Below are my notes for visiting Hong Kong. These travel tips, such as the best time to visit Hong Kong are obtained from a variety of sources including some of the following: my first hand observations, personal conversations, magazines, newspapers, websites, books and so forth. Whenever I hear something that interests me about Hong Kong, I jot it down here. Hope this comes in handy.
Best Time to Visit Hong Kong
Short Answer: October through mid-December are best, mid-December through February second best. Avoid May to September.
Longer Answer: Visiting Hong Kong is best from October (note: October 1st is a holiday which should be avoided) to December. January through February are also dry, yet colder with increasing cloud cover (beware of Chinese New Years lurking in that timeframe). March and April are nicer in temperature than the winter months but have more cloudy and/or foggy days with increasing drizzle. May through September would be the best months to visit Hong Kong if you want a hot, humid, polluted and rainy vacation.
Miscellaneous Travel Tips for Hong Kong
Hong Kong is more than what many think. Sure, it includes the skyscraper-and-building infested meccas most are aware of (Hong Kong Island being the financial center and Kowloon being the heavily inhabited sidekick to the north with the markets and such); but it is also a place for hiking, beaches and interesting villages if you get away from the city center (New Territories & Lantau). Speaking of which, not all of Hong Kong is an island to the surprise of many. It consists of islands and parts of mainland, shared with China.
Thus, Hong Kong is a good place to go if you want tailored suits & clothing, want to experience Chinese entertainment culture or want to explore nature in a spot most wouldn’t consider. As in many cities in Asia, air pollution is a concern and thus care must be exerted if you are dealing with acute lung issues. Because of the air pollution, try to avoid the summer months, especially if doing outdoor activities like hiking.
If you are planning on visiting the busy side of Hong Kong, this is a random assortment of places that might be of interest:
- Mount Austin / Victoria Peak (known as “The Peak”): provides a scenic view of the Hong Kong’s impressive skyline from the highest mountain on the island. There is also a path around the mountain called the Peak Circle Walk for different perspectives. Hong Kong’s skyline is known as one of the world’s finest
- Star Ferry: for a different vantage point of Hong Kong’s skyline, take the star ferry across Victoria Harbor
- Gardens: chill out at the Nan Lian Gardens and the gardens at Chi Lin Nunnery. Think bonsai, koi ponds and waterlillies.
- Markets: Buy amazing fruits at Kowloon City Market, random finds at Cat Street market, crazy fabrics at Yen Chow Street Hawker Bazaar, a wide array of random electronics at Apliu Street Flea Market and of course the Yuen Po Bird Garden and Hong Kong Flower Market in Mong Kok, because the only thing better than a crying child on your flight is a singing bird in the overhead bin. Check out the Sheung Wan Neighborhood in the northwestern part for vintage/antique/used finds
As for the natural side of things – a great hiking resource (as well as a great photography respource to give you an idea of what is out there), can be found at Teddy Law’s OasisTrek. As CNN notes
To really experience Hong Kong get out to one of the four major hiking trails: the MacLehose Trail, Wilson Trail, Hong Kong Trail or Lantau Trail.
The MacLehose Trail is a 60mi(100km) trail crossing through the mountains and valleys in the New Territories. You will see some amazing beaches along the way, especially in Sai Kung. The Wilson Trail is a 48mi(78km) footpath that runs through Hong Kong Island and the New Territories (and thus requires use of mass transit). The trail brings you mountains, streams and quiet villages, and will also most likely expose you to a bunch of wild monkeys that will get feisty with you if you are carrying food. The good majority of the trail is in parkland. The Hong Kong Trail is a 30mi(50km) hike through five different parks on Hong Kong Island. Lastly, the 44mi(70km) Lantau Trail is on the island of Lantau and brings you up mountains, past secret gardens and through “The Venice of Hong Kong”.
Where is Hong Kong located?
Hong Kong is located on the southern coast of China, with Guangdong Province (and the city of Shenzhen, China) to the north and — for the sake of simplicity — the South China Sea around the east, west and southern coasts. The gambling wheelhouse of Macau is just off of Hong Kong’s west coast. Far off the coast to the east is Taiwan.
Figure on a 16 hour non-stop flight from NYC, 15 hours non-stop out of Los Angeles, 11 hours non-stop from Frankfurt, 9.5 hours non-stop from Sydney, 4.5 hours non-stop from Tokyo and less than 3 hours non-stop from Bangkok. Hong Kong is serviced by many major airlines, with its home carrier being Cathay Pacific.
