Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China. It 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.
You can find Hong Kong on the southwestern coast of China at the mouth of the Pearl River Delta. So vibrant with life, there’s so much this city could offer, like its extraordinary blend of Eastern and Western cultures. The Central is Hong Kong’s popular financial hub. Here, spectacular skyscrapers hold the city’s high-end shopping districts, fine-dining restaurants, and world-class luxury hotels. Don’t worry if you are traveling on a student budget, though, because Hong Kong City’s streets and lane ways are filled with wet markets and traditional Chinese restaurants that cater mostly to the budget-wise travelers. There are a good number of historic sights and museums to visit in Kowloon; lush gardens and parks at the New Territories, countless shopping malls to indulge in mostly at the Central, Admiralty, and Wan Chai districts, and entertainment centers in these areas as well. Several reasonably priced hotels can easily be found at the Central or in Causeway Bay on Hong Kong Island––and getting around the city won’t be a problem since Hong Kong has a very efficient transportation system. Hong Kong has a mild climate mid-September to February, warm and humid come May, and rainy in August. But regardless of the climate, Hong Kong is an absolute year-round travel destination where students can easily avail of cheap flights and affordable accommodations anytime!
Hong Kong has a sub-tropical climate, but is cooled in winter by sea breezes. Summer (June to September) is long, humid and hot with temperatures often exceeding 32°C (90°F) and with night time temperatures that do not drop below 25°C (77°F). Typhoons usually occur between June and September and can bring a halt to local business activities for a day or less (see natural disaster section).
Winters are generally very mild, with daytime temperatures of 18-22°C (64–72°F) but with nights dipping into 10°C (50°F) and below sometimes, especially in the countryside. Christmas in Hong Kong is considered warm compared with many other Northern Hemisphere countries. Chinese New Year is notorious for cold (10°C/50°F), wet weather; this is because winter in Hong Kong tends to start out mild and dry and then turn a bit cool and wet later, though the cool weather is brief.
Spring (March-May) and autumn (September-November/December) have average temperature between 21-24°C (70-5°F). Autumn is probably a more comfortable season as spring tends to be more humid and rainy.
Things to Do in Hong Kong
There are so many things to do and sites to visit in Hong Kong, but you may want to start out by sampling some of the traditional cuisines, like dim sum. Hong Kong dim sum is considered a must-try experience, so go ahead and start your day with this delicious treat! After a satisfying meal, take a ride up Victoria peak to experience a breathtaking view of the city. If you want to take a closer look at Hong Kong’s majestic modern and historical architectural structures, you can join an architectural tour or visit the Taoist Temples. You could also take a trip to Lantau Island and see the largest Buddhist monastery in all of Hong Kong, or delight yourself at Stanley Market, where shops and stalls fill the streets with their inexpensive merchandise. After a long adventure-filled day, dine at the Aberdeen Harbor’s floating restaurants while enjoying the magnificent views of Hong Kong’s evening skyline!
Travel Tips for Hong Kong
- Electronic fare cards are commonly used in Hong Kong for public transportation.
- Aside from Cantonese, Mandarin, and other Chinese dialects, the English language is widely spoken in Hong Kong.
- You only need a passport to get to Hong Kong. No Visa is required unless you want to extend your visit over the given visa-free period (length of period varies with country of origin).
Shopping in Hong Kong
In Hong Kong, shopping is considered by many as a way of life, which is why this city has myriads of malls that can surprise even the most extravagant of shoppers. From expensive designer items to the inexpensive bargains, you will all find it here in this extremely dynamic city! Take a walk down Tsim Tsa Tsui’s Golden Mile or visit Causeway Bay and you will find many department stores, small boutiques and stalls that are wallet-friendly. However, if you fancy a splurge, make your way to the Admirality and Wan Chai areas where you will find a good number of exclusive brand name stores like Armani, Prada, and Dior. You will surely have a great time shopping in Hong Kong, so book your student flight now for an experience you will never forget!
Most Popular Shopping Malls
- 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.
- Pacific Place – Also a big shopping centre with mainly high-end brands, and has a wonderful cinema. Take the MTR to Admiralty.
- Festival Walk – A big shopping centre with a mix of expensive brands and smaller chains. There is also an ice skating rink there. Take the MTR East Rail to Kowloon Tong.
- Cityplaza – A similarly large shopping centre, also with an ice-skating rink. To get there, take the MTR to Taikoo on the Island Line.
- Landmark– Many the 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.
- APM – All new 24hr Shopping centre in Kwun Tong. Take the MTR to the Kwun Tong station.
- 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.
- Langham Place – A huge 12 storey shopping mall adjacent to the 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.
- Elements – Located next to Kowloon Station. Just like the IFC Mall, there are many luxury brand shops, a cinema and an ice rink. The International Commerce Centre, the highest commercial building in Hong Kong starting from 2009, is right on top of this shopping mall.
- 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”. Crowded on weekends. A popular meeting point for teenagers.
- Citygate Outlet – Located right next to Tung Chung MTR Station, the Citygate is a rare outlet mall with tonnes of mid-priced brands, some of them being Adidas, Esprit, Giordano, Levi’s, Nike, Quiksilver and Timberland.
- 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 located near exit E, Causeway Bay MTR station.
- 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 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.
Nightlife in Hong Kong
You’ll have fun clubbing at Hong Kong Island’s Lan Kwai Fong and SoHo’s upmarket drinking spots, where bistros, jazz clubs, and fantastic restaurants come alive when the sun begins to set. If you are looking for stylish night clubs to go to for a late-night party, then Wan Chai is the place to be. But if you want entertainment without spending too much, visit Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon, where bars, restaurants, cinemas, and shopping centers are abuzz until after midnight!
Dining in Hong Kong
A visit to Hong Kong is never complete without having tasted their world-famous authentic Chinese cuisines. That is why most luxury hotels and fine-dining restaurants compete with each other, just for the glory. Though you’ll be traveling on a student budget, it doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy what these fine restaurants have to offer– there are still so many places around the city, especially in the Wan Chai and SoHo areas, that serve exceptionally delicious dim sums and other Chinese delicacies. If Chinese food is really not your thing, you can also find reasonably priced cafes and bistros that serve American and European dishes.
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 includes 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.
- Hong Kong Disneyland Resort opened in September, 2005. It is on Lantau Island, about 12km 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 has undergone an expansion to offer more attractions (including the recent-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, though for those who are scared, there is now a funicular railway underneath the mountain that emulates a submarine dive. For many, the chance to see Hong Kong’s pandas would be a deciding factor. Young adults will be attracted to the wider range (and more adrenalin-pumping nature) 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. For details how to get there see also
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 Dept. 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).
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
Ham Tin beach is a great destination for campers in the Sai Kung East Country Park
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 100Km 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 and Journey to Hong Kong 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.