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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hong Kong Trip Planning

Finally after five months of planning and budgeting, we are here at Hong Kong, Hurray!

Booking a Flight to Hong Kong

We wanted to go to Hong Kong last year of November to celebrate my daughter's seventh birthday, but doubtful enough we decided to move it this year and planned it carefully because we knew visiting Hong Kong is too expensive.

I've began looking for an airfare promo during summer, and it was June that I first made my booking reservation with Tiger Airways for only Php 888 per person. It just came into my mind that traveling from my home down to Clark in Pampanga would only waste my time then upon reading on various online forums in the internet I started to have doubts over the airline. I've searched again over the various airline websites until  I found the Cebu Pacific's zero fare promo. At first I wasn't able to connect to their online booking until lunch time. I didn't pay thru my Credit Card because I did not brought it with me, so I paid thru bank deposit which is very safe and convenient. I don't have to worry about credit card dispute and I may still have enough time to settle my payment because I have until 11:50pm to pay my booking.

Thanks to Cebu Pacific that I was able to booked a flight to Hong Kong in the morning of November 23 where I could still enjoy the rest of the day in Hong Kong compared to Tiger Airways which I believed would only waste my entire day traveling to Clark Airport from Laguna and wait for only 1 flight available to Hong Kong which I wouldn't know yet if the airline would cancel the flight or something went wrong because the flight was 9:45 in the evening. In Cebu Pacific, I still have options if something went wrong like flight delays, cancellation, etc. because we are at the NAIA where there are plenty of flights going to Hong Kong. Too bad that I paid my ticket with Tiger Airways and couldn't convert it as travel fund in case that I would still want to book a flight with them, so bye bye 5K plus, charge to experience.

It was in July that I booked a flight ticket from Hong Kong to Manila with fifty percent off airfare promo also with Cebu Pacific for only Php 1849.50 per person (tax and fuel surcharge are not included) because I wasn't able to get round trip ticket during the Zero Fare promo.

Booking for a Cheap Accommodation in Hong Kong

There are many Hotels in Hong Kong to choose from and offers free shuttle service in and from the airport. But if your in a tight budget, there are also cheap accommodations in Hong Kong from Kowloon and Causeway Bay which are also very accessible, safe, and clean but the difference is there is no free shuttle service. But who needs that in Hong Kong, as I said on my previous blog in Hong Kong Part 1 that touring the city is very easy, its a tourist friendly city and it is safe. Who else needs of a five star or four star hotel if you will spend your entire day touring Hong Kong streets and attractions and be able to go to your accommodations just to sleep. 

I made my hotel reservation at Golden Crown Guest House in Tsim Sha Tsui Kowloon for only Php 9400 for five days and four nights stay. Actually it's not a hotel but it's a hostel with a small room but very clean and quiet, they also offer free wifi (very fast and strong signal) and free refill of distilled water (hot or cold) so you can bring noodles if you like. They also offer 10 to 20 percent discount in all theme park tickets such as Disneyland, Ocean Park, The Peak-Tram-Sky Terrace-Madame Tussauds package, Ngong Ping 360 to name a few. This one good accommodation is also best for first timers in Hong Kong. For hotel bookings you can choose Hotels Combined found on my right side bar or visit this link of Golden Crown Guesthouse.

I suggest that in cities like Hong Kong, you should book your hotel accommodation three months or five months before your flight or before your set date of going to Hong Kong because many cheap hotels can be fully book earlier because every month in Hong Kong is peak season. Try searching the web thru reputable online booking sites like Hotels Combined and Agoda. They only require you of 10 to 15 percent downpayment which is very affordable and the room already reserved and will pay the full amount upon arrival. Try reading online forums about the hotel you choose and recommendations from others. Ours we booked early as June and we never had read about negative feedback from the online forum and thru our experience it is very comfortable even our room is very small.

Paying Travel Tax at TIEZA Ofiice

One month before our flight, I paid our Travel Tax at the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority or TIEZA at their office at the Philippine Tourism Authority in TM Kalaw Street in Ermita Manila.

