Chek Lap Kok Airport is located on an island off the North side of Lantau Island. It was the last major infrastructure project of the outgoing British government and involved not only the building of the airport but major roads and suspension bridges as well. It is the third largest passenger terminal in the world after Dubai and Beijing.
If you are arriving on a full-service carrier you will probably be gated at the main terminal building which houses gates 1-80. If you arrive at gate 40 or above the exit arrows will, at some stage, point you down an escalator which will feed you into the Automated People Mover. This is a little train-like affair that is always horribly crowded. If you are like me and like to stretch your legs after being cooped up in an airplane for a couple of hours turn the opposite direction to the down arrow and you will find yourself in a long corridor with moving walkways. This passes all the lower-numbered gates and delivers you to the same place. Drop your hand luggage into a trolly and off you go.
If you arrive by a budget airline you will probably arrive at one of the satellite concourses. Unfortunately, there is no escaping the little train from those but they do deliver you directly to immigration.
Immigration and baggage claim are quite efficient but the queues at the former can get long. There are two exits through customs; A to the left, and B to the right. If you are arranging to meet someone it is a good idea to agree on which exit beforehand. The exit that the arrivals board tells them on the outside is just the one that your baggage carousel is nearest. Experience has told me, however, that the arriving passenger doesn’t always emerge from that one.
Once in the arrivals hall, you’ll find currency exchange, ATMs and hotel reservations desks as well as a McDonald’s.
The Airport Express is by far the best way into town. It links the Exhibition Centre and Chek Lap Kok Airport with Tsing Yi, Kowloon and Hong Kong Island from these there is a constant stream of taxis to get you to your final destination.
To find taxis at the airport you need to go down a level and aim to your left, there are plenty of signs to follow. You will see there are four ranks two ranks with red taxis, one each for Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. The green taxis are for passengers heading for the New Territories and the blue taxis for Lantau.
There are also bus services which cover most parts of Hong Kong. For arriving passengers, it helps if you already know your way around but for departures, they are an economical way to get to the airport. The route numbers are usually prefixed with A or E ie A21. Full details can be found at: http://www.nwstbus.com.hk/routes/airport-bus/index.aspx?intLangID=1
For most full-service airlines you can check your baggage in at the airport express terminal in Central but if you are using a budget airline you will probably need to check in at the airport. Always double-check first
When you arrive at the airport there are two terminals. The main difference between the two is the check-in counters. If you checked in Central it doesn’t matter which terminal you use. Terminal 1 has less faffing about with little rail systems but there are better eating options in Terminal 2. This may be useful if you are travelling with a budget airline that doesn’t include meals.
Getting off the Airport Express at Chek Lap Kok Airport and walking into Terminal One is always impressive though. The bridges across the arrivals hall below and a replica of the Wright Brothers’ plane suspended in the vast atrium command attention. Beyond the check-in aisles, there are numerous shops with immigration and security clearly marked at either end of the building just behind clouded glass screens.
Once formalities are completed you pass into a large food court area with a wide range of local and international options. Go down the escalator to the duty-free shopping, currency exchange and the main departure concourse. The main concourse is shaped like a huge letter ‘Y’ with gates left and right all the way along the stem and the two arms. In daylight there are nice views of the airport and its activities all around. At the junction of the two arms, there are more eating options, including a Burger King. There are snack and coffee shops and a children’s play area along the main stem.
If your gate number is 201-230 you need to lake the little train to the Midfield Concourse. Get off at the second stop. (You can also use this if your gate number is between 40-80, get off at the first stop.) If your gate is 501-510 then you have to get a shuttle bus to the North Satellite Concourse.