Hong Kong (香港 Heūng góng in Cantonese, meaning fragrant harbor) is a place with multiple personalities; the population is mainly Cantonese Chinese but British influence is quite visible. It is a unique destination that has absorbed people and cultural influences from places as diverse as Vietnam and Vancouver and proudly proclaims itself to be Asia's World City.
Hong Kong has been a major destination for both tourists and business people from around the world for at least a century, and today it is also a major tourism destination for China's increasingly affluent mainland population.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China is much more than a harbor city. The traveler weary of its crowded streets may be tempted to describe it as Hong Kongcrete. Yet, this territory with its cloudy mountains and rocky islands is mostly... Read more
Hong Kong (香港 Heūng góng in Cantonese, meaning fragrant harbor) is a place with multiple personalities; the population is mainly Cantonese Chinese but British influence is quite visible. It is a unique destination that has absorbed people and cultural influences from places as diverse as Vietnam and Vancouver and proudly proclaims itself to be Asia's World City.
Hong Kong has been a major destination for both tourists and business people from around the world for at least a century, and today it is also a major tourism destination for China's increasingly affluent mainland population.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China is much more than a harbor city. The traveler weary of its crowded streets may be tempted to describe it as Hong Kongcrete. Yet, this territory with its cloudy mountains and rocky islands is mostly a rural landscape. Much of the countryside is classified as Country Park and, although 7 million people are never far away, it is possible to find pockets of wilderness that will reward the more intrepid tourist.
Hong Kong has a subtropical climate with at least one season to match your comfort zone. Boasting one of the world's best airports, it is the ideal stopover for those who wish to travel deeper into Asia.
While part of the People's Republic of China, Hong Kong operates as a Special Administrative Region with a high degree of autonomy, and so for most visitors it is effectively a different country. Visa requirements, laws, currency, culture and language are different from the rest of China. Since the handover from the British in 1997, Hong Kong has operated under a "One Country, Two Systems" principle, maintaining most laws and government structures from colonial times. Hong Kong enjoys many Western-style freedoms unheard of on the Chinese mainland, and many locals are proud of it. The ideals of a free and open society are firmly rooted here.
Hong Kong Island (香港島) gives the territory of Hong Kong its name and is the place that many tourists regard as the main focus. The parade of buildings that make the Hong Kong skyline has been likened to a glittering bar chart that is made apparent by the presence of the waters of Victoria Harbour. To get the best views of Hong Kong, leave the island and head for the Kowloon waterfront opposite.
The great majority of Hong Kong Island's urban development is densely packed on reclaimed land along the northern shore. This is the place the British colonizers took as their own and so if you are looking for evidence of the territory's colonial past, this is a good place to start. Victoria was once the colony's capital but has been re-branded with a more descriptive name, Central. Here you will find the machinery of government grinding away much as it always has done, except that Beijing, not London, is the boss that keeps a watchful eye. Seek a glimpse of government house (香港禮賓府) which was formerly home to 25 British governors and is now the official residence of the Chief Executive CY Leung. Nearby, the Legislative Council (LegCo) continues to make the laws that organize the territory.
Rising up from Central is the Escalator and the Peak Tram. The famous 800-meter escalator passes through the hip district of Soho and takes you into the residential neighborhood known as the Mid-Levels because it is half-way up the mountain. Up top is Victoria Peak, known locally as The Peak, the tallest point on the island where foreign diplomats and business tycoons compete for the best views of the harbor from some of the most expensive homes to be found anywhere. Most tourists do not go much further than the Peak Tram but take a short walk to the top and you will escape the crowds and be rewarded with some of the best harbor views. It is worth investing in a good map from leading bookshops in Central if you want to enjoy some of the superb footpaths that criss-cross the island.
The southern side of the island has developed into an upmarket residential area with many large houses and expensive apartments with views across the South China Sea. The island's best beaches, such as Repulse Bay, are found here and visitors can enjoy a more relaxed pace of life than on the bustling harbor side of the island. Wan Chai and Causeway Bay are the most visited neighborhoods on the northern side of the island.
Kowloon (九龍) is the peninsula to the north of Hong Kong Island. With over 2.1 million people living in an area of less than 47 square kilometers, Kowloon is one of the most densely populated places on the planet and has a matching array of places to shop, eat and sleep. Tsim Sha Tsui (尖沙咀), the tip of the peninsula, is Kowloon's main tourist drag and has a mix of backpacker and high-end hotels. Further north, Mong Kok (旺角) has a huge choice of shops and markets in an area of less than a square kilometer. Kowloon side, as it is often known, managed to escape some of the British colonial influences that characterize the Hong Kong Island side. Kowloon real estate prices are the highest in the world, with multiple flats in West Kowloon setting worldwide records for their multi-million dollar prices thanks to their panoramic views of Victoria Harbour.
The New Territories (新界), so named when the British leased more land from China in 1898, lie north of Kowloon. Often ignored by travelers who have little time to spare, the New Territories offers a diverse landscape that takes time to get to know. Mountainous country parks overlook New Towns that have a clinical form of modernity that has attracted many to move here from mainland China. Public transport and taxis make this area surprisingly accessible if you dare to get out and explore this offbeat place. You will not find many idyllic villages, but once you get over the stray dogs and the ramshackle buildings you will doubtlessly find something that will surprise you and cause you to reach for your camera.
The Outlying Islands (離島) are the generic label for the islands, islets, and rocks in the seas around the territory which is made up of a total of 236 islands. Lantau (大嶼山) is by far the largest of them and therefore often considered its own district. The Hong Kong International Airport is part of Lantau. Lantau hosts some of the territory's most idyllic beaches as well as major attractions such as Disneyland and the Ngong Ping cable car. Other islands include Lamma (南丫島), well known for its seafood, and Cheung Chau (長洲), a small island that used to be a pirates' den, but now attracts seafood aficionados, windsurfers, and sunbathing day trippers.
Hong Kong has an excellent and cheap public transport system.
The Octopus Card (八達通, Bat Dat Toong in Cantonese,) is a prepaid debit card that can be used to pay for public transportation such as the MTR, trains, trams, buses, and ferries. Most taxis do not yet accept although more will in future. Paying for public transport with an Octopus Card is usually at a discounted fare.
It can also be used to pay for items in convenience stores, supermarkets, fast food restaurant chains, many vending machines, all roadside parking, and some car parks. It can also be used as a building access card. Some chain stores, such as Wellcome, offer discounts for paying with the Octopus Card. This is a great way to avoid carrying and counting coins.
Your Octopus cards' balance is displayed on the reader after each use. The balance can also be checked, along with the last 9 transactions, using a small machine near regular ticket machines at MTR stations.
It is simple to top up your Octopus Card in $50 increments:
It is not possible to top up with a credit card. Some Hong Kong credit cards have an Octopus Card top-up facility although this is not available to cards issued elsewhere.
There are several fare saver machines located in the MTR system. By tapping your Octopus Card at the reader on one of these machines, you will receive a $1-2 discount on your same day next MTR journey if such journey originates at the station where the machine is located.
Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is the fastest way to get around, but it does not offer the views of buses and trams and is more expensive. There are 4 underground lines (Kwun Tong, Tsuen Wan, Island, and Tseung Kwan O lines), 4 Suburban rail lines (West, East, Tung Chung, and Ma On Shan lines), the Airport Express, and a network of modern tram lines in the North West New Territories.
The most important lines for many visitors are the busy Tsuen Wan Line (red), which runs from Central to Kowloon via a tunnel and then down Nathan Road towards Tsuen Wan in the New Territories, and the Island Line (blue) which runs along the north coast of Hong Kong Island. The Tung Chung Line (orange) is the fastest route to Lantau and one of the cheapest ways to the airport via the S1 shuttle bus from Tung Chung MTR station. This line can also be used to change to the Disneyland Resort Line (pink) at Sunny Bay. All signs are in both Chinese and English and all announcements are made in Cantonese, Mandarin, and English. Staff in the station control room usually speak enough English to be able to help lost tourists.
Considerations when using the MTR:
Operated by Hong Kong Tramways, the narrow double-decker city trams (also known locally as "ding ding") trundling along the northern coast of Hong Kong Island have provided cheap transport for over a century. Riding the tram is a great and cheap way to sightsee. For an excursion lasting 1 hour, board at the Kennedy Town Terminus and get a good seat on the upper deck. As the tram travels eastward, you will have an elevated view of Hong Kong Island and its different flavors, from bustling Hong Kong street life to its glitzy financial and shopping districts and, finally, a taste of suburban tranquillity.
The Peak Tram, Hong Kong's first mechanized mode of transport, opened in 1888. The remarkably steep 1.7km track from Central up to Victoria Peak is worth at least one trip despite the comparatively steep price. The tram turnstiles do take Octopus cards, which will allow you to avoid the ticketing line at the station.
The Peak Tram is likely to be crowded at night when the view of the city's skyline is magic, as well as on public holidays. Queues can be very long (waiting an hour is common at busy times), and a lot of pushing has been reported.
Note that the tram is not the only way to get to the Peak, and there are cheaper (but slower and still quite scenic) alternatives such as the #1 green minibus & #15 double-decker bus from Exchange Square Bus Terminus. These buses will often give you great views of both sides of Hong Kong Island on the way up.
MTR operates a tram system located in the northwest New Territories called Light Rail. It is a modern and fast tram system connecting Tuen Mun, Yuen Long, and Tin Shui Wai. It is also known as ding ding by local people. It has an open fare system, in which passengers are required to buy a ticket or tap an Octopus card at the station entrance before boarding, and ticket inspection is random. The area is seldom visited by foreign tourists but various sights are nonetheless accessible via Light Rail, such as numerous ancient walled villages (highlighted by the Ping Shan Heritage Trail), the Hong Kong Wetland Park, the beaches of Tuen Mun New Town, Yuen Long Town Centre, and seafood towns like Lau Fau Shan and Sam Shing.
There are three types of bus available in Hong Kong. In the inner areas, buses will get stuck in traffic and take much longer than the MTR, however, they cover many more destinations than the MTR. While generally easy to use, signs in English can be sparse and finding your bus stop can get difficult. Buses are also the only public option for traveling around the south side of the island and Lantau. Google Maps will actually let you know the best number bus to take from your current position to destination.
Fares will depend more on where you board rather than where you get-off (except for the cross-boundary route B2 and a few overnight buses) which means it is more expensive to board at the earlier stops rather than the later stops. The fare is displayed on a digital display above the farebox - exact change, Octopus Card or a ticket purchased from a bus travel center (only applicable to a few routes found at major transit hubs such as Star Ferry or Central Bus Terminus) must be used. There are plenty of bus routes that provide a fare discount for transferring with a particular set of routes; they're often confusing for visitors, however, instructions are written on bus stop timetable leaflets. There are also some bus routes (especially the routes going to Stanley) which offer a discount if a passenger gets off early and taps the Octopus card again prior to alighting.
There are announcements in Cantonese, Mandarin, and English except for most buses on New Lantau Bus. To catch your bus go to the bus stop with the right number and when your bus approaches, raise your arm to hail the bus (like you would hail a taxi). Buses will only stop when requested so press the red buzzer (located by the exit doors and on the grab-rails) to signal to the driver that you want to alight. Always board at the front and alight from the center door - unless the bus has only one door, or on the routes where you need to pay when alighting, in which case keep to the left.
Note that if paying in cash, the exact fare is required and no change can be given. Paying by Octopus is much more convenient. The exception to this rule is if you use a red minibus; Octopus cards are not accepted on red minibus services, but they do give you change.
There are six independent route numbering systems, applying to: buses (i) on Hong Kong Island, (ii) in Kowloon and the New Territories, and (iii) on Lantau Island; green minibuses (iv) on Hong Kong Island, (v) in Kowloon, and (vi) in New Territories and several exceptional auxiliary bus routes. Red minibuses do not usually have a route number. This leads to duplication of routes in different regions. Although the Transport Department has been working on a unification of the route numbers, they are still a little bit messy at the moment. If you are confused a bit by the numbering of routes, here is a suggestion: just remember the route number of buses in Hong Kong Island/Kowloon/New Territories only whenever it is necessary. In other special circumstances, ask the driver or the station staff for the Lantau buses and green minibuses and they can answer you.
Generally you need not mention which district the route belongs to when you are asking for directions (almost all people will assume you are asking for the route which runs in the district you are in, e.g. if you ask for bus route #2, locals will assume you are asking for bus route #2 running in Kowloon if you are in Kowloon), but you really need to mention whether the route is by bus or minibus when you ask, since in some cases both buses and minibuses can have the same route number in the same area which are actually different routes. (e.g. there are both bus route #6 and minibus route #6 in Tsim Sha Tsui, which are actually different routes).
A large fleet of ferries sails between the many islands of Hong Kong. The granddaddy of them all and an attraction in itself is the Star Ferry, whose most popular line travels between Tsim Sha Tsui and Central from early morning until late at night, and offers amazing views (especially when coming from Tsim Sha Tsui). The Star Ferry is an icon of Hong Kong heritage and has carried passengers for over 120 years. Taking its 11-minute ride across the harbor and catching some misty breeze is considered a "must do" when visiting Hong Kong. Navigation enthusiasts will also not want to miss the sight of the crew using a billhook to catch the thrown rope as it moors at the pier, a practice unchanged since the first ferry ran in 1888.
Ferries to Lamma, Lantau, and other islands depart from a variety of ports, but the largest and most important terminal is at Central adjacent to the Star Ferry. Ferries are usually divided into fast ferries and slow ferries, with fast ferries charging around twice the price for half the journey time, although not all destinations offer both kinds of service. Example fares for trips from Central to Yung Shue Wan (Lamma) are $10/15 slow/fast, and to Mui Wo (Lantau) $10.50/$21. Note that all fares increase by around 50% on Sundays and public holidays.
Taxis are plentiful, clean, and efficient. They are extremely cheap compared to many other large cities.