It is only in the Philippines that everyone pays Travel Taxes either you are leaving for a vacation outside the country or if you are a foreigner visiting the Philippines. For those leaving Philippines for a vacation outside the country you will only pay for Travel Taxes once and will no longer have to pay upon return. This is also on top of another fee that you will pay using the airport terminal. You can also pay your travel taxes right at the airport for your convenience without going to TIETA office in Rizal Park.

Getting Around Hong Kong

Touring around the city is very easy, it's just like walking in the park. Getting from one place to another is very accessible  either by taxi, ferry, tram, or train, in fact you won't get lost because there are plenty of signage which is designed to help tourist find their destination. Yes the HKTB or Hong Kong Tourism Board have come up with this very systematic idea from waiting shed to public terminals that every tourist from any country can easily read and understand all available printed materials, brochure, maps, and signage which is translated into 2 major languages. Free maps is available at the HKTB booth at HK International airport near the immigration counter. Get one, it's free and you can familiarize the city and can easily plan your itinerary. The next counter you have to visit before leaving the airport is the MTR Customer Service counter where you will have to get an Octopus Card. 

For me this is a pre-requisite because Octopus Card is a prepaid travel wallet wherein you can use it as a ticket to any transportation in Hong Kong and can also be use to purchase your food at any fast food chains including KFC, McDonald's and Burger King, or even use it to buy few groceries at 7-eleven. It's a re-loadable prepaid card at any MTR stations and 7-eleven around Hong Kong. Cards is available in both sold and on-load versions. But for tourist or travelers  it's best-off with the Standard on-loan Octopus Card which cost HKD150 for an adult wherein HKD100 is consumable and HKD50 as refundable deposit. For child aged up to 11 years old cost HKD70 wherein HKD20 consumable and HKD50 refundable deposit.

Preparing the Hong Kong Tour Itineraries

I updated my itineraries which I drafted last July and there are some entrance ticket increases for the last four months for Disneyland and the Ocean Park. Since you have a copy of the map of Hong Kong that you got from the Hong Kong Tourism Board Booth upon your arrival at the airport, try to plan an itinerary based on the places you wanted to visit. I suggest when making an itinerary, make sure that the places that you want to visit are near to each other or within the area. In this way you will be able to save time and can visit one place to another.

Day 1: Arrival at HKIA, Clock Tower, Ferry Tour, The Peak, 

            Madame Tussauds
0500h - Rendezvous at NAIA Terminal 3
0755h - Departure from NAIA Terminal 3
            It was a smooth ride with Cebu Pacific and all our plans worked well.

0955h - Arrival at Hong Kong International Airport
1100h - Check-in at Golden Crown Court in Tsim Sha Tsui
1200h - lunch at KFC, couple of steps away from our hostel
1240h - walk thru at Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade
1310h - walk thru at Hong Kong Art Exhibits, Museums.
1345h - walk thru at the classic Clock Tower Tsim Sha Tsui
1400h - ferry ride from Star Ferry Pier to Central Pier 6
1420h - walk thru towards Exchange Square Bus Terminus to ride at Bus 15
            going to the Peak
1530h - picture taking at the peak, tour at the Madame Tussauds,
            Sky Terrace
1730h - ride at the Classic Peak Tram going down to the Lower Peak Tram
            Terminus, ride at Bus 15C
1810h - ferry ride going back to Star Ferry Pier Tsim Sha Tsui
1900h - Grocery at iSquare Mall Nathan Road for everyday needs
            noodles, coffee, biscuits, bread
1800h - Dinner at McDonald's near our hostel

Day 2: Whole Day Tour at Hong Kong Ocean Park

0700h - MTR ride from Tsim Sha Tsui station to Admiralty Station
0715h - Breakfast at McDonald's Queensway Plaza
0800h - picture taking at the Famous China Bank Tower
0900h - Bus 629 ride towards Ocean Park
0930h - rendezvous at Ocean Park Entrance
1000h - Park Opening, picture taking, Cable Car Ride towards the Summit,
1230h - Sea Of Dreams at the Ocean Park Theater
1300h - lunch at the Golden Chicken
1400h - ride at Ocean Express towards the Waterfront
1415h - walk thru at the Giant Panda Habitat, Aqua City Lagoon,
            Birds Theatre
1700h - ride at Ocean Express to watch the Sea of Dreams the second time
1730h - Sea of Dreams at the Ocean Park Theater
1800h - walk thru at the Rain Forest
1900h - departure at the Ocean Park

