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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

From Hong Kong to Shenzhen Airport

How to fly from Shenzhen to save money? How to go to Shenzhen Airport from Hong Kong? How do I enjoy the benefits of cheaper domestic flights in China by flying from Shenzhen instead of Hong Kong?

Shenzhen Baoan Airport

Life is about exploring new things and new ways to do the same things. Are there certain things in life that you have heard about for a long time but never tried? To me, my friends have been talking about the benefits of flying from Shenzhen Airport to cities in China. That's right, in most cases, air tickets from Shenzhen is much cheaper than flying direct from Hong Kong

1. Go to the Elements Shopping Mall at Kowloon Station

Mental Preparation

Although we are only a river away from Shenzhen, most travellers based in Hong Kong would normally fly from Hong Kong International Airport. It's modern, it's convenient and it's in our comfort zone. We are uncertain of what will happen if we depart from the Shenzhen Airport. We are uncertain of how long and what it takes to fly from Shenzhen. 

Recently, I have decided to step out of my comfort zone and explore this cheaper way of travelling. Afterall, it could potentially save me a lot of money in the future, as there are many Chinese cities that I am yet to explore.

2. Get your bus pass and even check-in for the flights from Shenzhen at the Bus Station in Hong Kong

Air Ticket and China Cellphone Number

Before you go to the Shenzhen Airport, it would be a good idea to book an air ticket. You can book a Chinese domestic air ticket even if you are not physically in China. You do however need to have a China mobile (mainland China) phone number. The mobile number is for the online ticketing website to send its confirmation codes. The whole confirmation process is hassle free. You can either borrow your friend's number or get your own. For those who are in Hong Kong, the mobile network China Mobile Hong Kong sells prepay SIM cards that has both Hong Kong mobile number and mainland China mobile number in one SIM card. It is basically plug and play.

If you wish to purchase your air ticket directly from the airline's official website, you would need to have a credit card issused by a bank in mainland China. The other and better option is to purchase your tickets from third party websites. These websites accept credit cards issued in many countries, some can even bill you in your local currencies. These third party websites support multilanguages including English. The booking process is very straight forward. 

3. Wait at the bus station, jump on the bus when it arrives

You can choose to receive your eticket via email or pick up from Shenzhen. I would recommend the email e-ticket approach. Whatever you do, it is important to print this e-ticket! Although we are in the electronic age, it is very important for us foreign travellers to have this piece of paper when needed. I repeat, a hard copy e-ticket may save your day when you travel in China.

Metro / Trains

There are different modes of transportation that would take you from Hong Kong to Shenzhen Baoan Airport (there is only one commercial airport in Shenzhen and Baoan is it's name). The easiest and most preferred way is by coaches that run by specialized bus companies. The other great way is by train operated by Hong Kong and Shenzhen Metro corporations. I took the bus approach in my attempt. 

4. Jump off the bus when you are the Shenzhen Bay border

Let's talk about the train attempt first. Simply hop onto the Hong Kong's metro system MTR (Mass Transit Railway) at any station and head towards either Lo Wu or Lok Ma Chau stations. The signage and announcements in Hong Kong railways are excellent. Even if you don't speak Chinese, even if you only know a little bit of English, you can still find your way. 

You can cross the border from either the Lo Wu or Lok Ma Chua station. This is where you need to show your passport and visa or other forms of identifications. Once you have crossed the border, you can find clear signs that leads you to Shenzhen's metro system. It is less crowed and easier to find at Lok Ma Chau than Lo Wu. Please note that Lo Wu is called Lo Wu on Hong Kong side and Louhu on Shenzhen side; Lok Ma Chau is called Futian on the Shenzhen side. 

5. Remember to take all your belonging with you as you will be on a different bus on the other side

Once you are in Shenzhen's metro system, go to the airport station. Again, it is rather easy to navigate within the Shenzhen metro system. Once you are at the Shenzhen Airport station, a 5 to 10 minutes walk would take you to the departure and arrival hall.

Bus / Coach

The bus approach is much for comfortable! It is more direct. You do not have to transfer from train to train. You can also avoid the crowd as the Hong Kong train system is always jam packed with people. Should you wish to travel by bus or coach, it is recommended to book your ticket in advanced. There are several companies to choose from. You can book and pay for your seats online.

6. Once you are on the Shenzhen side, look for the bus bay given earlier. Reveal your sticker to the bus company staff

I chose the bus company that departs from the Elements Shopping mall at Kowloon Station. There is a dedicated area for you to collect your bus pass. All you need to do is to print that e-ticket, the e-bus-ticket, or present identifications to the staff at the bus station. They also provide check-in service on behalf of Shenzhen Airport. You can select your seats and your boarding pass will be given to you, all you'd need to do is drop your bags at bag drops when you arrive at Shenzhen Airport.

Staff will give you a sticker to put on your chest. It is important to do so as it plays an important role at the borders. Buses departs from the bus station at 15 to 30 minutes intervals. You can find their time tables online. It was obviously off peak season when I travelled as the bus was only 20% full. There were plenty of spaces for luggage and spaces to relax. 

7. Arrived at Shenzhen Airport!

It took less than 45 minutes to go from Kowloon Station to the Shenzhen Bay border. This border is not reachable by trains. This is where you need to show your passport and visa or other forms of identifications. This is also where you'd need to pay special attention to the driver or even ask the driver to give you the parking bay number on the other side of the border. 

You would need to unload your luggage as the bus will stay in Hong Kong. You will continue your journey on the other side of the border on another bus from the same coach company. Take your time to cross the border as the bus company has a fleet of buses. It would normally take 15 to 30 minutes to cross the border. Once you are on the other side, this is also when you would need to pay special attention. You would have to look for the bus bay according to the number given. This is when the sticker on the chest will work its magic. The bus company staff will point you to the right bus when they see your sticker. They are all in uniform and will be standing near their company's coach.

8. On the other end of this bridge is the Shenzhen metro station

Once you are on the bus again in Shenzhen, it would take around 30 minutes to travel to the Shenzhen Airport. The rest should be familiar to you. Check-in if you have not done this at the Hong Kong bus station, or drop your bags. Go through securities and find the departure gate. Bon Voyage!

How about the return bus trip? It is pretty much the same. Once you have arrived at the Shenzhen Airport, look for the counter of the bus company. The directions and numbers are printed on your e-bus-ticket. Staff will present a different sticker for you to stick to your chest. They will also give you a bottle of water that is safe to drink. Simply wait at the waiting area and another staff in uniform will look for you and take you to the bus station when the bus arrive.

9. Check-in, drop your bags and enjoy your flight!

Once you are at the Shenzhen Bay border, go though immigrations and customers to return to Hong Kong. The sticker will work its magic again on the Hong Kong side and staff will point you to the right bus. The bus will take you to Kowloon or Hong Kong Island, depends on the ticket you have purchased.

It is actually quite simple to fly from Shenzhen Airport. The cost of travelling from city centre Hong Kong to Shenzhen Baoan Airport is approximately the same as going to Hong Kong International Airport. It does take up more time should you wish to fly from Shenzhen. In return, you would get cheaper air tickets and more frequent flights. Wish to go to Shenzhen Airport by bus? Read the caption of all the photos to refresh your mind before you go!