There are three types of taxi in Hong Kong, easily identified by their colours: red, green and blue, all of which serve the airport and Hong Kong Disneyland. Be aware if you are choosing from one of the three kinds of taxis when you are finding your way out of the airport. When in doubt, just take a red taxi. Rates for each type of taxi are published online
Considerations when riding taxis:
Considerations when driving in Hong Kong:
In general, although cycling is possible, Hong Kong is not a bicycle-friendly place because of its hilly landscapes, government policies, air pollution and a general lack of consideration by many motorists. Locals sometimes cycle on the pavements if they are not crowded, although most of the time, pavements are too crowded even for pushing your bike. If you plan to use busy urban roads you should be fit enough to keep up with the traffic, which moves surprisingly quickly.
A network of tarmac cycle tracks sprawl across the New Territories making it relatively easy to bike for longer distances. There are also several mountain-bike trails in the country parks, although a permit is necessary to bring your bicycle into the parks. Visitors should comply with the Road User's Guide which is based on the United Kingdom Highway Code.
Bike rental is available in several locations across the territory. Popular rental spots include Cheung Chau, Mui Wo (Lantau), Sha Tin, Tai Po Market, Tuen Mun and Ma On Shan.
Basic rules to follow:
Folding bicycles are permitted on all public transport, provided that they are folded.
The world's longest outdoor escalator travels from Central through Soho to the residential developments of the Mid-levels. The escalator moves down in the morning rush hour but up the rest of the time, and using it is free — in fact, you can even get Octopus credits from machines along the way for being willing to use your feet!
The escalator cuts through some of the oldest streets found anywhere in Hong Kong, so if you are happy to take a chance and just wander and explore the back streets you are likely to find something of interest that dates back to colonial times. The immediate area to the east of the escalator was once reserved for the exclusive use of Chinese people.
Hong Kong doesn't have street benches to sit down. Whilst "sitting down areas" are around, these are generally infrequent. Additionally, restaurants (especially cheap and quick ones) will prefer quick table turnover. All this adds up to spending a considerable amount of time on your feet in any given day. Make sure you have a pair of comfortable shoes, as even a good pair of shoes will still leave your feet sore after a full day on your feet.
A list of guided tours is available on the website of the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
Get a stunning view of Hong Kong Island on Victoria Peak atop the giant, wok-shaped Peak Tower! Ever since the dawn of British colonization, the Peak hosted the most exclusive neighborhood for the territory's richest residents. Local Chinese weren't permitted to live here until after World War II. The Peak Tower has an observation platform and a shopping mall with shops, fine dining, and museums. Read more at Hong Kong/Central#Victoria Peak.
Horse racing is a serious business in Hong Kong. There are live broadcasts over the radio and many people bet regularly. When people are listening to the races, whether in a taxi or restaurant or on the streets, expect no conversation or business to transpire for the 1-2 minute duration of the race.
With the exception of a summer break between mid-July and mid-September, horse races take place on Wednesdays and on weekends, at either Sha Tin in the New Territories or Happy Valley on Eastern Hong Kong Island. Both racing locations are easily accessible by MTR but Happy Valley is the more convenient, historic, and impressive location.
Get a local to explain the betting system to you. Read Racing Post by the South China Morning Post on race days for a guide to the race.
Betting can also be placed at any of 100+ branches of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, a nonprofit charitable organization and the only institution permitted to conduct legal horse-racing in the territory. Expect long lines and big crowds.
There are many traditional heritage locations throughout Hong Kong.
In New Territories, you will find Ping Shan Heritage Trail passing by some of the most important ancient sights, the walled Hakka village of Tsang Tai Uk, Fu Shin Street Traditional Bazaar as well as a number of temples including Che Kung Temple, Man Mo Temple and the Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas. In Kowloon, you will find the Kowloon Walled City Park at the location of the former Kowloon walled city. And on Lantau, you will find the Stilt houses in Tai O, Po Lin Monastery and the Tian Tan Buddha Statue.
There are a variety of museums in Hong Kong with different themes. Arguably the best museum is the Hong Kong Museum of History in Kowloon, which gives an excellent overview of Hong Kong's fascinating past, not the typical pots-behind-glass format of museums you find elsewhere in China. Innovative galleries such as a mock-up of a colonial era street make history come to life. Allow about two hours to view everything in detail.
Kowloon also has a number of other interesting museums including Dialogue in the Dark, which is an exhibition in complete darkness where you should use your non-visual senses with the help of a visually impaired guide, the International Hobby and Toy Museum, which exhibits models, toys, science fiction collectibles, movie memorabilia and pop-culture artifacts from around the world, Hong Kong Museum of Art, which is a fascinating, strange and elusive place exhibiting Chinese ceramics, terracotta, rhinoceros horn and Chinese paintings as well as contemporary art produced by Hong Kong artists, Hong Kong Science Museum, primarily aimed at children, and Hong Kong Heritage Discovery Centre.
Central also has its share of museums including Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum, Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences, which shows how the healthcare system evolved from traditional Chinese medicine to modern Western medicine, and Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre. There is also a 3D museum from Korea called Trick Eye Museum Hong Kong.
New Territories has the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, which will appeal to those who have a serious interest in Chinese culture, and the Hong Kong Railway Museum.
Contrary to popular belief, Hong Kong is not all skyscrapers and it is worthwhile to go to the countryside (over 70% of Hong Kong), including the country parks and marine parks. Many are surprised to find that Hong Kong is actually home to some stunning landscapes and breathtaking scenery.
Traveling on a bus or a tram is ideal for looking at different sides of Hong Kong. Not only is it cheap, but it also allows you to see completely different lifestyles in different districts in a short time. Below are some recommended routes.
These two are rickshaw-themed double deckers going to main heritage spots on Hong Kong Island, such as the Court of Final Appeal (previously LegCo) in Central and the University of Hong Kong.
The tram system refers to is Hong Kong Tramways, a slow yet special form of transport running on Hong Kong Island. It has been operating since 1904 and is an obvious relic of the British administration. A trip on a tram is a perfect way to have a leisurely tour around Hong Kong Island's major streets and to have a glimpse of the local life.
Note that the low price makes it attractive to housemaids on their Sunday day off, and it can be so crowded that it is very difficult to squeeze on or off. A relaxing tram journey would be better for a weekday.
It is recommended to ride from as far as Kennedy Town in the west, to as far as Shau Kei Wan in the east, in order to get a strong contrast of "East meets West" and "Old meets New."
A new, modern, tram system operates in the northwest New Territories and serves New Towns between Yuen Long and Tuen Mun. Few tourists will be inspired by these trams but they may appeal to trainspotters.
Hong Kong's version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Avenue of Stars celebrates icons of Hong Kong cinema from the past century. The seaside promenade offers fantastic views, day and night, of Victoria Harbour and its iconic skyline. This is the place to have your picture taken by a professional photographer who is experienced in night photography. The Avenue can be reached from the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station or the Star Ferry.
