Hong Kong

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Hong Kong is a place with multiple personalities, as a result of being both Cantonese Chinese and under a more recent contemporary ex-British influence. Today, the former British colony is a major tourism destination for China's increasingly affluent mainland population. It is also an important hub in East Asia with global connections to many of the world's cities. 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. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China is much more than a harbour city. The traveller 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. (less...) (more...)

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Points of Interest in Hong Kong

Itineraries

  • Hong Kong Culinary Tour — gives a short tour to discover the unique cuisine of Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong in a day — an insight of everything, from laidback, rural life in the outlying islands to the bustling metropolis
  • Overland Kunming to Hong Kong — covers one route to or from Hong Kong

Guided walk

Hong Kong Tourism Board offers many walking tours. Starting from 1 October 2010, the following participation fees have been implemented:

  • Duk Ling Ride $100 per person
  • Architecture Walk $200 per person
  • Chinese Cake-Making Class $30 per person.

Victoria Peak

Get a stunning view of Hong Kong Island on Victoria Peak atop the giant, wok-shaped Peak Tower! Ever since the dawn of British colonisation, the Peak hosted the most exclusive neighbourhood for the territory's richest residents, where local Chinese weren't permitted to live until after World War II.

The Peak Tower is not only an observation platform, but also a shopping mall offering shops, fine dining and museums. The Peak Tram runs from Central to the bottom of the Peak Tower. Although views of Kowloon and Victoria Harbour can be stunning, be prepared for the view to be spoilt by air pollution.

Although the Peak Tram offers a direct route to The Peak, a more picturesque and cheaper (though slower) way of reaching it is by taking bus 15 (not 15C) from the Star Ferry pier in Central. Not only is it cheaper but, as the bus snakes up the mountain, you can enjoy beautiful views of both sides of Hong Kong Island and passing the territory's priciest neighbourhoods.

Read more at Hong Kong/Central#Victoria Peak.

Horse racing

The racing season runs from September to June, when races take place twice weekly, with the location alternating between Shatin in the New Territories and Happy Valley near Causeway Bay MTR station. Both racing locations are easily accessible by MTR but Happy Valley is the more convenient, historic and impressive location (although live races only take place here on Wednesday nights). For only a $10 entrance fee, a night in Happy Valley can be filled with rowdy entertainment. Get a local Chinese gambler to explain the betting system to you and then drink the cheap draft beer. Be sure to pick up the Racing Post section in the South China Morning Post on Wednesday to guide you. A beer garden with racing commentary in English is available at Happy Valley near the finishing line where many expatriates congregate during the races. One good tip: bring your passport and get in at the tourist rate of just $1.

Betting can also be placed at any of 100+ branches of the Hong Kong Jockey Club. Expect long lines and big crowds. The Hong Kong Jockey Club is a nonprofit charitable organization and the only institution permitted to conduct legal horse-racing in the territory.

Be aware that horse racing is a religion in Hong Kong with live broadcasts over the radio. Large segments of the adult population will place bets and there will be no shortage of racing tips from punters. Just remember that 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.

Local life

The most effective way to know how Hong Kong people live is to observe the local life of an ordinary Hong Kong resident. Just wander and observe - and don't worry - all areas are safe.

Traditional heritage

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 Tien Tan Buddha Statue.

Museums

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.

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.

Nature

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.

  • Lantau Island is twice as big as Hong Kong island and is well worth checking out if you want to get away from the bright lights and pollution of the city for a spell. Here you will find open countryside, traditional fishing villages, secluded beaches, monasteries and more. You can hike, camp, fish and mountain bike, among other activities.
  • In the waters just off Tung Chung on Lantau Island, live the Chinese White Dolphins. These dolphins are naturally pink and live in the wild, but their status is currently threatened, with it current population estimated to be between 100-200.
  • The Sai Kung Peninsula in New Territories is also a worthwhile place to visit. Its mountainous terrain and spectacular coastal scenery make this a special place. There are both challenging and more relaxed routes.
  • Hong Kong Wetland Park in New Territories is a relaxing park set amidst an ecological mitigation area. One can stroll along a network of board walks or explore the large visitors centre/museum.
  • North East New Territories is also famous for its natural environment. Yan Chau Tong Marine Park is in the North East New Territories. A few traditional abandoned villages are connected with hiking trails in the territory. North East New Territories is a famous hiking hot spot for the locals.
  • Short hiking trails (2 hours) can be found on Hong Kong Island and the New Territories. You can even hike up to the Victoria Peak.
  • Some outlying islands are worth visiting, e.g.: Lamma Island, Cheung Chau, Ping Chau, Tap Mun, Tung Lung Island.

