Hong Kong (香港 Heūng Góng in Cantonese, meaning Fragrant Harbor) is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China. It is a place with multiple personalities as a result of being both Cantonese Chinese and having been under British colonization. Today, the former British colony is a major tourism destination for China's increasingly affluent mainland population. It is an important hub in East Asia with global connections to many of the world's cities. It is a unique destination that has absorbed people and cultural influences from places as diverse as Vietnam and Vancouver and proudly proclaims itself to be Asia's World City.
Hong Kong is one of the two Special Administrative Regions (SAR) of China (the other being Macau). Before the transfer of sovereignty to China in 1997, Hong Kong had been a British colony for nearly 150 years. As a result, most infrastructure inherits the design and standards of Britain. During the 1950s to 1990s, the city-state developed rapidly, becoming the first of the "Four Asian Tigers" through the development of a strong manufacturing base and later a financial sector. Hong Kong is now famous for being a leading financial center in East Asia, with the presence of local and some of the most recognized banks from around the world. Hong Kong is also famous for its transition port, transporting a significant volume of exports from China to the rest of the world. With its political and legal independence, Hong Kong is known as the Oriental Pearl with a twist of British influence in the culture.
Hong Kong is much more than a harbor city. The traveler weary of its crowded streets may be tempted to describe it as Hong Kongcrete. Yet, this territory with its cloudy mountains and rocky islands is mostly a rural landscape. Much of the countryside is classified as Country Park and, although 7 million people are never far away, it is possible to find pockets of wilderness that will reward the more intrepid tourist.
Archaeological findings date the first human settlements in the area back to more than 30,000 years ago. It was first incorporated into China during the Qin Dynasty and largely remained under Chinese rule until 1841 during the Qing Dynasty, with a brief interruption at the end of the Qin Dynasty, when a Qin official established the kingdom of Nam Yuet, which later fell to the Han Dynasty.
In January 1841, as a result of the defeat of the Qing Dynasty of China in the First Opium War, the Chinese government were forced into ceding Hong Kong Island in perpetuity to the British Crown under the Convention of Chuanpee, beginning the British administration of Hong Kong. The agreement was later rectified in August 1842 in the Treaty of Nanking, after which the Crown Colony of Hong Kong was established with Victoria City (present day Central) as the capital. After the defeat of China in the Second Opium War, the Kowloon Peninsula was occupied by Britain in 1860 as a result of the Convention of Peking, adding to the Crown Colony. A 99-year lease of additional land on the mainland (the New Territories) and surrounding islands for defense and further development was granted in 1898 as the colony's final territorial change.
When World War II broke out, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill declared that Hong Kong was an "impregnable fortress." However, it was only a reality check for the British as most of their troops were tied down fighting the Germans in Europe, and Hong Kong was not given enough resources for its defense. As a result, after just slightly more than two weeks of fighting, Hong Kong was surrendered to the Japanese on 25 December 1941, making it the first time the British lost a colony to an invading force. After the war, despite American assurances that Hong Kong would be restored to China, the British moved quickly to regain control of Hong Kong. However, they had lost their aura of invincibility and could not continue to rule Hong Kong the way they used to before the war and all racist restrictions on non-Europeans owning property on prime real estate land were lifted. Hong Kong's post war recovery was astonishingly swift and within 2-3 months all post-war economic restrictions were lifted and Hong Kong became a free market once again.
After the communists took control of mainland China in 1949, many Chinese people, especially businessmen, fled to Hong Kong due to persecution by the communist government. Unlike the restrictive policies imposed by the communists in China, the British government took a rather hands off approach in Hong Kong, as proposed by former financial secretary John James Cowperthwaite, which led to a high degree of economic freedom. Under such conditions, businesses flourished in Hong Kong and its economy grew rapidly, earning it a place as one of the East Asian Tigers. In 1990, Hong Kong's GDP per capita surpassed that of Britain, the first time a colony's GDP per capita surpassed that of its colonial masters. Hong Kong is now the world's fourth-largest financial centre after London, New York and Tokyo.
The massive influx of mainland Chinese refugees led to the rise of the Kowloon Walled City, which was a convolution of maze-like alleys, utter darkness, cramped space, and unsanitary conditions. Reports claim that dog meat was served (something which is quite common in Mainland China, but considered intolerable by the British) and that unlicensed physicians practised there. The Walled City was evacuated and subsequently demolished in 1993, and the Kowloon Walled City Park was built on the site.
After negotiations between China and Britain in 1984, it was declared that the New Territories and outlying islands were to be given back to China in 1997. As Hong Kong developed, these regions became heavily integrated with the permanent cession. As a result, by the time the lease was approaching expiration, it was considered highly impractical to separate the colony into two. Initial British proposals for joint administration of the entire colony were rejected by China and the international community, and in 1984 the Sino-British Joint Declaration created a "one country, two systems" policy on the Question of Hong Kong, giving Hong Kong back to China on 1 July 1997. Hong Kong thus became a SAR of the People's Republic of China. Under the principle "One Country, Two Systems", Hong Kong is to be granted a high degree of autonomy for at least 50 years after the handover, including remaining in charge of its own capitalistic economy, maintaining a separate border and immigration control from China, and not being affected by various restrictions that apply in mainland China such as news censorship and foreign exchange controls.
In accordance with the Joint Declaration, the Basic Law was enacted to serve in effect as a mini-constitution for the Hong Kong SAR. In theory, Hong Kong enjoys a high degree of autonomy in most matters except foreign affairs and defense. In practice, it is more complex than that. On the one hand, Beijing exerts much influence, on the other, there are increasing calls pushing for a more democratic regime and universal suffrage. In fact, the campaign for full democracy has been a major issue for China regarding Hong Kong in recent years, with protests drawing hundreds of thousands of residents demanding for full elections and denouncing the Chinese Communist Party, with some even proposing outright independence from China. In fact, Hong Kong today is far more democratic than it ever was under British rule. In those days, a colonial governor with unlimited powers was appointed by the British without any local election or input at all. Now, a chief executive, chosen by an electoral college, has replaced the Colonial Governor.
Although part of China, Hong Kong operates like a tiny country with its own currency, laws, international dialing code, police force, border controls and the like. It is also a member of international organizations that are normally restricted to sovereign states such as the WTO, APEC and the IOC.
The majority of Hong Kong's population are Han Chinese (93.6%), mostly of Cantonese ancestry, though there are also sizeable numbers of other Chinese groups such as Chiuchao (Teochews), Shanghainese and Hakkas. A significant number of Indian, Pakistani and Nepalese live here too, and many have families that have lived in Hong Kong for several generations.
The large numbers of Filipinos, Indonesians, and Thais, most of whom are employed as domestic helpers also live in Hong Kong. On Sundays, the free day of many foreign domestic workers, they congregate in the thousands in Central and Admiralty and spend the day there together, sitting talking, eating and drinking wherever there is free space. Several whole streets in the Central area are blocked off for foreign domestic helpers on Sundays.
Hong Kong is also home to a significant number of people hailing from Australia, Europe, Japan, Korea and North America, making it a truly international metropolis.
The people of Hong Kong are somewhat reserved, but very friendly, especially to children. A few words of Cantonese learned will ingratiate you further. Greeting with Nihao(你好, "hello" in Mandarin) will not serve the purpose, however, as the local language here is Cantonese. A simple "hello" would be good enough, but if you insist, you can say Nei-ho (你好 in Cantonese) to greet local people and they will appreciate you for respecting their local culture which is distinctive from that in China.
What the traveler will notice is the sheer volume of people and their density. Whilst Mong Kok is seen as the indicator of the worst of this, even in the other areas of Kowloon, you will still struggle for personal space. Whilst bumping into people (accidentally of course) is very common, it isn't considered particularly bad manners and you are unlikely to upset the locals, especially if you give a short apology.
Hong Kong has a sub-tropical climate, but is cooled in winter by sea breezes. Summer (June to September) is long, humid and hot with temperatures often exceeding 32°C (90°F) and with night time temperatures that do not drop below 25°C (77°F). Typhoons usually occur between June and September and can bring a halt to local business activities for a day or less (see natural disaster section).
Winters are generally very mild, with daytime temperatures of 18-22°C (64–72°F) but with nights dipping into 10°C (50°F) and below sometimes, especially in the countryside. Christmas in Hong Kong is considered warm compared with many other Northern Hemisphere countries. Chinese New Year is notorious for cold (10°C/50°F), wet weather; this is because winter in Hong Kong tends to start out mild and dry and then turn a bit cool and wet later, though the cool weather is brief.
Spring (March-May) and autumn (September-November/December) have average temperature between 21-24°C (70-5°F). Autumn is probably a more comfortable season as spring tends to be more humid and rainy.
Although most buildings in Hong Kong have air-conditioning to cope with the summer weather, winter heating is something of a novelty. During the coldest days, most locals simply wear more layers even indoors. In a restaurant for example, it is not unusual to see customers eating with their jackets and scarves on.
Its quick rise as an economic power and unique mix of East and West has made Hong Kong an interesting destination to write about. Much has been written about its history, politics, economy, culture and social matters, and it has figured as an ideal background in many fictional works as well. Reading some of these books enables you to further understand the culture of Hong Kong before actually visiting it.
Film and cinema
For its electrical sockets, Hong Kong uses the British three-pin rectangular blade plug (type G). Additionally, some hotels will have a bathroom with a parallel three-pin outlet which is designed for use with electric shavers, but might be used to re-charge a phone or rechargeable batteries. Electricity is 220 Volts at 50 Hertz. Most electronic stores will have cheap ($15-20) adapters that will allow foreign plugs to fit into British sockets, but be aware that these will not convert voltage or frequency.
Often, when you buy a tablet or mobile in your home country, you will get multiple plugs for different countries for the one device. Simply convert the plug over (assuming the voltage is the same) from your home plug to the British style plug before you go, as this will minimise the number of adapters you need to purchase.
Hong Kong maintains a separate and independent immigration system from that of mainland China and Macau. If required, the Hong Kong visa has to be applied for separately from the mainland Chinese one, and there is no single visa that serves both areas. Similarly, if required, the Hong Kong visa has to be applied for separately from the Macau one. There are border checks when travelling between mainland China and Hong Kong, and also between Hong Kong and Macau. If you wish to enter Hong Kong from mainland China, then re-enter mainland China, make sure you have a multiple-entry Chinese visa.
All visitors (regardless of whether visa-free or not) may be required to demonstrate evidence of adequate funds and confirmed booking for the onward journey.
Visitors with a work/study/residence visa are considered Hong Kong residents, and are able to use the Hong Kong residents counters at immigration.
See this Hong Kong Immigration Department webpage for the most up-to-date list of visa requirements/exemptions by country of citizenship.
Foreign nationals of the following countries/territories can enter Hong Kong without a visa as a visitor:
For up to 180 days: United Kingdom (Full British citizens)
For up to 90 days: United Kingdom (British Overseas Territories Citizens, British Overseas Citizens, British Subjects and British Protected Persons), all European Union member states, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Dominica, Ecuador, Egypt, Fiji, Finland, Grenada, Guyana, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kiribati, Liechtenstein, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Namibia, Nauru, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, San Marino, Seychelles. Singapore, South Korea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Swaziland, Switzerland, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Tuvalu, Uruguay, United States, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Zambia and Zimbabwe
For up to 30 days: Bahrain, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Thailand, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates and Yemen
For up to 14 days: Albania (biometric passports only), Algeria, Benin, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Chad, Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Haiti, Vatican City, India (pre-arrival online registration required), Kazakhstan, Lesotho, Macedonia, Madagascar, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Micronesia, Mongolia, Montenegro, Mozambique, Niger, Palau, Philippines, Russia, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Serbia, Suriname and Ukraine
For up to 7 days: Timor-Leste
All holders of an APEC Business Travel Card can use the counters for Hong Kong residents at immigration control and can stay for up to 60 days in Hong Kong visa-free if their card has 'HKG' printed on the reverse.
Foreign nationals who require visas for Hong Kong (if they cannot enter visa-free, want to remain for longer than permitted by their visa exemption, or want to work, study or establish/join a business) can either apply for one at a Chinese embassy or directly through the Hong Kong Immigration Department. Foreign nationals living in Macau who require visas for Hong Kong can apply for one at the Office of the Commissioner of the Chinese Foreign Ministry. Foreign nationals living in mainland China may apply for a Hong Kong visa at the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Guangzhou, or at the Office of the Government of the Hong Kong SAR in Beijing.
Chinese citizens from mainland China need to apply for an Exit-entry permit (往來港澳通行證） to enter Hong Kong, except when transiting through Hong Kong to/from a foreign country, whereby visa-free access is granted for up to 7 days.
Holders of Macau permanent identity cards or Visit Permits with permanent resident status can enter Hong Kong visa-free for up to 180 days. Holders of Macao Visit Permits without permanent resident status can enter Hong Kong visa-free for up to 30 days. See Visit/Transit Arrangements to Hong Kong for Macao Residents for more details.
Citizens of Taiwan are granted visa-free access to Hong Kong for 30 days if they have a 'Taibaozheng' (台胞證). Otherwise, a pre-arrival visa is required, which in many cases can be obtained through an airline company. See Arrangements for Entry to Hong Kong for Overseas Chinese and Chinese residents of Taiwan for more details. Note that "Chinese residents of Taiwan" refers to citizens of Taiwan in the general sense.
All visitors to Hong Kong must complete an arrival card when clearing immigration and must return a departure card at immigration control when leaving Hong Kong - unless you are a Hong Kong resident (with a Hong Kong identity card or a passport with a residence/employment/study visa), a Macao permanent resident (with a Macao smart identity card) or a Chinese citizen (with a travel document （往來港澳通行證 or 因公往來香港澳門特別行政區通行證) issued by the Mainland China authorities).
Obtaining a visa to Mainland China
China Travel Services HK (CTS) has an office at the arrivals area of Hong Kong Airport and can process visas to China on the spot. A photograph will be required. Alternatively, the cheapest way to obtain a visa for mainland China is to apply for one at the Commissioner's Office of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong, where a single-entry visa costs HKD200 and a double-entry visa costs HKD300 for most foreign nationals and takes 4 working days to be issued. The visa can be issued within 3 working days for an additional HKD200 or within 2 working days for an additional HKD300. See the price list for more information.
If you have goods that are banned or more than your allowance, you must declare them at the Red Channel when you enter Hong Kong - even when travelling from mainland China, Macau or Taiwan.
Meat, animal products, fish, rice, ozone depleting substances, items with forged trade marks and radio communication transmitting apparatus are banned goods and must be declared.
A traveller aged 18 or above is allowed to bring into Hong Kong - for his/her own use - as part of his/her duty-free allowance:
If the traveller holds a Hong Kong Identity Card, he/she must have spent 24 hours or longer outside Hong Kong to benefit from the duty-free allowance relating to alcoholic liquor.
Note that you are not permitted to take more than two tins (1.8kg) of powdered milk formula (such as baby formula) out of Hong Kong.
For more information, visit the Hong Kong SAR Customs and Excise Department website.
