|Capital||"Victoria", although in practice the area is known as Central|
|Currency||Hong Kong dollar (HKD)|
|Population||7,184,000 (mid-2013 estimate)|
|Electricity||220V/50Hz (UK plug)|
|Time zone||UTC +8|
Hong Kong (香港 Heūng góng in Cantonese, meaning fragrant harbour) is a place with multiple personalities, as a result of being both Cantonese Chinese and under a more recent contemporary ex-British influence. Today, the former British colony is a major tourism destination for China's increasingly affluent mainland population. It is also 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.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China is much more than a harbour city. The traveller 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.
Hong Kong has a subtropical climate with at least one season to match your comfort zone. Boasting one of the world's best airports, it is the ideal stopover for those who wish to travel deeper into Asia.
While part of the People's Republic of China, Hong Kong operates as a Special Administrative Region with a high degree of autonomy, and so for most visitors it is effectively a different country. Visa requirements, laws, currency, culture and language are different from the rest of China. Since the handover from the British in 1997, Hong Kong has operated under a "One Country, Two Systems" principle, maintaining most laws and government structures from colonial times. Hong Kong enjoys many Western-style freedoms unheard of on the Chinese mainland, and many locals are proud of it. The ideals of a free and open society are firmly rooted here.
Hong Kong Island (香港島) gives the territory of Hong Kong its name and is the place that many tourists regard as the main focus. The parade of buildings that make the Hong Kong skyline has been likened to a glittering bar chart that is made apparent by the presence of the waters of Victoria Harbour. To get the best views of Hong Kong, leave the island and head for the Kowloon waterfront opposite.
The great majority of Hong Kong Island's urban development is densely packed on reclaimed land along the northern shore. This is the place the British colonisers took as their own and so if you are looking for evidence of the territory's colonial past, this is a good place to start. Victoria was once the colony's capital but has been rebranded with a more descriptive name, Central. Here you will find the machinery of government grinding away much as it always has done, except that Beijing, not London, is the boss that keeps a watchful eye. Seek a glimpse of government house (香港禮賓府) which was formerly home to 25 British governors and is now the residence of the Chief Executive CY Leung. Nearby, the Legislative Council (LegCo) continues to make the laws that organise the territory.
Rising up from Central is the Escalator and the Peak Tram. The famous 800 metre escalator passes through the hip district of Soho and takes you into the residential neighbourhood known as the Mid-Levels because it is half-way up the mountain. Up top is Victoria Peak, known locally as The Peak, the tallest point on the island where foreign diplomats and business tycoons compete for the best views of the harbour from some of the most expensive homes to be found anywhere. Most tourists do not go much further than the Peak Tram, but take a short walk to the top and you will escape the crowds and be rewarded with some of the best harbour views. It is worth investing in a good map from leading bookshops in Central if you want to enjoy some of the superb footpaths that crisscross the island.
The southern side of the island has developed into an upmarket residential area with many large houses and expensive apartments with views across the South China Sea. The island's best beaches, such as Repulse Bay, are found here and visitors can enjoy a more relaxed pace of life than on the bustling harbour side of the island. Wan Chai and Causeway Bay are the most visited neighbourhoods on the northern side of the island.
Kowloon (九龍) is the peninsula to the north of Hong Kong Island. With over 2.1 million people living in an area of less than 47 square kilometres, Kowloon is one of the most densely populated places on the planet, and has a matching array of places to shop, eat and sleep. Tsim Sha Tsui (尖沙咀), the tip of the peninsula, is Kowloon's main tourist drag and has a mix of backpacker and high-end hotels. Further north, Mong Kok (旺角) has a huge choice of shops and markets in an area of less than a square kilometre. Kowloon side, as it is often known, managed to escape some of the British colonial influences that characterise the Hong Kong Island side. Kowloon real estate prices are the highest in the world, with multiple flats in West Kowloon setting worldwide records for their multi-million dollar prices thanks to their panoramic views of Victoria Harbour.
The New Territories (新界), so named when the British leased more land from China in 1898, lie north of Kowloon. Often ignored by travellers who have little time to spare, the New Territories offers a diverse landscape that takes time to get to know. Mountainous country parks overlook New Towns that have a clinical form of modernity that has attracted many to move here from mainland China. Public transport and taxis make this area surprisingly accessible if you dare to get out and explore this offbeat place. You will not find many idyllic villages, but once you get over the stray dogs and the ramshackle buildings you will doubtlessly find something that will surprise you and cause you to reach for your camera.
The Outlying Islands (離島) are the generic label for the islands, islets and rocks in the seas around the territory. Lantau (大嶼山) is by far the largest of them and therefore often considered its own district, and is also home to the Hong Kong International Airport. Lantau hosts some of the territory's most idyllic beaches as well as major attractions such as Disneyland and the Ngong Ping cable car. Other islands include Lamma (南丫島), well known for its seafood, and Cheung Chau (長洲), a small island that used to be a pirates' den, but now attracts seafood aficionados, windsurfers and sunbathing day trippers.
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.
Hong Kong Island became a British colony in January 1841, as a result of the defeat of the Qing Dynasty of China in the First Opium War. After the defeat of China in the Second Opium War, the Kowloon Peninsula was then ceded to Great Britain in 1860. The New Territories were subsequently leased in 1898 to Great Britain for a term of 99 years.
When World War II broke out, the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill declared that Hong Kong was an "impregnable fortress". However owing to Britain's main war effort in Europe, Hong Kong was not given sufficient 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 and occupation lasted until the end of the war. Upon the resumption of British control all restrictions on non-Europeans owning property on prime real estate land were lifted followed by an astonishingly swift post war recovery.
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. Today, Hong Kong is considered to be an industrialised and developed economy, and is one of the world's most important financial centres, along with the likes of New York and London.
The massive influx of mainland Chinese refugees led to the rise of the Kowloon Walled City, which was a horrendous convolution of maze-like alleys, utter darkness, cramped space, and unsanitary conditions. There was no effective police presence inside the city itself, and it was full of triad gangs, prostitution and unlicensed physicians practising there. The Walled City was demolished in 1993, and the Kowloon Walled City Park was built on the site.
In 1984 the Chinese and British Governments signed the Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong, agreeing to return Hong Kong back to China sovereignty on 1 July 1997. Hong Kong became a special administrative region (SAR) of the Peoples Republic of China.
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 defence. In practice Beijing exerts much influence in the background, however citizens are nevertheless free to keep pushing for a more democratic regime and universal suffrage.
Hong Kong mostly operates like a tiny country with its own currency, laws, international dialling code, police force, border controls and the like. It is also a member of international organisations that are normally restricted to sovereign states such as the WTO, APEC and the IOC. The Hong Kong flag is prominently flown throughout the territory, often alongside that of the Chinese mother country.
The majority of Hong Kong's population are Han Chinese (95%), 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 largest groups of recent, non-Chinese immigrants are Filipinos, Indonesians and Thais, of which most are employed as domestic helpers. On Sundays, being the free day of these domestic workers, they congregate in their thousands - mostly Filipinas - in Central and Admiralty and spend the day there together, sitting talking, eating and drinking wherever there is free room. Lately whole streets have been blocked off for them.
The territory is also home to a significant number of people hailing from Australia, Europe, Japan and North America, making it a truly international metropolis.
Due to its history as part of that region, the local culture in Hong Kong is similar to that of Guangdong province. However, due to over a century of British rule, the British have also left their mark on the local culture. In addition, due to its evasion of communist ideologies when the Cultural Revolution was taking place in the mainland, Hong Kongers have maintained many aspects of traditional Chinese culture which have largely disappeared in the mainland. In general, Hong Kongers have a somewhat paradoxical identity, regarding themselves as culturally and ethnically Chinese, but at the same time considering themselves distinct from the mainland Chinese.
Hong Kong has a humid subtropical climate. Summers are usually hot, lasting from June to September, with temperatures usually exceeding 30°C, while night-time summer temperatures do not drop below 25°C . The area, with most of southern China, is affected by typhoons. Typhoons usually occur between June and September, though some typhoons may affect Hong Kong as late as October. These can bring a halt to local business for a day or less (natural disaster).
Winters in Hong Kong are generally very mild, with temperatures ranging from 10°C to 20°C, although dropping further sometimes, especially in the countryside. Christmas in Hong Kong is considered warm compared to many Western countries. Chinese New Year is notorious for cold wet weather, because winter in Hong Kong tends to start out mild and dry and then turn cooler and wetter later.
Spring starts in Hong Kong from March to May and autumn starts from September to November with an average temperature of around 20 to 25°C. Autumn is considered 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 jackets and scarves on. Furthermore, some larger Chinese restaurants keep the air-conditioning on during winter, though the temperature in air conditioned shopping malls stays the same regardless of season or weather outside.
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.
- Myself a Mandarin (Oxford in Asia), Austin Coates. This book contains the memoirs of Austin Coates. Each chapter is an entertaining episode of the Englishman's time as a colonial magistrate in the New Territories district.
- East and West: China, Power, and the Future of Asia (Macmillan), Chris Patten. The memoires of Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong. Published in 1998, Patten provides his account of Hong Kong in the final years before the handover to China.
- Gweilo: Memories of a Hong Kong Childhood (Bantam Books), Martin Booth. A well-written book that offers an insight into colonial life in Hong Kong through the eyes of a young English boy.
- Hong Kong: Epilogue to an Empire (Penguin Books), Jan Morris. In this well-written and detailed overview of the territory by a noted Welsh travel writer. Morris alternates chapters on Hong Kong's history with descriptions of its geography, economy, politics and society. The book includes descriptive portraits of some of Hong Kong's leading politicians and entrepreneurs.
- The World of Suzie Wong (Fontana Press) Richard Mason. A classic novel published in 1957, later adapted to film in 1960. Set in Hong Kong, it is the fictional story of a young expat's romance with a Chinese woman.
- Hong Kong Landscapes: Shaping the Barren Rock (Hong Kong University Press), Bernie Owen and Raynor Shaw. Beautifully illustrated, this is a fascinating guide to the territory's geology and geomorphology.
Film and cinema
- Chungking Express, 1994, Wong Kar-wai. The unrelated stories of two love-struck cops in Hong Kong. Its colourful and fast cinematography has been admired by Quentin Tarantino.
- The World of Suzie Wong, 1960. Based on the novel by Richard Mason, it is the fictional story of an expat's affair with a Chinese woman. The film has interesting footage of Hong Kong in the late 1950s.
When to visit
Lunar New Year dates
The year of the Horse started on 31 Jan 2014
The period between October and December has the least rainfall, less chance of a typhoon (almost non-existent after October), less humid and more sunshine (see Climate section above for more details).
During Chinese New Year there are some extra celebratory events such as lion dances, fireworks, and parades. While most of the small family-owned shops and restaurants will close for the Chinese New Year you will find that most supermarkets, department stores and larger restaurants in the hotels remain open. The official public holiday lasts for three days.
Culture lovers will be able to feast on a multitude of cultural activities from February to April. The Hong Kong Arts Festival, a month-long festival of international performances, is held in February and March. The Man Literary Festival, a two week English language festival with international writers as guests is held in March. The Hong Kong International Film Festival, a three-week event, is held from late March to early April.
Rugby fans, and those wishing to party, should come during the weekend of the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens. This annual event brings many visitors in from around the world to celebrate the most entertaining instalment in the IRB Sevens Series. It is a giant three day sellout event that takes place between the last days of March and the beginning of April. Be aware that tickets are very hard to obtain.
There is a second round of cultural activities in the autumn lasting till the end of the year.
Christmas is also a nice time to visit as many stores and shopping centres are nicely decorated, and the festive mood is apparent across downtown areas of the city. Major buildings facing the harbour are decorated in Christmas lights to add to the festive spirit.
Hong Kong's reputation as a very crowded place is amplified during the holiday seasons. Visitors should note that it can be challenging to find a table in a restaurant during public holidays.
For its electrical sockets, Hong Kong uses the British three-pin rectangular blade plug. 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.
|Hong Kong Island (香港島) (Central, East Coast, South Coast)
Site of the original British settlement. Most of Hong Kong's highest skyscrapers and the financial centre can be found here, including its famous skyline along the northern coastline. Shopping. Overall, more modern and wealthy than other areas of Hong Kong.
This peninsula jutting south towards Hong Kong Island from the mainland is the most populous area in Hong Kong and at one time it was the most densely populated place in the world. Today, it offers a chaotic mix of malls, street markets and residential tenements.
|New Territories (新界)
Named by British officials when leased from the Chinese government in 1898, the New Territories contain a curious mix of small farms, villages, industrial installations, mountainous country parks and towns that have populations the size of some cities.
The largest of the Outlying Islands, twice the size of Hong Kong Island and famous for its high peaks, wild landscapes, great beaches and the airport.
|Outlying Islands (離島)
Well-known weekend destinations for the locals, the Outlying Islands are most of the islands surrounding Hong Kong Island. They range from significant population centres to rocks poking out of the sea.
