Header image courtesy of MarbellaStudio (via Shutterstock)
Hong Kong has the longest and most stringent quarantine requirement in the world, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Starting from 1 April, the quarantine requirement for inbound travellers will be reduced, and we can rejoice in returning to a semblance of normalcy.
However, spending between seven and 14 days in a hotel in isolation can be hard for anyone, and while we cannot change the rules, we can change how we approach them. If you are planning to travel—whether to visit family or just finally take a holiday after being locked in for over two years—here is your ultimate guide on how to survive quarantine in Hong Kong.
Before you do anything else, join the HK Quarantine Support Group on Facebook, a collection of almost 80,000 people undergoing the same thing as you, and an incredible platform for resources, information, and general support as you slog through quarantine. Most hotels also have their own WhatsApp groups, which provide information on everything from food and Covid-19 testing to rentable workout equipment and happy hours.
You can experience great benefits from connecting with those undergoing the same situation, and this can help you find solace during your daunting stay. Our article will focus on essential items to bring and what to do during this experience.
With the new regulations coming into effect for inbound travellers, there has been a surge in quarantine hotel bookings. For availabilities, the Hong Kong government has collated the Booking Status of Designated Hotels for Quarantine, although the information listed is only for availabilities up till July. It is best to reach out to the hotels directly for the latest updates.
If you are working during quarantine, consider yourself lucky! Work helps the day go by quickly. Especially since most people have been working from home over the last two years, it is an easy enough transition to work from a hotel room. Still, to make this experience easier and more comfortable, there are some things you can buy, rent, or prepare in advance.
First, ensure that your hotel has good Wi-Fi, and if not, carry or borrow a LAN cable, or get an unlimited plan on your phone to use as a hotspot. It will be essential not just for your conference calls, but also for your relaxation time as well.
If you are doing the full 14-day hotel quarantine rather than opting for early discharge, it is worth getting a monitor or an HDMI cable to connect your laptop to the television. A keyboard and mouse can also replicate the experience of working on a desktop computer.
Some tables can be too low to work on, so you can buy or rent a standing desk, or DIY your own. People have used stools, ironing boards, or even their suitcases to make their desks a bit higher. If you have back issues and enough space, you might be able to get a chair delivered. Some hotels may also be willing to remove a chair from the room to make space.
While seven to 14 days are not as long as 21 days, food can still make the experience exponentially better or worse. Most hotels are offering a couple of different options, such as vegetarian or healthy meals, along with standard meals, so that you are able to get some variety. Be sure to check if you can change your food options regularly.
Foodpanda and Deliveroo are going to be your best friends if the food in the hotel is not to your liking. Since they are currently offering a subscription for free deliveries and discounts, do consider subscribing as the delivery fees can add up quickly.
Don’t be afraid of spoiling yourself—a small treat can truly make your day. If you love coffee, bring your French press or Nespresso machine, or get your favourite teas or fruits delivered or dropped off by a friend. Wellcome, ParknShop, Marketplace, and other supermarkets also deliver, in addition to Pandamart.
Also prepare condiments such as ketchup, mayonnaise, soy sauce, and Sriracha, as they can transform a meal. Salt and pepper can make a huge difference, but you can ask the hotel if they can provide some. If you plan on cutting fruits, you may need to bring a small knife.
If possible, a home-cooked meal from a partner, family member, helper, or friend is a delight to break up the monotony of hotel food, so don’t say no if someone offers—you can pay them back with a meal or a drink after quarantine. You can also ask them to deliver goodies—chocolates, biscuits, cakes, whatever your heart desires!
Another thing that will help keep you sane is incorporating some sort of movement into your daily routine. While running on the treadmill for an hour is not necessarily everyone’s form of exercise, there are a number of things you can try to incorporate into your day-to-day to feel like you have moved, and also to feel hungry enough to eat.
Depending on the space you have, a yoga mat is highly recommended, as it can be used for a number of different exercises. It is also worth buying quick-drying workout equipment, because washing up gets really tiring. YouTube is your friend, as you can find everything from yoga to dance exercises to core cardio. Some of the most famous and popular ones include Yoga with Adriene and The Fitness Marshall, if you are looking for inspiration!
You can also rent exercise equipment from your hotel or from outside—ask your hotel for more information. Some rentable exercise equipment includes treadmills, stationary bicycles, weights, TRXs, and steppers, to name a few. If you think you will use them long after your hotel quarantine, you could consider exercise items for your home or outdoors as well—HKTVmall, Taobao, and Decathlon have good options. It’s worth the investment!
And of course, you need ways to entertain yourself. While a number of people tend to work during the day, evenings and weekends can become quite hard in isolation. Set up situations that can help you remain entertained.
Watching television shows and movies on your laptop for one to two weeks can result in a neck cramp! Most hotels have TVs, so you can take advantage of that and bring a Chromecast, Firestick, or Apple TV for your entertainment set-up.
Bring along some books, either hard copies or on your Kindle, as reading can be one of the fastest ways to eat up your free time. You can also ask a friend to pick up and deliver some second-hand books from one of these shops.
Also, do ensure you are not spending ridiculous amounts of time on social media. While a 30-minute scroll on Instagram can be entertaining and make you laugh, going too far down the rabbit hole can leave you feeling like you are missing out on all the fun.
Another great outlet during quarantine is the time and freedom to create! Whatever DIY project has been on your mind, this is the best time to get it started. Whether it’s practising an instrument, creating art, or even writing a book, this is an unparalleled opportunity to give it a go. Ask a friend or family member to deliver arts and crafts materials from these stores, which will get you prepared and exciting to get creating.
If artistry is not in your realm of expertise, you can always also use existing things to exercise that creativity. Colouring books, puzzles, and games are great ways to spend time and feel productive. You might even consider recording your progress on timelapse to share with friends and family. What an accomplishment!
If you have kids, it’s double the trouble. Arts and crafts would be a great way to spend the time, with washable paints and science kits making for fun projects. You can also make use of a whiteboard by using markers to draw, write, and trace on.
Depending on the age of the kids, you can also ask for extra pillows and blankets to make forts. If you have a view of the city, spend some time watching what happens outside the room, creating fun stories about the people or vehicles you see. You can also play through make-belief, and make chores fun and enjoyable with a bit of imagination.
While each hotel provides different basics for cleaning, some things are useful for keeping the room tidy and liveable. First, you can get a small vacuum cleaner or stock up on wet wipes to pick up dust and hair, and also clean table surfaces after eating.
If your stay is longer and you need to clean dishes and utensils, liquid detergent and a sponge can be helpful. You will also need to wash your own clothes, so either bring enough that you do not need to do laundry or bring a small washing tub along with washing powder. Pro tip: Washing your clothes while in the shower makes life a lot easier. As for drying your clothes, try and find the air vent in your room to ensure the fastest drying.
Carrying hangers can also help you dry your clothes faster.
Finally, to make it through these seven to 14 days, it’s important to listen to yourself and indulge in self-care! Some small habits that make the experience easier include following a routine, such as making your bed, showering every day, and squeezing in physical activity.
However, if you are unable to do as much as you had hoped, exercise as much as you had planned, or work as productively as you had imagined, be kind to yourself. Quarantine is an incredibly difficult thing to go through, so make sure to put yourself first.