Discover Asia's World City with the Ultimate Travel Guide to Hong Kong
Aug. 13, 2021
Aug. 13, 2021
Hong Kong is an exciting and vibrant city to visit, one which you will never get bored in, no matter what time of day! Located in the southern area of China, Hong Kong is a Chinese special administrative region, meaning that it is autonomous in all political regions except military defense and foreign relations. It consists of three main regions, Kowloon, Hong Kong Island, the New Territories, and over 260 additional islands. It is known for having the most skyscrapers in the world and also being the most densely populated city as well!
It is a melting pot of culture that truly defines “east meets west”; with deep history ranging from early Chinese immigration to colonization by the British, and a handover as a Special Administration Region of China, the region is filled with Eastern and Western influences that make it as remarkable as it is today. You can find specks of heritage through the city’s culture, architecture, food, and even fashion!
Hong Kong is a city that has ‘everything’, an iconic skyline, world-class restaurants, buzzing shopping malls, beautiful country parks, traditional streets markets, breathtaking temples, the list goes on! It’s an energetic and fast-paced city that makes a first impression like no place else. Keep reading to find out how you can make the most of your trip when in “Asia’s World City”!
You’ve made it to Hong Kong International Airport, known as Chek Lap International Airport, the city’s main commercial airport and hub! You might be on the edge of your seat to start discovering this thrilling megalopolis, but first, you have to get to the city centre. Well, we got you covered on your transit measures to ensure it is a no-hassle process, while an opportunity to soak up a local’s way of life when just arriving!
Before getting on transit, make sure to buy an Octopus Card at the airport if you’re planning to stay in the city for more than a couple of days. With this card, you can make payments on all public transportation, convenience stores, restaurants, supermarkets, retail stores, parking meters, and more! As an added bonus, with an Octopus Card, public transport is 4-8 percent cheaper.
If you intend on a short stay, you can buy the Tourist Day Ticket, giving you unlimited travel access for 24 hours to Mass Transit Railway and Light Rail Lines.
The Airport Express is the fastest way to get to the city centre, having a travel time of only 25 minutes. This train line has five stations across the airport that operate through a check-in system, this way everything is organized and makes an easier trip for you!
The fare to get to the Hong Kong station from the airport is around 15.44 USD (120 HKD) for adults and 7.72 USD (60 HKD) for children. The trains depart every 10 minutes from 05:54 to 23:28 and from 23:28 to 00:48 with a 12-minute interval. You can also download their MTR “Next Train” app to see updated real-time train schedules.
Public busses are a cheaper and convenient option costing around 5 USD (40 HKD), depending on the route, with a large number of busses going in and out of the airport to different districts in the city. Tickets can be bought in the airport at their special ticket office, or directly from the driver before boarding. The trip duration also depends on the route but is usually between 55 and 60 minutes. They run every 15 minutes from 6:00 am until midnight, with each bus having audible announcements in both English and Chinese.
Take routes №А10, A11, or A12 to get to the destination effectively! If you arrive at night, no worries as there are night busses that you can recognize by the ‘N’ letter.
Taxis in Hong Kong serve as an efficient way of getting door-to-door service to and from their airport. Head to the Taxi Station located on the left-hand ramp outside the arrivals hall. Hong Kong’s taxi system operates on a colour-coded basis, with red representing urban areas (except Tung Chung Road as well as roads in south Lantau), green representing New Territories areas (including the north-eastern and north-western parts of the region), and blue representing Lantau areas that only go to Lantau Island and Chek Lap Kok.
This is the perfect option for those who don’t want to rely on train schedules or use public transport, although it may be a bit more expensive. The fares usually cost around 82 USD (638 HKD), depending on traffic, with a travel time between 30 to 40 minutes and available 24/7.
There is so much to do and see in Hong Kong, a place that combines metropolitan entertainment and natural rejuvenation, it is truly the epitome of the best of both worlds! Relax at a park, visit the temples, go out into the city’s wild nightlife, you will want to see it all. We have listed the top things you should try and do during your stay. Not only will you be star-struck by the city’s lively and expeditious lifestyle, but you will connect with it as well.
Starting your day with a visit to Kowloon Island is the perfect way to see how the locals live. Wander around the streets under the morning sunshine and notice how life in Hong Kong unfolds; people going about their routines, stores opening, and the smell of street food vendors beginning to slowly spread through the streets, this is a popular activity among tourists to get a feel of the local life and people watch!