Saving time if you are a regular visitor
If you travel to Hong Kong regularly, consider registering to use the e-Channel. Instead of clearing passport control at a manned counter, you can avoid the queues by going through an automated barrier which uses fingerprint recognition technology. This facility is also available without registration to all current Hong Kong identity card holders. Visit this Hong Kong Immigration Department webpage for more information.
Hong Kong's immigration system is separate from that of mainland China. Most visitors do not need to obtain visas in advance, unlike going to mainland China. However, a visa is required to enter mainland China from Hong Kong.
Foreign nationals of the following countries/territories can enter Hong Kong visa-free 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, Denmark, Dominica, Ecuador, Egypt, Fiji, Gambia, Grenada, Guyana, Iceland, 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, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Holy See, India, Kazakhstan, Lesotho, Macedonia, Madagascar, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Micronesia, Mongolia, Montenegro, Mozambique, Niger, Palau, Philippines, Russia, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Serbia (biometric passports only, but not those issued by the Co-ordination Directorate in Belgrade), Suriname and Ukraine.
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 apply for one either at a Chinese embassy or directly through the Hong Kong Immigration Department. Note that 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. For information on how to apply for a Hong Kong visa from the Hong Kong Immigration Department, visit their website. Foreign nationals living in Macao 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 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 a special travel document (往來港澳通行證）together with a visa endorsement, except when transiting through Hong Kong to a third country (or vice-versa) on a Chinese passport where visa-free access is granted for up to 7 days. More information is available from this Hong Kong Immigration Department webpage.
Holders of Macao permanent identity cards or Visit Permits with permanent resident status can enter Hong Kong visa-free for up to 180 days using their identity cards. Holders of Macao Visit Permits without permanent resident status can enter Hong Kong visa-free for up to 30 days. More information is available from this Hong Kong Immigration Department webpage.
Taiwan residents are granted visa-free access to Hong Kong for 30 days if they have a 'Taibaozheng' (台胞证). Otherwise, a pre-arrival visa is required, which in many cases can be obtained through an airline company. More information is available from this Hong Kong Immigration Department webpage.
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).
All visitors (regardless of whether visa-free or not) may be required to present onward or return tickets, although in practice if your flight has already arrived at Hong Kong's airport this is rarely enforced (one is more likely to be denied boarding by your airline if you do not have an onward ticket, although here too most regional carriers do not demand this despite the regulation appearing in the Timatic database used by most airlines). Qatar Airways has been known to deny boarding to those holding one way tickets unless the passenger signs a waiver indemnifying the carrier. In theory, you may also be required to demonstrate evidence of adequate funds to cover the duration of your stay.
Anyone arriving at Hong Kong International Airport who requires an onward visa for mainland China can proceed to the desk manned by China Travel Services HK (CTS) found at the arrivals area. A photograph will be required and the staff will be happy to accommodate you. 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 visa costs $150 for most foreign nationals and takes 4 working days to be issued. The visa can be issued within 3 working days for an additional $150 or within 2 working days for an additional $250. Visit the website of the Commissioner's Office for more information.
Note that leaving the mainland for Hong Kong is considered to be leaving China, so you should apply for a multiple entry visa if you wish to enter Hong Kong, then re-enter mainland China.
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, Macao 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:
- 1 litre of alcoholic liquor with an alcoholic strength above 30% by volume measured at a temperature of 20℃
- 19 cigarettes OR 1 cigar OR 25g of cigars OR 25g of other manufactured tobacco
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.
Due to heavy demand from mainland China, the Hong Kong government has placed a restriction on the amount of baby milk powder formula that may be taken out of the territory. If you have friends or family in the mainland, then they may ask you to bring back as much formula as you can carry, however Hong Kong customs are very much looking for smugglers of this precious product.
For more information, visit the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department website.
Hong Kong International Airport
- Main article: Hong Kong International Airport
Hong Kong International Airport (IATA: HKG) (also known as Chek Lap Kok - 赤鱲角), is the main port for visitors to Hong Kong by air. Modern and efficient, it opened soon after the handover in July 1998 and has been named "World's Best Airport" five times in annual ratings by Skytrax.
Shenzhen International Airport
As flights between Hong Kong and mainland Chinese cities are considered to be international flights, using Shenzhen Airport (IATA: SZX) instead is often significantly cheaper, although it will take longer to get there (over the border) and you will have to pay for the transport. International flights, mostly from Southeast Asian cities, are also available into Shenzhen.
There are many connections with Hong Kong, albeit time-consuming.
Train: First take the underground (Shenzhen Metro) Line 1 from the airport to the Luohu terminus (65 minutes, CNY8.55 or $8), then pass through a long tunnel and a border crossing (make sure to have your visa ready for this) and once in Hong Kong, ride the East Rail suburban rail line to Hung Hom (43 minutes, $31.8). The total travel time from Shenzhen airport to Hong Kong is under two hours at $39.8.
Alternatively, from the "Elements" shopping centre above the Kowloon MTR station on the Tung Chung and the Airport Express line, there is a shop front waiting room where you can check-in and receive your boarding pass (although check in at this location is not available for China Southern Airlines passengers), and then board a bus direct to Shenzhen airport. This in-town check-in is completely separate from the in-town check-in provided for Hong Kong International Airport. Take the escalators up from the AE/MTR station to 1/F of the Elements Mall, turn right, and then it is opposite Starbucks. The bus uses the new western passage immigration facilities where both Hong Kong SAR and Chinese immigration formalities are completed under one roof. The cost of this service is $100 and the bus is advertised to take 75 minutes, but usually takes about 100 minutes. Buses currently run every half an hour 06:30-19:00 from Hong Kong, and 10:00-21:00 at the Shenzhen side.
Macau International Airport
Because of higher fees at Hong Kong International Airport, it is often cheaper to fly out of Macau International Airport (IATA: MFM). Air Asia has set up a hub at Macau and flies to destinations such as Beijing and Bangkok among others. Macau International Airport is easily reached by ferry from Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and Hong Kong International Airport. With the Express Link service, you can even transfer directly from airport to ferry (or vice versa) without going through Macau immigration.
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 $2,900, plus $200 on weekends and public holidays.
Hong Kong is only a 1 hour hydrofoil ride away from Macau and there are good connections to mainland China as well. There are two main companies handling the services, TurboJet and Cotai Jet. The ferries are comfortable and are a handy way to travel in the region. The main terminals are:
- Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Pier, 202 Connaught Rd (Sheung Wan MTR exit D), Central.
- Hong Kong China Ferry Terminal, 33 Canton Rd (Tsim Sha Tsui MTR exit A1), Kowloon.
The Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui is one of the hubs of Star Cruises. Cruise ships leave from here for various cities in Vietnam, mainland China and Taiwan. There are also long haul services all the way to Singapore via ports in Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia.
Crossing the border to mainland China puts you in Shenzhen, a well-developed boom town. Please note that there are special visa regulations if you plan to visit Shenzhen.
There are six land checkpoints between Hong Kong and mainland China, namely Lo Wu, Lok Ma Chau Spur Line, Lok Ma Chau, Man Kam To, Sha Tau Ko and Shenzhen Bay. Lo Wu is a train and pedestrian crossing; Lok Ma Chau spur line is a pedestrian crossing; Lok Ma Chau and Sha Tau Kok are road, cross-boundary bus and pedestrian crossings; while Man Kam To and Shenzhen Bay bridge are road and cross-boundary bus crossings.
- Lo Wu: This control point can only be accessed by the MTR East Rail Line and the crossing can only be done on foot (unless you take a through-train from Hung Hom where the train will not stop at all. See "By train" section below). It is often congested with travellers during weekends and holidays, so if you want to avoid for the long queues, please use the other control points on holidays. For some nationalities (not US), visa-on-arrival can be obtained on the Chinese side.Getting there/away: MTR trains from Tsim Sha Tsui East to Lo Wu run every five to eight minutes. Shenzhen city centre lies just beyond the Chinese immigration checkpoint.
- Lok Ma Chau Spur Line: This crossing can be accessed by the MTR East Rail Line, by bus/minibuses or by taxi, and the crossing can only be done on foot. Using the double-decked Lok Ma Chau-Huanggang pedestrian bridge, passengers will find themselves at the FuTian immigration checkpoint of the PRC. The control point is not popular and thus less crowded than at Lo Wu. Travellers should note that its opening hours is slightly shorter than that of Lo Wu. Getting there/away: While 1 out of 2/3 northbound East Rail Line trains terminates at that station, the control point can also be reached from Yuen Long by KMB bus number B1 or by minibus number 75. On the Shenzhen side, Fu Tian Checkpoint metro station is just after the immigration checkpoint.
- Lok Ma Chau: This crossing consists of separate facilities for pedestrians which is accessed by bus and for road vehicles, and is the only border control point which offers 24-hour immigration services. A shuttle service, known as the "Yellow Bus", operates between the Lok Ma Chau Public Transport Interchange located at San Tin and Huanggang Port of the PRC side. Alternatively, travellers can board the express buses from urban areas of Hong Kong which will carry their passengers directly to the control point. For both modes, passengers after passing through Hong Kong Immigration control has to board the same bus at the other side of the control point, which will then carry them to Huanggang port of Shenzhen side, where they need to get off again and pass through PRC immigration control. Getting there/away: The Lok Ma Chau Public Transport Interchange is served by KMB buses B1, 76K, and 276B or minibus number 44B or 44B1, and passengers can board the "Yellow Bus" shuttle there. Alternatively, passenger can board the buses to the port at urban areas in Hong Kong (See "By bus" section below). Over in Shenzhen, a large taxi stand and a bus terminus is right outside the control point but its no where near the Fu Tian Checkpoint metro station .
- Man Kam To: This crossing is mostly used by private vehicles and cross-boundary buses. See "By bus" section below.
- Sha Tau Kok: Located furthest east, this control point can be accessed by taking the cross-boundary coach. It is quite a distance from the centre of Shenzhen and is relatively quiet. There are no Chinese visa-on-arrival facilities. See "By bus" section below.
- Shenzhen Bay Bridge: This control point links Hong Kong directly with Shekou, Shenzhen. It can be used by private vehicles and cross-boundary buses. See "By bus" section below. It is served by buses B2, B2P, B3, B3A, B3M, B3X and minibus 618 from Tuen Mun, Yuen Long and Tin Shui Wai. Passengers get off the bus at Hong Kong side and pass the immigration.
Please note that all the crossings, save for Shenzhen Bay Bridge, are located in the Frontier Closed Area and everyone is required to have a permit to be there unless crossing the border. Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau can be easily reached by train, but if you are just there to look around, be ready for some security questioning. It is also not easy to directly access the train departure area from the arrivals area.
You can drive into Hong Kong at the Lok Ma Chau, Man Kam To, Sha Tau Kok and Shenzhen Bay Bridge control points, but your mainland Chinese car must have a second set of number plates issued by the Hong Kong authorities. Likewise, those wishing to drive to the mainland in a Hong Kong car must have a second set of mainland Chinese plates issued by the Guangdong authorities. Note that you will have to change sides of the road at the border; Hong Kong drives on the left, mainland China on the right.
There are some Cross Boundary coaches  operating from the business districts in Kowloon or Hong Kong Island to the Chinese side of the checkpoint. If you take these coaches, there is no need to change for the yellow shuttle bus and hence it is a good choice for boundary crossing to avoid the queues. After arriving the Hong Kong check-point, passengers are required to leave the bus, pass the immigration, and board the same bus for the mainland check-point (except for the Shenzhen Bay Port where the Hong Kong and the mainland check-points are located in the same building).
There are 6 lines of short trip cross boundary coaches serves the port,
- Jordan, Kowloon departs from Scout Centre, Austin Road, Tsim Sha Tsui (5min walk from Jordan MTR).
- Mongkok, Kowloon departs from Portland Street, near Metropark Hotel Mongkok (exit from Prince Edward Hotel).
- Wanchai, Hong Kong Island departs from Wanchai Ferry Bus Terminus.
- Kwun Tong, Kowloon departs from Lam Tin MTR, stops at Kwun Tong APM Shopping Plaza and Kwun Tong Rd, Kowloon Bay MTR.
- Tsuen Wan departs from Discovery Park Bus Terminus (10min walk from Tsuen Wan MTR).
- Kam Sheng Road departs from Kam Sheung Road West Rail Station.
Except the route to Kam Sheng Road, 24-hour services are provided with half hourly or hourly departure in midnight and around 10-20min per bus during the day and evening.
Lok Ma Chau is an around-the-clock border crossing ; visa-on-arrival can be obtained on the Chinese side (subject to nationality, at the present, applications from USA passport holders are not accepted).
Man Kam To control point can be accessed by taking the cross-boundary coach on the bus interchange under the shopping centre of West Kowloon Centre, Sham Shui Po (near Sham Shui Po MTR)in Kowloon, which costs $35, the bus calls at Landmark North also, which is just adjacent to Sheung Shui MTR Station, with section fare of $22. It is seldom crowded with travellers even during holiday periods. You can also enjoy the free shuttle service outside the Chinese checkpoint, which takes you to the central area of Shenzhen. However, no visa-on-arrival can be obtained on the Chinese side, which means you need to arrange for your visa in advanced before arrival.
