Daily commute from Hong Kong to Shenzhen
How to safe precious minutes every day
As a commuter from Central island in Hong Kong to Futian in Shenzhen almost for 9 months, I've created many strategies how to make it the fastest. Approximately 30km (~20 miles) does not seem to be a big distance, but when you take in account the density of town and immigration on the border, it easily consumes 2 hours of your time per one way.
With many attempts on different routes, testing different times to go and optimizing the costs of the trip, I've concluded, that the best option to choose from car, bus, subway, ferry or helicopter is not to commute at all. But if you have to, this story can guide you to choose lesser of the evils for you. In the brackets you'll find prices of tunnel, parking or transportation (1EUR or 1USD are approx. 8–9HKD depending on actual conversion rate).
With cross-border registration plate
If you are one of the privileged in Hong Kong with car and cross-border registration plate, don't read no further. Just take you car, the closest tunnel you have and just drive on of the speedways to the north. You might experience some delay on the border, they will check your car, but it's quite speedy process and almost no delays, mostly because you stay in one vehicle all the time.
It's the speediest and also most expensive way — you need to have car, parking space, cross-border registration plate (which is incredibly expensive), pay for tunnels, gas, etc.
Time: approx. 60 minutes to be in China
Pros: fast, comfortable, just one vehicle journey, not depending on any other transportation options
Cons: expensive, traffic jams, only for chosen ones
Without cross-border registration plate
It's quite similar to previous one, except you can't go to Mainland China. So you drive as closest to the border as possible, leave the car here and for the rest of journey use public transportation. This is the way of transportation I've been in the end using the most.
The best time to get out of the Central island is definitively before 7a.m. Afterwards the tunnels get very busy (except for the Western Harbour Crossing, which is with 60HKD the most expensive one) to almost stuck, depends if it's raining or not.
I've usually taken the Cross Harbour Tunnel (the middle one, 20HKD) and if I was late, went for the Eastern Harbour Crossing (25HKD) which does not get so busy and it's just a few kilometers more. Then I continued on speedway number 9 all the way to exit 7C onto Jockey Club Rd, left to San Wan Rd and left again to Fanling Station Rd.
There on the right side, just under the Fanling Town Center is a Wilson parking garage for 100HKD a day. Take the elevator to the 1st floor, get on the bridge over the road you came in and you are in the Fanling Subway Station.
Trains are going from there to 2 stations — Lo Wu or Lok Ma Chau, so take the right one (it's being announced very clearly). I've been going just to Lok Ma Chau (24HKD) and it takes approx. 15 minutes. Then you just take the stairs down and go through the immigration on Futian Checkpoint.
If you have the possibility to apply for e-channel, definitely do so, automatic gates are the fastest. If not, just look for the counter that suits you (I've been using the permanent residents counters) and you should be through it in few minutes even with all the people getting out of the MTR (that's how subway is called in Hong Kong).
After Hong Kong immigration you have a long bridge over the Sham Chun river and when you see it from outside, you actually find out, it has 2 levels, the lower one is going to Mainland China, the upper one goes to Hong Kong. Travelators (or moving walkways) are often crowded and full of people with lot of luggage, so sometimes you do better to walk next to them.
The counters for foreigners in immigration on Chinese side are the ones most to the left. Prepare the passport, visa and arrival card. Again, the sooner you go or the later you go, the smaller the queue. When you are behind it, there are customs to go through and if you are carrying anything bigger than a hand bag, you need to put it in the x-ray or you get stopped.
Behind the customs is an escalator that takes you to ground floor and you can get out of the building, to the left and at the end of a walkway with roof is a taxi stand (never listen to anybody else who is offering you a taxi, use only official cars!) or go by another escalator to underground to take Shenzhen subway (line 4 starts at Futian Checkpoint). They will check all the luggage in x-ray before you enter transportation area and the price depends on how far do you actually go. You can buy ticket for Chinese coins in the machines or just at the counter for Chinese banknotes.
On the way back you basically follow the same route. Chinese immigration will take away your departure card and if you are not Hong Kong resident, you need to hand over the Arrival card while being checked at Hong Kong immigration.
Time: approx. 75 minutes to be in China
Pros: fast, comfortable, subway is going often
Cons: expensive, traffic jams, parking
My second favorite way of commuting. It's very convenient with just a minor disadvantages over the car. From the Central you have two possible destination you can get to by bus (or three in the end) I know about. You can go to Shenzhen Airport via Shenzhen Bay Port or to Huang Gang (basically next to Futian Checkpoint, just for cars) which I used the most.