There are many traditional street markets where you can get some shopping and souvenirs purchases as well. To immerse yourself within the city’s culture, we recommend heading to Mong Kok Market, famously known as the Ladies Market, in the MongKok district. It is the largest and most popular outdoor shopping destination in Hong Kong, where you can get bargain-priced clothing, goods, and other accessories. Its name hints at its main demographic in what they sell, but they also have products and clothing for men. This market will give you an authentic atmosphere full of locals trying to get by their day; walk around, relax, and observe the fast-paced life.
Known as ‘Tian Tan’, this breathtaking site is a large bronze statue of Buddha located next to the Po Lin Monastery. With a height of 112 feet (34 meters), it is the second-largest outdoor sitting Buddha in the world! With its size, you will perfectly see it from ground level, but it is recommended to take the 268 steep steps to get a direct view of the statue and admire its creation. It’s worth it not only to see the Big Buddha up close and personal but to also see the beautiful views of Hong Kong’s sea and mountains.
The statue faces north of the region, guarding and looking over the city’s people. Tian Tan’s facial features were modeled after Buddha Vairocana from the Longmen Caves, and the clothing was inspired by the Cave 360 Buddha Sakyamuni from the Dunhuang Grottoes. Its intricate design represents flowing lines, a depiction of serenity and tranquility.
The third-largest island of Hong Kong is a wonderland of natural sightseeing with no skyscraper in view. It is home to one of the best local markets, beaches, seafood, nature trails, and waterfront bars. It is reachable by a ferry from Central Pier 4 for Sok Kwu Wan that takes around 30 minutes to reach the island.
Once you arrive, make sure to go on the famous scenic trail called the ‘Family Trail’. It is a 5 km hike or walk across Lamma Island, with no steps or steep inclines, making this perfect for those who want a gentle journey, families with strollers or with young children, while observing the peaceful atmosphere. On your journey, you will come across hidden gems such as the Tin Hau Temple, thrilling Kamikaze Caves where Japanese forces hid their speedboats when occupying Hong Kong in WWII, and amazing coastline views.
At the end of the trail, you’ll arrive at Hung Shing Yeh beach, a pearl coast with a BBQ area, small shops, picnic tables, and even a power station. It is quite popular, so for a more reserved option continue heading to Power Station Beach, a dog-friendly site that is known for its range of activities including water sports!
There are so many things to do at Lamma Island, it is a perfect place to unwind and decompress from the busy centers in downtown Hong Kong.
If you want to see a unique and unforgettable view of Hong Kong, this is the activity for you! The Peak Tram will take you to the peak of the region, rising at an impressive 1,300 feet (396 meters) high above sea level. Most people agree that riding this tram is the only way to experience the astounding natural wonders and sites that Hong Kong has to offer.
When at the top observe the views, visit the many cafes, shops, and restaurants they have as well. The tram runs from 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. every 10-12 minutes, with it departing from Garden Road and having a travel time of around 8 minutes. The fare for a single ride costs roughly 3.21 USD (25 HKD) and with a return of 4.63 USD (36 HKD). One of the world’s most popular and oldest funiculars is a must to experience. More information can be found on their official website.
Located in the busy Central district, the world’s longest outdoor escalator (over 800 meters) will take you to the residential Mid-Levels neighbourhood. It is a unique collection of 20 escalators that have a total of 14 entrances and exits! Allowing you to choose your own adventure of which neighbourhoods you want to visit, as well as a chance to explore Hong Kong’s best museums, antique shops, and historic buildings.
It begins at 100 Queen's Road Central, with the first section taking you to Wellington Street, where you can exit and head to Lan Kwai Fong, a popular nightlife and entertainment district bustling with pubs, dining, clubs, and fun! Enjoy the liveliness of the night markets or even relax by the harbour, this adventure is yours.
The escalators go downwards from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. to accommodate commuters, and it travels uphill from 10 a.m. until midnight daily.
Known around the world, Hong Kong’s cuisine serves some of the best food. With its influences from east and west, the city’s food culture has evolved into a unique experience that caters to all tastes. The cuisine is so iconic that the Michelin Guide has even dedicated a whole section to Hong Kong street food! With that being said, there are so many options (over 14,000) that intimidate most travellers, well we got the best districts to go to if you are looking for some unforgettable food!
