Hong Kong, promoted as "Asia’s World City", begun as a small fishing village off South China. Rich in its Chinese customs and influenced by developments in Southeast Asia and the West, after over 150 years of British rule, Hong Kong has become a vibrant city and major financial centre of Asia. Today, like other world cities, it has more visitors than residents, and ranks number one as the most visited city in the world; many are repeated travellers.
With the best transport system in the world, it is no surprise that 90% of the population use public transport. Hong Kong is so accessible that visitors can easily enjoy a handful of colonial remnants, eclectic architecture and modern landmarks all within a single day-trip. But Hong Kong isn’t just all buildings and skyscrapers however, there is also the countryside too!
Hong Kong Tourism Board recently launched the “Great Outdoors” campaign to encourage visitors to escape and re-connect with nature. In Hong Kong, you will find hiking and cycling routes with experienced local guides. So, apart from culinary delights and shopping, natural resources—for both appreciation and relaxation—are becoming a popular reason to travel. Merely an hour or two away from the city centre, world class geomorphic (UNESCO Geo-Park) and birding sites (such as Mai Po) makes Hong Kong an accessible destination for and short nature-based excursions.
Hong Kong is an international financial centre. Its efficient and high quality professional services are attractive to foreign investors. But this would not be possible without its hard-working, bi-cultural / tri-lingual workforce.
High quality education is its foundation. Largely modelled on that of the United Kingdom, the quality of its tertiary education sector—with more high-ranking universities than any other city in the world—has attracted a numerous top academics and international students to the region.
Other than business and education, would Hong Kong be attractive without world class attractions? Probably less so. The legacy of colonialism and its international exposure has left a distinctive imprint on the city. From its built form—colonial architecture to eclectic “east-meets-west” structures (churches, hospitals and mansions), and modern landmarks; to the international sporting events, including Rugby Sevens and International Dragon Boat Races; and natural heritage, such as Geopark and Ramsar wetland conservation sites.
With infrastructure projects underway, connectivity will be even further enhanced. The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge will be, when completed, the longest cross-sea bridge in the world. Similarity, the Express Rail link expects to connect Hong Kong with mainland China— the most developed rail network system on earth. Located in South China and attached to a the hinterland of mainland China, Hong Kong has had its share of benefits in the past and these will no doubt continue to transpire as links become more prominent in years to come.
Because locals speaks English
British colonization means English has become an adopted official language. It is still taught at schools and widely used in office settings, but general language proficiency has dropped since reunification, post-1997. Unlike Singapore, where English became a post-colonial first language, for most in Hong Kong it has only ever been a second (or in some cases a third) language. Signage and transport announcements are often bilingual--meaning English and Chinese (Cantonese and/or Mandarin).
Because it’s a safe city
With the rise of international terrorist incidents, increasingly more and more travellers make a safe destination a priority. Unlike other global cities—Paris, New York, or London, you don't need to think twice about walking home at night. Hong Kong is a safe haven. Women can walk around free without being raped or molested. There is low risk of terrorism. Nobody gets murdered because of skin colour. Security guards are seen everywhere—in almost every commercial and residential building, plus shops remain open almost all day, until late.
Because it’s a convenient city
Hong Kong’s motto “time is money” is reflected in the city’s convenience. Talking about convenience, it has the most 7-Elevens in the world. Any visitor will notice the overkill of convenience stores plus the vast variety of restaurants. It comes to no surprise that Hong Kong also tops the charts as the city with the most number of restaurants in the world.
What’s more, Hong Kong is a public transport utopia. The urban concentration has created the best commuting city in the world. The system has been described by visitors as, modern, clean, reliable, and efficient, as well as featuring clear sensible signage and interchange. Unheard of in any other place, the public transport system is relatively cheap but actually a profitable enterprise too.
High densities also mean that the city is well-connected in terms of telecommunications. With a free flow and access to information, at the lowest rates, Hong Kong’s internet speeds and connectivity is unrivaled, even within Asia.
Described as a "food paradise", Hong Kong ranks first place as the city with the greatest number of places to eat. Besides being an entrepot, where non-local ingredients can be readily sourced, eating out is a much-loved pastime among locals. As such competition is tough, so generally quality and fast turn-around can be expected.
