By Mart van de Ven

Three weeks of percolating in a hotel room is now the price of admission or re-admission to the city. So how can you keep yourself from going steaming mad? We’ve compiled tips and resources you’ll need to survive – nay! dare we say, thrive – during a mandatory sojourn in splendid isolation.


Before coming to Hong Kong

With a bit of planning and care, you’ll remember why, once upon a time, people stayed in hotels voluntarily.

Photo: Facebook screenshot.

1. Join a support group

No, really, even if you genuinely don’t have a problem! The HK Quarantine support group is a fabulous chronicle of all the wisdom and woes of the thousands of travellers who have gone before you. Use search to find reviews, tips, and posts relevant to you.

2. Book your stay

A gift is only as good as the box it comes in. Heed those words when shopping for a box in which to receive the gift of quarantine! The restricted list of 36 hotels was published in an unsightly PDF. Thanks to Grégoire Tavernier however, it’s now also available as a crowd-sourced and crowd-pleasing spreadsheet. The sheet lists all the potential rooms by type, rate, size, and more. Use filters to narrow down the selection to your budget and preference. Then head over to the support group for reviews of those options with pictures.

Also:

  • Confirm the cancellation terms – some hotels are dancing around the terms, so it’s best to get clarity about conditions for modifying/cancelling your booking and at what cost. Get it in writing before booking.
  • Book early, despite uncertainty – although the “average” occupancy rate was reported to be as low as 40 per cent, for more moderately priced options it was 90 per cent. Book early if you want one of the better deals.
  • Get a booking confirmation directly from your hotel. At least one traveller was barred from boarding as their booking site confirmation had literally translated the hotel’s Chinese name into English and thus it couldn’t be cross-referenced with the restricted list. Oy vey!

3. Keep yourself informed

The rules of the game keep changing, so:

  • Read up on the latest rules, requirements and procedures on the government’s official site Specifically, consult the inbound travel section.
  • Check the Covid-related policies of your airline and departing airport. There might be additional documentary requirements before you can fly.
  • Some overseas ground staff might be misinformed, and bar you from your flight even though you’ve got everything right. In those cases, be prepared to show them the proof from the government’s official site, or have them call the Hong Kong immigration hotline +852 1868 to clarify your case.

Upon starting your quarantine

Unless you’re a claustrophile – in which case, congratulations on winning the psychological lottery – you’re going to want to squeeze every bit of space out of your space.

Photo: Mart van de Ven.

4. Maximize usable space

Default hotel room layouts are inefficient, so rearrange the room to e.g. have more space to exercise (in front of the TV) or set up your desk.

Photo: Mart van de Ven.

5. Discover hidden storage spaces

See if there are any removable prettification panels – ditch them! – and free up some more space!

Photo: Mart van de Ven.

6. Use the hallway for storage…

… to make your room feel less like a temporary stay, and more like what it truly is, your sparkly new home!

Photo: Mart van de Ven.

7. Trap items under the bed

It’s best to move anything you won’t be using to places you won’t be going. Also store bed linen and towels under the bed – wrap them in plastic to keep them clean – and wham! you’ve just freed up some more space! Potentially, hotel staff will also remove excess items if you ask them to.

As creatures we also need our comforts. So if possible, prepare a package with everything for your quarantine before you leave Hong Kong, and have it delivered to your hotel on the day of your arrival. Bring everything you know you will need, but also:

Photo: Mart van de Ven.

8. Bring your home office

Laptops trade comfort for portability, and let’s face it, you’re not going anywhere. So, bring in your desk chair along with an external monitor so you can keep your chin up!

Photo: Mart van de Ven.

9. Extend your desk

Hotel desks tend to be devised with guests of a short stature in mind. So rather than getting jolted with pixel bliss from close-screen proximity, extend the depth of your desk with your suitcase (plus some prettification panels you pillaged earlier). This way you’ll be at a comfortable distance from your screen, and retain your eyesight for when you’re released back into the wild.

Photo: Mart van de Ven.

10. Deliver the yums

The meal plans that are included are a bit lacklustre, so check out your delivery options via Deliveroo, Foodpanda, or Uber Eats. Wellcome, Park ‘n Shop’, Market Place and other supers also deliver.

Photo: Carousell Screenshot.

11. Gear up on the cheap

Buying new exercise equipment or entertainment devices for just three weeks might seem wasteful. So instead, buy them second hand and resell upon your release. You’ll just end up paying a small “rental” fee if you buy wisely. For example, a Nintendo Switch with Ringfit Adventure on Carousell is excellent for exercise and has great resale value. You can ask the seller to deliver it to your hotel via a courier service.

Photo: Mart van de Ven.

And finally, for your own sanity’s sake – bring on the fairy lights and throw yourself a party!

Photo: Mart van de Ven.

Mart van de Ven is a principal at the Droste data science consultancy and co-founder of Open Data Hong Kong. He is a linguist who fell to the dark side of numbers, the purveyor of super deluxe tours of Kowloon, and marks his relationship status with spreadsheets as “complicated”.

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