Traveling to Hong Kong during the pandemic has been a bit of a nightmare. Even now, as other countries return to a semblance of normal, Hong Kong's quarantine policies continue making it onerous to travel to the city. Recently returned to Hong Kong from the U.S., I'm in my third week of a 21-day hotel quarantine. So, it's the perfect time to share a detailed look into my travel and quarantine experience with helpful tips and lessons learned along the way.
Hopefully, this information will be helpful to others coming to Hong Kong who are wondering what to expect (like I was). Or, perhaps it will just be an interesting look into how Hong Kong handles things like quarantine these days, even if you don't plan to travel here anytime soon.
Fair warning, this turned into a long post post so feel free to skip around using the Quick Navigation. And if you're curious about something I forgot to mention, please let me know in the comments below or reach out on social media.
Note: This post shares my own experience traveling to Hong Kong from the U.S. and my hotel quarantine. This article is not meant to be used as official guidance for traveling to Hong Kong or to show what every quarantine experience is like in Hong Kong. Please refer to the Hong Kong Government's website for official rules and information on traveling to Hong Kong.
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Bit of Background on Hong Kong Travel Restrictions & Quarantine Policies
In order to set the stage, I'll start with a bit of background on the travel restrictions and quarantine policies in Hong Kong. Since it feels like it's been a whirlwind of changes over the past year or so, I'm only sharing some of the big highlights for me.
Hong Kong Closes Border & Begins Quarantine in March 2020
Way back in March 2020, Hong Kong closed its border to non-residents and implemented its first quarantine policy. Meanwhile, residents were allowed to quarantine at home or at a hotel of their choosing. The length of the quarantine was 14 days.
(These changes occurred while I was on a trip to the U.S. Find out what my home quarantine in March 2020 was like when I returned.)
Compulsory Hotel Quarantine
However, in late 2020, Hong Kong tightened its restrictions and implemented compulsory hotel quarantine for most residents at designated quarantine hotels. It also increased the quarantine for travelers coming from certain countries to 21 days and barred those from very high-risk countries from entering entirely.
Throughout 2021, the quarantine policies ebbed and flowed depending on which countries were having outbreaks and the number of travelers arriving in Hong Kong with COVID-19.
Travel Restrictions Appear to Be Loosening
Over the summer 2021, Hong Kong finally began loosening travel restrictions and started to allow non-residents from certain countries to enter (with quarantine).
The government also relaxed quarantine for vaccinated residents coming from medium- or low-risk countries. Normally, the quarantine length for these risk categories is 14 days. However, the new policy was that if you got a COVID antibody test before leaving Hong Kong, you could shorten the quarantine to 7 days.
Tightening Things Back Up
Unfortunately, the antibody test quarantine reduction barely made it a couple months before it was scrapped. In August 2021, the government announced more changes for inbound travelers. It grouped countries into three main categories - Group A - High Risk, Group B - Medium Risk, and Group C - Low Risk.
Exceptions to these countries groupings include mainland China, Macao, and Taiwan, which have their own separate policies.
Requirements for inbound travelers is determined based on which risk category the country from which you're traveling is in. Currently (in Oct 2021), the U.S. is in Group A. This means only vaccinated residents are allowed to return and they must quarantine for 21 days in a hotel.
For up-to-date details on traveling to Hong Kong, please check the HK Government's website for inbound travel.
Why Did Hong Kong Tighten Up Again?
Hong Kong's determination to maintain its "zero COVID" strategy is the driving force behind these policies. So even if vaccinated and asymptomatic, the government doesn't want individuals with COVID running free in Hong Kong and potentially spreading it.
Since Hong Kong still has fairly low vaccination rates, especially among its elderly population, an outbreak here is a huge concern.
Booking a Quarantine Hotel in Hong Kong
So how does booking a quarantine hotel work in Hong Kong?
Unlike in some places where you're assigned a quarantine room when you arrive (i.e. mainland China), in Hong Kong, travelers find, book, and pay for their own quarantine hotel rooms.
While I enjoyed having the choice, it's also quite stressful trying to find a room due to the high demand. And if anything changes while you're abroad, you might get stuck (more on this later).
Designated Quarantine Hotels in Hong Kong
Currently in Hong Kong, the government releases a list of designated quarantine hotels every ~3 months. Using the approved list, residents must reach out to hotels to book a room - like you would for any sort of travel.
Luckily, family members are allowed to quarantine together in the same room provided that they arrive on the same flight together. Some of the designated hotels have suites or adjoining rooms, though those are harder to find.
Probably the worst part of the quarantine is the added expense to any trip. Because while I've heard of some companies offering quarantine hotel reimbursement as a perk, most of us just have to pay for it on our own.
My 2021 Travel Story
After reading the background section, hopefully you can understand a bit of the uncertainty surrounding travel in and out of Hong Kong at this point. Next, I'll share a bit about my most recent trip to the U.S., the planning that went into it, and how we dealt with some unexpected bumps along the way.