Hong Kong International Airport
Hong Kong International Airport (IATA: HKG), also known as Chek Lap Kok 赤鱲角 (the name of the small island containing the airport), is located just north of Lantau Island and west of Hong Kong Island. Designed by Sir Norman Foster, the airport opened in July 1998 and has since been named "World's Best Airport" by Skytrax 8 times.
As the major hub airport in the region, there are many direct flights to Hong Kong from every continent in the world. Most major cities in Europe and North America are all served with at least one daily flight, and flights between Hong Kong and other major cities in Asia and Oceania are frequent. Cathay Pacific operates one of the longest air routes in the world, between Hong Kong and New York (JFK). Major carriers at the airport are Cathay Pacific, its subsidiary airline Cathay Dragon (recently renamed from Dragonair, mostly operates routes within China as well as some routes to other parts of Asia), Hong Kong Airlines, and Hong Kong Express.
There are two terminals connected via an underground shuttle train. Terminal 2 is a check-in only facility, all flights depart from Terminal 1. All arrivals are at Terminal 1. You can clear security at either terminal. There are more shopping opportunities before security at T2, but its shops close earlier. There are lots of shopping opportunities in T1 after security as well.
Services at Hong Kong International Airport are generally far better, or at least on par, with those at other major international airports. There is an efficient post office in the airport, providing boxes, wrapping material, scissors, and tape. Mailing items is sometimes cheaper and easier than paying airline baggage fees. The airport has free Wi-Fi. There is a manned left-luggage facility in the arrival hall, costing $140 per day per bag.
The efficiency of the airport is relatively high. But keep in mind that the airport is operating at its capacity limits and very susceptible to strong winds during and after typhoons, causing long delays and even detours to nearby airports. Consider this when planning trips and allow sufficient transfer times during windy seasons. Delays arising from stringent air traffic control in mainland China are common and often affects the punctuality of regional routes.
To travel between the airport and the city:
In-town Check-in at Airport Express stations
If you have an Airport Express ticket, you can check-in your luggage and print boarding passes at the in-town check-in desks in the Hong Kong and Kowloon Airport Express stations. Most major airlines and their alliances allow you to drop off your bags up to one day before travel and not have to deal with luggage as you enjoy your final day in Hong Kong (note that you have to travel on Airport Express the same day as you drop off your luggage, otherwise you have to buy another ticket).
To/from Shenzhen International Airport
To travel between Shenzhen Airport and Hong Kong:
To/from Macau International Airport
It is also often cheaper to fly out of Macau International Airport (IATA: MFM). Air Asia has a hub at Macau from where it operates service to Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, and Chiang Mai, among other cities.
To travel between Macau Airport and Hong Kong:
Sky Shuttle operates a helicopter service every 30 minutes from the Terminal Marítimo in Macau to the Shun Tak Heliport (IATA: HHP) at the Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Pier in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong Island. The trip takes 15 minutes and one-way fares cost $4,100, plus $400 on public holidays.
Helicopter tours of the city for 15, 30, 45 minutes can also be arranged for great views of the city from above.
Hong Kong is only a one-hour fast ferry ride (by hydrofoil or catamaran) away from Macau and there are also good connections to ports in the Pearl River Delta region of mainland China. The main terminals are:
Ferries connecting to the Hong Kong Airport only serve as transit journeys for flights. Non-flight passengers are not allowed to take these ferries.
By cruise ship
Star Cruises operates from the Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui. Other major cruise companies also embark at the newly opened Kai Tak Cruise Terminal. Cruise ships travel to Vietnam, mainland China and Taiwan. There are also long haul services all the way to Singapore via ports in Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia.
There are 6 land checkpoints between Hong Kong and mainland China. Be sure to note the opening hours of the border crossing before starting your journey. If you are driving across the border, you must have a set of plates issued by each of China and Hong Kong. Note that you will have to change sides of the road at the border since people in Hong Kong drive on the left, and people in mainland China drive on the right.
In addition to crossing the border on foot, another way to cross the border is to take a "Cross Boundary Coach". These buses operate between Hong Kong and several cities in mainland China and are usually easier than crossing the border via several transfers and several modes of transportation. For information on these bus services, see the website of each border crossing listed below.
Note that in Hong Kong, bicycles are not permitted in all tunnels and on most highways. Therefore, Very few Hongkongers manage to use a bike as a substitute for public transport. However, roads in the country parks, because of the hilly landscape, are ideal for adventure biking. See Cycling in Hong Kong
Crossing the land border between Shenzhen and Hong Kong with a bicycle is possible as follows:
MTR Corporation runs regular Intercity Passenger Train services from Hung Hom station on the Kowloon side. The destinations are Guangzhou (East), Dongguan, Foshan and Zhaoqing in Guangdong Province, as well as twice a days trains to/from Beijing and Shanghai which take around 20 hours. The Guangzhou-Hung Hom (via Dongguan) train is operated by both MTR of Hong Kong and the China Railway. MTR operates the 'ktt' trains which are twin-level comfortable trains.
Note: Tickets purchased on it3.mtr.com.hk must be paid for by credit card and collected in Hong Kong by the card holder. If you intend to begin your journey from the Guangzhou side, most times of the year you can easily obtain tickets on the spot at Guangzhou East station. However, at peak times, such as Canton Fair and New Year, it may be necessary to book ahead to be guaranteed a seat. Booking (and paying for) tickets through the MTR website will only RESERVE your seats if you are outside Hong Kong and intend to begin your journey in Guangzhou. You will need to pay again at Guangzhou East station and then seek a refund from MTR once you arrive in Hung Hom. To avoid this, MTR has an officially appointed ticketing agency on the China side for multilingual enquiry and booking. This company has been confirmed via email by MTR customer service and is: Norrway Trading Co. Ltd. (+86) 20 8765 9328, from within China 020 8765 9328 (no known website). China Travel Service (CTSHK) and China International Travel Services (CITS) are other major agents who deal in English and can provide tickets. Also, quite a few of the higher-level hotels in Guangzhou also have an affiliated travel agent where you can book and pay for train tickets, so contact them as well, even if you're not staying at the hotel. As of July 2017, you can also book train tickets (departing from Hung Hom or Guangzhou East) on ctrip.com (Mainland China web version).
The Octopus Card (八達通, Bat Dat Toong in Cantonese,) is a prepaid contactless debit card that can be used to pay for almost all kinds of public transport (except taxis and some red minibuses), as well as for paying in convenience stores, supermarkets, many restaurant especially chains such as McDonald's and Cafe de Coral, vending machines, museums, all roadside parking and some car parks, any many more. The Octopus Card functionality can also come in the form of personalised cards, ornaments, key-chains, and watches, which can be bought online. Some housing estates and schools use the card for identification at entry.
Getting an Octopus Card is highly recommended unless you choose to travel the city only by taxi. As one of the successful pioneers of contactless smart card in the world, the card brings much conveniences as the alternative to cash in Hong Kong and reduce the hassles on coins. Slightly discounted fare is offered for MTR rides, and you can enjoy specified discounts on various transport (mostly discounts on interchange trips or sectional fares). The card is particularly useful when taking buses as you need to pay for exact fare and no change will be given.
Octopus cards can be purchased and refunded at the Customer Service Centres at all MTR stations (including the Airport station), the Citybus customer service centre at Airport bus terminus, and the New World First Bus customer service centre at Admiralty East bus terminus. Basic Octopus cards for adult cost $150 for $100 in credit plus a $50 refundable deposit, while a card for children/elders costs $70 with $20 credit. Upon refunding the card, a $9 service charge applies if the card is returned for a refund within 90 days (free of charge afterwards) and all the remaining credit and deposit will be refunded. The maximum value an Octopus card can carry is $1,000, but you can only refund the card if the remaining credit is less than $500. The validity of the card is 1000 days after the last top-up, and can be re-activated at MTR stations.
The credit on the card can go negative. For example, you may pay for a ride costing $5 with only $2 of remaining value on the card (bringing the stored value to -$3) but you cannot use the card again until the value is topped up. The value of an Octopus card can go as low as -$35. Note that it isn't really "negative", since your $50 deposit secures it.
Octopus card cannot be shared among a group; i.e. if you are a family of 4 travelling together, each member must have their own Octopus Card.
Your Octopus cards' balance is displayed on the reader after each use. The balance can also be checked, along with the last 9 transactions, using a small machine near regular ticket machines at MTR stations. It can also be checked with the Octopus smartphone app.
For travellers, there are three convenient ways to top-up a card (in $50 increments). Payments must be made only by cash, not by credit card:
Automatic add-value service is only available for locally-issued credit cards.
MTR Fare Saver Machines
There are several MTR fare saver machines located at locations which are not near the MTR stations (usually 15 mins walking distance away from the station). By tapping your Octopus Card at these machines, you will receive a $2 discount on your next MTR journey which originates from the specified station, so as to encourage you to take MTR from these locations instead of other transport.
By Mass Transit Railway
Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is the fastest way to get around, but it only offers city views for half the sections and is more expensive. There are 5 underground lines (Kwun Tong, Tsuen Wan, Island, Tung Chung, and Tseung Kwan O lines), three suburban rail lines (West, East, and Ma On Shan lines), the Airport Express, and a network of modern tram lines in the North West New Territories.
The most important lines for many visitors are the busy Tsuen Wan Line (red), which runs from Central to Kowloon via tunnel and then down Nathan Road towards Tsuen Wan in the New Territories, and the Island Line (blue) which runs along the north coast of Hong Kong Island. The Tung Chung Line (orange) is the fastest route to Lantau and one of the cheapest ways to the airport via the S1 shuttle bus from Tung Chung MTR station. This line can also be used to change to the Disneyland Resort Line (pink) at Sunny Bay. All signs are in both Chinese and English and all announcements are made in Cantonese, Mandarin, and English. Staff in the station control room usually speak enough English to be able to help lost tourists.
Considerations when using the MTR:
Operated by Hong Kong Tramways, the narrow double-decker city trams (sometimes known in Cantonese as "ding ding") trundling along the northern coast of Hong Kong Island have provided cheap transport for over a century.
Considerations when riding the trams:
The Peak Tram, Hong Kong's first mechanised mode of transport, opened in 1888. The remarkably steep 1.7km track from Central up to Victoria Peak is worth at least one trip despite the comparatively steep price ($32 one-way, $45 return; return tickets must be purchased in advance). The tram turnstyles do take Octopus cards, which will allow you to avoid the ticketing line at the station.
The Peak Tram is likely to be crowded at night when the view of the city's skyline is magic, as well as on public holidays. If large numbers of Mainland Chinese are in a tour group, then it will slow proceedings down considerably and they will likely try to push in front of you or knock your children over - it may be worth trying another time if that's the case. Waiting times can be 60-90 minutes.
Note: Around HK there are numerous booths, travel agents and information kiosks where you can purchase peak tram tickets in advance for a discounted price. Something to consider is this: If the weather turns bad during your stay, visibility at the top (Sky Terrace) could very likely be zero. It is advisable to check out the weather and purchase full-price tickets on the day, at the peak train station etc., rather than run the risk of buying tickets in advance and wasting your money due to bad weather. You can also book instant e-tickets now on travel apps that will allow you to skip the queue. The peak tram ride itself is relatively short and provides no view. You will also likely have to line up for an hour at the top in order to get back down again.
The tram is not the only way to get to the Peak, and there are cheaper (but slower and still quite scenic) alternatives such as the #1 green minibus costing $10.2 & #15 double-decker bus costing $9.8 from Central (Exchange Square) Bus Terminus. These buses, especially the double-deck #15, will often give you a view of both sides of Hong Kong Island.
MTR operates a tram system located at the Western side of the territory called Light Rail. It is a modern and fast tram system connecting Tuen Mun, Yuen Long, and Tin Shui Wai. It has an open fare system, in which passengers are required to buy a ticket or tap an Octopus card at the station entrance before boarding, and ticket inspection is random.
There are three types of bus available in Hong Kong, operated by a multitude of companies. Generally easy to use (especially with Octopus), buses are pretty much your only option for travelling around the south side of the island and Lantau.
The large double-decker buses cover practically all of the territory, stop frequently and charge varying fares depending on the distance. The first seats of the upper deck offer great views. The franchised bus operators in Hong Kong include Kowloon Motor Bus (KMB) (and its subsidiary Long Win Bus), Citybus, New World First Bus and New Lantao Bus. Route and fare information can be found on the companies web sites. Mobile apps are also available. Estimated arrival time can also be founded in the respective company websites and/or apps. Fares will depend more on where you board rather than where you get-off which means it is more expensive to board at the earlier stops rather than the later stops. Hence, most bus rides which cross the harbour between Kowloon and the Island exceed $9 prior to the crossing. The fare is displayed on a digital display next to the farebox - exact change, Octopus Card or a ticket purchased from a bus travel centre (for "A"-prefixed airport routes only) found at major transit hubs such as Star Ferry or Central Bus Terminus) must be used. Unlike mainland China, there are announcements in Cantonese, Mandarin and English except for most buses on New Lantao Bus (but there is a display showing the name of the the next stop in English and Chinese). Buses will only stop when requested(except when you are at the terminus) - when your bus approaches, raise your arm to hail the bus (like you would hail a taxi), and when alighting, press the buzzer (located by the exit doors and on the grab-rails, some older buses have them on the roof) to signal to the driver that you want to alight. Always board at the front and alight from the centre door - unless the bus only has one door, in which case keep to the left.
Van-sized public light buses carry a maximum of 16 passengers (seats only) and come in two varieties, red minibuses and green minibuses (the red buses are also called maxicabs); the colour refers to a wide stripe painted on top of the vehicle. Riding a minibus may not be easy for travellers, as it is customary to call out the name of the stop or ask the driver to stop in Cantonese. More and more red minibuses accept Octopus card, but still many do not accept Octopus but will give you change, while green minibuses do accept Octopus payment but can not give you change if you pay in cash. The Hong Kong Island green minibus #1 down from the Peak to Central is particularly exhilarating. Red minibuses tend to have a more Chinese feel than green buses. Prices on red minibuses are often displayed only in Chinese numbers. The price displayed on a red minibus can legally vary according to the market price, so expect to pay more at busy times. Some people argue that the driving standards of red minibuses is lower than green minibuses; Minibus drivers generally drive fast, especially at night. Always use minibus seatbelts where available. You will notice that they all have an extra, large, digital speedometer in the cabin for the passengers to view, this is required by the government after a few fatal accidents due to speeding. Since the introduction of these passenger speedometers mini-bus accident rates have dropped.
The MTR also maintains a fleet of feeder buses. MTR passengers can enjoy a free feeder service if the payment is made by Octopus.
Note that if paying in cash, the exact fare is required and no change can be given. Paying by Octopus is much more convenient. The exception to this rule is if you use a red minibus, Octopus cards are not accepted on red minibus services, but they do give you change.
There are six independent route numbering systems:
(i)buses on Hong Kong Island
Red minibuses usually don't have a route number. This leads to duplication of routes in different regions. Although the Transport Department has been working on the unifying of the route numbers, it is still a little bit messy at the moment. If you are confused a bit by the numbering of routes, here is a suggestion: just remember the route number of buses in Hong Kong Island/Kowloon/New Territories only whenever it is necessary. In other special circumstances, ask the driver or the station staff for the Lantau buses or green minibuses and they can answer you.