It is the best route to go to the downtown in Shenzhen especially during holidays.
Sha Tau Kok control point can be accessed by taking the cross-boundary coach on the bus interchange at Luen Wo Hui in Fanling and Kowloon Tong. It connects the eastern boundary of Hong Kong and Shenzhen and it is a bit remote from the central part on Shenzhen. As a consequence, only very few passengers choose to cross the boundary using this checkpoint. No visa-on-arrival can be obtained on the Chinese side.
Coaches departs from Kowloon Tong MTR from 07:00 to 18:30 every 15 minutes which costs $20, which is also the cheapest direct coach to Shenzhen.
Shenzhen Bay control point links Hong Kong directly with Shekou, Shenzhen, and can be accessed conveniently by public buses. Route B2 departs from Yuen Long Railway Station, route B2P departs from Tin Shui Wai via Tin Shui Wai Railway Station to Shenzhen Bay, while B3 departs from Tuen Mun Pier. There is also an express coach service departing from Sham Shui Po to Shenzhen Bay.
Travellers arriving to Hong Kong by bike should carefully assess the feasibility of riding into the city from the border with mainland China. Bicycles are not permitted in all tunnels and on most highways. 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.
Crossing the land border from Shenzhen to Hong Kong with a bicycle is possible at some checkpoints:
- Lo Wu: Here there is an MTR train running to urban areas and cycles are allowed on the train with a payment of between $20 and $40, depending upon the time of day, and provided that the front wheel is removed. As with all other border crossings, travellers have to pass through both Chinese and Hong Kong border controls before boarding the train in Hong Kong.
- Lok Ma Chau: No one can pass through this checkpoint either on foot or by bicycle. The green bus #75 goes between this border and Yuen Long for $7 and allows a folded bike with 50 cm wheels. While most passengers take a bus connecting to urban areas, it's possible for bikers to take the "yellow bus" ($7) just to the other side of the border. There is not much luggage space on this bus and you may be required to disassemble your bike.
- Man Kam To: This border crossing is for lorries and cars. The possibility of cycling via this checkpoint is unknown.
MTR Corporation runs regular Intercity Passenger Train services from Hung Hom station on Kowloon side. The destinations are Guangzhou (East), Dongguan, Foshan and Zhaoqing in Guangdong Province, as well as Beijing and Shanghai.
The Octopus card (八達通, Bat Dat Toong in Cantonese) provides instant electronic access to Hong Kong's public transport system. The world's first contactless smart debit card, it can be tapped onto a reader to transfer fare from the passenger to the carrier. Those who are familiar with Singapore's eZ-Link card, London Underground's Oyster card, Washington DC's SmarTrip card, Melbourne's myki card or Japan Railway's IC cards will quickly understand how to use the Octopus card. In addition to being used for all forms of public transport (except most of the red-top minibuses and taxis), Octopus is also accepted for payment in almost all convenience stores like 7-Eleven, restaurant chains like McDonald's, Maxim's, and Cafe de Coral, many vending machines, all roadside parking and some car parks. Some housing estates and schools use the card for identification at entry. The Octopus card functionality can also come in the form of personalised cards, ornaments, keychains and watches which you can pre-order at octopuscards.com if you are interested.
When travelling by MTR and some bus routes, payment by Octopus card is often cheaper than cash because carriers frequently offer discounts to Octopus users (such as the route between the airport and the city). There is no reason to get one if you are in Hong Kong for a short time and don't go there frequently, however, if your itinerary includes daily use of ferries, buses, minibuses and the MTR then you will want to have one.
Basic Octopus cards cost $150, with $100 face value plus $50 refundable deposit. A $9 service charge applies if the card is returned in less than three months for the refundable deposit. The maximum value an Octopus card can carry is $1,000. The Octopus card also allows its remaining value to go negative once before topping up. For example, you may pay for a ride of $5 with a remaining value of $2 on the card (bringing the stored value to -$3) but you cannot use the card again until the value is topped up. The negative value of an Octopus card can go as far as $35. Note that isn't really "negative", meaning you don't have to pay MTR back, since your $50 deposit secures it.
The Central to Mid-Levels escalator, at 800m long, is the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world. The escalator runs downhill 06:00-10:00 and uphill 10:30-23:59 every day. When travelling downhill on the escalator, there is a machine where you can touch your Octopus card, and your next MTR journey will have a $2 discount (if it starts at Central/Hong Kong or Sheung Wan station and if you don't take any other transport before then). These are called "MTR Fare Saver" machines and can be found at http://www.mtr.com.hk/eng/whatsnew/fare_saver.html.
Your Octopus card's 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.
For travellers, there are three convenient ways to top-up a card in $50 increments (but in each case only for cash, not by credit card):
- Add Value machines, usually located next to regular ticket machines in MTR stations.
- Customer service at any MTR station.
- Merchants that accept Octopus (e.g. 7-Eleven, McDonald's, etc.). Note that some merchants only accept $100 increments or do not provide Add Value service.
Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway (MTR) network of underground and suburban rail is the fastest way to get around the territory, but what you gain in speed you lose in views and (at least for short distances) price. There are four underground lines (Kwun Tong, Tsuen Wan, Island, and Tseung Kwan O lines), four suburban rail lines (Tung Chung, West, East and Ma On Shan lines), the Disneyland Resort Line dedicated for the Disneyland and the Airport Express, plus a network of modern tram lines operated by the MTR in the North West New Territories.
The most important lines for many visitors are the busy Tsuen Wan Line (red), which tunnels from Central to Kowloon and down Nathan Road towards Tsuen Wan in the New Territories, and the Island Line (blue) which runs along the north coast of the Island. The Tung Chung Line (orange) is the fastest route to Lantau and one of the cheapest ways to the airport when coupled with the S1 shuttle bus stationed at Tung Chung MTR station. The line also provides a link to Hong Kong Disneyland via a change at Sunny Bay station. All signs are bilingual in Chinese and English and all announcements are made in Cantonese, Mandarin and English so most tourists should not have a problem using the rail system. Should you get lost, staff in the station control room usually speak enough English to be able to help you out.
One thing that's unique to Hong Kong's suburban rail system is that it's linked to two borders with mainland China: Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau, both on the East Rail Line. You pass through a short corridor before a large border gate appears (have your visa ready by then) through which you pass and enter a long one-way corridor before emerging on the mainland, with the Shenzhen Metro right next to you.
The East Rail Line offers a first class car where the seats are wider and more comfortable. The fare is twice that of the regular cars on the same route, and you need to buy a separate ticket for this at a station's ticketing office or tap your Octopus card at the designated reader before entering.
Most underground MTR stations have one Hang Seng Bank branch (except for the massive Hong Kong/Central station, which has two). Since they're a common feature, unambiguous and easy to find, they're a good place to tell people to meet you.
Note that in Hong Kong, the English name for the underground metro system is the 'MTR'. While 'subway' is understood as well, in Hong Kong it actually refers to underground walkways (due to British influence), rather than the metro system.
Fares depend on distance. Credit cards are not accepted to pay for tickets or passes except for rides on the Airport Express Line.
In addition to the Airport Express Octopus (see above), you can also (as a short-term tourist) buy a 24-hour pass for $55 at any MTR station; however, this pass is not valid on the Airport Express line, East Rail Line's first class car or available to residents. It is also generally not worth the money as a typical single-journey fare in the urban area is about $4 to $10 only.
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 are a Hong Kong icon and have provided cheap transport for over a century. Trams are slower and bumpier than other modes of transport, and they are not air conditioned. But the route along the length of Hong Kong Island's centre covers many places tourists would want to see. With a flat fare of only $2.3, it's the cheapest sightseeing tour around. A suggested sightseeing option lasting over an hour is to board at the Kennedy Town Terminus where you can be sure to get a good seat on the upper deck. As the tram traverses eastward, you will have an elevated view of the island and see its different flavours, from bustling Hong Kong street life to its glitzy financial and shopping districts and, finally, a taste of suburban tranquility. Passengers board at the rear and the fare is paid upon alighting at the front of the tram. Exact change and Octopus cards are accepted. Trams run 06:00-23:59.
In a league of its own is the Peak Tram, Hong Kong's first mechanised mode of transport, opened back in 1888. The remarkably steep 1.7 km track up from Central to Victoria Peak is worth at least one trip despite the comparatively steep price ($28 one-way, $40 return; return tickets must be purchased in advance). The tram turnstyles do take Octopus cards, which will allow you to avoid a stop at the ticketing line at the station. During public holidays and other similar occasions the Peak Tram is likely to have very long queues of people waiting to board. Note that the tram is not the only way to get to the Peak, and there are cheaper (but slower and less scenic) alternatives such as the number 1 (green minibus) & number 15 (double-decker bus) that cost $8.4 and $9.8, respectively, from Exchange Square Bus Terminus.
There is also a tram system located at the Western side of the territory called Light Rail, operated by the MTR Corporation. It is a modern and fast tram system connecting Tuen Mun, Yuen Long and Tin Shui Wai. It is also known as ding ding by local people. It has an open fare system, in which passengers are required to buy a ticket or tap an Octopus card at the entrance before boarding, and ticket inspection is randomly done to ensure it is done.
There are three types of bus available in Hong Kong, operated by a multitude of companies. While generally easy to use (especially with Octopus), signage in English can be sparse and finding your bus stop can get difficult. Buses are pretty much your only option for travelling around the south side of the island and Lantau.
The frequency of bus services however mean that it can also be the fastest way around as long as you master them correctly. Google Maps will actually let you know the best number bus to take from your current position to destination.
- 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 (CTB), New World First Bus (NWFB) and New Lantao Bus (NLB). Route and fare information can be found on the companies web sites. Alternatively it's also wise to install transportation apps such as "KMB & LW" and "CitybusNWFB" into your smartphone, to check fares outdoors if you'll use mobile devices regularly during your stay.
Fares will depend more on where you board rather than where you get-off (except for the cross-boundary route B2 and a few overnight buses) which means it is more expensive to board at the earlier stops rather than the later stops. Hence, 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 above the farebox - exact change, Octopus Card or a ticket purchased from a bus travel centre (only applicable to a few routes found at major transit hubs such as Star Ferry or Central Bus Terminus) must be used. There are plenty of bus routes that provide a fare discount for transferring with a particular set of routes; they're often confusing for visitors, however instructions are written on bus stop timetable leaflets. There are also some bus routes (especially the routes going to Stanley) which offer discount if a passenger gets off early and taps the Octopus card again prior to alighting.
Unlike mainland China, there are announcements in Cantonese, Mandarin and English except for most buses on New Lantau Bus. Buses will only stop when requested (except 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) to signal to the driver that you want to alight. Always board at the front and alight from the centre door - unless the bus has only one door, or on the routes where you need to pay when alighting, 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 required to call out the name of the stop or ask the driver to stop in Cantonese. (Just shouting 'Please Stop' loudly in English usually suffices) 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 cannot 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 are 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 bus trip is paid for on an Octopus card along with a connecting railway journey (except taking K12 on holidays).
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, applying to: buses (i) on Hong Kong Island, (ii) in Kowloon and the New Territories, and (iii) on Lantau Island; green minibuses (iv) on Hong Kong Island, (v) in Kowloon, and (vi) in New Territories and several exceptional auxiliary bus routes. Red minibuses do not usually have a route number. This leads to duplication of routes in different regions. Although the Transport Department has been working on unification of the route numbers, they are 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 and green minibuses and they can answer you.
Generally you need not mention which district the route belongs to when you are asking for directions (almost all people will assume you are 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 are asking for bus route #2 running in Kowloon if you are in Kowloon), but you really need to mention whether the route is by bus or minibus when you ask, since in some cases both buses and minibuses can have the 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, which are actually different routes).
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 between Tsim Sha Tsui and Central from early morning until late at night, 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 11-minute ride across the harbour and catching some misty breeze is considered a "must do" when visiting Hong Kong. Navigation enthusiasts will also not want to miss the sight of the crew using a billhook to catch the thrown rope as it moors at the pier, a practice unchanged since the first ferry ran in 1888.
Upper deck seats cost $2.50 on weekdays and $3.40 on weekends while the lower deck cost $2.00 on weekdays and $2.80 on weekends, both payable with Octopus, cash (no change given) or by onsite vending machine. The Star Ferry also operates between Tsim Sha Tsui and Wanchai but only offers upper-deck seating. A 4-day tourist ticket is also available for $25.
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 Yung Shue Wan (Lamma) are $10/15 slow/fast, and to Mui Wo (Lantau) $10.50/$21. Note that all fares increase by around 50% on Sundays and public holidays.
Taxis are plentiful, clean and efficient. They are quite cheap compared to many other large cities.
There are three types of taxis in Hong Kong, easily identified by their colours: red, green and blue, all of which serve the airport and Hong Kong Disneyland.
