**As I was writing this post I read that the cable car will be under construction for about five months starting January 2017. Please check their website to make sure it’s running before planning your trip.
My last trip to Hong Kong was my third time visiting the small country. Yet I still hadn’t made it to Tian Tan Buddha. Both times previously it was the same excuse: it’s too far out of the way. The Buddha statue is about an hour away from the city, right next to the airport. And unless you plan your trip to the Buddha on your way in or out of the airport, the statue seems too far especially with everything you can do within the city, but the beauty of the Buddha and surrounding monastery is well worth the trek.
While I was there I figured out some key tricks to getting yourself to the Buddha and monastery that I wanted to share with you all so that you can get the most out of your trip.
As a note, I did go to the Big Buddha on New Year’s Day, I would assume that this represents one of the worst times to go, outside of Chinese New Year, and would doubt the lines at the gondola are this bad normally. Also it was an incredibly clear day, I’ve read that its usually foggy and thus the view isn’t as nice, but the first of the year was as sunny as it could be.
My best tips to getting to the Tian Tan Buddha (Big Buddha) in Hong Kong, especially in a short time:
- Take the MRT to Tung Chung station on Lantau Island. Expect this to take about an hour if you’re coming from the Kowloon side of Hong Kong.
- I highly recommend taking the Ngong Ping 360 (Cable Car or Gondola) up to the Buddha, especially if it’s a clear day, but there are also buses that go to the top, my following tips are for the cable car. After you scan out of the subway, go left towards the mall and then walk left around the mall, away from the huge staircase. I got very lost because the signs just disappear as soon as you exit the MRT station. The line for reserved tickets will be in front of you but you have to cross the street for the line to purchase tickets.
- Don’t reserve tickets for the cable car ahead of time. The line to pick up reserved tickets was easily twice as long as the line to buy tickets (estimated at an hour and a half) and they had more windows open to buy tickets. It took me about 30 minutes to buy a ticket. Tickets currently are HK 165 (about $24 USD). The bus is much cheaper at about 3 USD.
- Once you buy a ticket you will be put in another line to get on the cable car. If you are alone, or you’re okay with splitting up with your group, as soon as you’re put in this line find someone working and tell them you are a single rider. They will move you to the front and put you in the first car with one empty space – saving you about a half hour of waiting.
- Enjoy the views on your way up to the Buddha. If you look closely you can see waterfalls in the mountains’ crevasses.
- Walk up to the 268 steps to the top of the Buddha- and don’t be like me and bring your luggage with you. If you are coming from the airport or going to the airport, you can leave your stuff at the luggage storage before you get on the cable car. There’s a storage place next to the taxi stand underneath the area where you buy your tickets and one in the mall in front of you when you walk out of the MRT (Citygate Outlets).
- When you come back down- make sure again to utilize that single riders line, just walking past the entire line until you find an employee. When I left it was 5:45, the cable car stops running at 6:30 and the estimated waiting time was an hour an 45 minutes. I got on in less than 5 minutes. Many people around me were opting to take the bus back (even that had a 15 minute line), assuming they wouldn’t make it onto the cable car before it closed.
- If you’re headed back to city, jump back on the MRT. Or if you are going to the airport you can either grab a cab or uber back (there’s Wifi at the cable car station to call an uber) or you can take the bus (Line S64 to the right of the exit of the cable car). Its about a 10 minute car ride or a 25 minute bus ride to the airport. I opted for the bus, just because I had the time and it was cheaper.
- In all you could do this trip in less than 4 hours starting and ending at the cable car station, 5 hours starting and ending in central Hong Kong. If you had a 8 or 9 hour layover in Hong Kong Airport you could make it there and back with enough time, 7 hours would be cutting it close. Since the Buddha is so close to the airport and so far from the city I highly recommend you do go before going to the airport or flying in. To give you a rough estimate of how long the whole trip took for me I’ve mapped out my timeline below (again keep in mind this was a BUSY weekend also without the single rider line, there’s no way I would have made my flight):
1:50pm left my hotel to take the MTR to Tung Chung
3pm Arrived at cable car ticket booth
3:40pm Bought ticket and was getting onto cable car
4:05 Arrived in Ngong Ping Village
4:05 to 5:45 Walked to top of Buddha, took a ton of photos and videos.
5:45 Got onto cable car to leave
6:10 Arrived back at Tung Chung
6:40 Arrived at Hong Kong International Airport
8:20 Boarded my 8:50pm flight home
Disclosure: Things change and while everything on this page is accurate to my knowledge, I cannot be held responsible if you miss your flight because of unforeseen circumstances.