2018 Hong Kong Disneyland Planning Guide

This Hong Kong Disneyland planning guide will help you figure out all you need to know to prepare for your 2018 or 2019 trip: park tickets, attractions, dining, transportation, hotels, and much more! Since Hong Kong only has one park and three hotels, it’s much easier to plan a visit here than just about any other Disney resort around the world. (Last updated August 11, 2018.)

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! Various nuances of international travel can make it a little tricky, but overall, it’s a pretty simple place to visit. Since Hong Kong Disneyland is not too complicated, 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, but we have taken numerous trips to Hong Kong Disneyland, most recently for Halloween. During that visit, we did Iron Man Experience several times, and stayed at the new Explorers Lodge hotel. Before we get into the meat of this planning guide, there are a couple of things you need to know if you’re planning a visit to HKDL in the near future…

First, Sleeping Beauty Castle is currently being transformed into something totally different (see the artist rendering below), a process that won’t finish until sometime in 2019. An exact date–or even month–is not yet known, but judging by the minimal progress as of August 2018, it seems likely that work won’t be done until Late 2019 at the earliest, and possibly even 2020.

During part of this time, there will be giant scrims around the castle. A real downer in terms of photos, but the good news is that this has no operational impact on any attractions. The good news if you’re visiting soon or for Halloween 2019 is that these scrims are not yet up. There are walls around the castle, but the view at the top of the post is still more or less possible from the train station.

Second–and because of this–you might want to wait to visit Hong Kong Disneyland if you’re still debating when to visit. We’re really excited for the expansion plans announced for HKDL that will add a new castle, Frozen Land, and Marvel Land to the park. The Marvel Land and Frozen Land, in particular, sound awesome. Unfortunately, neither will be done until 2020 at the earliest. If you’re only going to visit Hong Kong Disneyland once, waiting until both of those lands are finished is ideal.

If you’ve already planned a trip to Hong Kong and are definitely visiting in 2018 or 2019, you’ll still have a great experience. All things considered, we view HKDL as one of the cooler destinations in Hong Kong. Even for people who are not Disney fans, it’s a fun way to spend a day, and it being located near the Tian Tan Buddha and Hong Kong International Airport makes it an easy place to visit outside of the city proper.

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.

In addition to this guide, we recommend consulting our Hong Kong City Guide on TravelCaffeine, our non-Disney planning site, for your time downtown. We also recommend Fodor’s Hong Kong, which is a great resource because it also covers Macau, which is a popular “side trip” from Hong Kong. We visit Hong Kong regularly, but have only been to Macau once–it was an interesting experience and potentially worth visiting, depending upon your interests.

With that said, 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 is a 1-day park for 95% of guests and a 2-day park only for extreme Disney fans. Fortunately, there are a couple of other ways to visit Hong Kong Disneyland that do make the trip reasonable.

We’ve been to Hong Kong Disneyland a few times, and each time, that has been in conjunction with another destination. Our first two times, we did Tokyo Disney Resort after HKDL, treating it as the “Gateway to Tokyo Disney Resort.” One our most recent visit, we went after attending the Grand Opening of Shanghai Disneyland.

There are a few reasons for stopping in Hong Kong. First, it’s very easy to book Hong Kong as a low/no-cost stopover on the way to Tokyo or Shanghai, which means that it’s about $0 to $50 to add Hong Kong to an Asia trip from an airfare perspective. (We are aware that a lot of people don’t understand how stopovers work, so you can read about that in our “How to Visit 3 Disney Destinations on 1 Airfare” post.)

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, Tokyo DisneySea, or Shanghai Disneyland. You should not fly to Asia solely for Hong Kong Disneyland.


Finally, although we don’t believe there’s a substantial language barrier at Tokyo Disney Resort or Shanghai Disneyland, 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 or Shanghai parks, make sure to consult our Tokyo Disneyland Trip Planning Guide and our Shanghai Disneyland Trip Planning Guide. There’s a lot more you’ll need to know for those visits!

Another 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.

Language

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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 unless you’re a really serious Disney fan, we recommend one day 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. If you do opt for two days, that 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. That much time is not necessary (except perhaps on national holidays?), though.