The Urban (red) taxis can travel most destinations in Hong Kong and are also the most expensive. The meter starts at $20.00 for the first 2 kilometres, and a further $1.50 for every 200m thereafter, and $1.00 each ticking when the fare goes above $72.50. Note that on Lantau island they are only permitted to go to the airport, Tung Chung and Disneyland.
NT (green) taxis are slightly cheaper than the red ones but are fundamentally confined to rural areas in the New Territories, the airport, and Hong Kong Disneyland.
Lantau (blue) taxis (the cheapest of the three) operate only on Lantau Island (including the airport and Hong Kong Disneyland).
The airport will have taxis with all three colours, however both signs and attendants will make it easy for you to make the right choice.
By law, Hong Kong taxis must take you to your destination however in practice they tend to ignore this rule if it isn't convenient to them. However unless it is raining extremely hard, then there will be no issue finding another taxi close by to take you.
The wearing of seat belts is required by law, the driver has the right to refuse to carry the passenger if they fail to comply. In practice this is rarely observed.
Tipping for taxi rides is usually not required or expected. Drivers are required to provide change for $100 notes, but not for higher denominations. If you only have a $500 or $1,000 note and are going through a tunnel, let the driver know beforehand and he will change it when paying at the toll booth. Some taxis accept credit cards and Octopus cards to avoid hassles with small change although these are still very rare.
There are no extra late-night charges nor peak-hour surcharges. However baggage carried in the boot ("trunk" in American and Canadian English) will cost you $5 per piece, except for wheelchairs. No charges are levied for travel to/from the airport or within downtown but all toll charges for tunnels are added to the bill. The driver will normally pay on your behalf at the toll booth and you just need to reimburse him before alighting.
Be aware that crossing the harbour is considered a relatively significant trip, and some taxi drivers may be reluctant to take you. To do this you can stand at a cross-harbour taxi rank (there are not many), by hailing a taxi by making an arm movement like an ocean wave (They will not stop if they don't want to go) or just asking your hotel to call a taxi firm with your destination. Harbour crossing passengers are expected to pay the tolls (add around $70 for your trip).
All taxi drivers are required to display inside the vehicle an official name card that includes the driver's photograph and the license plate number. Unless a taxi has an out of service sign displayed, they are legally required to take you to your destination. They are also required to provide you a receipt upon request. If you think you have been "toured" around the city, or if they refuse to either carry you to your destination or provide for a receipt, you may file a complain to the Transport Complaints Unit Complaint Hotline (Voice mail service after office hours) at 2889-9999.
All taxis are equipped with mobile phones and can be reserved and requested via an operator for a token fee of $5, payable to the driver. You are unlikely to need to call a taxi, though, as they are plentiful. Only during Friday night rush hour in central you might find long lines on taxi stands.
It is good practice to get a local person to write the name or address of your destination in Chinese for you to hand to the taxi driver, as many drivers speak limited English and Mandarin. For example, if you wish to take a journey back to your hotel, ask a receptionist for the hotel's business card. It also helps if you have the phone number of your destination, you can give it to the driver to call there and ask for directions. Nevertheless, even if you don't take these steps, most taxi drivers know enough English to communicate the basics. Be aware that buildings might have an English name used by foreigners and a different English name used by locals. The HSBC building in Central is called "Hong Kong Bank" by taxi drivers for example.
Renting a car is largely unheard of in densely populated Hong Kong. With heavy traffic, a complex road network, as well as rare and expensive parking spaces and well-connected public transportation, renting a car is very unappealing. If you must, expect to pay over $600/day even for a small car. Hong Kong allows foreigners to drive with an International Driving Permit (IDP), and if you possess a driving licence written in English then you can also drive in Hong Kong for a limited period of time. Anyone who drives for more than 12 months is required to get a Hong Kong license issued by the Department of Transportation.
Nevertheless, although public buses do exist throughout the SAR it does tend to be less reliable in some of the more remote areas in the New Territories. Therefore, driving should certainly not be dismissed out of hand, especially if you intend to spend a significant amount of time hiking and camping in the countryside.
Hong Kong follows traffic rules and signage similar to the United Kingdom. The majority of Hongkongers will exceed the speed limit by around 10 km/h which is the tolerated threshold. Drivers will sometimes not yield to pedestrians at crossings without traffic lights, although traffic lights are always observed. Wearing a seatbelt is mandatory for every passenger who has a seatbelt provided. Rush hour traffic can be severe around the Cross Harbour Tunnel which is generally congested 08:00-11:00 and 16:00-22:00 and even sometimes up till midnight. Many drivers will often not use their indicators when changing lanes. Roads in Hong Kong are generally well maintained.
Traffic rules are enforced seriously and the penalty for breaking rules can be severe. Signs are written in both Chinese and English. Unlike mainland China, traffic in Hong Kong moves on the left, a part of its British legacy.
Driving across the border
It is unlikely that you will be able to drive across the border to mainland China. If you wish to drive into mainland China then your vehicle must have a second set of number plates issued by the Guangdong authorities. These are issued in limited numbers to people investing in the mainland, and the price for a second hand plate can be as high as HKD $300,000. You will also need to acquire a mainland Chinese driving licence. Hong Kong, Macau or foreign licences will not be accepted. You will also need to change sides of the road at the border.
Hong Kong has experienced a boom on biking in recent years. While many people still don't see bicycles as a safe and feasible substitute for public transportation due to the heavy traffic, fast speed of vehicles, steep hills, narrow streets and an absence of bicycle lanes, biking is getting more popular. 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, although a permit is necessary to bring your bicycle into the parks. Visitors should comply with the Road User's Guide which is based on the United Kingdom Highway Code. If you plan to use busy urban roads you should be fit enough to keep up with the traffic, which moves surprisingly quickly.
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 $20–30 a day for a standard entry-level mountain bike, or around $150 per day for a higher-spec mountain or road bike.
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.
Basic rules to follow:
- Cyclists are not allowed by law to ride on highways and tunnels, which are well patrolled.
- It is an offence to be drunk in charge of a bicycle.
- By law, you're required to have a front and rear light.
- Electronic bike conversion systems are not allowed. The police have a strict enforcement policy on this offence.
- The maximum penalty for riding on pedestrian roads is $500 or a three month jail sentence. Usually offenders get a warning, but the Hong Kong Police do occasionally have an annual, or bi-annual crackdown.
- For folding bike users, sometimes a bus driver will tell you that it's not allowed, but if you talk to them nicely they will usually let you board. A bicycle bag that makes your bike look like ordinary luggage can make your life a lot easier.
Bicycles on public transport
Folding bicycles are permitted on all public transport, provided that they are folded.
- MTR: Non-folding bicycles are permitted to travel on the MTR system. Travel in the first or last carriage and remove the front wheel.
- Ferries: Bicycles are permitted on board slow ferries including the Star Ferry, but are not permitted on the Fast Ferries.
- Taxis: Most taxi drivers will carry bikes in the boot if the front wheel is removed. Some drivers will carry your bike for free, others will legitimately charge extra for 'excess baggage'.
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 Island
- Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon - Central, Hong Kong Island — the busiest route by far, and only $2.5/2 on the upper/lower deck.
- Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon - Wan Chai, Hong Kong Island.
New World First Ferry operates some other routes between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.
- Hung Hom, Kowloon - North Point, Hong Kong Island.
- Kowloon City, Kowloon - North Point, Hong Kong Island.
Fortune Ferry operates one route.
- Kwun Tong, Kowloon - North Point, Hong Kong Island.
Coral Sea Ferry operates two routes between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.
- Kwun Tong, Kowloon - Sai Wan Ho, Hong Kong Island.
- Sam Ka Tsuen, Kowloon - Sai Wan Ho, Hong Kong Island.
The Transport Department also provides an online directory  on Hong Kong's ferry services.
Note that, due to an ongoing reclamation and redevelopment project in Central/Admiralty that includes a new waterfront, much of the shoreline is presently a mess and access to the ferries can be a little confusing — take heed of signs warning about the ever-shifting arrangements.
For details of cross-harbour buses, see the Hong Kong section.
Bus fares range from $8.90-11.10 for routes linking the urban areas in Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. Some routes heading for more remote places are charged at a higher fare.
From more distant points the three lines of the MTR crossing the harbour may offer a faster alternative.
If coming from the airport, the Airport Express's Hong Kong station is in the heart of Central.
- See also: Cantonese phrasebook
Hong Kong's official languages are Cantonese and English.
Cantonese is the main language spoken by locals. 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 appreciate any effort by visitors to speak it, so learning a few simple greetings will get you acquainted with locals much more easily.
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 Jyutpin.
唔該; m' goi
Just one Cantonese word that will go a very long way in Hong Kong. Learn this word and you can use it to say please, thank you and excuse me. M̀h'gōi rhymes with boy and should be said with a cheery high tone rising at the end. Give it a go.
As a former British colony, English is the most common second language, and while it is far from ubiquitous, your chances of encountering an English speaker in Hong Kong are still much better than in other East Asian cities. Education in English begins in kindergarten, and fluency in English is often a prerequisite for securing a good job. As a result, English is spoken fluently by most professionals and business people. In contrast, English proficiency tends to be more limited among the average working class person, particularly outside the main tourist areas. In addition, while many people can understand written English pretty well, they may not necessarily be comfortable speaking it. Nevertheless, most locals under the age of 40 (and many over that as well) know enough English for basic communication, while younger locals under the age of 30 often speak good English. To improve your chances of being understood, speak slowly, stick to basic words and sentences and avoid using slang.
As English is an official language of Hong Kong, government offices are required by law to have English-speaking staff on duty. There are two terrestrial English language TV stations: TVB Pearl and ATV World. 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. British English is still widely used in Hong Kong, especially in government and legal documents. In the media, the South China Morning Post and both 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 the tradition of using British spellings. Most secondary and tertiary institutions adopt English for instruction, even though in most cases lectures are conducted in Cantonese.
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 anywhere, ask hotel staff to write down the street names using Chinese characters.
Although the majority of Hong Kong people are not fluent in Mandarin, they can usually understand it to some degree. Mandarin has been compulsory in all public schools since the handover, and with the huge influx of mainland tourists many people in the tourist industry will often speak Mandarin. 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 Culinary Tour — gives a short tour to discover the unique cuisine of Hong Kong
- Hong Kong in a day — an insight of everything, from laidback, rural life in the outlying islands to the bustling metropolis
- Overland Kunming to Hong Kong — covers one route to or from Hong Kong
Hong Kong Tourism Board offers many walking tours. Starting from 1 October 2010, the following participation fees have been implemented:
- Duk Ling Ride $100 per person
- Architecture Walk $200 per person
- Chinese Cake-Making Class $30 per person.
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, where local Chinese weren't permitted to live until after World War II.
The Peak Tower is not only an observation platform, but also a shopping mall offering shops, fine dining and museums. The Peak Tram runs from Central to the bottom of the Peak Tower. Although views of Kowloon and Victoria Harbour can be stunning, be prepared for the view to be spoilt by air pollution.
Although the Peak Tram offers a direct route to The Peak, a more picturesque and cheaper (though slower) way of reaching it is by taking bus 15 (not 15C) from the Star Ferry pier in Central. Not only is it cheaper but, as the bus snakes up the mountain, you can enjoy beautiful views of both sides of Hong Kong Island and passing the territory's priciest neighbourhoods.
Read more at Hong Kong/Central#Victoria Peak.
The racing season runs from September to June, when races take place twice weekly, with the location alternating between Shatin in the New Territories and Happy Valley near Causeway Bay MTR station. Both racing locations are easily accessible by MTR but Happy Valley is the more convenient, historic and impressive location (although live races only take place here on Wednesday nights). For only a $10 entrance fee, a night in Happy Valley can be filled with rowdy entertainment. Get a local Chinese gambler to explain the betting system to you and then drink the cheap draft beer. Be sure to pick up the Racing Post section in the South China Morning Post on Wednesday to guide you. A beer garden with racing commentary in English is available at Happy Valley near the finishing 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.
Be aware that horse racing is a religion in Hong Kong with live broadcasts over the radio. Large segments of the adult population will place bets and there will be no shortage of racing tips from punters. Just remember that when people are listening to the races, whether in a taxi or restaurant or on the streets, expect no conversation or business to transpire for the 1-2 minute duration of the race.
The most effective way to know how Hong Kong people live is to observe the local life of an ordinary Hong Kong resident. Just wander and observe - and don't worry - all areas are safe.
There are many traditional heritage locations throughout Hong Kong.
In New Territories you will find Ping Shan Heritage Trail passing by some of the most important ancient sights, the walled Hakka village of Tsang Tai Uk, Fu Shin Street Traditional Bazaar as well as a number of temples including Che Kung Temple, Man Mo Temple and the Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas. In Kowloon you will find the Kowloon Walled City Park at the location of the former Kowloon walled city. And on Lantau you will find the Stilt houses in Tai O, Po Lin Monastery and the Tien Tan Buddha Statue.
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 hours to view everything in detail.
Kowloon also has 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.
- Lantau Island is twice as big as Hong Kong island and is well worth checking out if you want to get away from the bright lights and pollution of the city for a spell. Here you will find open countryside, traditional fishing villages, secluded beaches, monasteries and more. You can hike, camp, fish and mountain bike, among other activities.
