Not surprisingly, HKG airport is modern, clean and efficient (the immigration line was long, but it did move quickly).
Going into town, the Airport Express MTR line (HK$100/US$13) is fast (~25 minutes to Central) and only has a few stops. It even has wi-fi if you have signed up for that service.
As expected, there is English on virtually all signs (even in the city), so it’s easy to get around.
I should have bought my Octopus Card (the stored value transportation card) at the airport, which would have given me a free connection to the MTR subway (as I arrived too late to use the free hotel shuttle bus at Central for Airport Express passengers). Oddly, you can’t buy the Octopus card from a machine (though you can check the balance and add value from machines, once you have one). I ended up asking the 7-11 clerk who sent me back upstairs to buy one from the MTR customer service desk.
The Octopus card costs HK$150/$20, though a third of that is a refundable deposit. Like other decent transportation systems with smart cards, you touch a reader on entry and exit of subway stations and buses (though not the fixed price double-decker tram)
My hotel in Causeway Bay was easy to find, just a 5 minute walk from the MTR station of the same name. It’s a small (about 8×8 feet, including the ensuite bathroom, by which I mean picture a large shower stall with the toilet and sink thrown in there too) windowless single room (small twin bed with a thin but firm mattress) in a good location. And a TV – with only a dozen Chinese channels – woohoo! All for the bargain price of HK$400/US$52 a night!).
Expensive hotels here. My half-decent budget hotel is Rs900/$22.50 per night (usually I’ve been paying Rs400/$10 most nights).
And I don’t even have my own toilet (though I do have a (bucket) shower in my room). Sigh.
And check out time is noon, so even though I’m here 48 hours (6am to 6am two days later), I’m paying for 3 nights! Well, he did give me a discount (only Rs500/$12.50 for the first “night” from 6am to noon today).
I ended up sleeping a few hours upon checkin because I didn’t sleep well on the train last night, despite following the lead of 3 Indian-Canadians from B.C. and paying for an upgrade to AC2 class (from AC3) via the conductor. Funny, AC2 was waitlisted when I tried to buy the ticket, and now there are at least a dozen empty berths.
Mumbai isn’t as bad as I expected, but I’ve only seen the small Colaba area near my hotel… after a late “brunch” (a South Indian thali) during which I read up and highlit my guidebook, I’m now ready to get out and explore!
Having been in 4 hotels now…
Note this applies to budget and moderate hotels (all under $20/night), since I haven’t stayed in any fancier ones…
Often 24-hour checkout is possible, i.e. you can check out 24 hours after you check in, instead of by 11am like we are used to
A/C can be nice (duh!), but mostly because it gets rid of the mosquitoes. Hotels just don’t get that a screen-less slatted-glass window in the bathroom makes having a screen (usually with holes or a poor seam) on the window ineffective. (This isn’t a problem only in India)
You can reserve a room just by calling and giving your name. No credit card or deposit. Worked so far…
Book ahead (a few days) if possible, esp. around holidays or weekends in popular areas. For one town, I had to call 6 hotels; today, I called 5 and ended up with a more-expensive-than-I-wanted moderate A/C room for this Sat night.
You can pay one night at a time, which is handy if you aren’t entirely sure how long you will stay, or might want to bail after one night (I haven’t yet). Also handy if you don’t have all the cash on you when you first check in.
Expect thin, ratty sheets and small, thin, ratty towels. I’ve been using my silk dreamsack (like a thin sleeping bag liner) as a barrier and to keep the breeze from the ceiling fan from chilling me.
You have to ask for a towel. Yes, I do have a travel towel, but if I can get a reasonable towel I’ll use that first…
Bring (or buy) toilet paper. There won’t be any, and not always a wastebin in which to discard them (like in Mexico, they don’t go in the toilet or the pipes will clog).
Bring a good big padlock (or buy one here cheaply); sometimes the rooms don’t have regular keyholes in the door, rather they use a padlock to lock the door (by locking a metal bar to a loop behind the lock). One thing I like about the local-style locks is that you can’t lock it without using the key, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally locking your key inside the room. Note that your typical luggage lock isn’t big enough. It’s comforting to know you can keep the staff out, and it’s not like you’re getting daily maid service at these places
Buy mosquito coils here and burn one in the room (or bathroom) while you are out for the day to clear out the mosquitoes.
I’ve only had hot water in 1 of 4 hotels. Supposedly you can sometimes get it by the bucket (sometimes at extra cost) but I haven’t figured that one out yet. Of course, the “cold” water tap isn’t anywhere near as cold as back home, in fact it’s actually refreshing!