A Hong Kong Quarantine Diary

November 12-26, 2021

Hong Kong imposes one of the strictest quarantines in the world for inbound travellers. The border pretty much is shut to tourism and other than mainland China, fully-vaccinated passengers are subject to hotel quarantine from 7 to 21 days depending on the country they came from.

The government has a list of 36 designated quarantine hotels across budgets to choose from. At the crazy luxury end of the scale, a 166 square metre suite at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental is going for $49,500 a night for single occupancy, while a suite at the Sheraton in Tsim Sha Tsui costs $3190 a night.

With a much lower budget for my 14 day quarantine, I opted for Pentahotel, which is relatively new in an industrial part of town. My biggest draw was a proper work desk and a decent 200 square foot size. I had watched a few Youtube videos on the hotel's quarantine experience to make this decision and I was happy with what they've got for a decent price of $520 a night.

However, I wasn't the only one that saw this value for money option. As my flights got cancelled and changed in the lead-up to my departure date, I encountered some difficulties trying to change my reservation as the hotel was quite full. In the end, despite flight availability earlier, I had to postpone my trip back to Hong Kong so I could fit into the hotel's schedule. While I could theoretically cancel the hotel stay without penalty due to the flight changes, I didn't have much luck finding an alternative hotel at a similar price range elsewhere in the city at the last minute.

After clearing the arrival COVID test and immigration formalities (you can check out my flight report here), I was put on a government shuttle bus to the hotel. Pentahotel was the 4th stop. As I rushed in to be the the 2nd guest to check in, I didn't have to wait in line. Staff reminded me that I could not leave my room during my 14-day quarantine and provided a welcome folder.

While you book 14 nights' hotel, you actually need to stay only 14 days, with your arrival day being #1 and the quarantine order expires at 23:59 on the 14th.

My access card was only valid for 1 entry and I emerged on the 7th floor to see the hallway full of tables. The standard setup is a table in front of each room. Clean items such as meals and fresh towels go on the top deck while garbage and dirty items go on the bottom deck.

This was where I experienced the first drama of my stay as my card didn't work. I tried to head back down the elevators to the lobby, but the buttons were disabled, presumabling to avoid escapes. I had to ring them up on my mobile for help instead.

Safely inside my confined limits, let's go through the essential items from the welcome folder :

3 meals are included as part of the hotel price and are delivered at set times during the day. Staff would ring your bell upon delivery. Garbage is collected 3 times a day also during a set period, which is surprisingly frequent but it's good to keep your room clean as there is no housekeeping service.

The menu is set on a weekly rotation, so I would have the same items twice. Despite my 2pm arrival, I was still served a lunch after I checked in.

Pentahotel accepts deliveries from the outside world, including nearby restaurants and packages from friends and family. In case you have a sudden craving, their minibar menu is expensive but the selection is quite decent. A few odd items that stood out are a pack of condoms to cure your loneliness, a thermometer (which was already provided at the airport earlier), and lavender eye mask.

Recognizing the mental effects of being confined to your room for 14 days, a help line pamphlet is also included in case you need some counselling.

A key theme I noticed in the signage along the hallways and on the back of my door are threats of consequences if I leave the room or escape quarantine. The welcome kit included the details in multiple languages so you have no excuse to be not aware.

While guests do not need to mask up while inside the room, the expectation is to wear one when opening the door to pick up or drop off items.

The final, and perhaps most important, item in my pack is the testing schedule, which staff explained is customized for me. All quarantined guests are subject to multiple COVID tests during their stay, and also afterwards. Coming from Canada, I fall under the Group B bucket with 4 tests during my 14-day hotel stay. I was also told I can now book the day 16 test online, but the day 19 test could not be booked until after completing the previous appointment.

Since housekeeping is not provided, supplies have already been stockpiled in the room. Along the wall were disposable forks, spoons, knives, chopsticks, napkins, toothpicks, a box of bottled water, extra boxes of tissues and toilet paper, as well as bedsheets and towels that you need to change yourself.

On my desk were coffee, tea bags, and 4 paper cups.

2 sets of toothbrushes, hand soap, and toothpaste were also lined up in the bathroom. Body wash and shampoo are already filled into dispensers next to the shower.

Let's take a look at the meals, which are quite large in size given how little movement we will have in our confined quarters to burn it off. Each meal is wrapped in a bag and upon delivery onto the table outside your room, staff will ring the door to notify you.

Overall, the food was quite decent, made in-house and always delivered on-time within the specified period. I had the standard menu, where lunch is accompanied by fruit while soup and salad alternate for dinner, but there is no choice for the main. Residents with the more expensive "eat well" menu have a wider choice for their main dish.

Day 1 (Fri Nov 12)

Lunch - Japanese beef curry with steamed rice

Dinner - BBQ chicken, mashed potato

Day 2 (Sat Nov 13)

Breakfast - scrambled eggs, ham, and pancake

Lunch - Spicy tofu and chicken with rice

Dinner - Fusilli with salmon and spinach

Day 3 (Sun Nov 14)

Breakfast - Penne with minced beef and corn in tomato soup, mini croissant

Lunch - Braised e-fu noodles with mushroom

Dinner - Satay pork chops with coconut rice

Day 4 (Mon Nov 15)

Breakfast - Plain congee

Lunch - Teriyaki chicken with steamed rice

Dinner - Spaghetti bolognese

Day 5 (Tue Nov 16)

Lunch - Braised beef brisket and vegetables with rice

Dinner - Fried pork chops with onion sauce, roasted potato

Day 6 (Wed Nov 17)

Breakfast - Ham and macaroni with soup, bread roll

Lunch - Chicken a la king with rice

Dinner - Herb-crusted fish filet, garlic mashed potato

Day 7 (Thu Nov 18)

Breakfast - corn congee, glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaf, siew mai

Lunch - Seafood farfalle with creamy tomato sauce

Dinner - Mexican taco rice

Day 8 (Fri Nov 19)

Breakfast - Tuna salad sandwich, boiled eggs

Day 12 (Tue Nov 23)

Breakfast - Roasted chicken sandwich, boiled eggs

The unfortunate aftermath of quarantine is a lot of plastic waste from disposable items.

Final Thoughts :
Being confined in a small space for a long period is not a pleasant experience, and choosing the right hotel is likely the most painful step. Hong Kong's limited selection of quarantine hotels make securing a room an ordeal in itself, and with flights changing constantly due to the pandemic, you need to be flexible and willing to move your flight to fit the hotel's availability.

I picked the Pentahotel because of its reasonable price point, relative newness, proximity to the MTR station, and decent selection of restaurants with delivery just in case the hotel food doesn't meet my needs. The food turned out much better than I had expected, and I didn't need to order any delivery during my 2 week stay.

To stay sane, keep working during the day, and call up your friends when you hae downtime, lining up a few calls a day to unwind and forget about being stuck inside. Also, join the Whatsapp support group for the hotel and do a regular exercise routine. My 14 days were tough mentally but it was a very comfortable place to be confined to.