Hong Kong to Istanbul by air: Would you rather be stuck in Urumqi, Moscow or Dubai?

Expat Lingo "Would you rather…?" comic

I’m flying solo to Turkey this Chinese New Year to meet far-flung friends. My husband and children will be home in Hong Kong wearing pajamas all day and perhaps watching the CCTV Chinese New Year Gala on TV (will Celine Dion try to sing in Mandarin again?). Or maybe they’ll be packed in by the heaving crowds at Hong Kong Disneyland. Either way, I’ll be in Istanbul eating delicious meat on sticks and drinking Efes.

The complication is booking the flights. Plenty of Hong Kong-based people have already snatched up the best tickets to Istanbul (if such a thing ever existed). I’m left sorting through random, odd, leftover flights.

Weighing my poor options reminds me of the British children’s book Would You Rather…? by John Birmingham. A sample page from the book goes something like this:

“Would you rather be crushed by a snake, eaten by a crocodile or sat on by a rhinoceros?”

So I ask, if you were flying from Hong Kong to Istanbul, would you rather …

1. Spend the night in a soulless airport hotel in Dubai (Emirates)? I’d arrive in the late evening, fly out in the morning and have thirteen hours in an airport hotel. Do Dubai hotel minibars stock wine?

2. Puddle jump across China (China Southern)? Covering the Silk Road by air! Hong Kong to Beijing to Urumqi to Istanbul. What a journey! The romantic in me says, “yes!” But can a foreign passport holder swing the just-over-one-hour transfer times? Also, a warning:

“For those in transit note that the [Urumqi] airport closes after the arrival of late flights and one is not permitted to remain inside the building overnight.” (via Wikitravel here)

Miss one critical connection and I could be shoved out of the Urumqi Airport at midnight, mid-winter.

3. Go Snowden spotting in Moscow (Aeroflot)? Aeroflot has me wondering. The just over one hour transfer window in Moscow has me sweating. If I miss that connection (seems likely) how long will I sleep in the airport?

4. Fly on the wrong days via Amsterdam (KLM)? The timing of this itinerary is poor, but the connection is better. Plus, a visit to well-designed “Schiphol” (“ship’s graveyard,” what a cheery airport name!) is always attractive. Does the Dutch cheese shop that looks like a wheel of Edam still exist? On the other hand, do I need to have my shortness emphasized by close proximity to swarms of KLM flight attendants?

A possible 5th option is to fly from Guangzhou (rather than Hong Kong) through Moscow (Aeroflot). The price is right and the transfer time is long enough to comfort my over-worried mind. This option does, however, involve a pre-departure border-crossing. As a solo traveler, I might be game if I can figure out a reasonably smooth way to get from Hong Kong to the Guangzhou Airport without smelling like a combination of sweat and stale ashtray before even boarding the first flight.

So, what would you do?

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29 responses to “Hong Kong to Istanbul by air: Would you rather be stuck in Urumqi, Moscow or Dubai?

  1. Amsterdam. Definitely. The cheese alone is worth getting stuck there.
    The poodle-hop – NOT IN A MILLION YEARS!!!!!
    Moscow – you’ll never make the connection.
    Am also about to book a flight… if there’s any left 😉

  2. At that time of year, Ürümqi is a terrible idea. The weather, plus your lack of a visa (right?) plus the short connection time makes it far too onerous. Not to mention, unless you have a thermos, you can’t bring drinks on-board flights there. However, I’d really like to say I’ve flown from URC to IST, because THAT’s history…

    Moscow, as USA人 we’re allowed to transit without a visa, but more potential weather issues might not help.

    Guangzhou, in the event of a mishap, you can leave the airport for <72 hours visa-free, and weather shouldn't be as much of a concern.

    I'd choose Dubai because it's easy, and the food sounds most reliable.

    • As of last month, I now have a multi-entry China visa. But I’m still concerned about switching from int’l to domestic flights and back with the potential for long immigration lines. It does sound like an epic route though!

      You’re point about winter weather, however, is an excellent consideration.

      Dubai is looking more and more likely.

    • For 5, I’ve just discovered that getting from here to there requires either several different trains and buses or a private cross-border driver (which would eliminate the savings on the air ticket). It’s coming down to Amsterdam or Dubai.

      • Ah… I’ve spent too much time in both airports so I’d just go with which ever has the most feasible connecting time. There is nothing worse than missing your connection! Um.. well.. actually.. it can be kinda fun if you get out, explore a place for a day, have a place to crash at night…

    • Lots of cross-border trains and buses into Guangzhou, but apparently not right to the airport. So there’s at least another metro or taxi ride in there on the China side. Not a huge deal, but I looked harder at Dubai and found slightly more expensive flight options, but with shorter lay-overs.

    • Oh, I’m not quite so ambitious this year! Yesterday’s race was a 10k (the UNICEF race on Lantau). In Feb I’ll do the Standard Chartered half-marathon and it does go through some under harbor tunnels.

  3. My vote for Dubai, alternative is Amsterdam (depends on your preferences.) I would avoid Urmnqi and Moscow for safety reasons. emirates always pretty good service.

    I would NOT fly any flights operated by chinese or russian airlines unless they are the only ones left due to maintainence issues with their planes and their mechanics (airliner crashes more often with them)

  4. #2 is sooooo tempting (romantic) but #1 is the best choice (practical)! Love the cartoon. Next salon you’ll have to show me how you do those if I promise to keep your trade secret.

    • Ended up going through Dubai. Wow, busiest airport I’ve ever seen at 2 am!Had a delicious chocolate milkshake while hustling between terminals. (Thanks for the blog love! Made my Saturday.)

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