When visiting Hong Kong you will quickly realize how global of a city it is, but it’s more than just a modern metropolis.  Those visiting Hong Kong for the first time might be surprised just how much there is to see and do in this seemingly small area.  Hong Kong consists of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Peninsula, the New Territories, and well over 200 different islands in the South China Sea.

Is Hong Kong in China?

Hong Kong is now technically a part of China again (a Special Administration Region SAR), it’s a lot different than mainland China.  From years of British rule, it is not only a fascinating mix of East and West, but it is easier for travelers to navigate — especially first time visitors to Asia.  And, it’s easy for travelers to visit Hong Kong than it is to visit the rest of China; making it a great place for first time Asia visitors!

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Visiting Hong Kong Travel Basics

Visiting Hong Kong Travel Basics:  Getting In (and Out)

Given it’s location, the most popular way for people to visit Hong Kong is by air.  The Hong Kong international airport is a large, well-connected airport with direct flights coming from all over the world. There is no doubt that you will find plenty of flight options to and from Hong Kong.

You can also enter Hong Kong by water. There are ferries that come from mainland China, as well as nearby Macau (another special administrative region in China). The thing to keep in mind with ferries is that there is sometimes a limit on luggage.  Another popular way for people to arrive in Hong Kong is by cruise ship.  Hong Kong is a popular port of call for many cruise lines traveling around Asia.

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Josh relaxing on the train between Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China. An easy and very comfortable 2 hour ride for visiting Hong Kong.

The final way to enter Hong Kong is by land. The only land border that Hong Kong has is with Shenzhen, China. The good news is that if you have already done all the work to obtain your Chinese visa, then entering Hong Kong from Shenzhen is super easy. You can choose to enter Hong Kong by bus, as well as by train. Crossing the border between Shenzhen China and Hong Kong is a fairly easy process.

Visiting Hong Kong Travel Basics:  What you Need to Know

Visa requirements for Hong Kong

For many short-term travelers, including those of us from the USA, you do not need to get a visa to visit Hong Kong…even though it is a part of China now. You will be granted entry upon your arrival with a special slip to keep in your passport (they no longer give stamps).

Language(s) in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has a unique history.  Even though it has a rich Chinese heritage, it was under British rule for quote some time. Therefore, Hong Kong uses both English and Chinese languages (and sometimes Cantonese, given it’s proximity to that region of China). For most tourists, if you stay within the popular areas of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, you will find that English is widely spoken.

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You will notice that most signs when visiting Hong Kong are in both English and Chinese.

However, if you venture deep into the New Territories (countryside), then you could run into pockets of locals who have limited English skills. But rest assured, nearly all signs will be in both English and Chinese. Tourists generally do not have trouble getting around the main areas of Hong Kong.

What is Hong Kong’s Currency & Banking?

Even though Hong Kong is now technically part of China, it still uses its own currency; the Hong Kong dollar.  Being a financial hub of Asia, there are many ways to get access to money while traveling.

Being a financial hub in Asia, there are banks literally everywhere in Hong Kong, including many international banks.   You should have no trouble finding a bank ATM that will accept your card so that you can get cash out.  Getting cash out of the ATM is the best way to get local currency because you will get a fair exchange rate, even though you may have a small bank fee.

You will find money exchangers here if you need to use them, but they always charge higher fees and tend to give unfavorable rates.  We avoid them in favor of ATMs, when they are available.

POP Travel Tips:  In addition, some ATMs in Hong Kong will give you a choice to get cash out in Hong Kong dollars or Chinese Yuan (RMB).  If you are planning to visit China, it’s worth getting some local Chinese currency in advance of your arrival!

octopus cardAnother option is to use the local Octopus card.  This is a metro card that is used for most all types of public transportation in Hong Kong, such as the bus or underground subway / train.  These cards can be purchased at the Hong Kong MTR stations, and reloaded with money at various machines around town.

Octopus cards can also be used to make purchases at certain stores, such as 7-11. So if you plan to be in Hong Kong for a while, you can always get an Octopus card and reload it as needed with cash.

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Use your Octopus card to pay at many places around Hong Kong – including McDonalds! Just look for the orange card reader machine. – Visiting Hong Kong Travel Basics

Using Credit Cards in Hong Kong

Credit cards are widely accepted all over Hong Kong, including Visa & Mastercard.  American Express can still be difficult to find, but some areas in the heart of the city will accept it. You will also find many outlets that accept UnionPay — which is China’s primary card system.  However, you should always keep cash on hand, especially if you are visiting local markets or plan to travel outside the main city — they will not take credit cards in those places.

Safety in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is one of the safest cities in Asia and especially if you are traveling here as a solo traveler.  Violent crime is a rarity, and even petty crime is low compared to many large cities of this size.  Aside from the typical worries of pickpockets in busy, touristy areas, I would not worry too much about theft (although, it certainly can happen).  Tourists shouldn’t be too concerned, and even solo female travelers should feel safe in Hong Kong.

Traffic can get bad in Hong Kong, so walking is popular.  Hong Kong has great sidewalks and elevated walkways (they even have their own escalator-highway for people to commute up and down the mountain between Central and the Mid-Levels districts!).  So walking isn’t a problem in Hong Kong.

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Visiting Hong Kong – Elevated Walkways & Efficient Transportation

You will find that people (for the most part) do follow the traffic signals too!  But many of the roads are quite narrow in Hong Kong, so do be careful not to lean out into traffic — even an arm or leg out just a few inches could get taken off by a bus!

What is the Climate / Temperature in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong is a tropical, monsoon climate, but there is a difference between the summer and winter.  In January and February the temperatures average 16 celcius …but can drop to juts above freezing!  The winter months can also be quite foggy.

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In the winter,  visiting Hong Kong can get chilly – so bring your coats!

The summer averages around 28, but can rise into the 30’s.  This summer heat is made more brutal by the extreme humidity. In fact, 80% of the rainfall in Hong Kong happens during the monsoon season of May – September.

As a result, the recommended time for visiting Hong Kong is October / November for a more pleasant experience.  If you visit during the monsoon season, be sure to bring a raincoat / umbrella at all times — because the rain comes and goes suddenly.  Also, be sure to drink lots of water and take breaks.  Hong Kong’s hilly environment (on Hong Kong Island in particular) can over exhaust visitors quickly.


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