Visa requirements and passing the border:
Most people will only need a simple passport valid from 3 months with no visa requirement. Please check this Hong Kong government’s document (skip to Part II). Hong Kong border checks are not particularly strict or relaxed. They do speak English at the border. Just behave accordingly and you’ll be fine.
The currency is not the Chinese Yuan (RMB). Hong Kong has its own whose name is Hong Kong Dollar (HKD).
1USD=7.76HKD (linked exchange rate, doesn’t fluctuate much)
*of course, the exchange rate changes every day but normally it is not too much more or less than this.
Hong Kong also has a special card called Octopus Card, which is something like the Oyster Card in London.
- It grants you access to every kind of Hong Kong public transportation: buses, minibuses, ferries, trams and metro.
- Whenever you get on a bus or enter a metro, you need to tap the card over a sensor.
- Remember that you have to check the amount of money left inside and you need to recharge it periodically.
- To recharge you can do it yourself at the machines located in every metro station or you can ask the metro employee.
- Fede’s Tip: Another option is going to the convenience stores, which are omnipresent in Hong Kong, like 7eleven and ask for a recharge.
- To check your credit, simply look at the sensor where you pass your card over, or use designated value checking machines in metro stations.
Since Hong Kong has been a british colony until the last century, many Hong Kongers will be able to speak and understand English pretty well unless you venture into the New Territories like Shatin, Sai Kung and Fanling where the number of English speakers decreases.
Most of Hong Kongers’ mother tongue is, instead, Cantonese and not Mandarin, despite being the version of Chinese predominant in China. Cantonese is like an older version of Mandarin that managed to retain old Chinese features and lexicon, for more info please check out my Ten Facts About Hong Kong. Of course Mandarin is spoken by the majority of population especially by young people but they have a different and thicker accent.
When To Go:
- From September to January: this is the best time to visit Hong Kong as the temperatures will not be as hot as in summer but milder even though not too cold, it will rarely drop below 10 degrees. It is also the best time to enjoy landscapes and scenarios since the smog and fog will not engulf the city.
- From April to August: this is the worst time to visit Hong Kong as spring draws in and smog will start surrounding the city. In summer weather will be extremely hot, surpassing even 35 degrees and this is not the best timing to visit such a big and overcrowded city.
Knowing the various National Holidays would help you plan better your itinerary: best time to come to enjoy local celebrations or worst time to come for the massive amount of tourists? Learn more by reading here:
Of course they have our festivities like Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Labour Day, Easter and First Day of the Year so these you already know. Some other local festivities like Chinese New Year, Chung Yeung, QingMing Festival change every year according to the Lunar New Year, the dates I will report here are for 2017.
4th April, QingMing Festival: an old tradition when Chinese families pay honour to the dead and their ancestors.
3rd May, Buddha’s Birthday
30th May, Dragon’s Boat Festival: This is a good time to come to Hong Kong as this is a very popular festival and very local. My boyfriend wants to show me one day so if you are planning to come to Hong Kong around May or June, be sure not to miss this out!
1st July, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day
1st-2nd October, National Day of the People’s Republic of China: I guess that during these days a lot of chinese tourists will come and conquer Hong Kong and its landmarks so do anything you can to avoid coming on these two days.
5th October, Day after Mid-Autumn Festival
28th October, Chung Yeung Festival: this festival is similar to the QingMing, Hong Kong families go to pay honour to the dead in the cemeteries. It is also considered good luck to hike in these days.
The Cultural Stuff
Food To Try:
Knocking on the desk: Hong Kongers knock on the desk in order to thank you after you filled their glasses so do not get scared if they do. It is something I really like, a very peculiar way to say thank you. It comes from an ancient legend: a Chinese Emperor went out of the palace in disguise to check out his empire. He went to a local restaurant with his servants. They sat down at a table, and a pot of tea was served. He poured some tea for the servant. The servant knew he couldn’t bow on his knees to thank the emperor or his identity would be exposed. Ingeniously he knocked on the table to represent the action of bowing on his knees.
Fill glasses of others: I remember that my boyfriend always filled my glasses first and then his, I never understood why because in my family we never bother to fill other members’ glasses every time unless they ask us to. Once in Hong Kong I realized everyone first filled the glasses of the guests and then their own. It is something very common and it would be nice if outsiders would do the same, although they would never criticize you or judge you badly if you do not.
Never leave food in the dish: Asians in general, especially Hong Kongers from what I could tell, are obsessed with avoiding leaving leftovers in the dish both at home and in restaurants. They push themselves to the limit in order not to leave anything even if they are about to explode after eating much ahah We, Italians, easily give up and leave the food in the dish but for them it is out of question. I remember that once my boyfriend’s mother asked the restaurant to wrap some glutinous rice, a leftover of our Dim Sum, so they could eat at home even if there was just one small piece. I really like their attitude, we should never waste our food.
Do not arrive late: It is not considered good manners to arrive late to appointments, unlike in Italy, where most people arrive 30 minutes late ahaha! However, not all of them are so strict when it comes to this, especially young people. Once we agreed to meet at a certain place at a certain hour with my boyfriend’s friends and two out of four arrived late so don’t take it too seriously if you are hanging out with youngsters. It is, obviously, another thing if it regards the work environment.
Small flats: For us the tiny flats were the biggest culture shock we had in Hong Kong. Even though the city is quite modern and westernized, the way they live is totally different from what we could expect. Their houses are really really small (27 sq meters for three), they usually have just three rooms plus the bathroom and the kitchen is freaking small, so small you cannot even afford to cook there (that is why most of them eat at restaurants). There is also a big lack of personal space given the size of the house.