Theme parks

  • Hong Kong Disneyland Resort opened in September 2005. It is on Lantau Island, about 12 km east of Hong Kong International Airport. The resort also features a Disneyland park, two resort hotels and a lake recreation centre. Though significantly smaller in size than other Disneyland-style parks elsewhere, the park is undergoing an expansion to offer more attractions (including the recently opened Toy Story Land and Grizzly Gulch). It offers some great attractions and short queues most of the year (except the week of Chinese New Year, Easter, Halloween and Christmas season).
  • Ocean Park is on the southern side of Hong Kong island, and is the park that grew up with many local Hong Kong people. With roller coasters and large aquariums altogether, it is still packed on weekends with families and tourists. The cablecar is an icon. For many, the chance to see Hong Kong's pandas would be a deciding factor. Young adults will be attracted to the wider range of rides.
  • Ngong Ping 360 on Lantau Island is a Buddhist themed park that features Imperial Chinese architecture, interactive shows, demonstrations, restaurants and coffee shops. The highlight of this trip is the longest cable car ride in Hong Kong that affords stunning views. The ride also takes you to the largest outdoor seated Buddha.

Seeing different sides of Hong Kong by public transport

Travelling on a bus or a tram is ideal for looking at different sides of Hong Kong. Not only is it cheap, it allows you to see completely different lifestyles in different districts in a short time. Below are some recommended routes.

Bus

  • KMB Route 270A. Starts from the downtown in Jordan, Kowloon. It goes along Peninsular Kowloon and heads through the New Territories. Then it goes into Sha Tin. Afterwards it goes through Tai Po Road, where you can see many traditional Chinese villages and the scenic Chinese University of Hong Kong. The bus further goes to Tai Po and you can see the traditional Market. After Tai Po, the bus again passes through the countryside and eventually reaches its terminus at Sheung Shui (below Landmark North), which is near the Hong Kong - Shenzhen boundary. The journey takes 80 minutes and costs $13 for the whole journey with an air-conditioned bus. The Hung Hom bound train back to the city can be taken from Sheung Shui.
  • NWFB Route 15 starts from Central (Exchange Square) to The Peak. It is an alternative way for getting to The Peak by bus rather than by Peak Tram. Your journey to Hong Kong will not be complete unless you have visited Victoria Peak. You can see the beautiful view of Hong Kong Island, Victoria Harbour and Kowloon Peninsula along the Stubbs Road during the journey. When you arrive, there are two shopping malls: The Peak Tower and The Peak Galleria, which provide restaurants, a supermarket, and souvenir shops for your convenience. In addition, you can visit Madame Tussauds Hong Kong and see if the mannequins look to be the real deal. Direction: you can take MTR and get off at Hong Kong station. You can approach Hong Kong station by the underpass from Central station. After that, follow the exit B1 to Exchange Square and you will see the bus terminus. You can also get off at Admiralty station. Then, follow the C1 exit towards Queensway Plaza. Make a right after you exit the station, and you will see the bus stop. After you get on the bus, just stay on until it arrives to The Peak bus terminus. The bus fare is $9.8 and it takes about 30 minutes for the journey.
  • Citybus Route 973 Route 973 starts from the Tsim Sha Tsui East Bus Terminus which is located at the Concordia Plaza, which is directly opposite the Science Museum at Science Museum Road. It goes along Salisbury Road, where the Avenue of Stars, The Space Museum and the Art Museum are located. Later it goes to University of Hong Kong, which is the most prominent and the oldest university in Hong Kong after crossing the Western Harbour Crossing. It later passes through the countryside of the southern part of Hong Kong [3]. It will reach the Hong Kong southern side, where the Jumbo/Tai Pak Floating Restaurant is located at Aberdeen. Not long after, the bus passes by a football field, from which it is a 5–10 minutes walk to Ocean Park. Finally, the bus passes by the beautiful sandy beach of Repulse Bay, before it finally arrives at its terminus station at Stanley Village, where the famous Murray House and the Stanley Village Market are located. The fare is $13.6 and it takes about 95 minutes for the journey.
  • NWFB Route H1, H2

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. A day pass costs $50, and you can hop on and hop off at any stop.

Tram

  • Take a tram journey on Hong Kong Island.

The tram system refers to is Hong Kong Tramways [4], 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. Fares are relatively cheap, just $2.3 per trip for an adult and one dollar for senior citizens (aged 65 or older) and children pay $1.2.

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 north west 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.

Avenue of Stars and A Symphony of Lights

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 synchronised to music and staged every night at 20:00. This is the world's "Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show" as recognised 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.

Edinburgh Place

Legislative Council Building (Former Supreme Court Building)

Hong Kong City Hall

Chungking Mansions

Charter Garden

Central Ferry Piers

Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware

Bank of China Tower (BOC Tower)

Cheung Kong Center

Exchange Square

Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre

Central Plaza

Hong Kong Park

KS Lo Gallery

City Hall Public Library

Hong Kong Squash Centre

Wan Chai Star Ferry Pier

Lippo Centre (Bond Centre)

Wan Chai Ferry Pier

City Hall Concert Hall

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Popular events in Hong Kong in the near future

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About Hong Kong

History

Archaeological findings date the first human settlements in the area back to more than 30,000 years ago. It was first incorporated into China during the Qin Dynasty and largely remained under Chinese rule until 1841 during the Qing Dynasty, with a brief interruption at the end of the Qin Dynasty, when a Qin official established the kingdom of Nam Yuet, which later fell to the Han Dynasty.

