How to go to Hong Kong ?

 

You will find here most of the practical information you need to prepare your trip :

   

Getting there & away ?

To/From Airport :

Once arrived, make sure to visit the Hong Kong Tourist Association (HKTA) office at the airport (open 8 to 22:30) for free maps & information.

To go to or from HK's new International Airport (Chek Lap Kok), you have the choice of the following :

  • Rail link: the fastest : 19 mn to Kowloon (then free shuttle bus to Tsim Sha Tsui area), 23 minutes to Central / $70 one way, $120 return valid 1 month / What make this option really interesting when leaving HK is the free check-in service for all major airlines at the station in Central : you can register your luggage there (the usual registration two hours before departure apply) and then travel light without being in a hurry ! 

  • Bus Service : the cheapest : $33 to Tsim Sha Tsui by No A21 or $40 to HK Island by No A11. Around one hour. Other routes available. Cheaper & faster at night.

  • Taxis ($270 to TST, $330 to Central) or Ferry to Tuen Mun ($15, 10mn) or Discovery Bay ($38, 45mn) are also available

The departure tax is HK$50 but it is now often included in your ticket. No tax if on transit and same day departure. 

    HK International Airport

Backpacker's Tips :  Walter, Australia / New Zealand (March 02)
You can check out Po-lin Monastery on Lantau Island straight after getting off the plane! Get a bus from the airport to Tung Chung, then change for Po-lin! After this, you can go down to Mui-wo and get a boat in to town. 

Backpacker's Tips :  Anonymous (Sept 01)
There are quite a few services in this new airport. For example, there is a shower facility with a room with massage chair for a nap near gate 60. Not cheap however at US$9. More interesting, the free internet service at the cheap food court, around gate 1-20.

Backpacker's Tips :  John Chuk, USA (Nov 99)
Shuttle Bus & Rail link: cheaper than the cheapest :
This is the local route. You can take this route only if you have carry-on (no large suitcases) : Take the S51 or S61 or S64 or S1 shuttle bus (located right under the over past to the Airport Express Train) to the Tung Chung MTR station; it cost about HK$4.00 / Then, take the MTR train to Tsim Sha Tsui (or else where); it cost about HK$15.00.

The new HK transit smart card "Octopus Card" :
You may buy a stored value transit smart card to be used in almost all (90%) of the public transit systems (MTR, KCR, public buses and etc..) in HK. You can than return the smart at any MTR/KCR stations and redeem the remaining value. This card is very convenient; you can just scan the card per each transit ride. You won't need to buy a ticket each time as well as keeping all the small coins and changes. They are available at any MTR station where you can find a counter with a real person (not machines). The initial cost is HK$150 for adult with a HK$100 usable value stored. I believe there is a HK$50 deposit for the card. You may add value in only HK$100 or HK$50 increments with those machines at any MTR/KCR stations. The card is valid 3 years from the last add-value transaction. However, you should avoid the "Tourist Octopus Card" which cost HK$250 and come with two rides on the airport express train and HK$50 stored value. A rip-off.

 

To/from China :

HK is an excellent base to get your Chinese visa and organize your trip. To/from the mainland, you have the choice of the followings :

  • By KCR : the most reliable...

To the border at Lo Wu (Shenzhen) : $33 / from 5:30 to 22:25 / every 3-10 mn / around 30 minutes / From Lo Wu to HK, last train at 12:20am / Border crossing opening hours : 6:30 to 11:30 daily

From Shenzhen, luxury bus to Guangzhou for $60 / every 30mn / it takes 2 hours

  • By train : the fastest & most convenient, once in the train... 

Trains from Hung Hom Station, 20mn from Tsim Sha Tsui by minibus No8 ($4.3, from behind the YMCA on middle road) / Tickets can be bought at the station, KCR Ticket offices or CTS/CITS  (no commission so far) / For the latest information on train fares & timetables, call CTS (2315 7188) or CITS (2732 7188) or check the web site  http://www.kcrc.com

To Guangzhou : $180 or 190 / Departure at 8:25, 9:25, 11:05, 12:10, 13:25, 14:30 & 16:45 / 90 minutes to 2 hours / The first and last trains are usually busy and reservation in advance is recommended / Can stop at Guangzhou East Station and continue to the town Center by using the new underground system. A counter for the largest hotels with free shuttle bus was also reported.  / From Guangzhou to HK, departure at 8:30, 9:50, 11, 11:28, 14:28, 15:50 & 17:20

