The Ultimate Travel Guide to Hong Kong

Hong Kong is such an exciting, lively and vibrant city, that really lives up to it’s term: “East meets West”. It has a great mix of both Western and Eastern, both when it comes to culture, food, shopping, and architecture. It is a city that has “everything”. On any given day, you can head to a fishing village less than an hour from downtown, lie on  a beach and go shopping bonanza in one of the many flashy shopping malls or back-alley markets. After a busy day, you can wind down at one of the city`s restaurants that hold world-class standard, before heading out in the evening to any of the endless numbers of cafes and bars. What`s not to like about Hong Kong?

Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China, located in the southern part of China, and has a high degree of autonomy in all matters except foreign relations and military defence. The city consists of the half-island Kowloon as well as several islands, Hong Kong Island being the most important of them. It is one of the busiest harbour cities in the world and is the most important trading place in Asia. Hong Kong is the 3rd biggest international financial centre, after London and New York, as it has low taxes and free trade.

There are over 7 million people living on Hong Kong, in a fairly small area, making it one of the world’s most densely populated areas. The lack of space has turned Hong Kong into the world’s most vertical city, full of sky-scrapers.

Hong Kong has a special history, being a colony of the British Empire from 1842 before occupied by Japan during the Pacific War (1941-1945) while the British again resumed control from 1945-1997. The British periods have greatly influenced the current culture of today’s Hong Kong.

Travel Guides

We used the Lonely Planet`s Hong Kong travel guide on our trip. You can get that and other great books by clicking on the pictures below:

Hong Kong Lonely Planet    Hong Kong Pocket Lonely Planet    Hong Kong Rough Guide    Hong Kong Top 10 Eyewitness

Our Ultimate Travel Guide To Hong Kong

1. What Are The Must-See Places In Hong Kong?
2. What Are The Must-Do Things In Hong Kong?
3. What`s Cool About Hong Kong?
4. What`s NOT So Cool About Hong Kong?
5. What`s The Cost Like In Hong Kong?
6. How To Get Around In Hong Kong?
7. How Is The People Of Hong Kong Like?
8. What Languages Do They Speak In Hong Kong?
9. Do I Need A Visa To Hong Kong?
10. What Are The Entry Requirements To Hong Kong?
11. Are There Any Health Issues When Travelling In Hong Kong?
12. How Is Phone And Internet Coverage In Hong Kong?
13. When Is It Best To Visit Hong Kong?
14. Is It Safe To Visit Hong Kong?

1. What Are The Must-See Places In Hong Kong?

Here are our top must-see places in Hong Kong:

  • The Parks are beautiful! Both the Hong Kong Park (on Hong Kong Island) and Kowloon Park is worth a visit. In Hong Kong Park there are even animals.
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The beautiful and peaceful Hong Kong Park.

  •  Hong Kong Harbour is a real must when visiting the city. It is one of the world`s most busy harbours. The harbour view is quite breathtaking especially after dark when thousands of lights from all the skyscrapers are lit.
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Hong Kong harbour at night.

  • Look up at all the Skyscrapers. Lift your head and look up towards the sky when walking around the busy streets of Hong Kong, and look at all the spectacular skyscrapers. There are over 7 million people living in Hong Kong, and the lack of space has turned Hong Kong into the world’s most vertical city. Some of the skyscrapers are quite cool!
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Hong Kong is one of the world`s densely populated cities. The people live in tall skyscrapers.

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Is this a spaceship?!

  • St. John’s Cathedral (close to the Peak Tram Terminus) is the oldest surviving Western building in Hong Kong, and the oldest Anglican church in the Far East. It had its first Sunday service on 11 March 1849. During the Japanese Occupation of Hong Kong, the cathedral was converted into a social club for the Japanese. Many of the original fittings were stripped out, including the original stained glass windows. The site of St. John’s Cathedral is actually the only freehold land in Hong Kong, granted the Church of England Trust Ordinance. All other lands in Hong Kong are leasehold in nature. Step inside, sit down and enjoy the peaceful silence for a moment.
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St. John`s Cathedral in the middle of all the tall skyscrapers. Such a peaceful escape from the big city`s noise.

2. What Are The Must-Do Things In Hong Kong?

  • Go shopping – Hong Kong is one of the BEST shopping cities in Asia, yeah I will actually say the world! It is not the cheapest city though so be prepared to dig deep and find your credit cards. There are so many huge shopping malls here, both on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, so there are plenty to choose from. You can also do great bargains at the street markets. We went shopping for Action Figures.
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Crazy shopping in Kowloon.

