Hong Kong is a great city for a first-time visit to Asia. English as well as Cantonese are official languages so getting around is very easy. Before you go here are a few things you should know.
WHEN TO VISIT
Climate: The best time to visit Hong Kong is in the autumn from October to early December. The humidity levels are low and there is plenty of sunshine. Typhoon season is between May and October and it is extremely hot and humid around that time.
Currency: Hong Kong dollar
Conversion Rate: USD1 = HKD7.76
Tipping: Tipping is minimal. Restaurant bills normally includes a 10% service charge and taxi drivers don’t expect a tip. It is customary to round up the amount.
Cash: ATMs are readily available throughout the city.
Credit Cards: Credit cards are widely accepted most places.
Languages: Cantonese & English
Dialing code: +852
Phones: If you have an unlocked phone you can purchase a SIM card almost anywhere, at a 7 Eleven or any phone store. You can also get a Handy phone for loan at the airport. There is a hefty deposit if you lose it but it comes ready with data and phone access.
GETTING FROM THE AIRPORT TO HONG KONG ISLAND & KOWLOON
Airport Express: The Airport Express runs to both Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.
The Kowloon stop is located in West Tsim Sha Tsui. Single Journey: HKD90 (about USD12) Round Trip: HKD160 (about USD21)
The Hong Kong stop will bring you to Central Hong Kong. Single Journey: HKD100 (about USD13) Roundtrip: HKD180 (about USD23)
Taxi: Depending on where you go it is about HKD300-400 (about USD40-50) to both Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. There is an extra charge for tolls and helping to handle your baggage.
Uber: UberVAN: HKD342-421 (about USD44-54); UberBLACK: HKD503-632 (about USD65-82)
SEE ALSO: Hong Kong City Guide
Octopus Card: This will be your savior. The Octopus Card is an electronic payment system using a contactless smart card. It can be used almost everywhere, on the MTR and for all of the public transport systems, convenient stores, retail outlets, cinemas and more.
*Deposit: HKD50 (about USD7) You will get your deposit back when you return the card. It comes with an initial value of HKD100 (about USD13)
MTR: The MTR is the train system in Hong Kong and it is extremely clean and efficient. You can map your route with Google Maps or with the MTR app.
*Tip: You can use the Octopus Card or a pre-paid ticket at the kiosk. For the Octopus Card, tap in as you get in and tap out as your leave. The fare is dependent on the distance you’ve traveled. Also, pay close attention to the exit letters it will bring you closer to where you want to be!
Taxis: Taxis are extremely affordable and really accessible.
*Tip: If there is a red ‘For Hire’ sign, it means that it is available. If there is an ‘Out of Order’ sign on the dashboard, that means it crosses the harbour. So if you are in Kowloon and want to get to Hong Kong island or vice versa look for those taxis.
Trams: The trams are iconically Hong Kong! You can just hop on and off wherever you want. They are really cheap HKD2.30 (about USD0.30)! You can pay via the Octopus Card or with exact change.
*Tip: You enter through the back door and pick any seat on the top or bottom deck. You pay as you get off through the front door.
Bus: There is also a double decker public bus line. There are usually queues for each of the bus lines.
*Tip: You can use the Octopus Card, tap in as you get in and tap out as your leave.
Mini Bus: And then there are the mini buses. These buses are rumored to be run by the triads and the salary are dependent on how many trips they make on their shift. So, they are really fast! It is kind of overwhelming when you can’t speak Cantonese because you sort of shout at them when you want them to stop and they will pull over to the side of the road. It is also scary when they go that fast winding around the mountains.
OpenRice: OpenRice.com is the Yelp of Hong Kong, when in doubt you can choose a place that is highly rated on there.
Reflexology: Hong Kong is known for foot reflexology. So when you are tired from all of the walking and the sightseeing, there are lots of places to choose from. Some of my faves are Happy Foot, Ten Feet Tall and Fun Feet. And they open really late as well.
*Tip: If you choose one at random, beware of the ones with a sign of a foot with a happy face on them. 😉
SEE ALSO: Hong Kong City Guide
-by Chhorvy Ly