- In the waters just off Tung Chung on Lantau Island, live the Chinese White Dolphins. These dolphins are naturally pink and live in the wild, but their status is currently threatened, with it current population estimated to be between 100-200.
- The Sai Kung Peninsula in New Territories is also a worthwhile place to visit. Its mountainous terrain and spectacular coastal scenery make this a special place. There are both challenging and more relaxed routes.
- Hong Kong Wetland Park in New Territories is a relaxing park set amidst an ecological mitigation area. One can stroll along a network of board walks or explore the large visitors centre/museum.
- North East New Territories is also famous for its natural environment. Yan Chau Tong Marine Park is in the North East New Territories. A few traditional abandoned villages are connected with hiking trails in the territory. North East New Territories is a famous hiking hot spot for the locals.
- Short hiking trails (2 hours) can be found on Hong Kong Island and the New Territories. You can even hike up to the Victoria Peak.
- Some outlying islands are worth visiting, e.g.: Lamma Island, Cheung Chau, Ping Chau, Tap Mun, Tung Lung Island.
- Hong Kong Disneyland Resort opened in September 2005. It is on Lantau Island, about 12 km east of Hong Kong International Airport. The resort also features a Disneyland park, two resort hotels and a lake recreation centre. Though significantly smaller in size than other Disneyland-style parks elsewhere, the park is undergoing an expansion to offer more attractions (including the recently opened Toy Story Land and Grizzly Gulch). It offers some great attractions and short queues most of the year (except the week of Chinese New Year, Easter, Halloween and Christmas season).
- Ocean Park is on the southern side of Hong Kong island, and is the park that grew up with many local Hong Kong people. With roller coasters and large aquariums altogether, it is still packed on weekends with families and tourists. The cablecar is an icon. For many, the chance to see Hong Kong's pandas would be a deciding factor. Young adults will be attracted to the wider range of rides.
- Ngong Ping 360 on Lantau Island is a Buddhist themed park that features Imperial Chinese architecture, interactive shows, demonstrations, restaurants and coffee shops. The highlight of this trip is the longest cable car ride in Hong Kong that affords stunning views. The ride also takes you to the largest outdoor seated Buddha.
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, it allows you to see completely different lifestyles in different districts in a short time. Below are some recommended routes.
- KMB Route 270A. Starts from the downtown in Jordan, Kowloon. It goes along Peninsular Kowloon and heads through the New Territories. Then it goes into Sha Tin. Afterwards it goes through Tai Po Road, where you can see many traditional Chinese villages and the scenic Chinese University of Hong Kong. The bus further goes to Tai Po and you can see the traditional Market. After Tai Po, the bus again passes through the countryside and eventually reaches its terminus at Sheung Shui (below Landmark North), which is near the Hong Kong - Shenzhen boundary. The journey takes 80 minutes and costs $13 for the whole journey with an air-conditioned bus. The Hung Hom bound train back to the city can be taken from Sheung Shui.
- NWFB Route 15 starts from Central (Exchange Square) to The Peak. It is an alternative way for getting to The Peak by bus rather than by Peak Tram. Your journey to Hong Kong will not be complete unless you have visited Victoria Peak. You can see the beautiful view of Hong Kong Island, Victoria Harbour and Kowloon Peninsula along the Stubbs Road during the journey. When you arrive, there are two shopping malls: The Peak Tower and The Peak Galleria, which provide restaurants, a supermarket, and souvenir shops for your convenience. In addition, you can visit Madame Tussauds Hong Kong and see if the mannequins look to be the real deal. Direction: you can take MTR and get off at Hong Kong station. You can approach Hong Kong station by the underpass from Central station. After that, follow the exit B1 to Exchange Square and you will see the bus terminus. You can also get off at Admiralty station. Then, follow the C1 exit towards Queensway Plaza. Make a right after you exit the station, and you will see the bus stop. After you get on the bus, just stay on until it arrives to The Peak bus terminus. The bus fare is $9.8 and it takes about 30 minutes for the journey.
- Citybus Route 973 Route 973 starts from the Tsim Sha Tsui East Bus Terminus which is located at the Concordia Plaza, which is directly opposite the Science Museum at Science Museum Road. It goes along Salisbury Road, where the Avenue of Stars, The Space Museum and the Art Museum are located. Later it goes to University of Hong Kong, which is the most prominent and the oldest university in Hong Kong after crossing the Western Harbour Crossing. It later passes through the countryside of the southern part of Hong Kong . It will reach the Hong Kong southern side, where the Jumbo/Tai Pak Floating Restaurant is located at Aberdeen. Not long after, the bus passes by a football field, from which it is a 5–10 minutes walk to Ocean Park. Finally, the bus passes by the beautiful sandy beach of Repulse Bay, before it finally arrives at its terminus station at Stanley Village, where the famous Murray House and the Stanley Village Market are located. The fare is $13.6 and it takes about 95 minutes for the journey.
- NWFB Route H1, H2
These two are rickshaw-themed double deckers going to main heritage spots on Hong Kong Island, such as the Court of Final Appeal (previously LegCo) in Central and the University of Hong Kong. A day pass costs $50, and you can hop on and hop off at any stop.
- Take a tram journey on Hong Kong Island.
The tram system refers to is Hong Kong Tramways, 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. 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 one dollar for senior citizens (aged 65 or older) and children pay $1.2.
Note that the low price makes it attractive to housemaids on their Sunday day off, and it can be so crowded that it is very difficult to squeeze on or off. A relaxing tram journey would be better for a weekday.
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 Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station or the Star Ferry.
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 FM103.4 MHz for English narration, FM106.8 MHz 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. However, whilst the show is not such a big deal, during festival times the light show is supplemented by fireworks that are worth seeing.
- Chinese (Lunar) New Year (農曆新年). Although this may seem like an ideal time to go to Hong Kong, many shops and restaurants close down during the Chinese New Year, so visitors will not see Hong Kong at its best. However, unlike Christmas in Europe where you can hardly find shops open on this big day, supermarkets and convenience stores remain open, so you can still get food and daily products easily during the Lunar New Year period. The week or two leading up to the Chinese New Year as well as the period just after the third day up to the fifteenth day are good times to soak up the festive mood and listen to Chinese New Year songs being played in the shops.
- Spring Lantern Festival (元宵節). If you go to Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, you will be able to experience this traditional Chinese festival. A number of beautiful lanterns can be found in the park at this time.
- Ching Ming Festival (清明節). This festival in Spring is also known as grave sweeping day. To show respect to the deceased, family members go to the grave of their ancestors to sweep away leaves and remove weeds around the grave area. Paper offerings are also burned, such as fake money.
- Cheung Chau Bun Festival (長洲太平清醮). This takes place on the tiny island of Cheung Chau. In the past the festival has involved competitions with people climbing bun towers to snatch buns. After the unfortunate collapse of a bun tower in 1978, due to an overload of people, the competition was abandoned. It was resumed again in 2005 with better safety measures.
- Tuen Ng Festival (端午節). This is a festival in memory of a national hero from the Spring and Autumn Period of Chinese history. Dragon boat races are typically held during this festival and glutinous rice dumplings, usually with pork fillings, are eaten by many.
- Hungry Ghost Festival (中元節). This festival runs throughout the seventh month of the Chinese calendar. It is believed that the gates of hell open during this period and hungry ghosts are allowed to roam freely into our world. Though not a public holiday, this is the time where one can see many people perform various rites to appease the wandering ghosts, such as offering food and burning joss paper. One can also see traditional performances such as Chinese opera which are held to appease these ghosts.
- Mid Autumn Festival / Moon Festival (中秋節). This festival is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month. Moon cakes which contain lotus seed paste and duck egg yolks are a popular delicacy. Many Western people will find the traditional mooncake hard to appreciate, so you might like to try the ice-cream version as well. The festival is also known as the lantern festival and various parts of Hong Kong will be festooned with decorative lanterns which set the night scene ablaze with colour.
- Chung Yeung Festival (重陽節). Is a day also known as Autumn Remembrance, which is similar to Ching Ming in spring, where families visit the graves of their ancestors to perform cleansing rites and pay their respects. As the weather cools down during this part of the year, hiking is a good activity to do during this holiday.
- Halloween (萬聖節). Halloween has grown rapidly in popularity and many people dress up to party till late. Trick or treat is not common but most restaurants and shopping centres are decorated and have special programmes. For young adults and teenagers, Ocean Park and Disneyland is the place to be for Halloween fun. It is not a public holiday.
- Christmas (聖誕節). Christmas is celebrated Hong Kong style. The city is adorned using traditional Western Christmas decorations. Many shopping centres, such as Pacific Place, offer ample opportunities for children to meet Santa. Most shops and restaurants remain open throughout Christmas. You should expect large crowds out shopping for the Christmas sales.
- New Year's Eve (元旦除夕). New Year's Eve in Hong Kong is something to check out if you are seeking a carnival experience. Hundreds of thousands of people out on the streets to celebrate the New Year is truly an unforgettable time. There are all-night services on the MTR, night-buses, and of course, many taxis. Fireworks go off on the harbour front, which a lot of people attend to watch on both sides of the harbour: Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon side) and Central (Hong Kong Island). The young adults and older adults decide to party with the rest of Hong Kong at the hot-spots such as Causeway Bay, Lan Kwai Fong and Tsim Sha Tsui. Many people dress up and attend private parties and others flock to the streets to enjoy the atmosphere. Police patrol around popular areas to make sure the city is a safe party-zone. Hong Kong people are not great drinkers and most of them stay dry for the night. Drinking alcohol on the street is uncommon. So visitors who drink should moderate their behaviour or risk being screened out by the police as the only drunks in the crowd.
Ride the tram between Kennedy Town and Shau Kei Wan. The journey takes around 80 minutes and costs $2.30. The Hong Kong Tramways run between the West and East of Hong Kong Island. Starting from the old district Kennedy Town, you can see the residential 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.
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 Jackie Chan, Andy Lau, Wong Ka Kui (Beyond), Tony Leung Chiu-Wai 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 Department, 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).
Other than swimming pools in hotels, Hong Kong offers a series of public swimming pools which are maintained to a very high standard. It costs $19 for adults and $9 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 are open 06:30-22:00, but there are session breaks when the centre closes for lunch 12:00-13:00 and another hour of closure 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 four major trails in the Hong Kong SAR:
- Lantau Trail on Lantau.
- Hong Kong Trail on Hong Kong Island.
- Maclehose Trail through the New Territories. Oxfam organizes an annual charity hike of this 100 km trail every November. Winning teams finish in around 11–12 hours but average people take 30–36 hours to finish the whole trail, which starts from the eastern end of the New Territories (Sai Kung) to the western end (Tuen Mun).
- Wilson Trail starting on Hong Kong Island and finishing in the New Territories.
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, but mahjong (麻雀 ma jeuk) also forms an integral part of Hong Kong gambling culture. Mahjong has also 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.
Betting on world-wide football matches is also available at the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
Hong Kong, together with nearby Macau, use Cantonese as the medium of instruction in schools. 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, although unlike mainland China, the script taught is traditional Chinese.
Hong Kong has a strong emphasis on education with a total of 9 universities. The University of Hong Kong is considered one of Asia's top universities. Other highly rated universities in Hong Kong include the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. These universities are attractive to foreign students, with most having exchange agreements with foreign institutions that are a good way to experience living in Hong Kong. Courses for exchange students are often conducted in English.
Unless you are already a citizen or permanent resident of Hong Kong then you will need an employment visa in order to work. This usually involves potential employers 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. Spouses of employment visa holders can apply for a dependent visa that has no limitations for working within Hong Kong, although it will terminate at the same time of the visa of the main holder.
Citizens of the People's Republic of China also require an employment visa in order to work in Hong Kong. Spouses who are citizens of the People's Republic of China will also face issues in obtaining a dependent visa unless they have been living outside the People's Republic of China for more than one year.
In 2006, the Hong Kong Government introduced a new program called the Quality Migrant Application Scheme which targets highly skilled workers (preferably university educated) 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 $12,000 - $25,000 (monthly) and will usually teach 30 to 40 hours a week. Contracts will sometimes include accommodation and airfare.
You are eligible to apply for permanent residency after living in Hong Kong on a temporary permit for 7 years or more continuously, which allows you to live and work in Hong Kong indefinitely with no restrictions. Note that you have to be physically residing in Hong Kong during this time without any long absences. Permanent residency can also be obtained by investing a large amount of money in a local business. Check with the immigration department for more details.
Young people between 18 and 30 years old who are citizens of Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea are eligible to apply for a 12 month working holiday visa, allowing them to take up temporary work and a short period of study in Hong Kong. Visit the Immigration Department's website  for more information.
The Hong Kong dollar (港幣 or HKD) is the territory's official currency and is the unit of currency used throughout this travel guide. In Chinese, one dollar is known formally as the yuen (圓) and colloquially as the men (蚊) in Cantonese. You can safely assume that the '$' sign used in the territory refers to HKD unless it includes other initials (e.g. US$ to stand for US dollar). The HKD 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 to 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 a faster way 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.