Generally you need not to mention which district the route belongs to when you are asking for directions (almost all people will assume you will asking for the route which runs in the district you are in, e.g. if you ask for bus route #2, locals will assume you will asking for bus route #2 running in Kowloon if you are in Kowloon), but you really need to mention whether the route is bus or minibus when you ask, since in some cases both bus and minibus can have same route number in the same area which are actually different routes. (e.g. there are both bus route #6 and minibus route #6 in Tsim Sha Tsui, one goes north and one goes east).
Bus services vary between areas: in the busy city centre, you can expect frequencies of 10 minutes or under; in less developed areas 15-30. Do note that some routes only offer services on peak hours and/or specific days, so be sure to check the timetable. A better solution is to download mobile apps (for instance "APP 1933" for Kowloon Motor Bus routes) and plan the journeys beforehand.
Unlike the rest of the world, Saturday is an usual working day in Hong Kong, especially for logistic industries and local factories. Whereas some citizens in Hong Kong do rest on Saturdays, some citizens will make use of their rest days to drive around the city.
A vast fleet of ferries plies between the many islands of Hong Kong. The granddaddy of them all and an attraction in itself is the Star Ferry, whose most popular line travels from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central and Wanchai from 7:00 a.m. to 23:00 p.m., and offers amazing views (especially when coming from Tsim Sha Tsui). The Star Ferry is an icon of Hong Kong heritage and has carried passengers for over 120 years. Taking its eleven minute ride across the harbour and catching some misty breeze is considered a "must do" when visiting Hong Kong.
Upper deck seats cost $2.50 on weekdays and $3.40 on weekends while the lower deck cost $2.80 on weekdays and $2 on weekends, both payable with Octopus, cash (change given) or by onsite vending machine. Ferries to Wanchai have only upper-deck seating.
Ferries to Lamma, Lantau and other islands depart from a variety of ports, but the largest and most important terminal is at Central adjacent to the Star Ferry. Ferries are usually divided into fast ferries and slow ferries, with fast ferries charging around twice the price for half the journey time, although not all destinations offer both kinds of service. Example fares for trips from Central to Mui Wo (Lantau)are $14.50/$28.4 (slow/fast). Note that all fares increase by around 50% on Sundays and public holidays.
Be aware of whether typhoons and other inclement weather is around. Increased swell can make the ferry a little less comfortable, even in the harbour.
Taxis are plentiful, clean, and efficient. They are extremely cheap compared to many other large cities.
There are three types of taxi in Hong Kong, easily identified by their colours: red, green and blue, all of which serve the airport and Hong Kong Disneyland. Be aware if you are choosing from one of the three kinds of taxis when you are finding your way out of the airport. When in doubt, just take a red taxi. Rates for each type of taxi are published online
Considerations when riding taxis:
Considerations when driving in Hong Kong:
It is basically impossible for a tourist to drive directly to mainland China from Hong Kong, due to the following reasons:
In general, although cycling is possible, Hong Kong is not a bicycle-friendly place because of its hilly landscapes, government policies, air pollution and a general lack of consideration by many motorists. Locals sometimes cycle on the pavements if they are not crowded, although most of time, pavements are too crowded even for pushing your bike. If you plan to use busy urban roads you should be fit enough to keep up with the traffic, which moves surprisingly quickly.
A network of tarmac cycle tracks sprawl across the New Territories making it relatively easy to bike for longer distances. There are also several mountain-bike trails in the country parks. Visitors should comply with the Road User's Guide which is based on the United Kingdom Highway Code.
Bike rental is available in several locations across the territory. Popular rental spots include Cheung Chau, Mui Wo (Lantau), Sha Tin, Tai Po Market, Tuen Mun and Ma On Shan. Rental fees are typically $40-60 a day for a standard entry-level mountain bike, or around $150 per day for a higher-spec mountain or road bike.
Basic rules to follow:
Bicycles on public transport
Folding bicycles are permitted on all public transport, provided that they are folded.
The world's longest outdoor escalator travels from Central through Soho to the residential developments of the Mid-levels. The escalator moves down in the morning rush hour but up the rest of the time, and using it is free — in fact, you can even get Octopus credits from machines along the way for being willing to use your feet!
The escalator cuts through some of the oldest streets found anywhere in Hong Kong, so if you are happy to take a chance and just wander and explore the back streets you are likely to find something of interest that dates back to colonial times. The immediate area to the east of the escalator was once reserved for the exclusive use of Chinese people.
Hong Kong downtown is very small so that you can try walking around the city, a walk from Tsim Sha Tsui ferry pier to Mong Kok takes you around 50 minutes and you can visit Temple Street and Kowloon Park at the same time.
But given the crowded roads filling with cars and smoking pedestrians, the air condition in Hong Kong is relatively bad, if you have asthma or other breathing problems, avoid walking in Hong Kong streets if possible.
Also, if you plan to go in and out of buildings like shopping malls or even restaurants, bring a light pullover, jacket or shawl since the inside temperature will be much lower. Indeed, it is acceptable to carry a towel to remove sweat.
The local language is Cantonese. The Hong Kong variant is basically the same as in Guangzhou on the mainland but tends to incorporate some English words and slang, which frequently sounds strange to other Cantonese speakers. (Like "我唔sure得唔得", means "I am not sure if it's okay") Cantonese is the lingua franca in many overseas Chinese communities and Guangdong and Guangxi province. Like all Chinese languages, Cantonese is a tonal language and definitely not easy for foreigners to master, but locals always really appreciate any effort by visitors to speak it, so learning a few simple greetings will get you acquainted with locals much more easily and will ensure friendly encounters and lots of additional help in shops, convenience stores and supermarkets. Whilst the Cantonese are somewhat reserved toward Westerners, they do become considerably warmer, when they realise you're making the effort to speak to them in their language.
Unlike Hanyu Pinyin - standard romanization system for phoneticizing Mandarin, Cantonese so far hasn't developed a well recognised romanization system and local people seldom bother to learn them. However, some accurate phonetics system do exist for learners, such as the Yale system or Jyutping.
As English is an official language of Hong Kong, government offices are required by law to have English-speaking staff on duty. There are three terrestrial English language TV channels named TVB Pearl, ViuTVsix and RTHK TV 33. English-language films in cinemas are almost always shown with the original soundtrack and Chinese subtitles, though children's films, especially animations, are often dubbed into Cantonese (although English dubbing is still choosable). British English is still widely used in Hong Kong, especially in government and legal documents. In the media, the South China Morning Post and terrestrial TV channels use British English. Place names, such as Victoria Harbour (not Harbor) serve as a record of Hong Kong's colonial heritage. Also, modern buildings, such as the International Finance Centre (not Center) maintain British spellings. Most secondary and tertiary institutions adopt English for instruction while some lectures are conducted in Cantonese. Lectures are conducted in English at the universities.
It is also important to note that many English street names are seldom used among local people including those who can speak fluent English. Before you go to anywhere, ask hotel staff to write down the street names using Chinese characters, and try to learn how to pronounce where you are going in Cantonese, if possible. Another method is using google maps (or equivalent) on your smart phone and pointing (politely) to where you are going.
Most locals are not fluent in Mandarin, but can comprehend it to some degree. However, due to the large number of tourists from the mainland, as well as the fact that Mandarin has been compulsory in all government schools since the handover, people in the tourist industry will often speak Mandarin, and most shops in the main tourist areas, as well as all government offices will have Mandarin-speaking staff on duty.
All official signs are bilingual in Chinese and English. Under the "one country, two systems" policy, Hong Kong continues to use traditional Chinese characters, and not the simplified Chinese characters used in the mainland.
Hong Kong doesn't have street benches to sit down. Whilst "sitting down areas" are around, these are generally hard to find. A notable exception is the recent Central and Western District Promenade on Hong Kong between the Central Star ferry terminal and the convention centre.
Additionally, restaurants (especially cheap and quick ones) will prefer quick table turnover. All this adds up to spending a considerable amount of time on your feet. Make sure you have a pair of very comfortable shoes, as even a good pair of shoes will still leave your feet sore after a full day on your feet.
Your best -if not very authentic- chance for some relaxation will be the various coffee franchises. They also offer WiFi, so you can use the time to review your itinerary.
A list of guided tours is available on the website of the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
Get a stunning view of Hong Kong Island on Victoria Peak atop the giant, wok-shaped Peak Tower! Ever since the dawn of British colonisation, the Peak hosted the most exclusive neighbourhood for the territory's richest residents. Local Chinese weren't permitted to live here until after World War II. The Peak Tower has an observation platform and a shopping mall with shops, fine dining, and museums. There is a fee to go to the top. If you don't have a ticket yet, you might try the booth at the foot of the final escalator instead of the one immediately downstairs, as it is often less crowded. For more information on The Peak, see Hong Kong/Central#See
As the only one Korean 3D Museum in Hong Kong, Trick Eye Museum Hong Kong presents a magnificent collection of 3D art pieces. It features paintings on plain surfaces that magically appear to be three dimensional through the use of optical illusion. You are most welcome to touch, climb and interact with the amazing exhibits. After capturing the hearts of millions of visitors around the globe, it has now descended upon Hong Kong at The Peak Galleria Mall. You can also enjoy the free observation deck view of the beautiful Harbour View. For more information, please visit website of Trick Eye Museum Hong Kong.
The horse racing season runs from September to July, during which time racings take place twice weekly, with the location alternating between Shatin in the New Territories and Happy Valley ($10, Wednesday nights), a 10 to 15 minute walk from Causeway Bay MTR station on Eastern Hong Kong Island. Both racing locations are easily accessible by MTR but Happy Valley is the more convenient, historic, and impressive location. Get a local to explain the betting system to you and then drink the cheap draft beer. Be sure to read Racing Post by the South China Morning Post on race days to guide you. A beer garden with racing commentary in English is available at Happy Valley near the finish line where many expatriates congregate during the races. One good tip: bring your passport and get in at the tourist rate of just $1.
Betting can also be placed at any of 100+ branches of the Hong Kong Jockey Club. Expect long lines and big crowds. The Hong Kong Jockey Club is a nonprofit charitable organization and the only institution permitted to conduct legal horse-racing in the territory.
There are many traditional heritage locations throughout Hong Kong.
In New Territories, you will find:
In Kowloon you will find:
On Lantau you will find:
St John’s Cathedral is the oldest surviving Western ecclesiastical building in the city. St Andrew's Church is Victorian-gothic and it is cruciform in shape. Kowloon Union Church was founded in 1927, is an English missionary in Hong Kong interdenominational Christian church, was listed as a Grade I historical building in Hong Kong.
There are a variety of museums in Hong Kong with different themes, arguably the best museum is the Hong Kong Museum of History in Kowloon, which gives an excellent overview of Hong Kong's fascinating past. Not the typical pots-behind-glass format of museums you find elsewhere in China. Innovative galleries such as a mock-up of a colonial era street make history come to life. Allow about two to four hours to view everything in detail. Admission is free. There is an audio tour available for HKD$10.
Wong Tai Sin Temple
Wong Tai Sin Temple knoen, to Thai people as “Temple of Wong-Tar-Shian”. Originally, this temple was only a small court District in Wan-Chai. Afterwards, with collected donations, the temple moved to the present location. Because the Wong-Tai-Sin is god of health, those who pray at this temple mostly pray about health. The ritual and architecture styles come from Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. Open:07:00 AM – 17:30 PM Location: 2 Chuk Yuen Village, Wong Tai Sin MTR (green line) @Wong Tai sin station Exit B3
Kowloon also includes a number of other interesting museums including Dialogue in the Dark, which is an exhibition in complete darkness where you should use your non-visual senses with the help of a visually impaired guide, the International Hobby and Toy Museum, which exhibits models, toys, science fiction collectibles, movie memorabilia and pop-culture artifacts from around the world, Hong Kong Museum of Art, which is a fascinating, strange and elusive place exhibiting Chinese ceramics, terracotta, rhinoceros horn and Chinese paintings as well as contemporary art produced by Hong Kong artists, Hong Kong Science Museum, primarily aimed at children, and Hong Kong Heritage Discovery Centre.
Central also has its share of museums including Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum, Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences, which shows how the healthcare system evolved from traditional Chinese medicine to modern Western medicine, and Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre.
New Territories has the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, which will appeal to those who have a serious interest in Chinese culture, and the Hong Kong Railway Museum.
Contrary to popular belief, Hong Kong is not all skyscrapers and it is worthwhile to go to the countryside (over 70% of Hong Kong), including the country parks and marine parks. Many are surprised to find that Hong Kong is actually home to some stunning landscapes and breathtaking scenery.
Seeing different sides of Hong Kong by Public Transport
Travelling on a bus or a tram is ideal for looking at different sides of Hong Kong. Not only is it cheap to ride on a bus or a tram, it also allows you to see completely different lifestyles in different districts in a short time. Below are some recommended routes.
The Hong Kong Tramways are a slow yet special form of transport running on Hong Kong Island. It has been operating since 1904 and is an obvious relic of the British administration - the only remaining double-decker tram line in the world. A trip on a tram is a perfect way to have a leisurely tour around Hong Kong Island's major streets and to have a glimpse of the local life. Fares are relatively cheap, just $2.3 per trip for an adult and $1.1 for Senior citizens (aged 65 or older) and children pay $1.2.
It is recommended to ride from as far as Kennedy Town in the west, to as far as Shau Kei Wan in the east, in order to get a strong contrast of "East meets West" and "Old meets New". Be aware that the cars are built small. Avoid bringing big packs.
A new, modern, tram system operates in the north west New Territories and serves New Towns between Yuen Long and Tuen Mun. Few tourists will be inspired by these trams but they may appeal to trainspotters.
Avenue of Stars and A Symphony of Lights
Hong Kong's version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Avenue of Stars celebrates icons of Hong Kong cinema from the past century. The seaside promenade offers fantastic views, day and night, of Victoria Harbour and its iconic skyline. This is the place to have your picture taken by a professional photographer who is experienced in night photography. The Avenue can be reached from the East Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station or the Star Ferry bus terminus.
The Avenue of the Stars is also a great place to see A Symphony of Lights, a spectacular light and laser show synchronised to music and staged every night at 20:00. This is the world's "Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show" as recognised by Guinness World Records. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the light show is in English. On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday it is in Mandarin. On Sunday it is in Cantonese. While at the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, spectators can tune their radios to FM103.4MHz for English narration, FM106.8MHz for Cantonese or FM107.9 for Mandarin. The same soundtrack can be accessed via mobile phones at 35665665 for the English version, where normal telephone rates apply. Whilst the show is not such a big deal, during festival times the light show is supplemented by fireworks that are worth seeing. Photographers should arrive 30-60 minutes early to get an unobstructed view.
Avenue of Stars under reconstruction - As of late october 2016, the Avenue is under reconstruction (some sign says since 2015). The statues and the walk of fame have been moved to the nearby Garden of Stars nearby, just before the Shangri-La hotel. Therefore, the Symphony of Lights is better seen from the other side of the under-construction "New World Center" (on the southern side), near the "East Tsim Sha Tsui (Railway) Station" bus stop on Salisbury Road.
