How to get from Hong Kong to Shenzhen, Guangzhou via high-speed rail

By David Flynn, September 21 2018
How to get from Hong Kong to Shenzhen, Guangzhou via high-speed rail

The new High Speed Rail line between Hong Kong and mainland China (sometimes also known as the Express Rail Link) connects the bustling metropolis to China's sprawling 25,000km network of high-speed rail lines.

One of the most attractive destinations for business travellers from Hong Kong will be the commercial hub of Shenzhen, along with Guangzhou, considered the heart of the Pearl River Delta manufacturing region.

The Hong Kong-China High Speed Rail link slashes the time those trips would usually take.

From Hong Kong to Shenzhen via the High Speed Rail service takes as little as 15 minutes, compared to at least 40 minutes via the more conventional East Rail regional line from Hung Hom.

Read: How to travel by train from Hong Kong to Shenzhen

The High Speed Rail line also whisks you from Hong Kong to Guangzhou in about one hour, depending on how many intermediate stops your train makes.

Catching the High Speed Rail from Hong Kong

The Hong Kong end of the High Speed Rail line sits at the futuristic West Kowloon station, handily located between the Kowloon (MTR and Airport Express) and Austin (MTR) stations.

Allow yourself plenty of time to get around this immense station, which was built solely for the new express train service: it's recommended you arrive at West Kowloon station at least one hour before your train is due to depart, as you'll also have to navigate airport-style security and immigration checkpoints.

(Also, the automated ticket machines and manned ticket offices stop selling tickets for any given train service 45 minutes before it departs.)

You can also download a special High Speed Rail app for Apple iPhone and Google Android devices for timetables, trip planning, advice on which station exit to use and other practical information.

Purchase your ticket at the ticketing concourse on level B1 – there are 39 machines and 23 staffed counters which accept Visa and Mastercard as well as the prepaid Octopus card, while the staffed counters also accept Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay.

After going through a luggage and security checkpoint, head down to level B3 for immigration clearance, then down to the platform at level B4.

Trains from West Kowloon to Shenzhen and Guangzhou depart between 7am and 11pm daily, with over 100 trains per day – meaning that one train zooms out of West Kowloon every 5-10 minutes.

Catching the High Speed Rail from Hong Kong to Shenzhen

The High Speed Rail link offers two stops at Shenzhen – Futian and Shenzhenbei (Shenzhen North) – but Futian is almost certainly the one you'll want.

Futian encompasses Shenzhen's central business district, and the station has direct connections to lines 2, 3 and 11 of the Shenzhen Metro.

You'll reach Futian within 15 minutes of departing from West Kowloon station, but note that only around half of all trains leaving West Kowloon stop at Futian.

Shenzhenbei, which is another 10 minutes beyond Futian, will more likely be your destination if you're changing to another intercity train service on China's high-speed network.

Note that if you don't hold a Chinese visa, there is no facility to obtain the special short-term 'Shenzhen visa' at Futian – you must have a Chinese visa before you board the train at West Kowloon station (indeed, you'll need it to pas through the station's Chinese immigration checkpoint).

This is different to the system in operation at the Hong Kong-Shenzhen border crossing of Lo Wu, where many travellers from Hong Kong step off the East Rail Line and take out a single-visit Shenzhen visa on arrival – so if you want to visit Shenzhen but don't have a Chinese visa in hand, you'll need to take the slow train.

Read: How to get a Shenzhen visa on arrival when visiting from Hong Kong

Catching the High Speed Rail from Hong Kong to Guangzhou

Guangzhounan (Guangzhou South) station – also known as New Guangzhou or Shibi station – is about one hour's travel from Hong Kong.

Situated 17km south of central Guangzhou, it's connected to Line 2 and Line 7 of the Guangzhou Metro.

Travelling on the 'Vibrant Express' from Hong Kong

The MTR's sleek Vibrant Express bullet train darts between Hong Kong and Guangzhou via Shenzhen, Guangmingcheng, Humen and Qingsheng, at 200km/h between Hong Kong and Shenzhen and then up to 350km/h in mainland China.

The first class carriages have amply-padded seats in a 2-2- layout – although there's a cosy 1-2 'mini cabin' just behind the driver's compartment – with each seat boasting a footrest, seat table and individual AC sockets.

The second class carriages are a little more spartan (although they look better and brighter than first class), with a 2-3 seating layout, no footrest or table and a shared AC socket – but for the short sprint to Shenzhen or Guangzhou this is more than sufficient.

Every Vibrant Express passenger gets free WiFi, although the Great Firewall of China may stop you from sharing high-speed railway snaps on social media.

In addition to the overhead luggage shelf running above the seats, there are luggage racks at either end of each carriage.

AC power outlets include a local Hong Kong socket plus a multi-pin international socket, in case you don't have your own adaptor at hand.

Other mainland China bullet trains also appear on this route, with business class and premium class cabins, but the Vibrant Express is the newest and most frequent (the High Speed Rail app's timetable indicates which services run on the Vibrant Express).

At the time of writing, a first class ticket on the Vibrant Express train from Hong Kong to Shenzhen (Futian) costs around HK$125 (A$22) with a second class ticket at HK$78 (A$14).

A first class ticket on the Vibrant Express train from Hong Kong to Guangzhou (Guangzhounan) costs HK$371 (A$65) with a second class ticket at HK$247 (A$43).


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.

By far the most convenient and cost effective way of commuting between HK & Mainland. The ERL is painfully slow and often crowded.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Mar 2014

Total posts 217

ERL will not be missed.

22 Sep 2018

Total posts 1

For Guangzhou it needs to be factored in that Guangzhou South is an hr south of the city. The ¥100 taxi (or 1 hr subway ride) to downtown makes it less convenient and cost effective.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1377

Any idea whether they will grant 144-hr TWOVs at the immigration desks.

Eg. HSR Hong Kong to Shanghai, flight Shanghai to Sydney.
Seems possible in reverse.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Sep 2018

Total posts 153

I regularly commute from Hong Kong to Shenzhen. The real perk of taking the high-speed rail is to actually have a seat. On the ERL, it is often crowded and you are left without a seat unless you board in Hung Hum. Not an issue with the rail, faster commute times, ability to work on a laptop while seated is great. Much more comfortable than the hard seats on ERL.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Oct 2015

Total posts 27

The idea of 55 minutes from Kowloon West to GZ is pure fantasy. Sure that's the train time, but instead of arriving at GZ East in the centre of the city, the new GZ South station is about 40 minutes away, so there's little saving compared to the old "high speed" very comfortable 2 hour trip. Add to that the incredible process of passing though all the ticket, baggage check, security and 2 immigration points, you end up exhausted before you even board the train. With no airport style check in baggage you (and hundreds of Chinese,) all drag your bags through interminable checks, 1. Ticket for travel no more than hours time. 2. ticket and passport check. 3 electronic ticket scan. 4. baggage screening. 5 HK immigration 6. Chinese area baggage scan 7. Chinese immigration (no Chinese entry card so sent off to find one and then back of the queue again.)

Finally reach the waiting area then join huge queue to board when tickets checked again.... door to door allow 3 to 4 hours, and take a water bottle with you!

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