As mentioned before, Lai Kwai Fong is famous for being the dining district of Hong Kong. This party hotspot has over 90 restaurants and bars, including Michelin-star restaurants and cozy wine bars. There is a taste for everybody, with the cuisine also being inspired by international dishes, ranging from Brazilian steakhouses to Mexican or French dine-ins.
We recommend heading to Luk Yu Tong. First opened in the 1930s, the teahouse (cha chaan teng) still has been able to keep its old charm and retain its Colonalist and Lignan flair. It has many favourites including dim sum, a must-try in Hong Kong, which are so special that they are hard to find in other teahouses. They serve variations such as stuffed fish maw and honey egg bomb. How delicious!
Feeling some seafood? Well, head to Lei Yue Mun, Hong Kong’s fishing village, where some of the city’s oldest settlements and seafarers reside. To get there take the line from MTR Yau Tong Station, where a pedestrian promenade will lead you to the village.
The process of dining is different but exciting, head to the market stall and pick the seafood that you would like to eat. They have everything from live crab, geoduck, clams, lobster, and of course a variety of fish! Once you pick the staff will fetch the catch, where you will have to take it to any nearby restaurant and have them prepare it for you.
This method is what makes the village so special, giving you a local perspective of how people in the village eat. We recommend having your food prepared at Gateway cuisine, due to their unbeatable waterfront views, or Happy Seafood, known for their cheesy baked lobster with glass noodles.
Local food heaven, Kowloon City never disappoints with its wide array of Hong Kong dishes. Here you will find the best family-run, locally-loved dining places that will fulfill your Cantonese Southeast Asia, Chiu Chow, and Thai fantasies. It’s also been dubbed by some as ‘Little Thailand’ to show how authentic Kowloon’s food really is.
You will find amazing restaurants everywhere, get lost around Lung Kong Road, Nam Kok Road, Prince Edward Road, Nga Tsin Wai Road, or Fuk Lo Tsun Road, and you will find your spot! We recommend trying Happy Together Hotpot, a restaurant that immerses you in the ‘old-school’ style of dining, with retro stylings and 70’s Cantopop music playing throughout the place. It feels as if you travelled through a time machine! The hotpot here is legendary, and you can order delicious delicious foods such as shrimp toast as well.
There are many different regions in Hong Kong that have their own unique qualities, some are known for their luxurious shopping centres while others are praised for their exciting nightlife. We got the best districts you should stay in during your trip, based on the different features they can offer!
Known as TST, Tsim Sha Tsui is one of the best regions to stay in if it’s your first time in Hong Kong! It is located just at the tip of Kowloon, referring to its name which translates to ‘pointy sand mouth’. You will find a diverse crowd here from luxury travellers to nomadic backpackers on a budget, all on the same journey to get the most authentic and vibrant experience Hong Kong can offer.
Tsim Sha Tsui is most known for its Star Ferry Pier (where you can take the ferry to Central) and its Clocktower. You will find a mix of everything here; museums, world-class restaurants, huge shopping centres, entertainment complexes, and places of worship. The diverse variety of activities make it a must-stay to those who are not familiar with Hong Kong, and we have the best places to stay if you choose this region!
Located just 5 minutes away from Kowloon park, this chic hotel is perfect for travellers looking for a quaint hotel at a great price. The hotel’s location and amenities are what set it apart from others. Offering a “4G Pocket Wi-Fi Device” and mobile hotspots with unlimited local data, this hotel is perfect for those looking to stay connected while traveling. Butterfly on Prat is also located near 6 shopping centres including the bustling Harbour City, and over 1900 restaurants. Plus, it is only a 4-minute walk from the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station and a 15-minute walk to the harbourfront and the Avenue of Stars (Hong Kong’s Hollywood Walk of Fame).
Operating in the heart of the city, Urban Pack is a hostel that was recently renovated to a modern and chic design. There are 9 types of rooms to choose from, including female dorms, private rooms, private apartments, and even student dorms, everyone has an opportunity to choose what best suits them. Urban Pack also has 7 common room areas, such as the ‘Sky Lounge’ and the ‘Chillout Room’ (seen in the picture), to name a few.