Planning a Trip out of Hong Kong
After quarantining at home in March 2020, I said I'd wait to travel until quarantine was lifted. Little did I know it'd still be going on over a year later!
So when things started looking up in June with restrictions loosening for vaccinated residents, we started talking about a trip to the U.S. to see our family. At the time, the U.S. was on the list of medium-risk countries. My husband Jeremy and I are both vaccinated and with the COVID antibody test, it seemed we'd be able to travel and only quarantine for 7 days. But we hadn't planned anything yet.
Then, at the end of June, my grandfather passed away and I wanted to attend his funeral to be with my family.
Last-Minute Trips Don't Work with Quarantine
As we scrambled to plan a last-minute trip, we realized that the designated quarantine hotels in Hong Kong were already booked through the end of August. This meant we wouldn't be able to return until at least September.
Since Jeremy couldn't take that many vacation days, we decided that I would travel to U.S. by myself. I'd be there in time for the funeral then live with my parents until he could join me later in the summer. So leaving Hong Kong, I knew I was in for a long trip.
Pro Tip: Due to high demand, quarantine hotels fill up quickly, so book your quarantine hotel early. If you book flights before you book a quarantine hotel, be sure that they're flexible tickets as it's likely you'll have to change them.
Tests Before Traveling to the United States from Hong Kong
COVID -19 Test (Required)
In order to travel to the U.S. from Hong Kong, all I needed was a negative COVID test within 72 hours before my flight. Luckily, Hong Kong has a bunch of COVID-19 Community Testing Centres, so I easily scheduled an appointment at one near my apartment.
This PCR test cost HK $240 (US $31) and the results came within 24 hours.
COVID-19 Antibody Test (Optional)
Since I'm vaccinated, I scheduled a doctor's appointment to get a COVID-19 antibody test. This test was supposed to mean I only had to quarantine for 7 days upon returning. to Hong Kong. Spoiler: It didn't turn out that way despite my thousands of antibodies!
The antibody test cost HK $450 (US $58) at my doctor's office.
Korean Airlines Flight - HK to US
Because it was cheaper with a better itinerary, I purchased a one-way ticket on Korean Airlines to the U.S. from Hong Kong with a 5-hr layover in Seoul.
When I checked in for the flight in Hong Kong, they reviewed my COVID test results and all was in order for me to fly. They also checked my documents again before boarding the flight in Hong Kong.
Airport Tip: If you're flying out of Hong Kong, be aware most shops + restaurants in the terminals are closed. So are the water fountains. Be sure to buy any snacks and/or water at the front before going to your gate.
Arriving in the United States
Upon arriving at Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC, did anyone ask for or look at my COVID test results? NOPE.
Instead, they asked questions about whether I was bringing gifts for people and made me feel super guilty when I said 'no'. Thanks a lot, Immigration officials.
Booking Our Hong Kong Quarantine Hotel
Fast forward a few weeks to the end of July when we could finally book our quarantine hotel.
When I'd left Hong Kong, the designated list of quarantine hotels only ran through the end of August. This meant, we couldn't book our hotel until the government released the new list at the end of July.
For someone who likes having things planned, it was stressful for me to wait for this list to come out. I already had an idea of where I wanted to stay and I really wanted to get it settled.
Booking The Kerry Hotel in Kowloon
As soon as the new list came out, Jeremy booked a 7-day quarantine package in a Deluxe Harbour View room at The Kerry Hotel in Kowloon. This quarantine package for 2 people cost HK $18,242 (US $2,345) and includes 3 meals per day.
The Kerry Hotel was my first choice for several reasons:
Second Choice Quarantine Hotel
If we hadn't gotten a room at the Kerry Hotel, we would have tried for a room at the Ovolo Southside which was our second choice. Although the rooms were not as large, they seemed well laid-out and most seemed to have open views. Plus, we heard the food was good.
Pro Tip: When booking a quarantine hotel, check out reviews on TripAdvisor and also the HK Quarantine Support Group on Facebook. You'll see very honest reviews and photos of travelers experiences, including which hotels to avoid due to mold, terrible food, etc.
Unexpected Trip Complications
After living with my parents for 1.5 months in the U.S., Jeremy joined me in mid-August. It was weird after spending SO much time together during the pandemic to be apart for so long. But probably also healthy!
However, shortly after he arrived, Hong Kong delivered a blow to our trip.
HK Reclassifies U.S. as High-Risk
In mid-August, when Hong Kong was announcing the changes I mentioned above, it also upgraded 15 countries to Group A - the high-risk category, including the U.S. What this means is:
This reclassification meant that everyone who'd made 7-day or 14-day bookings now needed to change their bookings to 21 days instead. With an already competitive quarantine room booking system, you can imagine how difficult it was to extend a booking.
