I’m basing my current trip to Shenzhen around the district of Luohu. Luohu has it’s own border crossing; the LoWu station on the Hong Kong side, which is reachable via the Hong Kong train service. Today’s route sees us taking a bus and a train to the border crossing, and a proper Shenzhen taxi to my hotel.
It is possible to get to Luohu via the Huanggang Port border crossing, and getting a taxi from the Port to Luohu. The SkyLimo people-carrier route from the airport to Shenzhen is still an option.
The route I cover from Hong Kong Internation Airport to Luohu hotels is:
- Take the A43 bus from Hong Kong International Airport to Sheung Shui train station (2 stops, 1 hour)
- Take the overground train from Sheung Shui station to LoWu train station (1 stop, 10 minutes)
- Walk through the Hong Kong and Chinese Immigration centres (15 minutes to an hour depending on time of day)
- Catching a taxi from Louhu border crossing to your hotel
Travelling in Hong Kong and China gets easier when you know what you are doing, where you are going, and knowing the expectations of each step of your journey. Initially, the bus and train route to Luohu would be outside my confidence zone, so today’s route is my personal challenge to overcome.
The main preparation is having the exact cash for the Hong Kong bus. The A43 bus to Sheung Shui costs HK$ 30.90. The main alternative to having exact cash is a Hong Kong travel card (the equivalent to a London Oyster card).
Of course, as a non-Chinese speaker (Cantonese or Mandarin), having your hotel address written out in Chinese characters is essential, unless your taxi driver happens to speak English, or knows the hotel you are staying in.
Hong Kong buses and train services use a travel card, so if you are a regular visitor to Hong Kong, this is a useful investment. No travel card means exact change. This was stresses over and over in online notes about using Hong Kong bus services. Hong Kong buses don’t have tickets, it’s either a travel card swipe, or you insert cash into a money box. There is no mechanism for getting change, so without exact amount, I guess paying a little more and not expecting change is probably a viable alternative.
I solved the exact cash need by breaking a HK$ 50 note on a HK$ 16 bottle of water in the 7-11 between Terminal A&B. I then gave the cashier a one-dollar coin and asked for 10 cent coins. When I explained I needed 90 cents, he quickly exchanged my one-dollar coin for a 50 cent and 5 10-cent coins.
Hong Kong International Airport to Sheung Shui
After exiting Immigration/customs at Hong Kong International Airport you’ll find yourself in either in Arrival Hall A or Arrival Hall B. The local transport network entrance is located between these two terminals. So if you find yourself in Arrival Hall B, head for Arrival Hall A, and vice versa.
From Arrival Hall B facing Terminal A, the transport links are on the right hand side (the 7-11 and a chemist are on your left). Heading down that wide passage way and you’ll see a host of options, from Mainland travel (downstairs, I covered the SkyLimo/overland bus to Mainland China previously.), high speed rail connection to Hong Kong.
If you look to the right, you’ll see a bus route map of Hong Kong, along with the main details of every bus route that services the airport. Here you’ll be able to find Sheung Shui in the top right quarter of the Hong Kong map, and route information for our bus, the A43. This shows the route name (to Fanling), the price (HK$ 30.90), and the frequency of the service (every 15 to 30 minutes).
Going right from here takes you towards the bus depot. This is essentially a really big oval, and busses stop in designated areas for their route. Immediately on exiting the airport building you’ll be faced with a map that shows where each bus service stops. the A43 stops nearest to the building on the left hand side.
The A43 bus to Sheung Shui
The A43 bus route only has three stops. The first one is a request stop at Lantau Link Toll Plaza (about 15 minutes into the trip), then our stop Sheung Shui train station (the bus stops directly outside the staircase/ramp entrance to Sheung Shui station), then Fanling.
The A43 bus is a double decker orange bus operated by Long Win Airbus. The A43 is quite visible on the back of the bus, so when exiting the airport building and there’s an A43 bus there, you’ll spot it quite easily on the left hand side.
Climbing aboard the bus with your luggage, next to the bus driver is a money box with a slot at the top. Deposit your exact change into the money slot.
The bus has storage racks on the left-hand side (from the front of the bus looking back), so put your heavy luggage in a space. This tends to get full fairly quickly, so it seems acceptable to manoeuvre other people’s luggage sideways to make space.
Find a seat and sit down. I stayed on the bottom deck, because this is my first time, I didn’t want to miss getting off the bus because it took me too long to realise this was my stop, and negotiating the steps to the upper deck. But, next time, I must try the upper deck, because the view across the Hong Kong bridges is spectacular, but the high bridge walls get in the way when you are on normal ground level.
The bus crosses one of the epic Hong Kong bridges before heading to Lantau Link Toll Plaza.
The bus uses a motorway for most of the journey, it follows the SkyLimo route, but keeps on the highway when SkyLimo turns off for Lok Ma Chau border crossing. We keep going for another 15 minutes before turning off an exit marked as Fanling. After negotiating a long curved off-ramp, turning right, a couple of minutes later the bus arrives at Sheung Shui.