Central and Western District Promenade
The newly reclaimed area between Central Ferry Pier and Convention Centre on Hong Kong island is being developed as a recreational area offering open space (unusual in central Hong Kong), the Hong Kong Observation Wheel, outdoor seating, waterfront cafes, seasonal events and a great view of the Kowloon skyline and Central skyscrapers (if you like your wide angles), especially at night.
Festivals and events
Ride the tram between Kennedy Town and Shau Kei Wan. The journey takes round 80 minutes and costs $2.30. The Hongkong Tramways run between the West and East of Hong Kong Island. Starting from the old district Kennedy Town, you can see the residental areas, followed by the Chinese herbal medicine and dried seafood wholesalers in Sai Ying Pun - Sheung Wan. Then the tram goes in the famous Central district with high rise commercial buildings and banks. Wan Chai and Causeway Bay are the districts popular with shoppers and are always crowded with people at all times. Travelling further east are North Point and Shau Kei Wan areas, which are of completely different styles from that in Central and Causeway Bay. More comfort-seeking travellers may take the air-conditioned #5B (Kennedy Town - Causeway Bay (HK Stadium)), #2 (Sheung Wan (Macau Ferry) - Shau Kei Wan (Aldrich Bay)), #81 (Tai Hang (Lai Tak Tsuen) - Chai Wan (Hing Wah Estste) via King's Road) or other buses running parallel to the tram line, with fares as low as $3.4 (plus additional interchange discounts).
Hong Kong is one of the main centres of Chinese pop culture with a huge and vibrant entertainment industry, and is home to many famous singers and actors such as Jacky Cheung, Leslie Chueng Kwok-Wing, Andy Lau, Wong Ka Kui (Beyond), Jackie Chan and locally Eason Chan, just to name a few. In addition to the locals, any foreign bands touring Asia are pretty much guaranteed to perform in Hong Kong, and concerts by famous singers are often a sell out affair.
You are never far from the sea in Hong Kong and going to a good beach is only a bus-ride away. However, if you want a really good beach, then it is worth making the effort to travel, possibly on foot, and seek out the beaches of the New Territories. With more than 200 outlying islands, as well as an extensive coastline that is jam-packed with impressive bays and beaches, you will surely come across some good looking beaches to while the whole day away. Hong Kong's urban beaches are usually well maintained and have services such as showers and changing rooms. Where beaches are managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Dept. shark nets and life guards are present. Dogs and smoking are not permitted on these beaches.
The best beaches to use include:
Repulse Bay is a large urban beach on the south side of Hong Kong island. It has recently had money spent on its facilities and will appeal to those who have young children.
Middle Bay is popular with gay people and is a 20 minute walk from the crowds at Repulse Bay. Middle Bay has lifeguards, showers, changing rooms, shark nets and a decent cafe serving drinks and snacks.
Shek O is a beach popular with many young Hong Kong people. It is away from the bustle of the city but is well served by restaurants and has a good bus service from the north side of the island. The Thai restaurant close to the beach is worth a try.
Big Wave Bay This beach is smaller than others on Hong Kong Island but still has good services which include a number of small cafes close to the beach. Big Wave Bay, as the name suggests, has the sort of waves that appeal to surfers. From Big Wave Bay it is possible to take the coastal footpath to Chai Wan where you can find the MTR and buses. The walk to Chai Wan is about one hour, or more if you are not used to the steep climb up the mountain.
Hung Shing Yeh beach is highly regarded as the most popular beach and is located on Lamma Island. This beach is Grade 1 and shows off powdery, fine sand as well as clear water. This beach is well-appointed by means of changing facilities, a barbecue area, and a refreshment kiosk. To arrive at this beach, take the ferryboat from Central Pier to Yung Shue Wan. Expect to walk around 20 minutes from the ferry terminal to the beach (buses and taxis are not an option on Lamma), don't worry, it's a great, easy walk.
Other than swimming pools in hotel, Hong Kong offers a series of public swimming pools which are maintained to a very high standard. It costs $19 for adults and $9 for children. Swimming pools are children friendly with shallow pools and fountains. All swimming pool complexes offer swimming lanes, hot showers, lockers, and most have swimming clubs for serious swimmers.
The Kowloon Park swimming pool complex (Tsim Sha Tsui MTR exit A1) is centrally located and offers visitors a wide range of services. Indoors is a main pool that is Olympic sized, a slightly smaller training pool, a diving pool and a leisure pool for younger swimmers. During the summer months the indoor pools are air-conditioned, whilst in winter the water is heated. Outdoors, during the summer season, they have four leisure pools to meet the needs of all ages. In summer, the pool is popular with teenagers but all age-groups make good use of the pools. A limited number of sun loungers are available.
The pools in Kowloon Park open at 06:30 and close at 22:00. There are session breaks when the centre closes for lunch 12:00-13:00 and then it closes for another hour 17:00-18:00. Most public pools in Hong Kong have similar opening and closing times with session breaks.
Family changing rooms are available in addition to the regular changing rooms. Males and females have separate changing areas but changing rooms do not offer much privacy between users of the same sex. Swimmers are expected to provide their own towels and toiletries. A $5 coin is needed to operate a locker or you can provide your own padlock (you can get back the $5 coin after you unlock the locker, its right behind the keyhole). An Octopus card or coins are needed for payment to enter the complex.
There is at least one pool in each district of Hong Kong. For the address and opening schedule, see the government website.
You can rent out a Junk Boat for a sailing trip with your family and friends. A typical junk boat can accommodate more than 30 people and can be rented for the day to take you on a tour of your choice. Sai Kung is a popular spot for the trip to start and you can sail to nearby beaches for a more secluded time. A cheaper alternative is to hire a much smaller water taxi (水道) to take you to where you want to go.
Hiking and Camping
Hiking is the best kept secret in Hong Kong, it is a great way to appreciate Hong Kong's beautiful landscapes that include mountains, beaches and breathtaking cityscapes. The starting points for many hiking trails are accessible by bus or taxi. Hiking is highly recommended for active travellers who want to escape the modern urban world.
Hiking in Hong Kong can be strenuous because of the steep trails, and during the summer months, mosquitos and the hot, humid, weather combine to make even the easiest trek a workout. It is highly recommended that you wear suitable clothes, and bring plenty of water and mosquito repellent. It is fairly unlikely that you will have a close encounter with venomous snakes, although they are present in most rural areas. Most local people choose the winter months to undertake the more demanding hiking trails. If you are not especially fit you might plan your route so that you take a bus or taxi to the highest point of the trail and then walk downhill.
Campsites in Hong Kong are plentiful and free of charge. Most are located within the country parks and range from basic sites serviced with only with a drop-toilet, to those that provide campers with modern toilet blocks with cold showers. Some sites have running water and sinks for washing dishes. A few campsites have places to buy drinking water and food, whilst many are serenely remote. Weekends and public holidays are predictably busy, especially in the more accessible places close to roads. Many Hong Kong people like to camp in large groups, talk loudly and stay awake until very late, so if you are noise sensitive try to find a remote campsite or learn to keep your temper.
There are five major trails in the Hong Kong SAR:
Hong Kong has some exceptional rural landscapes but visitor impact is an issue. Please respect the countryside by taking your litter home with you. Avoid using litter bins in remote areas as these are not emptied on a regular basis and your litter may be strewn around by hungry animals.
Horse racing may get all the media attention. Betting on world-wide football matches is also available at the Hong Kong Jockey Club. People can't bet on other sports as it's prohibited.
Marksix is a popular lottery ticket among the locals, it costs $10 for each bet and you can pick 6 from 49 numbers in a bet, the lottery result will be announced on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and weekends without horse racing, it can be bought in all Hong Kong Jockey Club offices.
Mahjong (麻雀 ma jeuk) also forms an integral part of Hong Kong gambling culture. Mahjong also has had a strong influence on Hong Kong pop culture, with a history of songs and films based on a mahjong theme. The game played in Hong Kong is the Cantonese version, which differs in rules and scoring from the Japanese version or the versions played in other parts of China. Mahjong parlours are ubiquitous in Hong Kong, though they do not advertise their services openly and many require a fair amount of effort to find. They also have many unwritten rules that visitors may find hard to understand.
Basically, the government provides 12-year free education for pupils from primary level to secondary level. The latest cohort is 3-3-4, that is 3-year junior secondary studies, 3-year senior secondary studies and 4-year tertiary studies. A limited number of schools have been appointed to conduct the Swiss International Baccalaureate (IB) educational programme, which has gained wide reception in the US and Canada.
English Language is a compulsory subject in all primary and secondary schools. English textbooks are mostly written in British English rather than American English.
Foreigners living in Hong Kong are prone to sending their children to study in international schools, such as the American International School Hong Kong, the Australian International School Hong Kong and Canadian International School.
Education is taken very seriously in Hong Kong and the territory has a total 9 universities, of which the University of Hong Kong, Chinese University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology are considered to be world class and attract students from far and wide. Most of these universities have exchange agreements with foreign universities, and these are a good way for one to experience living in Hong Kong for up to a year if your university has an exchange agreement with one of them. Courses for exchange students are often conducted in English.
Visitors to Hong Kong will soon notice that school children wear 'British-style' uniforms that have been adapted to the sub-tropical climate. It is a tradition for school students to sell 'flags' and collect money for charity on a Wednesday/ Saturday morning.
Around one third of the primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong adopt English as the medium of instruction, while the rest use Cantonese in daily lessons. Most courses in local universities are taught in English, while courses concerning local and Chinese culture might be taught in Cantonese. Some of the universities in Hong Kong offer Cantonese lessons for foreigners. This is a good way, for those living in Hong Kong for an extended period of time, to learn the local language. Like Taiwan and Macau, but unlike mainland China, the script taught is traditional Chinese.
You will need an employment visa in Hong Kong to take up any employment - paid or unpaid - even if you are from Britain or mainland China. This usually involves any potential employer making an application to the Immigration Department on your behalf; crucially you should have skills that are probably not available from the local job market. In June 2006, the Immigration Department revived a rule that allows the spouse of anyone currently working legally in Hong Kong to get a "dependent visa". This allows the spouse to take up any employment they wish, without having to seek approval from the Immigration Department. Dependent visas are available to mainland Chinese who are dependent on foreign workers legally employed in Hong Kong, but the process is longer and more complex for mainland Chinese dependent on Hong Kong Permanent Residents. Same-sex couple are not eligible to "dependent visa", even if you're legally married in you home country.
In 2006, the Hong Kong Government introduced a new program called the Quality Migrant Application Scheme which targets skilled, preferably university educated, labour with good knowledge of languages to come and settle in Hong Kong and seek employment. For more information, visit the website of the Hong Kong Immigration Department . Hong Kong does feature a small ESL market, teachers will typically need a Bachelor`s Degree and a TESOL certification. ESL teachers in Hong Kong can expect to earn HK$12,000 - HK$25,000 (monthly) and will usually teach 30 – 40 hours in a week. Contracts will sometimes include accommodation and airfare.
Young people between 18 and 30 years old who are citizens of Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and the United Kingdom are eligible to apply for a 12 month working holiday visa, allowing them to take up temporary work and a short period of study in Hong Kong. Visit the Immigration Department's website  for more information.
The Hong Kong dollar (港幣 or HKD) is the territory's official currency and is the unit of currency used throughout this travel guide and simply denoted with the $ sign. In Chinese, one dollar is known formally as the yuen (圓) and colloquially as the men (蚊) in Cantonese. You can safely assume that the '$' sign used in the territory refers to HKD. If US dollars are intended then they will be symbolised as "USD". The Hong Kong dollar is also widely accepted in Macau in lieu of their home currency at a 1:1 rate.
The official exchange rate is fixed at HKD7.80 = USD1, although bank rates may fluctuate slightly. When exchanging currency at a big bank, be prepared to pay a small fixed commission, usually about $40 per transaction. If exchanging large amounts, this commission will have a negligible impact on the transaction. If exchanging small amounts, it may be advantageous to exchange at one of many independent exchange shops found in tourist areas. Although their exchange rates compared with big banks are slightly less favourable for you, most do not charge a commission. They may also be more convenient and faster ways to exchange (no queues, located in shopping centres, open 24 hours, etc.). However, be wary of using independent exchangers outside banking hours because, without competition from big banks, their rates may become very uncompetitive.
Avoid changing money at the airport as well as the hotel since the rates there are extremely uncompetitive.
Many tourists opt to use their ATM debit cards instead of carrying cash or traveller's cheques. Using this method, the exchange rates and fees are comparable to exchanging cash at big banks. However, some smaller banks do not accept ATM cards from overseas customers. The best banks for foreign tourists to use are HSBC, Hang Seng and Standard Chartered, and ATM machines from those banks are widespread. Also, be mindful of withdrawal limits imposed by your bank. Note that for security reasons, many banks have 'quietly' imposed withdrawel limits for other then your home country, so check before departure if that applies to you. Adjust that limit for both Hong Kong and China, since sometimes ATMs of China-based banks will still be limited.
The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) issues the new purple plastic $10 notes while the rest are issued by three banks (the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, also known as the 'Hong Kong bank', Standard Chartered Bank and Bank of China). The old green paper $10 notes issued by HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank remain legal tender. The style of notes varies a lot between banks though the colour and size are about the same for notes of the same denomination. The larger the denomination, the larger the size of the banknotes. Banknotes come in denominations of:
Some shops do not accept $1000 notes due to counterfeiting concerns.
The coins come in units of
varying in a descending size (except $10 coin).
Since September 1997, the use of the small coins and change has been reduced due to the innovation of the Octopus card. Originally used just for fare payment for the MTR and buses, it now is used all over the city, for purchases in any amount at convenience stores, fast food restaurants, pharmacies, vending machines, etc.
Automated Teller Machines (ATM's) are common in urban areas. They usually accept VISA, MasterCard, and to certain degree UnionPay. Maestro and Cirrus cards are widely accepted also. They dispense $100, $500 or rarely $1000 notes depending on the request. Credit card use is common in most shops for major purchases. Most retailers accept VISA and MasterCard, and some accept American Express as well. Maestro debit cards however are not widely accepted by retailers. Signs with the logo of different credit cards are usually displayed at the door to indicate which cards are accepted. For small purchases, in places such as McDonalds or 7-Eleven, cash or Octopus Card is the norm though some of these outlets can accept credit cards for smaller purchases. Sometimes, the merchant can give you a choice of whether to charge your credit card purchase directly to your home currency or Hong Kong dollars. Choosing which currency to directly charge the purchase to won't matter for small amounts but for larger purchases it may be worth it to consult your credit card's policy on them converting foreign exchange transactions. Making payments in your own currency looks convenient, but effectively lets the retailer (or their bank) choose the rate of exchange.
Merchants will require that the credit cards be signed and may compare your signature with the card, but do not ask for picture ID. The exception are stores like McDonalds where purchases below $200 do not require a signature. Although debit/credit card readers are capable of reading and processing chip cards, the 'chip and pin' system for credit card authorisation is not used in Hong Kong.
Foreigners may open bank accounts in Hong Kong, though a proof of address is required. As your passport usually does not show your address, you should also bring something that shows your address such as an ID card or a bank statement.