What’s on the menu?
The Cantonese live to eat. The importance placed on food is second to none and can be heard in everyday language. When the Cantonese greet each other, they will ask, “have you eaten?” (neigh-sik-zuo-fan-mei-ah), instead of “hello!” When it comes to food, they have a saying, “Any creature that flies, crawls and swims can be served”. Formerly a fishing village, the signature dish of Hong Kong is steamed fish. Yet this delicacy is terrifying to first time visitors of Cantonese food. It is served with skin and tail attached and eyeballs staring at straight at you! Spicy crab is more palatable and well-loved among western tourists. The love of seafood and noodles has produced its two most iconic dishes: wanton noodle soup and fish ball with flat rice noodles. Hong Kong’s geographic advantage has meant seafood remains a local specialty.
Traditionally Canton was a gateway to China and it exposure and infusion of the best culinary traditions have resulted in the nation’s most distinguished regional cuisine. Most notable of all is the Cantonese social custom of yum cha, involving sipping tea and eating bite-size portions of “dim sum”. Each bamboo basket contains delicately made dumplings. Other than eating, the main activity is socializing.
Roasted meats or siu mei are also an integral part of Cantonese cuisine. Often found hanging in the shop windows of Chinatown or in the streets of Hong Kong, roasted meats are served with rice or noodles. Most common of all are roast duck(siu arp) and BBQ pork (char siu).
Apart from its Cantonese inheritance, colonial influences mean that the culinary scene is also marked by localized off-shoots, particularly the cha chan teng. While its décor is rough around the edges or non-existent, it is the quintessential local afternoon tea retreat. French toast and Hong Kong milk tea or yuan-yeung (a mixture of tea and coffee) are all examples of fusion food and beverages sought after in the cha chan teng.
Most westerns assume that the Chinese don’t eat dessert. Besides the fact that westerners have a different idea of what constitutes as “desserts”—cakes and ice-cream, etc. In Hong Kong, Cantonese desserts or tong-sui (meaning sweet porridge or soup) are eaten in their own shore that provide an ideal venue to extend your dinner conversation. Often served hot (although there are many cold varieties), local desserts are available after lunch until mid-night or even later. Mango pomelo sago, or yeung-ji-gum-lo in the local vernacular, is a favourites—a cold dessert created made of mango and pomelo in a creamy coconut sago soup. It is yummy, nutritious and based on a mixture of locally and imported fruits and ingredients readily found in region.
Hong Kong is not Asian’s World City without a reason. Colonial survivals such as All day breakfast and English high tea remain popular. The Peninsula is known as the destination to go—this elegant colonial hotel, also the finest in Hong Kong, serves high tea at The Lobby from 2 to 6pm (HK$628 for a table for two).
As the city is one of the easiest places to start-up business, it is not surprising to find a number of expat chef-owner restaurants serving a number of regional specialties throughout the territories. Popular Asian varieties are most concentrated in Hung Hum (Japanese), Kowloon City (Thai), and Chungking Mansions (Indian). There are also a number of quality western restaurants, providing French and Italian cuisine at reasonable prices.
As the last of the British colonies with a significant economy, Hong Kong boasts a rich cultural legacy like none other. Through its built heritage, we can step back in time and discover how a colonial success story unfolds.
Hidden behind Hong Kong's skyscraper city is St John’s Cathedral, an early English Gothic Anglican cathedral. It is the oldest surviving ecclesiastical building in the city. While there is an ole' British Hong Kong feel about it, the cathedral attracts an international congregation. English, Chinese and Filipino language services are held throughout the day. When there is no service, its doors remain open to all. It is usually open from 7am to 6pm, daily.
Another notable colonial survival worth noting is the royal insignia. The best site to seeing it is Stanley Post Office. Although modest in size, the historical value of this post office exceeds its actual physical proportions. Built in 1937, this is oldest and in continuously use post office in Hong Kong. Why not pop inside to buy a postcard for your friends and family. As you queue, keep your eyes open and observe the building’s unique features. A rare King George IV “GR” insignia is marked in several places.
