Travel from Hong Kong to Shanghai
Hong Kong and Shanghai are two very important cities and, together with Beijing, form China’s big three. In some ways, Shanghai and Hong Kong are similar. Both are international hubs, with a frenetic pace and awe-inspiring skylines. That said, they do have their own distinctive identity and history. Hong Kong’s Special Administrative Region (SAR) status sets it apart from the rest of China. Language, law, cuisine, currency and even driving are quite different. For example, most western travellers will need a visa to visit Shanghai, but not for Hong Kong.
China is a huge country and these two cities are 1225km (761mi) apart so flying is easily the most convenient mode of travel, if at times tedious. Travelling by train is a great alternative for backpackers and romantic train aficionados. The sleeper train is a very picturesque way of travelling through China. While the option of taking the bus is for the adventurous.
1. Travel by Air
The in-town check-in service at Hong Kong and Kowloon stations of the Airport Express allows you to check-in to your flight between 24h and 90min before the flight. This is great as you can get rid of your luggage and go wander around the city. For a list of the airlines that offer this service click here.
There are over 35 daily flights each way between Hong Kong and Shanghai, making it one of the busiest flight routes in China. Shanghai has two airports. Pudong (PVG) is the bigger of the two and is located 30km (19mi) east of the centre, while Hongqiao (SHA) is used mostly for domestic flights and is just 13km (8mi) west of central Shanghai. Both airports are very well connected to the city and to each other as they are on the same metro line 2. You can book your own private transfer* to connect with the city, and there are other bus and rail services to nearby cities and beyond. Hongqiao airport is in fact right next to Hongqiao Railway Station from where you can take high-speed trains to many cities in China. However, the best way to reach Shanghai from PVG is to take the famous levitating maglev train* between the airport and Longyang Rd.
Hong Kong airport is located on the island of Chek Lap Kok 38km (23mi) west of the city. The quickest and most popular way to reach the airport is with the Airport Express* train. Booking a shuttle bus* or a private transfer* in advance are also good ideas.
The routes available at present are:
PVG-HKG with Dragonair, Hong Kong Airlines, Juneyao, China Eastern, Cathay Pacific, Shanghai Airlines and Spring Airlines.
SHA-HKG with Dragonair, Hong Kong Airlines, China Eastern and Shanghai Airlines.
Arm yourself with patience for China is notorious for having some of the worst airspace congestion in the world. Understand that Dragonair (being rebranded as Cathay Dragon) is a subsidiary of Cathay Pacific and Shanghai Airlines is a subsidiary of China Eastern so you may be able to benefit from their respective frequent flyer programmes and codesharing opportunities. Unsurprisingly, both airline groups significantly dominate this route. Take this into account especially if you will be flying this route often.
That does not mean, however, that you should not consider using one of the other airlines. As no-frills airlines, Spring and Juneyao have extremely competitive airfares and are often the cheapest option although they do not appear on most flight comparison sites.
You may want to consider flying to/from nearby airports if you are after a good deal. This is particularly true for Shenzhen; which is Hong Kong’s mainland China neighbouring city and is so close you can get there by public transport. It can often be cheaper to fly from Shenzhen Bao’an Airport (SZX) to mainland China than from HKG. International travellers however may find it more difficult to communicate in English and connect with flights to outside Asia from SZX.
If you are struggling to find a cheap flight ticket, another alternative to Shanghai is Hangzhou Airport (HGH). It is one-hour away from Shanghai by train. There are more flights to Shenzhen SZX than to HKG from this airport.
2. Travel by Rail
Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station
Hong Kong Hung Hom Rail Station
12-13hrs with the high-speed train and about 20hrs with the sleeper train
1230HKD/1065CNY/160USD/129GBP each way for Guangzhou-Shanghai+Guangzhou-HK with the high-speed train. 850HKD/730CNY/110USD/89GBP each way for the slow train.
There are a few websites out there nowadays that will allow international customers to buy a ticket from abroad up to 60 days in advance. Our favourite site is ChinaHighlights*. You can of course buy tickets at the train station and at railway ticket agencies but do not expect English-speaking staff outside Hong Kong.
It is possible to get a change or a refund on any train ticket in China. In some cases you may have to pay a small penalty fee but for westerners used to no exchange/no refund ticket policies this is a breath of fresh air. Avoid travelling during Chinese New Year and National Day if you can as these are extremely busy periods.
The quickest way by train is to take a high-speed rail service linking Shanghai Hongqiao and Guangzhou South in about 8 to 9 hours. From Guangzhou South, connect to Guangzhou East station by metro or taxi (allow plenty of time to do this: 1-2hrs) and then take a train from there to HK Hung Hom train station. Buy both tickets separately. There are trains every hour and the journey takes approximately 2hrs. All in all, the entire trip will take about 12-13hrs.
The other option is to travel on a direct sleeper train all the way from Shanghai South station to Hong Kong. The journey takes about 20hrs and trains leave every other day in each direction. Standard tickets are significantly cheaper than the high-speed rail option but there are also luxury sleeper cabins available for those who wish to travel in style. Do not arrive at the station at the last minute as you will have to go through border control formalities.
3. Travel by Bus
Yinhu bus station (Shenzhen)
Shanghai long-distance bus station
18 hours depending on traffic (not including the border-crossing to HK)
Online from trip8080 with the help of a Chinese friend but it is best to buy tickets at the station and bring along that Chinese-speaking friend with you.
In China, you always need to produce your ID when buying a long-distance bus or train ticket so make sure you carry it with you.
Long-distance intercity bus services also link Shenzhen and Shanghai. There are several border crossings between Shenzhen and Hong Kong as it is very close. One of the quickest one for foreigners is by taking the MTR subway to Lo Wu (on the Hong Kong side), then going through immigration and walking through a long corridor over to LuoHu station.
Most bus travel services are between Yinhu bus station in the Futian district of Shenzhen and Shanghai long-distance bus station in the Zhabei district. The journey takes about 18 hours depending on traffic, and recliner seats are available.
Bear in mind there is not much difference in price between a standard train ticket and a bus ticket, and you may find the whole experience frustrating if you do not speak Chinese.
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