You can hit the highlights in a single day, and if you’re traveling all the way to Hong Kong, you might want to allocate any additional time to exploring the city. If you are in any way crunched for time, (e.g. visiting both Hong Kong and Shanghai Disneyland or Tokyo), don’t spend more than 1 of your theme park days at Hong Kong Disneyland; spend the rest of your time at Shanghai Disneyland and/or Tokyo Disney Resort.

When to Visit

Hong Kong Disneyland is the international park at which we’ve spent the least time. We’ve researched it more, and have learned the following. Basically, you want 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.

When we returned in the summer, the humidity was killer. We will never go back to Hong Kong Disneyland between May and September ever again because the humidity is simply too brutal to have a pleasant time.

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 went during Halloween a couple of years ago, and it was amazing. Take a look at our photos and thoughts on the elaborate (and genuinely scary!) Halloween entertainment offerings at Hong Kong Disneyland.

The one downside was that it was still pretty humid, but not nearly as bad. We wouldn’t hesitate to go back at Halloween-time, simply because the entertainment is so awesome. Crowds are a bit higher, but it’s totally worth it.

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.

Getting There

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.

Phone/Internet

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 have just used the free public WiFi when visiting Hong Kong.

Free WiFi is now available in Hong Kong Disneyland. However, it’s very spotty, meaning that you won’t have internet access at all in some lands. When this has happened, we just did without internet for an hour or so.

If you will literally die if you don’t post to Instagram for an hour, check out rental options. We wouldn’t want to be responsible for a headline in USA Today reading, “American Abroad Dies From Snapchat Withdrawal.” 😉

Money

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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.

Hotels

Hong Kong Disneyland has two official hotels, Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel and Disney’s Hollywood Hotel, both of which are walking distance to HDKL. (There’s also a shuttle if you’d prefer.) We’ve stayed at each of these hotels, and will give you a quick synopsis of each, along with links to our reviews.

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’ve stayed at a couple of those, and would recommend the Hong Kong SkyCity Marriott Hotel. It’s basically a business class airport hotel. Really nice (and you earn points!).

In terms of perks, there’s no real benefit to staying on-site. Hong Kong Disneyland does not have Extra Magic Hours, an airport shuttle, etc. 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

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Park tickets for Hong Kong Disneyland are super cheap as compared to the US parks. You can save money on Hong Kong Disneyland tickets by purchasing from Klook, which will save ~$8 per ticket, and will allow you to instantly print your ticket.

You can take $5 off their first booking on Klook by entering our exclusive discount code KLKDTB at checkout. You can also use the coupon to purchase a discounted meal voucher for Hong Kong Disneyland.

One thing to strong consider if you’re going for two or three days and plan to stay on-site is to have one person in your party purchase an Annual Pass. Currently, the lowest tier of Annual Passes is just over $160, which is about what 3 days in the parks would cost with normal tickets.

Given that most people won’t be visiting for 3 days and the fact that the lowest tier of Annual Pass has 100+ blockout dates, it’s not going to be a good option for most people. (However, Annual Passes offer a variety of discounts, including on hotels for select dates.)

Dining

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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. We also have a Top 10 Hong Kong Disneyland Restaurants post, which is more to the point about where you should–and should not–dine.

As with Tokyo, make sure to sample Hong Kong Disneyland’s snacks. There aren’t nearly as many, but there are some good ones. These include the specialty drinks, seasonal donuts, Korean squid, turkey legs, and even Marvel-themed snacks in Tomorrowland.

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. If you are interested in character dining, our favorite option is the breakfast in Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel. As we wrote in our Enchanted Garden Restaurant Review, this buffet is one of the best character meals in the world!

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 have done high tea at both River View Cafe and Corner Cafe on Main Street, but we noticed that it was also available at a couple of other restaurants.

There’s also 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. There is also now an official Hong Kong Disneyland mobile app that offers wait times, among other things. 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.

Your Thoughts

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 Disneyland and have tips of your own, please add them in the comments–I might just borrow them for the guide itself!


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