Border crossing: Taking the high-speed rail between Hong Kong and Shenzhen

The high-speed rail in Hong Kong is an extension from the existing route in Guangzhou and Shenzhen, runs through several inner Chinese cities, and goes all the way to Beijing. The service officially began in late September, and I couldn’t wait to try it out as I visited Hong Kong during Thanksgiving.

Hong Kongers may not like China’s political motives behind building a high-speed railway station and a Chinese police station on the territory of Kowloon, but as a traveler I can’t ignore how convenient it is. There are some other border-crossing routes between Hong Kong and Shenzhen—one can take the East Rail Line to Lok Ma Chau (Futian) or Lo Wu, border-crossing buses via Shenzhen Bay, or the ferry from Central to Shekou. But all of these take about an hour and half to get you to the other side, and walking through customs is always a hassle.

Taking the subway from/to Lok Ma Chau-Futian. Photo: Google Maps.

The high-speed rail is much more convenient because it takes only about 15 minutes to get to/from Shenzhen. The train departs from West Kowloon (西九龍)—which is only five minutes’ walk from MTR Kowloon Station in Tsim Sha Tsui—and stops at Futian (福田, Shenzhen’s central district) and Shenzhen North (深圳北 Shenzhenbei). Travelers can clear both Hong Kong and China customs at West Kowloon Station, not unlike U.S. immigration checkpoints at Canadian airports.

I booked my ticket on Hong Kong MTR’s website. You can also book your tickets through Chinese sites, although there are two separate ticket pickup lines at West Kowloon Station and the MTR one is usually much shorter. Unless you are using a Mainland Travel Permit (for Hong Kongers and Macanese with Chinese citizenship) or a Chinese national ID, you have to pick up tickets at the counter.

Note: The MTR website says you can use a foreign passport to purchase tickets, but I discovered that Chinese passports work too. 

Second-class ticket from West Kowloon, HK to Futian, Shenzhen costs HK$77 ($9.84). Photo: Tianyu M. Fang.

West Kowloon Station is right out of Elements (圓方), the mall that connects to MTR Kowloon Station. Trains usually start boarding around 15 minutes before departure time, and immigration clearance takes time, too, if you are not qualified for e-Channel. On weekdays I’d recommend arriving at the station at least 45 minutes early. (If you are departing from Shenzhen, you don’t have to go through customs until you get to Hong Kong.) 

After Hong Kong customs. Photo: Tianyu M. Fang.
Mainland China-Hong Kong border. Photo: Tianyu M. Fang.

There is not a single convenience store, restaurant, or café once you clear security screening. You’ll find a couple of duty-free shops between Hong Kong and China checkpoints.

On board to Shenzhen! Photo: Tianyu M. Fang.

The train—named Fuxing 复兴号—is just like other high-speed bullet trains in China. The 15-minute trip went by fast—most of the trip between Hong Kong and Futian was underground, but I was able to receive 3G signals while roaming on 3 HK. My Project Fi SIM stopped working once the train entered Shenzhen—although it worked well in the past—so I had to switch SIM cards last minute.

I did not take pictures of the terminus since nothing much was there, but you can find a few photos on Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP).

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