How to Travel Between Hong Kong and Mainland China

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Many people are surprised to realize just how close the main city of Hong Kong is to the mainland border of China.  In fact, you can go from Central Hong Kong to the border of the mainland in roughly a half hour. Adding to the convenience are the transportation options available for traveling from Hong Kong into mainland China including bus, boat, train, or plane.

Travel Between Hong Kong and Mainland China – We’ve Crossed the Hong Kong / Mainland Border Multiple Times

We are currently living in Guangzhou, China, where we teach English.  It’s amazing just how close Guangzhou is to Hong Kong.  Our apartment in the Panyu district of Guangzhou is roughly 70 miles from Hong Kong…yet it feels worlds apart!  It’s pretty cool to be in China, yet have such easy access big “westernized” city such as Hong Kong!

Walking through the train station in Hong Kong
Walking through the train station in Hong Kong

Even though the British gave Hong Kong back to China, it still holds a unique identity and is managed as a “Special Administrative Region” or SAR; meaning that they have their own form of government (although some would argue that more and more China is trying to impose).  Therefore, you do need passports and visas to travel across the boundary.

What do you need to get a Chinese Visa?  “How to Get a Visa for China.”

Travel Between Hong Kong and Mainland China – Bus

When we departed Guangzhou, China for Hong Kong, we took the bus.  Because we live in the Panyu district (on the southern side of downtown), we opted to take a direct bus from the Panyu Hotel.  This is a popular departure point for people in the area.  There are ticket offices who sell both bus and ferry tickets here to Hong Kong and to nearby Macau (also only a couple hours away!).

Guangzhou is huge.  So you will need to check online to find out whichever bus terminal is most convenient to where you are, but we know there are a few of them around town.

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Riding the bus from Guangzhou (mainland China) to Hong Kong

We arrived bright and early to catch the first bus of the day at 6:30 am.  But unfortunately, the ticket office didn’t open until 7 am!  So we needed to buy the ticket for the 6:30 am bus the day BEFORE departing (note to self for future reference!).

Because we were traveling over a busy time of year (the Chinese New Year) the first bus with availability was 8:30 am.  Our tickets from Panyu to Hong Kong cost only 100 Yuan (roughly $16 USD).

Note:  We learned that if you are traveling on a busy day such as a holiday, then you can buy your ticket a day in advance to be sure you get a seat on the scheduled departure that you prefer!

Crossing the Border into Hong Kong by Bus

As we got on the bus, they gave us a sticker to indicate our destination in Hong Kong — for when we crossed the border.  Once on the bus, we made only 1 other quick stop to pick up a couple people, then we were off toward the border.

We were on an E + E bus.  And their route took us to the Shenzen Bay port into Hong Kong.  It only took us about an hour and a half to get to the border.

Once at the border, we had to disembark the bus (with our luggage) and go through immigration on foot.  I’m not sure if it works the same if other buses take you to different border crossings, but that’s how it worked at the Shenzen Bay Port of Entry.

Travel from Hong Kong to Mainland China, Hong kong immigration, Hong kong airport to shenzhen, Hong Kong to Guangzhou, Hong Kong to Shenzhen, Train from hong kong to guangzhou, Hong kong to guangzhou train
Crossing into Hong Kong from mainland China at the Shenzen Port via bus.

Since we are traveling at the busiest time of year, there were massive crowds here!  I must say, they were pretty efficient…but I’ve never seen anything like it before.  Once we exited China, we entered Hong Kong.  Then when we exited the building, we had to find our bus.

Know the Chinese Holidays and when the best time to travel in China is!

It was a different bus on the Hong Kong side, but run by the same company.  There were MANY buses to choose from, but we needed the one with our particular route.  That’s where the sticker came in handy.

One of the ladies saw my sticker on my shirt (written in Chinese…so I didn’t know what it said!) and she pointed us to the right bus.

Travel from Hong Kong to Mainland China, Hong kong immigration, Hong kong airport to shenzhen, Hong Kong to Guangzhou, Hong Kong to Shenzhen, Train from hong kong to guangzhou, Hong kong to guangzhou train
The workers look at your stickers to get you back on the right bus after going through immigration from mainland China to Hong Kong.

** Luckily, many of these workers do speak some English because we were on the Hong Kong side.  That always makes a difference!

Overall, it took us 1 hour to cross the border into Hong Kong from Mainland China.  Mostly because of the holiday crowds, I’m sure!

After we were back on the bus, it only took us about another half and hour to be dropped off right in the middle of the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong city.

We highly recommend already having a hotel booked for when you arrive in Hong Kong.  If it is your first time traveling to Hong Kong it can be a bit overwhelming at first.  So we recommend having your hotel booked a head of time that way you get off the bus you know exactly where you are going to check into your hotel and start exploring Hong Kong.


