Are you planning a trip to Hong Kong and looking for some travel tips or hacks? If so, this post is for you! Even though I’ve visited Hong Kong quite a few times, I always seem to learn something new every time I return. Which is exactly why these practical Hong Kong travel tips will come in handy, and hopefully help you plan a better trip.
But before I get to all of that…let’s have a quick look at Hong Kong and why it should be on your destination hit-list…
Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of China, but it is governed under the principle of “one country, two systems.” As a former British colony, Hong Kong is a strange mix of Chinese traditions, modern architecture and it almost feels like you aren’t in Asia. Seeing that Hong Kong was previously under British rule, getting by is also considerably easier than other countries in Asia since English is widely spoken.
Besides a unique history, Hong Kong’s cityscape is famous for its skyscraper-studded skyline and excellent tourist attractions. With its constant hustle and bustle, it is a city that is continually on the move and stands at the forefront of innovation and business. Yet, the city still seems to seemingly blend old with new.
This guide sets out 10 practical Hong Kong travel tips that will help you explore eclectic Hong Kong. I also hope that these Hong Kong travel tips will help you get a better understanding of the city and how to make the most of your visit. Read on to get my top 10 practical Hong Kong travel tips and need-to-knows…
Table of Contents
- 10 Practical Hong Kong Travel Tips
- Pack light
- Wear comfortable shoes
- Money basics
- How to get around
- Get an Octopus Card
- How to stay connected
- Book tickets for tourist spots online
- Eating and Tipping
- Drinking tap water – Is it safe?
- Stay in the right area
10 PRACTICAL HONG KONG TRAVEL TIPS
Hong Kong is the perfect city for a quick jaunt. Whether you’re spending 3 days in Hong Kong or perhaps even longer, the city packs the perfect mix of history, architecture, and culture. However, before you jet off to experience Hong Kong’s top attractions, there are a few things you should know first. Here are my top Hong Kong travel tips that will help you thoroughly enjoy your visit to this amazing city.
The very first and most probably one of the most important Hong Kong travel tips that you need to know is that Hong Kong heavily relies on public transport. Unless you are here on a stopover, I highly recommend that you pack as light as you possibly can. Trust me, I know how hard this can be. But, there is nothing worse than lugging your luggage around on buses, trains and subways.
So, if you are only visiting for a few days, try to minimise your luggage to a carry-on and perhaps even a backpack to cram in a few extra items.
Check here for the best hard shell carry on luggage options if you don’t have one yet. These options are all durable and lightweight, making them ideal for hassle-free travel.
WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES
Hong Kong is a city which always seems to be on the move. No matter where you are, you’ll always find people rushing off. Although the city has one of the best transport systems in the world, you’ll still have to do some walking. This especially stands true when using the MTR. With the Central station connecting a number of lines and having many exit points, you could easily spend 20 minutes or more just walking underground.
So, one of the best Hong Kong travel tips I can give you, is to invest in a good pair of walking shoes. If you already have a pair of comfy walking shoes, great! But, if you need some help, you can check out my guide on the best comfy and stylish travel sneakers for women for more inspiration.
Hong Kong’s currency is the Hong Kong Dollar (HK$), with denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 dollar notes. There are also a few coins to note, which come in denominations of 10 , 20 , 50 and $1, $2, $5, and $10.
Generally cash is king, especially when you are eating at local eateries or shopping at the markets. But most major cards, like Visa and MasterCard, are however accepted at nicer restaurants, retailers and department stores.
ATM’s are also widely available throughout the city and you’ll most certainly be able to see quite a few in the subway stations. Personally I always travel with cash, but just a tip…if you are withdrawing money in Hong Kong, you’ll need to do so at your specific bank.
Looking for tips to save money on your Hong Kong trip? Here’s a great guide on Travel Hacking 101.
HOW TO GET AROUND
One of the best things about travelling in Hong Kong is its highly efficient transportation system. From buses and trams to taxis, ferries and the subway – getting from A to B is super easy here.
Here are some handy Hong Kong travel tips that will give you a better idea on how to get around the city.
The very first transport method you are likely to take in Hong Kong is the Airport Express Train. Naturally, you could grab a taxi or even a private transfer, but the express train is an affordable and fast way to get to the city centre. The train stops at the following three stations, Hong Kong (Central), Kowloon and Tsing Yi. For instance (just to give you a general timeframe), if you are going to Hong Kong Station, the ride only takes 24 minutes.
You can buy a ticket at the airport, but usually the queues are quite long. So, if you want to skip the lines, grab your ticket below…plus enjoy the free shuttle bus service between the station and selected hotels.