The departure is from front of the Wan Chai Swimming pool, next to the Great Eagle Centre. First issue is that you need to get there and for me it means a taxi. In rush hour you wait for it easily 15 minutes. When you get there, you buy a ticket for 50HKD in a small counter and then just wait for the next bus to come (there is a discount on Octopus, or if you buy more than 1 ride at once, but check yourself for actual terms). All the big luggage should be stored in the compartments accessible from outside of the bus, there are no over-head lockers inside.
Your ticket has 3 parts and you will soon find out why — they take just one part from it when you board the bus. Then you ride approximately for 45 minutes to get to Lok Ma Chau Control point. And now the craziness begins. You need to get out of the bus, with all your luggage and go to Hong Kong immigration. Don't forget to remember how your bus looks like and even better the registration plate, they all look the same. Plus of course listen to the number of bus stop it will be waiting after immigration.
The immigration is basically one building with entrance end exit on both side with line of bus stops. So when you go through, you look for your busy. Tricky is, it may not be there yet, because they still check it, so you go to bus stop it should come and wait (of course if you don't make it, they will put you on next one, but still).
Here they take the second part of the ticket and the third part is receipt. After you put your luggage on the bus again, you ride 3 minutes and you get out of it again for Chinese immigration in Huang Hang. I described the procedure before, it's the same, only this place is significantly less crowded than in Futian Checkpoint, because you can't fit so many people in a bus.
I've always taken a taxi from here, which is quite simple. You again refuse any other offers and just get on the footbridge right after you exit the immigration building and then take the first stairs down to your left. There are taxis coming to both sides of the walkway and usually there is no queue.
The way back is the same and the bus has two to three stops on the Central island when you arrive, depending on the time you come. It stops first at Macau Ferry Terminal (but just in evenings), then in Hennessy Rd near Wan Chai MTR station and at last on Harbour Rd.
It is perfect option, if you can get on the bus close by and you don't travel with big luggage, otherwise it is frustrating and can get longer than any of other mentioned possibilities.
Time: 60 minutes (+ time to get to bus terminal)
Pros: fast, cheap, reliable
Cons: sometimes the schedule does not suit you, immigration in two waves
Subway in Hong Kong is generally very busy and that makes this possibility one of my least favorite and I used it just a few times. If you don't mind buses, go for them, at least you see outside and have much more personal space for yourself and don't have to fight your way through a crowds of people while changing the lines in MTR.
So you hop on the Tsuen Wan Line (red) on Central, then switch to Kwun Tong Line (green) at Mong Kok (you can do it as well on Yau Ma Tai or Prince Edward, it's just not so convenient) and finally at Kowloon Tong change to East Rail Line (light blue). Again, don't forget to take the proper train to Lo Wu or Lok Ma Chau or switch to the proper one at Sheng Shui. All together it's 47.6HKD. The rest of journey after you arrive to Lok Ma Chau is the same as described above.
Time: approx. 75 minutes (+ time to get to MTR Central station)
Pros: wifi everywhere, freezingly cold air conditioning (if you are a polar bear), cheap
Cons: very long and boring, lots of people
Both Hong Kong and Shenzhen are by the sea, so why not to take a ferry and enjoy nice views and jumping on the waves in the busy Victoria Harbour. The only disadvantage is, that it will take you to Shekou port, which is by far close to Futian and center of Shenzhen, although it's very nice location to live in.
I've rode a ferry to Shenzhen just once, from Macau, but it will be almost the same from Hong Kong. You go to Macau Ferry Terminal (105HKD), do the Hong Kong immigration and board the air conditioned ship with possibility to buy snacks. Then you ride under one hour and go through China immigration. Then you can take a taxi or go to Shenzhen subway line 2, both ways spending another hour to get to Futian. Best choice for pirates, mermaids and other sea creatures.
Time: approx. 50 minutes (+ time to get to ferry terminal and then from Shekou port)
Pros: water, jumping on waves
Cons: nausea, in the end very long trip
If you have your own helicopter, I don't even think you are reading this article, because you have people who sort transportation for you. For the rest of us, there is really a way how to fly from Hong Kong to Shenzhen. Not direct one, but still the fastest and definitively most exciting.
I never did it myself, but you can fly from Hong Kong to Macau and then from Macau to Shenzhen. All together slightly above 10.000HKD and under one hour journey.Only Hyperloop or teleport can beat that and I hope that it will be both in time and price!
Time: approx. 45 minutes
Pros: flying in a helicopter!
Cons: if there are any, you are still flying in a helicopter!
If you are not fanatic that enjoys to be on a way, don't do this journey every day. It takes at least 3 hours of your time, mainly because of the time spent on the border, changing the subway lines or waiting in a bus or car in traffic jam around tunnels.
If you need to do it, go by car, it's the most convenient. Or just move from Central closer to border. But who would want to do that, right?