Hong Kong recently adopted a new “0+0” arrivals process last week, where passengers are no longer subject to movement restrictions upon arrival for the first time since March 2020. This is a huge change from just a number of months ago, when the quarantine time upon arrival was 21 days.
Obviously this is good news for people who have been waiting to travel to/out of Hong Kong, as well as those that already had plans to return to Hong Kong over Christmas. Since I’m back in Hong Kong over Christmas, I had the opportunity to experience the new arrivals process on Saturday. I figured I’d write a post answering the questions I’ve gotten most from people since.
For once, this view was no longer an invite to a quarantine hotel
As has been the case with guides on this site, this isn’t a “how do I fill in the form?” guide or an all-inclusive encapsulation of every passenger case, but rather a high-level summary of what 95% of travellers will need to do in order to get into Hong Kong by air. If this post doesn’t answer your questions, visit the government website.
TL;DR – what’s the lowdown for arriving into Hong Kong?
In order to enter Hong Kong by air, you’ll need:
- A negative rapid antigen (lateral flow) test result – either via photo or a certificate from a licensed provider
- A “green QR code” generated by a health declaration form
- You’ll need to be vaccinated in order to fill out this form successfully
Upon arriving, you’ll need to:
- undergo a mandatory PCR test upon arrival (day 0)
- download the LeaveHomeSafe app (read below)
- wait at your place of residence until your test result comes back
- undergo daily RATs (rapid antigen tests) for the following 5 days and upload your test result proof onto the Electronic COVID-19 Medical Surveillance System (ECMSS) portal
- book a PCR at a community test center (or private test center) to be taken on Day 2 (the second full calendar day after arrival)
- wear a mask in public spaces except when eating, drinking, or doing sport (this is a mandatory requirement for everyone in Hong Kong, regardless of whether you’re an inbound traveller)
Where do I find the Health Declaration Form?
The Health Declaration Form can be found here. You’ll need to provide contact details, vaccination details, and declare that you don’t have any COVID-19 symptoms, though you won’t have to upload a negative RAT result (which means that you can fill it in over 24 hours before departure). The QR code generated by the Health Declaration Form is valid for 96 hours after submission at Hong Kong Airport, and will be scanned for the last time before your PCR test result is done upon arrival (so fill it in within 96 hours of arriving). Your QR code must be green in order to be allowed to board.
What counts as an accepted rapid antigen test (RAT)?
Any rapid antigen test is accepted for entry into Hong Kong, and it’ll only be eyed at check-in and potentially before boarding – the check-in agent for my connecting flight didn’t even ask for my RAT result until I offered it proactively. My test kit even said “do not use for travel” (presumably as rapid antigen test kits themselves normally do not suffice as a travel requirement).
The condition is that your RAT has to be taken within 24 hours of your departing flight to Hong Kong. In my case, my flight from Zurich left just before noon on Friday, so I took a RAT shortly after noon on Thursday. I’d make a habit of writing your name, test date, and test time on your test card, even though I definitely would’ve gotten away without it on this flight.
The COVID-19 test that was accepted at check-in
Do I need to print anything out?
I didn’t print any of my vaccination records or my health declaration form out prior to flying back this time round, and had no issues with getting in. I’d be extra sure that my devices could be powered on upon arrival (remember that airplanes may not have power ports/the power ports may not be in working order, so plan ahead with a portable power bank, or at least spare a tiny bit of battery!).
What does the PCR process look like once I arrive at Hong Kong Airport?
Upon arrival, we were funneled into a queue to get PCR tested. My green QR code was scanned, and I was given a lanyard with a barcode on it. At no point was I asked to fill in any details, but my barcode was scanned a couple of times, and the lady who helped collect my PCR sample only swabbed my throat. All staff were friendly, and the process took less than five minutes.
My green lanyard (barcode redacted)
I wasn’t one to photograph the PCR testing in action, though here’s what it looks like from the back
I will say that I got from the plane to the Airport Express in less than half an hour, which is a record for me, and I even checked a bag (even factoring in pre-COVID times).
Am I free to go once I leave the airport?
You’re recommended to go home and stay there until your result arrives (there isn’t a specified fine, it’s not stated as law, and it also isn’t regulated, so make of that what you will).
How long does it take for my PCR test result to come back?
My PCR result came back in 3 hours. I arrived during the European morning rush at about 7:30 AM, and my test result came back at about 10:30 AM. This was barely enough time for me to collect my bag, get home, get showered, and go to bed to nap, despite my lightning-quick arrivals process.
This isn’t a guarantee that your PCR result will come back in a similar time (the worst-case scenario I’ve heard of so far was a 45-minute queue for PCR testing followed by a result in 4 hours), though I haven’t heard any complaints of people waiting for their PCR results so they can leave the house (yet). The community PCR tests take longer, and have a turnaround time of about 24 hours.
How do I obtain my proof of vaccination to get around Hong Kong?
Upon getting your PCR registered (around 2 minutes after your swab is taken), you’ll be asked to download a self-declared vaccination record through email and SMS. This document contains a blue QR code, which you should upload as a vaccination record onto the LeaveHomeSafe app (download link for LeaveHomeSafe linked here). You’ll also be able to download the document from this link – you’ll need the same form of ID you filled out the health declaration form with, as well as the last four digits of the reference number below your green QR code. Screenshot this QR code and select the photo on LeaveHomeSafe, and you should receive an automatically generated blue code stating that your vaccination requirements have been met. You’ll need this QR code to go into restaurants, bars, and other vaccine pass premises in Hong Kong.
These premises are meant to also take international proof of vaccination, though from experience it doesn’t seem like many places have implemented this yet. You’re much better off downloading the LeaveHomeSafe app and getting your vaccination record from there.
You can no longer manually upload your international vaccination proof onto the LeaveHomeSafe app.
Please do NOT neglect to download this once you’ve received an email/SMS
What do I have to do once I’m home (and free to go)?
- undergo daily RATs for the next 5 days (except on your day of arrival) and upload them onto the Electronic COVID-19 Medical Surveillance System (ECMSS) portal
- book a COVID-19 PCR test at a Community Testing Center
The ECMSS portal was easy to use, and I only had to fill out my details once (even though I had to upload five separate RATs on five separate days). You’ll be sent a reference number (two letters and six numbers long, separated by a hyphen, which you’ll need in order to book these tests.
The Community Testing Center experience was very efficient – you’ve got to applaud Hong Kong for the efficient way they navigate these convoluted procedures.
Is travelling to Hong Kong the same as travelling to anywhere else?
No – not yet. Masks are still mandatory in all public spaces, and you’ll need to scan your vaccine pass on LeaveHomeSafe in order to access restaurants, bars, and various other premises (if you’re reading this post as an inbound traveller, you’re probably eligible for this vaccine pass, with details for obtaining this pass given above). Additionally, gatherings of over 12 people are still banned. Negative RAT proof (with name, date and time!) is still required before entering bars and nightclubs.
Conclusion: Hong Kong’s “0+0” Arrivals Process
This is the closest to “normal” that travelling to Hong Kong has ever been, and probably the first time travelling to Hong Kong has had any sort of appeal for those that don’t have close ties to the city. That being said, arriving in Hong Kong is still a structured process, and not carefree as of yet.
I’m hoping this post helps answer a few key questions and clear a few things up.
Let me know if you have any further questions!