It is near over 700 different restaurants and over 60 attractions, with aperfect walking distance to many areas of the city! Urban Pack is also seconds away from the Tsim Sha Tsui station A1 exit, Kowloon Park, and the China Ferry Terminal. This is the perfect place for those who want an affordable, yet relaxed and comfortable environment.
Known as the skyscraper heaven of the city, Central is located on Hong Kong Island. It is a very popular spot as it is the financial and business core of Hong Kong, also for having a bustling and exciting nightlife that people specifically come for!
Central is loved due to its location as well, it's very close to the main attractions of the city, including Victoria Peak, where you can admire the city’s skyline, the colonial architecture, or the famous Hong Kong Park. If you love a fun and unforgettable night out, Central is for you.
A perfect option for those who want to have a 5-star luxury experience by Hilton, that is way more affordable than other luxury hotels in the area! With Conrad, you’ll be able to have scenic views over Victoria Harbour (that you can walk to in around 12 minutes) and a quick, 3-minute walk to Pacific Place, an entertainment and shopping centre.
The hotel includes everything you might need in your stay, cable programming, wifi, private bathrooms, recreational amenities (such as pools, health club, spas, etc). You’ll feel like in heaven when you're here!
If you’re staying on a tight budget and still want the best experience, this is the place for you! Mojo Nomad Central has one of the lowest rates in the area, they will even price-match if their rates drop even lower before you check-in. They are excellent with customer service, offering friendly service and transparency with their motto “It’s all about freedom”.
The hotel is close to Lan Kwai Fong, one of the hottest places for nightlife among the locals, as well as The Peak. The airport is also close, being only 40 minutes away. Additionally, they offer a variety of perks for their guests, including breakfast, a free minibar, superspeed wifi, social hour with the first hour on them, self-service laundry, a 24-hour gym, you name it!
Wan Chai is also located on Hong Kong Island and is considered to be one of the more budget-friendly areas in Hong Kong. It is similar to Central, only being 20 minutes away by MTR, but less crowded and more relaxed. It is a very popular area for shopping and also houses famous attractions such as the Golden Bauhinia Square, and the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC).
An elegant yet affordable boutique hotel, The Fleming combines modernity with history. Its architecture and interior design are inspired by Hong Kong’s iconic cross-harbor ferries, giving you an authentic taste of Hong Kong’s culture and pride.
It has an on-site restaurant, Osteria Marzia, that serves coastal Italian cuisine, a complimentary breakfast, intricately designed and clean bedrooms, and is minutes away from the HKCEC. All guests receive access to their state-of-the-art fitness centre, welcome lounge, and high-quality mattress with luxurious linen!
A Family run hostel since 2012, this is the perfect place for those on a budget who still want a warm and welcoming feel. The staff is very friendly and are available 24 hours. There are mixed, private, and female-only dorms, which all include free wifi and air conditioning, a small kitchenette, a lounge area with TV, luggage storage, a piano, and a computer station.
It’s located right near the Wan Chai subway station, giving you walking access to Pak Tai Temple, Central Plaza, Hung Shing Temple, and many shopping centres. Get an authentic experience right in the city!
Shopping, food, and fun are all found in Causeway Bay! This region began as a small fishing village that grew and transformed into the fashion capital of the world. It’s a modern hub of everything you would need in a city and a perfect place for families and children due to its number of attractions and accessibility.
Some notable attractions it includes are SOGO, a 13 level department store, Tin Hau Temple, which was built for the sea goddess Tin Hau (as an omen to the region's roots), and Victoria Park, the biggest public park in the city!
Located in the heart of Causeway Bay, this luxurious hotel offers spectacular views for a competitive price. Famous for its rooftop pool located on the 39th floor, guests can enjoy spectacular views overlooking the majestic Victoria Park. Amenities include all-day dining and a full gym with sauna facilities, plus the opportunity to bask in the glory of Victoria Harbour, before walking outside the front lobby and experiencing the hustle and bustle of Causeway Bay. The hotel is close to shopping, entertainment, and is just a few steps away from the MTR station.
Voted as the Best Hostel and the Most Popular Hostel in Hong Kong by Hostelworld, Yesinn @YMT is a great option for a budget-friendly stay with superb service! Following a stylish and colourful design, this hostel is perfect for those who want to be close to attractions and city life. The 25-story building is walking distance away from Temple Street Market and the famous Ladies market, both at which you can shop until you drop and get some nice souvenirs too.