Traveling between Hong Kong and Mainland China by Train

For our return from Hong Kong to Guangzhou, China we decided to take the train.  Buying our tickets from Hong Kong to China was super easy.  We went to the main Hung Hom train station in the heart of Kowloon in Hong Kong.  We were able to buy our tickets the same day, on the morning that we wanted to depart.

Then we went out to finish exploring the city and returned to the train station later in the day with our luggage.

Travel from Hong Kong to Mainland China, Hong kong immigration, Hong kong airport to shenzhen, Hong Kong to Guangzhou, Hong Kong to Shenzhen, Train from hong kong to guangzhou, Hong kong to guangzhou train
We purchased our train tickets from Hong Kong to Guangzhou, China on the same day — even during the Chinese New Year.

Our tickets cost around 190 Hong Kong dollars (roughly $24 USD) – so it was more expensive than the bus.  They advise that you arrive 20-30 minutes before our train, but we were nervous about more Chinese New Year holiday crowds, so we arrived a good 60 minutes prior.

We learned that the extra time wasn’t necessary, but luckily the train station has some shops and restaurants.  So we relaxed and had a coffee while waiting for our boarding time.

When it was time to board (around 20 minutes prior to departure), we headed to the designated queue to go through a quick security screen.  This isn’t like at an airport — there was no line and we were done in just a couple minutes (although, this would be different at the height of holiday travel).

Then you are in the departures hall and they will start boarding your train almost immediately.  Simply look at your ticket to find your assigned coach and seat number.

Once on board, sit back and relax.  The trip to Guangzhou only takes 2 hours!

** Immigration:  When you leave the Hong Kong station they will check your immigration paper work to exit the country.  However, they do not check your entry paperwork for China.  So be sure you have your Chinese visa and paperwork ahead of time.  After arriving in Guangzhou you will head directly through Chinese Immigration!  So that’s not the time to be turned away and be forced back to Hong Kong!

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Josh relaxing on the train between Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China. An easy and very comfortable 2 hour ride.

Travel Between Hong Kong and Mainland China – Taking the Ferry

Since Guangzhou sits at the Pearl River delta and Hong Kong basically lies at the mouth, you can take a boat between the cities.  Many companies provide ferry service.  From what we have read, it only takes a couple hours to travel.  However, we have not done this journey by boat so we cannot vouch for it.

** We have heard that there may actually be limitations on the size and amount of luggage that you can bring on the ferries.  So if you are wanting to take a ferry between Hong Kong and Guangzhou, be sure to look into this in advance because we aren’t sure it is the best way to travel with luggage.

Travel Between Hong Kong and Mainland China – Flying

Since our home in Guangzhou is so close to the border of Hong Kong, it is silly for us to fly.  It’s so expensive, plus, you are advised to get to the airport 2 hours early…and in that time, you could already be in Guangzhou!!!

However if you are traveling to other parts of China,then Hong Kong is a great gateway for flights.  There are many airlines flying out of Hong Kong, including low-cost carriers, who have destinations throughout mainland China.

What is the Best Way to Travel From Hong Kong to Guangzhou in Mainland China?

If we lived in downtown Guangzhou or nearby, then we would recommend taking the train.  Overall, the price is just a little bit more for taking the train.  But it’s quicker and a really comfortable journey.  In comparison, the bus is a bit cheaper but it takes longer…mostly because you have to get off the bus to cross the border and go through immigration and then get back on another bus to continue the journey.

However since we live in the Panyu district of Guangzhou, we have to travel a good distance to get to and from the trains station itself.  This involves buses connecting to the subway system…then arriving at the train station.  Because of those extra connections, our 2 hour train ride turned into a 4 hour trip before we arrived at home.  Thus, if you are traveling to Panyu it is likely quicker to take the bus…and cheaper!

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16 thoughts on “How to Travel Between Hong Kong and Mainland China”

  1. We have just posted a list of ways to travel between HK and Guangzhou that includes a couple of other options including the Shenzhen high speed train (our preferred method) and the ferry to HKIA. We have tested out all of the options ourselves. Check it out before your next trip.

    1. Thanks Wai for reading, and for the comment. It’s good to know that you have tested out the ferry too, we never had a chance to test it. We also enjoy using the train — it’s super quick, more convenient (much easier border entry) and comfortable. When we were living in Guangzhou, we were in the southern districts (suburbs) so it was faster for us to take the bus. However, the train from Hong Kong / Shenzhen does go right into the heart of Guangzhou city, so it’s very convenient for people if they are staying in the city center and exploring that area.


