Ahhhhh… Hong Kong! What a treasure ! This beautiful Cosmopolitan Land, where more than 40 percent of the territory is protected by country parks was always a dream for me and I finally got the chance to make it happen. Some months ago, I experienced the perfect balance between busy city and idyllic beaches and nature in Hong Kong and I wanted to share it with you.
You always wanted to go to Hong Kong but have no clue from where to start organizing your trip? You have always been curious about Hong Kong and wondered what it looks like? Hong Kong the ultimate guide was made to answer to all this questions and help you step by step pre discover Hong Kong and get an idea on how to make the best out of your stay.
Where to stay in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong is a peninsula whose main Islands for tourists are Hong Kong Island, the Historical/Political centre and Kowloon the Commercial Centre.
So most of your activities if it’s not all of them will be in between these two islands.
Hong Kong is very compact and transportation system is very well done and super convenient so staying anywhere between Causeway Bay ( Hong Kong Island ) to Mong Kok (Kowloon) typically means you are well located to any sight seing and major land marks.
If your time is short I would personally recommend to stay at Tsim Sha Tsui area. With a couple more days in Hong Kong, you might want to stay somewhere that you can find more breathing space, a less “touristy place” so HK Island would be a better option.
It is very important to know as well that Hong Kong is one of the most expensive places to travel in Asia, if not in the world. The rent is very high and most of the time the rooms are extremely small and not so accommodating.
On the weekends, prices rise substantially, sometimes, it even doubles. Try to avoid weekends and read very well the reviews before booking any place.
I stayed in different neighborhoods in Hong Kong, experienced Hostels, Hotels and staying with a family through Couchsurfing and it was an amazing experience getting to share more with locals and live like they do for couple of days. So if you are going on a tiny budget you might consider it as a option to save some money but mostly share a quality time learning more about other cultures.
Practical / Touristy Areas
- Tsim Sha Tsui
- Mong Kok
- Causeway Bay
Practical/Less crowded areas
- Wan Chai
What’s good to see ?
The Tian Tan Buddha
This large Bronze Statue of Buddha Shakyamani more commonly known as the Big Buddha was erected in 1993 and needed 12 years of work to be completed. It is 34 Meters high and attracts pilgrims from all over Asia. It symbolises harmony between nature and human and it is definitely worth a half day visit.
Opposite to the statue, you can also visit the Po Lin Monastery. It is one of Hong Kong’s most important Buddhist sanctuaries. It is home to many devout monks and has a pleasant garden where yo can see cows freely walking around . You can also enjoy a meal at its popular vegetarian restaurant and just enjoy the calm and the serenity of the surrounding. With no doubt my favorite landmark in Hong Kong.
The Victoria Peak
Your journey will surely not be complete if you don’t go to the highest point within Hong Kong and observe the stunning Skyline. Being 554 meters (about 1,817.6 feet) above sea level, the Victoria Peak is probably the best place to enjoy the multi-colorful scene that encompasses Hong Kong and The Victoria Harbour. It is even more impressive at night when Hong Kong metamorphoses in a luminous pearl with a see of lights everywhere. If you are romantic folk and want to empress your girl, definitely take her there, she will love it, you have my word!
Tai O Fishing Village
The Tai O Fishing Village is one of the few places in Hong Kong where you can still see the traditional Southern Chinese stilt houses. The village is set between the coast and the mountains which makes it definitely worth the trip. If you are planing to visit the Big Buddha, then it is a short bus or taxi ride from it. You can enjoy walking around the market, far from busy Hong Kong, take a small boat around the Harbour and get a closer look at the stilt houses.
Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade
Tsim Sha Tsui is one of the most iconic place in Hong Kong and I like to call it the human zoo because it is always so crowded and overloaded. It is a very popular spot for observing the Hong Kong Island night skyline. From there you can get deeper into Kowloon or head to downtown Hong Kong within minutes. Head to the point at night to see the light show and walk to the avenue of starts to see the famous Bruce Lee statue or head to Kowloon Park for some peace and quiet area.
Lamma island is only 3km off the south west coast of Hong Kong Island from which it is separated by the East Lamma Channel. It is quite narrow being about 2.5kms at its widest point. The island is almost unspoiled which makes it even more attractive to travelers like me.
There are no cars, just bicycles, motorized carts and miniature emergency vehicle. Only 5,000 people live there. There are mostly spread in the two main villages, Yung Shue Wan and Sok Kwu Wan. The island is very rural but it has beautiful and quiet beaches really worth the trip.
Chi Lin Nunnery
Chi Lin Nunnery is a large temple complex. It has a beautiful architecture and is made of wood. It has a lot of Buddhist relics and contain gold, clay and wooden statues representing divinities such as the Sakyamuni Buddha and Bodhisattvas. If you are a temple kind of person, definitly check it out !
Stanley and Repulse Bay
Stanley and Waterfront Mart are very famous spots for movies and fashion magasines shootings. You can stroll over the Market, or visit one of the oldest houses in HK (Murray House). Then finish your little ride laying down at Repusle Bay Beach. Relax on a very peaceful environment of white soft sands and great sea views. Forget about all the business of Hong Kong for a moment.
Tai Long Wan Hiking Trail
Tai Long Wan is surely one of the best escapes from the hustle of the busy city life in Hong Kong.