One of the enduring legacies of the British Empire is the use of English as an official language. In fact, the oldest and most distinguished university in the region is an English-only institution. The University of Hong Kong was established in 1911 to provide a beacon of Western learning and British culture. Featuring courtyards, quadrangles as well as a number of well-preserved foundation buildings including, The Main Building, Loke Yew Hall, and Hing Ying—the university’s foundations are reminiscent of Oxbridge. Although a campus tour doesn’t usually make it onto the tourist map, a Sunday stroll around the "Oxbridge of the Orient" may be a rewarding diversion away from the crowded city. Perched high on the hillside, navigation may be tricky, but you will soon appreciate that generally higher up, the harbour views are nothing to complain about!
Another way to embrace the harbour view in all its splendour is to go picnicking at Victoria Peak Gardens. Located at an altitude of 554m, the garden was originally the grounds of the Governor’s summer residence. Today, the green lawns, fountains and pavilions—all resembling a classic Victorian garden remain as the perfect family picnic retreat. This secluded site affords an unobstructed view over the entire city. It is connected to a free public lookout point, open 24 hours. At such elevation, do bring something warm to wear, especially in winter months. Take the Peak Tram (single adult journey HK$45, child HK$20) or a bus to the upper terminus. (Note: The Peak Tram terminus isn’t the highest point, the real Peak is a 30-minute hike upwards.) When you arrive, you will certainly feel “on top of the world” just at British colonial Governor of the day must have felt, looking down on everybody and everything! Here you will find the legacy of the post-colony city is etched into the landscape below that until now remains a manifestation of its success.
Natural assets are, to many, an unknown treasure of Hong Kong. Concealed behind the facade of a skyscraper city is an impressive array of natural resources awaiting exploration.
Exploring the great outdoors
Unknown to most, Hong Kong is truly a destination where one can get the “best of both worlds”. The ease of public transport makes the distance between city and nature closer than ever. As a renowned Australian nature lover and photographer Edward Strokes, once pointed out, “There is no large city in the world where access to country parks are as quick as easy!”
Hiking is classified as the city's most popular "hidden" activity, a third religion after eating and shopping! No matter which route you take, trails are conveniently signposted. Tai Tam, the 2nd reservoir in Hong Kong begun in 1883, it took 35 years to complete. Today, this engineering ingenuity continues to be in use and, best of all, is accessible to the public. A 5 km Tai Tam Waterworks Heritage Trail featuring 21 declared monuments—the greatest number of declared monuments along any route in Hong Kong can be easily completed within 2 hours. Hikers will not help but to appreciate the distinctively European (Neo-Georgian) masonry construction alongside floral diversity and mangroves. The best time for photographs is at Tai Tam Tuk after torrential rain.
Riding on the success of the country park scheme, the best of our natural heritage have, luckily, also become protected areas. The first designated site is a quiet and unspoiled 460 ha urban escape, merely an hour away from the city centre. At Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve, you can find rare and exotic birds, insects, butterflies, other critters, and among them, fireflies that produce a signature greenish-yellow glow. Despite the forested site’s protected status, it is accessible to the public. If you are coming for the fireflies, the best time is breeding season—between May to August, after 7pm. Come ready with your torch and mosquito repellent!
As the largest wetland reserve, Mai Po is the best birding site in Hong Kong. It is part of an internationally significant site under the Ramsar Convention. Located in Yuen Long, the northwestern part of the New Territories, it boasts the most comprehensive range of birds in Hong Kong – with over 380 recorded species have been recorded. Most sources claim 60,000 migratory birds come to roost here in the winter, but less conservative estimates claim a much higher figure of 90,000. Shorebirds arrive biannually, travelling between wintering areas in east Asia and Australia and their breeding grounds in Siberia. Spring migration peaks in April, and southbound birds are most abundant around September and October. Rarities—to keep an eye out for— include Nordmann's Greenshank, Asian Dowitcher and the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper. Despite impressive birding inventories—out-competing its neighbours (Singapore, North Korea) in terms of quantity and species variety— however, will Mai Po’s favourable conditions continue to sustain remains uncertain. Today, in the vicinity freshwater fish-farmers leave less fish for migratory birds. Untreated pollution and rising mudflat levels from intense urbanization are also a concern. Entry into the reserve is restricted. Visitors are required a permit. While free, it may take a month to process. Written application to the Agriculture, Fisheries & Conservation Dept. To maximize your experience, allow 4-5-hours. An experienced guide will be accompanying you, the fee ranges from HK$70-480. The site is a bit out of the way. First reach Sheung Shui by East Rail, then take KMB bus 76K to Mai Po—a 25min ride. Walk along Tam Kon Chau Road (担竿洲路) for 20 mins. Or take MTR to Yuen Long, then a 15 min taxi ride (fare approx. HK$HK70). Nearby diversions include Ping Shan Heritage Trail, Wetland Park and Nam Sang Wai.
