What to pay attention to in planning a trip across China-Hong Kong Border for the cases when your time is short

Here is the follow up summary to the experience I had recently in crossing the Shenzhen to Hong Kong border crossing. If you are planning to take a flight from Hong Kong airport and you need to get there from Shenzhen, keep the following in mind:

* Saturdays at the border crossing are crazy — lots of people going to Hong Kong for the weekend — keep that in mind as the time needed to make it to Hong Kong increases exponentially
* The advice the hotel gives you is NOT necessarily correct. A two hour max trip can easily become a three hour one
* If you are caught at the border in one of the shuttle / minivans (e.g. the Sky Limo ones) and you are running late for your flight you can try to talk to the Hong Kong border control officers to let you (and minivan) through one of the special channels — once you cross the border you still have at least 35 minutes drive to the Lantau island / Hong Kong airport

Crossing from Shenzhen into Hong Kong for a Flight from Hong Kong Airport

This week I had to take a flight from Hong Kong to Los Angeles, CA. This was after a several day stay in Shenzhen. On Friday night after all business was done, I checked with the hotel I was staying for the schedule for the shuttle — the Sky Limo — which I usually take for my trip to the Hong Kong airport. Once again the hotel staff informed me that I would not need any longer than a 2 hour slot to make it to the airport. My flight was at 1pm so a shuttle leaving at 9:35 am seemed like a plenty safe choice 🙂

Well, little that I know! When the shuttle did not show up at 9:35 at the Westin hotel (the Westin Nanshan) I was only slightly concerned. The concierge started apologizing and in a typical way of predicting time and schedule started telling every 5 minutes that the shuttle was 2-3 minutes away 🙂 You get the picture right….

Finally around 10am the shuttle arrived. As usual it took me to the transfer depot where we had to change to a Hong Kong licensed minivan (nothing new here). I will talk about the issue with that in a separate “How To” posting later today or tomorrow.

Once we were in the Hong Kong minivan I thought “No worries — we have plenty of time…” — Again, I may be repeating myself, but here it comes — an ominous “Little that I know”

Once at the border we saw a big queue of cars and minivans. I thought — well, that has been the case on other crossings, so I should not be worried. My opinion changed once I timed the first car in the queue in our lane — it stayed waiting to enter the inspection area for about 15min. I quickly calculated — 8 cars in front of us — if each takes 10-15minutes we are in BIG TROUBLE. At 11am we were the forth van in the queue……I asked the driver for any reason that this crossing was so slow…as I had been here (on that border crossing) previously on at least 2 occasions both Saturday crossings.

Side note: Why is Saturday crossing different? Well, because tons of Shenzhen people go to Hong Kong for the weekend to do shopping, go to Disneyland, etc.

The driver shrugged and said — “well it is just slow”. But he had a good idea — once we cross the China side of the border, I should try to talk to any Hong Kong official and see if they can let us through a special channel and reduce the wait….

Well, at 11:45 am or so (for my 1pm flight) we crossed the Chinese border. At that point I rushed out of the minivan to the Hong Kong border booths carrying a laptop with my itinerary. One of the border guard guys rushed out of a booth as I was running across a concrete expanse that was all the lanes for cars crossing the border. He managed to yell at me to stop, which I did and explained to him in Chinese that I had a really short time till my flight and after some debates inside one of the booths, he stepped out and told me to bring the van into one of the empty channels…..By 11:50am we crossed finally the Hong Kong border and the driver sped for the airport on Lantau island.

Finally, I was able to get to the airport by 12:30pm — and believe it or not was able to make the flight leaving Hong Kong at 1:05pm !!!

Next, I will share some advice for you for those situations. Stay tuned…

What’s up with courtesy in China – or how to get off the plane without being “run over”

Years ago (24 years ago to be “almost” precise) I felt it was normal that crowds behaved very erratically in China — I felt / observed that it was normal for folks in Beijing to rush and ignore any semblance of a queue while waiting to get on a bus or buy a movie ticket or a subway ticket. I found it amusing how the line in-front of the ticket window will fan out (literally looking like a fan) as more and more people stood to the side rather than lining up in a sequential queue — for some reason folks believed they can get ahead of the line that way….

Today, I saw the same behaviour while waiting to get off the plane on a flight from Nanjing to Shenzhen. The Chinese guy next to me (who had been sitting on the isle seat across from me) decided to push forward as I was waiting for the people in the seats in front of us to move toward the plane exit…. At least he was very polite 🙂 He tried to push by me and with a smile saying “Excuse me” while working with the proverbial elbows….. Well I was not in a mood. I just stopped him and with a question “why do you think that will get you off the plane any faster? Why do you think you should run over me and jump ahead while you were standing behind me? Do you think I am not waiting to disembark the plane….?”

It is extremely funny to watch the reactions in these cases. Some are immediately feeling ashamed / i.e. caught in the act like and with a mumble they back up, or in some cases they just look at you with the incredulous look of “Whatever you mean?!?!? Of course I need to be ahead of you…. :-)”

So long story short, time has gone by, China has changed hugely — but the behaviours of shoving and pushing remain….So if you want to be in your game and not “run over” better stand straight and strong and do not let the crowd push you 🙂

Other than that life is grand 🙂 Enjoy your trips on a plane, bus or boat. You will see a lot.