Visiting Hong Kong – Tips for Travelers

Hong Kong is perhaps the easiest city in Asia for English visitors. Its more than 150-year history has left a legacy of English signage everywhere. Most people speak some English, and many speak it fluently (the exception seems to be cab drivers!)

Hong Kong is both a province and an Island. The island itself is where most of the tourist hotels and sites are, and the Central area is only about a mile square, so it is compact, to say the least. Most of Central is very walkable. A lot of it is built on land filled into the bay in the past 100 years (much of it recently) so that part is flat. The more historic area rises steeply up the hillside, but there are steps and even a very, very long escalator.

One tricky thing is that some of the main roads are impossible to cross at ground level, so you may have to look for an overhead walkway to get where you’re going.

In addition to Hong Kong island, the other major areas of interest are Kowloon, a business district right across the bay, and Lantau island, the next island over, where the Hong Kong International Airport and Disneyland are located.

All of the islands are connected by bridges, tunnels, and ferries.

Getting Around

Transportation in Hong Kong is very easy and very inexpensive. The cabs, which are red, are readily available anywhere there isn’t a double yellow line along the curb, and particularly at the many taxi stands.

Taxi fares are incredibly cheap. The base fare is $24HKD, which is $3USD.  You can get most places within Central for just this base fare. Even going to Kowloon is less than $10USD. A taxi ride all the way to Disneyland or the airport on Lantau is only about $50USD.

Even more economical is the MTR, Hong Kong’s version of London’s tube. The trains are ultra-long, new, sleek, clean, and run on time. Train fare is incredibly cheap. Hong Kong to Lantau is under $3USD.

MTR station at Tung Chung on Lantau – that “bug” is the MTR logo

There are several main lines, red, orange, green and blue being the most useful to tourists. Navigating the system using Google Maps or the very clear signage is easy, and signs in the train show you where you are graphically, and how you can connect.

You use the MTR Octopus card to ride the MTR. Just load it with funds from your credit card. It’s best not to get the tourist day pass, as that is overpriced and doesn’t work everywhere the real Octopus does.

MTR Octopus Card

You tap your Octopus card on the way in to the MTR, and again on the way out.

The card also works on the buses (which are all clearly numbered) and the double-decker electric trams that run on the major streets in Hong Kong island. It even works on the Star Ferry from Hong Kong to Kowloon. The Ferry fare is about 30 cents!

Hotels

The best place for tourists to stay is near Central Hong Kong. For example, the Landmark Mall is in the midst of things, and has an attached Mandarin Oriental. There is also the original Mandarin Oriental just two blocks away. Don’t mix them up! There are also many other nearby hotels, including the Marriott and Shangri-La. We loved our room at the Grand Hyatt, but it is attached to the Convention Center, about a mile away, and is a short but arduous multi-level walk from the MTR station and bus lines.

Dining

Many of the best restaurants are also in the area. One of the top restaurants in the word is Amber at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental. l’Atelier’s Hong Kong location is also at Landmark. (We hated Pierre, at the other Mandarin Oriental.)

Of course there are lots of places to sample the local Cantonese food, which you will find fairly similar to Chinese restaurant food in the US. The dim sum is probably the best bet.

Here are some good prospects:

Things To Do

A walk through Central, especially climbing the steps up to the mid levels, will reveal lots of local fruit, vegetable, and meat markets. Check out the Soho district, south of Hollywood Boulevard, and all the antique shops along Hollywood.

Take the ferry or MTR across the harbor to Tsim Sha Tsui for views looking back at Hong Kong Island.

Take the MTR to Tung Chung on Lantau Island to ride the cable car up to the Big Buddha at Ngong Ping. The view on the way up is spectacular.

Another good view, right on Hong Kong Island, is achieved by taking the Peak Tram funicular to the top of Victoria Peak.

Weather

If you think Orlando is hot and muggy, you haven’t been to Hong Kong! It’s that and more. We saw lots of locals walking around holding a personal fan under their chins! You don’t want to be in the sun, so bring an umbrella for both rain and shade. Better yet, visit in January or February when the temperature (but not the humidity) is much more pleasant.

It’s a great city. Enjoy your Hong Kong visit!

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