Hong Kong Island became a British colony in January 1841, as a result of the defeat of the Qing Dynasty of China in the First Opium War. After the defeat of China in the Second Opium War, the Kowloon Peninsula was then ceded to Great Britain in 1860. The New Territories were subsequently leased in 1898 to Great Britain for a term of 99 years.

When World War II broke out, the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill declared that Hong Kong was an "impregnable fortress". However owing to Britain's main war effort in Europe, Hong Kong was not given sufficient resources for its defense. As a result, after just slightly more than two weeks of fighting, Hong Kong was surrendered to the Japanese on 25 December 1941 and occupation lasted until the end of the war. Upon the resumption of British control all restrictions on non-Europeans owning property on prime real estate land were lifted followed by an astonishingly swift post war recovery.

After the communists took control of mainland China in 1949, many Chinese people, especially businessmen, fled to Hong Kong due to persecution by the communist government. Unlike the restrictive policies imposed by the communists in China, the British government took a rather hands off approach in Hong Kong, as proposed by former financial secretary John James Cowperthwaite, which led to a high degree of economic freedom. Under such conditions, businesses flourished in Hong Kong and its economy grew rapidly, earning it a place as one of the East Asian Tigers. Today, Hong Kong is considered to be an industrialised and developed economy, and is one of the world's most important financial centres, along with the likes of New York and London.

The massive influx of mainland Chinese refugees led to the rise of the Kowloon Walled City, which was a horrendous convolution of maze-like alleys, utter darkness, cramped space, and unsanitary conditions. There was no effective police presence inside the city itself, and it was full of triad gangs, prostitution and unlicensed physicians practising there. The Walled City was demolished in 1993, and the Kowloon Walled City Park was built on the site.

In 1984 the Chinese and British Governments signed the Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong, agreeing to return Hong Kong back to China sovereignty on 1 July 1997. Hong Kong became a special administrative region (SAR) of the Peoples Republic of China.

In accordance with the Joint Declaration, the Basic Law was enacted to serve in effect as a mini-constitution for the Hong Kong SAR. In theory, Hong Kong enjoys a high degree of autonomy in most matters except foreign affairs and defence. In practice Beijing exerts much influence in the background, however citizens are nevertheless free to keep pushing for a more democratic regime and universal suffrage.

Hong Kong mostly operates like a tiny country with its own currency, laws, international dialling code, police force, border controls and the like. It is also a member of international organisations that are normally restricted to sovereign states such as the WTO, APEC and the IOC. The Hong Kong flag is prominently flown throughout the territory, often alongside that of the Chinese mother country.

Climate

Hong Kong has a humid subtropical climate. Summers are usually hot, lasting from June to September, with temperatures usually exceeding 30°C, while night-time summer temperatures do not drop below 25°C . The area, with most of southern China, is affected by typhoons. Typhoons usually occur between June and September, though some typhoons may affect Hong Kong as late as October. These can bring a halt to local business for a day or less (natural disaster).

Winters in Hong Kong are generally very mild, with temperatures ranging from 10°C to 20°C, although dropping further sometimes, especially in the countryside. Christmas in Hong Kong is considered warm compared to many Western countries. Chinese New Year is notorious for cold wet weather, because winter in Hong Kong tends to start out mild and dry and then turn cooler and wetter later.

Spring starts in Hong Kong from March to May and autumn starts from September to November with an average temperature of around 20 to 25°C. Autumn is considered a more comfortable season as spring tends to be more humid and rainy.

Although most buildings in Hong Kong have air-conditioning to cope with the summer weather, winter heating is something of a novelty. During the coldest days, most locals simply wear more layers, even indoors. In a restaurant, for example, it is not unusual to see customers eating with jackets and scarves on. Furthermore, some larger Chinese restaurants keep the air-conditioning on during winter, though the temperature in air conditioned shopping malls stays the same regardless of season or weather outside.