To Zhaoqing via Foshan : $235 / Train No102 / dep. 14:30  arr. 18:50 / From Zhaoqing, dep. 9:17 arrive in HK at 13:38 

To Beijing  : Train No K98 / $587 middle hard sleeper, $934 soft sleeper / 28 hours / Dep at 15 every two days / Arr. Beijing West 18:58 the next day / Reservation up to 60 days in advance for Beijing (30 days other stations) / Enquiry Hotline : 2947 7888

To Zhengzhou : same train as for Beijing / $490 middle hard sleeper, $776 soft sleeper / arrival 12:16 the next day

To Shanghai via Hangzhou : Train No100 / $519 middle hard sleeper, $825 soft sleeper / 28 hours / Dep at 15 every two days / Arr. 19:10 the following day 

  • By bus : the cheapest but slowest...

Citybus Hotline : 2736 3888

Guangzhou : $80 / 7:30, 8:15, 9 & 9:45 at TST China HK City Admiralty  (buses coming from Admiralty)  / Departures from Admiralty or Tsim Sha Tsui / Advertise around 3 hours but more than 5 hours is not unusual during WE / Arrive in Guangzhou at Garden Hotel, around 3km from the Train Station (buses available) / Other companies more expensive. 

It was also reported that China Travel runs a bus service to Guangzhou (China Hotel in the north or Landmark Hotel in the south) directly from HK airport. It takes 3 hours if there is no queues at the borders.  

I made a double mistakes once : leave on Saturday morning and use a bus directly from HK. City Bus advertise "approximatively three hours". It took me more than five and 80HK$ to arrive only at Garden Hostel in Guangzhou (Bus No30 from there to the train station). Most of the time was wasted trying to leave HK via two crowded border areas... My double advises therefore : leave on a week day and stick to the KCR.

  • By sea : the most original...

To Shenzhen Airport : $189 / Daily / 7:30 to 3:45pm / 1 hour

To Zhuhai : Departure from Kowloon (China HK City in Tsim Sha Tsui) at 7:45, 9:30, 11, 14:30 & 17. Departure from Hong Kong Island (HK-Macau Terminal) at 8:40, 10, 12, 14, 16, 19:30 & 21:30. The fare is $160. Once on the boat, you can apparently pay $10 to upgrade to first class. (info submitted by Hong Xiu Ping, China)

To Wuzhou : $310 / every even day  / 8am / 8 hours

To Zhaoqing : $266 / Daily / 8:20 / 4 hours

To Xiamen : $478 3rd class / every Tuesday / 2pm / 20 hours

For other destinations & confirmation, check at China Travel Service or any other travel agency.

 

To/from Macau :

You can leave either from Central's Macau Ferry Terminal or TST's China Ferry Terminal.

The latest is the cheapest at $113 during week day and $134 during WE, inclusive of the $26 HK Government Embarkation Tax. Night service at 18:15, 18:45 & 20 cost $134 or $154. The trip by catamaran takes 70mn.  Morning departures include 8:30, 9, 9:30 & 11:40. Call HYFCO Travel Agent (2730 8608) for details.

For the return, it might be better to book with a Jetfoil to/from Central as they operate 24 hours daily, every 15 to 60mn.  Night service cost $161, day service $130 or 141 (WE). The trip takes 55mn. Call Far East Hydrofoil Co (2859 3333) for details. Turbo Cat (60mn) or Foil-Cat (50mn) are also available for the same price.

But why not go to China via Macau and save the cost of the return trip ? Otherwise, it is advisible to buy a return ticket in advance, in particular during week end or holidays. 

 

Visa ?

Tourist visa :

Three months and gratuity is the norm for the majority of developed countries (incl. now Japan, Germany & the USA). First extension of another 3 months is usually no problem (by leaving to Macau or, better, to China then coming back). More than 6 months in HK as a tourist is suspect  and will require a longer stay out of the territory before coming back. Even so, you may be stopped at the Immigration Dept, asked why you love HK that much and, if your answers are not satisfactory, given only a few days to prepare your bags and leave for goods.

Working visa :

Difficult to get those days because of the political situation (HK is now Chinese) and the economic recession (6% are unemployed). You will need serious (or original) qualifications as your employer will have to prove that no local can occupy your position.

For Chinese visa, see "How to go" China

    Immigration querries

 

When to visit ?