Hong Kong comprises of more than 200 outlying islands and with such an extensive coastline, this means there's just about a beach for everything! From the city centre, by far the most accessible beach is Repulse Bay, a 35 min bus ride away from Central Station. Located on southern part of Hong Kong Island, it is especially popular in the summer. Lifeguards are on duty and shark prevention nets are in place. Contrary to popular perception, summer is not the time for surfing—winter is. Swells from the northeast monsoon produce the most consistent waves between November and March, making a surfer's paradise out of Big Wave Bay (Hong Kong Island) and Tai Long Sai Wan (off Sai Kung). And like Repulse Bay, Shek O is hugely popular among swimmers during summer, but when winter comes, it becomes a fought over kite-flying ground. But if you are looking for a quiet picnic spot, head to Turtle Cove on the southern end of Hong Kong Island. And if you are after a romantic evening stroll, head to the southern side of Lantau. Cheung Sha, Hong Kong's longest stretch of sand, stretches 3km from east to west is far from light pollution, making it an ideal stargazing spot!
Looking for a place to go with the family? Look no further. The diverse variety of flora and fauna at Kadoorie Farm in Tai Po, less than one and a half hour from Central, makes an unforgettable family outing. Originally founded in 1956 by two Jewish brothers to help local famers, today it has become a conservation and education centre open to the public (HK$30 adult; $15 child). As a sanctuary for rescuing wild animals, there may even be a chance to see recuperated wildlife being released back into the wild. From a child's development perspective, perhaps there is nothing better for parents to do than to spend time with their little ones, experiencing the great outdoors together.
Hong Kong’s UNESCO listed Geopark region covers 50km2 and is only a stone’s throw away from the city. To fully appreciate these wonders—some dating back to prehistoric times and learn about volcanoes, earthquakes, and climate change—will take more than two days. Autumn—between September and October—is usually the most comfortable season to visit. Sharp Island situated 2 km (or a 15 min boat ride) from Sai Kung peninsula is the easiest site to reach. The island is connected to another by a tombolo–a band of sand and rock, which is only visible when the water level is low. Apart from swimming and snorkeling, top-side diversions include wildlife spotting and a short family hike to Kiu Tau Country Park, where you will find the most peculiar “pineapple bun” rocks—are some of the few delights for those who dare to wander off the beaten track. The best of all, on weekends, regular kaito or ferry serves the island at a bargain of HK$20/ person, return fare.
In today’s global village, studying overseas has become the norm. Despite universities being highly ranked and the city being an international hub, few international students are coming to Hong Kong, compared to the annual exodus of locals venturing aboard as international or exchange students.
Opportunities and challenges with bilingual education
Part of the problem is a lack of campaigning to improve Hong Kong as an international educational hub. Sadly, there has been a concerted effort to recruit only mainland students with top grades to boost university reputations. About 80% of non-locals roam from mainland China.
Prospective students in the UK, and perhaps elsewhere too, comments they didn’t know you can get by without speaking Chinese, as we can tell, little information on studying in Hong Kong is available. What is not often realized was that most courses are taught in English and professors in Hong Kong are trained in the US if not UK. More than that, critical thinking and creativity are encouraged. But as for campus life or extra-curricular activities, this is when you a foreign country. Most activities are tailored to a local (Cantonese speaking) cohort.
