Private cars on the HZMB

OK, so the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge is a wonder to behold: the longest sea crossing in the world, connecting the two sides of the Greater Bay Area. But how can one actually drive on it? Here is a rough guide. 

There are two ways to drive on the HZMB: 1) With a single, HK-issued, license plate under the Park-and-Ride scheme; and 2) With a dual-plate issued by the governments of Guangdong and HK, under the Cross-Boundary Private Car License scheme.  The first requires great reserves of patience and persistence to get. The second is for only those who meet certain application criteria, but once you have one, it’s like being a knight in shining armor – you can ride pretty much wherever you like throughout this fair land called the Greater Bay Area.  

I. The Park-and-Ride Scheme 

It is formally known as the Macao Park-and-Ride scheme (MacaoPnR). This is because it only works in one direction, i.e. for Hong Kong-registered cars going across the HZMB to park in the East Car Park on the Macau side. This 3,000-space car park is attached to the Macao Port on the island off Macau/Zhuhai that houses their two immigration and customs facilities in one connected set of buildings. 

The Hong Kong side of the HZMB does not have a similar car park attached to the Hong Kong Port. Its 300-space outdoor car park, a short walk away from the building, appears to be temporary. That is  probably why this scheme works only in one direction – toward the big car park on the Macau side of the bridge.  

You might be wondering why there is no similar scheme for Zhuhai, whose immigration facilities are less than 100m away from Macau’s on the island. The reason is that Zhuhai simply doesn’t care about preventing cars from driving in by forcing them to park at the island. It doesn’t have the same space constraints as tiny Macau does.  Three thousand cars would jam up Macau’s already-jammed streets terribly.  

Indeed, the more Hong Kong cars coming into Zhuhai, the happier that city would probably be, because property prices would likely take off. If Zhuhai could have its way, it would want to open the floodgates. In fact, that is probably what the city government envisages for Hengqin: get Hongkongers to live and/or work there, commuting to Hong Kong by car on weekends.  

If only Zhuhai could make such decisions. Unfortunately, Cross-Boundary License quotas are in the hands of the provincial government. 

Anyway, we digress. The Macao Park-and-Ride Scheme applies only to Hong Kong private cars, i.e., not mini-buses, not buses, not trucks. It is only for cars with single license plates issued by the Hong Kong Govt. Again, this is not to be confused with  the Cross-Boundary dual-license plates, which are issued by both the Hong Kong and Guangdong governments. Those license holders have to go through a separate process to be allowed to use the HZMB, which is explained further in Part 2 of this feature. 

This Macao PnR Scheme stops drivers on the island. Even though they have technically entered Macau when they drive into the East Car Park, they are not actually allowed to drive into the city. They can only access the East Car Park, where they should have already reserved a place. Drivers must take public transport from there to reach Macau proper.  

Got all that? Right, now let’s look at how to actually apply for one of the permits under the  PnR  scheme. 

Applying for a Macau PnR Permit 

The process through which determined applicants must pass is comparable to Ulysses’ journey home in Homer’s classic tale, The Odyssey. There is a 27-page document on the HK Transport Dept’s website that lays out the entire process. Following is a condensed summary of it. 

Holders of a Hong Kong drivers’ license must do the following if they wish to apply to join the  MacaoPnR:  

1) Get insurance policies for their car covering Hong Kong, Macao and Guangdong, i.e., three different policies;  

2) Get a Closed Road Permit from the Hong Kong Transport Department;  

3) Get an Identification Label from the Macau government that will allow you to reserve a parking space in the East Car Park;  

4) Reserve a place in the East Car Park;  

5) Submit various documents for approval by the Guangdong provincial government (because you will be driving along their section of the HZMB); and, finally  

6) Wait for at least 12 days for all these approvals to be given. 