Extending the Quarantine Hotel Stay
In fact, it was impossible to extend our initial reservation. Originally, we'd booked a harbour-view king room beginning on September 9. After the reclassification, the earliest we could get a 21-day reservation at The Kerry Hotel was October 1. Plus, all they had was a city-view twin room.
Although we checked at a few other hotels, the situation was fairly similar - all booked through September.
Remember when I said I liked things settled? Well, we went ahead and booked the room on October 1. Then, proceeded to freak out (with some tears on my part) about being stuck in the U.S. for 3 additional weeks.
Also, had to break the news to our cat sitter about the additional 5 WEEKS of our trip! (We were supposed to be out of quarantine on September 16, but now it wouldn't be until October 22.)
Cost of 21-Day Quarantine Package at the Kerry Hotel
The additional cost for the extra 14 nights in quarantine was HK $30,184 (US $3,880). This brought our total 21-day quarantine package cost at the Kerry Hotel to HK $48,426 (US $6,225). If we'd gotten the harbour view room instead of the city view, that cost would have been higher.
Although this seems like an insane amount of money to spend on 3 weeks in a hotel, we're stuck in here 24/7. Because we haven't traveled for ~2 years and we stayed with family during our trip to the US, we've built up savings in our travel fund.
To maintain our sanity, we decided to dip into these funds for quarantine at a luxurious 5-star hotel. After 18 days in quarantine, I'd say it's been worth it for me.
Extra Time Spent in the U.S.
Admittedly, these three additional weeks spent in the U.S. turned out to be wonderful. We spent wonderful time with family and friends we wouldn't have otherwise, including attending our friend's wedding which had been my reason for traveling to the U.S. back in March 2020!
Despite being so grateful for the extra time I had and for everyone who hosted us, the strain of being away from our home and our cats for so long wore on me. Since I'm a bit of a homebody, living out of suitcases and other people's homes for three months is not for me.
Changing Our Return Flight on Cathay Pacific
A couple weeks after re-booking our quarantine hotel for October 1, we finally changed our one-way return flight to Hong Kong. Initially, we kept checking to see if any quarantine rooms would open up earlier, but they never did.
Due to all the policy changes in Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong's airline) is super flexible about switching flights. That's one reason we booked with them in the first place. Also, we wanted a direct flight from the U.S. to Hong Kong to avoid any potential issues we'd run into with our documents during a layover.
Departure City Change
Although originally booked to fly out of New York's JFK, we ended up having to fly out of LAX - on the other side of the country in California!
Again, it seems like the universe gave us a silver lining. Because it worked out perfectly that we got to visit our friends that moved to Los Angeles this past year on our way back to Hong Kong. And one-way flights from Philadelphia to Los Angeles were super cheap - only US $150 on American Airlines!
Returning to Hong Kong from the U.S.
After 2.5 months of essentially living in various parts of the U.S. (for me), we were finally in Los Angeles, days away from our flight back to Hong Kong. Before we could leave, we had to complete a few key things.
PCR Test in Los Angeles
Before traveling, we needed a negative PCR test within 72 hours of our departure from LAX. In addition, Hong Kong requires that you use a testing site with a specific CLIA certification.
Pro Tip: Remember to go online and print out the CLIA certification from the testing site's website. You'll need 1 copy per traveler in your group to show upon checking in for your flight.
Helpfully, Cathay Pacific sent us a list of CLIA testing sites around Los Angeles that we could use. We ended up using one at LAX and I'd highly recommend it. Booking the appointment only was easy and many slots were available.
PCR Test at LAX
On the day of our appointment, we drove into the airport and parked in Garage 6, which is next to the testing location across from Terminal 6. Since we had an appointment, we showed the booking and walked right up. The whole thing took less than 15 minutes. I think it took longer to find a parking spot!
Since we chose the Fast PCR test, we received our (negative) results in 3-5 hours. It cost US $125 but seemed to be the same price as the 24-hour results test. Not sure why you'd choose the slower one.
Documents to Board Flight
Before heading to the airport, Jeremy emailed our documents to the Cathay Pacific representative at LAX to verify that we had everything we needed for our flight. We received a speedy response affirming that we were all set.
Below is a list of the documents we brought with us to the airport for our flight to Hong Kong.
Once at the airport, our check in went smoothly since we'd already ensured all our documents were in order.
Flight on Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong
As you can imagine, our flight on Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong was fairly empty. Jeremy and I had a row to ourselves and many passengers had a full row to themselves.
Many rows at the back of the plane were roped off, though I'm not sure why since it seems like spreading out more would have been better. Overall, it was a smooth flight without any delays.
What to Expect When Arriving in Hong Kong
Upon arriving in Hong Kong, things are much different than they used to be. Pre-COVID, I used to love arriving in Hong Kong. It was always quick and easy to get through immigration, collect our bags, then head home on public transportation.
This time, arriving in Hong Kong felt like a marathon, especially since we'd just gotten off a 14-hour flight. The whole process after landing and getting to quarantine takes several hours. Though really, why rush when all you have to look forward to is sitting in a hotel room for days?
