Planning a trip to Hong Kong Disneyland in 2016? This guide will help you figure out all you need to know, from Hong Kong Disneyland park tickets and attractions, to dining, transportation to and from the park, and more! Since Hong Kong only has one park and two hotels, it’s much easier to plan a visit here than just about any other Disney resort around the world (seriously, even with the language barrier, a first trip to Hong Kong Disneyland is so much easier than a first trip to Walt Disney World!), but the various nuances of international travel can make it a little tricky. Since Hong Kong Disneyland is pretty easy to visit, this guide covers more about the logistics of doing the trip and getting there, plus general info about traveling to Hong Kong in general, as opposed to specifics once you’re there.
We are not locals to Hong Kong Disneyland, nor have we traveled there extensively, so some of this guide is based on what we’ve learned elsewhere while doing our own research for Hong Kong Disneyland. Much of it is also based on our first hand experiences. Additionally, while this blog is geared towards serious fans, the information in this Hong Kong Disneyland trip planning guide is applicable to anyone (although if you’re not serious, only spend 1 day here, rather than 2). All things considered, we view it as one of the cooler destinations in Hong Kong, and it’s located nearby the Tian Tan Buddha, which you’ll definitely want to visit regardless.
As for serious Disney fans, Hong Kong Disneyland is finally a park that’s on many bucket lists, with the incredibly highly regarded Mystic Manor almost alone making Hong Kong Disneyland worth visiting. (Almost.) It’s also fun to compare and contrast the similarities and differences between it and the other parks, as well as experience other unique Hong Kong Disneyland attractions.
Regardless, we recommend reading multiple sources when planning a trip to Hong Kong Disneyland. Here are some that we recommend: Dejiki, La Jolla Mom, Character Central, and MiceChat’s HKDL forum. If you’ve found other useful planning sites, please share them in the comments. You also should have a planning guide in paper form for Hong Kong in general (Hong Kong Disneyland is simple enough that we don’t think you’ll need one for it). We checked out several books from the library before our trip, but ended up only bringing Lonely Planet Hong Kong, which was great for us because it also covered Macau. We prefer books in paper form–we are tech-lovers, but paper books don’t run out of battery, potentially leaving you without critical advice in a foreign place, but your mileage may vary on that. Also, print out important reservation info just in case you have an internet issue.
Let’s get started with the guide!
Hong Kong Disneyland as a Destination
We love Hong Kong Disneyland, but no American should make the expensive trip to Hong Kong solely for Hong Kong Disneyland. That would just be foolish and excessive for a park that takes about two days to fully explore. Fortunately, there are a couple of other ways to visit Hong Kong Disneyland that do make the trip reasonable.
Although we’ve only been to Hong Kong Disneyland once, we are big advocates of treating it as the “Gateway to Tokyo Disney Resort.” There are a few reasons for this. First, it’s very easy to book Hong Kong as a low/no-cost stopover on the way to Tokyo, which means that it’s about $0 to $50 to add Hong Kong to a Tokyo, Japan trip from an airfare perspective. (We are aware that a lot of people don’t understand how stopovers work, but they’re outside the scope of this post—look for a dedicated post on how to book a stopover in Hong Kong soon.) Second, while Hong Kong Disneyland has come into its own as of the last couple of years in terms of being a quality Disney theme park, it still doesn’t compare to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, so anyone who visits Tokyo Disney Resort and immediately follows that visit with Hong Kong Disneyland (or any other Disney resort, for that matter) is setting themselves up for disappointment. Finally, although we don’t believe there’s a substantial language barrier at Tokyo Disney Resort, English is much more common in Hong Kong (a British colony until the late 1990s), making it a good way to ease into a foreign environment for those inexperienced with international travel. If you’re also visiting the Japan parks, make sure to check out our Tokyo Disney Resort Trip Planning Guide. There’s a lot more you’ll need to know for that trip!
