Hong Kong is one of the world’s most fascinating destinations, filled with culinary delights, fascinating history and culture and bursting with festivals and attractions.
To make the most of your visit, there are a few essentials you need to know. Here is our must-read travel guide to Hong Kong.
Visa & Passport requirements
Australian passport holders can enter Hong Kong for a period of up to three months without a visa.
Those who wish to stay longer must apply for a visa from a Chinese Consulate at least six to eight weeks prior to departure. As always, your passport must have at least six months validity remaining.
If you plan to visit mainland China during your stay, you will need to obtain the correct Chinese visa before you depart.
The legal tender is the Hong Kong Dollar (HKD). While all currencies fluctuate daily, the exchange rate is currently about 1:6 ($1AUD equals approximately $6HKD).
National Australia Bank (NAB), Westpac and ANZ all have branches and ATM facilities in popular tourist spots around Hong Kong and there’s plenty of other ATMs around.
If using a currency exchange booth while in Hong Kong, always shop around for the best rates and try to avoid exchanging at hotels or on your cruise ship where commission rates are often very high.
Electricity & Voltage
The standard electrical voltage in Hong Kong is 220 volts AC, 50Hz. Most hotel bathrooms also have outlets for 100 volts, but if not, you will need a transformer for conversion.
The majority of electrical outlets in Hong Kong take a three-pronged UK-style plug. You can buy an inexpensive adaptor at most convenience stores around the city or at a Duty Free shop before you arrive.
Hong Kong is one of the most accessible cities in Asia, with multiple transport options available. Options include ferries, trams, taxis, rail and buses.
Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway (MTR) covers much of the city and surrounding region, with links to the airport and Disneyland. The system is clean, safe, efficient, and frequent.
The best way to get around is with the Octopus Card. This handy card not only gets you access to most forms of public transport, including the train from the airport, but it can also be used like a debit card in select supermarkets, fast food stores, vending machines, cake shops, cinemas, theme parks and more.
Pick one up at the airport, or from any 7-Eleven, Circle K and CTS stores.
Free Wi-Fi services are available in many areas, including many shops, restaurants, parks, ferry terminals and entertainment precincts.
Free public Wi-Fi is easily identified by the Wi-Fi.hk stickers found around the city.
Hong Kong is surprisingly accessible for visitors who have special mobility needs.
Most hotels and shopping malls provide lift access.
For a list of suitable attractions, museums, temples and theme parks, use this handy accessible guide for more information.
Shopping Tips & QTS accredited merchants
The Quality Tourism Services (QTS) is organised by the Hong Kong Tourism Board to make it easy for visitors to find trusted and accredited shops, restaurants and hotels.
For a business to be part of QTS, they must pass annual assessments and meet strict standards of service and quality. These businesses can be identified by a QTS sticker in their front window.
Shopping is a major draw for Hong Kong visitors. Be sure to shop around as the competition is high among stores and vendors. Prices will be clearly marked in shopping malls, department stores and chain stores.
In some smaller independent shops and markets, prices may not be visible, indicating that bargaining is possible.
Usually the first price offered will be high, so be prepared to walk away if you don’t get the deal you want. Often, the seller will call you back to settle on a figure. Just ensure the price and currency is agreed upon before paying.
Be wary of any sales person who approaches you off the street and tries to take you down an alley or warehouse that has no public-facing shopfront. This could out you in a dangerous situation. The goods will most likely be knock-offs, or pirated.
If purchasing gold, jewellery or watches, bargains can certainly be had but ensure you are purchasing an authentic item. If buying gold or platinum, Hong Kong law states that a purity hallmark must be included. Avoid any person approaching you off the streets and only buy from a reputable looking store that offers legitimate sales receipts.
Most shops accept major credit cards. Inspect the receipt before you leave the store to check the price and currency charged. Be aware that some banks will charge an international transaction fee each time a purchase is made in a foreign country.
Additionally, always let your bank know before you go. This saves time and hassle should they cancel your card due to a foreign charge made to your card.
Plastic shopping bags attract a charge of HKD$0.50 for each bag used (around AUD$0.08). Many vendors will sell environmentally-friendly re-useable bags.
Hong Kong is famed for its food. Some must-try dishes include roasted goose, sweet and sour, BBQ pork and dim sum.
Like shopping, look out for the QTS sticker in restaurant windows. This will indicate that the establishment has passed a stringent assessment for cleanliness, as well as quality food and service.
The dress code is generally casual and while reservations are not typically required, they could be helpful for those busier dining times.
In some restaurants, it is common for waiters to automatically bring tea, condiments and non-ordered snacks that will be charged to your bill. Check with the waiter about such additional charges before being seated.
Seafood items are often charged by weight, and prices can vary by the season. Confirm the final price before you order.
Although tips are not required, they are appreciated, and often waiters will automatically add 10% to the bill for a service charge.
Food trucks appear in various locations around the city and are a great way to try local and international dishes. Avoid street vendors with food carts though as they are often not licensed, and the food can be unhygienic.