Pro Tip: You will walk a lot upon arriving at the airport. Wear comfortable shoes and keep your carry-on luggage light and easy for you to carry/roll.
Arriving at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA)
Disembarking from the flight, staff and signs guided us to take the airport tram to the Midfield Concourse. This section of the Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) has been closed for flights and remodeled as a PCR testing and waiting area.
Document Review at HKIA
When we arrived at the testing area, staff reviewed our documents - the same ones checked before we left the U.S. They checked us in, and gave us a lanyard to wear around our necks throughout the process and until arriving at your quarantine hotel.
We also received a booklet about quarantine and a digital thermometer to check our temperature each day.
PCR Test and Waiting Area at HKIA
Once we got our noses and throats swabbed, we made our way to the waiting area, picked up some free snacks, then headed to our assigned seats.
It seemed like staff tried to seat family members together, but everyone has his/her own chair and desk spaced 1.5 m apart. Not sure what happens if you have small children.
Although I was concerned we'd have to stay in our seats, it seemed fairly relaxed. Some people got up to use the toilet, get more snacks/water, or just walked around waiting area to pass the time.
Negative PCR Test
After roughly 2 hours, a staff member came through telling us we were clear (our swab test was negative). At this point, we were allowed to go to Immigration and Baggage Claim. So we made our way back on the tram towards the front of the airport.
If someone's test comes back positive, that person is transported to a hospital in Hong Kong, even if asymptomatic. Then, close contacts of that person or anyone who sat near them on the plane are sent to a government quarantine site instead of hotel quarantine. This is standard procedure in Hong Kong.
Immigration and Baggage Claim
Despite all the extra steps, Immigration and Baggage Claim was roughly the same as usual. Except all the bags were already pulled from the conveyer belt.
Quarantine Hotel Shuttles
Once through Customs, however, instead of heading out to take public transportation or a taxi, you enter the queue to be checked in for transportation to your quarantine hotel.
Each shuttle drops off at several different quarantine hotels. Once you show your quarantine order, staff will tell you which queue to enter to wait for your shuttle. If you’re staying at the Regal Airport Hotel, I believe you might just walk there but can't say for sure.
Riding the Quarantine Hotel Shuttle
After a short wait, we boarded our quarantine shuttle. When we left the airport, staff hosed our luggage down with some spray - I assume a disinfectant. Then we boarded the shuttle and they loaded the bags.
Since I’d been away from Hong Kong for 2.5 months and knew it would be 3 weeks until I’d be outside again, I was delighted with the mini-tour of the city that our hotel quarantine shuttle provided us.
We arrived at The Kerry Hotel in Kowloon slightly before noon - six hours after touching down in Hong Kong.
All the Details on Kerry Hotel Quarantine
As I mentioned previously, we are completing our 21-day hotel quarantine at The Kerry Hotel, a 5-star hotel on the Hung Hom waterfront in Kowloon. Since we're almost finished, I can safely say I'd highly recommend it as a quarantine hotel.
Checking into Quarantine at the Kerry Hotel
As we arrived at the Kerry Hotel and piled out of the van with our many suitcases, we were greeted by a Kerry staff member. He helped us get a trolley and load it up with our suitcases.
From there, check-in was smooth and we made our way up to our room with our single-use key card.
After unloading our bags into the room, we left the trolley in the hallway (as instructed). Then closed the door to the room where (if all went according to plan) we’d remain for the next 21 days.
No Stepping Outside the Room
In case it's not clear, we are not allowed to step outside of our room for any reason. To do so, you risk being picked up and sent to the Penny Bay government quarantine center to fulfill the rest of your quarantine. Clearly, the rooms there will not be as nice as the ones in most quarantine hotels.
I've heard several stories in which someone walked out too far to put the trash out or retrieved something from the hallway and then was sent to Penny Bay. Lesson - be sure to keep your feet inside the room!
Our Quarantine Room at the Kerry Hotel
As I’d hoped, our room at the Kerry Hotel is spacious and the city view is beautiful, even though it’s not the harbour view I'd originally wanted.
Little conveniences around the room and excellent lighting make the room feel comfortable and luxurious. Plus, it's incredibly quiet – we rarely hear our neighbors or any outside noise. Somehow though, I miss hearing noise, so I end up playing music to combat the feeling that I’m in a void.
In addition to traditional amenities that you’d expect, such as a Nespresso machine, the Kerry also provided cleaning supplies, extra trash bags, extra toilet rolls, tissues, etc.
About our Quarantine Room
Since we’re in this hotel room 24/7 for 21 days, it’s a bit different than if you were to stay short term. Let me walk you through the room and highlight some of the things I've appreciated during our hotel quarantine.
The entryway nook by the door is great for storing shoes, recycling, and other things we don't want in the way. Then, it's all hidden from view by the wall while we're in the main room.
To help make it feel more like home, we unpacked our clothes into the small closet next to the entryway.