Activities

Festivals

  • Chinese (Lunar) New Year (農曆新年). Although this may seem like an ideal time to go to Hong Kong, many shops and restaurants close down during the Chinese New Year, so visitors will not see Hong Kong at its best. However, unlike Christmas in Europe where you can hardly find shops open on this big day, supermarkets and convenience stores remain open, so you can still get food and daily products easily during the Lunar New Year period. The week or two leading up to the Chinese New Year as well as the period just after the third day up to the fifteenth day are good times to soak up the festive mood and listen to Chinese New Year songs being played in the shops.
  • Spring Lantern Festival (元宵節). If you go to Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, you will be able to experience this traditional Chinese festival. A number of beautiful lanterns can be found in the park at this time.
  • Ching Ming Festival (清明節). This festival in Spring is also known as grave sweeping day. To show respect to the deceased, family members go to the grave of their ancestors to sweep away leaves and remove weeds around the grave area. Paper offerings are also burned, such as fake money.
  • Cheung Chau Bun Festival (長洲太平清醮). This takes place on the tiny island of Cheung Chau. In the past the festival has involved competitions with people climbing bun towers to snatch buns. After the unfortunate collapse of a bun tower in 1978, due to an overload of people, the competition was abandoned. It was resumed again in 2005 with better safety measures.
  • Tuen Ng Festival (端午節). This is a festival in memory of a national hero from the Spring and Autumn Period of Chinese history. Dragon boat races are typically held during this festival and glutinous rice dumplings, usually with pork fillings, are eaten by many.
  • Hungry Ghost Festival (中元節). This festival runs throughout the seventh month of the Chinese calendar. It is believed that the gates of hell open during this period and hungry ghosts are allowed to roam freely into our world. Though not a public holiday, this is the time where one can see many people perform various rites to appease the wandering ghosts, such as offering food and burning joss paper. One can also see traditional performances such as Chinese opera which are held to appease these ghosts.
  • Mid Autumn Festival / Moon Festival (中秋節). This festival is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month. Moon cakes which contain lotus seed paste and duck egg yolks are a popular delicacy. Many Western people will find the traditional mooncake hard to appreciate, so you might like to try the ice-cream version as well. The festival is also known as the lantern festival and various parts of Hong Kong will be festooned with decorative lanterns which set the night scene ablaze with colour.
  • Chung Yeung Festival (重陽節). Is a day also known as Autumn Remembrance, which is similar to Ching Ming in spring, where families visit the graves of their ancestors to perform cleansing rites and pay their respects. As the weather cools down during this part of the year, hiking is a good activity to do during this holiday.
  • Halloween (萬聖節). Halloween has grown rapidly in popularity and many people dress up to party till late. Trick or treat is not common but most restaurants and shopping centres are decorated and have special programmes. For young adults and teenagers, Ocean Park and Disneyland is the place to be for Halloween fun. It is not a public holiday.
  • Christmas (聖誕節). Christmas is celebrated Hong Kong style. The city is adorned using traditional Western Christmas decorations. Many shopping centres, such as Pacific Place, offer ample opportunities for children to meet Santa. Most shops and restaurants remain open throughout Christmas. You should expect large crowds out shopping for the Christmas sales.
  • New Year's Eve (元旦除夕). New Year's Eve in Hong Kong is something to check out if you are seeking a carnival experience. Hundreds of thousands of people out on the streets to celebrate the New Year is truly an unforgettable time. There are all-night services on the MTR, night-buses, and of course, many taxis. Fireworks go off on the harbour front, which a lot of people attend to watch on both sides of the harbour: Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon side) and Central (Hong Kong Island). The young adults and older adults decide to party with the rest of Hong Kong at the hot-spots such as Causeway Bay, Lan Kwai Fong and Tsim Sha Tsui. Many people dress up and attend private parties and others flock to the streets to enjoy the atmosphere. Police patrol around popular areas to make sure the city is a safe party-zone. Hong Kong people are not great drinkers and most of them stay dry for the night. Drinking alcohol on the street is uncommon. So visitors who drink should moderate their behaviour or risk being screened out by the police as the only drunks in the crowd.

Exploring

Ride the tram between Kennedy Town and Shau Kei Wan. The journey takes around 80 minutes and costs $2.30. 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. Travelling further east are North Point and Shau Kei Wan areas, which are of completely different styles from that in Central and Causeway Bay.

Music

Hong Kong is one of the main centres 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.

Beaches

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 life guards 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).

Swimming Pools

Other than swimming pools in hotels, Hong Kong offers a series of public swimming pools which are maintained to a very high standard. It costs $19 for adults and $9 children. Swimming pools are children friendly with shallow pools and fountains. All swimming pool complexes offer swimming lanes, hot showers, lockers, and most have swimming clubs for serious swimmers.

The Kowloon Park swimming pool complex (Tsim Sha Tsui MTR exit A1) is centrally located and offers visitors a wide range of services. Indoors is a main pool that is Olympic sized, a slightly smaller training pool, a diving pool and a leisure pool for younger swimmers. During the summer months the indoor pools are air-conditioned, whilst in winter the water is heated. Outdoors, during the summer season, they have four leisure pools to meet the needs of all ages. In summer, the pool is popular with teenagers but all age-groups make good use of the pools. A limited number of sun loungers are available.

The pools in Kowloon Park are open 06:30-22:00, but there are session breaks when the centre closes for lunch 12:00-13:00 and another hour of closure 17:00-18:00. Most public pools in Hong Kong have similar opening and closing times with session breaks.

Family changing rooms are available in addition to the regular changing rooms. Males and females have separate changing areas but changing rooms do not offer much privacy between users of the same sex. Swimmers are expected to provide their own towels and toiletries. A $5 coin is needed to operate a locker or you can provide your own padlock (you can get back the $5 coin after you unlock the locker, its right behind the keyhole). An Octopus card or coins are needed for payment to enter the complex.

There is at least one pool in each district of Hong Kong. For the address and opening schedule, see the government website.