Try to avoid changing money at the airport or at most hotels since the rates offered there are usually extremely poor. Note that street money exchange vendors will often offer different rates and you may be able to save around 10% if you can compare several different places rather than using the first one you see. The worst rates will be similar to those found at the hotels.
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.
The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) issues the new purple plastic $10 notes while the rest are issued by three banks (the Hong Kong 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 design of the 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:
- $10, green or purple (paper or plastic).
- $20, dark blue or light blue (old or new).
- $50, purple or green (old or new).
- $100, red.
- $500, brown.
- $1000, gold.
Some shops do not accept $1,000 notes due to counterfeiting concerns.
The coins come in units of
- $10, in bronze/silver, circular.
- $5, in silver, circular, thicker.
- $2, in silver, wavey-circular.
- $1, in silver, circular, thinner.
- 50¢, in bronze, circular, larger.
- 20¢, in bronze, wavey-circular.
- 10¢, in bronze, circular, smaller.
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 is now 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 an 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.
Merchants will require that the credit cards be signed and will compare your signature with the card and do not ask for picture ID. The 'chip and pin' system for credit card authorisation is not used in Hong Kong.
Opening a bank account in Hong Kong is a straightforward process, requiring a proof of address and a corresponding ID. A Hong Kong identification card (of any type) will make the process much easier, although foreign visitors are allowed to open bank accounts as well using their foreign address. Hong Kong banks will have English speaking staff available.
Some banks can also provide accounts and UnionPay credit cards in the Chinese RMB currency, which can then be used when travelling in mainland China.
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.
Eating out in Hong Kong is generally cheaper than in Western countries, and prices start from about $20 per serve for a basic meal of porridge or noodles, although in mid-range restaurants, $150–200 per head is common. At the other end of the spectrum, fine dining can also be very expensive, and prices on the order of $1000 per head or more are not unheard of.
As a general rule, tipping is not customary in Hong Kong, though 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.
In cheaper restaurants, 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 notes 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 and some wealthy consumers all add up to make Hong Kong an excellent destination for shopping. Choices are plentiful at competitive prices. Lookout for watches, camping equipment, digital items and special cosmetics.
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 prices are generally higher than in their respective home countries.
Most shops in Hong Kong's urban areas open at about 10AM until 10PM to midnight every day. High rental costs in Hong Kong, ranked second worldwide according to Forbes, makes 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 photo ID. In addition, merchants will not accept credit cards with a different name to 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.
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 these shops.
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 choice of English books, 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 Times Square (Causeway Bay) and Festival Walk (Kowloon Tong). Dymocks, an Australian bookshops, has eleven stores, including in IFC and the Princes Building. For French books, visit Librairie Parentheses on Wellington Street in Central and Japanese books are sold in Sogo Shopping Mall in Causeway bay. The biggest local bookshop chain is the Commercial Press and they 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 and offered 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 an underground train to Mongkok 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. While Hong Kong might offer favourable prices, it is always worth checking prices at Hong Kong based e-commerce such as DigitalRev or Expansys that might ship products to your hotel within a day or at least use their price to bargain with retailers.
Computers- The base price of computer equipment in Hong Kong is similar to that in other parts of the world, but there are substantial savings to be had 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).
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 Café 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 Mong Kok 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 should be aware that there are no price tags on items show. 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)
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.
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.
Shopping malls are everywhere in Hong Kong. Locally renowned ones are:
- IFC Mall - Located near the Star Ferry and Outlying Islands Ferry Piers in Central. Has many luxury brand shops, an expensive cinema and superb views across the harbour from the rooftop. Can be reached directly from the Airport via the Airport Express and the Tung Chung line.
- Pacific Place- Also a big shopping centre with mainly high-end brands, and has a wonderful cinema. Take the MTR to Admiralty.
- Festival Walk- A big shopping centre with a mix of expensive brands and smaller chains. It has an ice skating rink, cinema and one of Hong Kong's three Apple Stores. There is also a bus terminal within the mall complex. Take the MTR East Rail to Kowloon Tong.
- Cityplaza- A similarly large shopping centre, also with an ice-skating rink. To get there, take the MTR to Taikoo on the Island Line.
- Landmark- Many luxury brands have shops here Gucci, Dior, Fendi, Vuitton, etc. located at Central, Pedder Street. It used to be a magnet for the well-heeled but has since fallen behind in its management.
- APM- All new 24hr shopping centre in Kwun Tong. Take the MTR to the Kwun Tong station.
- Harbour City- Huge shopping centre in Tsim Sha Tsui on Canton Road, to get there take the MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui, or take the Star Ferry.
- Langham Place- A huge 12 storey shopping mall adjacent to the Langham Place Hotel in Mong Kok. Mainly contains trendy shops for youngsters. Take the MTR to the Mong Kong station and follow the appropriate exit directions.
- Elements- Located directly above Kowloon Station, this mall is mostly comprised of luxury brand shops and restaurants. There is a cinema, ice rink, an airport express station where you can check into your flights and a long distance bus station for the mainland. Hong Kong's tallest building, the International Commerce Centre (ICC), is attached to this mall.
- Times Square- A trendy multi-storey shopping mall with some luxury brands, with food courts at the lower levels, and gourmet dining at the upper stories. Take MTR to Causeway Bay, and exit at "Times Square". Definitely attracting a younger crowd, this mall is very crowded on weekends and a popular meeting place for teenagers.
- Citygate Outlets- Located right next to Tung Chung MTR Station & directly connected to the Hotel Novotel Citygate Hong Kong, the Citygate is an outlet mall with tonnes of mid-priced brands, some of them being Adidas, Esprit, Giordano, Levi's, Nike, Quiksilver and Timberland. Many of the items are cheaper although also often out of season.
- Laforet, Island Beverly and Causeway Place. Best places to find cheap stylish clothes, Asian style. Mostly girls clothes, but also bags, shoes and accessories, highly recommended if you are looking for something different. Immensely popular with teenagers. These three shopping malls are all near exit E, Causeway Bay MTR station.
- New Town Plaza, a 9 storey shopping mall covering 1,300,000 m² retail area in Shatin, New Territories. Diverse variety of shops, consisting of sports brands, luxury brand shops, cuisines from countries in different continents, sports, etc. can be found in the mall, which is estimated to be one of the malls with the highest footfall. The mall is linked with a number of shopping centres nearby, including Phase 3 of New Town Plaza with a Japanese style Department store, YATA. 30 bus lanes are available for accessing the shopping mall. Taking the MTR East Rail to Shatin is another possible way.
Street markets are a phenomenon in Hong Kong, usually selling regular groceries, clothes, bags or some cheap electronic knockoffs.
- Ladies Market- don't be fooled by the name. It is for both sexes for finding cheap clothes, toys, knockoff and fake labels. Located in Mong Kok and accessible by MTR or bus.
- Temple Street - Sold items are the same as in the Ladies Market, but there are more street food vendors, a handful of fortune tellers and a few Chinese opera singers. Illustrated in hundreds of cantonese films, this street is seen as a must by most tourists.
- Flower Market - Prince Edward. Follow your nose to the sweet scents of a hundred different varieties of flowers.
- Goldfish Market- A whole street full of shops selling small fish in plastic bags and accessories Tung Choi Street, Mong Kok.
- Bird Market- MTR Station Prince Edward, exit "Mong Kok Police Station". Walk down Prince Edward Road West until you reach Yuen Po Street "Bird Garden".
- Apliu Street- MTR Station Shum Shui Po, this is the place where you can find cheap computer goods, peripherals and accessories. However, this is the worst place to buy a mobile phone, as they tend to be even more dodgy than small stores in Mongkok.
- Stanley Market- A place for tourists rather than locals, shops sell everything from luxury luggage items to cheap brand name clothes. Accessible with the number 40 minibus from Causeway Bay. Also, no.6 and 6A bus from Central, and no. 973 bus from Tsim Sha Tsui.
- Textiles - Sham Shui Po MTR exit. Several square blocks around Nam Cheong St. (between Cheung Sha Wan Rd. and Lai Chi Kok Rd.) hold dozens and dozens of wholesalers to the textile trade. Although they are looking for big factory contracts, most shops are friendly and will sell you "sample-size" quantities of cloth, leather, haberdashery, tools, machinery and anything else you can think of to feed your creative impulses. Ki Lung Street has an outdoor street market selling smaller quantities of factory surplus cloth and supplies at astoundingly low prices. Haggling is not necessary.
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 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, in Kowloon 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.
One trick specially encountered in electronics shopping are missing items from the box, such as batteries, etc. Once you realize that an important item is missing and come back to the shop to get it, it will be offered at an inflated price. Reputable shops open the box that you will get in front of you and let you take a look to make sure everything is in there and even switch on the equipment before you pay.
Watch out for persons (usually of Indian subcontinental descent) who approach tourists in the busier areas of Kowloon. 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 often.
Although the law is strictly enforced, tourist traps are usually designed by villains who are experts at exploiting grey 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 (mostly southeast Asian descent) around tourist areas 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 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 for eating food on the go.
Park 'n' Shop and Wellcome are the two main supermarket chains in Hong Kong and they have branches in almost every neighbourhood, some of which open 24-7. 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 in Shatin also offers a Japanese-style supermarket experience.
|This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:|
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, it is a good place for homesick travellers who have had enough of Chinese food. If you can afford it, you can also find some Western restaurants that are featured in the Michelin guide to Hong Kong.
Magazines for local gourmets are published every week and the Michelin Guide for Hong Kong has been published since 2008. According to Restaurant magazine in 2010, four of the best 100 restaurants in the world are in Hong Kong.
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.
While dining out, you may meet some local people who haven't cooked at home for a decade. For practical reasons, Hong Kongers almost never invite guests to their home, so socialising with friends almost always involves eating out. As such, while eating out is not cheap by Asian standards, it is still significantly cheaper than in Western countries.
To stuff your stomach in a grassroots Chaa Chan Teng (茶餐廳) (local tea restaurant), expect to pay $10–20 for milk, tea or coffee, $8–10 for a toast and $25–50 for a dish of rice with meats. Wonton noodles generally cost $20–30. You could find it even cheaper in many street stalls (although decreasing in numbers) but most of the people working there do not speak much English (and also no English on the menu). However if you could manage to communicate with them, this street-style eating is an excellent way to experience local food.
There is always a McDonald's, of course, which sells a Happy Meal set for around $20–25. Most other major fast food eateries can also be found in Hong Kong with reasonable prices.
In midrange and upmarket restaurants, prices are hard to generalise. In a hotpot restaurant (Korean), $100–150 per head is common, and $200–400 per person is also expected for better choices of food. Sushi is popular with many locals and prices usually start at $100–200 in a self-service bar to several hundred dollars for a tiny portion of high quality food. You can usually tell how cheap (or expensive) it is from the decor of the restaurant (menus are not always displayed outside restaurants).
Western restaurants, especially in Soho in Central, where rental payments are skyrocketing, tend to be particularly expensive, and $300–$500 per head is common. Fine dining restaurants, usually located at five-star hotels, can cost $500–$1500 per person, more if you are a wine enthusiast. Wine choices in these places are on par with any 5-star hotel.
Chinese food is generally eaten with chopsticks, but don't expect restaurants serving western food to supply chopsticks; dinners will routinely use 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 it.
A few Hong Kong customs to be aware of:
- To thank the person who pours your tea Cantonese style, tap two or three fingers on the table. The legend suggests a story involving a Chinese emperor travelling incognito and his loyal subjects wanting to kowtow (bow) to him without blowing their cover — hence the "finger kowtow".
- If you want more tea in the pot, leave the lid open, and it will be refilled.
- It is not unusual for customers to rinse their plates and utensils with hot tea before starting their meal, and a bowl is often provided for this very purpose. Be informed, however, that this is not superstition but due to the fact that cheaper restaurants may often have washing residues on dishes or utensils.
- Except for very expensive places, there is no real dresscode in Hong Kong. You will often see people in suits and others in t-shirts in the same restaurant.
See also Chinese table manners for more details. While certain etiquette is different, Chinese manners for using chopsticks apply to Hong Kong too.
What to eat
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 supper, 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 is a general name for roast meats made in a Hong Kong style, including roast pork belly, roasted pork (叉燒 char siu), roast duck or chicken. 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 an ultra-cold pan to make an ice paste, it is usually served with fresh fruit and sago.
Tea time 下午茶
Hot milk tea Hong Kong style
You might expect that after more than a century of colonial rule tea might be served British style - well, almost. Order a cup of hot Hong Kong tea (熱奶茶) in a traditional cafe and what you will get will be a cup of the strongest brew imaginable. With the addition of evaporated milk, this is not a drink for the faint-hearted.
Showing signs of British colonial influence, tea time (嘆茶, Cantonese: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.
Street food is very popular in Hong Kong. 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) and fried three filled treasures (煎釀三寶, vegetable filled with fish meat).
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 $200 per head for a very basic dinner, to $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.
