It's not often that I find myself caught off guard in my travels. In fact, I'm a bit obsessive when it comes to planning. I need to know all the logistics and each segment along the way, especially if my wanderings take me far from home and to a thoroughly foreign environment.
Yet, there I was, wandering into the airport in Hong Kong at 1 a.m. after a flight from Manila, and didn't know where I would be staying for the night because my next flight back to the U.S. was not due to take off until 5:30 p.m.
I didn't have a big hand in the planning of this trip, and the long (and unexpected!) layover created some loose ends for the company that was doing the coordinating of my hosted press trip. A hotel booking was eventually secured for me, but I still had no transportation plans.
Hong Kong International Airport is one of the largest and busiest in the world, handling more than 16 million passengers a year, and it's so vast that I was unable to easily find a taxi cab area. I asked at the train station, which was located at the Arrivals Hall area of the terminal, and was told that the taxis were about a quarter mile away. Additionally, they don't take credit cards (at least it's rare to find a driver who accepts them) or U.S. dollars.
OK, now I have to get Hong Kong dollars. I approach a currency exchange window, and the clerk says she is closed. Well, let's look for an ATM. None in sight.
I take a deep breath and wander over to the McDonald's, which is the only place open in the entire vast hall at this early morning hour. Let me think about this before I get too irritated. Even if I find an ATM, I don't want to get Hong Kong dollars out and have leftover foreign currency I don't need.
My initial itinerary had my scheduled flight leaving at 11:15 a.m. But the wicked snow storm on the East Coast had pushed back my flight. I started receiving texts.
Your flight is now at 3:30 p.m.
Your flight is now at 4:30 p.m.
Your flight is now at 5:19 p.m.
Your flight is now at 5:29 p.m.
Those updates came in rapid-fire succession. At least they stopped. I hoped that would be the last time the flight was pushed back. Had the flight actually left at the original time, I would have considered just staying at the airport, but not with a nearly seven-hour delay.
I have the Uber app on my phone, but I had never completed the registration process.
Luckily, the Hong Kong airport offers free and reliable Wi-Fi. I finished the registration, hailed an Uber car. I had to get Uber Black (premium luxury cars) because no Uber X vehicles were available, and I was off to my hotel for a good night's rest.
The lesson to learn here: Make sure you have Uber (installed and ready to go) when you travel through the Hong Kong airport (or anywhere, of course), which is a long layover for travelers taking long flights to all parts of the world. It's just an incredibly convenient and easy-to-use app that can be a huge stress reliever when you find yourself in a bind and needing transportation.
Also, the McDonald's there is open 24 hours and takes credit cards. The PR company hosting my trip took care of my hotel, so I went off site. But if you want to stay at the Hong Kong airport when you have a long layover, there is a Regal Airport Hotel right on site connected to Terminal 1.
I hope this info helps if you find yourself in a pinch in Hong Kong or anywhere else. If we're not learning, we're not evolving as adventurers.
What are your favorite must-have apps to help you avoid travel troubles?
Thanks for reading,