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Street market where you can shop lamps, buttons and sewing stuff.

  • Take the Star Ferry – To hop on one of the Star Ferries between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon is so worthwhile. Star Ferry also offers harbour tours which take you for a half hour tour around the harbour. If you have had enough of the city, you can also explore the outlying islands if you have time and go island hopping. For instance the islands: Sai Kung, Lantau, Lamma and Cheung Chau. Here you will find gorgeous scenery, good hiking trails, beaches, seafood restaurants, small villages, temples, and monasteries.The ferries between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon run every 6 to 12 minutes from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. The crossing time is about 8 minutes, and cost 2,50 HK$ each way.
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The Star Ferry between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.

  • Take the Peak Tram up to Victoria Peak – Yes, it is touristy, and the queue is ridiculously long! But the view once on top is totally worth it, believe me! The tram trip takes 8 minutes, and departs from Garden Road. At the top, there is a big shopping mall full of shops, cafes and restaurants. The Peak Tram runs every 10-15 minutes, from 7 a.m. to 12 a.m., and the fare cost 25 HK$ for a single and 36 HK$ return.
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The Peak Tram.

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Breathtaking views from the top of Victoria Peak!

  • Take the tram – Taking the tram through the Hong Kong Island is a fun and cheap way to see the city! The colorful, narrow, old, double-decker trams, dating from 1904, goes from Central to Causeway Bay. The fare is 2 HK$ (0,26 US$, 1,50 Nkr). Super cheap! Runs from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m.
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Taking the Tram is a fun and cheap way to see Hong Kong Island.

  • Eat Dim Sum – Eating Dim Sum or Dumplings is a must in Hong Kong! You can for instance, eat delicious Dim Sum the Maxim`s Palace in City Hall (3rd floor), one of the best and most authentic Dim Sum places left in Hong Kong. They still do it the “old way”, with trolleys rolling by in between the tables, where you can pick the Dim Sum you want. They also serve delicious desserts from their trolleys. Lovely Jasmine tea is included. Yummy!
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The waitresses walk around the restaurants with freshly made Dim Sums on trolleys.

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Fresh and warm Dim Sum. Yummi!!!

  • Drink Chinese Tea– China is famous for their tea, but unfortunately, there are not many of the old authentic tea houses left in Hong Kong. An exception is Luk Yu Tea House (Stanley St, 24-26) which is an authentic vestige of a lost ear. It is a real old-school Chinese tea house, and the most famous traditional and authentic tea houses left in Hong Kong. It is beautifully decorated with black ceiling fans, wooden booths, ornate wood paneling, stained-glass murals and marble tabletops. They also serve Dim Sum. Their opening hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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Luk Yu Tea House, one of the very few authentic Chinese Houses left in Hong Kong.

  • Take the street escalator in Shelley Street (from Des Voeux Rd, Central to Conduit Rd). Yep, an escalator IN the street. So cool! It is definitely worth a ride, and best of all, it`s free! The whole ride takes about 20 minutes. The escalator goes downwards 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., and upwards 10 a.m. to midnight.
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The escalator in Shelley Street. Great fun!

  • Just walk around – Last but not least, you should put away the map and just wander around the streets of Hong Kong looking at all the vibrant and livelihood going on everywhere. Take in all of Hong Kong`s smells and noise. It is such a busy city, full of colors!
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Kowloon, full of people, neon signs, and many many shops.

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Hong Kong is such a colorful city, full of life and things going on.

3. What`s Cool About Hong Kong?

  • You never get bored – Hong Kong is such a vibrant and exciting city! It is almost impossible to get bored here.
  • The restaurants, cafes, and pubs – Hong Kong is a gastronomic paradise! It has every cuisine imaginable from all over the world, in all price ranges, so forget whatever diet you are on. Most of the Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong are Cantonese, which is heavy on seafood. It also has a huge number and variety of bars and clubs. The most popular bar area is Lan Kwai Fong (LKF), Wyndham Street and Peel Street. These are all packed with people on weekends. On Kowloon side, you should head to Knutsford Terrace, which is a street packed with cool restaurants, bars and clubs.
  • East meets West – Hong Kong really lives up to this motto and is influenced by both cultures.
  • Has “everything”– On any given day, you can head to a fishing village less than an hour from downtown, lie on a beach and go shopping bonanza in one of the many flashy shopping malls or back-alley markets. After a busy day, you can wind down at one of the city`s restaurants that hold world-class standard, before heading out in the evening to one of the endless numbers of cafes and bars. What`s not to like about Hong Kong?

