Things to know before visiting Hong Kong

The city of Hong Kong sits in southern China, and yet it is quite a different place to the rest of the country. For one, you need to go over a border to get there, and the culture is entirely different. That being said, there are plenty of need to know facts for travelling to Hong Kong. Let’s have a look at some of the most important ones!

Book your hotel in advance

This is one of the most essential Hong Kong travel tips that I can offer. Rooms in Hong Kong are expensive and small – so if you want to have any luck with finding a decent one, it’s best to book it in advance. 

Even then, be prepared for a smaller room than you would typically be used to, at quite a high price for Asia. It’s an expensive city and one that has seen a lot of development over recent years. Like Singapore, this means that it’s an expensive place to rent accommodation! 

The cheapest places to stay in Hong Kong are in the huge tower blocks – Chungking Mansions are a notorious one. These places are affordable, but you’ll also be packed in – the rooms are tiny, and it does feel like it could be a fire hazard. So take care here!

Lots of people speak English

In comparison to mainland China, lots of people in Hong Kong speak English. Hong Kong was a British colony for a long time – 156 years to be exact – and was only returned to China in 1997 – so most people can remember Hong Kong being under British rule. English is still widely taught in schools, so you’ll be fine to find people who can help you out while in Hong Kong!

It’s also worth pointing out that the native language of Hong Kong is Cantonese, not Mandarin (which most people in Mainland China speak). The languages are entirely different, so if you do want to learn a few words of the local language, make sure that it’s Cantonese!

Get an Octopus card

An Octopus card is the travel card for Hong Kong’s public transport. However, in Hong Kong, it can be used for lots of other things as well! Octopus cards can be pre-loaded with different amounts of cash, which you can spend throughout the city. Supermarkets, other shops, fast food outlets and even vending machines accept Octopus card!

You can purchase your Octopus card at the Hong Kong airport MTR station, and you can top it up at any MTR station. At the end of your Hong Kong trip, you can hand it in and get your deposit back! It’s such a convenient way to spend money in the city. 

Try to make local friends

Hong Kongers are a friendly bunch – and the city is a great place to explore with local friends. You can easily meet local people by using Couchsurfing. This app is primarily an accommodation app – you can use it to find a host who is happy for you to stay with them for free – but you can also use it to find out about community events and to meet people. 

Simply search for Hong Kong, see if any events are happening (sometimes there are Couchsurfing meetups or hiking trips), or make a post saying that you’re in town and are keen to meet people. Be sure to assess the profiles of people before meeting them, and always meet strangers in a public place to stay safe.

Go hiking while in Hong Kong

A lot of people don’t realise that Hong Kong is actually an excellent hiking destination. While Hong Kong is most famous for its huge city, the Hong Kong area is mostly nature, and there are plenty of beach hikes for the keen traveller to enjoy. One of the most popular hikes is Dragon’s Back, which takes about 4 hours and is 8.5 kilometres long. You can also visit the outlying islands, like Lamma Island and Lantau Island, to see authentic Hong Kong life! 

Use the MTR to get around

Hong Kong’s metro network is one of the best in the world. You’ll only ever be waiting for a few minutes at the absolute maximum, and the trains are all clean, comfortable, and fast. Hong Kong, like all big cities, has a traffic problem – so use the metro to reach your destination quicker!

Eat plenty of food!

Hong Kong should definitely get a lot more recognition as a gastronomic destination. With eateries ranging from street food stalls to Michelin starred restaurants, there’s all sorts to tuck into here. You’ll notice some classics from Chinese restaurants around the world, such as sweet and sour pork, which originates in Hong Kong.

However, be sure to try dim sum, fish balls, wontons and, if you’re feeling brave, chicken’s feet!

There are also restaurants from all corners of the globe in Hong Kong. If you’ve been travelling in Asia but fancy European or Mexican food, you’ll be able to find it in this city! 

Hong Kong food is quite meat-heavy, but don’t worry if you’re vegetarian – there are still plenty of options for you! I recommend using the app HappyCow to find vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants. 

Alcohol is varied – but expensive!

You’ll find a lot more alcohol here than elsewhere in China. In Mainland China, there isn’t a lot of foreign wine, beer and spirits – but you’ll easily locate some in Hong Kong. But there is a price to pay for this. Alcohol in Hong Kong is expensive, just like everything else in the city. You can cut costs by purchasing alcohol from stores instead of bars, however!

There’s not as much gambling here as in nearby Macau

Lots of people think of Hong Kong as a glitzy, gambling city. This isn’t the case – there are some casinos here, but it’s Macau that has a reputation for being a gambler’s paradise. In fact, legal gambling is actually quite limited to the few casinos, horse racing, and the Hong Kong lottery.  However, it is fairly easy to reach Macau from Hong Kong; you can do it as a day trip and you don’t need a visa.

Time your trip well

Hong Kong is just within the tropics – so it’s sweltering in the summertime. The best time of year to visit Hong Kong is in the cooler months, however, do be aware that typhoons are a risk from May to November. Winters in Hong Kong are certainly not cold – you won’t see any snow on the ground – but they are a bit on the chilly side. March and April have ideal weather for seeing this city! 

Make sure you get a visa if you’re going to Mainland China

The relationship between Hong Kong and China is complicated. At present, most passports don’t need a visa for Hong Kong but do need one for Mainland China. This may change, so do double check before your trip. 

There are some really great places to visit in Mainland China, such as Shenzhen – which is so close to Hong Kong it actually shares the same MRT network! However, even for a day trip, you will need to organise a Chinese visa. 

Hopefully, these tips will help when you visit Hong Kong. It’s a wonderful city to go to – there are so many different cultural attractions, as well as the modern culture that it is now synonymous with. Follow our Hong Kong travel tips, and you’ll be able to have a fun, stress-free stay in this dynamic city!

Victoria Brewood
victoria@pommietravels.com

Hi I'm Victoria, a British girl from Manchester. After graduating from university I decided there was more to life than the hours between 9 and 5, so I packed my journalism degree into my suitcase to travel the world and find a way to make money at the same time. I now call London home, although I still travel whenever I can. I hope to inspire you to be your own boss, live life and see the world.

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