The Avenue of the Stars is also a great place to see A Symphony of Lights, a spectacular light and laser show synchronized to music and staged every night at 20:00. This is the world's "Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show" as recognized by Guinness World Records. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the light show is in English. On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday it is in Mandarin. On Sunday it is in Cantonese. While at the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, spectators can tune their radios to FM103.4 MHz for English narration, FM106.8 MHz for Cantonese or FM107.9 for Mandarin. The same soundtrack can be accessed via mobile phones at 35665665 for the English version where normal telephone rates apply. However, whilst the show is not such a big deal, during festival times the light show is supplemented by fireworks that are worth seeing.
Ride the tram between Kennedy Town and Shau Kei Wan. The journey takes around 80 minutes. The Hong Kong Tramways run between the West and East of Hong Kong Island. Starting from the old district Kennedy Town, you can see the residential areas, followed by the Chinese herbal medicine and dried seafood wholesalers in Sai Ying Pun - Sheung Wan. Then the tram goes in the famous Central district with high rise commercial buildings and banks. Wan Chai and Causeway Bay are the districts popular with shoppers and are always crowded with people at all times. Traveling further east are North Point and Shau Kei Wan areas, which are of completely different styles from that in Central and Causeway Bay.
Hong Kong is one of the main centers of Chinese pop culture with a huge and vibrant entertainment industry, and is home to many famous singers and actors such as Jackie Chan, Andy Lau, Wong Ka Kui (Beyond), Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and locally Eason Chan, just to name a few. In addition to the locals, any foreign bands touring Asia are pretty much guaranteed to perform in Hong Kong, and concerts by famous singers are often a sell out affair.
Cantopop is by far the most popular genre in Hong Kong and receives an immense amount of support from the media. Independent musicians and are often harassed and evicted from their rehearsal rooms and concert venues by the government because they are forced to illegally rent warehouse spaces due to unaffordable rents. A few small venues are open for indie shows, such as Hidden Agenda and The Wanch.
You are never far from the sea in Hong Kong and going to a good beach is only a bus-ride away. However, if you want a really good beach, then it is worth making the effort to travel, possibly on foot, and seek out the beaches of the New Territories. With more than 200 outlying islands, as well as an extensive coastline that is jam-packed with impressive bays and beaches, you will surely come across some good looking beaches to while the whole day away. Hong Kong's urban beaches are usually well maintained and have services such as showers and changing rooms. Where beaches are managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, shark nets and lifeguards are present. Dogs and smoking are not permitted on these beaches.
The best beaches to use include:
Repulse Bay is a large urban beach on the south side of Hong Kong island. It has recently had money spent on its facilities and will appeal to those who have young children.
Middle Bay is popular with gay people and is a 20-minute walk from the crowds at Repulse Bay. Middle Bay has lifeguards, showers, changing rooms, shark nets and a decent cafe serving drinks and snacks.
Shek O is a beach popular with many young Hong Kong people. It is away from the bustle of the city but is well served by restaurants and has a good bus service from the north side of the island. The Thai restaurant close to the beach is worth a try.
Big Wave Bay This beach is smaller than others on Hong Kong Island but still has good services which include a number of small cafes close to the beach. Big Wave Bay, as the name suggests, has the sort of waves that appeal to surfers. From Big Wave Bay it is possible to take the coastal footpath to Chai Wan where you can find the MTR and buses. The walk to Chai Wan is about one hour, or more if you are not used to the steep climb up the mountain.
Hung Shing Yeh Beach is highly regarded as the most popular beach and is located on Lamma Island. This beach is Grade 1 and shows off powdery, fine sand as well as clear water. This beach is well-appointed by means of changing facilities, a barbecue area, and a refreshment kiosk. To arrive at this beach, take the ferryboat from Central Pier to Yung Shue Wan. Expect to walk around 20 minutes from the ferry terminal to the beach (buses and taxis are not an option on Lamma).
In addition to pools in many hotels, there are several public swimming pools scattered across the territory. Swimming pools are child-friendly with shallow pools and fountains. All swimming pool complexes are well maintained and offer swimming lanes, hot showers, lockers, both family and same-sex changing rooms (limited privacy), and most have swimming clubs for serious swimmers. Swimmers are expected to provide their own towels and toiletries.
Most pools open at 06:30 and close at 22:00. They generally close for lunch around 12:00-13:00 and then again from 17:00-18:00.
You can rent out a Junk Boat for a sailing trip with your family and friends. A typical junk boat can accommodate more than 30 people and can be rented for the day to take you on a tour of your choice. Sai Kung is a popular spot for the trip to start and you can sail to nearby beaches for a more secluded time. A cheaper alternative is to hire a much smaller water taxi (水道) to take you to where you want to go.
Hiking is the best-kept secret in Hong Kong, it is a great way to appreciate Hong Kong's beautiful landscapes that include mountains, beaches, and breathtaking cityscapes. The starting points for many hiking trails are accessible by bus or taxi. Hiking is highly recommended for active travelers who want to escape the modern urban world.
Hiking in Hong Kong can be strenuous because of the steep trails, and during the summer months, mosquitos and the hot, humid, weather combine to make even the easiest trek a workout. It is highly recommended that you wear suitable clothes, and bring plenty of water and mosquito repellent. It is fairly unlikely that you will have a close encounter with venomous snakes, although they are present in most rural areas. Most local people choose the winter months to undertake the more demanding hiking trails. If you are not especially fit you might plan your route so that you take a bus or taxi to the highest point of the trail and then walk downhill.
Campsites in Hong Kong are plentiful and free of charge. Most are located within the country parks and range from basic sites serviced with only with a drop-toilet, to those that provide campers with modern toilet blocks with cold showers. Some sites have running water and sinks for washing dishes. A few campsites have places to buy drinking water and food, whilst many are serenely remote. Weekends and public holidays are predictably busy, especially in the more accessible places close to roads. Many Hong Kong people like to camp in large groups, talk loudly and stay awake until very late, so if you are noise sensitive try to find a remote campsite or learn to keep your temper.
There are four major trails in the Hong Kong SAR:
Hong Kong has some exceptional rural landscapes but visitor impact is an issue. Please respect the countryside by taking your litter home with you. Avoid using litter bins in remote areas as these are not emptied on a regular basis and your litter may be strewn around by hungry animals.
Hong Kong Outdoors and Journey to Hong Kong are packed with information on hiking and camping, and other great things to do and places to go in the wilderness areas of Hong Kong.
Regulated gambling is legal in Hong Kong:
Cuisine plays an important part in many peoples' lives in Hong Kong. Not only is it a showcase of Chinese cuisines with huge regional varieties, but there are also excellent Asian and Western choices. Although Western food is often adapted to local tastes, Hong Kong is a good place for homesick travelers who have had enough of Chinese food. The Michelin guide to Hong Kong is considered to be the benchmark of good restaurants. Open Rice also provides a great directory of local restaurants. This is a fairly safe way to find a few "hole in the wall" style restaurants or eating places, whilst still experiencing good, local food. According to Restaurant magazine, 4 of the best 100 restaurants in the world are in Hong Kong.