In addition to the wooden hangers which I assume are there all the time, the Kerry added some additional plastic hangers. These plastic hangers are useful for hanging shirts to dry after handwashing.
At the top of the closet is a shelf which I've been using to store cleaning products and other random things.
Next, we’ll move into the bathroom, which is spacious and stocked with bath products and convenient amenities, such as a hair dryer. I’ve appreciated how large the sink is many times, both for dishwashing and handwashing clothes.
Carpeted Main Room
Moving into the main room, the floor is carpeted which I'm sure helps keep the noise from neighbors down. Though clean, it has the inevitable staining that comes with having carpet in a hotel room. I'd guess it's gotten many stains since being used as a quarantine hotel.
Ironing Board + Hidden Cubby
Hidden in the wall between the entryway and the main room is a cubby containing the ironing board and iron. Although we don't use the iron often, the cabinet makes a great hideaway for extra linens and towels we received one day.
Pro Tip: Use the ironing board as a standing desk. Got this idea from someone on the HK Quarantine Support Group on Facebook. They set up the ironing board on the raised window ledge and set their laptop up on it. An excellent idea!
At the front of the room, you’ll find what I'm calling a “kitchen” nook. It holds the Nespresso machine, Nespresso pods, water bottles, and an electric kettle. If you run out of Nespresso pods or tea bags, they’ll provide more upon request (which we do every ~2 days).
In addition, there’s a mini-fridge stocked with a few sodas, beers, juices, and water. All of these items provided are free of charge, but they don’t restock the mini-fridge.
If you’re staying short-term at the Kerry, then you’d probably also appreciate the safe. Since we aren’t allowed to leave the room and no one else enters, we have no use for it. A microwave in that space would be much more helpful!
Floating Shelf and TV
On the wall of the main room is a large TV and a floating shelf where you’ll find the welcome packet, plus a set of real dishes and silverware for each person. This floating shelf is one of my favorite things about the room.
After we unpacked what we needed from our large suitcases, we shoved them under the shelf. Completely out of the way, it’s like they’re not even in the room! Plus a higher floating shelf is the perfect spot to display the bourbon we bought in the U.S. (left). Although it's gradually being overtaken by leftover fruit from our lunches.
Tip if staying at the Kerry Hotel: Be sure to read through the welcome pamphlet when you first arrive. It will give you all the details about quarantine procedures at the hotel, such as when garbage pickup is, when swab tests occur, etc. Plus, it contains the WhatsApp number for the Service Team and a QR code for the Kerry Konnects Facebook Group. I recommend joining the group to stay connected and see when people are leaving and giving away items like exercise equipment, washing machines, etc.
In the corner of the room is a decent-sized table with two comfortable chairs. It’s the perfect size for 2 people to either dine or work on their laptops at the same time. Plus, there are two outlets right beside the table and an ethernet wall jack.
Large Comfy Beds
As you may guess, the beds are what take up most of the space in the main room. According to the room type, we should have 2 twin-size beds. However, the beds are larger than a normal twin - closer to a full-size or double-bed.
Each one has 2 king size pillows – one firm and one soft down pillow. Super-comfortable and roomy, I think I may miss them when we go home!
Beside each bed, a nightstand holds a reading lamp, a light switch for a reading light in the ceiling, plus an outlet for charging in a small drawer. Again, everything is incredibly convenient.
Food in Kerry Hotel Quarantine
After reading horror stories on the HK Quarantine Support Group from various hotels, I was concerned what the meals would be like.
But TripAdvisor reviews on the Kerry Hotel were spot on. Overall, the food has been varied and delicious. Also, more plentiful than what I eat on a regular basis!
When Do We Eat Our Meals in Quarantine?
Each day, hotel staff leaves our meals outside our door on a small table. Then they knock and/or ring the doorbell to let us know it’s there. We wait until they walk away, then can open the door (with a facemask on) to lean out and grab the bags.
The time of day we receive our meals is determined by the floor on which we're staying at the hotel.
Our basic dining schedule is:
Since we don’t have a microwave, we've learned to eat the food as soon as it arrives. On our first Sunday in quarantine, we slept until 9am and then had to eat cold dim sum. Never again!
What are the Meals in Kerry Hotel Quarantine?
Although you don’t get to choose your meals for each day, the Kerry inquires about dietary restrictions and preferences before you arrive. This way, if you’re vegetarian or don’t eat certain foods, you can make sure to let them know.
Since Jeremy and I didn’t restrict the meals in any way, we’re getting the full range of meals. It’s been a great variety with lots of fruits, veggies, proteins, and plenty of bread. Honestly, it’s too much food for me to eat most days.
Each morning, we receive a menu with breakfast letting us know what to expect for the day. Unfortunately, our third week's meals seem to be a repeat of our first week's meals. Given how many of us are in 21-day quarantine, seems like they should have 3 weeks meal rotation!