Here is the link to the document: https://www.td.gov.hk/filemanager/en/content_4905/hzmb_parknride_app_guide_20190228_eng.pdf 

They also have a video to guide you through. It’s really cute: 

https://www.td.gov.hk/en/public_services/licences_and_permits/hzmb_macao_port_parknride/video/index.html

The good news is that the HK Transport Department conveniently handles steps 2 to 5 on your behalf, sending your documents to Macau and Guangdong for processing. You just need to click here: 

https://www.gov.hk/en/residents/transport/crossboundary/parknride.htm

But by the way, you can’t do Step 1 until Steps 2 to 5 have been completed. The insurance companies won’t give you quotes until you have been given permission to drive on the HZMB by HK, Macau and Guangdong. That is even though you can’t actually drive on the HZMB, even if they have approved you, before you have the necessary insurance policies. Don’t worry, it all makes sense once you have started the application process. Kind of. 

But before you decide to click and get going, here are some cautionary notes. 

  1. Once you have been through this process, you will be able to drive across the HZMB and park in the East Car Park. You will be able to go into Macau for up to 14 days.  
    We cannot imagine even the most die-hard baccarat addict would need that long, but it’s good to know that the scheme has some perks.  
  2. However, booking the car park is a bit tricky. You need to be there 10am to 10pm, or 10pm to 10am, no sooner and no later, because each booking “period” lasts that long. You can book a maximum 16 of these periods. Get there one minute before 10am and you will need to burn one of your 16 slots – assuming there is a space available. 
  3. You might not want to even think about getting started on Steps 2 to 5, until you have looked into Step 1. This is because: 
  • No insurance policy covering Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong currently exists. The Hong Kong Federation of Insurers has a handy “HZMB Insurance Corner” web page that lists companies offering separate insurance policies for each jurisdiction.  https://www.hkfi.org.hk/hzmb/list.html 
  • We couldn’t find any information on these websites that explains how a HK car owner can get an insurance policy for Macau or Guangdong. We tried emailing two of them, Ping An Insurance and Pacific Insurance (PICC). They sent us back a list of required documents that varied for Macau and Hong Kong, and said we should email or call someone else in their group for the mainland insurance policy.  
  • It’s not that these insurers don’t care. Ping An has previously publicly said that they have the technology to craft a solution that would allow HZMB drivers to get one policy for all three jurisdictions. But this would still only be possible AFTER all three jurisdictions have figured out how to approve the use of this technology (hint: it involves cameras and AI applications). 

In the meantime, Hong Kong car owners  who  would prefer to wait for a change to this labyrinthine process will find it is not the end of the world to park your car in the 300-space car outdoor car park near the HK side of the HZMB, and just take the shuttle bus across to the Macau/Zhuhai side. If you can remember to book a place online at least four hours in advance of your trip, you can get a good deal: HK$160 for 12 hours.  

Click here for bookings: 

https://www.hzmbparking.com.hk/en-us

Got all that? Ready to try it? Good luck. 

II. The Cross-Boundary Dual-License Plate scheme 

This is not a separate scheme designed for the HZMB. It is an existing scheme that allows certain people who meet a set of criteria to get two license plates for their cars: one from Hong Kong, and one from Guangdong. There is no one-stop service, for this, however. You need to apply on the mainland for a Guangdong Driving License and then apply for an Approval Notice from them to drive your HK car into Guangdong. Once you have those, then you can apply to the Hong Kong Transport Department for a Closed Road Permit. 

Until recently, the holders of such licenses were only allowed to enter Guangdong (and vice versa),  via Shenzhen Bay, Lok Ma Chau, Man Kam To, and Shau Tau Kok. Now, they can go in via the HZMB. But there is a quota for this, and so they need to apply for their existing Closed Road Permit to include the HZMB. This quota has been raised by 4,500, effective April 15, so it is highly likely that everyone who could be bothered to apply for the HZMB will be approved. (Most drivers would likely still prefer to go via Shenzhen because it’s quicker  that way to reach the eastern side of the Bay.)  

Approvals under this scheme, for those who had been driving via Shenzhen Bay, started being handed out on April 29. Users of the other three crossing points have been using the bridge since February 25. 

If you would like to apply for one of these and fancy your chances, here is the link: 

https://www.gov.hk/en/residents/transport/crossboundary/xb_driving.htm

Good luck!