted if you are not able to print them beforehand. 

Next, register your information on the government's Health Declaration System. After registration, you will receive a generated QR code with all your supplied information. This QR code is essential when you arrive at the airport, and all procedures will require that you show this QR code. 

To minimise check-in time, certain flights allow you to upload your required travel documents in advance when you receive your e-tickets. They will verify and review the information to ensure you have the correct health documents to enter Hong Kong. Check all the links provided on your flight confirmation email as they are easy to miss. Here's the submission form for Cathay Pacific flights.

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What time should I go to the airport for departure? 

Delays, cancellations, and a whole lot of waiting are expected before departure, so make sure to be at the airport at least three hours before your flight. Account for extra time if you encounter any hiccups with airline check-in, such as missing documents or having the wrong requirements, etc.  

Arrival at Hong Kong International Airport
Photograph: TA

Arrival at Hong Kong International Airport

Yes, home at last… but not just yet. You still have a few steps to finish before reentry. 'Patience' will be your best friend. Waiting and going through the entry process will take six to seven hours, depending on the influx of inbound travellers.  

Tips: Bring a bag that will make it easy for you to slip your documents in and out as you walk through the endless halls of the airport to and from the processing stations. Pack a jacket because it can get really cold at the designated waiting stations. You will get bored and hungry, so prepare some snacks in your carry on and download Netflix videos on your devices. The government provides a snack station where you can pick up bottled water, sandwiches, and biscuits, but best to bring your own in case you want variety. Charge your power banks and other equipment because charging stations in the waiting areas can get packed. 

Once you get to the airport, a government staff will check your temperature. Next is you will be asked to present your health declaration QR code. If you fail to register prior, you have to do it once you land. Once your QR code has been checked, you will then line up for your RT-PCR testing before proceeding to the fourth station, where they will verify your working phone number. The fifth station will hand you your compulsory quarantine order. Then you can head to your designated waiting area.

RT-PCR results will take three to four hours. Waiting time will depend on the number of inbound travellers during your arrival. Once cleared, you will be allowed to go through immigration, get your luggage, and line up for your designated hotel transfer.

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What if I tested positive during arrival and quarantine?

If this happens, the government will send you to appropriate hospital facilities. Close contacts of the infected passenger will be transferred to government isolation centres.

During your quarantine in Hong Kong

From April 1, an RT-PCR test will be conducted on day five in your quarantine hotel, but you have to undergo daily rapid antigen tests (RATs). Residents who test negative from the RT-PCR test on the fifth day, and negative rapid test results on the sixth and seventh day, may choose to leave their quarantine hotel and self-monitor for the subsequent seven days. The last RT-PCR test will need to be conducted on day 12 at a Community Testing Centre (CTC)

If you enjoy staying in and don’t mind spending money on the quarantine hotel, you may actually choose to stay and complete the 14 days and get the PCR test on day 12 in the hotel and take a rapid antigen test on the 14th day. 

Here's an ultimate guide to the best delivery services in Hong Kong in case you need it. We've also compiled a list of the best online workouts and fitness programmes so you can stay fit during quarantine. 

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Got more questions?

The government has set up a page for all your questions about inbound travel to Hong Kong. Visit this link for all the latest travel regulations. 

You've been gone a while, here's what's new in HK

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