Find All Our Meals
For a full line-up of our quarantine meals at the Kerry, check out my “HK Quarantine” story highlight on Instagram. There, you’ll see our detailed day-by-day activities, including each meal.
Waste in Hotel Quarantine
One of the very unfortunate things about Hong Kong's hotel quarantine is the amount of waste it is generating. We receive each meal in takeout containers that must be thrown out (or washed and re-purposed). Supposedly the containers being used at the Kerry are biodegradable, but at many of the quarantine hotels, they’re plastic.
Due to us basically being considered biohazards, the hotel won’t recycle any of our bottles, paper bags, etc. I’ve been collecting some of the things to recycle after we leave. Though as it piles up, I honestly have no idea how we’re going to manage it all in addition to our suitcases.
Laundry in Hotel Quarantine
If you need laundry done in quarantine, you have to do it yourself. Usually, this means hand washing it in the hotel sink. I brought a large container of Woolite in preparation, but the Kerry also provided some laundry detergent.
If you have a large family, you might consider buying one of the portable washing machines to put in your shower/tub. I've seen these being passed around on the Kerry Konnects Facebook group as people leave quarantine.
Cleaning in Hotel Quarantine
Since we don't get any housekeeping services for the duration of hotel quarantine, cleaning the room falls to us. Once we got to the Kerry Hotel, I purchased some Clorox wipes and a lint roller from ParknShop - a local grocery store.
I use the Clorox wipes for hard surfaces and the lint roller to "vacuum" the carpet and chairs. Won't say it's a deep clean or anything, but it helps keep the dust and hair build-up at bay.
Towels and Linens in Hotel Quarantine
Before arriving to quarantine, I thought we would have to use the same towels and linens for three weeks. I’m so happy to be wrong about that. At the Kerry Hotel, we receive fresh towels every 4 days and fresh linens every 7 days. Then, changing the linens provides a bit of a workout!
In order to avoid having old towels and linens pile up in the room, the Kerry provides water soluble bags in which to put the old ones. Then, you can leave them on the floor outside the room where they’ll be picked up each morning.
Hotel Quarantine Workouts
I’ll admit, last year when I quarantined at home after returning from the U.S., I don't think I worked out at all. By the time I left quarantine, I could feel how out of shape I’d gotten in those 14 days.
This year, I’m determined to avoid that mistake. Even brought a yoga mat with me from the U.S. in preparation.
My Sweat App Workouts
Last year, I subscribed to the Sweat workout app (paid subscription) which has a variety of workout programs on it. Many of these workouts can be done at home with minimal equipment. But there's a whole "zero equipment" program which is perfect for hotel quarantine.
Over the past couple weeks, I’ve noticed doing these workouts improves my mood and general restlessness during the day. Although I was pretty sore the first week!
Other Quarantine Workout Ideas
Many people in quarantine have bought treadmills, exercise bikes, etc. and gotten them delivered to their quarantine hotels.
Pro Tip: At the Kerry Hotel, these exercise machines circulate as people leave quarantine and advertise them on the private Kerry Konnects FB group. Check to see if your quarantine hotel has a private Facebook group where things might be passed along.
When we arrived, Jeremy bought resistance bands online from Decathlon and they were delivered within a couple days to the hotel. He uses a variety of resistance band workouts he's found by searching on YouTube.
COVID-19 Tests in Hotel Quarantine
Throughout quarantine, we'll undergo six COVID-19 tests in total:
Deep Throat Saliva Sample
The deep throat saliva sample is due on day 3. For this test, we spit into a tube then package and leave outside the door. It's collected by the Health Department and then we received a text the next day to let us know our results were negative.
Nasal & Throat Swab Test
During hotel quarantine, our only human interaction (besides each other) comes when it's time for our nasal and throat swab tests on days 5, 9, 12, 16, 19. Each time, I feel a bit like I'm in the movie, E.T. as Hong Kong Health Department staff come to conduct the tests with their air-sucking vacuum.
Then the next day, we receive a text letting us know the test is negative.
After we're out of quarantine (on day 26), we are also required to go to a community testing center for another nasal and throat swab test to fulfill our re-entry requirements.
What Happens if Test Result is Positive?
If one of our tests results comes back positive or inconclusive, that person would be sent to the hospital. Then, the other one of us would go to a government quarantine center for close monitoring. Luckily, all of our results have been negative so far.
Typical Day in Hotel Quarantine
After a few days in hotel quarantine, we’ve fallen into a routine which I've realized mirrors our normal routine at home.
Mornings in Hotel Quarantine
The day begins at 8am, which is now the time I set my alarm. No more cold breakfast! We open the shades and await our food with anticipation. Nothing has made me feel more empathy for my cats than the wait for that doorbell to ring with our meals.
After breakfast, we drink our coffee and begin working. Once I’m finished my coffee, I start one of my Sweat workouts. After working out, I shower, then hand wash some laundry in the sink.