From the weather point of view :

Autumn is definitively the best time to visit as it is sunny and reasonably hot (average 23C) without too much humidity (72%). Winter can be cold (below 10C) but, as those extreme temperatures usually last only a few days (the average temperature is 17C) , and that the humidity is also low (72%), this is the second best choice. Spring from March brings back temperature and humidity (23C, 82%). Summer is very hot and humid with averages of 33C and 95% humidity from mid-May to mid-September.  A lot of rain occurs between May and September. Typhoons are likely to occur from July to early October. 

    Weather forecast

From the cultural point of view : 

The time around Chinese New Year (usually in February or March) brings color & Chinese culture to the city, as well as a magnificent firework above the harbor.  Some shops might be closed and this is not the best time to get a visa or to travel to China but this is not the chaos described by some books and the city sights and shopping malls are at their best. The dazzling Lantern Festival also take place at this time...

Another good time for colorful decorations is around Christmas. Chinese people do not traditionally celebrate it but the commercial centers get dressed anyway and various events are organized...

Another colorful event is the Dragon Boat Festival in June or July, while rugby enthusiasts should make sure to come during the Rugby Sevens around the end of March (tickets $750). 

    Happenings in HK

 

How long ?

Including a trip to Macau, 4 or 5 days will let you see the major sights at a reasonable pace. If you like trekking, it will take you weeks to walk all the major trails. If you like shopping, you can stay in HK forever...

 

How much ?

The HK dollar is tied to the US$ at the rate of HK$7.74. See the banknotes

Considering the cost, most travelers will be able or willing to stay only a few days. Minimum expenses will be around HK$100 per day if you stay in a dorm (50 to 65) and eat in small Chinese restaurants (18 to 30) or McDonald (20). You are however more likely to spend around HK$150 per day.

Private rooms in Guesthouses are around $100 without shower and around 150 with attached shower. Hotel prices start at around $350 and reach the sky.

Restaurant's prices are at western standard but exotic food such as French are off course  more expensive. Beer in disco or bars at peak hours cost around $40. Entrance to most of the disco in Wanchai is free for white people, as long as they don't ask and walk directly in (locals and other skin colors have to pay from HK$50 to HK$300).

Most of HK attractions are free to visit or very reasonably priced, like $10 at the Museum of Art.

Transportation's cost run from cheap (a few dollar for the tram or the Star Ferry) to reasonable (MTR, bus, boat or taxi)

Local telephone calls are free (1$ for 5 minutes in public phones) and most of the public libraries  have free internet facilities.

Beside accommodation, shopping is in fact what will empty your wallet and, if you are on a budget, you would better watch carefully.

See Travel Tips for tips on how to keep the cost low...

See Passplanet's Cost Table for more details.

  Currency Converter

 

Health ?

HK is an  healthy place and no vaccination is required. Still, it is a good idea to be protected against Hepatitis A & B. Also, make sure you are up-to-date with the essential vaccinations : Diphtheria & Tetanus, Polio and Typhoid.

Tap water in Hong Kong is usually safe to drink but it smell chlorine and does not taste great. If the color is anything but transparent, avoid !

Vegetables and fruits should be washed properly. Seafood is best avoided if it comes from HK waters... 

Also, it is recommended not to eat from food hawkers and sidewalk eateries (dai pai dong). 

If you are sick, you can go to a public hospital such as Queen Elizabeth Hospital (2958 8888) in Jordan. Consultation and even drugs should be free but you might be required to pay a deposit for hospitalization. Foreigners are charged more than HK residents.

    Latest Health Recommendations

 

Danger & Annoyances ?

HK is one of the safest place on earth and the feeling of safety is strong as the police heavily patrol the streets. Robberies however do exist and you should take the normal precautions with your valuables.

If the chances of being physically aggressed is low, the probability of being ripped off by a shop around Nathan road is however quite high. As a whole, buying in HK is a choice's paradise  but a service's nightmare and it is imperative to know precisely what you want and shop around.  Shopkeepers have a reputation of ruddiness and a few even manage to add a touch of dishonesty.  See Travel Tips on how to shop safely in HK. 

HK people are not famous for their sociability by western standard (to be fair, they are not alone) : they are noisy, walk straight toward you in the street, push you in the transport, dispose their rubbish at your feet and will ignore you as long as they can, each community living a separate life (around 30% only are able to speak good English anyway). With the recent recession, locals have however developed a slightly better attitude toward tourism and in case of difficulty, you should be able to find someone to help you. As a general rule, you do not come to HK to meet the HK people but, in practice, you may find that some of them are fairly friendly and welcoming. Off course, it also depends on your attitude...