Generally local and international students don’t mix. Education in Hong Kong, from the very beginning, has been a competition. Families go to great lengths to invest in their children’s future and good grades matter. Meanwhile, for international students study (and grades) are not a priority. Coming to Hong Kong is more about experiencing another culture.
Regardless of which major students take, a plus side of studying in Hong Kong are the chances to absorb the culture and pick up some Chinese. Speaking and reading Chinese will help you integrate better and also improve your employment prospects.
Factors that students should consider when evaluating suitability of a destination:
Safety and security
International background and cultural diversity
Quality of life and living expenses
Quota and visa requirements
Medium of instruction
Hong Kong is safe city. Most of the students are locals, a large percentage of the non-locals are mainlanders. The university environs are usually comfortable and easily accessible. Classes are taught in English with the exception of a few courses in Cantonese and Mandarin. Hong Kong is no longer a cheap place to live, however transportation, telecommunications and healthcare are significantly less pricey. University halls of residence are the most affordable housing option, but there is a high demand. Schools fee are a quarter of the price that one expects to pay in the UK. In terms of international ratings, Hong Kong ranks 2nd in Asia, behind Singapore, but is ahead of the game in terms of largest amount of quality universities in an Asian city. Recently, the most prestigious institution, University of Hong Kong, nicknamed “Oxbridge of the Orient’’ has been described as the best place to study dentistry in the world. Hong Kong Polytechnic University has been highly ranked for hospitality and leisure management and civil and structural engineering. Other courses that universities in Hong Kong perform well includes mathematics, accounting and finance, statistics and modern languages. Three universities offer 5-year traditional Chinese medicine programs.
China's strength in wellness and health tourism lies in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The tenet of such practice is to promote harmony and balance through holistic healing, drawing on the Chinese concept that qi (a vital energy source and life-force) is essential for overall health. TCM is part of an integrated healthcare system that lowers pain, improves hormonal balance and combat stress. As such, it has become a popular alternative or complementary form of medical practice.
Considering acupuncture, but don’t know about what to expect? If the idea of sticking many tiny needles sounds worrying, you are not alone. The idea behind acupuncture is clearing clogged channels, similar to clearing blocked drainage pipes. By inserting fine needles into precise points of the body, it triggers calcium flow and white blood cells to produce endorphins for alleviating pain and nausea. For first timers, some needles sting like a mosquito bite, yet others claimed, I couldn't even feel a thing! Women, elderly or patients with chronic disease or poor health have long enjoyed the benefits. The advantages is that is does not involve medicine and has few side effects, and able to cure rare diseases. It is recommended that a series of sessions are needed to be effective.
Skeptical of the benefits? Acupuncture is part of one of the oldest continuous systems of medicine in history. It has been around for more than 3500 years. This age-old therapy is based on the idea that the body is interconnected, what happens to one part affects another part.
Suited to strange and common illness that western medicine cannot tackle, it is useful for improving sleep, building stronger immunity, controlling internal emotions and reducing stress as well as alleviating pain—shoulder, knee, back pain neck or back; arthritis; migraine; nausea; and even stroke.
In Hong Kong, it is a legally regulated profession. Accreditation is available from local universities. Today, the benefits of TCM in improving health and well-being are starting to be recognised by Western-trained physicians.
But as an invasive treatment, it is always in the patient’s interest to ask the therapist if disposable needles are used. Feel free to go elsewhere if you are not happy with the practitioner's response. If bleeding is a health issue, acupuncture is not for you. But this does not mean you cannot enjoy the benefits of other traditional medicine, like herbal remedies.
The Chinese belief is that sickness enters the body through the mouth. As such consumption of proper foods and tonics are part and parcel of maintaining good health, especially when seasons change. Here, food is considered nourishment to promote and sustain a healthy life. Turtle jelly and herbal (or cooling) teas are well-known for its nutritional value and consumed to promote well-being. Herbal medicine controls inflammation, boosts liver function and fights free radical damage. The age-old wisdom of making herbal teas has earned a place in China’s UNESCO intangible heritage of Guangdong.
Cantonese herbal or "cooling teas" 涼茶 as they are locally known offer a variety of health and nutritional benefits. Each variation has different benefits, but each enhances wellbeing and provides relief for bodily discomfort, such as throat infecting, ache, and tiredness.