The other option is to visit Hong Kong Disneyland as part of a trip to Hong Kong and Macau. (For those unfamiliar with Hong Kong, although technically part of China, it’s a “Special Administrative Region” on an outlying island, meaning that visiting locations in mainland China like Shanghai and Beijing requires another flight.) Hong Kong is frequently described as where “East Meets West,” and there’s truly something for everyone. From temples and shrines to a developed metropolis, Hong Kong has it all. Macau is akin to Las Vegas on steroids, and is a place where you can find UNESCO World Heritage Sites mere streets away from larger than life casinos.
On our visit to Hong Kong Disneyland, we started out by experiencing downtown Hong Kong for a few days, followed by a day in Macau, and two days in Hong Kong Disneyland before flying to Tokyo for five more days at Tokyo Disney Resort. Since our time was limited and we had already visited Japan previously, we did not do anything in Japan besides Tokyo Disney Resort. In an ideal world, we would recommend this itinerary plus no less than three more days in Japan. It provides a good mix of Disney and real world sight-seeing, and is definitely worth the time—especially if you expect to only visit Asia once in your life.
Much like Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland is a bit of a melting pot in terms of guest demographics. Many visitors come from Hong Kong, but it seems that just as many come from mainland China (there’s a pretty big difference between the two). Hong Kong Disneyland also sees its fair share of Australians, guests from other countries in Asia, and a variety of guests from other English speaking countries. Cantonese, Mandarin, and English are all commonly-spoken languages by Cast Members at Hong Kong Disneyland. In fact, some attractions offer options for each of those three languages.
Some attractions and aspects of the park are not in English, but as English-speaking guests, we did not at all feel isolated or at a disadvantage. The things that aren’t in English are pretty easy to understand given their largely visual nature, or through subtitles. We do not view Hong Kong Disneyland as having any significant language barrier.
How Long to Visit
We sort of touched upon this in the section above, but if you’re a serious Disney fan, we recommend two days at Hong Kong Disneyland. Contrary to popular lore, Hong Kong Disneyland is not a half day park. It’s also probably not a two day park, though. However, two days gives you time to slow down and do just about everything, plus repeat favorites, have a table service meal or two, and soak up the ambiance.
You can certainly hit the highlights in a single day, but if you’re traveling all the way to Hong Kong, you might as well do two days. Exception: if you are crunched for time, visiting both Hong Kong and Tokyo, and only planning on allocating 5 days for Disney theme parks, we recommend spending 1 of those days at Hong Kong Disneyland and 4 of them at Tokyo Disney Resort.
When to Visit
Our research in when to visit admittedly has been quite light. We knew we wanted to see Hong Kong Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Resort at Christmas, so we focused primarily on the weeks around Christmas when Tokyo Disney Resort (the busier resort of the two) would be the least busy. From there, we made our plans around when flights would be cheapest.
We over-research everything, though, and what we saw basically suggested to avoid three things: 1) the summer tourist season (not only are crowds high, but so is humidity—the area around Hong Kong Disneyland might technically be a jungle), 2) weekends, and 3) holidays, especially the Chinese New Year. We’ve heard that crowds can be very high during these times. During our weekday off-season Christmas visit, the park seemed empty by US standards. There were several times in the middle of the day when Mystic Manor was a walk-on, and only a handful of popular, low-capacity rides had prohibitive waits.
Halloween season is another time of year that Hong Kong Disneyland, but whether you should avoid it or go because of this is a good question. We haven’t been during Halloween, but we have heard incredible things about the elaborate (and genuinely scary!) Halloween entertainment offerings at Hong Kong Disneyland. We wouldn’t hesitate to go around Halloween-time, but we aren’t bashful about visiting the Disney parks during crowded times if it means seeing cool entertainment or events.
What to Pack
As always, we think the items on our Unique Disney Packing List will be helpful in any of the Disney theme parks. Specific to Hong Kong, we note that since it is a jungle (or jungle-like, at the very least) environment, plan for hot weather. Things like Frogg Togg Chilly Pads will come in handy, as will moisture wicking clothing.
