I have been wanting to visit Hong Kong for a very long time now, and finally, the day came and it was just how I envisioned it – I fell in love with the city! Like so many people rave on about how great Hong Kong is, I half expected my already high expectations to be disappointed. But on the contrary, I too now am one of those people who just adore Hong Kong!
During my stay, I managed to see a lot, eat a lot and experience a lot, and now I cannot wait to share all my tips and thoughts with you guys in separate posts, but for now, here is my brief guide to visiting Hong Kong.
Things to see
There is a lot to see and do in Hong Kong! Check out my post on Ultimate Hong Kong experiences here.
When to go
Summer – in Hong Kong is hot, humid and pretty sticky! Temps are generally in the 30’s and you can expect more rain, thunderstorms and typhoons during these months (anywhere between May – September). The hottest months are in July and August.
Autumn & Spring – the shoulder seasons are often seen as the most pleasant times to visit as it isn’t uncomfortably hot or too cold either. These times of year is considered the perfect time to be in the city and be outdoors without the hot summer heat.
Winter – is dry and cooler, and winter usually comes in December and ends in February with an average temperature between 15- 19C during the day.
TIP: No matter what time of year you go though, I recommend packing an umbrella to avoid being caught by any spontaneous rain showers that can occur! Hong Kong’s weather is famous for its unpredictability, and it can be sunny one minute and turn to rain the next.
Where to stay
It’s a common debate…to stay on Hong Kong Island or Kowloon?!! In all honesty, the answer really varies and it all boils down to personal preference.
Generally speaking, Hong Kong island is the business and financial heart of Hong Kong and better known for the taller skyscrapers, but also many of Hong Kong’s iconic sights such as The Peak, Ocean Park, Botanic Gardens etc. are here… Kowloon is home to Tsim Sha Tsui (TST), Hong Kong’s tourist hub and densely populated area. While Hong Kong Island can be more expensive to stay then on Kowloon, from Kowloon you have spectacular views overlooking the Harbour and HK Island’s mountainous skyline!
There is plenty of shopping, food and entertainment on both sides and really, you can cross over the Harbour by a star ferry in under 10 minutes it is that quick, and the MTR (train) stations are located everywhere throughout the city so nowhere is hard to reach.
Having ventured over to both during my visit, I personally found both sides great to experience and perhaps Kowloon was more vibrant and cheaper than the Island, however slightly more ‘gritty’. Kowloon also has some great local markets and food culture to check out – get out of TST and venture to Mong Kok and even Whampon!
On the other hand, I also loved spending time on HK Island too. There was perhaps more high end shopping (in Central)and classy fine wine and food cafes and bars (in Soho) to experience.
So basically what I am trying to say here is that, you can’t really go wrong where you stay! Hong Kong is ridiculously easy to get around and the transport system is AMAZMINGLY good :)! So it all depends on your personal budget really.
With every big city comes districts and Hong Kong has a whole lotta cool districts to explore. Hong Kong is basically made up of three major areas; Hong Kong Island, Kowloon & New Territories – as well as being many outlying islands around, and Lantau being the largest. To get a little bit of a feel for where some of the major areas are in Kong Kong check out the brief map I labelled (below). I basically labelled the main areas and some of the districts worth checking out or even to consider staying.
Tsim Sha Tsui – is the tourist hub of Hong Kong and is very touristy. There are many hotels located in this area hence the amount of tourists who opt to stay in this region.
Mong Kok – is a residential and industrial area and the famous Ladies’ Market on Tung Choi Street is here. Mong Kok feels a lot more ‘grungy’ than other parts of Hong Kong in my opinion and has more of a traditional feel to it – how you would picture Hong Kong, and is often the area you see in movies that feature HK.
Whampon – less touristy and more of a local area, which is great for those who want to stay or explore away from the overly touristy spots in Hong Kong. I was actually staying at Harbour Grand in Whampon so I got to know the area quite well by the time I left. There are many little great eating spots to try here and despite the distance from the ‘hub’ of things, I didn’t mind Whampon.
Hong Kong Island
Wan chai – is very cosmopolitan and one of Hong Kong’s premium nightlife districts. Nightlife aside though, Wan chai is the best place to pick up cheap iPhones, laptops and electronic goods than anywhere else on Hong Kong and there are also markets along Tai Yuen street that are worth checking out.
Soho – this was probably one of my favourite places to visit in Hong Kong. Its known for its trendy dining and nightlife with an abundance of bars, cafes and restaurants that run all the way up the high hilly streets. There are some seriously good food places you will randomly stumble upon here as well as little markets ad boutique stores. Soho is pretty much located in Central too.
Central – is the business and financial part of Hong Kong and its here you will see many of the official looking buildings and business workers in their suits. There are also many high end fashion stores such as Luis Vuitton, Prada and Zara etc.
Causeway Bay – popular shopping spot and where you can find Time Square. It’s quite a built up little area but with lots to see and little streets and alleys to walk through.
Stanley – is little seaside fishing village located on the south side of Hong Kong Island. Here there are markets to walk through as well as beaches and restaurants along the promenade. It’s got a more relaxed feel than the city.
There are only a small handful of countries and territories that will need a visa to enter Hong Kong. Anyone from Australia, Canada, USA or UK does not require a visa, and can stay for up to 90 days.
If you want to check out any further information outlining Hong Kong’s visa and entry permits, you can here.
Currency and language
The currency in Hong Kong is HKD , and the official languages spoken are both Chinese (Cantonese) and English.
You will certainly have no worries speaking English over there as it is widely spoken and understood. If you do want to have a go at speaking Cantonese, here are some basic words to use while you’re there…
zǎo chén hǎo – Good morning
wǎn ān – Good night
qǐng – Please
xiè xiè nín – Thank you
zhèng què – Yes
cuò wù – No
Hong Kong transport is super-efficient and convenient. There are buses, taxis, trains and ferries that are within easy reach. My favourite and one I do highly recommend is using the MRT (train) and ferry (to cross the Harbour). There are MRT stations located everywhere across the city making it an easy and cheap way to get from one side of Hong Kong to the other. Ticket fares are really low and you can even consider buying an Octopus card for easy public transport use.
Leaving the airport
Once you land at the airport, there are a few ways to get to your hotel, depending on your budget.
Taxi – you can get a taxi straight from the airport to your hotel for approx. $60-75 (aus( dollars depending on where you are staying. This is reasonable cheap for a taxi fare in comparison to back home (in Australia), but there are other options that are even cheaper if you want to save some coin.
Hong Kong Airport Express – Takes you straight from the airport into the major areas of Hong Kong, including Central and Kowloon station where there are free shuttle buses that will take you to the hotel you are staying at. The Hong Kong Airport Express departs every 12 minutes from the airport and takes less than 30 mins to reach Central. I took this when I landed in Hong Kong and found it exceptionally good, and it only cost a mere $13 (aus)dollars or so!
Airport Buses – they have a shuttle bus that offer door to door stop offs between the airport and major hotels across Hong Kong and Kowloon. They depart every 30 minutes from the Airport and costs approx. $28 (aus) dollars per single trip.
There is also another airport bus that runs from the airport that is a lot cheaper, however is a lengthier ride due to the stops in between.
Private transfer – for those want the comfort of a pre-arranged transfer waiting for you when you arrive and to take you straight to your hotel in comfort, you can book private transfers that generally start from $90-120 (aus) dollars.
Other Hong Kong posts;