Travelling To Hong Kong: What You Want To Know

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The Hong Kong government has imposed stringent travel restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19, especially on international arrivals. So, if you’re thinking of travelling to the city, you’ll need to keep up to date with the latest requirements for who can enter, what documentation you need to show in order to board your flight, and tips for booking a flight and quarantine hotel. The HK HUB gives you the lowdown on everything you need to do before you depart for the 852.

#1 – Check if you can enter Hong Kong

Starting May 1, all non-residents can enter Hong Kong irrespective of where they have been in the 14 days leading up to their arrival in the city.

#2 – Book a quarantine hotel

One of the most significant considerations for travellers entering Hong Kong, which previously had one of the longest mandatory Covid-19 quarantines in the world at 21 days, is the quarantine requirements. The length and location for quarantine differ based on whether you are arriving from overseas, Mainland China, or Taiwan. You will need to show proof of a quarantine hotel booking in order to board your flight to Hong Kong.

  • International arrivals: Starting April 1, all international arrivals must present proof of a confirmed reservation at a designated quarantine hotel (DQH) for either seven days or 14 days, depending on whether they opt for early discharge from their DQH. The day of your arrival at the airport is considered Day 1 of your quarantine period. You will be transferred to your hotel via designated transport.
  • Arrivals from Mainland China and Macau (excluding Guangdong province): The quarantine period for arrivals from Mainland China is seven to 14 days at home, a hotel (any hotels that are not on the Designated Quarantine Hotel list), or other accommodation, depending on their vaccination status. However, Hong Kong residents coming from the mainland under the Return2HK scheme do not need to quarantine at all.

Note: Before making a hotel booking, check the hotel’s cancellation and refund policy. This is especially important because if you test positive for Covid-19 at any point during quarantine, you will not be allowed to stay at your DQH. You will be taken to a hospital or isolation facility, depending on the severity of your symptoms. While reserving your room, ensure that the booking includes the names of all the occupants, and that the names match those on your travel documents. Changing reservation details later might be difficult because of the government’s anti-scalping measures to discourage agents from making bulk bookings for rooms.

#3 – What to remember when booking your flight?

sea border security check in hong kong
Immigration control at one of Hong Kong’s sea crossings (© Studio Incendo via Flickr)

The five-day flight on flights that brought a certain number of Covid-positive passengers into Hong Kong was suspended on July 7. Inbound travellers can now book flights into the city without worrying about the risk of their flights getting cancelled or rescheduled. In addition, starting July 10, passengers can transit via Singapore to enter Hong Kong.

#4 – Do you have to be vaccinated?

Vaccination requirements differ based on where you’re travelling from.

  • International arrivals: Starting May 1, residents and non-residents who have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine are allowed to enter from overseas places (i.e. all places other than China and Taiwan).
  • Arrivals from Mainland China and Macau (excluding Guangdong province): Both residents and non-residents can enter Hong Kong from the Mainland or Macau, irrespective of their vaccination status.
  • Arrivals from Taiwan: Non-residents can come from Taiwan only if they are fully vaccinated. Hong Kong residents can come from Taiwan irrespective of their vaccination status.

How about if parents/guardians are vaccinated but their children are not? Unvaccinated children under the age of 12 can enter Hong Kong as long as they are travelling with adults who meet the vaccination criteria. They must undergo mandatory quarantine with the adults at a DQH and are subject to the same compulsory testing requirements.

How about if you were vaccinated overseas? International arrivals arriving after May 5 who got vaccinated overseas should declare their vaccination details in their arrival health declaration. They will then be issued with a vaccination record QR code and a Provisional Vaccine Pass at the airport. This will act as a substitute for local vaccination records and is valid for 180 days from the day of arrival. Travellers with non-local vaccination records who arrived before May 5 can get this same Provisional Vaccine Pass by visiting one of 18 post offices with identity proof and one other proof of arrival, e.g. Return2HK or Come2HK health declaration.

If you recovered from Covid overseas, if you arrive after May 5, you can go through a similar process as above, declaring your non-local recovery record upon entry into Hong Kong, to receive a non-local vaccination record QR code which includes your recovery status. This should be saved in your LeaveHomeSafe app to be scanned at Vaccine Pass-required places and is valid for 180 days. People arriving in Hong Kong before May 5 can get the same thing by going to post offices.

#5 – Do you have a valid vaccination record?

If you’re required to be vaccinated to be granted entry, you must (1) check this list to see whether the country where your vaccination was administered is recognized as issuing valid vaccination records and (2) check this list to see whether your specific vaccine is accepted as valid.

Your vaccination record must be in Chinese or English, include your correct name (check this carefully as there have been reports of some people having trouble boarding because the name on their passport didn’t match the one on their vaccination record), the date that the vaccine was administered, and the name of the vaccine/marketing authorisation holder/vaccine manufacturer. Don’t forget to carry a printout of your vaccination record.

#6 – Have you filled out a health declaration form?

