Monday, May 10, 2010

A guide to traveling between Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou

I'm going to start posting some guides from my experiences living here. While not particularly useful to my normal readers, I do hope they will help others to figuring out the quandaries associated with travel out here...

Part 1: Traveling between Hong Kong and Guangzhou.

The cheapest method: Coach / Bus.

Cost: $80-90 HKD one way, and a little less than twice that for a round trip.

Length of trip: 3 hours (estimated).

Disadvantages: Traffic might slow you down, a lot. Plus, you'll be in a hurry while going through customs because you don't want to be the person to make the bus wait...I definitely had an entire bus full of annoyed Chinese nationals giving me the stink-eye because I took too long going through customs. Whoops. Furthermore, it's just not the safest way to travel.

How to set it up: You can purchase tickets from travel agents at places like the Hung Hom station in Kowloon, Hong Kong. Or, if you're in Guangzhou, head to the North-West exterior corner of the Garden Hotel to find the agency there. Operating times are roughly 6 AM to 9:30 PM or maybe a little later.

I used CTS Express Coach from the Prince Edward MTR station area in Kowloon. You can also purchase tickets at the various locations that they pick up passengers at.

The most cost-effective method: Bullet train from Guangzhou to Shenzhen, MTR to Hong Kong.

Cost: 75-100 RMB depending on first or second class for the train between Guangzhou and Shenzhen. And up to $40.80 HKD for the MTR trip between the border of Hong Kong and a station in downtown Hong Kong. Total cost is between $14.50 USD up to $19.72 USD; the highest cost, roughly $19.72 USD, is for a first class ticket from Guangzhou, and for taking the MTR to Central in Hong Kong.

Length of trip: Roughly 1 hour from Guangzhou's East Railway Station to Shenzhen (and vice versa), and roughly 40 minutes on the Hong Kong MTR, plus extremely variable times crossing the border and going through customs. This ranges from quick and painless, to downright brutal if it's a holiday or a weekend or both. This also applies to the bus trip, by the way.

Disadvantages: It's kind of annoying having to get off the train in Shenzhen, and then take the MTR the rest of the way, and this can create a bit of a time sink.

Advantages: Once you're in Hong Kong, you're already on the MTR, and you can easily get to wherever you need to. Additionally, the trains between Guangzhou and Shenzhen run incredibly often throughout the day, and it's easy to get tickets.

How to set it up: If you are in Guangzhou, go to Guangzhou's East Railway Station, and it'll be pretty apparent where you get tickets for this journey. My personal recommendation is to skip the machines and go directly to customer service. The machines might not want to give out change, and they're usually slower anyway. I don't have the information for Shenzhen, but it should be pretty straightforward there too. If anything, just walk around repeating "Guangzhou?" and somebody will point you in the right direction.

Note: if it's a particularly busy time, then it's worth the price to upgrade for first class for these trains. There is really one BIG difference between first and second class: you're guaranteed a seat in first class. Otherwise, it's not really worth paying the difference. 

My recommendation in HK is to get the Octopus card from the first customer service counter you find. You can return the card whenever you want, and will only have to pay $7 HKD (under $1 USD) if you return it within 90 days from the day you got it. You can return it at any customer service counter (unlike Shenzhen's stupid metro card) and you get all the money back that was left on it. The card will be $150 HKD at first; $50 HKD will be the refundable deposit, and $100 HKD will be instantly usable.

There is also a tourist card you can get for $120 HKD that includes a trip to and a trip from the Shenzhen border stop; this may or may not be a good deal for you, however.

Click here for Hong Kong's MTR page complete with a fare calculator.

The easiest method: Train from Guangzhou to Hong Kong's Hung Hom Station in Kowloon

Cost: roughly $20 USD for second class, and roughly $24 USD for first class, one way

Length of trip: Approximately 2.5 hours

Advantages: One train, no transfers, with a very nice waiting area at Guangzhou's East Railway Station.

How to set it up: Guangzhou's East Railway Station, all the way upstairs. Hong Kong's Hung Hom train station; I don't know specifically where, however.

But what about the ferries?
Not worth it. The station in Guangzhou is way too far out of the way to be useful to anybody, and the prices aren't anything special.

All of these methods might end up being replaced by the new high speed rail line: - but that's a ways away...

1 comment:

  1. That works. There are a couple of cheaper ways. (as of one year ago)

    1. There's at least one 30RMB bus between HEMC and Shenzhen (university or downtown), but most busses are about 80-100RMB.

    2. You can take GZ Metro to the last stop and a city bus for about 1 or 2 RMB to the Humen ferry or a motorcycle taxi for 5 RMB. Another bus takes you into Humen town from the ferry, where you can take a bus to SZ airport metro. It's kind of complicated but this is the cheapest if you don't want to ride a bike. I think this way cost about 20 RMB

    3 I've ridden a bike from GZ Metro to SZ Metro. The greenway was not yet well marked so I drove along highways. This was the cheapest method, but you need a folding bike and they're not expensive. You may take 3 or more hours to ride the bike plus half an hour for the ferry ride between the two metro systems. The roads on the GZ side of the river are really wonderful for biking, clean, wide, no with wide sidewalks, and almost no traffic. But in Humen the roads were dirty, under construction, and congested. Maybe after the congestion it will be better. There's a bridge separating Humen industrial area from SZ. Once you're over that bridge the road to GZ Airport is nice for biking, but not quite as nice as GZ. Familiarize yourself with the roads in Humen before attempting this on a bike. I think this way cost about 10 RMB.

    4. To get there for less than that, use the bike instead of the metro on either end. There's a greenway that's supposed to go between Shenzhen and Guangzhou, and it's nice and well marked in some places but not in others, I was able to find it in the hills above Shenzhen, but not able to follow it far either way because it seemed to suddenly disappear into the traffic or around a bend with no signs indicating which way to go from there. Asking people at a guard station right at the greenway where it turns was no help because they weren't aware of which way it goes, but the right way was to follow the red pavement - not the straight wide path along the road. One day I hope to bike the full distance along the greenway, maybe in a year or two when I may return. The greenway should be a full day's bike ride but with no cost but the wear on your bike and the energy you put into it, but it can be enjoyable.

    Of course things change quickly, especially around Shenzhen and Guangzhou. A few years ago to get to Shekou from Hong Kong required you to get off the MTR, cross the border, negotiate with private minibus drivers that drove around with a negotiator with a hand full of money sticking his arms and head out the window and dickering with all the pedestrians on the price and where you wanted to go, and you'd get in and pay him the fare agreed upon. Now you can either cross by car at Shekou or take an MTR that now has over 100 stations that didn't exist back then. Things change fast in that area.