Bitter tonic that cleanses the digestive system and neutralizes the side effects of smoking and alcohol consumption. Also alleviates sore throat, high fever, common cold and flu, inflammations, hypertension and skin problems.
Canton love-pes vine
Slightly sweeten anti-inflammatory tonic that dissolves phlegm and soothe coughing. Also anti-oxidation, anti-aging, anti-cancer, antibiotic.
Luo han guo
Blackish, sweet drink, moistens the lung and helps throat infection and those who have a running nose or dry cough or those who overwork. Also has slimming and detox effects.
Sweet drink that stimulates all your senses, calms down nerves, relives sore throat, redness in the eyes, itchiness and dryness in the eyes. (If you’re allergic to daisies or ragweed, you might also be allergic to chrysanthemum)
Dampness Expelling Tea
Induces urination to facilitate elimination of toxins. Relieve fatigue, promote appetite and body weight management.
Lubricates the intestines and promote movement of the bowels.
Five flowers tea
Alleviate symptoms like fatigue, sore throat, indigestion, poor appetite, insomnia and urinary difficulty.
Special formula to fight symptoms of cold or flu.
Self-heal spike tea
Sweetened tonic made of flowers. Clears bacteria, enhances digestive functions and bad breath. Also alleviate headache, bone aching, as well as prevents hepatitis and heat stroke.
Warning: The medicinal properties of cooling teas can cause side effects like profuse sweating and urination, dizziness, chest oppression, and even palpitation and syncope. Elderly, children or menstruating women or others suffering from some weakness should not consume the drink.
The average price is HK$ 7 a cup and HK$ 20 a bottle. The price may vary from shop to shop. Flu tea is usually twice as expensive.
Herbal turtle jelly Similar to herbal tea, turtle jelly composes of a variety of natural ingredients. It thickens into a brownish-black jello-like product.
Herbal turtle jelly
Traditionally made from boiling turtle shell plastron. Taste is slightly bitter; honey syrup is added to make it palatable. Known to reduce acne and improve skin complexion.
Warning: Pregnant women or those on the period are advised not to consume this product.
Sold a dessert or herbal remedy. Price ranges from HK$ 30-50. It can be purchased from specialized tea shops or local supermarkets.
Hong Kong International Airport at Chek Lap Kok is the base of 4 airline companies: Cathay Pacific, Cathay Dragon, HK Express and Hong Kong Airlines. Cathay Pacific (CX) is the city’s main flag carrier, serving long haul international routes. Its subsidiary—Cathay Dragon (KA)—formerly “Dragon Air”, is a regional airline serving mainland China and Asia. Budget carriers, include Hong Kong Airlines (HX) and HK Express (UO). Hong Kong Airlines covers China, Asia-Pacific and some key European destinations, while HK Express traditionally focused on South East Asia and has expanded to China and East Asia. The emergence of low cost carriers had made travel and weekend getaways to Japan, Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, Cambodia and Vietnam more accessible.
For more information on flights, check individual carriers’ websites below:
MTR The MTR is Hong Kong’s subway and train system. It is modern, clean and safe, and it makes travelling convenient. The network serves Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Peninsula, and Lantau Island. There is also an above-ground service, such as the West Rail and East Rail, connecting you to the New Territories. What’s more, a high-speed Airport Express takes you from the International Airport to the heart of the city in less than 30 min.
All stations and trains are air-conditioned. Smoking, eating and drinking are not allowed inside the cabin or on station concourse. Most stations have toilets, but you may need to ask station staff. The usual fare ranges from HK$4–25, or by Airport Express HK$60-100. The price is the same throughout the day and most passengers pay use a pre-paid Octopus card. Payment is made by tapping the card on upon entry and exit. The fare is deducted upon completion of your journey.
During weekday rush hours (see “Other Considerations”), it can be crowded, particularly at the inter-change stations: Central, Admiralty, Tsim Sha Tsui and Kowloon Tong.
There are two connections to the Chinese border. Lok Ma Chau and Lo Wu stations (East Rail) connect to the Chinese border and Shenzhen Metro. Most visitors will require a visa to enter mainland China.