Due to its history as part of that region, unsurprisingly, much of the local cuisine in Hong Kong is very similar to that of neighboring Guangdong. That being said, over a century of British rule means that the British have also left their mark on the local cuisine, with cakes and pastries being fairly popular among locals. Hong Kongers are also somewhat less adventurous than their fellow Cantonese speakers in mainland China, with several exotic ingredients such as dog and cat meat being banned in Hong Kong. It is also possible to find cuisine from practically every part of China, as many famous chefs fled from the mainland to Hong Kong to escape persecution by the communists in the aftermath of the Chinese Civil War.
You may meet some local people who haven't cooked at home for a decade. Locals love to go out to eat since it is much more practical than socializing in crowded spaces at home. A long queue can be a local sport outside many good restaurants during peak hours. Normally, you need to register first, get a ticket and wait for empty seats. Reservations are usually only an option in upmarket restaurants.
Chinese food is generally eaten with chopsticks. However, restaurants serving western food usually provide a knife, fork, and spoon. Do not stick your chopsticks vertically into a bowl of rice, as this is reminiscent of incense sticks burning at the temple and has connotations of wishing death on those around you. In addition, chopsticks should not be used to move bowls and plates or make any noise. Dishes in smaller eateries might not come with a serving spoon, although staff will usually provide one if you request.
A few Hong Kong customs to be aware of:
See also Chinese table manners for more details. While certain etiquette is different, Chinese manners for using chopsticks apply to Hong Kong too.
You can usually tell how cheap (or expensive) the food is from the decor of the restaurant (menus are not always displayed outside restaurants). Restaurants in Soho in Central, in 5-star restaurants, or in other high-rent areas are usually more expensive than restaurants that are off the beaten path. Yoshinoya (a Japanese chain) sell Japanese style Gyudon (beef and rice) and Teriyaki-style Chicken (with rice or noodles) for a very reasonable price. If your budget allows for it, Hong Kong is undoubtedly one of the world's best places to experience Chinese-style fine dining.
Dim sum (點心), literally means 'to touch (your) heart', is possibly the best known Cantonese dish. Served at breakfast and lunch, these delicately prepared morsels of Cantonese cuisine are often served with Chinese tea.
Dim Sum comes in countless variations with a huge price range from $8 to more than $100 per order. Common items include steamed shrimp dumplings (蝦餃 har gau), pork dumplings (燒賣 siu mai), barbecued pork buns (叉燒包 char siu bau), and Hong Kong egg tarts (蛋撻 dan tat), the first two being obligatory for local diners whenever they eat dim sum. Expect more choice in upmarket restaurants. One pot of tea with two dishes, called yak chung liang gin is a typical serving for breakfast.
Siu mei a general name for roast meats made in a Hong Kong style, including roast pork belly, roasted over an open firepork (叉燒 char siu), roast duck or chicken. With the addition of a slightly crispy honey sauce layer, the final taste is of a unique, deep barbecue flavor. Rice with roasted pork (叉燒 char siu), roasted duck, pork with a crisp crackling, or Fragrant Queen's chicken (香妃雞), are common dishes that are enduring favorites for many, including local superstars. It is recommended to taste the roasted pork with rice in 'Sun-Can' of PolyU.
Cantonese congee (juk) is a thin porridge made with rice boiled in water. Served at breakfast, lunch or supper, the best version is as soft as 'floss', it takes up to 10 hours to cook the porridge to reach this quality. Congee is usually eaten with savory Chinese doughnuts (油炸鬼 yau char kway) and steamed rice pastry (腸粉 cheong fun) which often has a meat or vegetable filling.
Hong Kong has several restaurant chains that specialize in congee, but none of them have earned the word-of-mouth respect from local gourmets. The best congee places are usually in older districts, often owned by elderly people who are patient enough to spend hours making the best floss congee.
When asked what food makes Hong Kong people feel home, wonton noodles (雲吞麵) is one of the favorite answers. Wonton are dumplings usually made from minced prawn but may contain small amounts of pork.
Rice pastry is also a popular dish from southern China. Found particularly in Teochew and Hokkien areas in China, its popularity is widespread throughout East Asia. In Hong Kong, it is usually served in soup with beef and fish balls and sometimes with deep-fried crispy fish skins.
A popular Cantonese dessert is a sweet soup called tong sui (糖水, literal: sugar water). Popular versions are usually made with black sesame paste(芝麻糊), walnuts (核桃糊) or sago (西米露) which are usually sticky in texture. Other traditional ones include red bean paste(紅豆沙), green bean paste(綠豆沙) and tofu pudding(豆腐花). Lo ye (撈野) is a similar dish. Juice is put into an ultra-cold pan to make an ice paste, it is usually served with fresh fruit and sago.
A uniquely Hong Kong-style eatery starting to make waves elsewhere in Asia is the cha chaan teng (茶餐廳), literally "tea cafe", but offering fusion fast food that happily mixes Western and Eastern fare: innovations include noodles with Spam, stir-fried spaghetti and baked rice with cheese. Usually, a wide selection of drinks is also available, almost always including the popular tea-and-coffee mix yuenyeung (鴛鴦), and perhaps more oddities (to the Western palate) like boiled Coke with ginger or iced coffee with lemon. Orders are usually recorded on a chit at your table and you pay at the cashier as you leave.
Showing signs of British colonial influence, tea time (Hang cha) plays an important role in Hong Kong's stressful office life. Usually starting at 2 PM to 3 PM, a typical tea set goes with a cup of 'silk-stocking' tea, egg tarts and sandwiches with either minced beef, egg or ham, but without vegetables and cheese.
Similar to Malaysian 'teh tarik', Hong Kong's variation shares a similar taste. The key difference is that a sackcloth bag is used to filter the tea leaves and the tea-dyed sackcloth resembles silk stockings, giving the name 'silk-stocking milk tea'. Milk tea, to some Hong Kong people, is an important indicator of the quality of a restaurant. If a restaurant fails to serve reasonably good milk tea, locals might be very harsh with their criticism. Yuanyang is also a popular drink mixed with milk tea and coffee.
A signal to tell you teatime has come is a small queue lining up in a bakery to buy egg tarts (a teatime snack with outer pastry crust and filled with egg custard). Don't attempt to make a fool of yourself by telling people that the egg tart was brought to Hong Kong by the British - many locals are assertive in claiming sovereignty over their egg tarts. When a long-established egg tart shop in Central was closed due to skyrocketing rental payments, it became the SAR's main news and many people came to help the owners look for a new place.
Sample as many different egg tarts from local shops and find the best in your local area.
The cheapest food is in the popular street stalls. Most of the people working there do not speak much English and there is no English on the menu. However, if you could manage to communicate, street-style eating is an excellent way to experience local food. Point, use fingers (or Cantonese numbers) and smile. They're usually willing to help. Local specialities include curry fish meat balls (咖喱魚蛋), fake shark fin soup (碗仔翅) made with beans and vermicelli noodles, egg waffle (雞蛋仔), fried three filled treasures (煎釀三寶, vegetable filled with fish meat), fried intestines on a stick, fried squid or octopus and various meats on sticks (such as satay style chicken).