In general, we would caution against overpacking. This is especially true in terms of toiletries if you’re staying at one of the on-site hotels. Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel provided a large set of toiletries in our room (large enough that it was themed to the Seven Dwarfs and there was a different item for each Dwarf!). Remember, Hong Kong is a world city, and you can purchase just about anything in Hong Kong that you’d be able to purchase at a convenience store in Orlando. If you are going to be staying in multiple hotels in Asia, we highly recommend packing cubes or compression bags (I prefer the cubes) for organization. You can read more of our “carry-on philosophy” and which types of bags we use here.
Compared to Tokyo, getting to Hong Kong from the United States is super easy. Well, minus that whole 12-16 hour flight. Once you land in Hong Kong, if you’re going directly to Hong Kong Disneyland, you’re going to take a taxi there. Yes, you can take the MTR, but that will require two transfers and significantly more time than just taking a taxi. Both Hong Kong Disneyland hotels are basically “airport hotels,” and they are only about a 10-15 minute taxi ride that will cost around $20. You will certainly save a little money taking the MTR, but the time and headache savings more than justify taking a taxi.
If you are also visiting Hong Kong as part of your trip, we recommend doing the city itself before Hong Kong Disneyland, in which case taking the MTR into Hong Kong is the way to go. Our rationale for doing the city first is because it puts you at Hong Kong Disneyland right before your flight leaving Hong Kong, and you presumably will be on more of a strict schedule (since you flight has a set departure time) on the way out than you are on the way in, and it’s easier to bank on the 10-15 minute taxi ride to the airport than it is on the 30 minute to an hour long MTR ride from downtown Hong Kong to the airport.
The MTR is very reliable—it’s the best public transportation we’ve encountered anywhere in the world—but it’s still more predictable/safer to rely on a short taxi ride to the airport than a longer train ride, which means you won’t need to build as much of a time cushion into your return airport trip.
There are lots of options available for phones and internet in Hong Kong, but from what we could gather, very few reasonably priced options that would allow us to use our iPhones. Unlike Japan, where MiFi is an easy and relatively inexpensive option, it seemed that Hong Kong was more geared towards phone and SIM card rental.
Fortunately, we didn’t have to spend too much time researching this, as we quickly learned that Hong Kong has an impressive, free-for-visitors WiFi network. Rather than paying for anything, we just used the free public WiFi. The downside is that—as of when we visited—free WiFi was not available in Hong Kong Disneyland. We just did without internet in the park (I found it refreshing to be totally engrossed in the park like the “good ole days,” with no phone to distract me), and got caught up on email and other things when we left the park each night. If you will literally die if you don’t post to Instagram or Vine for 8 hours, check out this page for rental options. YMMV on this. We wouldn’t want to be responsible for a headline in USA Today reading, “American Abroad Dies From Snapchat Withdrawal.” 😉
We strongly recommend having a credit card with no foreign transaction fees for any international travel and also carrying cash for emergencies (plus small merchants and taxis that may not accept credit cards), but we didn’t find ourselves using credit cards or cash much in Hong Kong. Instead, we used what’s called the Octopus card. You think Walt Disney World’s MagicBands are cool? The entire island of Hong Kong has had the tap-to-pay system down since 1997. The Octopus card is a reloadable tap-to-pay card that can be used at a multitude of locations, from 7-11 to the trains. It’s super easy to use, and how we paid for probably 75%+ of our transactions in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Disneyland has two official hotels, Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel and Disney’s Hollywood Hotel, both of which are walking distance to Hong Kong Disneyland. (There’s also a shuttle if you’re lazy.) We stayed at Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel and absolutely loved it. Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel is the flagship, Grand Floridian-esque hotel, and it’s slightly closer to the park. Disney’s Hollywood Hotel is a Deluxe-caliber hotel that is Art Deco stylized, cheaper, and about 5 minutes farther away from the park.