HK is a very materialistic place and money is the main factor for discrimination. HK is for example a place where prostitutes are believed to have a better work than domestic helpers (results of a recent survey) or where immigrants from mainland China have been described by students as parasites inflicting damage on the society...  

Food hygiene is relatively good, with the exception of illegal food hawkers (smell the oil) and fresh seafood coming from the polluted local water.

Air pollution has raised to serious level recently and it is not recommended to stay next to congested roads (Causeway Bay is notorious) more than necessary. This however should concern more people living in HK than tourists visiting for a few days, even so great visibility from the Peak is more and more a rarity.

Traffic in HK is not as chaotic as in other Asian countries but careless driving take its toll of pedestrian legs. Check out before crossing streets as a lot of driver, busy using their portable phone, forget to signal their turn. It is not an habit for local pedestrians to respect lights but they might be more accustomed to the streets than you are...

Streets in HK are never totally smooth. Blind people living in HK are daily miraculous. Construction's works, shops' stalls, rubbish or people (HK is one of the most densely populated place on earth) make walking the streets a game of skill and patience.

The extreme misery of some locals certainly contrast with the surroundings, even so some back streets would quite fit them. Maybe even more shocking for westerners is the  sights of elderly pushing rubbish in the streets or cleaning tables at McDonalds.  This might however be explained by the Chinese tradition of relying on your hard work, not welfare or family, to earn money, whatever your age...

Notwithstanding the above, let's remind you that 97% of the backpackers we asked said they liked HK, that 84% would happily come back and that 91% would recommend it to their best friend ! See "Why Go" for more details...


Entertainments ?

Cinemas : If you do not mind to share the soundtrack of the movies with popcorn and beeper's noises (or even a casual conversation over the phone), if you can stand frigid temperature and if you have nothing to do, then go watch the American blockbusters or the latest Jackie Chan. The cost is around 50 to 60, except Tuesday when it drops from 30 to 40. Except  at lunch time, it is often necessary to reserve your seat in advance.

Discos : Hong Kong is the only country where I regularly put a feet (or two) on a dance floor. This is due to several unique factors : entrance is free (at least for white people, yes there is a little racial discrimination...), it is danceable  but above all it is fun, thanks to the joyful Philippina who fill up the places during WE.  OK, not all of them are resting and some are actually working but who cares ? Just be careful with who you are dancing ! Check out the New Makati, the Big Apple, the Neptune II or the Strawberry...  NB : discos in Wanchai are really recommended to single male backpackers only. Going there as a couple might be slightly frustrating...

You also have more "up market" discos, which cater essentially to the Chinese or the Westerners. But those are not free and they lack the craziness atmosphere of the above. 

Bars : Plenty of bars and pubs in HK. The best area are Wanchai or Lane Kwai Fong in Central.

Girlie Bars : Yes, you do have some in HK.  No, they are usually not topless (a few ugly exceptions in TST). Yes, they can be very entertaining. No the girls are not modern slaves and they usually enjoy their work. Yes, this is not for everybody.  No, it does not cost a fortune, as long as you do not offer drinks to the girls or ask for special service (a beer cost around $40). Yes, I actually found the atmosphere  on average better in Hong Kong than, say, in Bangkok.  No, I am not going to give addresses...  Having a look around is free (say that you are looking for a friend) and part of visiting Wanchai ! 

 

Useful Contacts ?

The HK Tourist Association (HKTA) :

  • In TST : Star Ferry, open Mond-Frid 8am-6pm; Sat, Sund & PH 9am-5pm

  • In Central : Shop 8, Basement, Jardine House, 1 Connaught Place. Open Mond-Frid 9am-6pm; Sat 9am-1pm; closed Sund & PH

  • In Central : new adress at The Center (the colorful building by night), 99 Queen's Road; 24-hour services through i CyberLink; 3,000 square feet with conference room, exhibition area, self-service information kiosks, television with DVD player, etc. 

  • Telephone information Service : 2508 1234 (multilingual). Operates Mond-Frid 8am-6pm; Sat, Sund & PH 9am-5pm

    HK Tourist Association

Some useful telephone numbers :

  • Emergency Services : dial free 999

  • Information : 1081

  • HKTA Multilingual Visitor Hotline : 2508 1234

  • Consumer Council Hotline : 2929 2222

  • Crime Hotline (and taxi complaints) : 2527 7177

  • HK International Airport : 2181 0000

  • Department of Immigration (visa) : 2864 6111