Discover Hong Kong
Asia’s most dynamic financial centre (and TripGuru’s hometown) was once “a barren island with barely a house upon it”. Nowadays this metropolis of over 7 million people is often considered “a Gateway to China”, though that would be an understatement. Hong Kong is a creature of its own, an intense mix of modernity and tradition, of souring heights—whether its buildings or mountains—and a complex underworld web of subways, basement pubs, and clubs. A city that refuses to be fully Chinese, or to embrace its once-controversial Britishness. Whether for you it’s the “pearl of the Orient” or “Asia’s world city”, for those who truly know it, this city needs no epithets—there is no place like Hong Kong.
Hong Kong modern history begins in 1842 with the signing of the Treaty of Nanking, which ceded Hong Kong Island to Britain in perpetuity after China’s defeat in the First Opium War. Britain would again defeat China in the Second Opium War and obtain the Kowloon peninsula and in 1989 obtain a 99-year lease to the New Territories. Britain developed the colony as an outpost, but the Japanese were able to occupy it for the infamous “3 years and 8 months” during WW2. Afterwards, with many of its former colonies lost to nationalist movements, Britain let Hong Kong become one of the world’s greatest experiments in “positive non-interventionism”, and an economic boom ensued. With its lease about to expire, Britain approached China, who denounced the “unequal treaties” that forced the cession of its territory in the past—Hong Kong’s sovereignty was thus transferred to China in the 1997 “Handover”, under its present, semi-autonomous status.
Freedom of religion is constitutionally guaranteed in Hong Kong, despite of a policy of state atheism in China. In Hong Kong, only around half the population belongs to any organised religion. With Buddhists, Taoists, and Christians (Catholics, Protestants, and others) each having more than a million adherents. Islam (mainly of the Sunni branch) has a minor, yet important presence in the community. Other religions with a long history in the city are Hinduism, Sikhism, and Judaism. Most of those unaffiliated with any religious group, still observe some form of Chinese folk religion and other forms of spirituality, or seek auspicious favour from the heavens—with the practice of feng shui, astrology, or numerology.
The culture of Hong Kong is a melting pot of southern Chinese groups: Cantonese, Teocheows, Hakkas, and Hokkies mainly, with a minor but influential Shanghainese element—greatly influenced by a long history of British rule. An established presence in the former colony of other non-Chinese groups—Europeans, Indians, and Southeast Asians—though never great in numbers, has impacted the general culture of the local population across the cultural spectrum, notably in government & law, religion & philosophy, lifestyle & cuisine, and arts & architecture. Friction with mainland China and northern culture has been a habitual feature of the local identity, which continues today despite Beijing’s suzerainty over Hong Kong affairs.
- Please remove your shoes when entering someone’s house, even if they insist you do not have to.
- Shaking hands is common in business circles, although not necessarily between males and females.
- Exchanging business cards is common. Give and receive them with both hands and do not write on them.
- No public raging (even loud speech) or loss of face.
- Paradoxically, superstitious beliefs abound in Hong Kong (i.e. the number 4 is considered a bad omen). Avoid making death jokes.
Hong Kong is located at the mouth of the Pearl River delta, south of the Shenzhen River, bordering Guangdong province. The city is 119km south of Guangzhou and 1,977km south-southwest of Beijing. Hong Kong experiences a humid subtropical climate, with weak seasonal distinctions and monsoon influences such as heavy rains and typhoons during the summer and cold Siberian winds mid-winter.
Almost 70% of the territory is mountainous, with several pronounced peaks across all regions. The territory’s rugged shores can be seen from any elevation, as well as the condensation of skyscrapers—Hong Kong has been named “world’s most vertical city”. Omnipresent are the lush vegetation, as well as the blue waters of the South China Sea.
Hong Kong boasts many parks and natural preserves. The waters near the island of Lantau are home to the pinkest dolphins in the region, whereas a myriad gorges, waterfalls, and continental rock formations abound in the northeast. If the weather permits, sail to one of Hong Kong’s white-sand beaches, or test yourself in one of the territory’s many hiking trails.
Before you go
- Language: Cantonese, known locally as Guoyu, written in Traditional Chinese characters
- Currency: Hong Kong dollar (hkd), colloquially man (or hk$)
- Time Zone: Hong Kong Time, utc+8
- Voltage: 220
- Electric Socket: Type G
- Tourist sim card” (hk$88, 5-day pass; hk$118, 8-day pass) are available at 1O1O stores (one right at the airport), convenience stores, csl and HKT
- Offering 4g connection speeds, 1.5gb/5gb data bundles, and unlimited Wi-Fi hotspot connection.
- There city is full of ATM's and international banks with branches in Central area opening until night hours.
- Changing money is easy, avoid exchanging money at the airport. Rates (particularly Travellex) are abysmal compared to the ones in the street around the city.
- Moneychangers usually are around the shopping areas and their margins usually vary form 3 to 5%.
- Dim sum – Not a dish, but a style. Hongkongers go yum cha or “drinking tea”, usually in families for brunch, to a Cantonese restaurant to have dim sum and tea.
- Char siu – glazed Cantonese roast pork served with rice or tossed over noodles
- Egg waffle – this eggy pastry is a popular street snack.
- Chaan daan min – Luncheon meat, fried eggs, and instant noodles are mixed in a soup for a cult classic meal.
- Hong Kong-style milk tea – The black tea and evaporated (or richer, condensed) milk drink can be served hot or iced.
In general, tipping is not expected in Hong Kong but feel free to show appreciation through small gratuities for great service.
- Taxis: Tips are not expected. More often than not, the driver will round up to the nearest whole number and prepare your change. If you decide to leave the change, they will gladly accept this.
- Restaurants: Most restaurants in Hong Kong include a service charge of 10% (15-20% for large groups in some high-end places). Tips are not expected.
