One of our teachers, Louis, recently completed the journey from the UK to China via Hong Kong. He’s been kind enough to share his experience, in the hope that’ll it’ll make the journey easier for others in the near future.
“Hi, I’m Louis and I have just moved to Guangzhou. I arrived via a flight from the UK to Hong Kong and crossed the border to Mainland China at Shenzhen Bay. I’d just like to give a quick rundown on my experiences from touching down in Hong Kong to arriving at my quarantine hotel in Dongguan.
I touched down at Hong Kong airport on the 17th of June. I hopped off the plane and was immediately escorted to the terminal – which was designated for COVID testing. They checked my ‘fight-to-fly’ 48 nucleic acid test, my vaccine record and quarantine hotel booking. To make life easier – I suggest you either use hard copies of your documents or have them all saved in one folder because I was having to get them out ALL the time. If you test negative for your rapid antigen test, you proceed on to the covid negative terminal where you go through immigration control. The immigration officers were quite thorough with their questions and checks. They asked to see my bank account – to check I had sufficient funds – and asked me lots of questions about why I came to Hong Kong, who I knew there etc… I’d never experienced it before and it does feel a little intrusive, so just a heads up on that. After that, you’re whisked away on a bus to the quarantine hotel for your stay.
Unfortunately for me, I tested positive at the airport – so my experience is slightly unusual in that sense. I waited at the airport for about 6 hours for my nucleic acid test to confirm that I was positive. I was then taken to a hotel designated for people with a positive test. My passport was taken at the airport because I couldn’t proceed to immigration. So, I had to return to the airport when I was released from the hotel, following 2 negative rapid antigen tests on days 6 and 7. It’s slightly hectic in the airport but just know you’ll get to sleep and chill out for a bit once you get to the hotel! There is still stuff to do in the hotel – I watched a tonne of Netflix but made sure I was prepared for the next steps – because they were the hardest.
The next thing to do was book a border crossing from Hong Kong to Mainland China. There are a couple of options: book a flight or cross the land border at Shenzhen Bay. I chose to do it via Shenzhen Bay because it is the cheapest option. The flights were 15000RMB when I was planning to cross, at the start of July. Although it is cheap to cross via Shenzhen Bay, there are many people trying to cross, so it’s a very oversubscribed service! I understand the process is slightly different now compared to when I crossed so I will explain the current rules as I understand them:
The Chinese government are currently letting 1300 people cross the border per day via a lottery system. At 10 am, you apply for your crossing place 7 days in advance (if I booked on the 19th of July, I would cross on the 26th of July). This is the site to book your crossing: https://hk.sz.gov.cn:8118/userPage/login. My school assisted me to make the account so I can’t say too much about that.
You are told whether your application is successful at 8 pm the same day. Chances are, you won’t get it on the first day – so be prepared to be on your computer at 10 am every morning. This is the step that took the longest and meant I had to spend extra days in Hong Kong – this ended up being a really good thing! Hong Kong was fab so make the most of it if you do end up having to stay there for a little while.
I was released from my quarantine hotel after 7 days, still without a crossing booked – so I booked into the Yes [email protected] (https://yesinn-ymt.hongkonghotelsnow.com/en/). I was on a tight budget and this place was clean and cheap (110HKD per night – the cheapest I could find). The staff also spoke good English and were generally really helpful! It’s in West Kowloon which is just across from Hong Kong Island – a great location to explore every corner of Hong Kong with ease via the MTR.
When I got my crossing booked (whoop!!) I had to get everything prepped to cross. The most important thing is the nucleic acid covid test. The cheapest way to do it is via a community testing centre (https://www.communitytest.gov.hk/en/). You enter the district you’re in on the applications form = and it gives you the closest options. It costs 240HKD which you pay for at the test centre.
There is an option to have the time of the test printed in a specific format for travelling – tick that box! You need the physical document (which you can collect from the testing centre the next day) to cross over to Shenzhen. You also need a Hong Kong mobile number to receive the test results – I asked the hostel to use theirs and they were more than happy to oblige. If you’re staying at the Yes Inn Hostel, the 6C/6F bus will get you to the nearest testing centre (To Kwa Wan Sports Centre). Look it up on google maps for the specifics. You have to have a negative result within 24 hours of the crossing – so if you book an afternoon test, 2 days prior to your crossing, you will get a result at 2 pm the day before you’re due to cross. Having picked up my covid test result the afternoon before I crossed, I got all my documents in order and prepared for the crossing. I also needed my quarantine hotel release certificate, along with a Shenzhen health QR code which I got on WeChat.
The next step is the border crossing – It’s a long day, so another heads up about that! There were a few things I did to make it quicker and easier. The border opens at 10 am – I arrived at just before 9 and would highly recommend arriving at the same time! It gets busy! I was about 50th in the queue and I could see it was getting more and more hectic behind me as the day went on. I arrived via a cab – it was just over 300HKD. I believe that’s the only way to get there. Ask the taxi driver for “Shenzhen Wan” and they’ll know where to go – it took around 45 minutes so I was on the street, hollering, at about 8:10 am. Bring snacks!! There is a vending machine at the very end of the crossing but I was glad I had food to munch on throughout – It took about 4 hours to get to the vending machine. There are drink vending machines at the start and end.
Upon arrival, I queued up to have my documents checked and had a covid swab (big heads up – literally – for this, they shove it up there… DEEP!). I was given an alarm (like the ones you get in a food hall) and once my result came through, the alarm went off and I proceeded through to immigration. There are no signs in English from the moment you get into immigration so I would highly recommend downloading the Chinese and English languages on google translate if you don’t have access to data like I didn’t. Failing that, looking vaguely helpless helped me secure a border crossing friend who helped translate all the signs and information for me – bless you, Brian. I had to fill out a few forms on WeChat for a few QR codes during the crossing. Again, it helps to have google translate here. The process is pretty simple, though.
Immigration staff weren’t very thorough – just a couple of quick questions. After all that, I handed my QR code over along with my passport. In return, I was given a big coloured sticker relating to my randomly allocated quarantine hotel. The price of my hotel was 300RMB + 100RMB for food per night. I believe it can be as expensive as 800RMB per night, though. Look for someone with the same sticker as you and follow them! The variables of stickers are colour, Chinese characters and numbers. An announcement was made and my sticker people got up excitedly so I followed them! They led me to a bus – where staff do a register. If they look confused at someone’s name while reading– help them out by giving them an encouraging wave – it’s probably you, if you don’t have a Chinese name!
On the bus, we were taken to our quarantine hotel. Because my final destination was Guangzhou, I was taken to Dongguan, but most hotels are in the Shenzhen area. Upon arrival at the hotel at about 3 pm, I was taken to my room and given some QR codes: one was to pay for the hotel, and the others were for various health forms to fill out. Google translate was my friend, again!
Although I have highlighted all the parts that are a little tricky, the process really isn’t too hard or complicated. Just be prepared before you get to places – it makes things much simpler! And look helpless/ask for help if you’re stuck! I was given so much help from colleagues and strangers – people are extremely friendly here and technology is good enough to get over the language barrier.
If I were to leave you with one piece of advice, it would be to hold out in Hong Kong until you can cross the border – I seriously considered biting the bullet and paying 15000RMB for a flight. I’m so happy I didn’t for two reasons: there is so much to do in Hong Kong AND probability means your name will get called eventually – so hold out, save some money and get a chance to do some bonus exploring!
All I have left to say is that I am now in my new apartment in Guangzhou! Make the most of the time in the quarantine hotel – because you hit the ground running when you get out!”