Hong Kong hotel lends guests a smartphone with free calls, data

By David Flynn, April 28 2016
Hong Kong hotel lends guests a smartphone with free calls, data

Now that we've moved from maps to apps, and embraced social media as the easiest way to connect with family and friends when travelling, smartphones have been upgraded to almost must-have kit on overseas trips.

Affordable roaming deals such as Vodafone's $5/day plans have taken the sting out of staying in touch, but Hong Kong-based Marco Polo Hotel group has come up with a novel alternative: guests at any of its three harbourside properties are handed a free  smartphone to use during their stay.

It may be a relatively basic Android model but it comes with unlimited 3G data and unlimited local calls (plus free calls to China, the Philippines, Japan, the USA and the UK).

You can also fire up the device's 3G-to-WiFi mode to create a hotspot which your own non-roaming smartphone or tablet can tap into.

The phone comes with popular apps including Google Maps, Skype, Facebook, Twitter and WeChat, along with a handy currency converter and translator, and of course you can easily connect to your GMail account with a few taps.

You can also load your own choice of apps from the Google Play app store – just be sure to remove them or wipe & reset the entire smartphone before you check out of the hotel!

Also loaded for your convenience: a guide and trip planner for Hong Kong's MTR metro system, visitor guides, links to activities such as city tours and special offers for shopping and dining.

All up, this is a pretty great set of apps for the traveller, although the phone itself is a tad slow when it comes to loading and switching between apps.

People can also dial your smartphone to ensure that no important business calls are missed while you're out and about.

The on-loan smartphone is available to guests at Marco Polo's HongJong Hotel, Gateway Hotel and Prince Hotel, all of which are located in Tsim Sha Tsui's Harbour City complex on Canton Road.

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Jun 2014

Total posts 37

This is in no way exclusive to Marco Polo. It is now the norm in Hong Kong. Nearly all 5 star hotels in Hong Kong offer this - for example the Grand Stanford Intercontinental and Hotel Icon - to name two I have used. Users just need to be prepared to sign their life away for more than the cost of the phone if they use it, and I doubt travel insurance would cover you. Personally, I'd pay the personal roaming fee deal with my provider.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Feb 2014

Total posts 144

I've had it at W hotel and shangri-la 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Dec 2011

Total posts 11

Yes, I agree with davar98, it's pretty much a standard for 4* and 5* hotels in Hong Kong these days, it takes out the needs for travellers to get mobile or internet plan first thing they arrive...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 May 2015

Total posts 19

Just to add to the list, I've also had it at Cordis (used to be Langham Place).  I wasn't asked to pay or sign anything special to use it.

08 Aug 2013

Total posts 14

Same at the Intercontinental Grand Stamford

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Apr 2016

Total posts 5

Have also recently stayed at the Sofitel in Macau and had access to a free phone. Was a handy tool to have. I was travelling with family across 3 seperate rooms. It super easy to get in touch when everyone was off doing there own thing. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Jan 2015

Total posts 72

I've also had it at Hotel ICON @ TST East/Hung Hom.

08 Aug 2013

Total posts 14

Hey that's the same one i stayed at when i was visiting some relatives back in September. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Jan 2013

Total posts 241

It's a nice feature and (despite what their PR team may have told you,) it is not that new. I've used similar services in Seoul and Teipei a few years ago. It was so useful, not only for everything noted here but also for using them like intercoms to stay connected with my co-worker.

Call me Sir Buzz Killington, but I'm always skeptical when I read 'free unlimited data'. It must be only a matter of days now until a guest tries to download a whole season of GoT, it won't work cause it's a mobile and they'll run down to reception to make a scene of biblical proportions. 

I don't know why Aussie hotels don't offer this service.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Oct 2013

Total posts 704

I know why...

Aussies think haha it's free lets download GoT and then the hotel gets a $500 bill from the Telco.

In Hong Kong unlimited data can be had for a few dollars (AU$) a day which allows them to offer this service to customers.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Jan 2013

Total posts 131

I have had it at the Intercontinental and the Hyatt Regency HK TST too

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Jun 2011

Total posts 70

Not just Hong Kong - The Holiday Inn Atrium in Singapore offers Handy as well, So it is around a bit.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Mar 2014

Total posts 220

Crowne Plaza at Causeway Bay has been offereing phones for  years now for local calls etc. It is handy to grab one to give the other half to find out where my plastic card is having a meltdown.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Jun 2015

Total posts 24

Cosmopolitan Hotel Wanchai had it. We only used it for the wifi hotspot and calls! Excellent idea and was super helpful for what we used it for. It did cut out when we went to the mainland for obvious reasons. Found the battery didn't last all day though. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Mar 2014

Total posts 569

The Butterfly group also do this. I looked at staying there, I believe they're 4 star.

10 Sep 2014

Total posts 1

The 4* Eaton Hotel (Langham Group) on Nathan Road has had them for a few years.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2553

Good feedback on other hotels with this, but just to clarify: we've never claimed this was exclusive to the Marco Polo hotels, it's just a feature of the hotel which we chose to write up after a recent stay there. The more hotels offering this or similar, the better! :)

17 Jun 2011

Total posts 65

In fairness the title says 'Hong Kong hotel' singular as well as 'Hong Kong-based Marco Polo Hotel group has come up with a novel alternative' insinuating no other hotel has this product.

29 Mar 2014

Total posts 79

It's been around for a long time at the Hyatt Hong Kong.

British Airways Executive Club Gold

25 Jun 2015

Total posts 21

Charterhouse Causeway Bay also offer this. 

17 Jun 2011

Total posts 65

I used one of these phones over Chinese NY as a guest of the Intercontinental HK - I was sceptical at first but used it for data as well as tethering for my partner and had no issue over 5 days of serious data usage. I think on day 5 we got a data usage warning but never had an issue.


08 Jun 2015

Total posts 2

I also enjoyed this service at the hotel Icon. Great HTC unit with unlimited data and calls. Good story but it's been around for years already.  

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Sep 2011

Total posts 7

I had the same in London at Montcalm London (Marble Arch)

These phones have been in the ICON hotel for many years. It is about being a market leader that had them in the ICON first. When I first stayed there, that was one of the first things introduced to you by th ehotel staff. That and the free mini bar. That is right, they had a free mini bar. So it was often I sat there at night having a free mini bar beer and using their cell phone. It was also super handy to find places around HK.

Good Hotels have Good Equipment and Service. This is what I have found with my nearly 20 years on international travel on my own dime......

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 Apr 2016

Total posts 4

Mira in kowloon.  Another hotel that has been doing this for years (and more).

So why highlight Marco Polo?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Jan 2015

Total posts 2

This is not new but rather a very common service provided by 4-5 star hotels in HK.

Personally I do not like Marco Polo (I have stayed both Gateway and Prince before) the rooms are smaller and it is right above the Harbour City which are usually packed with shoppers and tourists, fair bit walk to Tsim Sha Tsui Station as well (through Haiphong Rd which are pretty much packed 24/7).

My personal favourite hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui in The Langham on Peking Road, much bigger suites and best concierge staff I have seen.

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