  2. From Hong Kong its even easier to get into ShenZhen. You just take the MTR to either Lo Wu (HK side) to cross into China’s Lou Hu (for your crazy shopping) or go to Lok Ma Chau (Fu Tian, china side) These are the two crossings with metro station on china side. FuTian will take you to convention center, downtown and hotels.

    If you in ShenZhen and you like art, I suggest visiting the DaFen Oil Painting village. It’s a little ways out (Line 3, DaFen stop, Exit A) Last time I was there one shop owner told me that more than 90% of the world’s oil paintings come from this area. Very interesting. Have fun in shenzhen or guangzhou!

    1. Thanks for reading Kari, and for the comment! You are correct, Shenzhen is just at the border and is quite easy to get to from Hong Kong. It’s an interesting city, but Shenzhen is quite new so there isn’t much history — mostly business. Guangzhou has a lot more by way of the local culture and historical architecture and sites (at least in the older areas of town) – so it definitely feels a bit more like China for those visitors who want to take a trip deeper into China.

      Thanks for the comment and happy travels to you!

  3. Thank you for the very helpful article.
    We are on multiple entry visa in China. We would like to exit from Mainland China every three months.What I inferred from your article is that we can mark our exit from Mainland China at the border even if we are travelling by bus, right?Could you please advice me on this?

    1. Hello Veena – thanks for reading, and for the comment! You are correct, taking the bus over the border requires an exit through immigration, and entering into Hong Kong. Same for the return (exit Hong Kong immigration and enter China). This is true no matter if you take a bus, train, plane, or ferry boat.

      Happy travels!

  4. My daughter and I are going to travel to Guangzhou in august. She is interested in purchasing stones and other items to make jewelry and create a website and make and sell her jewelry on it. It would be custume jewelry. Any suggestions on how to go about this and is the city divided into differant areas that wholesale differant products. She has some knowledge, as she worked in San diego for a company that purchased a fair amount from china vendors. Also we would like to visit the great wall and the terra cotta soldiers. Thanks

    1. Hi Betsy – thanks for reading!

      The Guangzhou area is home to many, many manufacturers. It is probably one of the most popular areas in China to source products, including gems / stones. I do know that there is a Jade market in downtown Guangzhou, which sells many types of Jade and stone products. You can also probably connect with the sellers at these markets to buy in bulk or be connected to suppliers. There are some trade organizations in Guangzhou that may be able to assist you with finding a supplier or buying these items in bulk as well. In fact, every year there is a MASSIVE tradeshow for manufacturing / suppliers in Guangzhou. I believe it is called the “Canton Fair” — but I have never been to it myself.

      As far as visiting other areas of China, it’s an extremely large country. So your best bet is to fly to Xian to see the Terra Cotta Soldiers and then fly or take the train from Xian to Beijing to see the Great Wall.

      Have a great trip!
      – Liz

  5. Thank you for such a comprehensive insight. We are a family of four my kids are 20 and 17 and my husband and I travelling from Johannesburg in December. We have 20 days arriving straight to Hong Kong. We would like to visit Vietnam, Great Wall of China and possibly Cambodia or somewhere else if we have time. In China we could go to Xian and then also to Shangai = We would like to know if you think we need to fly from Hong Kong to Beijing or keep using trains and buses etc. What would you recommend also Cost wise. A friend recommended we go to Disney Land and the Wax Museum. I would like to get as near as possible to Tibet if that was a possibility. Would love to hear how you would do this
    and you recommendations. Thanks for all your help

    1. Hello Vanessa – thanks for reading and for the comment!

      Wow, that sounds like a whirlwind trip! With 20 days, you will need to definitely take some flights to speed it up. I think actually that you should fly from Hong Kong to Shanghai first. Spend some time exploring the area (don’t miss Suzhou, near Shanghai) then you can actually take a high speed train up to Beijing (which is quite the experience!). Spend a few days in Beijing and at the Great Wall, then you can take an overnight train to Xi’an.

      As far as getting near Tibet, it’s difficult to get close because it becomes quite remote. I have been to Tibet myself, but if I am recommend someone else to experience the culture without actually going into Tibet, then I recommend going to southwest China. You can fly into Lijiang (a beautiful UNESCO heritage city) and then take a bus up to Shangri-La. This is actually on the outskirts of Tibet and the town actually feels VERY Tibetan. The architecture, heritage, religion…and lots of yaks! It’s amazing and quite high in elevation too — so it is probably the next best thing to actually being in Tibet. You will need to allow probably 4-5 days for this journey alone (to Lijiang => Shangri-La and back again).

      ** for more details, check out our post about traveling in Yunnan here:

      From here, you could also fly south into Cambodia / Vietnam, etc. as well. If there aren’t many flights from Lijiang, you could continue south to Kunming. It is a bigger city and there may be more options for flights.

      Overall, it would be a tight trip. But you could do it if you are efficient with the planning and transportation.