4. What`s NOT So Cool About Hong Kong?

We don`t have much to say about Hong Kong on the cons list.

  • Very expensive – One thing that is not so good for a travellers budget are the high prices in Hong Kong, both when it comes to accommodations, food and everything else. It is way much more expensive than other Asian cities we have been to, for instance, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi, Manila, and Colombo. So expect to dig out your credit cards!
  • Packed with people – Everywhere you go, you will be surrounded by people. It can at times be difficult to walk through a street because of all the people.

streets

5. What`s The Cost Like In Hong Kong?

Hong Kong is NOT cheap, so get that out of your head. The prices are close to European or USA cities.

  • Entrance fees – Entrance fees are pretty high, but most of the things listed under things to do and see in this guide are free. The Star Ferry (2,50 HK$) and the Tram (2 HK$) is very cheap!
  • Transportation – From the airport, the best way is to take the Airport Express train into the city (takes 23 minutes to Central, running every 12 minutes from 6 a.m. – 1 a.m). One way ticket is 100 HK$. If you think you will be using public transport a lot, then you can buy an Octopus card. This can be used on the Airport Express and all public transportation (MTR, buses, minibuses, trams and ferries to the outlying islands). There are more than 18 000 taxis in Hong Kong, so you will never have a problem finding one.
  • Accommodations – As for rooms, you can find accommodations at all price levels, from luxury boutique hotels to more backpacker-like guest houses. You won`t find good accommodation value in Hong Kong, as you will in for instance Bangkok. You will have to pay a lot more for the same standard as in Bangkok. We paid 100 US$ for our hotel room, which is where the hotel prices start. Hostel dorms (YMCA) starts at 10 US$ (per person), and room from 30 US$ (per person). It all depends what kind of standard you like, you get what you pay for. But Hong Kong is not ideal for backpackers on a tight budget. You can find cheaper accommodation outside the city, on the more remote islands, but it will be more hustle to get into town.
  • Food – You can still find food of great value in Hong Kong, and it is delicious! You get food at all price ranges, from small Chinese restaurants to luxury 5-star venue. The cheapest is, of course, street food (1-3 US$), and up.
  • Alcohol – Alcohol is not so cheap in Hong Kong as the rest of Asia. You will get a beer from 2-7  US$, depending on where you go. Cocktails will cost you about 8 US$.
  • Tipping – As for tipping, a 10 % service fee will automatically be added to your food and hotel bills.

6. How To Get Around In Hong Kong?

Getting around in Hong Kong is pretty easy. It is quite well-connected by public transportations. If you think you will be using public transport a lot, then you can buy an Octopus card. This can be used on the Airport Express and all public transportation (MTR, buses, minibuses, trams and ferries to the outlying islands). 

  • The Airport Express Train – From the airport, the best way is to take the Airport Express train into the city (takes 23 minutes to Central, running every 12 minutes from 6 a.m. – 1 a.m). One way ticket is 100 HK$.
  • Taxi – There are more than 18 000 taxis in Hong Kong, so you will never have a problem finding one. The rate starts at 15 HK$.
  • MTR (Mass Transit Railway) – Operates from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m.
  • KCR (Kowloon – Canton Railway) – Operates from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m.
  • Buses – There are a lot of buses in and around Hong Kong. Get a free bus map from HKTA Information Centers.
  • Ferries – The Star Ferry goes between Central and Wanchai to Tsim Sha Tsui (TST)/ Kowloon and Hung Hong. The ferries goes every 6 to 12 minutes and runs from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p. m. The crossing time is about 8 minutes, and a one-way ticket cost 2,50 HK$. There are also black and white ferries to outlying islands.
  • Trams – The Peak Tram up to Victoria Pek runs every 10-15 minutes, from 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. The fare cost 25 HK$ for a single and 36 HK$ return. The Electric Trams that goes through Hong Kong Island is run from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m., and cost 2 HK$.

7. What Are The People Of Hong Kong Like?

The 7,2 million people living in Hong Kong are mostly Chinese (94%) while the rest are of non-ethnic Chinese. A majority of the people in Hong Kong claim to be atheists, as much as 60-80 %. Among those who have a religion, Buddhism and Taoism are the biggest, with a small Christian community. 