To help plan your route, download the “MTR mobile” app onto your phone. A map of the MTR network and each station can be found on the website:
Located at Chek Lap Kok, the Airport Express is an extremely efficient way to reach Central (Hong Kong Station) or the Kowloon (Kowloon Station). Trains operate from 6am to 12:30 mid-night, running at 12-minute intervals. The journey takes 25 minutes from the airport to Central.
One-way fares from the Airport to Hong Kong Station: adult HK$100, child HK$50; Airport to Kowloon Station: adult HK$90, child HK$45.
For more information, visit the following website:
The Octopus is a pre-paid card that works on all public transport. Actually, it is more than a travelling pass. It is a symbol of Hong Kong efficiency and can be used to make purchases at convenience stores as well. To pay, place it over the scanner until you hear a "doot" sound. It is recommended that you have your card ready before the pay-point.
Cards are available for purchase at all train stations, including the International Airport. Each card costs HK$150 (included in this price is HK$100 credit). You can obtain the deposit of HK$ 50 and any remaining value when you leave. Those without the card will pay the inconvenience of buying single journey tickets and fumbling around with coins. Passengers using the Octopus card can save 5% of the trip fare. And just like money, others can pick it up and use your “electronic cash” if you drop your card, so keep it secure!
An Octopus is recommended for travellers who will spend 2 days or more in Hong Kong. Otherwise one-day passes will suffice. Discounted cards for elderly (aged 65+) and children (aged 3-11) are available; you may need to show ID.
More information is available on the following website:
Apart from the MTR, Hong Kong has a fleet of buses—some of them double-decker, similar to those in London—that run regularly, and most buses are air-conditioned. Buses have signs above their dashboard indicating the route numbers and destination, in both Chinese and English. They will take you to places beyond the MTR line.
Passengers board at the front and pay upon entering. If you have not purchased your own Octopus card, you will be expected to pay the exact fare when you board. To alight, push the “stop” button, exit though the middle of the bus.
Hong Kong’s major bus companies include Citybus, New World First Bus and Kowloon Motor Bus (KMB). Plus, there is Lantao Bus, which exclusively operates on Lantau Island. Should you wish to check their schedule and routing, visit their websites or download an app. For more information, visit the websites of the respective bus companies:
Minibuses are 16 seater cream coloured vans with green or red tops. They serve much like a maxicab and go on routes that ordinary (bigger) buses do not reach.
While the green minibus has a designated route and fare, the red minibus does not. You can use your Octopus Card when boarding a green minibus. In most cases, you will be required to pay by cash on a red minibus. Remember to bring enough change, as the driver won’t give you any.
To flag down a minibus, wave your hands as it passes. It will stop, unless it is already full. If you want to get off, simply yell out “stop”. Otherwise, have your destination (address ready), preferably in Chinese—your concierge may be able to help you before setting out. Show it to the driver when you board or ask a fellow passenger for assistance.
For more information, click on the following website:
To download the minibus App onto your phone, search: 香港小巴
The old-fashioned trams provide a cheap and easy means of travelling around the northern side of Hong Kong Island. They charge a flat fare of HK$ 2.3 for adults, HK$ 1.2 for child and HK$ 1.10 for seniors.
Passengers hop on at the back. Payment is made at the front upon exiting. If the tram is full, wait for the next one. It will only take a few minutes.
For more information, click on the following website:
As a city with over 200 islands, ferries play a major role in the local transport network. The repertoire includes regular ferries, such as the Star Ferry, commuter ferries for the Outlying Islands, and private water taxis.
Star Ferry run between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Peninsula. Fares range from HK$ 2.50-3.40. Payment can be made by Octopus card or by buying a token at the pier terminal. For more information, click on the following website:
Commuter ferries to outlying islands, such as Lamma, Cheung Chau and Lantau. The fare can be covered with your Octopus or tickets can be brought at the terminal. For more information, click on the following website:
Taking private water taxis or “kaito” is also an option. The fare is negotiable and settled before setting off.
Taxis in Hong Kong are safe, comfortable and convenient. All of them have working meters and most drivers are hard-working and honest.
