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Previously, traveling by train between Hong Kong and mainland China was an arduous task for most medium to long-haul routes. For example, direct trains to Beijing only operated every two days and the trip would take about 24 hours. Even if you love trains, journeys from Hong Kong were trying for all but the shortest routes to nearby Shenzhen and Guangzhou. But, on September 23, 2018, the first high-speed trains began running from Hong Kong’s West Kowloon station to 44 destinations in mainland China without any connections required.
Direct trains to nearby stations Futian, Shenzhen North and Guangzhou South will depart every 10 to 30 minutes. But, there will be only one direct train per day for most long-haul destinations. From a cost-to-time standpoint, the new high-speed train service makes the most sense for travel between Hong Kong and the 15 cities that are directly served by the high-speed rail but not by an airport. While you’d think that the bullet train would handily beat any other option for the sub-100 mile journey to Guangzhou, a race by the South China Morning Post showed the high-speed train to Guangzhou only beat out the next fastest option by 13 minutes.
Vacationers may appreciate the ease of traveling by train even when it costs more and/or takes longer than traveling by plane. For example, travel by plane one-way from Hong Kong to Beijing within the next month costs as little as $116 and takes around 3 hours and 20 minutes, while travel by the new high-speed train costs as little as 1,237HKD ($158) and takes about 8 hours and 56 minutes — both ignoring ground transportation cost and time. But, most of the high-speed trains to/from Hong Kong travel during the day, so you can enjoy the scenery and experience. Plus, for many, train travel is more relaxing than plane travel.
If you want to ride on the new high-speed rail, check out the current schedule and prices on the MTR website by searching for your route. Or, you can check out a listing of current fares and the current long-haul schedule (caution: PDF link).
You can book tickets arriving or departing Hong Kong on the MTR website using a Visa or Mastercard up to two hours before departure. Be sure to use a credit card that provides trip delay protection, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and remember to pick up your physical tickets at the train station before departure. You can also book tickets through a variety of other channels, but online booking will generally be the easiest.
When booking, a seat is assigned to you and I couldn’t find an option to change my seat. You’ll also need to input your passport information.
If you travel on this new service, remember that customs and immigration proceedings for both mainland China and Hong Kong occur in the West Kowloon station since it’s the only stop outside mainland China. So, plan to arrive early when departing from Hong Kong.
Will you take advantage of the new high-speed train service to/from Hong Kong?
Featured photo by VCG via Getty Images.
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