Country guide: Hong Kong


Getting in

Hong Kong is a Special Autonomous Region of China, with its own laws, currency, and immigration procedures. It is situated between Guangdong province of China to the north and the South China Sea to the south and is highly accessible to the outside world. International flights arrive from all over the world into Hong Kong International Airport at Chek Lap Kok, which is connected by a high speed train to Kowloon and Central (Airport Express, HK$100-115/US$13-15 per person).  Hong Kong can also be reached by high speed rail from most major Chinese cities, or by taking the ferry or bus from Macau.

Most nationalities will be able to get a 30 day visa-free entry at the border for both Hong Kong.

Getting around

By far the easiest way to get around in Hong Kong is the MTR subway train. Trips are highly affordable at $1-2 USD, and the vast majority of destinations you’re after will be within walking distance of a subway station.  Other great options include street cars (for great views of the city), busses (for transport to more remote destinations) and ferries (for transport to the outlying islands).  Taxis are quite expensive, and mostly unnecessary in Hong Kong. Make sure you pick up a SIM card at Hong Kong International Airport when you arrive so that you can use Google Maps on your phone to find your way around, and an Octopus Card which allows you to preload money to easily pay for discounted public transport as well as restaurants, attractions and convenience store snacks.

For day-to-day transport within Hong Kong, a budget of around US$5 to US$10 per day is more than sufficient.

Budget

Hong Kong is a city that can be pretty much as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be, though if you have the means, it’s very tempting to find yourself reaching toward some higher quality experiences. It’s certainly possible to have a mid-range experience at around US$100 per person per day, though a more comfortable upper-midrange experience can be had for around US$150 per person per day.  A more budget-conscious experience (staying at budget guest houses, limiting your admission fees for tourist experiences, and eating exclusively at delicious street food style restaurants) could be had for around US$50 per person per day.

Money

Hong Kong has its own currency, the Hong Kong dollar (HKD), which is separate to the Chinese renminbi (RMB).  Hong Kong dollars can’t be used in China, and Chinese renminbi can’t be used in Hong Kong.  The Hong Kong dollar is effectively pegged to the US dollar at a rate of around USD1=HKD7.85.  Hong Kong dollars can be obtained from ATMs and currency conversion booths at the airport, and virtually anywhere within the city.  Major banks include the Bank of China, Standard Chartered, and HSBC. International cards should work at any of these.

Macau also has its own currency, the Macau pataca (MOP), which is pegged to the Hong Kong dollar at a rate of HKD1=MOP1.03.  However, for all intents and purposes, the Hong Kong dollar is the de facto currency of Macau.  The casinos won’t even accept patacas, ATMs dispense HKD, virtually every vendor will quote you in dollars and if you pay cash, you’ll usually both pay and receive change in HKD.  There are a couple of technical exceptions to this but if you’re just visiting for a few days you don’t really need to worry about them.  So if you’re travelling from Hong Kong, keep plenty of HKD in your wallet when you head over to Macau, or otherwise just stock up from the ATM when you arrive, but definitely don’t try to convert your HKD to MOP.

Accommodation

Hong Kong is a notoriously high-end destination, and it’s easy to go overboard.  This is particularly true for accommodation.  While lower-end accommodation is available (such as at the Chungking Mansions), these spaces can be extremely cramped in buildings of questionable safety, so might not be for everyone.  That being said, midrange accommodation is affordable and actually a lot cheaper than many financial centres. The Metropark chain of hotels (including the one in Causeway Bay) are a great midrange option, as is the Royal Plaza Hotel in Mong Kok, Kowloon. Luxury options are everywhere in Hong Kong, and you can spend as much as you like on truly stunning accommodation such as the Ritz Carlton which occupies the upper floors of the International Commerce Centre, and the Upper House on Hong Kong Island.

Budget guesthouses will generally be in the range of US$30 to US$50 per night for a double room.  Mid-range accommodation runs from around US$100 to US$150 per night, while luxury accommodation starts at around US$200 and goes up to US$1,000 and higher per night.

Food

Hong Kong has some fantastic street food options, particularly dim sum style food, starting from around HK$50/US$6 to HK$100/US$13 per meal, some of which we’ve detailed in our one week itinerary to Hong Kong.  You can have a fantastic food experience with a budget of US$20 to US$30 per person per day for food, and you can expect to spend US$10 to US$20 per person per day on average on drinks, snacks and other attractions.

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