Rising from its colonial roots, Hong Kong has transformed rapidly into one of the most modern, thriving cultural and economic centres in Asia. A delicate fusion of East meets West, Hong Kong is distinctly charming and quaint, yet uber-efficient and bureaucratic all at once. Hong Kong is well worth a visit, whether on holiday, study or work and is definitely a must for all nomads and travel lovers.
Note: If I must say so, I am most quite biased favourably towards Hong Kong (which might show in my writing a little), since it is my birthplace and place of my heritage and cultural roots. Nonetheless, I still want to present you some travel tips and write a short guide on how to navigate Hong Kong – hopefully you find this interesting or useful!
One of the first things you should probably purchase in Hong Kong is an Octopus Card (八達通). It’s the equivalent to a metro or public transport smart card, and can get you to almost any destination within Hong Kong for cheap and very quickly.
The card is compatible with any MTR, bus, minibus, and can even be used across a range of retail outlets, food and convenient stores and carparks where payment can be transferred electronically by tapping onto the readers. Note – the Octopus card typically cannot be used on taxis, so make sure you can pay by cash if you are taking one!
An Octopus card can be purchased from any MTR station including at the Airport Express station and the balance can be refunded including the $50HKD deposit, subject to other fees.
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You are never limited for choice when shopping in Hong Kong. In fact, I actually much prefer shopping in Asia than back in Australia or most other Western countries.
You can find anything in Hong Kong, from antiques to the latest technology, gadgets and gizmos to cheap food and clothing and luxury goods, all at competitive prices. Apart from massive retail chains, Hong Kong also has a range of local boutiques and smaller stores which are located in busy main roads and side alleys and filled with plenty of goodies.
Bargaining may be acceptable in some stores, especially small shops and markets, but refrain from doing so in retail chains.
Shops tend to open on the later side of the day – so be prepared to wait until 10-12pm for some stores to even open! The great thing is that shops also close quite late – many shopping centres close around 9-10pm every day and the streets are usually bustling even up until midnight most days.
Some great malls and shopping districts include:
- Kowloon: APM, Megabox, Telford Plaza, Festive Walk, Elements, 1881 Heritage, Harbour City
- Hong Kong Island: SOGO, IFC Mall, Times Square, Landmark, Fashion Walk
- New Territories: New Town Plaza, Tsuen Wan Plaza
- Lantau Island: City Gate Tung Chung
A visa is typically not needed to visit Hong Kong, unless you intend to extend your stay above 3 months – it is advisable to check with your individual country for more specific information.
The predominantly spoken languages in Hong Kong are Cantonese and English, with some Mandarin. Luckily for tourists, the multi-lingual nature of Hong Kong makes it considerably easier to travel around without much hassle. The younger generation in Hong Kong are typically quite proficient in English, but it is not widely spoken in public or understood by many. Moreover, official forms, documents and registries don’t always accomodate non-Chinese speakers, and most offical forms may be solely in Chinese.
Hong Kong is quite a humid place, meaning that the effects of the heat and cold are often amplified in summer and winter respectively. In any case, it would be wise to bring an extra layer no matter what the season, as the air condition can be quite strong indoors and in public areas.
I tend to prefer traveling in Autumn or Winter, where the weather is considerably cooler (mind you summer gets extremely hot and sticky!), but it is entirely up to preference and what works best with your schedule.
Places of interest
Ten Thousand Buddha Monastery (Man Fat Tse)
Tai O Fishing Village
The Golden Bauhinia
Po Lin Monastery
Star Ferry Pier
Avenue of the Stars
Chi Lin Nunnery