Taxis are colour coded, most are red, others blue and green. The red ones are found in urban areas, such as Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Green taxis serve the New Territories only, while Blue ones are found on Lantau Island. If you get in a green taxi in the New Territories and you want to go to Kowloon, you’ll be taken to a taxi station to transfer to a red taxi. If you’re unsure about which taxi to take, just take a red taxi. The fares of blue and green taxis are slightly lower. It starts at HK$24 (red), HK$20.5 (green) and HK$19 (blue).
To hail a cab, find one with the “For Hire” light on. Many drivers speak little or no English, so it is always a good idea to have your destination written in Chinese—your concierge may be able to help you. Taxis can carry up to 4 passengers—some take 5. The law requires passengers to put on their seat-belts.
It is customary to round up the fare. Taxis can charge extras for cross-harbour tolls and bridges. An additional surcharge of HK$5 is charged for baggage placed in the boot or when the taxi was booked. A machine-printed fare receipt can be obtained upon request.
The fare from the airport to Tsim Sha Tsui and Central costs HK$ 350 and HK$ 450 respectively, including bridge or tunnel tolls. Fares should be paid in cash. Generally, aim to pay with HK$ 100 notes, and not with anything greater, in case the driver does not have the correct change. Unlike other modes of transport, Octopus transactions are not accepted.
The rush hour is between 7:30-9:30 am and 5:00-7:00 pm. If you need to be somewhere during these times, plan your trip ahead of time. Avoid travelling during the peak hours if possible.
Renting a car in Hong Kong is not advisable. Streets are narrow and busy, plus parking lots are small and require considerable skill. Should you need the convenience of a car, consider a hiring a driver as well, your hotel may be able to help.
Bicycles are not the usual mode of transport, unless you are in the New Territories. Cycling is a recreational activity. Bicycles rental stores are found the New Territories, most abundant in Tai Wai, Shatin, Tai Po or Yuen Long an near cycling tracks.
Stone age settlements in coastal areas
The “Great Five” clans settle in the “New Territories”
Evacuation of coastal areas; repopulation by Hakka inhabitants
Foreign trade begins with British East India Company, opium ban ignored
First Opium War
BRITISH COLONISATION (1842-1997)
Hong Kong Island officially ceded to Britain under Treaty of Nanking
Kowloon Peninsula ceded as part of Convention of Peking, Second Opium War
Hong Kong Shanghai Bank founded
Bubonic plague kills 2500 Chinese
New Territories and outlying islands leaded to Britain for 99 years
Japanese invade China
1941 – 1945
Japanese Occupation, the darkest “3 years and 8 months” in history
Communist victory, formation of P.R. of China; Hong Kong population influx
Shek Kip Mei Fire inspires city-wide public housing program
Great famine during the Great Leap Forward; another population influx
1966 – 1967
Bruce Lee makes his first leading actor film “The Big Boss”
Typhoon Hope leaves 12 dead
Mass Transit Railway (MTR) opens
Joint Declaration, Hong Kong’s "One Country, Two Systems" after 1997
Tiananmen massacre; massive pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong
Mai Po Ramsar Wetland Conservation
Hong Kong becomes a Special Administrative Region of China
REUNIFICATION & BEYOND (since 1997)
International airport opens at Chek Lap Kok
Hong Kong Disneyland opens
Beijing Olympics; Hong Kong holds the equestrian event
Hong Kong Geopark gains world status
A basic estimate of daily spending (per person) is illustrated below.*
Staying in a guesthouse or backpacker.
Food & Drink
Cha-chaan–teng (Hong Kong cafe), street food, dai-pai-dong (open-air foods stalls).
Take public transport: star ferry, tram, MTR, bus and go by foot.
Staying in a 5-star service hotel.
Food & Drink
Hotel breakfast, fine dining, yum-cha, high-tea, and seafood.
Airport pick-up, limousine service and taxi
Total basic daily spending HK$450 (US$ 60)
Total basic daily spending HK$4,000 (US$ 500)
*This excludes sightseeing, shopping and other personal tourism activities, such as beauty care and hiring eco-guides.