Grab your luggage and exit the bus, and you’ll see a light-orange/yellow building in front of you. That’s Sheung Shui train station.
Sheung Shui station to LoWu station
The Shueng Shui station was a little busy when I arrived near 4 o’clock. It wasn’t commuter crush level, but I guess it might be starting to ramp up.
Entering Sheung Shui station via the ramp and escalator, follow the signs for “Customer Service”, that should take you rightwards from the top of the escalators, and then nearby the first left opens up to ticket barriers.
There are cash ticket machines on the left, for tickets. So I gave that a try. In my tired state I went to the machine marked “Coins only”, thinking it means “Cash only”. So I was a bit perturbed that it wanted me to pay $25.50 in coins (no notes slider!). What kind of system would take that much money only in coins? Stepping back to do a second exchange of notes to coins, I quickly realised my mistake. The first machine is coins only, the others take coins and notes (and probably credit cards, I guess).
The machines themselves are thankfully as straightforward to use as the Shenzhen Metro ones. You tap the station you want on the map (which takes up most of the screen), and on the right side of the screen you can refine the ticket you want (change number of tickets, adult/child, first class).
A standard ticket for one from from Sheung Shui to Lo Wu station came in at HK$25.50, so in went another HK$ 50 note, and out came the change in coins (hah!), and a one-use plastic travel-card (credit card size)
The instructions on the back show how to use the travel card. It’s as simple as tap on the sensor at the ticket barrier when you enter, and insert into the travel card slot when you exit your station. This is similar to Shenzhen Metro’s token use.
The train station is a little run down, but everything is clearly sign-posted in Chinese and English.
Going through the ticket barrier takes a little thought when wheeling around luggage. The barrier is a simple forwards rotating turnstile. So I had to do some crafty arm gymnastics to get my wheeled luggage through. There might be a bigger gate option somewhere, but I wasn’t really looking for it.
Through the ticket barriers the platform for Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau are on the right, and down an escalator to the platform.
The platforms were buzzing, but the signposts and overhead message boards are in both English and Chinese. One nice extra was a clear message on it’s own where the next train goes. So you’ll be able to determine whether the next train goes to LoWu or not.
The trains are similar in style to the Shenzhen Metro trains, metal seats down the sides, and considerable floor space. I was expecting to have problems with space (for me, my claustraphobia, and my luggage), but the carriage that stopped in front of me the door areas were thankfully mostly empty so I had no problem getting on with my luggage.
The trip to LoWu takes 10 minutes, and LoWu station is the only stop.
LoWu/Louhu border crossing
The process of going through the immigration station of both Hong Kong and China is very similar to that when going to Huanggang Port via GoGo bus. You have to walk through both sets of checkpoints with all of your luggage. So I had no problems understanding what I had to do.
Tackling the Hong Kong immigration checkpoint in my sleep deprived state, I followed the sign for “Mainland visitors”, because I was going to visit the Mainland. The meaning is the other way, this was a queue for people who live on the mainland. A passenger helpfully pointed me to the “Other visitors” queue.
This queue also has a braille and audio-description map of the building, with audio offered in Chinese and English. (I do not know whether Chinese means Cantonese or Mandarin, Cantonese is probably the better bet, since it’s Hong Kong and Guangdong)
Negotiating the Hong Kong immigration checkpoint is just a simple passport and the carbon copy of the landing card you filled in when landing at Hong Kong Airport.
Then you walk through to the China immigration checkpoint. I knew that I needed to fill in a yellow arrivals and departures card. The foreigners queue is on the right hand side, and as you approach the checkpoint queue, the right hand side opens up to an area where you can grab and fill in the arrivals/departures card.
So fill that in, and the foreigners queue was quite short, and you are quickly through to Louhu.
Finding a taxi to the hotel
Now it’s time to be careful. It’s easy to spot the Western foreigner in China. He stands out. So you are going to be approached by people offering you a taxi to your hotel. Constantly. They speak English, and understand English, but it takes several “No thank you” and continue walking before they give up on you.
It’s worth pointing out, Shenzhen’s registered taxis are either maroon, or blue. They are distinctive and recognisable. And professional service. Get into a car that isn’t one of these official taxis, and you are opening yourself up to being gouged heavily on taxi cost.
Heading straight out of the China Immigration building look at the signs for taxis. It’s a yellow square with a car in black. Following this will take you down to a lower level, then straight ahead for a bit. Then you take a right hand turn, then immediately left and you’ll find yourself in a taxi pickup rank and you should see a few maroon taxis coming through. You are in the right place.
So queue up. The taxi touts here are more pushy than the ones outside the China Immigration building. They’ll say their service is ready, so no waiting, and you’ll be waiting here for 2 hours for the maroon taxis. I got by with “two hour no problem”, And once I was no longer the last person in the queue, I was left alone.
It was only a 15 minute wait for a taxi. Out comes my printed paper with the address of my hotel in English and Chinese. And the taxi driver knows where to go.
Because my hotel is close to the border, and near the Mix-C shopping centre, the taxi fare is a default minumum of 10RMB. That’s handy when I have 11 RMB in denominations other than 100RMB notes.