If you’re on a tighter budget, there are also some nearby hotels that you can find on the usual suspects of booking sites. We know nothing about any of these hotels as we felt it was worth the splurge to just stay on-site. If you’re on a tight budget, there’s no actual benefit to staying on-site (no Extra Magic Hours or anything of that sort), and the train ride in from the Sunny Bay station is really nice, so we don’t see the harm. The biggest benefit of staying on-site is the convenience of walking between your hotel and the park, and also being enveloped in the Disney ambiance.
We do not recommend booking a hotel in downtown Hong Kong for the entirety of your stay. If you visit downtown Hong Kong, you should do a split stay, changing hotels for the Hong Kong Disneyland leg of the trip. Much like Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disney Resort, Hong Kong Disneyland is a decent train ride from downtown, and you’ll spend a couple of hours per day in transit if you make downtown your home base for the duration of the trip.
Park tickets for Hong Kong Disneyland are super cheap as compared to the US parks. You can find a current listing of prices here.
One thing to strong consider—even if you’re only going for two days—is to have one person in your party purchase an Annual Pass. When we went, the lowest tier of Annual Passes was just over $100. Annual Passes offer a variety of discounts (including on the hotel). If you are staying on-site and plan on doing a fair amount of dining, it might make sense to pay a little more for the Annual Pass to potentially save a large amount on your hotel and food. If you’re visiting Hong Kong Disneyland for your birthday, definitely get the second highest-tier Annual Pass.
Dining at Hong Kong Disneyland is pretty simple, too. The restaurants are generally good, have a diverse selection of options (among them), and cater to a variety of dietary needs (including a couple of places that are Halal Certified). Think of it as sort of comparable to dining in the World Showcase in Epcot at Walt Disney World. We’ve only reviewed a few Hong Kong Disneyland restaurants thus far; to read those make sure to check out our Disney Restaurant Reviews Index.
Like with Tokyo, make sure to sample Hong Kong Disneyland’s snacks. There aren’t nearly as many, but there are some good ones (especially flavored drinks). Also, we highly recommend doing the dim sum meal at Crystal Lotus in Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel. This needs to be booked in advance, so stop in here the first night of your trip, or call in advance.
Another thing worth trying is the afternoon high tea. As mentioned above, Hong Kong is a former British colony, so this isn’t out of place like it might seem. We did high tea at Corner Cafe on Main Street, but we noticed that it was also available at a couple of other restaurants, plus there’s a Victorian high tea in Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel. The presentation of our desserts was excellent, and we felt it was well worth the money for the experience. This seemed fairly popular, so consider booking day-of reservations.
That’s really the bulk of our recommendations. You can find what type of cuisine each Hong Kong Disneyland restaurant serves here. You’ll notice not many burger places, so if you’re a picky eater, your options are limited. We avoided the burgers, and found the other options to be excellent and not so exotic that anyone should be scared away from trying them.
What to Do?
We’ve already written an extensive attraction guide for Hong Kong Disneyland, so there’s no point in reinventing the wheel here, just read that. It contains strategy as well as reviews of the attractions.
To our knowledge, there is no site or mobile app that offers actual or predicted wait times at Hong Kong Disneyland, so intuition and our suggestions in that article about as good as you’re going to get as far as a plan of attack. Like the US parks, Hong Kong Disneyland offers FastPass (albeit limited to only two attractions!).
In our experience, Hong Kong Disneyland did not see massive crowds right at park opening like Tokyo. Rather, the attendance builds throughout the day, with the busiest time being in the late afternoon. We’re not advocating sleeping in (especially with the park’s short operating hours), but if you do, it’s probably not the end of the world.
There’s a lot more we could include in this guide, but Hong Kong Disneyland really doesn’t need to be “over-thought,” so let’s cut it off there. We will definitely add to this based on common questions, and I’m more than happy to offer assistance and advice in the comments if you have questions.
I know this just begins to scratch the surface of planning for a trip to Hong Kong Disneyland. If you have additional questions, please leave them in the comments. If you’ve been to Hong Kong Disneylandand have tips of your own, please add them in the comments–I might just borrow them for the guide itself!