Payment by card
Dynamic currency conversion is prevalent in Hong Kong. Some shops and restaurants (especially the high end stores such as those selling watches or those that display a sign saying, "We speak your currency," with different world currency symbols) offer the option to charge your card in your home currency for foreign VISA/MasterCards. Usually you are shown the payment terminal with a box for HKD and another box for your home currency. Always choose the box for HKD before signing or entering your PIN; as a competitive rate will then be determined by VISA/MasterCard less a foreign transaction fee charged by your card issuer. Otherwise, if you choose your home currency, expect to pay 3 to 4 percent more for your purchase due to a less competitive exchange rate as well as your card issuer's foreign transaction fee. Always check every credit card receipt - even if not prompted - to ensure that it does not have an amount charged in your home currency and the exchange rate used as a merchant may have "helpfully" selected your home currency for you without your knowledge. If it does, tell them to void the transaction and do it again. Firmly decline any attempts by the merchant to convince you to select your home currency - they may lie about how charging in your home currency will avoid the foreign transaction fee. This is usually false, as the rate provided by the merchant is usually less competitive than the rate provided by your card less the foreign transaction fee. Furthermore, even a transaction in your home currency may still result in a foreign transaction fee as the fee is usually applied on the basis of the transaction occurring outside your home country rather than what currency it was transacted in.
Hong Kong is expensive by Asian standards especially the cost of accommodation. A traveller on a bare bones budget can probably survive with $150 for a day if you are willing to stay in some of the cheapest accommodation in Hong Kong which could be as cheap as $60 per bed but the quality is not what everyone can tolerate.
Backpackers with a less tight budget should expect to spend at least $150 for a bed and $500 for a room. Family travellers should expect to pay at least $1000 for accommodation per night.
Sites such as wimdu and airbnb do offer a considerable range of 'local' accommodation, though standards vary. It is a good way to stay in areas where people actually live and see the day to day goings on of life. Be aware though that these are not hotel style accommodation and reflect the tiny spaces that Hong Kongers live in (including short, narrow beds).
The cheapest food available will cost you around $25-35 for a meal (or $2.50+ per piece for Dim Sum), although in mid-range restaurants, $150-200 per head is common.
Another option if you don't feel like dealing with people or the language barrier (and aren't that fussy) are the microwave meals at 7-Eleven and Circle K. Usually these cost around $10-$15, and are of an adequate nature, especially given how cheap they are. Microwaves are onsite at 7-Eleven to allow you to reheat. Usually 7-Eleven and Circle K will have basic sushi, sandwiches and instant cup noodles, which make for a very cheap feed.
Tipping is only practised in limited situations by local people and it's not expected for every little service such as a taxi driver, or a waiter. People will not reject any tips you care to hand them. Tipping is a matter of personal choice, but visitors should take into account that locals usually do not leave a tip. Visitors should also know that it is common for bar and restaurant owners to keep some, or all, of the money given as tips. One exception would be the ubiquitous foot massage parlours, where the man or woman providing the foot massage is reliant on tips for a significant portion of his or her income, and generally gets to keep the full amount.
In cheaper joints, tipping is not expected at all and it will be considered unusual not to take all your change. In medium-to-upmarket restaurants, a 10% service charge is often compulsorily added to your bill and this is usually regarded as the tip. You may wish to tip on top of the service charge for good service, but it is neither compulsory nor expected; to give it more chance of reaching the staff tips should be given in cash not as additions to a credit card bill. It is also common for midrange Chinese restaurants to give you peanuts, tea and towels and add a small charge to the bill. Known as "cha-sui money" (money for tea and water) it is considered to be common practice. So, unless the charge is excessive, tourists should accept it as part of the cost of the meal. Sometimes, restaurants will deliberately give customers change in coins, when bills should be given; it is your choice to either take all your change or leave a small tip.
Tipping is not expected in taxis but passengers will often round up the fare to the nearest dollar. During a typhoon, when any loss is not covered by insurance, a tip will be expected, or the taxi driver will ask you to pay a surcharge. In hotels, a guest is also expected to tip at least $10-20 for room service, and porters also expect $10-20 for carrying your bags. Bathroom attendants in luxury restaurants and clubs might also expect you to leave a few coins, but it's socially acceptable not to tip.
Exceptionally, on important occasions, such as a wedding party or similar big gala event, local people hosting such events do tip substantially more than ten percent of the total bill. The money is put into a red envelope and given to the manager.
Fierce competition, no sales tax or VAT, and some wealthy consumers all add up to make Hong Kong an excellent destination for shopping. Choices are plentiful at competitive price. Lookout for watches, camping equipment, digital items and special cosmetics. It's worth bearing in mind that many ground-level high street shops have to cover extortionate rent, which will probably offset the saving from lack of VAT. Much of the ideas of Hongkong being a shoppers paradise are out-dated, if you want cheap goods you won't find them on the high street. This is largely down to the huge number of wealthy Chinese that come to Hongkong to buy genuine (luxury) goods, which are extremely expensive in China.
Popular shopping items include consumer electronics, custom clothing, shoes, camping equipment, jewellery, expensive brand name goods, Chinese antiques, toys and Chinese herbs/medicine. There's also a wide choice of Japanese, Korean, American and European clothing and cosmetics but price are generally higher than in their respective home countries.
Most shops in Hong Kong's urban areas open at about 10:00AM until 22:00 or even midnight every day. High rents in Hong Kong, ranked second worldwide according to Forbes, make it no surprise that the best bargain shops could be located anywhere except the ground floor. Shops recommended by local people may even be up on the 20th floor in a building that won't give you a hint that it's a place for shopping.
Many shops will accept credit cards. In accepting credit cards, the merchant will look carefully at the signature rather than looking at picture ID. In addition, merchants will not accept credit cards with a different name that the person presenting it. All shops that accept credit cards and many that don't, will also accept debit cards and ATM cards as payment. The term used for debit card payment is EPS, but many shops accept EPS for free and charge for use of the Visa/Mastercard (credit or debit) network.
In the old days, Hong Kong was a good place to buy cheap knockoff, fake products, and pirated videos and software. Today, Hong Kong residents often buy these items in Shenzhen just across the border in mainland China.
Be careful when shopping at stores that have neon-lighted signs of famous brands. Some have complained about the products they purchased from there.
Antiques and Arts- Head for Hollywood Road and Loscar Road in Central. Here you will find a long street of shops with a wide selection of products that look like antiques. Some items are very good fakes, so make sure you know what you are buying. Try Star House near the Star Ferry pier in Tsim Sha Tsui for more expensive items.
Books- Hong Kong houses a fair (if dwindling) choice of English books, Korean Japanese, French titles, and huge range of uncensored Chinese titles. Prices are usually higher than where they import but it is your last hope to look for your books before heading to China. Try Swindon Books  on Lock Road in Tsim Sha Tsui and Page One  in Harbour City (Kowloon) and Festival Walk (Kowloon Tong). Dymocks, an Australian bookshop, has withdrawn from Hong Kong in early 2015. For French books, visit Librairie Parentheses on Wellington Street in Central and Japanese and Korean books are sold in Sogo Shopping Mall in Causeway bay. The biggest local bookshop chain is the Commercial Press and usually have a cheaper but limited English titles. For looking for Chinese books, local people's beloved bookshops are all along Sai Yeung Choi Street. Called Yee Lau Sue Den (Bookshop on second floor), they hide themselves in the upper floor of old buildings (look for signs containing the traditional character 書) and offer an unbeatable discount on all books.
Cameras- Reputable camera stores are located mainly in Central, Tsim Sha Tsui and Mongkok but tourist traps do exist, especially in Tsim Sha Tsui. The basic rule is to avoid all the shops with flashing neon signs along Nathan Road and look for a shop with plenty of local, non-tourist, customers. Only use recommended shops, as shops such as those on Nathan Road are likely to disappear on your next visit to Hong Kong. For easy shopping, get a bus or train to Mong Kok and head to Sai Yeung Choi Street, where you might find some of the best deals. The Mong Kok Computer Centre and Galaxy Mall (Sing Jai) are always packed with local people. Several camera shops like Man-Sing and Yau-Sing are known for their impolite staff but have a reputation for selling at fair prices. In the 1990s and early 2000s, most shops didn't allow much bargaining, but this has changed since 2003 with the influx of tourists from mainland China. While it is hard to tell how much discount you should ask for, if a shop can give you more than 25-30% discount, local people tend to believe that it's too good to be true, unless it's a listed seasonal sale.
Computers- The base price of computer equipment in Hong Kong is similar to those in other parts of the world, but there are substantial savings to be hand from the lack of sales tax or VAT.
The Wanchai Computer Centre, Mongkok Computer Centre and Golden Computer Arcade on Sham Shui Po are all a few steps away from their corresponding MTR stations. Also electronic equipment is available at the large chain stores such as Broadway and Fortress which are located in the large malls. The major chain stores will accept credit cards, while smaller shops will often insist on cash or payment by ATM card.
Computer Games and Gaming Hardware- If you are interested in buying a new Playstation, Nindendo DS and the like, the Oriental Shopping Centre, 188 Wan Chai Road, is the place to go. Here you will definitely find a real bargain. Prices can be up to 50% cheaper than in your home country. Be careful to compare prices first. There are also a few game shops in the Wanchai Computer Centre. The back corners in the upper levels usually offer the best prices. You might even be lucky and find English speaking staff here. However, be careful to make sure that the region code of the hardware is compatible with your home country's region code (Hong Kong's region code is NTSC-J, different from mainland China) or buy region code free hardware (like the Nintendo DS lite but NOT the 3DS).
Music and Film- HMV is a tourist-friendly store that sells a wide range of more expensive products. For real bargains you should find your way into the smaller shopping centres where you will find small independent retailers selling CDs and DVDs at very good prices. Some shops sell good quality second hand products. Try the Oriental Shopping Centre on Wanchai Road for a range of shops and a taste of shopping in a more down-market shopping centre. Alternatively, brave the warren of CD and DVD shops inside the Sino Centre on Nathan Road between Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei MTR stations. Hong Kong has two independent music stores. White Noise Records in Causeway Bay and Harbour Records in TST. Hong Kong's leading department store Lane Crawford has CD Bars in its IFC and Pacific Place stores and there's a good CD bar at Saffron Cafe on the Peak.
Camping and sports- A good place to buy sportswear is close to Mong Kok MTR station. Try Fa Yuen Street with a lot of shops selling sports shoes. There are also many shops hidden anywhere except the ground floor for selling camping equipment. Prices are usually highly competitive.
Fashion - Tsim Sha Tsui on Kowloon and Causeway Bay on the island are the most popular shopping destinations, though you can find malls all over the territory. In addition to all the major international brands, there are also several local Hong Kong brands such as Giordano, Bossini, G2000, Joyce and Shanghai Tang. The International Finance Centre in Central has a good selection of haute coutre labels for the filthy rich, while for cheap knock-offs, Temple Street in Yau Ma Tei is the obvious destination, though prices are not as cheap as they used to be and these days, most locals head across the border to Shenzhen for cheaper bargains. There is also Citygate Outlets, an extremely large factory outlet mall containing most of the major foreign and local brands located near Tung Chung MTR station on Lantau Island. Tourist going to Ladies Market or any markets nearby please be aware that there is basically no price tag on the items shown in the market. Most of the time, the price the merchant will quote you is double the price. Haggle with them and ask to reduce the price at least by 50%. In fact similar clothing items (lower price but fixed) can be found in brick and mortar shops nearby too(e.g Sai Yeung Choi street)
Tailoring - Hong Kong was once famous for offering first-rate fully bespoke shirts and suits at unbelievably low prices. It's not quite the bargain it once was, but you can still get suits for perhaps 1/4 of the cost of similar quality in the west. The tailor shop commonly mentioned in travel guides and magazines is Sam's Tailor, mainly because he is famous for selling to celebrities like Bill Clinton, but a tourist will not get the same level of quality or service (he has a separate fitting room on the second floor for VIPs). Expect to pay about 12,000 HKD for a suit from a first-class tailor who does the work in Hong Kong (e.g., Ascot Chang or A Man Hing Cheong) and expect to go in for at least three fittings before delivery of the suit. A tailor like New Super Fit Fashions (at the Tsim Sha Tsui Mansion) does excellent work for a much lower price, but produces the final product after only one fitting which leaves fewer opportunities to tweak the result.
Tea- Buying good chinese tea is like choosing a fine wine and there are many tea retailers that cater for the connoisseur who is prepared to pay high prices for some of China's best brews. To sample and learn about Chinese tea you might like to find the Tea Museum which is in Hong Kong Park in Central. Marks & Spencer caters for homesick Brits by supplying traditional strong English tea bags at a reasonable price. Fook Ming Tong at the International Finance Centre mall carries high-end teas, ranging from about a hundred up to tens of thousands of Hong Kong dollars.
Watches and jewellery- Hong Kong people are avid watch buyers - how else can you show your wealth if you can't own a car and your home is hidden at the top of a tower-block? You will find a wide range of jewellery and watches for sale in all major shopping areas. If you are targeting elegant looking jewellery or watches try Chow Tai Fook, which can be expensive. Prices vary and you should always shop around and try and bargain on prices. When you are in Tsim Sha Tsui you will probably be offered a "copy watch" for sale. The major luxury brands have their own shops that will ensure you are purchasing genuine items.
Street markets are a phenomenon in Hong Kong, usually selling regular groceries, clothes, bags or some cheap electronic knockoffs.
Be prepared to haggle hard at the markets, as haggling is an art form (or competitive sport) in Hong Kong, and if you're a Western tourist, you're a goldmine to the stallholders that needs to be mined. Often times, the stall holder will quote 3-5 times the price they are actually prepared to accept. A few tips for tourists that can be used are:
Discounts and haggling
Some stores in Hong Kong (even some chain stores) are willing to negotiate on price, particularly for goods such as consumer electronics, and in many small shops, they will give you a small discount or additional merchandise if you just ask. For internationally branded items whose prices can be easily found (i.e. consumer electronics), discounts of 50% are extremely unlikely. However, deep discounts are often possible on merchandise such as clothes. However, if there is a shop that is selling goods with a 50% discount, most local people will likely avoid buying there because it's too good to be true.
Electronics, such as mobile phones, are no longer "really really" cheap in Hong Kong, over and above any other country. Ordering from an online retailer in your home country, you can often get the product cheaper than in Hong Kong, even though the product is often shipping over from Kowloon. Mobile phones especially are a status symbol and Hong Kongers pay considerably more for the same phone as they sell overseas for half the cost.
Electronics stores are often packed together in the same place, so it is often easy to spend a few minutes comparing prices, and to know the prevailing international prices. Start by asking for a 10 to 20% discount and see how they respond to you. Sometimes it maybe appropriate to ask "is there any discount?" or "do I get any free gift?". It is sometimes possible to get an additional discount if you pay cash because credit card companies charge 3% on your bill.
The reputation for being a shopping paradise is well deserved in Hong Kong and, added to which, it is also a safe place to shop. Overcharging is seen as an immoral business practice by most local people, and is unlikely to spoil your holiday. Plenty of hotlines are available for complaints.