Is Hong Kong Expensive?
Hong Kong is a very expensive city if you want it to be, and its a reasonably affordable international city if you choose that method. Your accomodation will start a touch under $20/night for budget hostels and rise from there. Food can be obtained quite cheaply from street vendors and such. Thus, overall, Hong Kong is average on this front. On the other hand, if you want high end luxury, Hong Kong is a great place for that as well.
Tipping in Hong Kong
Generally no tipping in restaurants, taxis or bars.
Do I need a Visa before visiting Hong Kong?
No, most citizens do not, with US & EU passport holders able to visit for up to 90 days visa-free. Check the classy list from the Hong Kong Immigration Department. If you are visiting from China, and plan to return to China, make sure you have the proper Chinese visa to allow your return.
Do I need vaccines to visit Hong Kong? Medical concerns?
Generally no. The CDC advises to be up to date on the routine vaccines and suggests you consider vaccines for Hepatitis A and Typhoid. In other words, no, you don’t need any special vaccines for Hong Kong. As for medical concerns, there are poisonous snakes there which you probably won’t encounter.
Transportation into and around Hong Kong
Flying into Hong Kong
Many major carrier fly (or have codeshares) into Hong Kong. Low budget options are Peach Aviation (to Osaka), Scoot (to Singapore), Hong Kong Airlines (mainland Chinese cities, Bali, Phuket, Bangkok, Hanoi and Okinawa), AirAsia (Chiang Mai, Phuket, Borneo and Kuala Lampur) and Cebu Pacific (Phillipines).
Transportation from Hong Kong Airport to Downtown
Public transit is very good. One popular upmarket choice is the Airport Express train which connects the airport to Hong Kong Station (on Hong Kong Island with connections to the Hong Kong subway system as well as free bus to most downtown hotels), Kowloon Station (located on the outskirts of Kowloon and thus a free bus is provided to get you to most Kowloon hotels), Tsing Yi Station (on Tsing Yi island. The station has good bus connections and is a good gateway to the New Territories) and Asia-World Expo (the convention center just north of the airport).
A nice feature of Hong Kong Station & Kowloon Station are that you can check in and print your boarding passes from these Stations.
Getting Around Hong Kong
Hong Kong has a full assortment of options to get around including taxis, ferries, subways, buses and trams. Mass transit is affordable.
Other Countries to Visit from Hong Kong via Land
The only country sharing a land border in China. Ferry service provides a link between Hong Kong & Macau.
What to Buy & Try in Hong Kong
Foods to Try when visiting Hong Kong
- Roasted Meats such as suckling pig (or parts thereof like pork belly) and goose
- Things with eggs, like egg tarts, egg waffles and as strange as it seems, French toast
- Hot Pot, which is especially nice during the winter
- Dim Sum, including cha siu (steam pork buns) and feng zhao (chicken feet)
- Fish balls from the night markets (yu dan)
- Wanton Soup, Snake Soup and Congee Soup
Products to Buy in Hong Kong
Of the Asian countries, Hong Kong has one of the more reputable tailored suit and fashion industries. Otherwise, the assortments of items and products across the spectrum make for an interesting experience. Whether things are a better value or not depends from where you come.
Quick Travel Facts About Hong Kong
Can you get by in Hong Kong with English?
- Given its past history as an English outpost, English will do you just fine
What Power Plugs are Used in Hong Kong:
- The common plug is type G, which is the UK plug-style. Runs @ 220V/50HZ, so be careful with US hairdryers and other electrical accessories that aren’t rated for the 220V voltage.
Is the Water Safe to Drink in Hong Kong?
- Yes, it meets world standards and is safe to drink
What currency is used in Hong Kong?
- Hong Kong Dollar (HKD). See conversion.
To do a quick & dirty conversion on the fly between HKD and USD (given the rates as of this writing of 7.75HKD = $1USD) take the HKD dollar amount and 10% of that will be your very rough USD equivalent. If you want to convert from USD to HKG, take your USD amount and multiple times 8. So if something is 100HKD, it is roughly $10 (truly $12 but close enough). If you want to pay $100 in USD, just multiple times 8 and thus the rough equivalent for 100USD in HKD is approximately 800HKD