Using the subway is most probably the easiest way to get around Hong Kong. It’s safe, reliable and very efficient, especially seeing that the trains are always on time. Furthermore, the MTR connects all the major spots you’ll want to see on your visit. From the heart of Central and Causeway Bay to New Territories and even Lantau Island – which is where you’ll find the famous Big Buddha.
As you can imagine, Hong Kong’s MTR offers visitors and extensive means of transport. With 10 main commuter lines stopping at 91 stations and 68 Light Rail stops, the MTR system serves all three major areas; Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories.
Buying tickets for the MTR is pretty straightforward, too…and there are easy to use ticketing machines in all the stations. Simply select your station and pay. Then, use the token to enter the station’s gate. If you have an Octopus card (more on that below) you could easily just tap and go. However, if you are only in Hong Kong for a short visit, you might want to consider grabbing a one day MRT tourist pass to save money.
Taking the bus in Hong Kong is tricky, so actually I wouldn’t recommend using this mode of transport, especially if it’s your first visit to the city. If you are however feeling adventurous and want to give it a go, you can check out the Hong Kong Tourism Board’s site which offers a wealth of info and essential links to the 5 main bus routes.
The Ding Ding is a small tram network that runs for approximately 30kms between HK Central and Causeway Bay. If you do want to experience this iconic mode of transport, you’ll be delighted to know that it is actually quite straightforward and easy to take. Not to mention, uber cheap. The Ding Ding has a flat rate of HK$2.60, so whether you are traveling one stop or all the way to Causeway Bay, the rate will still be HK$2.60. Now, that’s what I call a bargain!
Some basic travel tips to keep in mind when taking the Ding Ding…
- Enter at the front and exit at the back.
- For the best views, find a seat on the upper deck (this will also help you to spot your destination station easily).
- Pay when you get off. If you don’t have an Octopus card, you can pay with cash. But remember to throw the exact amount into the coin box, as the bus driver will not give you any change.
Taxis are plentiful throughout most of Hong Kong. There are 3 kinds of taxis in the city separated by colour, but in general, you will most likely only use the Red Taxi.
As in most other big cities, you can simply hail down a taxi. Some areas however (like the yellow boxed lines), are restricted areas. This means, that no matter how long you try to hail, the taxis won’t stop there.
Generally speaking though, taxis are still easy to find. And if you are at a major tourist spot or station, simply keep an eye out for the taxi pick-up area.
Here are some fare guidelines…
Starting rate (up to 2 kms) HK$24.
Every subsequent 200 meters thereafter is HK$1.70 (for fares below HK$83.50) and HK$1.20 (for fares above HK$83.50).
Keep in mind though, that tipping is not required when taking a cab in Hong Kong, but it is acceptable to round off the amount.
The star ferry is most probably one of the most iconic transportation options in Hong Kong. And to be honest, no visit to Hong Kong would be complete without taking a ride on the ferry across the Victoria Harbour.
Taking the ferry is pretty easy too, and in fact it is the cheapest way to get from Hong Kong Central to Tsim Sha Tsui and vice versa. At only HK$2.70 per ride, it’s actually dirt cheap. Especially seeing that the MTR will set you back HK$11 from Central Station to Tsim Sha Tsui.
If you are worried about time, don’t be. The ferry ride only takes about 10 minutes and waiting for the next ferry is never too long. If you are at Tsim Sha Tsui Pier and want to get to Central, simply go to the second floor. You will see a small ticketing machine where you can buy your ticket. Then pop the token into the box by the gate and board the ferry. Oh and don’t forget to bring small change!
JUST A QUICK REMINDER…
At the time of writing, all these prices were accurate. But, as prices often change, please note that these prices are only intended as a guideline to help you plan your trip and give you an idea of the travelling costs in Hong Kong. As a rule of thumb, it’s always best to check individual sites or even better, on the spot for the most accurate prices.
GET AN OCTOPUS CARD
The Octopus Card is similar to Taiwan’s Easy Card or South Korea’s T-Money Card. It’s a great option if you don’t want to always bother with coins and stand in queues to get your ticket. The card allows you to simply tap and go on all transportation modes in the city, making it really convenient to get around. Topping up the card is also easy, because you can do so at any MTR station. Simply look out for the top up machines. One thing however to keep in mind, is that the minimum top up amount is HK$50. And the machines only take HK$50/100 notes.
Another perk of investing in the Octopus Card is that you can use it at many stores, all convenience stores and even to get your Victoria Peak Tram tickets!
Grab your Hong Kong Octopus Card preloaded with HK$50 here for a hassle free journey. To make things easier, you can simply pick it up at the airport.
HOW TO STAY CONNECTED
WiFi is available in Hong Kong in most tourist spots and MTR stations, allowing you to connect to WiFi hotspots nearby. However, if you want unlimited Wifi, you might want to consider a portable WiFi hotspot. Here’s a great review on the Skyroam Solis which works in over 130 countries and ensures hassle-free connectivity.