Most major fast food eateries are popular in Hong Kong and have reasonable prices.
Seafood is very popular and is widely available. The best places to eat seafood include Sai Kung, Sam Shing, Po Doi O and Lau Fau Shan in the New Territories and Hong Kong's islands, particularly Lamma and Cheung Chau, are abound with seafood restaurants. Seafood is not cheap.
Expect to find a mismatch between the high prices for the food and the quality of the restaurant. Sometimes the best food is served in the most basic eateries where tables maybe covered in cheap plastic covers rather than a more formal tablecloth. Often, Cantonese people value the food more than the decor. If one of your traveling companions does not like seafood, don't panic, many seafood restaurants have extensive menus that cater for all tastes. A number of seafood restaurants specialize in high-quality roast chicken that is especially flavorsome. Many exotic delicacies like abalone, conch and bamboo clam can be found for sale in many seafood restaurants but you might want to avoid endangered species such as shark and juvenile fish.
Sushi is very popular and there are several all-you-can-eat sushi restaurants with reasonable prices.
While Hong Kong has long banned dog and cat meat and has strict rules on importing many meats of wild life animals, snake meat is commonly seen in winter in different restaurants that bear the name "Snake King." Served in a sticky soup, it is believed to warm your body.
There's an ongoing debate over the consumption of shark fin in Hong Kong, which is the biggest importer of this exotic cuisine. Commonly served at wedding parties and other important dining events, shark fin is served in a carefully prepared stew. The consumption of shark fin is a controversial topic and the Hong Kong WWF is campaigning against consumption of this endangered species.
Besides exotic meats, you will also see chicken feet, pig's noses and ears, lungs, stomachs, duck's heads, various types of intestines, livers, kidneys, black pudding (blood jelly) and duck's tongues on the Chinese dining tables.
Due to a large number of foreign residents in Hong Kong, there are many restaurants that serve authentic international cuisine at all price levels. This includes various types of Indian, Thai, Japanese and European foods. These can often be found in, though not restricted to, entertainment districts such as Lan Kwai Fong, Soho or Knutsford Terrace. Of these, Soho is probably the best for eating as Lan Kwai Fong is primarily saturated with bars and clubs. Top chefs are often invited or try to make their way to work in Hong Kong.
Wet markets are still prevalent. Freshness is a key ingredient to all Chinese food, so frozen meat and vegetables are frowned upon, and most markets display freshly butchered beef and pork (with entrails), live fish in markets, and more exotic shellfish, frogs, turtles, and sea snails. Local people often go to the market every day to buy fresh ingredients, just like the restaurants.
Cooked food centers are often found in the same building as some of the indoor wet markets. Tables that were once located on the street have been swept into sterile concrete buildings. Inside, the atmosphere is like a food court without the frills. Cooked food centers provide economic solutions to diners, but you might need to take along a Cantonese speaker or be brave.
Supermarkets include Wellcome and Park N Shop. Specialty supermarkets catering to Western and Japanese tastes include City Super and Great. 24-hour convenience stores 7-Eleven and Circle K can be found almost anywhere in urban areas.
As with the rest of China, tea is a popular beverage in Hong Kong and is served at practically every eatery. Chinese teas are the most commonly served, though many places also serve Western-style milk tea. In summer 'Ice Lemon Tea' is a common option that is rather bitter and needs some sugar to counter this.
Some Chinese people do drink a lot but generally speaking, there are many neighborhoods in Hong Kong without much in the way of a bar or pub. Drinking alcohol with food is acceptable, but there is no expectation to order alcohol with your meal in any restaurant. A number of popular restaurants do not sell alcohol because of a license restriction.
Lan Kwai Fong (Central), Wanchai and Knutsford Terrace (Kowloon) are the three main drinking areas where locals, expats, and tourists mingle together. Here you will certainly find a party atmosphere and can expect to see many 'merry' expats in these areas. LKF and Wan Chai are particularly rowdy yet run places to party. The minimum age for drinking in a bar is 18 years. There is usually a requirement for young adults to prove their age, especially when going to a nightclub. The accepted ID in clubs is either your passport or a Hong Kong ID card. Photocopies are rarely accepted due to minors using fake documents.
Some clubs in Lan Kwai Fong have imposed a dress code on customers and tourists are of no exception. As a general rule, shorts or pants that are above knee length should be avoided.
Drinking out in Hong Kong can be expensive. However, away from the tourist trail, some Chinese restaurants may have a beer promotion aimed at meeting the needs of groups of diners. In cooked food centers, usually found at the wet markets, young women are often employed to promote a particular brand of beer. Convenience stores and supermarkets sell a reasonable range of drinks. The 7-Eleven in Lan Kwai Fong is a very popular 'bar' for party-animals on a budget.
During Wednesdays and Thursdays Ladies night applies in some bars in Wan Chai and Lan Kwai Fong, which in most cases means that women can enter bars and clubs for free, and in some rare cases also get their drinks paid for the night. At weekends, several bars and clubs in these areas also have an 'open bar' for some of the night, which means you can drink as much as you like.
San Miguel (Cantonese name: Seng Lik), Tsing Tao (Ching Dou), Carlsberg (Ga Si Bak), Blue Girl(Lam Mui), Heineken(Hei Lik) and Sol are popular in the town. There is no longer any tax on wine or beer in Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong dollar (港幣 or HKD) is the territory's official currency and is the unit of currency used throughout this travel guide. In Chinese, one dollar is known formally as the yuen (圓) and colloquially as the men (蚊) in Cantonese. You can safely assume that the '$' sign used in the territory refers to HKD unless it includes other initials (e.g. US$ to stand for US dollar). The HKD is also widely accepted in Macau in lieu of their home currency at a 1:1 rate.
ATM debit cards have exchange rates and fees are comparable to exchanging cash at big banks. Be aware that some smaller banks do not accept ATM cards from overseas customers. The best banks for foreign tourists to use are HSBC, Hang Seng and Standard Chartered, and ATM machines from those banks are widespread and can be found at any MTR station.
Banknotes are actually issued by multiple banks in Hong Kong (HSBC, Standard Chartered and Bank of China) and all can be used anywhere in Hong Kong. They come in denominations of $10, $20, $50, $100, $500 and $1000.
It is rare to come across a $1000 note and some shops do not accept them due to counterfeiting concerns.
Coins come in units of $10, $5, $2, $1, 50¢, 20¢ and 10¢. Typically you will want to avoid change less than $1 because there are not many things to buy with coins under that. An Octopus Card is the best way to avoid dealing with small change.
Automated Teller Machines (ATM's) are common in urban areas. They usually accept VISA, MasterCard, and to certain degree UnionPay. Maestro and Cirrus cards are widely accepted also. They dispense $100, $500 or rarely $1000 notes depending on the request. Credit card use is common in most shops for major purchases. Most retailers accept VISA and MasterCard, and some accept American Express as well. Maestro debit cards, however, are not widely accepted by retailers. Signs with the logo of different credit cards are usually displayed at the door to indicate which cards are accepted. For small purchases, in places such as McDonalds or 7-Eleven, cash or an Octopus Card is the norm though some of these outlets can accept credit cards for smaller purchases. Sometimes, the merchant can give you a choice of whether to charge your credit card purchase directly to your home currency or Hong Kong dollars. Choosing which currency to directly charge the purchase to won't matter for small amounts but for larger purchases it may be worth it to consult your credit card's policy on them converting foreign exchange transactions.