In areas crowded with tourists, traps do exist. They are often nameless consumer electronics stores with attention grabbing neon signs advertising reputable brand names. Many traps can be spotted if they have numerous employees in a very small store space. Often, several of these stores can be found in a row, especially along Nathan Road (and most of Tsim Sha Tsui), in Kowloon, Mong Kok and in parts of Causeway Bay.
One trick is to offer you a low price on an item, take your money only to 'discover' that it is out of stock, and then offer you an inferior item instead. Another trick is to give you a great price on a camera, take your credit card, and before handing over the camera convince you to buy another "better one" at an inflated cost. They may also try to mislead you into buying an inferior product, by claiming that it is a quality product.
Watch out for persons (usually of Indian subcontinental descent) who approach tourists in the busier areas of Kowloon (especially Tsim Sha Tsui). They do spot Westerners from a great distance and will make a direct line toward you to sell you usually either a suit or watch ("Genuine Copy" is the a phrase often used). Learn to spot them from a distance (since they are already looking for you), make eye-contact, put up your hand and definitively shake your head. Good, strong body language in this regard will help you be approached far less.
Although the law is strictly enforced, tourists traps are usually designed by villains who are experts at exploiting gray areas in the law. Remember, no one can help you if unscrupulous shop owners haven't actually broken the law.
The official Hong Kong Tourism Board has also introduced the Quality Tourism Services (QTS) Scheme that keeps a list of reputable shops, restaurants and hotels. The shops registered usually cater only to tourists, while shops that offer you the best deals usually don't bother to join the programme.
Watch out for people around Nathan road asking you where you're going. Don't tell them which hostel or hotel you're searching for, otherwise they will offer to "take you there".
Many shops are reluctant to refund if you just don't like what you bought. They are more willing to exchange products that haven't been tampered with or replace defective goods. Going against the trend, Marks & Spencer and Giordano both offer refunds without too much fuss.
Supermarkets and Convenience Stores
Like many crowded urban areas where most people rely on public transport, many Hongkongers shop little and often, so therefore there is an abundance of convenience stores which can be found on almost every street corner and in most train stations. These include 7-Eleven, Circle K (known as 'OK' by the locals) and Vanguard. Convenience stores are more expensive (except for beer on a per can basis, especially when there's a 2 x $x special) but are normally open 24-7 and sell magazines, soft drinks, beer, instant noodles, packaged sandwiches, microwavable ready-meals, snacks, contraceptives and cigarettes. Many stores have an in-store microwave for preparing ready-meals as well as hot water for preparing instant noodles and instant tea/coffee, and also provide chopsticks and western cutlery for eating food on the go.
Park 'n' Shop, Wellcome, Aeon are the three main supermarket chains in Hong Kong and they have branches in almost every neighbourhood, some of which open 24-7. Aeon (永旺超市，previously 'JUSCO吉之岛') is a popular japanese-style retail chain in Hong Kong. Aeon offers wide selection of reasonably priced and quality products. Travellers looking for quick bites and household products can have their safe bet at Aeon supermarkets.
However, most supermarkets will have friendly staff, who are prepared to help a Westerner. It's also a great opportunity to practice Cantonese greetings and small-talk and/or your numbers (great for the markets later).
If there are "Superstore" supermarkets, these are bigger, less cramped and often have more specials (or a better range, especially of drinks and snacks).
In urban areas, some stores are located underground and tend to be very small and cramped, although they have a much wider product choice and are somewhat cheaper than the above convenience stores. City'super, Great and Taste are expensive upmarket supermarkets that focus on high-quality products that are aimed towards a more affluent market. Apita and JUSCO are large Japanese-style supermarkets with a wide product selection and food courts. The YATA department store, fully owned and operated by Hong Kong companies that have zero ties with any Japanese parties, also trying to offer somewhat Japanese-sytle supermarket experience.
Cuisine plays an important part in many peoples' lives in Hong Kong. Not only is it a showcase of Chinese cuisines with huge regional varieties, but there are also excellent Asian and Western choices. Although Western food is often adapted to local tastes, Hong Kong is a good place for homesick travellers who have had enough of Chinese food. The Michelin guide to Hong Kong is considered to be the benchmark of good restaurants. Open Rice also provides a great directory of local restaurants. This is a fairly safe way to find a few "hole in the wall" style restaurants or eating places, whilst still experiencing good, local food. According to Restaurant magazine, 4 of the best 100 restaurants in the world are in Hong Kong.
You may meet some local people who haven't cooked at home for a decade. Locals love to go out to eat since it is much more practical than socializing in crowded spaces at home. A long queue can be a local sport outside many good restaurants during peak hours. Normally, you need to register first, get a ticket and wait for empty seats. Reservations are usually only an option in upmarket restaurants.
Chinese food is generally eaten with chopsticks. However, restaurants serving western food usually provide a knife, fork and spoon. Do not stick your chopsticks vertically into a bowl of rice, as this is reminiscent of incense sticks burning at the temple and has connotations of wishing death on those around you. In addition, chopsticks should not be used to move bowls and plates or make any noise. Dishes in smaller eateries might not come with a serving spoon, although staff will usually provide one if you request.
A few Hong Kong customs to be aware of:
See also Chinese table manners for more details. While certain etiquette is different, Chinese manners for using chopsticks apply to Hong Kong too.
Local foods, eating establishments, and costs
You can usually tell how cheap (or expensive) the food is from the decor of the restaurant (menus are not always displayed outside restaurants). Restaurants in Soho in Central, in 5-star restaurants, or in other high-rent areas are usually more expensive than restaurants that are off the beaten path. It is easy to find places selling mains for well under HK$80, offering both local and international food. Local fast food chains such as Café de Coral and Maxim's MX offer meals in the vicinity of HK$30, with standardised English menus for easy ordering. Yoshinoya (a Japanese chain) sell Japanese style Gyudon (beef and rice) and Teriyaki-style Chicken (with rice or noodles) for a very reasonable price. Mid-range restaurants generally charge in excess of HK$100 for mains. At the top end, restaurants, such as Felix or Aqua, can easily see you leave with a bill in excess of HK$1500 (including entrées (appetizers), mains, desserts and drinks). A new rising trend worth checking out is PlateCulture where you can book local private restaurants. It offers a service similar to Airbnb but for food and is a great way to get to know locals and find private restaurants otherwise inaccessible to travellers.
Dim sum 點心
Dim sum (點心), literally means 'to touch (your) heart', is possibly the best known Cantonese dish. Served at breakfast and lunch, these delicately prepared morsels of Cantonese cuisine are often served with Chinese tea.
Dim Sum comes in countless variations with a huge price range from $8 to more than $100 per order. Common items include steamed shrimp dumplings (蝦餃 har gau), pork dumplings (燒賣 siu mai), barbecued pork buns (叉燒包 char siu bau), and Hong Kong egg tarts (蛋撻 dan tat). Expect more choice in upmarket restaurants. One pot of tea with two dishes, called yak chung liang gin is a typical serving for breakfast.
Siu Mei 燒味
Siu mei a general name for roast meats made in a Hong Kong style, including roast pork belly, roasted over an open firepork (叉燒 char siu), roast duck or chicken. With the addition of a slightly crispy honey sauce layer, the final taste is of a unique, deep barbecue flavour. Rice with roasted pork (叉燒 char siu), roasted duck, pork with a crisp crackling, or Fragrant Queen's chicken (香妃雞), are common dishes that are enduring favourites for many, including local superstars.It is recommended to taste the roasted pork with rice in 'Sun-Can' of PolyU.
Cantonese congee (juk) is a thin porridge made with rice boiled in water. Served at breakfast, lunch or supper, the best version is as soft as 'floss', it takes up to 10 hours to cook the porridge to reach this quality. Congee is usually eaten with savoury Chinese doughnuts (油炸鬼 yau char kway) and steamed rice pastry (腸粉 cheong fun) which often has a meat or vegetable filling.
Hong Kong has several restaurant chains that specialise in congee, but none of them have earned the word-of-mouth respect from local gourmets. The best congee places are usually in older districts, often owned by elderly people who are patient enough to spend hours making the best floss congee.
When asked what food makes Hong Kong people feel home, wonton noodles (雲吞麵) is one of the favourite answers. Wonton are dumplings usually made from minced prawn but may contain small amounts of pork.
Rice pastry is also a popular dish from southern China. Found particularly in Teochew and Hokkien areas in China, its popularity is widespread throughout east Asia. In Hong Kong, it is usually served in soup with beef and fish balls and sometimes with deep-fried crispy fish skins.
Tong Sui 糖水
A popular Cantonese dessert is a sweet soup called tong sui (糖水, literal: sugar water). Popular versions are usually made with black sesame paste(芝麻糊), walnuts (核桃糊) or sago (西米露) which are usually sticky in texture. Other traditional ones include red bean paste(紅豆沙), green bean paste(綠豆沙) and tofu pudding(豆腐花). Lo ye (撈野) is a similar dish. Juice is put into a ultra-cold pan to make an ice paste, it is usually served with fresh fruit and sago.
Tea cafes & tea time 下午茶
A uniquely Hong Kong-style eatery starting to make waves elsewhere in Asia is the cha chaan teng (茶餐廳), literally "tea cafe", but offering fusion fast food that happily mixes Western and Eastern fare: innovations include noodles with Spam, stir-fried spaghetti and baked rice with cheese. Usually a wide selection of drinks is also available, almost always including the popular tea-and-coffee mix yuenyeung (鴛鴦), and perhaps more oddities (to the Western palate) like boiled Coke with ginger or iced coffee with lemon. Orders are usually recorded on a chit at your table and you pay at the cashier as you leave.
Showing signs of British colonial influence, tea time (Hang cha) plays an important role in Hong Kong's stressful office life. Usually starting at 2PM to 3PM, a typical tea set goes with a cup of 'silk-stocking' tea, egg tarts and sandwiches with either minced beef, egg or ham, but without vegetables and cheese.
Similar to Malaysian 'teh tarik', Hong Kong's variation shares a similar taste. The key difference is that a sackcloth bag is used to filter the tea leaves and the tea-dyed sackcloth resembles silk stockings, giving the name 'silk-stocking milk tea'. Milk tea, to some Hong Kong people, is an important indicator on the quality of a restaurant. If a restaurant fails to serve reasonably good milk tea, locals might be very harsh with their criticism. Yuanyang is also a popular drink mixed with milk tea and coffee.
A signal to tell you teatime has come is a small queue lining up in bakery to buy egg tarts (a teatime snack with outer pastry crust and filled with egg custard). Don't attempt to make a fool of yourself by telling people that the egg tart was brought to Hong Kong by the British - many locals are assertive in claiming sovereignty over their egg tarts. When a long-established egg tart shop in Central was closed due to skyrocketing rental payments, it became the SAR's main news and many people came to help the owners look for a new place.
Sample as many different egg tarts from local shops and find the best in your local area.
To stuff your stomach in a grassroots Chaa Chan Teng (茶餐廳) (local tea restaurant), expect to pay HK$10-20 for milk, tea or coffee, HK$8-10 for a toast, and HK$25-50 for a dish of rice with meats. Wonton noodles generally cost HK$20-30.
The cheapest food is in the popular street stalls. Most of the people working there do not speak much English and there is no English on the menu. However if you could manage to communicate, street-style eating is an excellent way to experience local food. Point, use fingers (or Cantonese numbers) and smile. They're usually willing to help. Local specialities include curry fish meat balls (咖喱魚蛋), fake shark fin soup (碗仔翅) made with beans and vermicelli noodles, egg waffle (雞蛋仔), fried three filled treasures (煎釀三寶, vegetable filled with fish meat), fried intestines on a stick, fried squid or octopus and various meats on sticks (such as satay style chicken).
Most major fast food eateries are popular in Hong Kong and have reasonable prices. McDonald's sells a Happy Meal set for around $20-25.
Seafood is very popular and is widely available. The best places to eat seafood include Sai Kung, Sam Shing, Po Doi O and Lau Fau Shan in the New Territories and Hong Kong's islands, particularly Lamma and Cheung Chau, are abound with seafood restaurants. Seafood is not cheap. Prices range from HK$200 per head for a very basic dinner, to HK$300-500 for better choices and much more for the best on offer.
Expect to find a mismatch between the high prices for the food and the quality of the restaurant. Sometimes the best food is served in the most basic eateries where tables maybe covered in cheap plastic covers rather than a more formal tablecloth. Often, Cantonese people value the food more than the decor. If one of your travelling companions does not like seafood, don't panic, many seafood restaurants have extensive menus that cater for all tastes. A number of seafood restaurants specialise in high quality roast chicken that is especially flavoursome. Many exotic delicacies like abalone, conch and bamboo clam can be found for sale in many seafood restaurants but you might want to avoid endangered species such as shark and juvenile fish.
Sushi is very popular and there are several all-you-can-eat sushi restaurants with reasonable prices.
While Hong Kong has long banned dog and cat meat and has strict rules on importing many meats of wild life animals, snake meat is commonly seen in winter in different restaurants that bear the name "Snake King". Served in a sticky soup, it is believed to warm your body.
There's an ongoing debate over the consumption of shark fin in Hong Kong, which is the biggest importer of this exotic cuisine. Commonly served at wedding parties and other important dining events, shark fin is served in a carefully prepared stew usually at $80 per bowl to $1000. The consumption of shark fin is a controversial topic and the Hong Kong WWF is campaigning against consumption of this endangered species.
Besides exotic meats, you will also see chicken feet, pig's noses and ears, lungs, stomachs, duck's heads, various types of intestines, livers, kidneys, black pudding (blood jelly) and duck's tongues on the Chinese dining tables.
Due to the large number of foreign residents in Hong Kong, there are many restaurants that serve authentic international cuisine at all price levels. This includes various types of Indian, Thai, Korean, Japanese and European foods. These can often be found in, though not restricted to, entertainment districts such as Lan Kwai Fong, Soho or Knutsford Terrace. Of these, Soho is probably the best for eating as Lan Kwai Fong is primarily saturated with bars and clubs. Top chefs are often invited or try to make their way to work in Hong Kong.
Home-dining is catching on as a very popular trend in Hong Kong. PlateCulture and BonAppeTour are a great way to discover local chefs who would love to have you over for an evening dinner. It's a great way to make friends over home-made food, and company.
Barbecue (BBQ) meals are a popular local pastime. Many areas feature free public barbecue pits where everybody roasts their own food, usually with long barbeque forks. It's not just sausages and burgers - the locals enjoy cooking a variety of things at BBQ parties, such as fish, beef meatballs, pork meatballs, chicken wings, and so on. A good spot is the Southern Hong Kong Island, where almost every beach is equipped with many free BBQ spots. Just stop by a supermarket and buy food, drinks and BBQ equipment. The best spots are Shek O (under the trees at the left hand side of the beach) and Big Wave Bay.
The number of restaurants in Hong Kong can make choosing one daunting, not to mention it is easy to find food, but not so easy to find great food. There are several licensed tour operators in Hong Kong specialising in food tours. Eating Adventures offers regular group tours of Mongkok and Hong Kong Island, with expert local guides. .
