Immigration Hell

Don’t you hate waiting in line at immigration in a foreign country? How about waiting in line for more than 3 hours just to cross the border with a million other people? Well, this happened to me on one trip and is something I never want to experience again, ever.

I had completed a business trip to Dongguan in China the week before Christmas of 2012. I thought it would be nice to spend a couple of days in Hong Kong and come back to Singapore just in time for Christmas. So on a Saturday before Christmas, I took a bus from my hotel in Dongguan to Shenzhen since this was a cheaper option and the hotel told me it would take about 2.5 to 3 hrs to cross into Hong Kong. The more expensive option is to take a ferry and it takes about the same time as the bus.

After changing a couple of buses, since Chinese vehicles are not allowed to drive into Hong Kong, I got into a Hong Kong registered mini-van with several other Chinese who were going into Hong Kong. As we approached Shenzhen Bay immigration centre, the traffic jam of cars and passenger vehicles had already stretched into the main road. After a 1 hr wait in the jam, the driver told me that it would be faster if I got off and go through the immigration on foot. After all the mini-van would drop me off at the bus station after the immigration and was continuing on to the airport. So off I went with my luggage in tow. The other Chinese stayed on the mini-van as they were going to Hong Kong airport to take a flight. I wondered if they missed their flight.

At the immigration hall, I was greeted with the sight of probably a million Chinese trying to cross into Hong Kong for Christmas! First, I had to clear Chinese immigration, this took about 30 minutes since the Chinese authorities  just opened the gates and let us through in batches. Now the chaos started at the Hong Kong immigration which seem very strict in letting anyone through. All of us were funneled into a single queue. And although there were probably 10 immigration counters open, the checking process was really slow.

This is the start point after clearing Chinese immigration. There is no queue at this point, everyone is just being pushed forward and funneled into a single line. The Hong Kong immigration counters are right at the end of the room. It took 3 hrs just to cover the distance.
This is the start point after clearing Chinese immigration. There is no queue at this point, everyone is just being pushed forward and funneled into a single line. The Hong Kong immigration counters are right at the end of the room. It took 3 hrs just to cover the distance.

It took me 3 hrs just to get to an immigration counter and get my passport chopped with a Hong Kong entry permit. During this time, I was dragging my luggage and had no toilet breaks, since if I got out of my place, I won’t be able to squeeze back in again. It was a mind numbing 3 hrs shuffling forward every few minutes, listening to the Chinese grumbling about the wait, babies crying and getting cramps and backaches because there was no where to sit down.

After this ordeal, I was too tired even to grab a bite even though the time was already past 2.30pm and all I had was breakfast. I went to the bus and sank into the cushioned seat for the ride into Hong Kong. All in all, I left my hotel in Dongguan at 8.30am and arrived at my hotel in Hong Kong past 4.00pm. It’s times like this that I wished I had my APEC card then, since Hong Kong residents and APEC card holders could go through the express counters and skip the queue.

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