The people of Hong Kong are mostly friendly, kind and polite. Like the people of most big cities it is difficult to get in contact with the locals. Many of them do not speak much English, so unless you speak Chinese it is difficult to communicate.

Since there are so many people in Hong Kong, and the density is so high, you don`t spot that many tourists or at least you don`t notice them.

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8. What Languages Do They Speak In Hong Kong?

The official languages in Hong Kong are Chinese and English, but many people don`t speak much English. There is, however, no problem traveling around Hong Kong speaking only English. Street signs and menus are in both Chinese and English.

9. Do I Need A Visa To Hong Kong?

Visitors from most countries can enter Hong Kong without a visa for periods of 7 to 180 days, depending on nationality.

See more information about Visa rules for Hong Kong here.

10. What Are The Entry Requirements To Hong Kong?

Hong Kong is very easy to visit, and there are not many entry requirements. There are no requirements for vaccinations.

11. Are There Any Health Issues When Travelling In Hong Kong?

There are no big health issues or risks when traveling in Hong Kong. The biggest risk is probably diarrhoea, as in most Asian countries, but is not very likely. We did not have any of that during our stay in Hong Kong eating anything everywhere.Remember to wash your hands often, especially before eating.

Travel Insurance

Of course, never go without a valid travel insurance!  Travel insurance might seem expensive, but it is nothing compared to what medical help can cost if you need it. This is the one thing you don't want to skimp on, so get a good one.

We have been using World Nomads on most on our travels, and we have needed it too!  Their insurance is flexible, extendable while travelling, and covers a lot of action sports and activities that other companies refuse to cover. So be smart, get insurance!

 

 

 

 

12. How Is Phone And Internet Coverage In Hong Kong?

Most hotels, guest houses, and restaurants in Hong Kong are offering free Wi-fi. In some places the internet can be terribly slow, but it`s enough for checking emails and Facebook and so on.

Phone SIM cards are easy to buy. We bought a data SIM card for 8 US$ for one week. Having a local SIM card with a local number is great, you get cheap local rates. In order for the SIM card to work, your phone has to be “unlocked”.

13. When To Visit Hong Kong?

Hong Kong is a popular travel destination year round. The climate is mild and nice from the middle of September to the end of February. The weather from May to mid-September can be hot, wet and humid, with August being the wettest month.

We visited Hong Kong in March. We had no rain, and the temperature was around 25 degrees.

14. Is It Safe To Visit Hong Kong?

Yes, it is absolutely safe to visit Hong Kong! But of course it is a big city, so pickpocket and theft can occur, so be extra careful after dark and at tourist places like the Peak Tram and Victoria Peak.


Travelers Information

Where To Stay In Hong Kong?

Hong Kong is packed with hotels at all price levels. It is however not a cheap city to stay in when it comes to accommodation.Island Pacific Hotel We stayed at the Island Pacific Hotel on Hong Kong Island. We really liked it! Nice rooms, clean, big bathroom, great and very helpful staff. The hotel is located a little away from the main action on Hong Kong Island, but the hotel has a free shuttle bus that goes into the city centre. The tram also stops close to the hotel. We walked into the city centre several times, so it is absolutely doable.

  • Address: 152 Connaught Road West, Hong Kong Island West, Hong Kong
  • Price: from about 70 us$ per night for two people
  • Click for latest prices

Guide Books

We used Lonely Planet`s Hong Kong guide book on our trip. It was very good! You can buy that and some other great Hong Kong books from Amazon:

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To see more of what we did in Hong Kong, check out our blog post: Top 10 Things To Do In Hong Kong!

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If you like this guide, and find it useful, please share and like on social media! Thanks! 🙂

Maria

Maria

Maria is a Norwegian travel nerd, who has explored more than thirty countries on four continents. She holds a masters degree in Computer Science, as well as an MBA. See our about page for more about Maria.
Maria

Facts:

    • Population: 7 184 000 (2013)
    • Capital: Hong Kong
    • Land Area: 1104 km²
    • Density: 6544 people/ km²
    • Language: Chinese and English
    • Religion: Buddhist
    • Currency: Hong Kong Dollar
    • Time zone: UTC+8
    • Drives on: Left
    • Electronics: The standard electrical voltage in Hong Kong is 220 volts AC, 50Hz. Most hotel bathrooms also have outlets for 100 volts. They take a three-pronged UK-style plug.

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