Wet markets are still prevalent. Freshness is a key ingredient to all Chinese food, so frozen meat and vegetables are frowned upon, and most markets display freshly butchered beef and pork (with entrails), live fish in markets, and more exotic shellfish, frogs, turtles and sea snails. Local people often go to the market everyday to buy fresh ingredients, just like the restaurants.
Cooked food centres
Cooked food centres are often found in the same building as some of the indoor wet markets. Tables that were once located on the street have been swept into sterile concrete buildings. Inside, the atmosphere is like a food court without the frills. Cooked food centres provide economic solutions to diners, but you might need to take along a Cantonese speaker, or be brave.
Supermarkets include Wellcome and Park N Shop. Speciality supermarkets catering to Western and Japanese tastes include City Super and Great. 24 hour convenience stores 7-Eleven and Circle K can be found almost anywhere in urban areas.
Tea is a popular beverage in Hong Kong. Chinese teas may be served in most chinese restaurants, though many places also serve Hongkong-style milk tea.
Some Hong Kongers do drink a lot but do not expect the binge-drinking culture found in some western countries and parts of the mainland. There are many neighbourhoods in Hong Kong without much in the way of a bar or pub. Drinking alcohol with food is acceptable and you'll often see older Chinese men and workers having a bottle with their meal from street vendors or dai pai dong, but there is no expectation to order alcohol with your meal in any restaurant. A number of popular eateries do not sell alcohol because of a licence restriction.
Lan Kwai Fong (Central), Wan Chai and Knutsford Terrace (Kowloon) are the three main drinking areas where locals, expats and tourists mingle together. Here you will certainly find a party atmosphere, Hong Kong parties VERY hard every night of the week.
The minimum age for drinking in a bar is 18 years. There is usually a requirement for young adults to prove their age, especially when going to a nightclub. The accepted ID in clubs is either your passport or a Hong Kong ID card. Photocopies are rarely accepted due to minors using fake documents.
Some clubs in Lan Kwai Fong has imposed a dress code on customers and tourists are of no exception. As a general rule, shorts or pants that are above knee length should be avoided.
Drinking out in Hong Kong can be expensive. Beer usually starts from HK$50 for a pint and more in a bar popular among expats or specialist bars serving craft beer or American micro beer. However, away from the tourist trail, some Chinese restaurants may have a beer promotion aimed at meeting the needs of groups of diners. In cooked food centres, usually found at the wet markets, young women are often employed to promote a particular brand of beer. Convenience stores such as Circle-K, and supermarkets all sell a reasonable range of drinks at a very reasonable price, and are your best bet if you don't need to be in a bar to drink. In Lan Kwai Fong, the 7-Eleven there is a very popular 'bar' for party-animals on a budget. The trick is to find a small niche pub frequented by locals (usually banking and finance working class) the prices at these places are much cheaper and the crowd is better too. Talk to your cab driver for more information. They usually know where these places are. Best time to discover them is after 1:00 AM in the morning.
During Wednesdays and Thursdays Ladies night applies in some bars in Wan Chai and Lan Kwai Fong, which in most cases means that women can enter bars and clubs for free, and in some rare cases also get their drinks paid for the night. At weekends, several bars and clubs in these areas also have an 'open bar' for some of the night, which means you can drink as much as you like.
There is no longer any tax on wine or beer in Hong Kong.
Check the district pages of this travel guide for recommended bars.
Illegal duty-free cigarettes can be seen for sale in several locations, such as night markets, but both the buyer and seller may be charged for smuggling. Be aware that the police are known to launch frequent raids at any time. Once caught, ignorance is not an accepted defence.
Cigarettes in Hong Kong cost around $50 for a pack of 20. Hand-rolling tobacco is available in speciality shops, but also in some convenience stores.
Electronic cigarettes have been introduced to Hong Kong dating back to 2004, but the sale, possession and use of nicotine-containing cartridges are illegal. The Hong Kong government has cracked down shops that sell nicotine-containing e-cigarettes, declaring it a pharmaceutical product which must be registered before sale under the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance, but the prohibitive cost of clinical and laboratory reports means that no e-cigarettes are registered. The Health Department also declared illegal to smoke non-nicotine e-cigarettes in an indoor area. 
With more than 50,000 rooms available, Hong Kong offers a huge choice of accommodation from cheap digs to super luxury. However, budget travellers who are spoiled by cheap prices in the rest of Asia are often shocked that the accommodation cost in Hong Kong is closer to that of London and New York.
While it is possible to get a dorm bed for HK$120-150, a single room for HK$270-400, and a double room for HK$400-500, you should not expect anything in these rooms except a bed, with barely enough space in the room to open the door. Accommodation with reasonable space, decoration, and cleanness is usually priced from HK$150-200+ for a dorm bed, HK$450-600 for a single room, HK$700 for a double room, and HK$800 for a triple room.
Most cheap guesthouses are located along Nathan Road between Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok. Expect a tiny, undecorated room with just enough room for a bed. Bathrooms are often shared and noise could be a problem for light sleepers. Be sure to read the online reviews before booking as bed bugs, dirty beds, and unclean bathrooms have been reported. Keep your expectations as realistically low as possible.
Popular guesthouse clusters are inside the 17-floor Chungking Mansions Tower (Nathan Road 36-44) (重慶大廈 in Chinese, nicknamed Chungking Jungles by some local people), Mirador Mansions (美麗都大廈) in Tsim Sha Tsui, and New Lucky House (華豐大廈) (15 Jordan Road). These towers are all located in the city centre and close to the buses to/from the airport. While these towers are regarded as slums by the locals, if you ignore the fake watch sellers and disturbing pimps, the towers are well-patrolled and safe.
Another cluster of hostels and guesthouses can be found on Paterson Street near Causeway Bay. While not as centrally-located as the mansions, the internet connections are more reliable and the rooms are generally clean. However, they are still small and cramped. Do not expect a great atmosphere or spacious rooms.
Notice that some drab "guesthouses", especially those in Kowloon Tong, Mong Kok, and Causeway Bay, may actually be love hotels.
The Hong Kong Youth Hostel Association operates 7 youth hostels. All of them are located outside the city and cost HK$100-$300 to reach via taxi when public transport service is not operating. All but the one on Hong Kong Island also have strict curfew rules and require guests to leave the site from 10:00 to 16:00 (13:00 - 15:00 on public holidays). Free shuttle bus service is provided by several hostels but the service stops at 10:30pm.
The government advises travellers to stay in hostels with licences, this website may help you a lot: The Office of Licensing Authority maintains an online list of licensed accommodation establishments.
There are 41 camping sites in Hong Kong. The facilities are on a "first-come-first-served" basis and places are booked quickly during weekends and public holidays. You are not allowed to camp other than in a designated camp site (identified by the sign board erected by the Country and Marine Parks Authority) and this rule is strictly enforced.
If the mansions and hostels are too cramped for you, Hong Kong is a good place to spend a bit extra and get a proper hotel room. Many rooms in basic business hotels in the city centre can be had for $700 per night.
For affluent travellers, Hong Kong houses some of the best world class hotels that run a fierce competition for your wallets by offering pick-up service by helicopter, a Michelin star restaurant, and extravagant spas. Major international chains are also well-represented. Five-star hotels include The Peninsula, Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons, Upper House, Grand Hyatt, Conrad, Le Meridien, W, InterContinental, The Langham, JW Marriott, Ritz Carlton, and Shangri-La. Rooms usually start from HK$2,000.
There are also some four-star hotels such as Hilton Garden Inn, Marriott, Novotel, and Crowne Plaza. Prices start from around HK$1,500, depending on the season.
Hong Kong is one of the safest cities in the world. However, petty crimes can happen and travelers are reminded to use common sense and exercise caution during the stay in Hong Kong.
With an effective legal system and public awareness, Hong Kong is one of the safest cities in the world. However, pickpockets are not uncommon in Hong Kong, especially in crowded areas. Needless to say, common sense should be used as you do in other parts of the world. Although local people feel safe to carry a knapsack with a wallet inside, one should be wary in crowded areas where pickpockets are likely to strike, particularly at the main tourist attractions. Do not wave your wallet in public, show the cash inside, or letting people know where you keep your wallet.
When you travel to crowded areas, such as Sham Shui Po and Mong Kok have had bad reputation for crime by Hong Kong standards. As they are crowded and relatively poorer areas, involving pickpockets, and infamously acid spills in Mong Kok.
Hong Kong films have often portrayed triads (三合會) as gun wielding gangsters who fear nobody, but that only happens in the movies. Even in their heyday, triads tended to engage only in prostitution (which is legal itself, but organised prostitution, i.e. pimping or brothels, are not), counterfeiting or loan-sharking and lived underground lives, and rarely targeted the average person on the street. Just stay away from the triads by avoiding loan sharks and illegal betting.
Call 999 when you urgently need help from the Police, Fire and Ambulance services. Hong Kong has a strict service control system, so once you call 999, the police should show up within 10 minutes in most cases, usually less. For non-emergency police assistance, call 2527-7177. However, not all policemen are good. There is a culture for policemen to persuade reporters not to insisting on continuing the investigation. They may say that it is unlikely the suspects can be found or do whatever to close the file. Record their identity number and make complaints whenever necessary.
These have become increasing common, that some random strangers or shop keepers offer "discounts" on their products. The key to avoid tourist traps is "if it sounds too good to be true, it is". - Know what you want. Do not allow the salesman to talk you into something else unless you know what you are doing - Check the goods and always ask for a receipt before walking out of the store - When buying electronics, always check there is an International warranty
Most travellers who have got into trouble with the law are involved with illicit drugs. Drugs such as ecstasy (MDMA) and marijuana are subject to tight control and tourists risk immediate arrest if they are found in possession of even small amounts of banned substances. Most Hongkongers tend to have strong negative views against narcotics, including 'soft' drugs such as marijuana.
Under Hong Kong law, local residents are required to carry Identity Cards with them at all times, and the police frequently carry out spot checks when they have "reasonable grounds for suspicion". Tourists are advised by the government to carry their passports but unless you think you are highly likely to be stopped by the police there is no great need; most visitors choose to keep their passport in a safe place. People will not target you because you are dressed well. People in Hong Kong often dress up. Caucasians are rarely targeted by policemen for ID checks. Mainland Chinese and South Asians, especially Pakistanis and Nepalis often get targeted by policemen. As long as you dress well (this does not mean formally), you are unlikely to be targeted
You are expected to cooperate with the police during their investigations, and understand that they may search your pockets and bags. By the law, you can reject a request to search your bags and body in public. You also have the right to refuse to answer any questions, to contact your embassy and to apply for legal assistance. The police are obligated to comply with your request but they may detain you for up to 48 hours.
Discrimination is known to happen. People with a good educational background and reputable jobs are usually better treated by the police, while young people, those from developing countries and western countries with loose regulations on drugs may experience more frequent checks. The police and the government are exempt from the Race Discrimination Ordinance. However, there is a law to ban any form of police brutality, including verbal attacks and any use of foul language. Call 2866-7700 for the official Independent Police Complaints Council and report the officer's badge number displayed on his/her shoulder. The complaint will be taken seriously.
Traffic rules are seriously enforced in Hong Kong where penalties can be stringent, and road conditions are excellent, although road courtesy remains to have a room to improve. However, the driving speed can be so fast to claim more death toll when accidents happen.
Signage on the roads in Hong Kong is similar to British usage. Zebra lines (zebra crossings) indicate crossing areas for pedestrians and traffic comes from the right. To stay safe, visit the Transport Department's website  for complete details.
Crossing the road by foot should also be exercised with great care. Traffic in Hong Kong generally moves fast once the signal turns green. To help both the visually impaired and even people who are not, an audible aid is played at every intersection. Rapid bells indicate "Walk"; intermittent bells (10 sets of 3 bells) indicate "Do Not Start to Cross"; and slow bells indicate "Do Not Walk".
Jay-walking' is an offence and police officers may be out patrolling accident black-spots. It's is not uncommon to see local people waiting to cross an empty road - when this happens, you should also wait because it maybe that they have noticed that the police are patrolling the crossing.
Zero Tolerance on Corruption
Hong Kong is ranked as the world's 13th "cleanest" region in the Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International which aims to put an end to corruption, outpacing the U.S and most European countries such as Germany and France. The territory has a powerful anti-corruption police force: the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), which has been taken as a role model by Interpol and the United Nations. A number of countries, such as Australia have adopted the Hong Kong system to combat corruption.
In Hong Kong, corruption is a serious offense and giving bribes to civil servants will certainly result in a prison sentence. Money given for unfair and illegitimate competition may also be regarded as a bribe.
Protests are the national sport in Hong Kong. The biggest one usually happens in 1st July in the noon time. Participants range from dozens of thousands to 500,000. Public transportation along Causeway Bay, Wanchai, Central may be affected from noon to 6:00PM. On every 4th June, hundreds of thousands of people will also hold the biggest vigil night in the Victoria Park to commemorate the death of victims on the Tiananman Square Massacre in 1989.
Hong Kong protests have a deserved reputation for its mildness, orderliness, non-violence and minimal annoyance to others. In recent years, local conservatives complain a growing "extremist" behaviours which refer to protesters who sleep on a traffic road outside the government offices and bring a paper coffin to the government buildings. These usually do not cause troubles to travellers.
Several hikers have lost their lives in the wilderness in the past decade. Hikers should equip themselves with detailed hiking maps, compass, mobile phones, snacks and adequate amounts of drinking water. Most areas of the countryside are covered by a mobile phone network but in some places you will only be able to pickup a mobile phone signal from mainland China. In this case, it is not possible to dial 999 for emergency assistance. A number of emergency telephones have been placed in Country Parks, their locations are clearly marked on all hiking maps.
Heat stroke is a major problem for hikers who lack experience of walking in a warm climate. If you plan to walk a dog during the hot summer months, remember that dogs are more vulnerable to heat stroke than humans and owners should ensure their pets get adequate rest and water.
The cooler hiking and camping season in October to February is also the time of the year when hill fires likely strike. At the entrances to country parks you will likely observe signs warning you of the current fire risk. With an average of 365 hill fires a year, you should take the risk of fire seriously and dispose of cigarettes and matches appropriately. According to some hikers' accounts, in places where fires and camping is not allowed, the Staff of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) will most likely fine an offender.
While it's generally very safe to hike, the countryside can provide shelter to illegal immigrants and a few cases of robbery have been known. However, the police do patrol hiking routes and most major paths do offer the security of fellow hikers.
Natural disasters are not usually a major issue in Hong Kong. There are no nearby fault lines, so earthquakes are rare and relatively mild when they do happen. The main hazards that Hong Kong faces are typhoons and floods.
Typhoons normally occur during the months of May to November, and are particularly prevalent during July to September. Whenever a typhoon approaches within 800km of Hong Kong, typhoon warning signal 1 is issued. Signal 3 is issued as the storm approaches. When winds reach speeds of 63-117 km/hour, signal 8 is issued. At this point, most nonessential activities shut down, including shops, restaurants and the transport system, offices and schools. Ferry services will be suspended, so visitors should return to their accommodation as soon as possible if they are dependent on these boat services to reach a place of safety. Signal 9 and 10 will be issued depending on the proximity and intensity of the storm. Winds may gust at speeds exceeding 220 km/hour causing masonry and other heavy objects to fall to the ground. During a typhoon, visitors should heed all warnings very seriously and stay indoors until the storm has passed. Remember that if the eye of the storm passes directly over there will be a temporary period of calm followed by a sudden resumption of strong winds from a different direction.