As mentioned before, Hong Kong is a major tourist hub. For this reason, I highly recommend that you book your tickets for tourist attractions online in advance. Just to give you an idea, when visiting Victoria Peak, it’s regular to queue up for at least 2 hours before you can take the tram to the top. I don’t know about you, but personally there is nothing worse than standing in a line that moves at a snail’s pace.
So, if you too want to skip the lines…
EATING AND TIPPING
Hong Kong is home to an amazing food scene. In fact, you’ll see that it’s nearly impossible not to find something to delight your tastebuds. From fine dining and Michelin star restaurants to local cheap eats and street food – there’s something for every budget here. Plus you’ll be delighted to know that with its eclectic mix of cuisines from around the world, Hong Kong’s food scene literally caters to all, whether you’re looking for western food or Asian cuisine.
In general, tipping is not required in Hong Kong (which…by the way…is another reason why you will sometimes feel that restaurant staff are downright rude). If you are however eating at a nicer looking restaurant, a 10% service fee will already be worked into your bill.
One thing to keep in mind however is that generally most restaurants are quite pricy. Prices also heavily depend on location. For instance, a latte at Victoria Peak costs HK$52, but one down town won’t set you back more than HK$30. So, if you are on a tight budget, try to plan where to eat in advance.
Of course, the cheapest meals can be found at the local eateries, but often the menus are only in Cantonese. So, if you do want to try some of the local flavours, remember to download Google Translate on your phone beforehand.
DRINKING TAP WATER – IS IT SAFE?
Although it is generally safe to drink the tap water in Hong Kong, I wouldn’t recommend you to do so. Especially if you have a fragile stomache. This probably goes without saying, but when travelling in Asia, it’s best not to drink the tap water. You can buy bottled water pretty much anywhere in Hong Kong, so don’t worry too much. Usually your hotel will also provide you with 2 bottles of drinking water per night.
I however, like to travel with a reusable water bottle, which I simply refill at a convenience store or at my hotel’s drinking fountain. Not only does it save money, it also helps reduce plastic waste.
If you haven’t invested in one yet, you might want to check here for some excellent reusable water bottle options.
And, just in case you were wondering, water and ice in nicer looking restaurants are okay to drink.
STAY IN THE RIGHT AREA
Choosing the right accommodation in Hong Kong can be a bit tricky, especially seeing that the city is so huge. And to be honest, no Hong Kong travel tips guide would be complete without a quick overview on the best neighbourhoods to stay.
Generally, Hong Kong is divided in three main areas, Hong Kong Central, Kowloon and New Territories. If you do however want to be in the centre of things, I suggest staying in either Central or Kowloon. Do however keep in mind that each of these areas, are still subdivided into various districts. So, try to do as much research as you can before booking your hotel.
Hong Kong Central is typically the business district, but it is also home to some of Hong Kong’s most visited tourist spots, like Victoria Peak, Man Mo Temple and the Mid-Levels Escalators.
Kowloon on the other hand is a mixture of high-end fashion boutiques and the best markets in Hong Kong. But, it is also here where you will find the best museums and of course, the top viewing point for the Symphony of Lights – Tsim Sha Tsui Pier.
HERE ARE SOME OF THE BEST AREAS TO STAY…
Central Hong Kong, as you might have guessed, is Hong Kong’s business, finance, and administrative heart. If it is your first visit to the city, this is an excellent base, as it it here where you’ll find most of the tourist attractions and remnants from former British rule.
Causeway Bay is an excellent choice, especially if you’re looking to do some retail therapy and enjoy fine dining.
LAN KWAI FONG
For those who want to party all night, Lan Kwai Fong is Hong Kong’s main nightlife and entertainment district.
Sheung Wan is one of Hong Kong’s oldest districts. It’s home to everything from amazing coffee shops and hipster restaurants to the famous “dried seafood street” and “cat street”. It’s also an excellent base if you plan to take the ferry to Macau.
TSIM SHA TSUI
Tsim Sha Tsui lies on the southern peninsula of Kowloon island and offers breathtaking views of the Victoria Harbour. In addition, it is also here where you can find the Museum of Art, the Space Museum, the Science Museum and the Museum of History. Nathan Road is also located here, which is home to endless shopping opportunities.
Mong Kok is the perfect base for those looking to sample street food and visit the amazing markets nearby. Especially seeing as some of Hong Kong’s best markets are found here, namely Temple Street Market and the famous Ladies Market. If you want to have a closer look at the area, this ultimate guide to Mong Kok covers everything you need to know about exploring this shopping mecca.
Want to know more about Hong Kong? Grab these must-reads below for more Hong Kong travel tips and an in-depth look at the city.