When we started researching this article, flights into Shanghai from overseas were outrageously expensive — often in the 60-80k RMB range for a one-way economy class ticket — and many flights frequently got cancelled, so naturally many travelers have been looking into alternative routes for making it into Shanghai. Getting back into China through Macau became an often discussed option a few weeks ago when Shanghai announced that there's no more quarantine for those coming from Macau.
We took a brief look at both options, getting into China through Macau and Hong Kong. Long story short: Although flight prices for Shanghai inbound flights seem to be dropping, both the Macau route and Hong Kong route are still slightly cheaper options. Both, of course, take more time. Also, you also don't save on any quarantine time in the end. It's going to be 7+3 whichever way you take. Macau has a few bonuses, however; families have the guarantee that they can quarantine together, which isn't guaranteed in Shanghai. They also have slightly nicer hotels.
Both options require a lot of additional research to figure out how to meet the specific requirements before you get into Macau or Hong Kong. This article just outlines the basics, as details seem to be changing daily. As always, these days, the most up-to-date information is available through the related WeChat groups.
The Macau Route
Macau currently requires a 10 day quarantine, even if you just stop-over on your way into China. Flights from the US and Europe to Macau, however, are cheaper than flying directly to Shanghai are widely available. Hotels in Macau are supposed to be nicer then quarantine hotels in Shanghai. But let's look into those details:
There are no direct flights from Europe or the US to Macau, so you'll probably have to stop over in Taipei or elsewhere in Asia. Even still, it's cheaper than flying to China right now. For example, a flight from Frankfurt with a stopover in Taipei is round 6k RMB and takes about 20 hours. The onward flight from Macau into Shanghai is quite cheap at around 1k RMB on Ctrip. Flying to Hong Kong and then taking the ferry to Macau is also doable but that adds another 3 days to your trip for the self-monitoring period in Hong Kong (more on that below).
Here's an overview of what's required to enter Macau right now:
Quarantine in Macau:
When you arrive in Macau you'll have to download the Macau health code (search for "Macao Health Code" on all app stores) and that code will be red to start with. It will turn yellow after 7 days in a quarantine hotel and then green after another 3 days in another hotel. Only with a green code can you continue traveling to Mainland China. So, it's also 7+3 — the same as in Shanghai at the time of this writing.
There are only a few hotels available for the first 7 days of your quarantine, and that's already the main bottleneck: those hotels seem to be mostly booked up a few months ahead, and you can't enter Macau without proof of hotel booking in one of the two hotels. Depending on where you are arrive you have usually just 2 hotels to choose from. The hotels are reportedly pretty nice but not exactly 5-star hotel casino type hotels; you won't be doing your quarantine in the Bellagio.
Arriving from overseas, the hotels are the Regency Art and the Lisboeta, and you should try to see if a hotel room is available for the approximate dates you are looking for before booking flights. Hotels start at around 800rmb per night. The upside is that families can quarantine together; something that isn't always guaranteed in China. Outside deliveries seem to be available too which isn't always the case in Shanghai nowadays. And again, since you have to book the hotel yourself, you can choose to book a nicer room. The Deluxe Suite at the Regency Art Hotel goes for around 3k/rmb per night. Here's the list of the available quarantine hotels for the first 7 days of quarantine. You are looking for the "Special optional medical observation hotel".
For the additional 3 days of quarantine, at the time of this writing there's only one hotel, the Broadway. You can take a taxi from your original hotel to Broadway and you are free to leave the hotel during that period but have to avoid crowded places and restaurants without outdoor seating.
Here's a rundown of the quarantine procedure:
Is it worth it?
If money is an issue, flying through Macau can save you some money if you get a good deal on flight tickets. If you travel with kids, then the Macau option has the advantage that you can book ahead your hotel room and stay together with everyone. The downsides are that it's less convenient, you'll have to take more flights, have to take care of booking two different hotels, and there are a lot of hidden costs ( you'll have to pay for your PCR tests) and it might potentially take you more time since you can only fly back to China after you've received your final test result, which could be on the 11th day after your arrival in Macau. You also can't use your Mainland WeChat/Alipay accounts, so you'll have to figure out how to use cash again (and that limits your possiblities of ordering food into the quarantine hotel). Overall, we've been reading through related WeChat groups and the general feedback is that with flight prices to Shanghai going down, it's now recommended to fly into Shanghai directly.
The Hong Kong Route
Entering China through Hong Kong is like entering from anywhere else. You are required to do the regular 7+3 days quarantine. Hong Kong has recently cut down their quarantine to 0 + 3; that's 0 days hotel quarantine but 3 days self-monitoring. You are required to do the self-quarantine even if plan on transferring to Shanghai. So, you are looking at 3 days in Hong Kong (self-quarantine) and then 7+3 quarantine in Shanghai.
There's plenty of flights into HK and we are looking at prices as low as 6k RMB from Frankfurt to Hong Kong. That's pretty much pre-Covid Shanghai inbound flight prices. Flying from Hong Kong into China is more tricky; there's only few flights with limited availability, and you are looking at roughly 7k RMB. That makes the entire trip around 12k RMB, which is still significantly cheaper then what you pay for directly flights into Shanghai right now.
There's also the option for going via ferry to Shenzhen and then taking a cheap local flight from Shenzhen to Shanghai, however there's a capacity limit of 2,000 passengers per day on that route and those get picked through a lottery system, so there's a lot of hassle and the chance that you might have to stay in Hong Kong until you get lucky.
The Quarantine in Hong Kong:
So yeah, they don't require you to do a hotel quarantine in Hong Kong, but you have to do a 3-day medical self-surveillance, even if you just stopover in Hong Kong on your way to Shanghai (where you'll have to do the China-side 7+3 quarantine). During the 3 days self-surveillance you are free to walk around in HK but you have to take several tests and are subject to certain restrictions, like not joining group activities. This graphic gives a good overview of the procedures.
Is it worth it?
If time isn't an issue but money is, then you can definitely save some money by entering through Hong Kong.