TRAVEL GUIDE TO HONG KONG

Last updated on 25-May-2019


CONTENT– Formalities / Travel itineraries / Places to See / Accommodation / Getting Around / Food / Cultural Sense & Safety / Shopping / Budget



Hong Kong is undoubtedly one of my favorite cities in the world. Back in December 2014, when I had traveled here for the first time, I had almost immediately fallen in love with this efficient urban setup, with diverse landscape to offer to its visitor. Technically, a special administrated region of People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong has so much to offer to travellers of all kinds: from Iconic skyline to elegant monasteries, to refreshing treks, to surfing beaches or theme parks. This city never fails to surprise its guests. If you are looking for a destination that has it all, then Hong Kong it is!

Discovering a city or a country on your own can be a rewarding experience and is definitely not as difficult as you might think. Particularly, traveling in and around Hong Kong is so easy that you would simply love to explore it on your own. Here is all that you might need to get started. So, let’s plan your trip!

HK Skyline from Victoria Peak

Formalities 

First thing that comes to mind when one decides to go on an international trip is the visa requirements. If you do require one, then what kind would it be and how easy or difficult it would be to process one? Hong Kong offers visa-free entry to many nations. Please check the Link to see if your country is included in the list.

Since January 2017, Indian travellers are required to process a pre-arrival registration with online registration, Indian nationals are allowed a stay for 14 days.

Once that is taken care of, you need to plan the duration of your visit. How long you would like to stay? And, what would you like to see?


Travel Itineraries 

In order to truly enjoy a city or a country, you need to spend some quality time there. It is interesting to notice that as you spend more time experiencing the place, you tend to sink in with the culture there. Believe me, it is such a rewarding feeling to blend in and know how a city or a country works. But unfortunately, not everyone gets a long vacation. So, here are a few itineraries that may suit your plan. You could obviously prepare a custom itinerary of your own, based on the attractions listed below.

4 Days (Rapid) – Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, Lantau Island & Ocean Park.

6 Days  (Moderate) – Include a trip to Macau and experience the magical world of Disney land.

10-12 Days (Relaxed) – Also explore the islands, the New Territories, Tai O and trek the Dragon’s trail.


Places To See And Things To Do

Things to see in Hong Kong
Lantau Island


Hong Kong Island – There are unlimited options to experience this incredible city. Catch a view of the iconic skyline from Victoria peak and enjoy a harbor cruise at night.  Explore the narrow streets inundated with shops and restaurants or visit a few temples and monasteries. Hong Kong Island has so much to offer. Ensure to explore the night markets and view the spectacular laser show at the harbor. Plan to spend the New Year’s Eve in Hong Kong and you shall have an experience of a lifetime.

Kowloon – To get a mix of an urban and traditional setting, explore Kowloon. Start with a walk on the Avenue of stars at the Promenade and then explore the museums by the harbor. Next, make your way into the mainland to discover the other side of the city. Get lost in the overcrowded Chung King mansion and witness the devotees predict their future in the Taoist temple of Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai. However, when it’s dark, do not forget to head back to the Promenade and view the laser show from the other side of the harbor.

Lantau Island – Take an interesting cable car ride up the hill where an extraordinary Tian Tan Buddha statue and magnificent Po Lin monastery shall welcome you with a pleasant surprise.

Ocean Park – Be prepared to experience an adrenaline rush as you take the electrifying rides at Ocean Park. Meet the most popular residents of the park – Panda bears.

Disneyland – If you are traveling with kids, it would a wonderful idea to give your children an exhilarating experience of the magical world of Disney. Adults and solo travelers could easily give it a miss though.

Dragon’s back – Want to stretch your legs a bit? Walk on the most scenic stretch of the 50km long Hong Kong trail.  This 7 km long Dragon’s back trail takes a short climb to a hilltop with impressive views of the ocean and then takes a steep descent towards a pristine surfing beach.

Explore the islands – Take a break from the skyscrapers and sail to the peaceful islands for a day or two. Lamma Island may not have much to offer in terms of comfort but it could be a good escape for trekkers who would like to discover an island by foot. The 4 km family trail would welcome you with some rural life, remote villages and deserted beaches.

Cheung Chau Island, on the other hand, is much smaller than Lamma Island but is popular among tourists. The main street, next to the pier is filled with shops selling interesting artifacts and restaurants serving world cuisine.

New Territories – Most people tend to skip the New Territories. But the elegant monasteries and embellished temples could be an interesting getaway from the city centre. Explore the region on a convenient and exciting light rail.

Tai O – Take a bus ride to the small and enchanting fishing town of Tai O. Walk by the stilt houses and watch the twilight paint this village in exuberant colours.


The Basics 

So if the above-mentioned highlights are exciting and you have zeroed in on the destination, its time to get some basics sorted.

As soon as you land, the first thing that you will need is some local currency.  There are multiple options – Carry some exchange or travel cards from your home country, approach the money exchange counters at the airport (They accept only cash) or simply withdraw some cash from a local ATM. Most places do accept card but it is always better to have some cash to be used at small stores and street markets.

Once that is addressed, walk to the MTR station (Metro station) at the airport and buy an octopus card. Octopus card is your lifeline in Hong Kong. They are accepted almost everywhere – In all modes of public transports, stores, museums and some of the restaurants.  In most cases, paying by card would attract exciting discounts. You could load the card at any 7-eleven store or MTR stations. While you are at the 7-Eleven store, it would be a good idea to buy a SIM card with good Internet package to help you navigate while you would be staying in Hong Kong.


Accommodation 

Picking a central location for your stay is important to save time and cost on travel. Ideal places to stay would be Kowloon or Hong Kong Island. Hong Kong offers a wide range of stay options.  There are plenty of guesthouses that offer rooms at around HK$ 300-400. The best place to stay would be Hong Kong Island and Tsim Sha Tsui. The former however, could be a little expensive. Chung King mansion in Kowloon is filled with several guesthouses. However, bear in mind that the rooms would be small in size.