      I hope this helps.

      Happy travels!

  6. Thanks for the writing. It’s exactly want I was looking for. Not sure if you will be able to respond to my question. But I hope you will be able to.
    I am going to visit China soon. I will stay with a relative in Shenzhen. I wonder if my visa/passport would allow me to get into and out of Hong Kong a few times in a couple of days. Is there any limit on how many entries I can have in a given period of time?

    1. Hi Donna!

      ** I apologize for the delay in responding, I’ve been in China for a couple weeks and internet can be difficult over there **

      It will all depend on the type of Chinese visa that you got and how many entries you are allowed. I’m guessing it’s an L “tourist” visa, correct? Take a look at the visa and the very first line should say “category” (type of visa) and then next to that on the same top line it should say “Entries” — that’s the key.

      If it says “1” — then you only have a single entry into China with that visa, and if you leave, then you can’t come back with that visa. If it says “2” — they you have two entries into China.

      However, if it says “M” – that means multiple entries, which essentially means you can bounce in and out of China as many times as you want until the visa expires!

      So you will have to look at your visa in more detail to see what type it is and how many entries you have.

      I hope this helps – thanks for reading and enjoy your trip!!!


  7. Thanks so much for your article. If I had not read this, I probably would not have made my 2-day side trip to Hong Kong. Staying in Liwan, I determined from your advice that taking the train to/from East Railway Station in Guangzhou & Hung Hom in Kowloon would be easiest.

    The cost as of 12/21/2017 is 178RMB to Hong Kong and 210HKD back to Guangzhou (~$27 USD either way). The trains are quite comfortable and I was able to sleep over an hour each way of the <2 hr trip.

    I would note that the trains are COLD. This was the case both ways. I don't know if it was the AC full blast or perhaps just the ambient Dec. temperature w/no heating. But I broke out a 2nd jacket and I noticed everyone around me was similarly bundled up.

    Also worth noting is that at Guangzhou East Railway station, the Metro and the Train are not only on separate floors but kind of in separate wings of a very large terminal. It's almost as if you are exiting one building and going to another. Luckily I had bought my 8:19AM ticket the day before and had scoped everything out. If not, I might have gotten lost without even having left the station! Also, hardly anyone on the Guangzhou side speaks English. Luckily I speak a little Cantonese.

    The Hong Kong station, Hung Hom, is very straightforward. Everything is in the same building and floor. EVERYONE there (and in HK) seemed to know a fair amount of English. The only problem I had was finding a currency exhange at Hung Hom, which is apparently only one small shop in the terminal surrounded by a bunch of gift shops. It is easy to miss. OTOH, currency exchange seems to be everywhere in HK (as opposed to China) so you could do this later in the city.

    In any case, thanks again for your wonderful post. I was able to fulfill a bucket-list item (Chungking Express movie location trek) thanks to you. I am indebted.

    1. Thanks Ray – I’m so glad that you found this helpful and that you enjoyed your trip! I appreciate the detailed information about the train, we agree that it’s quite convenient for traveling between Hong Kong and Guangzhou.

      Happy travels to you!

  8. Hi Liz, I will be travelling with my wife and one of my employees to the Canton Fair in April. I am contemplating either the train or getting a limo to take us from HK to Guangzhou East (Sofitel) but my wife doesn’t like curvy roads so that could pose a problem if the roads are not good. My agent has quoted me atrocious prices for transfers etc and suggested I take Premier Class on Z825 but I am concerned because I cant find Z825 anywhere on the China network. Do you know if Z825 exists and do you think it would be better by train than by car?

    Your post is very informative and interesting. Thank you.

    1. Hi David — thanks so much for reading!

      If you are staying at the Guangzhou East Sofitel, then your best bet is actually to take the train. You can catch a train from Hung Hom in Hong Kong and it is a wonderful and easy journey! It’s much faster than driving, and you don’t have to do a border crossing like you would in a bus / limo / van transfer service. If you take a car, then you have to get out at the border — go through immigration and customs with your luggage and then get back in on the China side. While most of the roads aren’t windy (they are pretty straight because they are major highways) — but it will take a lot longer + traffic (especially when you get into downtown Guangzhou.

      So for time and headache, the train is by FAR the best option. With the train, you can also go through immigration at the station — which is so much quicker and easier. Lastly, the train will also cost quite a bit less — and it’s a very enjoyable journey with lots of space to relax.

      ** Just be sure to buy your train ticket in advance so you can get on the train you want.

      When you arrive at Guangzhou East Railway station, then the Sofitel isn’t far — and you should be able to schedule a transfer or just take a taxi.

      That is what I would recommend (after living for so long in Guangzhou).

      I hope this helps. Enjoy your trip!!! 🙂


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