Merchants will require that the credit cards be signed and will compare your signature with the card and do not ask for picture ID. The 'chip and pin' system for credit card authorization is not used in Hong Kong.
As a general rule, tipping is not customary in Hong Kong, though people will not reject any tips you care to hand them. Tipping is a matter of personal choice, but visitors should take into account that locals usually do not leave a tip. Visitors should also know that it is common for bar and restaurant owners to keep some, or all, of the money given as tips.
In cheaper restaurants, tipping is not expected at all and it will be considered unusual not to take all your change. In medium-to-upmarket restaurants, a 10% service charge is often compulsorily added to your bill and this is usually regarded as the tip. You may wish to tip on top of the service charge for good service, but it is neither compulsory nor expected; to give it more chance of reaching the staff tips should be given in cash not as additions to a credit card bill. It is also common for midrange Chinese restaurants to give you peanuts, tea, and towels and add a small charge to the bill. Known as "cha-sui money" (money for tea and water) it is considered to be common practice. So, unless the charge is excessive, tourists should accept it as part of the cost of the meal. Sometimes, restaurants will deliberately give customers change in coins when notes should be given; it is your choice to either take all your change or leave a small tip.
Tipping is not expected in taxis but passengers will often round up the fare to the nearest dollar. During a typhoon, when any loss is not covered by insurance, a tip will be expected, or the taxi driver will ask you to pay a surcharge.
Do not under any circumstances try to offer a tip to a government employee, especially police officers; this is regarded as bribery and is strictly illegal, and doing so will most probably result in you being arrested.
Exceptionally, on important occasions, such as a wedding party or similar big gala event, local people hosting such events do tip substantially more than ten percent of the total bill. The money is put into a red envelope and given to the manager.
Fierce competition, no sales tax and some wealthy consumers all add up to make Hong Kong an excellent destination for shopping. Choices are plentiful at competitive prices. Lookout for watches, camping equipment, digital items, and special cosmetics.
Popular shopping items include consumer electronics, custom clothing, shoes, camping equipment, jewelry, expensive brand name goods, Chinese antiques, toys, and Chinese herbs/medicine. There's also a wide choice of Japanese, Korean, American and European clothing and cosmetics but prices are generally higher than in their respective home countries.
Most shops in Hong Kong's urban areas open at about 10 AM until 10 PM to midnight every day. High rental costs in Hong Kong, ranked second worldwide according to Forbes, makes it no surprise that the best bargain shops could be located anywhere except the ground floor. Shops recommended by local people may even be up on the 20th floor in a building that won't give you a hint that it's a place for shopping.
Many shops will accept credit cards. In accepting credit cards, the merchant will look carefully at the signature rather than looking at photo ID. In addition, merchants will not accept credit cards with a different name to the person presenting it. All shops that accept credit cards and many that don't will also accept debit cards as payment. The term used for debit card payment is EPS.
In the old days, Hong Kong was a good place to buy cheap knockoff, fake products, and pirated videos and software. Today, Hong Kong residents often buy these items in Shenzhen just across the border in mainland China.
Antiques and arts - Head for Hollywood Road and Loscar Road in Central. Here you will find a long street of shops with a wide selection of products that look like antiques. Some items are very good fakes, so make sure you know what you are buying. Try Star House near the Star Ferry pier in Tsim Sha Tsui for more expensive items.
Books - Hong Kong houses a fair choice of English books, Japanese, French titles, and a huge range of uncensored Chinese titles. Prices are usually higher than where they import but it is your last hope to look for your books before heading to China. Try Swindon Books on Lock Road in Tsim Sha Tsui and Page One in Times Square (Causeway Bay) and Festival Walk (Kowloon Tong). Dymocks, an Australian bookshop, has eleven stores, including in IFC and the Princes Building. For French books, visit Librairie Parentheses on Wellington Street in Central and Japanese books are sold in Sogo Shopping Mall in Causeway Bay. The biggest local bookshop chain is the Commercial Press and they usually have cheaper but limited English titles. For looking for Chinese books, local people's beloved bookshops are all along Sai Yeung Choi Street. Called Yee Lau Sue Den (Bookshop on the second floor), they hide themselves in the upper floor of old buildings and offer an unbeatable discount on all books.
Cameras - Reputable camera stores are located mainly in Central, Tsim Sha Tsui, and Mongkok but tourist traps do exist, especially in Tsim Sha Tsui. The basic rule is to avoid all the shops with flashing neon signs along Nathan Road and look for a shop with plenty of local, non-tourist, customers. Only use recommended shops, as shops such as those on Nathan Road are likely to disappear on your next visit to Hong Kong. For easy shopping, get an underground train to Mongkok and head to Sai Yeung Choi Street, where you might find some of the best deals. The Mong Kok Computer Centre and Galaxy Mall (Sing Jai) are always packed with local people. Several camera shops like Man-Sing and Yau-Sing are known for their impolite staff but have a reputation for selling at fair prices. In the 1990s and early 2000s, most shops didn't allow much bargaining, but this has changed since 2003 with the influx of tourists from mainland China. While it is hard to tell how much discount you should ask for, if a shop can give you more than 25-30% discount, local people tend to believe that it's too good to be true, unless it's a listed seasonal sale. While Hong Kong might offer favorable prices, it is always worth checking prices at Hong Kong based e-commerce such as DigitalRev or Expansys that might ship products to your hotel within a day or at least use their price to bargain with retailers.
Computers - The base price of computer equipment in Hong Kong is similar to that in other parts of the world, but there are substantial savings to be had from the lack of sales tax or VAT. The Wanchai Computer Centre, Mongkok Computer Centre and Golden Computer Arcade on Sham Shui Po are all a few steps away from their corresponding MTR stations. Also, electronic equipment is available at the large chain stores such as Broadway and Fortress which are located in the large malls. The major chain stores will accept credit cards, while smaller shops will often insist on cash or payment by ATM card.
Computer games and gaming hardware - If you are interested in buying a new PlayStation, Nintendo DS and the like, the Oriental Shopping Centre, 188 Wan Chai Road, is the place to go. Here you will definitely find a real bargain. Prices can be up to 50% cheaper than in your home country. Be careful to compare prices first. There are also a few game shops in the Wanchai Computer Centre. The back corners in the upper levels usually offer the best prices. You might even be lucky and find English speaking staff here. However, be careful to make sure that the region code of the hardware is compatible with your home country's region code (Hong Kong's region code is NTSC-J, different from mainland China) or buy region code free hardware (like the Nintendo DS Lite).