Sailing

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 and Camping

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 travellers 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:

  • Lantau Trail on Lantau.
  • Hong Kong Trail on Hong Kong Island.
  • Maclehose Trail through the New Territories. Oxfam organizes an annual charity hike of this 100 km trail every November. Winning teams finish in around 11–12 hours but average people take 30–36 hours to finish the whole trail, which starts from the eastern end of the New Territories (Sai Kung) to the western end (Tuen Mun).
  • Wilson Trail starting on Hong Kong Island and finishing in the New Territories.

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 [5] and Journey to Hong Kong [6] 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.

Gambling

Horse racing may get all the media attention, but mahjong (麻雀 ma jeuk) also forms an integral part of Hong Kong gambling culture. Mahjong has also had a strong influence on Hong Kong pop culture, with a history of songs and films based on a mahjong theme. The game played in Hong Kong is the Cantonese version, which differs in rules and scoring from the Japanese version or the versions played in other parts of China. Mahjong parlours are ubiquitous in Hong Kong, though they do not advertise their services openly and many require a fair amount of effort to find. They also have many unwritten rules that visitors may find hard to understand.

Betting on world-wide football matches is also available at the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

Food

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, it is a good place for homesick travellers who have had enough of Chinese food. If you can afford it, you can also find some Western restaurants that are featured in the Michelin guide to Hong Kong.

Magazines for local gourmets are published every week and the Michelin Guide for Hong Kong has been published since 2008. According to Restaurant magazine in 2010, four of the best 100 restaurants in the world are in Hong Kong.

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.

Cost

While dining out, you may meet some local people who haven't cooked at home for a decade. For practical reasons, Hong Kongers almost never invite guests to their home, so socialising with friends almost always involves eating out. As such, while eating out is not cheap by Asian standards, it is still significantly cheaper than in Western countries.

To stuff your stomach in a grassroots Chaa Chan Teng (茶餐廳) (local tea restaurant), expect to pay $10–20 for milk, tea or coffee, $8–10 for a toast and $25–50 for a dish of rice with meats. Wonton noodles generally cost $20–30. You could find it even cheaper in many street stalls (although decreasing in numbers) but most of the people working there do not speak much English (and also no English on the menu). However if you could manage to communicate with them, this street-style eating is an excellent way to experience local food.

There is always a McDonald's, of course, which sells a Happy Meal set for around $20–25. Most other major fast food eateries can also be found in Hong Kong with reasonable prices.

In midrange and upmarket restaurants, prices are hard to generalise. In a hotpot restaurant (Korean), $100–150 per head is common, and $200–400 per person is also expected for better choices of food. Sushi is popular with many locals and prices usually start at $100–200 in a self-service bar to several hundred dollars for a tiny portion of high quality food. You can usually tell how cheap (or expensive) it is from the decor of the restaurant (menus are not always displayed outside restaurants).

Western restaurants, especially in Soho in Central, where rental payments are skyrocketing, tend to be particularly expensive, and $300–$500 per head is common. Fine dining restaurants, usually located at five-star hotels, can cost $500–$1500 per person, more if you are a wine enthusiast. Wine choices in these places are on par with any 5-star hotel.

Etiquette

Chinese food is generally eaten with chopsticks, but don't expect restaurants serving western food to supply chopsticks; dinners will routinely use 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 it.

A few Hong Kong customs to be aware of:

  • To thank the person who pours your tea Cantonese style, tap two or three fingers on the table. The legend suggests a story involving a Chinese emperor travelling incognito and his loyal subjects wanting to kowtow (bow) to him without blowing their cover — hence the "finger kowtow".
  • If you want more tea in the pot, leave the lid open, and it will be refilled.
  • It is not unusual for customers to rinse their plates and utensils with hot tea before starting their meal, and a bowl is often provided for this very purpose. Be informed, however, that this is not superstition but due to the fact that cheaper restaurants may often have washing residues on dishes or utensils.
  • Except for very expensive places, there is no real dresscode in Hong Kong. You will often see people in suits and others in t-shirts in the same restaurant.

See also Chinese table manners for more details. While certain etiquette is different, Chinese manners for using chopsticks apply to Hong Kong too.

What to eat

Dim sum 點心

Dim sum (點心), literally means 'to touch (your) heart', is possibly the best known Cantonese dish. Served at breakfast and supper, 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). 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 燒味

Siu mei is a general name for roast meats made in a Hong Kong style, including roast pork belly, roasted pork (叉燒 char siu), roast duck or chicken. 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 favourites for many, including local superstars. It is recommended to taste the roasted pork with rice in 'Sun-Can' of PolyU.

Congee 粥

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 savoury 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 specialise 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.

Noodles 麵

When asked what food makes Hong Kong people feel home, wonton noodles (雲吞麵) is one of the favourite 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.

Tong Sui 糖水

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.

Tea time 下午茶

Showing signs of British colonial influence, tea time (嘆茶, Cantonese:Hang cha) plays an important role in Hong Kong's stressful office life. Usually starting at 2pm to 3pm, 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 on 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 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.

Street food

Street food is very popular in Hong Kong. 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) and fried three filled treasures (煎釀三寶, vegetable filled with fish meat).