My recommendation though would be to stay at YHA Mei Ho youth hostel. While dormitories are priced at around HK$ 300, private rooms could cost you about HK$ 800-900. Unlike other hostels, this place is popular with families. Though it is located slightly away from the central district, you could easily travel to your desired location by Metro or bus. Accommodation includes a complementary breakfast. Additionally, they have a common kitchen where you could cook your lunch and dinner if you wish.  If you are a solo traveler, you could also pick a suitable youth hostel on this website. 

If budget is not a constraint, then choose a luxury hotel in Hong Kong Island with a great view of the harbour. You could find decent rooms for around HK$ 1200. Island Pacific on Centre Street is a decent option to consider.


Getting Around

Hong Kong Trams
HK Island


Traveling around a city cannot get any easier than this. From buses to Metro rail (MTR), ferries to speedboats, light rail to trams, they have it all.  With your octopus card in hand, you could travel like a local to practically anywhere in the region. You could take the airport express or a bus to reach the city centre.

I would recommend you to take a ferry from the central piers whenever you have to cross the harbor. There are two piers spaced away from one another to avoid confusion. Central piers run ferries that cross the harbor or go to the islands. The second pier, near Sheung Wan MTR station, is the one that runs turbojet to Macau.

Outside Central piers you shall also find the City tour buses. They take you on tours around Hong Kong Island. If you are traveling for few hours then that may be your best way to see some of the key attractions.

In the New Territories, light rails replace Metros. Communication is mostly in Cantonese and English. Every MTR station exit has boards displaying the tourist attractions nearby and once you take the exit the signboards in pink colour would lead you to your destination.


Food

Hong Kong is certainly one of the top culinary capitals of the world. It would not be difficult to find a world cuisine of your choice. Cantonese, Sichuanese, Japanese, Italian or French, you can find them all here. Vegetarianism and healthy cuisine are trending in Hong Kong and there are quite a few vegetarian and vegan options in the region. Additionally, there are plenty of Indian restaurants to pick from. Also, most of the monasteries serve vegetarian meals.  However, it is always a good idea to confirm at the restaurant that they do not count fish as a vegetarian. A decent meal might cost you somewhere around HK$ 100.


Cultural Sense And Safety

Lantau Island
Tian Tan Buddha, Lantau Island

The impression I have about the people of Hong Kong is that they are extremely disciplined. A well-behaved queue is maintained even in extremely crowded areas. Also, the locals hardly interfere in anything that isn’t their business. But if you need help locating a place, they will try their best to guide you. Though most youngsters do speak English, if someone does not, they would gladly direct you towards someone who does.

Ensure to dress decently while entering a Monastery. It is recommended that you cover your legs up to knee. Safety wise, Hong Kong is one of the safest places I have travelled to.


What To Buy And Where?

I strongly feel that one must never return from a vacation bear-handed. Wouldn’t you agree? The markets in Hong Kong can leave you confused. The famous IFC mall houses several top brands. If that is not your thing, explore Temple street market, Jardine’s Crescent or Apliu St Flea market. You could also find flea markets at Sham Shui Po and Causeway bay. You will be surprised by the variety of products that are sold at a reasonable price. However, you will definitely have to learn some bargaining skills to strike a good deal. Explore the electronic shops of Mong Kok for some good quality Hong Kong products.

When in China, it is almost impossible to return without buying some flavoured tea. There are several shops that sell nothing but tea.  Taste a few varieties before you pick your flavour.


Budget  And Travel Tips

An approximate daily expense is listed below. All costs are in HK$.

Despite the lower conversion rate as compared to Rupee, Hong Kong is expensive than India. A decent meal would cost you close to HK$ 100. However, with some useful tips, you could considerably reduce your expenses here.

Choose the right mode of Transport – There are several options to travel within Hong Kong. But to know how they are priced would help you save considerably on your travel expenses. When you land at the airport, instead of taking the airport express, take a bus to reach the city. It is almost eight times less expensive than the airport express.

The buses take slightly more time but they are always cheaper than the metro. There are two types of buses - Ones that travel a long distance and others that are plying within the city limits. All buses charge a fixed price from your boarding point to the last stop, irrespective of where you get off. Therefore, if you board a long distance bus for a shorter trip, you will end up paying more on your ticket. Familiarise yourself with the map of Hong Kong and use an app that records bus routes and timings.

Trams are the cheapest mode of transport in Hong Kong Island. They charge a fixed price of HK$ 2.6 for adults. To cross the harbor, it would be reasonably cheaper to take a ferry for about HK$ 3. Taking a bus or metro to cross the harbor could be 3-5 times more expensive.

Pay via Octopus card – Your octopus card attracts interesting discounts in various places, especially on metro and bus tickets.

Cook your own food – I have often noticed that we spend a lot of money on food and water. This may seem simple, but it is always a good idea to carry a water bottle while you are exploring the city. Additionally, you could choose to stay at a hostel or hotel that has a kitchen. While you can try the local cuisine for lunch, you can return back to your room to cook your dinner.

Free visits to museums – Almost every museum would have a free visit on a particular day of the week.  Save a lot on entry fee by planning your visit.

Carry an umbrella – In HK you can expect a shower at any time of the year. Always pack an umbrella while visiting Hong Kong.

Free skyline views - Get some free views of the Hong Kong skyline instead of the paid ones. 65th floor of Bank of China building offers a free view for tourists. However, make sure to carry your passport along with you.

So, with that, I guess you are all set to discover this incredible region and have some exceptional experiences of your own. Quit that couch and explore the world!







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