Best Months to Visit
The best time to visit Hong Kong is between October and December. This period boasts comfortable temperatures and reasonable room rates. After New Years, tourism picks up significantly, despite the lower temps, and leads to higher hotel prices and more crowds. Another sweet spot for affordable travel is the short spring. And while summer remains a popular time for tourists, the weather can be stiflingly hot and humid. To protect your wallet, avoid Chinese national holidays and large conventions, when hotel prices soar. Check out the Hong Kong Tourism Board’s city calendar for updated information.
What You Need to Know
Not just a city
Hong Kong is, in fact, a territory made of numerous islands and a peninsula. You’ll spend most of your time on Hong Kong Island, the Kowloon Peninsula and Lantau Island.
Get out of town
While most people only picture Hong Kong as an urban destination, there are gorgeous seaside parks to explore. And with Hong Kong’s sophisticated public transit system, you can get out of the city in no time.
HKTB is your new BFF
HKTB stands for the Hong Kong Tourism Board, an invaluable resource for before and after you’ve arrived. Stop by the HKTB centers in the airport or in the Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry concourse for free information and helpful tips.
How to Save Money in Hong Kong
Take the tram Public transportation is cheap, only costing HK$2.30 (less than $0.30 USD). Keep in mind, though, the trams only accept exact change and are only on Hong Kong Island.
Book your room early While Hong Kong’s attractions and transportation are affordable, the hotel room rates can be exorbitant. Book early and don’t be afraid to stay a little farther from downtown, as long as you’re near an MRT station.
Head to the food court Sit-down meals can cost you a pretty penny in tourist areas, but you can usually find inexpensive options in nearby food courts.
Culture & Customs
Since its reunification in 1997, Hong Kong maintains a complex relationship with mother China. The former British colony continues to operate under a capitalist economy (despite China’s communist ways), has its own currency (the Hong Kong Dollar), and creates its own laws. And due to Hong Kong’s multicultural population and heritage, the official languages here are Chinese and English, not Mandarin. American travelers who have visited other Chinese cities like Beijing will notice a much stronger Western influence in the urban landscape, array of food choices, social practices (like greeting with a handshake) and more English speakers.
What to Eat
If there’s one word to summarize Hong Kong’s dining scene it’s this: vast. Hong Kong boasts more than 12,000 restaurants throughout the city, making it easy to find a place to eat (and a really good one at that). Alongside foodie hubs like Paris, Tokyo and New York, Hong Kong has the most Michelin-starred restaurants in the world. But if your pockets aren’t deep enough to treat yourself to a fine dining experience or two, you’ll find the city’s foodie scene caters to all kinds of budgets without skimping on quality. If you’re unsure where to begin, start with the basics.
Getting Around Hong Kong
The best way to get around Hong Kong is the Mass Transit Railway (MTR). Ideally, you’ll use a combination of the MTR and your own two feet to get places quickly and cheaply. If you take a bus or minibus, you run the risk of missing your intended destination as these two options are difficult for visitors who do not speak Cantonese, especially if you take a minibus. The ferries and the trams offer scenic routes, which you should take when you have time to absorb Hong Kong’s bustling environment.
Most visitors arrive through Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), located just off Lantau Island. While many visitors simply hop in a taxi and zoom off to downtown, you can avoid the cab fare by using the MTR’s high-speed Airport Express. This train takes only 24 minutes to reach the city, and a complimentary shuttle bus will pick up passengers at the Hong Kong and Kowloon stations and transport them to popular hotels nearby.
Check Flights to Hong Kong
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Entry & Exit Requirements
Unlike other areas of China, Hong Kong does not require visitors to obtain a tourist visa. You will, however, need a passport that is valid for at least one month beyond your intended return date, sufficient proof of a later departure (a return airline ticket will do) and adequate funds to support your visit. These requirements are noticeably less strict than those at other Chinese points of entry. If you venture into one of China’s more restricted areas without the proper visa or the prescribed passport expiration date, you will be in violation of Chinese immigration laws. Check the U.S. Department of State’s website before leaving for Hong Kong.