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 numerous restaurants that serve international cuisine in all price levels and often offer food very close to the foreign original. This includes various types of Indian, Thai, Japanese and European kitchen. As one special example, the availability of fresh fish for Sushi restaurants delivered daily from Japanese fish markets sets Hong Kong apart from Singapore where custom restrictions make a quick delivery from Tokyo to the restaurant impossible.
Where to eat
While dining out, it is easy to find places selling mains for well under $80, offering both local and international food. MacDonald's can be found on nearly every street in a tourist area, as well as most shopping malls. Local fast food chains such as Café de Coral and Maxim's MX offer meals in the vicinity of $30, with standardised English menus for easy ordering. Mid-range restaurants generally charge in excess of $100 for mains. Whilst at the top end, restaurants, such as Felix or Aqua, can easily see you leave with a bill in excess of $1500 (including entrées (appetizers), mains, desserts and drinks).
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.
Hong Kong also has a staggering range of international restaurants serving cuisines from all over the world. 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 concerned with bars and clubs and on Friday and Saturday nights especially can become crowded with revellers. Top chefs are often invited or try to make their way to work in Hong Kong.
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.
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 snails. Local people often go to the market everyday to buy fresh ingredients, just like the restaurants.
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, Park N Shop and CRC Shop. Specialty 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.
If you really can't decide where to eat, take a look at openrice.com . You will be able to search for good restaurants nearby, and read reviews from both locals and expatriates.
Eating is one of the favourite pastimes in Hong Kong and there is an abundance of fine dining options in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is arguably the best city in the world for Chinese fine dining, and is the only place in the world with a three Michelin stars Chinese restaurant. Chefs at fine dining Chinese restaurants often like to incorporate some Western or Japanese touches into their dishes, often resulting in interesting and surprisingly tasty results. The downside though is that fine dining is usually very expensive, and prices above $1,000 per person are not unheard of.
As with the rest of China, tea is a popular beverage in Hong Kong, and is served at practically every eatery. Chinese teas are the most commonly served, though many places also serve Western-style milk tea.
Some Chinese people do drink a lot but don't expect the binge-drinking culture found in some western countries. There are many neighbourhoods in Hong Kong without much in the way of a bar or pub. Drinking alcohol with food is acceptable, but there is no expectation to order alcohol with your meal in any restaurant. A number of popular restaurants do not sell alcohol because of a licence restriction.
Lan Kwai Fong (Central), Wanchai 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, but don't expect the drunken brawls and rowdiness that you might be used to back home. If you come to Hong Kong, and get drunk, you will certainly risk drawing considerable attention to yourself if you cannot hold your drink.
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 have 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 $50 for a pint and more in a bar popular among expats. 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 and supermarkets sell a reasonable range of drinks. The 7-Eleven in Lan Kwai Fong is a very popular 'bar' for party-animals on a budget.
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.
San Miguel (Cantonese name: Seng Lik), Tsing Tao (Ching Dou), Carlsberg (Ga Si Bak), Blue Girl(Lam Mui), Heineken(Hei Lik) and Sol are popular in the town. There is no longer any tax on wine or beer in Hong Kong.
Check the district pages of this travel guide for recommended bars.
A smoking-ban came into effect in 2007. The ban includes all indoor areas and a number of outdoor locations such as university campuses, parks, gardens, bus stops, and beaches. As from 1 July 2009, the smoking ban has been extended to include places for adult entertainment such as bars, clubs and saunas. If you are undercover, you probably should not be smoking. Expect to pay a substantial fine of up to $5,000 if caught smoking in the wrong place. There is also a penalty of $1,500 for dropping cigarette butts.
In a move to discourage smoking, tourists are only allowed to carry no more than 19 duty-free cigarettes or 25g of tobacco products since August 2010. The government has also banned the sales of tobacco products in duty-free shops on arrival gates.
Offenders can be charged for cigarette smuggling and the penalty can be tough. According to one local account, a man was fined $2000 after being found guilty of carrying five packs of cigarettes. Illegal duty-free cigarettes can be seen for sale in several locations, such as in 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. Most popular brands include Marlboro, Salem and Kent which are sold at $50 something, the second highest in Asia after Singapore. There are also some slightly cheaper brands catering for smokers on budget. Hand-rolling tobacco is not common and is only available in specialty shops.
- Individual listings can be found in Hong Kong's district articles
With more than 50,000 rooms available, Hong Kong offers a huge choice of accommodation from cheap digs to super luxury. Most places are linked by the excellent public transport system that ensures all attractions are close at hand but budget travellers who are spoiled by cheap prices in many Asian countries are often shocked by the accommodation cost in this international city where rental payment is as high as London and New York.
Anything under $700 is considered budget. While it is possible to have a dorm bed for $70–150 and a double room for $200–500, you should not expect anything except a bed. Accommodation with reasonable space, decoration and cleanness is usually priced from $150–250 for a bed and $800 for a room.
Most super-budget guesthouses are located along Nathan Road between Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok. Expect a tiny, undecorated room and little else. Some bathrooms are shared and noise could be a problem for light sleepers. Single rooms with private bathrooms cost around $150–$250 a night.
Two popular guesthouse clusters are inside Chungking Mansions (nicknamed Chungking Jungles by some local people) and Mirador Mansions in Tsim Sha Tsui. Located in the city centre and regarded as a slum by local people, it is home to tight budget travellers from Europe, America, India and Africa. Your friends in Hong Kong will probably be shocked when hearing that you choose to stay there and it is true that there are considerable negative reviews on those guesthouses, but it is the place packed with most of the cheapest (and the worst) accommodation. Brush aside the gloomy environment, the annoying fake watch sellers and disturbing pimps, the well-patrolled place in the heart of Hong Kong is safe. Just bear in mind that $100 for a dorm bed and $300 for room is still low in Hong Kong. Keep your expectations as realistically low as possible.
Cheap guesthouses can also be found in Causeway Bay, a place popular with young backpackers with less of a budget. They are $50–$100 more expensive than those in Kowloon but they are more likely to provide free internet and better environment.
For affluent travellers, Hong Kong houses some of the best world class hotels that run a fierce competition for your money by offering a pick-up service by helicopter, a Michelin star restaurant and extravagant spas and all possible comforts to picky customers. Major international chains are also well represented. Five-star hotels include The Peninsula, Four Seasons, Le Meridien, W, InterContinental, JW Marriott and Ritz Carlton, Shangri-La, Mandarin Oriental and rooms usually start at $3000.
There are also some four star hotels such as Marriott, Novotel and Crowne Plaza and prices start from around $1500 up, depending on the season.
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 runs seven youth hostels. All of them are located outside the city and expect extra budget from $100 to $300 for a taxi when public transport service is closed. All but the one on Hong Kong island also have a strict curfew rule and have a daily closing time in which hostellers should leave the site between 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.
When choosing a location to stay, try to pick one near the MTR (metro) stations. When the metro service is closed at 1AM, they are likely to be connected by 24-hour bus services. Hotels are also available in outlying islands such as Lamma Island and Cheung Chau, but it is probably not an ideal option for nightlife travellers.
Hong Kong's country parks also provide 39 camping sites . The facilities are on a "first-come-first-served" basis and places run out quickly during weekends and public holidays. You are not allowed to camp other than in a designated camp site which can be identified by the sign board erected by the Country and Marine Parks Authority. According to some Wikivoyagers, the park is frequently patrolled by the Authority staff and they are strict at penalizing an offence.
Hong Kong is among the safest cities in Asia, if not the world.
With an effective police and legal system, 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 carrying 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 let people know where you keep your wallet.
Although Hong Kong Island, parts of the New Territories and the Outlying Islands, including Lantau Island, are the relatively safe parts of Hong Kong, exercise caution when travelling to Kowloon. Even tourist attractions, such as Sham Shui Po and Mong Kok, have had a bad reputation for crime by Hong Kong standards. As they are relatively poorer areas, alike other parts of Kowloon, there is a higher crime rate, involving pickpockets, and infamously acid spills in Mong Kok. When travelling away from Hong Kong Island, avoid revealing items that would identify you as a tourist frequently, such as cameras, backpacks, electronics, flashy clothing, and avoid carrying large amounts of money.
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, is 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, and they will not bother you.
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.
It have become increasingly common for some random strangers or shop keepers to offer "discounts" on their products. The key to avoid tourist traps is "if it sounds too good to be true, it is".
There are some shops near hotel areas or tourist sites that are set up solely for tourists. These shops are rarely visited by locals and the products are usually low in quality with a high price. Examine the products carefully and look for any poorly printed labels and packages.
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. 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 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. Penalties can be stringent, and road conditions are excellent, although road courtesy still has room for improvement. However, the driving speed can be so fast as to create higher death tolls 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 is not uncommon to see local people waiting to cross an empty road - when this happens, you should also wait because it may be that they have noticed that the police are patrolling the crossing.
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, above the U.S and most European countries such as Germany and France.
In Hong Kong, corruption is a serious offence. Unlike mainland China, money given for unfair competition is regarded as corruption, regardless of who the recipients are. Trying to offer a bribe to police officers or civil servants will almost certainly result in arrest and a prison sentence.
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.
Although Hong Kong usually has at least one protest per year (particularly in late June/July in urban parts of Hong Kong Island, namely Central, Wan Chai or Causeway Bay), they usually do not heavily impact the average tourist in Hong Kong. Just stay away from large crowds of protesters and policemen, though it is safe to say that the demonstrations are rarely as violent as those in other countries.
Several hikers have lost their lives in the wilderness in the past decade. Hikers should equip themselves with detailed hiking maps, a 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 September. Whenever a typhoon approaches within 800 km 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/h, 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/h 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 a doctor
Healthcare standards in Hong Kong are on par with the West, and finding a reputable doctor is not much of a problem should you get sick. Doctors are of two types: those who practise traditional Chinese medicine and those who practise 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 doctor. Doctors who practice Western medicine almost always speak English fluently, but you may find the receptionist to be more of a challenge.
Seeing a doctor 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 doctor's 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 doctor to sell you medicine. Many surgeries and hospitals will accept credit cards, although check beforehand since sometimes only cash is accepted. Expect to pay more if you visit a swanky surgery in Central. Check the directory  maintained by the Hong Kong Medical Association for further information. Help finding general practitioners, medical specialists and dentists might also be available at your consulate.
Note that finding a doctor on a Sunday can be difficult, and hospital A&E rooms will have very long queues on a Sunday.
Although Hong Kong is regarded as one of the most developed regions on Earth, with one of the highest Gini co-efficients in the world, drinkability of water may vary around parts of Hong Kong. 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 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, while the summer monsoon can bring cleaner air off the South China Sea.
The air is noticeably less foggy after rainy days.
Hong Kong has significant cultural differences from mainland China due to its heritage. The bulk of the population are descendants of ethnic Chinese who fled the PRC and found safety in Hong Kong during the colonial era. Locals in Hong Kong have maintained many aspects of traditional Chinese culture that have been abandoned in the mainland, including religion, holidays, music, traditional writing and the use of a regional language (Cantonese). In addition, due to its history, British influences have also been incorporated into the local culture. After it was handed back to China in 1997, the city has maintained an independent and reputable English legal system, effective anti-corruption measures, free press and currency.
Hong Kong University surveys the population regularly about identity, and finds that only a minority of citizens identify themselves as Chinese citizens, with most considering themselves part of a distinct Hong Kong identity. This sense of a separate identity has tended to become stronger over the years of polling. Mainland officials seem both bemused and outraged by the growth of such subversive beliefs by seemingly disloyal Hong Kong.
Hong Kong also has a significant minority of Permanent Residents who are not PRC citizens, and are not ethnically Chinese, but are recognised as de-facto citizens by the Basic Law. This includes descendants of British and Gurka populations from the colonial era.
The Sino-Hong Kong relationship, as always, is a contentious and complicated issue. Locals in Hong Kong generally do not deny their Chinese roots, and they do take pride in being culturally and ethnically Chinese; any racist remarks against Chinese people or crude remarks on traditional Chinese customs will certainly offend Hong Kong people. On the other hand, many locals consider the mannerisms of mainland Chinese to be crude and uncivilised, and there have been some simmering tensions between locals and mainlanders in recent years as a result of these cultural differences. You will hear the phrase "Mainland China" (Daai luk) or "Interior Land" (Noi dei) a lot from Hong Kong people, who seek to distinguish themselves, both culturally and politically, from other Chinese.
Generally speaking, it is best not to get into a discussion about mainland Chinese with local Hong Kong people.
Many world religions are practiced freely in Hong Kong, and discussing religion with local Hong Kong people is usually not a problem. The Falun Gong religion is tolerated in Hong Kong, unlike the mainland where it is banned. Just like in mainland China, Swastikas are used in Hong Kong as a religious symbol for Buddhists, as well as the Hindu minority. They do not represent Nazism or anti-Semitism.
In Hong Kong, freedom of speech and the press are protected in law. Hong Kong people are free to criticize their government. Websites are not blocked. Hong Kong bookshops house vividly colourful collections of books about the communist regime and many sensitive political issues. Media, despite the growing concern about self-censorship, are diversified to deliver different voices.