Seafood 海鮮

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. Prices range from $200 per head for a very basic dinner, to $300–500 for better choices and much more for the best on offer.

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 travelling companions does not like seafood, don't panic, many seafood restaurants have extensive menus that cater for all tastes. A number of seafood restaurants specialise in high quality roast chicken that is especially flavoursome. 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.

Exotic meats

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 usually at $80 per bowl to $1000. 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.

International Cuisine

Due to the large number of foreign residents in Hong Kong, there are numerous restaurants that serve international cuisine in all price levels and often offer food very close to the foreign original. This includes various types of Indian, Thai, Japanese and European kitchen. As one special example, the availability of fresh fish for Sushi restaurants delivered daily from Japanese fish markets sets Hong Kong apart from Singapore where custom restrictions make a quick delivery from Tokyo to the restaurant impossible.


Where to eat

While dining out, it is easy to find places selling mains for well under $80, offering both local and international food. MacDonald's can be found on nearly every street in a tourist area, as well as most shopping malls. Local fast food chains such as Café de Coral [11] and Maxim's MX [12] offer meals in the vicinity of $30, with standardised English menus for easy ordering. Mid-range restaurants generally charge in excess of $100 for mains. Whilst at the top end, restaurants, such as Felix or Aqua, can easily see you leave with a bill in excess of $1500 (including entrées (appetizers), mains, desserts and drinks).

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.

Hong Kong also has a staggering range of international restaurants serving cuisines from all over the world. 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 concerned with bars and clubs and on Friday and Saturday nights especially can become crowded with revellers. Top chefs are often invited or try to make their way to work in Hong Kong.

Barbecue (BBQ) meals are a popular local pastime. Many areas feature free public barbecue pits where everybody roasts their own food, usually with long barbeque forks. It's not just sausages and burgers - the locals enjoy cooking a variety of things at BBQ parties, such as fish, beef meatballs, pork meatballs, chicken wings, and so on. A good spot is the Southern Hong Kong Island, where almost every beach is equipped with many free BBQ spots. Just stop by a supermarket and buy food, drinks and BBQ equipment. The best spots are Shek O (under the trees at the left hand side of the beach) and Big Wave Bay.

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 snails. Local people often go to the market everyday to buy fresh ingredients, just like the restaurants.

Cooked food centres 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 centres provide economic solutions to diners, but you might need to take along a Cantonese speaker, or be brave.

Supermarkets include Wellcome, [13], Park N Shop, [14], and CRC Shop [15]. Specialty supermarkets catering to Western and Japanese tastes include City Super [16] and Great [17]. 24 hour convenience stores 7-Eleven and Circle K can be found almost anywhere in urban areas.

If you really can't decide where to eat, take a look at openrice.com [18]. You will be able to search for good restaurants nearby, and read reviews from both locals and expatriates.

Fine Dining

Eating is one of the favourite pastimes in Hong Kong and there is an abundance of fine dining options in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is arguably the best city in the world for Chinese fine dining, and is the only place in the world with a three Michelin stars Chinese restaurant. Chefs at fine dining Chinese restaurants often like to incorporate some Western or Japanese touches into their dishes, often resulting in interesting and surprisingly tasty results. The downside though is that fine dining is usually very expensive, and prices above $1,000 per person are not unheard of.

Drinks

Tea

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.

Alcohol

Some Chinese people do drink a lot but don't expect the binge-drinking culture found in some western countries. There are many neighbourhoods 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 licence 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, but don't expect the drunken brawls and rowdiness that you might be used to back home. If you come to Hong Kong, and get drunk, you will certainly risk drawing considerable attention to yourself if you cannot hold your drink.

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. Beer usually starts from $50 for a pint and more in a bar popular among expats. 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 centres, 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.

Check the district pages of this travel guide for recommended bars.

Tobacco

In a move to discourage smoking, tourists are only allowed to carry no more than 19 duty-free cigarettes or 25g of tobacco products since August 2010. The government has also banned the sales of tobacco products in duty-free shops on arrival gates.

Offenders can be charged for cigarette smuggling and the penalty can be tough. According to one local account, a man was fined $2000 after being found guilty of carrying five packs of cigarettes. Illegal duty-free cigarettes can be seen for sale in several locations, such as in night markets, but both the buyer and seller may be charged for smuggling. Be aware that the police are known to launch frequent raids at any time. Once caught, ignorance is not an accepted defence.

Cigarettes in Hong Kong cost around $50 for a pack of 20. Most popular brands include Marlboro, Salem and Kent which are sold at $50 something, the second highest in Asia after Singapore. There are also some slightly cheaper brands catering for smokers on budget. Hand-rolling tobacco is not common and is only available in specialty shops.

Shopping

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.

The official exchange rate is fixed at HKD7.80 to USD1, although bank rates may fluctuate slightly. When exchanging currency at a big bank, be prepared to pay a small fixed commission, usually about $40 per transaction. If exchanging large amounts, this commission will have a negligible impact on the transaction. If exchanging small amounts, it may be advantageous to exchange at one of many independent exchange shops found in tourist areas. Although their exchange rates compared with big banks are slightly less favourable for you, most do not charge a commission. They may also be more convenient and a faster way to exchange (no queues, located in shopping centres, open 24 hours, etc.). However, be wary of using independent exchangers outside banking hours because, without competition from big banks, their rates may become very uncompetitive.