Afternoons in Hotel Quarantine
By this time, it’s usually almost lunchtime. Eager anticipation begins anew. While eating lunch, I catch up on my late-night talk shows like The Late Show, The Daily Show, or LastWeek Tonight.
After lunch, Jeremy continues working. Meanwhile, I'm either blogging, reading, watching Netflix, or online grocery shopping.
Pro Tip: Although FoodPanda offers same day grocery delivery through Panda Mart, its products are limited. If you want the full-range of products, ParknShop is great but you might have to wait a couple days for your delivery.
At some point, Jeremy usually takes a break to work out in the afternoon. Then resumes working again into the evening.
On Tuesdays and Saturdays, we also have our nasal and throat swab test which can occur anywhere between 10am – 6pm. Although they came in the afternoon for all but the last of our tests.
Evenings in Hotel Quarantine
Some days we treat ourselves with a happy hour drink which we purchased from the grocery store.
On certain Fridays, the Kerry Hotel holds a virtual wine tasting from 4-5pm which costs extra but was a nice distraction. Unfortunately, it only happened once during our quarantine.
At night, we enjoy our dinner when it comes then watch Netflix and/or read until it’s bedtime. Then we sleep until we start all over again the next day.
Little Things that Made our Quarantine Better
Sometimes it's the little things in life that make the difference. Here are a few of the things I've been glad to have during our hotel quarantine.
Things Provided by The Kerry Hotel
Things We Brought with Us to Hotel Quarantine
Checking Out of Quarantine at The Kerry Hotel
Note: I've updated this section since the original post was published to finish up the quarantine story.
On day 21 of our quarantine, the Kerry staff called us to inquire about our checkout preferences. While technically you can leave at 12:01 am on day 22, we chose to stay until the next morning to get a full night's rest.
We scheduled our checkout time for 9:30 am. Since we had a lot of suitcases, we also scheduled a luggage pickup at 9:00 am. Right before 9am, we set our suitcases outside and a staff member came up with a trolley to get them and take them to the lobby.
Promptly at 9:30 am, a Kerry staff member knocked on our door and checked our quarantine order against her records on file. She confirmed that we were allowed to leave our room and officially discharged us from our quarantine.
Taking that first step outside of the room where we'd stayed for the last 21 days was quite strange yet liberating. Once in the lobby, staff called a taxi for us and then a short 30-minute ride later, we were finally home - after 3.5 months away (for me).
Final Thoughts on Hong Kong Hotel Quarantine
Although I never thought I'd be spending 21 days quarantining in Hong Kong and was dreading it, the experience so far has been quite manageable. What makes all the difference is the quarantine hotel.
After a few days, I started calling the Kerry Hotel our "luxury prison". Because even though we're stuck here like prisoners without fresh air, we've been treated so well. The room is beautiful, the staff are helpful and efficient, our view is lovely, and the food delicious. It's hard to ask for anything more - other than not having to quarantine in the first place!
Although not eager to ever do another 21-day hotel quarantine, I can say if I had to, I'd definitely want to do it at the Kerry Hotel.
Have you ever quarantined in a hotel either in Hong Kong or elsewhere? What was your experience like? Tell me in the comments!
Hong Kong Articles You Might Enjoy
Interested in what else to do in Hong Kong besides sit in a quarantine hotel? Check out some of my other Hong Kong articles:
I read a bit about your quarantine experience on social media posts. But ti was interesting to read all the details here. We are starting to plan some travel in 2022 and quarantine is still one of my worries if we test positive during our travels. It sounds like the Hong Kong experience was much better than many others I read about. Especially from those that got quarantined when they returned here to Toronto. The lack of availability for quarantine hotels is something that is definitely a factor to consider when making travel plans. You sure need to be a master planner to tick all the requirements when travelling these days.
I’m glad you found the quarantine experience in Hong Kong interesting, Linda. I didn’t realize that Canada had a quarantine at one point. Honestly, the quarantine experience in Hong Kong could go many different ways depending on how much money you have to spend on a hotel and also whether or not you test positive for COVID. If we’d tested positive, we’d have been sent to an isolation facility which was far less nice than our 5-star hotel! Luckily, everything went smoothly. We’re beginning to think of 2022 travel, but having to go through all this a second time, even if right now they say it’s only 7-day quarantine, is a little daunting.
Wow! Hong Kong takes COVID seriously! You went through a lot of testing. Your view, bathroom, and food look wonderful though, and that really helps with such a long quarantine. Mexico doesn’t have a quarantine, but we aren’t traveling until next year sometime. Hopefully things will be better by than.
It’s true – Hong Kong is still clinging hard to the zero-COVID strategy. We were lucky to be able to book such a nice hotel that made our quarantine much better. I hope your travels go smoothly next year.
This is a very informational post on your 21-day quarantine experience in Hong Kong. I think finding a big suite with great views and food is so important. And love that the one you selected was plenty big enough for workouts.