Music and film - HMV is a tourist-friendly store that sells a wide range of more expensive products. For real bargains, you should find your way into the smaller shopping centers where you will find small independent retailers selling CDs and DVDs at very good prices. Some shops sell good quality second-hand products. Try the Oriental Shopping Centre on Wanchai Road for a range of shops and a taste of shopping in a more down-market shopping center. Alternatively, brave the warren of CD and DVD shops inside the Sino Centre on Nathan Road between Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei MTR stations. Hong Kong has two independent music stores. White Noise Records in Causeway Bay and Harbour Records in TST. Hong Kong's leading department store Lane Crawford has CD Bars in its IFC and Pacific Place stores and there's a good CD bar at Saffron Café on the Peak.
Camping and sports - A good place to buy sportswear is close to Mong Kok MTR station. Try Fa Yuen Street with a lot of shops selling sports shoes. There are also many shops hidden anywhere except the ground floor for selling camping equipment. Prices are usually highly competitive.
Fashion - Tsim Sha Tsui on Kowloon and Causeway Bay on the island are the most popular shopping destinations, though you can find malls all over the territory. In addition to all the major international brands, there are also several local Hong Kong brands such as Giordano, Bossini, G2000, Joyce and Shanghai Tang. The International Finance Centre in Central has a good selection of haute coutre labels for the filthy rich, while for cheap knock-offs, Temple Street in Mong Kok is the obvious destination, though prices are not as cheap as they used to be and these days, most locals head across the border to Shenzhen for cheaper bargains. There is also Citygate Outlets, an extremely large factory outlet mall containing most of the major foreign and local brands located near Tung Chung MTR station on Lantau Island. Tourist going to Ladies Market or any markets nearby should be aware that there are no price tags on items show. Most of the time, the price the merchant will quote you is double the price. Haggle with them and ask to reduce the price of at least 50%. In fact, similar clothing items (lower price but fixed) can be found in brick and mortar shops nearby too (e.g. Sai Yeung Choi street)
Tea - Buying good Chinese tea is like choosing a fine wine and there are many tea retailers that cater for the connoisseur who is prepared to pay high prices for some of China's best brews. To sample and learn about Chinese tea you might like to find the Tea Museum which is in Hong Kong Park in Central. Marks & Spencer caters for homesick Brits by supplying traditional strong English tea bags at a reasonable price.
Watches and jewelry - Hong Kong people are avid watch buyers - how else can you show your wealth if you can't own a car and your home is hidden at the top of a tower-block? You will find a wide range of jewelry and watches for sale in all major shopping areas. If you are targeting elegant looking jewelry or watches try Chow Tai Fook, which can be expensive. Prices vary and you should always shop around and try and bargain on prices. When you are in Tsim Sha Tsui you will probably be offered a "copy watch" for sale. The major luxury brands have their own shops that will ensure you are purchasing genuine items.
Shopping malls are everywhere in Hong Kong. Locally renowned ones are:
Street markets are a phenomenon in Hong Kong, usually selling regular groceries, clothes, bags or some cheap electronic knockoffs.
Some stores in Hong Kong (even some chain stores) are willing to negotiate on price, particularly for goods such as consumer electronics, and in many small shops, they will give you a small discount or additional merchandise if you just ask. For internationally branded items whose prices can be easily found (i.e. consumer electronics), discounts of 50% are extremely unlikely. However, deep discounts are often possible for merchandise such as clothes. However, if there is a shop that is selling goods with a 50% discount, most local people will likely avoid buying there because it's too good to be true.
Electronics stores are often packed together in the same place, so it is often easy to spend a few minutes comparing prices and to know the prevailing international prices. Start by asking for a 10 to 20% discount and see how they respond to you. Sometimes it may be appropriate to ask "is there any discount?" or "do I get any free gift?". It is sometimes possible to get an additional discount if you pay cash because credit card companies charge 3% on your bill.
The reputation for being a shopping paradise is well deserved in Hong Kong and, added to which, it is also a safe place to shop. Overcharging is seen as an immoral business practice by most local people, and is unlikely to spoil your holiday. Plenty of hotlines are available for complaints.
In areas crowded with tourists, traps do exist. They are often nameless consumer electronics stores with attention grabbing neon signs advertising reputable brand names. Many traps can be spotted if they have numerous employees in a very small store space. Often, several of these stores can be found in a row, especially along Nathan Road, in Kowloon and in parts of Causeway Bay.
One trick is to offer you a low price on an item, take your money only to 'discover' that it is out of stock, and then offer you an inferior item instead. Another trick is to give you a great price on a camera, take your credit card, and before handing over the camera convince you to buy another "better one" at an inflated cost. They may also try to mislead you into buying an inferior product, by claiming that it is a quality product.
One trick especially encountered in electronics shopping are missing items from the box, such as batteries, etc. Once you realize that an important item is missing and come back to the shop to get it, it will be offered at an inflated price. Reputable shops open the box that you will get in front of you and let you take a look to make sure everything is in there and even switch on the equipment before you pay.
Watch out for persons (usually of Indian subcontinental descent) who approach tourists in the busier areas of Kowloon. They do spot Westerners from a great distance and will make a direct line toward you to sell you usually either a suit or watch ("Genuine Copy" is a phrase often used). Learn to spot them from a distance (since they are already looking for you), make eye-contact, put up your hand and definitively shake your head. Good, strong body language in this regard will help you be approached far less often.
Although the law is strictly enforced, tourist traps are usually designed by villains who are experts at exploiting grey areas in the law. Remember, no one can help you if unscrupulous shop owners haven't actually broken the law.
The official Hong Kong Tourism Board has also introduced the Quality Tourism Services (QTS) Scheme that keeps a list of reputable shops, restaurants, and hotels. The shops registered usually cater only to tourists, while shops that offer you the best deals usually don't bother to join the programme.
Watch out for people (mostly southeast Asian descent) around tourist areas road asking you where you're going. Don't tell them which hostel or hotel you're searching for, otherwise, they will offer to "take you there".
Like many crowded urban areas where most people rely on public transport, many Hongkongers shop little and often, so, therefore, there is an abundance of convenience stores which can be found on almost every street corner and in most train stations. These include 7-Eleven, Circle K (known as 'OK' by the locals) and Vanguard. Convenience stores are more expensive but are normally open 24-7 and sell magazines, soft drinks, beer, instant noodles, packaged sandwiches, microwavable ready-meals, snacks, contraceptives, and cigarettes. Many stores have an in-store microwave for preparing ready-meals as well as hot water for preparing instant noodles and instant tea/coffee, and also provide chopsticks for eating food on the go.
Park 'n' Shop and Wellcome are the two main supermarket chains in Hong Kong and they have branches in almost every neighborhood, some of which open 24-7. In urban areas, some stores are located underground and tend to be very small and cramped, although they have a much wider product choice and are somewhat cheaper than the above convenience stores. City'super, Great and Taste are expensive upmarket supermarkets that focus on high-quality products that are aimed towards a more affluent market. Apita and AEON are large Japanese-style supermarkets with a wide product selection and food courts. The YATA department store chain also offers a Japanese-style supermarket experience, though it is rather overpriced compared to the aforementioned similar chains.
January 24, 2020
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