The hiking lovers will find their happiness walking through the 12 kilometers strolling from a beach to another.Tai long is made of 4 stunning beaches all linked to each other. Sai Wan and Ham Tin are more popular among tourists because they have more amenities. It is easy to find restaurants, food and drinks and rooms or tent rental for an over night stay. Tai Wan and Tung Wan are more remote beaches that attract surfers and camping lovers with their wildness and lack of man-made facilities.
What and Where to Eat?
To know everything about what and where to eat in Hong Kong check my article “Hong Kong, The Dream Destination For Foodies”
How to Move Around ?
Public transportation in Hong Kong is literally a piece of cake. Is so easy to get around wether it is by metro, taxi, bus, tram or ferry. For one thing, english is everywhere : on signs in the streets, on maps, at bus stops. You can easily communicate and ask people if you have doubt on which train or bus to take. They will perfectly understand you and be glad to offer some help.
Also, the maps are very clear and efficient. If you want to navigate around the city only by public transportation you totally can. Hong Kong being compact with a super efficient public transportation system you will be able to easily reach pretty much everywhere with a maximum time of 40 minute trip. It is also extremely cheap comparing to other countries.
If you’re staying in Hong Kong for a few days you should consider getting an octopus card. It makes moving around much more convenient. It is an electronic smart card that allows its holders to go on and off trains, buses or a trams without worrying about buying a ticket each time. You can buy it at the Customer Service Centres in any Metro station or even at the airport.
The great thing about the Octopus card is that you can reload it without really worrying of using the credits you put on it. Both of the credits and the deposit for the card are refundable.
The minimum cost of it is 150HK$, including the refundable deposit of 50HK$ . If you want to reload it, the minimum reload is 50Hk$. Only cash is accepted at the Customer Service or at the convenient store to buy it or reload it.
The octopus card can also be used to to pay in some restaurants and fast food chaines and in most of the convenient stores all around Hong Kong. It works like a pre payed debit card. It is a must have if you plan to stay for more than 24 hours in Hong Kong. Be sure to turn it in before leaving Hong Kong to get your unused credits back along with the card deposit (they will not give all the 50HK back, they charge a 7HK$ fee).
For more information about the Octopus card check this website http://www.octopus.com.hk.
Make sure you take at least one tram ride even if its slower and might not be the most efficient way to get to where you want to go. It is so worth the experience. The trams are beautiful and you get to explore the city in a different way. The rides take more time but it is definitely an enjoyable experience you should get while in Hong Kong.
What to Pack for your Trip?
Hong Kong is hot, god damn hot. And as if the heat is not enough, humidity spices it a little. The weather is pretty stable all year long so there is almost no chance for you to show off your beautiful winter clothes. That said, here is a little idea of what the weather is like during the year. That way you can decide better of what to pack and when to go.
–From November to April – Usually sunny, with less humidity, less rain, a little cooler than usual. But no worries temperatures remain between 20-25 degrees celsius.
–From April to June – Very humid and extremely hot. Temperatures are much higher than the months before which makes you feel more the pollution.
–From July to September – It is usually typhoon season and this is when I decided to visit Hong Kong. Temperatures are high but it rains a lot and the humidity is almost unbearable. But still worth the trip!
–October – It is usually rainy with the typhoon season ending. Temperature starts to cool down and humidity is less heavy.
Now that you have a better idea of what the weather is like all year long in Hong Kong here is what I would suggest to pack.
- Light/ easy to wear clothes with breathable hot weather friendly fabric. Don’t pack to much you will probably regret it. Hong Kong is heaven for shopping and the street style will definitely inspire you to change part of your wardrobe.
- Confortable shoes. You will be doing a lot of walking. So pack one or two of your most confortable foot wear to switch between in case one gets wet.
- For all the rest, you can find it very easily pretty much everywhere so no need to bother packing too many things. Shop there ! You will find all you look for and much more!
- Umbrella is a must!
Things you should know about Hong Kong
- There is free wifi everywhere. You will find no difficulty connecting, which makes it even more easier to get around. I usually get a sim card as soon as I step in a new country but in Hong Kong I did not feel any need of it at all. If you are a wifi addict, Hong Kong is the place for you.
- People are very welcoming and so lovely. Everyone I talked to along my way was helpful and nice. They are very smiling too. Don’t get surprised if you receive smiles from random people on the street. Give the love back and open your self to all the positive vibrations they are spreading . Locals not only help you get your direction right but are very happy about it. So please do not feel shy to ask if you feel lost or in doubt.
- The service standards are very different from the western service standards we are used to . I explained it all in my article “Hong Kong : The Dream Destination For Foodies” get a look at it and get a better idea about some cultural differences in order to avoid misunderstandings.
- There is water leaking from roof tops in the streets. Chances are big you get some over you while walking. Locals seem to have some kind of strategy to avoid them. I just suggest to wear a hat or don’t really pay attention to it… At the end of the day you will end up showering and all of it will flush.
- Try to avoid to spend weekends in Hong Kong if you can. Accommodation prices rise up to double and you will pay way more than you should just because it is a Friday or Saturday night.
- Most of us are used to drive and walk on the right. In Hong Kong people drive on the left side but walk on the right as we are used to. If you want to stand on an escalator stay on the right side in order not to slow down people that are in a hurry. Stick to your right on the side walk if you don’t want to be run over by someone. So to sum up, if you are on your right side you are right ! Pay attention to crossing, look first right then left … not the opposite . Alright?
This is all I can think about for this first timers Hong Kong guide. If you guys have more advice to give feel free to write them down in a comment. Hope it could make your travel to Hong Kong easier to plan and your stay more enjoyable.
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