Some taxis are available during signal 8 or above, but they are under no obligation to serve passengers as their insurance is no longer effective under such circumstances. Taxi passengers are expected to pay up to 100% more when a typhoon strikes.
Rainstorms also have their own warning system. In increasing order of severity, the levels are amber, red and black. A red or black rainstorm is a serious event and visitors should take refuge inside buildings. A heavy rainstorm can turn a street into a river and cause serious landslides.
The Hong Kong Observatory  is the best place to get detailed weather information when in Hong Kong. In summer a convectional rainstorm may affect only a small area and give you the false impression that all areas are wet.
The quality of medical care in Hong Kong is excellent but expensive for tourists who are not qualified to get a government subsidy. In cases of emergency, treatment is guaranteed, but you will be billed later if you cannot pay immediately. As a tourist, you are required to pay $570 for using emergency services ($100 for Hong Kong residents). Waiting times at hospital emergency rooms can be lengthy for non emergency patients, since people are prioritised according to their situation. If you have a problem making payment in public hospitals, you can apply for financial assistance but you will need to prove your economic status to social workers based in the hospital.
One common cause of sickness is the extreme temperature change between 35°C humid summer weather outdoors and 18°C air-conditioned buildings and shopping malls. Some people experience cold symptoms after moving between the two extremes. You are recommended to carry a sweater even in the summer-time.
Heat stroke is also common when hiking. Carry enough water and take scheduled rests before you feel unwell.
Find medical care
Healthcare standards in Hong Kong are on par with the West, and finding a reputable medical professional is not much of a problem should you get sick. Medical professionals come in two flavours: those that practice traditional Chinese medicine and the Western variety. Both are taken equally seriously in Hong Kong, but as a visitor the assumption will be to direct you to a Western professional. Professionals that practice Western medicine almost always speak English fluently, but you may find the receptionist to be more of a challenge.
Seeing a professional is as easy as walking off the street and making an appointment with the receptionist. Generally you will be seen within an hour or less, but take note of the opening times displayed in the window of the office. A straightforward consultation for a minor ailment might cost around $150 to $500, but your bill will be inclusive of medicine. In Hong Kong, it is normal for a professional to sell you medicine. Most surgeries and hospitals will accept credit cards. Expect to pay more if you visit a swanky surgery in Central. Check the directory maintained by the Hong Kong Medical Association for information on doctors. Finding general practitioners, medical specialists, and dentists are available on forums and the web. A well-regarded physical therapy (physiotherapy) specialist is SOS Physiotherapy at 6/F Shum Tower, 268 De Voeux Road, Sheung Wan (MTR Exit B), Central (+852 2543 3218).
Tap water in Hong Kong has been proven to be drinkable, although most of the local people still prefer to boil and chill their drinking water when it is taken from the tap. The official advice from the Water Board is that the water is perfectly safe to drink unless you are living in an old building with outdated plumbing and poorly maintained water tanks. Bottled water is strongly recommended by locals but remember that Hong Kong's landfill sites are filling up fast and plastic bottles are a major environmental problem, so use recycling bins where provided.
Despite Hong Kong's name meaning "fragrant harbour", this is not always so. Air pollution is a big problem due to a high population density and industrial pollution from mainland China. During periods of very bad air pollution tourists will find visibility drastically reduced, especially from Victoria Peak. Persons with serious respiratory problems should seek medical advice before travelling to the territory and ensure that they bring ample supplies of any relevant medication.
Pollution is a contentious topic in Hong Kong and is the number one issue among environmental campaigners. Much of the pollution originates from factories in mainland China and from Hong Kong motorists. Levels of pollution can vary according to the season. The winter monsoon can bring polluted air from the mainland, whilst the summer monsoon can bring cleaner air off the South China Sea.
Culture and Politics
Hong Kong has significant cultural differences from mainland China due to its evasion of communist ideologies during the colonial age. After it was handed to China in 1997, the city has kept their independent and reputable legal system, effective anti-corruption measures, free press that cover a sensitive topic such as Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989. They speak a different language (Cantonese vs. Mandarin), write with different characters (traditional vs. simplified Chinese) and hold a different passport (Hong Kongese vs. Chinese). However, since the handover, the freedom in Hong Kong has been deteriorating, marked by increasing censorship and dominance of Chinese influence over Hong Kong's politics. You will quickly annoy locals if you suggest that Hong Kongers are Chinese in the same way as people who live in China.
In general, during a conversation, it is best to avoid subjects of politics. If you are asked your opinion, best to be neutral about it. However, there is no need to worry of getting into trouble solely by discussing politics. In Hong Kong, freedom of speech and the press are protected in law. Hong Kong people are free to criticize their government and the Chinese government.
Many foreigners are not certain whether to address Hong Kongers as "Chinese" is appropriate, or if it would cause offense. The Sino-Hong Kong relationship, as always, is a contentious topic. Many Hong Kong people do share pride in being culturally Chinese; at the same time they seek to distinguish themselves, both culturally and politically, from China (such as Hong Kongers speaking Cantonese and writing traditional Chinese). Many Hong Kongers cannot speak Mandarin and there are many who do not prefer speaking the language, since they consider it foreign and do not wish to be identified as Chinese. Hong Kongers are among the populations with highest proficiency in English in East Asia and in many cases speaking English will do if you cannot communicate in Cantonese. In general it is fine to address Hong Kong people as "culturally Chinese", or "ethnic Chinese" when it comes to ethnicity. It is however safest to identify people as "Hong Kongese", an identity virtually no one would disagree on.
Furthermore, opinions are very divided among whether Hong Kong should have a close relationship with China or not. Some Hong Kong people think every ethnic Chinese should support the current regime in China (a requirement for all candidates of the head of the Hong Kong government). However, some people interpret this as supporting the Chinese communist party. Some people think closer economic ties with China will benefit Hong Kong. Some people think Hong Kong has always been self-sufficient since colonial days. Some even think that Hong Kong has to become an independent country. The arguments go on...
Manners and Etiquette
Hong Kong is a fast-paced society where the phrase "m goi" (唔該, "m" sounds like "hmm"), which literally means "I should not (bother you)", is used pervasively in a situation that you would say "Excuse me" or "Thank you".
Spitting and littering, an offence subject to a penalty of $1,500, is considered rude because it disturbs others. Smoking in most indoor places and train stations (including bus-stops) is prohibited. Also, the authority in Hong Kong is quite strict in enforcing the law relating to all those above. When smoking in front of a non-smoker, always ask for a permission because a lot of locals do not smoke (in comparison to Westerners) and some are even allergic to the smell. Similarly, many locals do not drink alcohol but will not mind if you do.
While Hong Kong has a generally good reputation when it comes to customer service, it is considered strange to strike up pleasantries with a stranger unless they are pregnant, disabled or senior citizens who are obviously in need. Saying "good morning" to a person you don't know at a bus stop will probably be viewed with suspicion. It is unusual for people to hold doors for strangers and supermarket staff or bank cashier seldom ask about your day. Staff in shops and restaurants might not even say "thank you" when you pay. All these do not necessarily mean that people in Hong Kong are less polite than others. It is just they don't have that relaxed and slow-paced culture as in the West.
In recent years, there is a large influx of mainland tourists and their behaviour has made headlines in Hong Kong. Some of their behaviours were seen as "gross" by Hong Kong standard (or most countries' standards). This has unfortunately led to discrimination against mainland tourists. If you are a mainlander (or a Chinese-looking person speaking Mandarin), be prepared you may be treated in an unfriendly way by the locals. However, if you are well-behaved, the locals will soon realise that and you will be welcomed just like any others.
Superstition is the Hong Kong psyche and it can be observed everywhere. Many buildings are influenced by the Fengshui principles which refer to a decoration style that blend the Five Elements (Gold, Lumber, Water, Fire, Earth) together, which will turn out to bring you luck, fortune, better health, good examination results, good relationships, and even a baby boy, according to their believers.
Many buildings come without 14th and 24th floors, which phonetically means "you must die" and "you die easily". They love the number 18 (you will get rich), 369 (liveliness, longevity, lasting), 28 (easy to get rich), 168 (get rich forever).
Hong Kong people love to tease at their superstition thoughts but they don't mean to ignore it. When visiting your friend in Hong Kong, never give them a clock as a gift because "giving a clock" phonetically means "attending one's funeral". No pears will be served in a wedding party because "sharing a pear" sounds like "separation". Some people refuse to open an umbrella indoor because a ghost spirit, who is thought to fear sunshine, will hide themselves into it. Breaking a mirror will bring you 7 unlucky years.
Swastikas (reversed) are commonly seen in Buddhist temples and are regarded as a religious symbol. They do not represent Nazism or anti-Semitism, so visitors should not be offended when seeing them among the possessions of locals.
When you give or receive a business card, always do it with both hands and with a slight dip of your head or you will be seen either disrespectful and ignorant, even if you are a foreigner. Welcoming someone should also be done with a slight dip of the head and with a customary firm handshake, but there is no need to bow.
You will find that the cashier may hand receipts or change with both hands too. This is considered a gesture of respect. Because you're the patron, it is up to you to do the same or not when handing cash to the cashier.
When the thermometer hits 30 degrees, expect to see many local people wearing warm clothing - this is to protect against the harsh air-conditioning often found on public transport and in places like shopping malls or cinemas.
Hong Kong women are known for their fairly conservative dress code, although wearing halter-necks and sleeveless tops are not uncommon and acceptable. Public nudity is prohibited. Being completely naked on the beach is also prohibited.
The dress code for men, especially tourists, is less conservative than it might have been. Even in 5-star hotels, smart casual is usually acceptable; although you might want to make your own enquiries in advance before dining in those places. Tourists from colder climates sometimes assume that wearing shorts in the tropics is a sensible idea, but hairy knees can look out of place in urban Hong Kong.
Gay and Lesbian Hong Kong
Homosexuality was decriminalised in 1991. The age of consent between two males is 16 according to the ruling by the Hong Kong Court of Appeal in 2006, while there is no law concerning that between two females. Same sex marriages are not recognised and there is no anti-discrimination legislation on the grounds of sexuality. The display of public affection, while not common, is generally tolerated, but it will almost certainly attract curious stares. Gay bashing is unheard of, although an effeminate boy could be a target for school bullying.
Hong Kong people generally respect personal freedom on sexuality. The prominent celebrity film star, Leslie Cheung, openly admitted that he was bisexual but his work and his personality has still been widely respected. His suicide in 2003 shocked many, and his fans, mainly female, showed considerable support for his partner.
However, while gay pride parades have recently been held in Hong Kong, there is no obvious gay community in daily life, and same-sex marriages are not legally recognised. Coming out to strangers or in the office is still regarded as peculiar and most tend to remain silent on this topic.
Gay bars and clubs are concentrated in Central, Sheung Wan, Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui (TST). The quality of these venues varies considerably and will perhaps disappoint those expecting something similar to London, Paris or New York. Dim Sum magazine, available for free in most cafes, eateries, bars and clubs, is Hong Kong's bilingual GLBT magazine which gives a pretty good idea about gay and lesbian parties and events happening in Hong Kong. There's also a gay and lesbian section in TimeOut Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival is one of the longest running GLBT events in Hong Kong, and indeed in Asia. Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2009, it brings to Hong Kong various international and regional GLBT films. The festival is usually held in November. Hong Kong also held its second Gay Pride ever on 1 Nov 2009, attracting over 1,800 people, gay and straight, to the event.
Postal services are efficient and of high quality. Post offices are ubiquitous and coin-operated stamp vending machines provide service when the post offices are closed. You can also buy stamps in sets of 10 from many convenience stores such as 7-Eleven or Circle K (OK). Postal rates are viewable online.
Unlike in Mainland China, the Internet access is not filtered in Hong Kong. All web sites are accessible in Hong Kong.
Internet cafes are rare as most people have smartphones and wifi-enabled devices. When available, internet cafes charge HK$20-30 per hour.
Many operators offer temporary 3G plans for as little as HK$78 per week. Obtaining a sim card is quick and hassle free - just go to a mobile phone shop, and buy a prepaid card - the price paid will already be loaded on the card and the card can be activated by making a call or sending an SMS. Prepaid data plans/passes can be activated with a USSD code listed on the card.
No registration of personal information is required.
Free Wi-Fi is available at most hotels, shopping malls, coffee shops, the airport, certain buses, bus stops/termini, MTR stations, government buildings, and public libraries.
You can also pay for access at commercial hotspots managed by PCCW and Y5ZONE. The cost is approximately $70 per week.
Hong Kong's country-code is 852 (different from mainland China (86) and Macau (853)). Local phone numbers (mobile and landlines) are typically 8 digits; no area codes are used. All numbers that begin with 5, 6, 8, or 9 are mobile numbers, while numbers beginning with 2 or 3 are fixed line numbers. For calls from Hong Kong, the standard IDD prefix is 001, so you would dial 001-(country code)-(area code)-(telephone number). Note that calls to Macau or mainland China require international dialling. For the operator, dial 1000. For police, fire or ambulance services dial 999.
Hong Kong has a world class communications infrastructure. Mobile phone usage is cheap.
Hong Kong has many mobile operators. The best choices for tourists are Three, SmarTone and CSL/one2free. All three operators offer prepaid SIM cards in micro, nano, and standard sizes. Unlimited data plans cost around HK$28 per day. Recharging your credit can be done online with a Hong Kong credit card or by purchasing vouchers from retail stores, resellers, convenience stores such as 7-Eleven and supermarkets.
Mobile phone numbers have eight digits and begin with 5, 6, or 9. Note that the telephone system is separate from Mainland China, and using Chinese SIM card would incur roaming charges. Subscriptions are available that cover both Hong Kong and mainland China, although these are longer term contracts.
Samsung Galaxy Note or Nexus phones can be rented from counters A03 or B12 in the Arrivals Hall of Hong Kong International Airport for HK$68 per day, which includes all local and international calls, 3G internet access, and a built-in city guide.
Note that all mobile phone companies charge for BOTH incoming and outgoing calls (similar to USA, but different from most European countries, Japan, Taiwan, or South Korea). Coverage is excellent, except in remote mountainous areas. Almost all operators provide a good signal, even when underground in such places as the MTR system, on board trains and in cross-harbour and other road tunnels.
Coverage is decent across all Hong Kong operators, comparison of the coverage and speeds of the networks can be found on Hong Kong Coverage maps created by OpenSignal. In general Hong Kong has advanced mobile infrastructure and was found to have the second fastest LTE in the world, after that of Sweden.
Landline phones for local calls are charged on a monthly basis with unlimited access, but be careful that hotels may charge you per call.
Payphones are available at the airport, shopping malls, government buildings, and MTR stations and cost HK$1 for a local call for 5 minutes. If you don't have a mobile phone and need to make a short local call, most restaurants, supermarkets, and shops will allow you to use their phone if you ask nicely.
Consulates-General, Consulates and Representative Offices
For a full list, check out the Government's website .