Try to avoid changing money at the airport or at most hotels since the rates offered there are usually extremely poor. Note that street money exchange vendors will often offer different rates and you may be able to save around 10% if you can compare several different places rather than using the first one you see. The worst rates will be similar to those found at the hotels.

Many tourists opt to use their ATM debit cards instead of carrying cash or traveller's cheques. Using this method, the exchange rates and fees are comparable to exchanging cash at big banks. However, 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. Also, be mindful of withdrawal limits imposed by your bank.

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) issues the new purple plastic $10 notes while the rest are issued by three banks (the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, also known as the 'Hong Kong bank', Standard Chartered Bank and Bank of China). The old green paper $10 notes issued by HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank remain legal tender. The design of the notes varies a lot between banks though the colour and size are about the same for notes of the same denomination. The larger the denomination, the larger the size of the banknotes. Banknotes come in denominations of:

  • $10, green or purple (paper or plastic).
  • $20, dark blue or light blue (old or new).
  • $50, purple or green (old or new).
  • $100, red.
  • $500, brown.
  • $1000, gold.

Some shops do not accept $1,000 notes due to counterfeiting concerns.

The coins come in units of

  • $10, in bronze/silver, circular.
  • $5, in silver, circular, thicker.
  • $2, in silver, wavey-circular.
  • $1, in silver, circular, thinner.
  • 50¢, in bronze, circular, larger.
  • 20¢, in bronze, wavey-circular.
  • 10¢, in bronze, circular, smaller.

varying in a descending size (except $10 coin).

Since September 1997, the use of the small coins and change has been reduced due to the innovation of the Octopus card. Originally used just for fare payment for the MTR and buses, it is now used all over the city, for purchases in any amount at convenience stores, fast food restaurants, pharmacies, vending machines, etc.

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 authorisation is not used in Hong Kong.

Banking

Opening a bank account in Hong Kong is a straightforward process, requiring a proof of address and a corresponding ID. A Hong Kong identification card (of any type) will make the process much easier, although foreign visitors are allowed to open bank accounts as well using their foreign address. Hong Kong banks will have English speaking staff available.

Some banks can also provide accounts and UnionPay credit cards in the Chinese RMB currency, which can then be used when travelling in mainland China.

Costs

Hong Kong is expensive by Asian standards especially the cost of accommodation. A traveller on a bare bones budget can probably survive with $150 for a day if you are willing to stay in some of the cheapest accommodation in Hong Kong which could be as cheap as $60 per bed but the quality is not what everyone can tolerate.

Backpackers with a less tight budget should expect to spend at least $150 for a bed and $500 for a room. Family travellers should expect to pay at least $1000 for accommodation per night.

Eating out in Hong Kong is generally cheaper than in Western countries, and prices start from about $20 per serve for a basic meal of porridge or noodles, although in mid-range restaurants, $150–200 per head is common. At the other end of the spectrum, fine dining can also be very expensive, and prices on the order of $1000 per head or more are not unheard of.

Tipping

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. In hotels, a guest is also expected to tip at least $10–20 for room service, and porters also expect $10–20 for carrying your bags. Bathroom attendants in luxury restaurants and clubs might also expect you to leave a few coins, but it's socially acceptable not to tip.

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.

Shop

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, jewellery, 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 10AM until 10PM 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 and ATM 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.

Be careful when shopping at stores that have neon-lighted signs of famous brands. Some have complained about the products they purchased from these shops.

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 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 [9] on Lock Road in Tsim Sha Tsui and Page One [10] in Times Square (Causeway Bay) and Festival Walk (Kowloon Tong). Dymocks, an Australian bookshops, 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 a 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 second floor), they hide themselves in the upper floor of old buildings and offered 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 favourable 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, Nindendo 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 centres 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 centre. 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 at least by 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 jewellery- 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 jewellery and watches for sale in all major shopping areas. If you are targeting elegant looking jewellery 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

Shopping malls are everywhere in Hong Kong. Locally renowned ones are:

  1. IFC Mall - Located near the Star Ferry and Outlying Islands Ferry Piers in Central. Has many luxury brand shops, an expensive cinema and superb views across the harbour from the rooftop. Can be reached directly from the Airport via the Airport Express and the Tung Chung line.
  2. Pacific Place- Also a big shopping centre with mainly high-end brands, and has a wonderful cinema. Take the MTR to Admiralty.
  3. Festival Walk- A big shopping centre with a mix of expensive brands and smaller chains. It has an ice skating rink, cinema and one of Hong Kong's two Apple Stores. There is also a bus terminal within the mall complex. Take the MTR East Rail to Kowloon Tong.
  4. Cityplaza- A similarly large shopping centre, also with an ice-skating rink. To get there, take the MTR to Taikoo on the Island Line.
  5. Landmark- Many luxury brands have shops here Gucci, Dior, Fendi, Vuitton, etc. located at Central, Pedder Street. It used to be a magnet for the well-heeled but has since fallen behind in its management.
  6. APM- All new 24hr shopping centre in Kwun Tong. Take the MTR to the Kwun Tong station.
  7. Harbour City- Huge shopping centre in Tsim Sha Tsui on Canton Road, to get there take the MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui, or take the Star Ferry.
  8. Langham Place- A huge 12 storey shopping mall adjacent to the Langham Place Hotel in Mong Kok. Mainly contains trendy shops for youngsters. Take the MTR to the Mong Kong station and follow the appropriate exit directions.
  9. Elements- Located directly above Kowloon Station, this mall is mostly comprised of luxury brand shops and restaurants. There is a cinema, ice rink, an airport express station where you can check into your flights and a long distance bus station for the mainland. Hong Kong's tallest building, the International Commerce Centre (ICC), is attached to this mall.
  10. Times Square- A trendy multi-storey shopping mall with some luxury brands, with food courts at the lower levels, and gourmet dining at the upper stories. Take MTR to Causeway Bay, and exit at "Times Square". Definately attracting a younger crowd, this mall is very crowded on weekends and a popular meeting place for teenagers.
  11. Citygate Outlets- Located right next to Tung Chung MTR Station & directly connected to the Hotel Novotel Citygate Hong Kong, the Citygate is an outlet mall with tonnes of mid-priced brands, some of them being Adidas, Esprit, Giordano, Levi's, Nike, Quiksilver and Timberland. Many of the items are cheaper although also often out of season.
  12. Laforet, Island Beverly and Causeway Place. Best places to find cheap stylish clothes, Asian style. Mostly girls clothes, but also bags, shoes and accessories, highly recommended if you are looking for something different. Immensely popular with teenagers. These three shopping malls are all near exit E, Causeway Bay MTR station.
  13. New Town Plaza, a 9 storey shopping mall covering 1,300,000 m² retail area in Shatin, New Territories. Diverse variety of shops, consisting of sports brands, luxury brand shops, cuisines from countries in different continents, sports, etc. can be found in the mall, which is estimated to be one of the malls with the highest footfall. The mall is linked with a number of shopping centres nearby, including Phase 3 of New Town Plaza with a Japanese style Department store, YATA. 30 bus lanes are available for accessing the shopping mall. Taking the MTR East Rail to Shatin is another possible way.

Street markets

Street markets are a phenomenon in Hong Kong, usually selling regular groceries, clothes, bags or some cheap electronic knockoffs.

  1. Ladies Market- don't be fooled by the name. It is for both sexes for finding cheap clothes, toys, knockoff and fake labels. Located in Mong Kok and accessible by MTR or bus.
  2. Temple Street - Sold items are the same as in the Ladies Market, but there are more street food vendors, a handful of fortune tellers and a few Chinese opera singers. Illustrated in hundreds of cantonese films, this street is seen as a must by most tourists.
  3. Flower Market - Prince Edward. Follow your nose to the sweet scents of a hundred different varieties of flowers.
  4. Goldfish Market- A whole street full of shops selling small fish in plastic bags and accessories Tung Choi Street, Mong Kok.
  5. Bird Market- MTR Station Prince Edward, exit "Mong Kok Police Station". Walk down Prince Edward Road West until you reach Yuen Po Street "Bird Garden".
  6. Apliu Street- MTR Station Shum Shui Po, this is the place where you can find cheap computer goods, peripherals and accessories. However, this is the worst place to buy a mobile phone, as they tend to be even more dodgy than small stores in Mongkok.
  7. Stanley Market- A place for tourists rather than locals, shops sell everything from luxury luggage items to cheap brand name clothes. Accessible with the number 40 minibus from Causeway Bay. Also, no.6 and 6A bus from Central, and no. 973 bus from Tsim Sha Tsui.
  8. Textiles - Sham Shui Po MTR exit. Several square blocks around Nam Cheong St. (between Cheung Sha Wan Rd. and Lai Chi Kok Rd.) hold dozens and dozens of wholesalers to the textile trade. Although they are looking for big factory contracts, most shops are friendly and will sell you "sample-size" quantities of cloth, leather, haberdashery, tools, machinery and anything else you can think of to feed your creative impulses. Ki Lung Street has an outdoor street market selling smaller quantities of factory surplus cloth and supplies at astoundingly low prices. Haggling is not necessary.

Discounts and haggling

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 on 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 maybe 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.

Tourist traps

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 specially 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 the 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".

Refunds

Many shops are reluctant to refund if you just don't like what you bought. They are more willing to exchange products that haven't been tampered with or replace defective goods. Going against the trend, Marks & Spencer and Giordano both offer refunds without too much fuss.

Supermarkets and Convenience Stores

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 neighbourhood, 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 JUSCO are large Japanese-style supermarkets with a wide product selection and food courts. The YATA department store in Shatin also offers a Japanese-style supermarket experience.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Hong Kong on Wikivoyage.

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