- Hotels: For the porter, consider tipping hk$2-5 per bag. There may also be an envelope in your room for housecleaning and hk$2-5 is enough for that. However, do not tip if there is a service charge in your hotel.
- Suggested vaccinations: not necessary
- Safety: Hong Kong is one of the safest cities in the world. Violent crime is extremely rare. And pickpocketing or scammers do not present an omnipresent danger to most tourists as in other cities in Asia. Even at night, the situation stays nearly the same.
- Hong Kong tap water is generally very safe, but some old buildings have reported heavy metals in their pipes. Bottle water is not expensive.
- Drug use and contraband is heavily punished in Hong Kong – with trafficking carrying heavy penalties, including long custodial sentences.
- Respect all local laws and stay away from political demonstrations.
- Police, Fire, Ambulance: 999
Hospitals: Hong Kong care is very efficient and of high standard but should you require hospitalisation It can be costly for non-residents. Travel insurance should be very affordable, and ought to be considered.
- St. Paul’s Hospital (private): 2 Eastern Hospital Rd, Causeway Bay, Tel: (+852) 2890 6008
- Queen Elizabeth Hospital (public): 30 Gascoigne Rd, Yau Ma Tei, Tel: (+852) 3506 8888
Tourism Board: The Hong Kong Tourism Board runs three visitor centres at the airport, the Peak, and its main one at the Star Ferry pier in Kowloon, besides an English hotline at (+852) 2508 1234
- Hello (in general): néih hóu
- Excuse me. / Sorry: m̀h hóu yi si
- Thank you: m̀h gōi (for a service) / dō jeh (formal, for a gift/kindness)
- You’re welcome: m̀h sái haak hei
- Good morning / Good evening: jóu sàhn / máahn ōn
- Goodbye: baai baai!
- How much is this?: nī go géi chìhn?
- Cheers! (Toasts when drinking): yám būi
- Bon appetit!: sihk faahn!
- Where’s the toilet?: chisó hái bīndouh a?
- Help!: gau mehng a!
- I understand: góh mìhngbaahk
- I don’t understand: ngóh m̀h mìhngbaahk
How to get into this area, and how to get around it!
The award-winning Hong Kong International Airport is the city’s main port of entry. Located 39km from the city centre, in the island of Chep Lap Kok, just right off the west shore of Lantau. The fastest way to get to the city is on the Airport Express, which costs hk$60-100 one-way depending on which station you get off at. Buses are an equally comfortable and much more scenic option to the city, and are quite cheap with fares ranging from hk$10-40 depending on where you’re going. If you choose to take a taxi to the city, you’ll be pleased to find that the airport provides the taxis to you, and its staff will tell you which one to take. A typical fare to the Central area will run you around hk$250-350 depending on which tunnel is used.
Intercity Passenger Train services, run by the MTR Corporation, run regular routes between China and the large Hung Hom station, situated on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong. Trains come in from different cities in China, namely Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhaoqing, Foshan, Beijing, and Shanghai. In order to guarantee your seat on these popular trains, make sure to book in advance, most reliable through the MTR website.
Hong Kong’s most beloved form of public transportation comprises 155 stations in total, 87 being railway stations and 68 being light rail stops. Stations are divided into ‘fare zones’, and your fare will be calculated based on the distance from your station of origin to the ‘zone’. Adult fares range from hk$3.50 (between stations in the same fare zone) to hk$51 (basically across Hong Kong). As soon as you arrive in town, pick up an Octopus card for hk$150, comprising hk$100 in credit plus hk$50 in refundable deposit for when you return the card. This rechargeable contactless smart card is not only used to pay your fare on any type of public transport in Hong Kong, but also works in convenience stores and some restaurants.
Buses in Hong Kong are generally quite comfortable, and the entire network accepts payment by Octopus card. Hong Kong’s iconic large double-decker buses traverse the entire territory—however it can be hard to stumble into the route you need, so take a look at Google Maps or the bus companies’ website to know where and when you should catch a bus. Little public light buses that carry at maximum 16 passengers are also available, but the routes for these buses can often be difficult to figure out for tourists.
This city’s taxis are comfortable, efficient, and can be found almost everywhere. There are three main types—the red urban taxis are the most common and the most likely ones you’ll use, and have a flagfall of hk$22 with hk$1.60 added on for every 200 metres thereafter. The other taxis are green (serving the New Territories rural areas, the airport, and Hong Kong Disneyland) and blue (serving Lantau Island, which includes the airport, and Disneyland). Green and blue taxis are slightly cheaper, but not by much—the colouring scheme is mainly to guarantee these areas have service. Be advised that drivers should always use the meters, rarely take Octopus or credit cards, and are not required to have change for any bill larger than hk$100.
Narrow double-decker city trams have been running along the northern coast of Hong Kong Island for more than 100 years. Get on the upper deck of a tram for a scenic view of the island and all its different flavors—from its high-energy CBD to peaceful suburban residential areas. The fare is a flat hk$2.3, making this taste of history really give bang for your buck.
Several ferry routes ply the waters between Hong Kong’s many islands. The main tourist draw is always the iconic Star Ferry, which has been stunning passengers for more than 120 years with the amazing view (from the upper deck), of Victoria Harbour, between Kowloon and Hong Kong. Fares are very cheap, under hk$4 no matter when you ride the ferry or what deck you choose to sit on, and besides a tourist attraction is a truly quick way to get into Central/Wanchai from Kowloon. Visitors looking for interesting day trips to Hong Kong’s outlying islands should consider going to Central Pier and taking a ferry to the city’s quirkier destinations, such as Lamma Island, Cheung Chau, and Mui Wo (on Lantau Island).
Things to see
The top locations to visit in this destination.