Although freedom is secured, Hong Kong people are particularly sensitive about any changes that may affect the freedom they have enjoyed. Once regarded as apolitical and pragmatic, Hong Kong people are also more active in discussing politics, especially the introduction of universal suffrage for electing the Chief Executive.
Major political rallies take place every year on 4 June commemorating the bloodshed at Tiananmen Square in 1989. The 1st July commemorates the SAR's reunification with China, but after more than 500,000 people took to the streets demanding universal suffrage in 2003, this public holiday has become a symbolic day of protest every year.
Local political parties are broadly split between pro-Beijing and pro-democracy camps. While many desire universal suffrage, a right that Beijing has promised but thus far refused to grant, many also try not to offend the mainland as Hong Kong's prosperity is thought to depend on further economic integration with China. The differences can also be observed on many topics such as the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989, independence of Tibet and Taiwan, and democracy in China. In Hong Kong where information is freely circulated and people are well read, political opinions are extremely diverse. After all, the city has been served as an information hub for China (and Taiwan before the 1990s) to competitively circulate both propaganda and "dissident views". In Hong Kong, discussing politics may lead you into a debate, but not any trouble.
Unlike Taiwan, the independence movement has never been widely discussed before and after 1997 and it has hardly gained any public support. Hong Kong people, despite apparently sounding "dissident" and "un-Chinese" on many topics, hardly deny that they are ethnically Chinese who have the same affections and sentiments as other Chinese people.
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".
The "M goi" (I should not) mentality extends to a way that they don't want to bother anyone as long as possible. When you get a cough, always cover your mouth with the inner side of your elbow, as that area of your arm does not frequently come in contact with other people, thus avoiding the spread of pathogens. When having a fever, wear a mask. Spitting and littering, an offence subject to a penalty of $1,500, is considered rude because it disturbs others. Hong Kong is noisy due to its huge population density but adding more noises, which will certainly disturb others too, is not welcome. Speaking vociferously over the phone on the bus, for example, will be viewed as egocentric and boorish.
Queue jumping is a taboo and you may be denied service if you do so, because everyone wants to go orderly and speedily on their way with the least disturbance. When smoking in front of a non-smoker, always ask for a permission because they may think you are trying to seriously disturb their health. Many smokers will just walk away to smoke, even in a place where smoking is legally allowed.
Unlike public transport in some large cities such as Tokyo or London, where it is common to see passengers eat or drink (even in a cautious manner that keeps the surroundings clean), such behaviour is strictly prohibited in all areas of MTR stations, train compartments (except intercity trains), and most buses. This is due to concerns about maintaining cleanliness of public facilities, and there have been cases where misbehaving mainland Chinese visitors have been scolded by locals after refusing to stop consuming food and reacting to locals rudely. Drinking a few mouthfuls of pure water is usually tolerated, but it would be common for a local passenger to politely ask you to stop consuming or even dispose of your food if you're eating it obviously (for example, eating a hamburger and holding a coke). If this happens, just obey the request and reply politely, and you'll always be out of trouble.
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 cashiers seldom ask about your day. Staff in shops and restaurants might not even say "thank you" when you pay.
Superstition is part of 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 blends the Five Elements (Gold, Wood, 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 mean "you must die" and "you die easily". They love the numbers 18 (you will get rich), 369 (liveliness, longevity, lasting), 28 (easy to get rich), and 168 (get rich forever).
Hong Kong people love to joke about their superstitious thoughts but that doesn't mean they ignore them. When visiting your friends 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 in it. Breaking a mirror will bring you 7 unlucky years.
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 as 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 you 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 Celsius, 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 cinemas and shopping malls. This is actually wise, since the extreme change in temperatures can make people feel ill.
In contrast, when the temperature starts to go under 20 degrees Celsius, people start wearing very warm clothing to protect themselves from the 'cold'.
Hong Kong women are known for their fairly conservative dress code, although wearing halter-necks and sleeveless tops is not uncommon and acceptable, while teenagers and young adults can very frequently be seen wearing hot pants or short shorts. 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 used to be. 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 personality are still widely respected. His suicide in 2003 shocked many, and his fans, mainly female, showed considerable support for his partner.
While gay pride parades have recently been held in Hong Kong, there is no obvious gay community in daily life. Coming out to strangers or in the office is still regarded as peculiar and most people 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 HK Magazine (free, only in English) and 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 various international and regional GLBT films to Hong Kong. The festival is usually held in November. Hong Kong also held its second Gay Pride ever on 1 November 2009, attracting over 1,800 people, gay and straight, to the event.
Hong Kong has a world class communications infrastructure. Mobile phone SIM cards and calls are extremely cheap.
Postal services are efficient and of high quality. You will find post offices in major city areas and outside of opening hours, coin-operated stamp vending machines. You can buy stamps (sets of ten stamps of $1.4, $2.4, $3) from many convenience stores such as 7-Eleven or Circle K (OK). It is relatively inexpensive to ship your purchases back home from any Post Office.
Internet cafes charge from $20–30 per hour, although many of those cafes disappeared due to the ubiquity of internet access at home, work and on mobile phones.
3G-enabled phone users can also choose a temporary 3G plan from different operators. Some operators, such as One2Free, offer unlimited 3G access for a week for $78. LTE is also available from some carriers. Getting a SIM card is straightforward and hassle free, just go to a mobile phone shop, pay your money and get a card. No registration is needed.
For access to commercial WIFI hot spots mainly provided by PCCW' and Y5ZONE, $70 will buy you one week of unlimited usage (November 2011). Those companies also have daily, weekly and monthly plan ($158 and $98 per month for PCCW and Y5ZONE, respectively). In some restaurants such as McDonald's, you can also have 20 minutes of free WIFI access provided by Y5ZONE.
Most hotels these days, even down market ones, provide Wi-Fi access to their guests.
Free internet terminals are usually available in some Starbucks, Pacific Coffee Company and some shopping malls, the airport, the MTR (e.g. Wan Chai station, Central Station, Tsim Sha Sui Station). The government also offers a big network of free WIFI hot spots in most government premises and public libraries.
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 many mobile operators. The best choices for tourists are Hutchison 3, SmarTone and CSL (trading as one2free). All three operators offer 2G & 3G services on prepaid; however only SmarTone offers 4G LTE on prepaid. Micro, nano and standard SIM cards are available at the respective stores of the operators as well as numerous resellers. Each carrier charges unlimited data at $28HKD, $24HKD and $28HKD per day respectively. To top-up your prepaid credits, purchase a recharge voucher also available at electronics stores as well as a few convenience stores. Recharging can be done online with a Hong Kong credit card or by purchasing vouchers from retail stores, resellers, convenience stores such as 7Eleven and supermarkets. Mobile phone numbers have eight digits and begin with 5, 6 or 9.
For those on short visits, international roaming is available in Hong Kong onto its GSM 900/1800 and 3G (UMTS/W-CDMA 2100) networks, subject to agreements between operators. For those coming from the mainland, some China Unicom SIMs will provide Hong Kong roaming at purchase time, and China Mobile provides a dual-number service which results in cheaper rates than straight roaming.
Although the mobile phone charge in Hong Kong is one of the lowest in the world, all mobile phone companies charge for BOTH incoming and outgoing calls (similar to USA, but different from most European countries, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea). Coverage is excellent except in the 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.
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 and a local call for 5 minutes costs $1. If you don't have a mobile and need to make a short local call, most restaurants, supermarkets and shops will oblige if you ask nicely.
Public payphones are becoming more and more difficult to find on streets nowadays, but MTR stations, shopping malls and government premises usually have public phones. The airport has courtesy phones around the baggage pickup area.
Hong Kong has most major foreign consulates and official representatives for visa needs.
- Australia, 23/F, Harbour Centre, 25 Harbour Road, Wan Chai, ☎ , fax: +852 2585 4457, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Bangladesh, Rm 4007, China Resources Building, 26 Hourbour Road, Wanchai, ☎ +852 2827 4278/2827 4279, fax: +852 2827 1916, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Cambodia, Unit 1819, Star House, 3 Salisbury Rd, TST, ☎ , fax: +852 2803 0570, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Canada, 12-14F, One Exchange Square Central, ☎ .
- China (The Commissioner's Office of the PRC Foreign Ministry), 7F, Lower Block, China Resources Bldg, 26 Harbour Rd, Wanchai (From Wanchai MTR station walk to the HK Convention Centre.), ☎ , fax: +852 34132312, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 09:00-12:00 and 14:00-17:00. Visas to Mainland China can be obtained from here. The normal visa service takes four working days including the day when the application is submitted but an express service of two or three working days is available for an extra fee.
- Egypt, Flat A,40/F., Tower 5, Bel-Air on the Peak, Island South, No.68 Bel-Air Peak Ave, ☎ , fax: +852 28272100, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Finland, Suites 2405-2408, 24F, Dah Sing Financial Centre, 108 Gloucester Road, Wanchai, ☎ , fax: +852 2901 3066.
- France, 26/F Admiralty Centre II, 18 Harcourt Rd, Wanchai, ☎ , fax: +852 3752 9901.
- Germany, 21/F United Centre, 95 Queensway, ☎ , fax: +852 2105 8777.
- Greece, Rm 1208 Harcourt House, 39, Gloucester Rd, Wan Chai, ☎ +852 2774 1682, Emergency tel: +852 9120 0768, fax: +852 2705 9796, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- India, 16/F, United Centre, 95 Queensway, Admiralty, ☎ , fax: +852 2866 4124.
- Ireland, Suite 1408, Two Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, ☎ , fax: +852 2824 9127.
- Italy, Suite 3201 Central Plaza, 18 Harbour Road, Wanchai, ☎ +852 2522 0033 or 2522 0034, Emergency tel: +852 9010 7875, fax: +852 2845 9678, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Japan, 46-47F, One Exchange Sq, 8 Connaught Pl, Central, ☎ , fax: +852 2868 0156.
- Myanmar (Burma), Suites 2401, Sun Hung Kai Centre, 30 Harbour Rd, ☎ , fax: +852 2845 0820.
- The Netherlands, Suite 5702, Cheung Kong Center, 2 Queen's Road Central, ☎ , fax: +852 2868 5388, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- New Zealand, 6501 Central Plaza, 18 Harbour Road, Wanchai, ☎ , fax: +852 2845 2915, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Pakistan, Room 803-04, 8/F Tung Wai Commercial Building, 109-111 Gloucester Road, Wanchai, ☎ +852 2827 0295/2827 0245/2827 0681, fax: +852 2827 6786, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Philippines, 14/F, United Centre, 95 Queensway, Admiralty, ☎ +852 2823 8500 or 2823 8501 or 2823 8510, fax: +852 2866 9885 or 2866 8559, e-mail: email@example.com. Office Hours 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Sunday to Thursday.
- Poland, 06, 35/F, Hopewell Centre, 183 Queen's Road East, Wanchai, ☎ , fax: +852 2596 0062.
- South Africa, 27/F Great Eagle Centre Rms 2706-2710, 23 Harbour Road, Wanchai, ☎ , fax: +852 2890 1975, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Spain, Suite 5303, 53/F Central Plaza, 18 Harbour Road,, Wanchai, ☎ , fax: +852 2877 2407, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Sri Lanka, 22/F Dominion Centre, 43 Queens Road East, Wanchai, ☎ .
- Taiwan (Taipei Economic and Cultural Office), 40th Floor, Tower One, Lippo Centre, No.89 Queensway, Central, ☎ .
- Thailand, 8/F Fairmont House, 8 Cotton Tree Drive, Central, ☎ .
- United Kingdom, 1 Supreme Court Rd, ☎ , fax: +852 2901 3066.
- United States of America, 26 Garden Rd, ☎ , fax: +852 2845-1598, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org. For visa inquiries, visit the site and fill out the form.
For a full list, check out the Government's website .
- Macau, the former Portuguese colony and present largest gambling haven in the world, is just an hour away by TurboJet ferry. Ticket prices start at $141 for the one-hour ride to Macau. The ferry building is near the Sheung Wan MTR station on Hong Kong Island. Less frequent ferries are also available from New World First Ferry in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon and the Hong Kong International Airport.
- Zhuhai in mainland China, across the border from Macau, is 70 minutes away by ferry.
- Shenzhen, mainland China's boomtown just across the border, can be reached by MTR train services in about 40 minutes. The train is convenient if you are keen on shopping as it terminates in the Lo Wu commercial centre. Another alternative, especially if you are starting from the island, is the ferry to Shekou, which takes around 50 minutes and costs around $100. Note that if you aren't a Hong Kong resident, Japanese or Singaporean citizen, you will need to pre-arrange a visa to enter Shenzhen.
- Guangzhou, capital of mainland China's Guangdong Province, can be reached by train within 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on Guangdong Line. If you are on a budget, many cross border buses are available throughout Hong Kong. The trip will take more than 3 hours, including going through customs at the border and changing buses. Check bus schedules and fares online .
- Taiwan, a world-class technology hub