Day 3: Cable Car ride at Ngong Ping, tour at the Giant Buddha,
            Tai O Fishing Village, Shopping

0700h - Breakfast at McDonald's
0800h - MTR ride towards Tung Chung Station from Tsim Sha Tsui
0840h - Picture taking at the Citygate Center Mall, coffee at Starbucks
1000h - Cable Car Ride at the Ngong Ping 360
1045h - tour at the Ngong Ping Village towards the Giant Buddha
1200h - ride at Bus 21 towards Tai O Fishing Village
1300h - exotic lunch at a small restaurant at the Venice style village
1400h - departure at Tai O fishing village, NP360 cable car ride back to
            MTR Tung Chung Station
1530h - shopping at the Sham Shui Po, Golden Computer Center or Arcade,
            Golden Dragon Center,
1645h - MTR ride towards Monkok
1700h - shopping at Monkok, CTMA Center, Fa Yuen Street
            or the Sneakers Street, Ladies Market
1830h - Bus Ride towards Heritage Hotel Tsim Sha Tsui
1900h - walk thru at Avenue of Stars
2000h - Symphony of Lights

Day 4: Whole Day Tour at Hong Kong Disneyland

0700h - Breakfast at favorite McDonald's (now valued customer)
0800h - MTR Ride towards Sunny Bay
0840h - Picture taking at Disneyland Pier Station, Park Hotel and Entrance
0930h - Early Park Opening due to volume of Visitors piling up at the Entrance
1000h - meet and talk to Disneyland Characters, rides, picture taking
1030h - Disney Sparkling Christmas Parade,
            Santa Mickey's Toy - Riffic Street Party
1130h - The Golden Mickeys at the Fantasyland Theater
1230h - lunch at the Clopin's Festival of Foods
1330h - rides at Toy Story Land
1430h - ride at Hong Kong Disneyland Railroad
1530h - Colorful Flights of the Fantasy Parade
1630h - Festival of the Lion King
1730h - Jungle River Cruise
1800h - Rafts to Tarzan's Treehouse
1845h - Christmas Illumination at Main Street USA
1900h - Shops for Souvenir
2100h - Disney in the Stars Fireworks
2130h - Departure at Disneyland

Day 5: Kowloon Park Tour, Wanchai Shopping, Departure at HKIA

0800h - walk thru at Kowloon Park
0900h - Ferry ride from Star Ferry Pier to Wanchai
0930h - tour, shops at SOGO Shopping Complex
            Times Square
1330h - Lunch at Delicious Kitchen Causeway Bay
1530h - departure at Hostel towards HKIA
1630h - last minute souvenir shops at HKIA
1730h - departure at HKIA

Travel Expenses (per person):

Php 5330.66 = Cebu Pacific Round Trip Airfare
Php 1620 = Travel Tax
Php 750 = NAIA 3 Terminal Fee
Php 3916.67 = Hotel accommodation
Php 4950 = Food
Php 1091.20 = Land Fare (MTR, Bus, Ferry)
Php 4417.60 = Discounted tickets (Disneyland, Ocean  Park, NP 360
                     The Peak including Tram ride and Madame Tussauds) 
Php 1600 = Souvenirs
Php 23, 676.13 Total Expenses 

Best Time To Go To Hong Kong

Anytime of the year is the best time to visit Hong Kong depending on the events and festivals you wanted to experience. Chinese New Year in February, The Dragon Boat Festival every June, Lantern or Moon Cake Festival which happens every September or August or every 15th day of the 8th month. If you go on the months of July or mid-September, expect that most of the day will be rainy, do not forget to bring an umbrella with you. For those travelling light and just holding a carry on baggage and no excess baggage at all, bringing an umbrella inside the plane is prohibited. Just buy an umbrellas or rain coat at the 7-eleven for a minimum price upon your arrival. If you want to include Macau in your itinerary try to visit on the 1st week to 2nd week of November to watch the Macau Grand Prix.  But if I would be ask, the latter part of November is the very best since on this month that my daughter and I celebrates our natal day. It's near Christmas time too, and the decorations and mood of the place is truly captivating and memorable.