What it's like to be in a 21-Day Hotel Quarantine in Hong Kong

When we left for Japan in mid-December last year, the Hong Kong government had just announced that they would require all returnees to quarantine in a hotel for 14 days. Who knew that a few days later, that number would be upped to 21 days and has remained in force ever since. The 21-day hotel quarantine in HK is one of the longest and strictest in the world, and while we debated and considered our options, ultimately we decided to come back.

Flying in from Japan was easy - there are different entry requirements depending on which country you're flying in from and since Japan is in Group Cwe didn't need to present a negative Covid test result. After landing in HK, we went through a maze in the airport terminal where we got documented and tested - much like our experience back in October when we came back from Greece. Except this time, it was much more efficient. Instead of waiting for 10+ hours at the airport or having to wait overnight in a hotel for our Covid test result, we waited for around 4 hours at the airport. Basic sandwiches, crackers and water were provided during the wait. Once we got our negative test result, we collected our luggage and boarded a complimentary shuttle bus to our quarantine hotel.

Unlike some other places like China or Singapore, you can choose your own quarantine hotel from a designated list depending on your budget. Choosing where you will spend 21 days in quarantine is arguably the most important decision you will make on your journey to HK and here are some things to consider:

1) What is most important to you - the size of the room, the quality of the food, windows that can be opened, having a balcony, etc. For example, we chose a hotel with wooden floors because it would be easier to clean than a carpet.

2) Some hotels allow outside food delivery while others don't, and the location of the hotel can affect what kind of deliveries will be available to you. For example, if you chose a hotel close to the airport, the delivery choices will be vastly fewer than someone staying in Causeway Bay.

3) Most hotels are required to include 3 meals in the quarantine package. While some hotels have their own kitchen, some do not which means food can arrive lukewarm. If you can, it's best to bring something to warm up the food (but you may have to check if your hotel allows a microwave). I would also recommend bringing your favorite seasonings like hot sauce to spice things up.

4) Exercising regularly is important. While you can always bring your own, some hotels offer exercise equipment for rent as well.

5) Some people opt to stay in hotels with worldwide loyalty programs like Marriott Bonvoy.

6) Plastic waste can be a problem. Our hotel delivered the food in plastic containers with disposable plastic utensils 3 times a day. While you can't do much about the food arriving in plastic containers, consider bringing your own set of utensils. Bottled water is also provided but you can always bring your own water filter jug as well.

7) Lastly, join the "HK Quarantine support group" on Facebook where there is a wealth of information from honest reviews on the quarantine hotels to practical advice from people who are traveling to HK from all around the world.

What It's Like: J and I quarantined at Nina Hotel Island South. While we could have stayed in one room together, we got 2 interconnecting rooms for more space. Each room was 30 sq meters - a decent size for the price. The room was a bit dated but still acceptable while the bed and sheets were pretty comfortable. We converted one of the rooms into an office and gym while the other served as our bedroom and dining area. We had requested extra tables and chairs before our arrival and they were already in the room when we checked in. 

Food was served 3 times a day in disposable plastic containers. You can choose from 4 types of menu - Standard, Vegetarian, Halal and Healthy. I chose the Standard menu which comprised mostly of Chinese dishes with a big portion of rice while J chose the Healthy menu which had more Western food like salads and pastas. Unlike some other hotels, the menus were already set so we didn't have to choose what we wanted to eat each day. The food was edible (not bad actually if I'm being honest) and arrived piping hot most of the time. It did get a bit repetitive since the menus repeated itself on a weekly basis.

Outside deliveries are allowed and I was very impressed with how fast the hotel delivered our care packages up to our room. One minute I got a text from a friend telling me that she had just dropped something off at the front desk, and the next minute our doorbell rang with the goodies at our door already. Service was generally pretty good and accommodating.

On the 12th and 19th day of our quarantine, staff members from the Center for Health Protection came to our hotel to test us for Covid-19. We sat in the doorway of our room while the staff performed nasal and throat swabs - I am quite glad that they didn't use the deep nasopharyngeal nasal swab...or the anal test for that matter. After the 19th day, we received our test results via text message on our mobile phones. Our tests came back negative and we were cleared to leave our quarantine room at midnight on the 21st day. Woohoo!

Being cooped up in a hotel room for 21 days was no easy feat and I was lucky to be able to do that with J together. We're used to spending lots of time together anyways and this gave us an opportunity to catch up on movies that we've been meaning to watch. I can't imagine having to do such a long quarantine alone and my best advice for those travelers would be to join the WhatsApp support group for your hotel if there is one - you can find information about these groups in the Facebook group I mentioned above. Thank you for reading about our journey and feel free to reach out if you have any questions!

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