Getting to Hong Kong
For centuries, Hong Kong’s harbour has been a major shipping and transport hub, and it remains so today. With its two world-class cruise terminals and high speed ferries to ports in mainland China and Macao, the harbour is filled with activity.
Over 100 airlines fly into Hong Kong International Airport. Connections are available throughout the world.
Service to/from the airport is by train, bus, taxi and hotel pickup. Shuttle buses are readily available, as are high-speed ferries to mainland China and Macao.
The MTR’s high-speed Airport Express train is the fastest transport link to the airport and takes approximately 24-minutes to reach Hong Kong Island, where a free shuttle bus links Kowloon and Hong Kong stations to major hotels.
Both stations provide free in-town check-in services for major airlines when you’re returning to the airport, allowing you to check-in for your flight and leave your baggage. This convenience works well if you have a later flight the same day.
Taxis are readily available from the taxi pick-up area in front of the airport’s Arrivals Hall.
If you’re travelling to Hong Kong Island or Kowloon you’ll need to catch a red taxi.
If you’re headed for the New Territories you’ll need a green taxi.
Those going to Lantau Island will require a blue taxi.
All taxis in Hong Kong can take passengers to and from the airport. Fares are metered and detailed information about charges are clearly displayed inside each cab.
There are 12 convenient Airbus ‘A’ routes that can take you from the airport to key locations on Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and in the New Territories (including Lantau Island), with fewer stops than an ordinary city bus. When you exit the Arrivals Hall, turn right to find Airbuses and city buses.
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Transport to and from Mainland China
Hong Kong International Airport also serves as a land and sea transport hub for direct links to Mainland China.
If transferring to a coach, there is a coach station servicing Mainland China that is located in Terminal 2. Coach (bus) services link major cities in Guangdong Province.
Passengers transiting through Hong Kong International Airport on their way to one of eight ferry ports in the Pearl River Delta, do not need to go through immigration and customs or reclaim baggage.
Ferry tickets are sold online and at the Mainland/Macau Ticketing Counter located at Transfer Area E2 in Terminal 1. Passengers will then take the automated people mover to SkyPier to board one of the high-speed ferries.
To help cover the costs of unexpected injury, illness or trip disruption, travel insurance is highly recommended. Keep a copy of your insurance documents on you at all times and if you do need to visit a doctor or hospital, be sure to keep records, files and documents to help with claim processing.
Smoking is prohibited in all indoor public places in Hong Kong, including restaurants, bars, malls and karaoke venues.
The smoking ban is also implemented on public transport carriers, within public transport facilities, and in both the indoor and outdoor areas of some premises, including public beaches and swimming pools, escalators, and inside the Hong Kong Wetland Park.
Any person smoking or carrying a lighted cigarette, cigar, or pipe in a designated no-smoking area, will be liable for a fixed penalty of HKD$1500.
Hong Kong is remarkably safe. Like any city, common sense rules apply, but for a metropolis of this size, it’s an exceptionally safe place to visit. In large measure, this is due to Hong Kong’s diverse population and modern way of life, stemming mostly from its international business and tourism ties.
For general safety, always keep your money, valuables and travel documents in a secure place at your accommodation. If your room does not have a safe, ask the reception desk if they have locked boxes.
Hong Kong has a sub-tropical climate. The main typhoon season extends from May to November, when heavy rain and high winds can whip through the city.
Spring is March to May. Evenings can be cool, so take a jacket or jumper. Humidity though can still be high. Average temperatures range between 17-26 degrees Celsius.
Summer is June to Aug, the hottest months of the year with high humidity and thunderstorms. Average temperatures run 26-31 degrees Celsius.
Autumn is from September to November, and is the most pleasant time to visit. The season offers cool breezes, with plenty of sunshine and comfortable temperatures. Average temperatures range between 19-28 degrees Celsius.
Winter is generally cool, dry and cloudy. In urban areas, the temperature can drop to below 10 degrees Celsius, which for Hong Kong is cold. Average temperatures run 12-20 degrees Celsius.
Language & Culture
Hong Kong is a melting pot of culture and heritage, with a rich and storied history. From Chinese history, to British colonial rule that spanned a century and a half, Hong Kong has enjoys a diverse background.
Much of the population is Chinese speaking, but English is widely spoken throughout the city. Most signs are in both Chinese and English.
From ancient Chinese temples to a Victorian era cathedral, Hong Kong’s religious sites offer a unique link to the past. Weather it’s a centuries old Chinese structure, or colonial era landmark, the history of Hong Kong is preserved for all to enjoy. Hong Kong residents are experts at infusing the past with the present.
My Hong Kong Guide & Mobile Apps
Hong Kong Tourism Board has produced an app to help with your planning and getting around. It allows you to create itineraries, be inspired with recommended things-to-do and even downloadable e-coupons. The My Hong Kong Guide app is available in both the Apple Store and Google Play.
For a list of other recommended apps to download such as MTR maps, toilet locations, food truck locations, gallery list and free Wi-Fi finder, visit the Hong Kong Tourism Board website here.
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