Slurp but not burp: Unlike Japan, where slurping shows that you appreciated the food so it is regarded as a good sign, Hong Kongers just don’t care whether you slurp or not. When you are savouring some noodles, however, feel free to slurp as much as you want. Burp seems to be quite a complicated matter as some Hong Kongers would burp, even on buses, while many others would never do it. Lately it is more and more frowned upon burping in public while in China it is simply a body signal (like ur stomach drums when you get hungry).
Crossing chopsticks: This is quite common for me as even Italians would never make a cross with the cutleries. We do not want to do it because it is something bad towards Jesus as he was crucified but in Hong Kong the reason was just….arbitrary (I asked Aaron why not and he was like….”just no”). Anyway never dare to make a cross with the chopsticks, my boyfriend gets angry whenever I do it xD
Where to Go in Hong Kong
Most of you would think that Hong Kong just has skyscrapers, markets, countless malls and expensive shops to offer but you cannot be wronger than this! Hong Kong is not only a dynamic, bustling and modern city where the East meets the West but is also rich in landscapes and unspoilt natural areas. Do not just wander aimlessly on Hong Kong Island, in the famous Soho district or in the overcrowded Causeway Bay, but venture into off-beaten paths, you will absolutely not regret it.
Famous But Unmissable Landmarks:
For further info about the place, please click on the title, you will be redirected to one of my previous articles I wrote about that place.
Tian Tan Buddha: a Big Buddha situated on the top of a mountain on Lantau island. It can be reached by funicular (more touristy and overcrowded) or by bus (longer but less used). Make sure to visit the nearby Po Lin Monastery, a beautiful monastery built in the 20th century by some monks from China who decided to settle down in this unspoilt area of Hong Kong, far away from the chaotic city life. Its bright colours and carvings will surprise you.
Victoria Peak: arguably the most famous landmark of Hong Kong and the most photographed one: the scenic panorama that can be seen from the terrace located on Victoria Peak. Even though thousands of people pack this place everyday, it’s still worth a visit just for gazing at Hong Kong’s tall skyscrapers.
Wong Tai Sin: Wong Tai Sin is a big temple home to three different religions: chinese folk religion, buddhism and taoism. It is often visited also by Hong Kongers that come here to pray to the deities and ask them to fulfill their wishes. The temple complex is pretty huge, it features other minor halls and a chinese garden.
Hong Kong Disneyland: located on Lantau Island. A perfect destination for families with children.
Causeway Bay and Mongkok: perfect for shopaholics but do not skip the countless markets located in Mongkok. Some are more touristy (Ladies Market) while some are for real locals and it is there where you can find the best bargains.
Victoria Harbour and Tsim Sha Tsui: It is one of the most famous and iconic harbours in the world featured in several movies; no need to explain much here. Tsim Sha Tsui is a peninsula with a promenade along the sea, which offers you the best view over the harbour.
Underrated Places That Are Worth Visiting:
Sai Kung: Sai Kung is one of my favourite places in Hong Kong. It is a fishing town in the New Territories where you can have the chance to hike beautiful trails and have very pleasant boat tours around its countless isles. It is often left out by tourists upon their visit to Hong Kong because it is far away and not much famous.
Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery: A real urban oasis in the middle of the city and hidden among the countless skyscrapers that make up Hong Kong. It is a cute garden modeled after a traditional Tang dynasty garden with a big buddhist complex all made by wood.
Tai O: A picturesque fishing village built on stilt houses above the sea and located on Lantau Island; it is gaining more and more popularity among the tourists.
Stanley: Stanley is a cute fishing village located in the southern part of Hong Kong Island and only reachable by bus. It still retains its charm as fishing village and gives you a small break from city life. Notable is its market that takes place there everyday and sells many nice souvenirs.
Lung Yeuk Tau Heritage Trail: A trail in the middle of New Territories’ nature where you will come across many old temples and get to know more about Hong Kong’s past.
One Thousand Buddhas Temple: My favourite temple in Hong Kong, it is really worth a visit even if it is tiring to reach and located quite far away from Hong Kong island. It is a big buddhist religious complex situated atop of a hill, which features – as the name already points out – one thousand buddha statues, some of them are really hilarious. You can also come across monkeys.
Lamma Island: It is an island located in the southern part of Hong Kong, famous for its nature and slow life. I did not visit here but I am planning to come next time I go to Hong Kong.
- If you encounter some difficulties planning your trips or want to have more info about what to see, to eat, to visit or just some general history, you should check Discover Hong Kong out. They also have an app that is free and available for any Android and Apple users. It helps you plan and discover new places (check their Instagram Profile out, they post many inspirational photos). Or feel free to ask me anything!
- If you are staying in Hong Kong for more than one week, I suggest you to have a one-day trip to Macau, which is just one hour away by boat from Hong Kong. Another option is to book a hotel there to explore the city without haste. Check out my article on Macau!
- My boyfriend Aaron is from Hong Kong. If we happen to be there, come meet us!
Hello = 你好 (nei5 hou2) or simply hallo
Bye bye = 拜拜 (baai3 baai3) which is like the english one
Thank you = 多謝 (do1 jeh6) – for a gift 唔該 (ng4 goi1) – for a service
You are welcome = 唔使 (ng4 sai2)
Do you speak english? = 你識唔識講英文呀 (Nei3 sik1 ng1 sik1 gong2 jing1 man2 a )
I would like to go to metro station/station/hospital = 我想去 地鐵站/火車站/醫院 (ngo5 seung2 hui3 dei6 tit3 zam6/fo che zam6/yi1 yuen2)
Where is… = …..係邊 (hai2 bin1)
It is delicious = 好食 (hou2 sik6)
I would like to buy this = 要呢個 (yiu3 li1 go3)
How much is this? = 呢個幾多錢 (li1 go3 gei2 do1 chin4)