Starting July 28, anyone who enters Hong Kong via the International Airport must complete an online health declaration form before they board their flight for the city as part of a trial to test an upgraded health declaration system. You must also submit details such as vaccination records and your DQH’s reservation reference numbers. You will then get a QR code that is valid for 96 hours that you must present when you check in for your flight to the SAR. However, you do not need this QR code if you are entering the city via the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Hong Kong Bridge or the Shenzhen Bay Control Point.

#7 – When to get your pre-departure Covid-19 test?

covid 19 nose swab test
PCR tests are conducted with nose, throat, or combination nose/throat swabs (© 74images via Canva)

Another document that you’ll need to show to board your flight is a negative Covid-19 PCR test result. Any other type of test (e.g. RT-LAMP, rapid antigen test, etc.) is not accepted. The timing for when you should get polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing differs based on your origin country.

Remember that the testing window includes any time you may spend in transfer. That is, if you have one or more transfer flights before the flight departing for Hong Kong, your test result needs to be valid for that final flight.

  • International arrivals: A negative PCR test conducted within 48 hours of departure for Hong Kong.
  • Mainland China and Macau: A negative PCR test within three days of departure for Hong Kong.
  • Taiwan: A negative PCR test within 48 hours of departure for Hong Kong.

Starting June 1, passengers no longer need to show proof that the lab that administered the pre-arrival test is ISO 15189-certified or government-recognized.

#8 – Required documents if you’ve recovered in the past 90 days

Arrivals who contracted and recovered from Covid-19 outside Hong Kong must have the following documents in order to board their Hong Kong-bound flight:

  1. Certificate or recovery record (in Chinese or English) showing that you had Covid-19 in the 14-90 days prior to departure and have recovered.
  2. Test report (in Chinese or English) showing a negative RAT result within 24 hours before departure.
  3. Written confirmation (in Chinese or English) with the above information if the test report is not in English or Chinese and/or does not contain all the necessary information.

The name on these documents must match the name on your travel document exactly.

#9 – Getting your post-arrival Covid-19 tests

Passengers who arrive in Hong Kong have to undergo a combination of Covid-19 PCR and Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) within the first 14 days of their arrival into the SAR.

Testing upon arrival

All arrivals to Hong Kong International Airport (except those from Mainland China and Macao) must undergo a PCR test and a RAT. If you produce a negative RAT result, you will be transferred to your DQH where you can await the results of your PCR test. If your RAT shows that you have Covid-19, you will be taken to a hospital or isolation facility, depending on how severe your symptoms are. The waiting times for both tests vary based on a number of factors, including the time of day you’re arriving and the number of passengers on your flight.

Pack some snacks, reading material, or download a show or movie to watch while you wait for your results at the airport. If you’re travelling with children, pack a sleeping bag and toys to make the wait easier on them. In the event that you test positive, you will not get the chance to collect your luggage. So keep in mind that you may want to pack a couple of days’ change of clothes and other essentials in your hand luggage to tide you over at the hospital/isolation facility.

Testing during quarantine

During quarantine, you also need to undergo regular testing. Currently, international arrivals and passengers from Taiwan must take daily RATs (provided at the airport) and get PCR tests administered on Days 3, 5, 9, and 12 after their arrival date.

Those who have opted to leave their DQHs after seven days can do so if they test negative on their Day 5 PCR test and RATs on Days 6 and 7. They must undergo their Day 9 and Day 12 PCR tests at a Community Testing Centre, mobile specimen collection station or a recognised local medical testing institution.

Arrivals who choose to spend 14 days at a DQH will undergo daily RATs and their Day 9 and Day 12 PCR tests will be conducted at their hotel. They can leave their DQH if their Day 14 test is negative.

Arrivals from Mainland China must undergo two tests (on Days 5 and 12).

#10 – How do I get to my quarantine hotel?

There are three ways international arrivals can reach their DQHs:

  1. Free point-to-point designated transport service: There are coaches that cover 18 routes between the airport and the various DQHs across the city. Each route covers between three and five hotels and it takes under two hours to complete a trip. Keep an eye out for signs in the airport arrival hall displaying the names of routes and DQHs.
  2. Self-paid DQH taxi services: There are 100 taxis available for overseas arrivals to take to their DQHs from the airport that operate from 8am to 2am every day. If you wish to take a DQH taxi, inform the staff at the arrival hall, who will show you where the DQH taxi queue is. Passengers must only sit in the back seats of DQH taxis and pay the metered fares and any additional charges, such as tunnel tolls and luggage fees.
  3. Self-paid DQH limousine service: There are around 10 DQHs that provide inbound travellers a self-paid limousine service. Before you leave for Hong Kong, contact your DQH to check whether they offer this option.

#11 – Any post-quarantine requirements?

Anyone who quarantines at a DQH, hotel, or any other accommodation, must self-monitor for Covid-19 symptoms for the seven days afterwards. This mainly involves checking your temperature twice every day, minimizing contact with anyone you stay with, and observing hand hygiene.

Header image credits: wonry via Pixabay



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