All the rooms are very colourful and bright, with options from female-only, to single, twin, or double private rooms with en-suites. There's a small kitchenette as well and a guest lounge where you can chat with other travellers before heading into the buzzing Causeway district.
Hong Kong is known for its gruelling rainy season, with roughly 80% of the city’s rainfall occurring between May and September. Therefore, the best time to visit is October to January. These months typically have the nicest weather and are accompanied with comfortable temperatures and cheaper accommodation rates. However, if you are looking to experience authentic festivities such as Lunar New Year and Hong Kong Arts and Film Festivals, then February through April are best.
Tipping is typically not conducted in Hong Kong except in hotels, where it is considered essential. At hotels, if there isn’t a service charge already added to your bill, then it is considered mandatory for you to tip staff including porters, bellboys, and bathroom attendants.
An excellent time-saving measure for travelers is the use of Hong Kong’s MTR system (trains run every three minutes during peak daytime hours). This network of trains runs mostly underneath the city and can be much easier and faster than taxis (especially at night and for cross-harbour trips). To access the rail system, users must purchase a prepaid Octopus Card which can only be purchased using cash. This card can be used for public transit, supermarkets, fast food, bakeries, and even some vending machines. Although this card eliminates the need for cash, it is still beneficial to carry some cash with you in Hong Kong as you need cash to reload the Octopus Card and many local eateries only accept cash.
When leaving Hong Kong, if you aren’t flying out until later in the day, an extremely convenient service is the intown check-in, which allows you to check your baggage up to 24 hours before your flight outside the airport. Offered at both the Hong Kong International and Kowloon MTR stations, your luggage will be fully transported from the station onto the plane, ready for you when you land. Now you can enjoy your last day in Hong Kong without hauling your luggage around with you!
Note: Intown Check-In services are currently suspended until further notice due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
When dealing with electrical adapters, Hong Kong uses plug types D and G. Plug type D has three round pins in a triangular pattern, while type G has three rectangular pins in a triangular pattern.
The Lunar New Year is one of the biggest celebrated festivals in Hong Kong, along with Christmas! Commonly referred to as the Spring Festival, this event marks the beginning of a new year according to the Lunar Chinese Calendar. The first day of the month, according to the lunar calendar, begins on a new moon. This makes the festival begin on a different date every year, however, it always falls between January 21 and February 21. So if you are in the city during the Lunar New Year, make sure to get ready for a lot more fun and celebrations!
This festival is a particularly special event, so special that the first three days of the Lunar New Year are public holidays. At this time, families, relatives, and friends all visit each other and celebrate together. There is a big dinner on the eve of the holiday where families join each other to eat, drink, laugh, and enter the new year with joy and happiness. Most commonly, parents, grandparents, and others give a Red Pocket (called lai see in Cantonese) to children during this time. It usually contains money as an omen for good health and wealth for that person in the new year! It is one of the most traditional practices in Chinese society.
Don’t miss out on the many events that occur during the celebrations. On the eve of the Lunar New Year, flower markets in many districts start selling seasonal flowers such as Cherry blossoms; grab some to be in spirit with the locals! Make sure to attend the stunning fireworks at Victoria Harbour on the second day too. The third day is marked with various horse racing activities as well as visits to temples to pray for blessings in the new year. You might even see a traditional lion dance during the festival! This dance is a spectacular event to witness, it is a traditional form of dance in Chinese culture, as well as in other Asian countries. The dancers are dressed in a lion costume and perform a dance that mimics that of a lion’s movements for fortune and good luck. Lastly, throughout the entire festival celebrations, you must try traditional celebration food, law bok goh. Also called radish cake or pudding, it is eaten to bring in a good higher year, or goh in Chinese.
Hong Kong is a magical and busy city that makes it like no other place on earth. Its modern and bustling city centres contrast the many tranquil green spaces and temples it has to offer; it’s perfect for everybody, of all ages and interests! Hong Kong is a fascinating place to visit and with our guide, you’re more than ready to start exploring Asia’s most cosmopolitan city. Make sure to visit Hong Kong’s official travel website for updates about current activities.
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Originally Written: Nadim Kassymov, Elina Benedict, Gabrielle Goldson, and Jordan Boehk
Edited: Vinita Malik
Aug. 13, 2021