In a place as fast-paced and jam-packed as Hong Kong, keeping up is no easy feat. Here are some need-to-knows to help make sure you don’t get lost while discovering the urban jungle.
Due to its recent history as a British Colony, British National passport holders are able to remain in Hong Kong as tourists for up to 6-months visa-free. US passport holders can remain as tourists for up to 90-days, as can most EU citizens. For more information on visa requirements, look here.
Hong Kong’s currency is the Hong Kong dollar (HK$). HK$10 is roughly £1.03 and US$1.29. For the best exchange rates avoid changing all of your money in the airport and find somewhere else in the city.
When to Go
Hong Kong has a subtropical climate and its weather is very much seasonal. In my opinion, the best time to visit is between late-September to December as the temperatures are fairly high and the humidity is low. The summer months of June to August are hot, wet, and prone to typhoons, while the months earlier in the year bring cooler temperatures but high levels of fog. Key events worth traveling for include: Chinese New Year in January/February, the Dragon Boat Carnival in June/May and Mid-Autumn Festival in September/October. These dates are subject to the lunar calendar so vary year to year.
What to Pack
Regardless of the season that you choose to visit Hong Kong, always ensure you pack warm layers as in the summer particularly, most shopping malls and restaurants will turn their air conditioning to near freezing temperatures. If you’re planning to go to the beach, to a forest or on a hike then insect repellent is an absolute must, as is SPF, especially for those with fair skin. Comfortable shoes are an essential for tackling Hong Kong’s mountainous landscape, and as in many countries, certain nightclubs or restaurants will have a formal footwear only dress-code.
Hong Kong has an incredibly efficient and fairly simple public transport system. Upon your arrival, I suggest purchasing an Octopus Card. This pay-as-you-go card that you can use it on the city’s Mass Transit Railway system (referred to as the MTR), on public buses, island ferries, and even to pay for purchases in many local stores. The initial price for an Octopus card is HK$150, HK$50 being the deposit and HK$100 being spendable credit, you can top it up at various locations throughout Hong Kong and when you leave you can retrieve the HK$50 by returning it. You can purchase an Octopus card from any MTR station and inside the airport, and it can be topped up at these locations as well as at a 7-Eleven or Circle-K store. All travel information is printed in both English and Cantonese.
Alternatively, you can choose to travel by taxi, which to me as a Londoner is pretty cheap (fares start at HK$22), but this, of course, will add up over the course of your stay. To avoid any difficulty it may be useful to carry the Chinese addresses of your destinations as while many drivers have a decent grasp on English, distinctive accents/pronunciations can create difficulty in communication. Both taxis and the public transport system can be used directly from the airport upon your arrival.
With free wifi access in tons of locations across the city, losing touch with loved ones back home is next to impossible while in Hong Kong, however for those who can’t bear to spend a moment offline, China Mobile offers an incredible prepaid SIM deal for tourists. For HK$80 in-store or HK$72 online you can get 3G and 4G data coverage for up to 10 days, as well as local airtime which is great for making reservations for restaurants and activities in advance. You can purchase a China Mobile prepaid SIM card at a 7-Eleven or Circle-K store.