Thanks for reading, Karen! It’s funny that after working out in the quarantine hotel, my apartment feels much more cramped in comparison.
What a detailed post, great to know how HK protocols are. 21 days quarantine is quite long, especially not being able to breathe fresh air. Glad to know you are managing well and that’s a good hotel you’re staying.
Thanks for reading! The toughest part was indeed not having fresh air for that long. I’m not planning to sign up for another 21-day hotel quarantine anytime soon.
Becky, I don’t know if I could last for three weeks like this. At least the food was good!
It’s amazing what you can do when you don’t have another choice. I honestly dreaded it for months and thought I’d go crazy too, but luckily we managed quite well. But I think the hotel had a lot to do with it.
I found this post really interesting, Becky. So much useful information and detail about the whole process, not just of quarantine, but travelling as a whole in these strange times. It certainly seems like your choice of hotel was a good one and they were very well organised.
Thank you, Jane. I’m glad you enjoyed it! Since I hadn’t blogged in a few months, I felt I needed to share some of the backstory for how I ended up in the US for 3 months. It’s a cautionary tale for anyone thinking of leaving Hong Kong for a “short trip” since policies can change while you’re abroad and leave you stuck.
Wow Becky what a story!! And, this seems to be the way forward for traveling in a post-Covid world. Your hotels were so expensive, I’m sure this would put many off from traveling (knowing they’d have to quarantine). Anyway, I’m glad you’re both back in HK. On to the next adventure!
It feels like it’s been a crazy few months, Lisa! I’m not sure that I would’ve left Hong Kong if I’d known it would be a 21-day hotel quarantine. It was quite a hefty cost. So my next adventures will be Hong Kong-based! 🙂
Such an in-depth article Becky. I found it very interesting reading about how Hong Kong deals with returned travellers. Australia won’t allow us to travel yet but some states will soon be allowed to travel and return without quarantine (if you are fully vaccinated and have returned a negative test). WA still has zero cases so not sure when our border will open.
Despite being expensive, I’m sure the Kerry Hotel saved your sanity – 21 days locked in a room is crazy.
Thanks for reading, Wendy! It’s interesting to me that Australia can close its state borders. The US could never manage to do that and people are constantly traveling to other states and spreading the virus around. I’ll be interested how Australia begins to open up in the next few months.
I’ve been waiting for this post 😊 So fascinating to read about this difficult experience. I don’t know if I could maintain my sanity in your situation. You certainly made the best of it. I can only imagine your joy with that first breath of fresh air in few days!
It amazes me that I maintained my sanity too! I had my doubts. 🙂 And though quarantining at The Kerry Hotel made it manageable, I’m not necessarily looking to quarantine again anytime soon!
21 days is so long! We stayed 14 days in quarantine in New Zealand (I also have a post about it – https://travelbyexample.com/survivors-guide-to-managed-isolation-in-new-zealand/) and we barely survived, it felt forever! 🙂
21 days in hotel quarantine did feel like a long time! I read your post, Elena, and it’s fascinating to see the differences between New Zealand and Hong Kong’s quarantines. I think quarantining with children is much harder since you have to manage all that energy.
21 days sounds a nightmare. We did 10 days and the dog was in the kennels that was long enough.
A 21-day hotel quarantine certainly isn’t my favorite, but it hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be. We are lucky that we could pay for a nice hotel which made it better. And also lucky that our cats are at home (with a daily cat sitter visit) instead of in a kennel. Though I’m sure they miss us, they’re in their territory so still okay.
Well now, this is certainly a very detailed post about your experience. Sounds like your hotel was the saving grace. It is amazing how strict and somewhat overdone how Hong Kong is enforcing all these covid restrictions since you both have received your vaccines.
Bet you will be spending a lot of time outdoors in the next few weeks.
So true – I couldn’t believe how long it had gotten. Guess I had a lot of writing stored up over these past few months. It’s a shame that the govt is sticking so closely to the zero COVID model. It feels like they’re strangling the city. But once we get out, we don’t have to worry about getting COVID here which is kind of nice.
I’m hoping for plenty of outdoor activities and hiking in the next few weeks/months. It’s finally cooling down so the weather is perfect.
What a long and arduous journey, even before you arrived in quarantine. But it sounds like you all did lots of smart things in quarantine – workouts and wine! And unlimited coffee is the best. Glad you treated yourself to the lux quarantine!
A luxurious quarantine is definitely the way to go when you have 21 days straight in a hotel. The unlimited coffee alone might make it worth it!
This was a fascinating post. I really admire how you have not only managed to spend 21 days in the room (which we would have found incredibly difficult, even with virtual wine tasting!) but also how you’ve dealt with all the administration as well as the last minute changes to your plans throughout these months. And we’re sure your cats will be pleased to see you!
Thanks for reading, Mitch! It was certainly a challenge to deal with all the uncertainly, especially for me. It’s an element of stress that I won’t miss as Hong Kong travel returns to normal someday.