Located on the southern coast of China and including a larger peninsula, two major islands and over 200 outlyings, Hong Kong is divided in three regions - Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and New Territories. Although it behaves likes an independent country, it is actually an autonomous administrative region of China.
Famous for its skyscrapers, deep natural harbour, martial arts and feng shui, Hong Kong is also one of the fastest growing economies and most prominent financial centres in the world. The exotic contrast between its Chinese heritage and its time as a British Colony has seen Hong Kong widely described as the place where the “East meets the West”. This is a region where oriental culture and Western living not only go hand-in-hand, but have fused together to create an intriguing and incredibly interesting destination.
Curious trivia: Hong Kong as a name itself is the phonetic translation of the Cantonese phrase 香港, which roughly translates as ‘Fragrant Harbour’, a name believed to have been given to the peninsula due to its role in the manufacturing and transport of incense and agarwood.
Hong Kong has a humid and subtropical climate due to its hilly landscape and geographical position. It has an average of 1,948 hours of sunshine per year.
Spring – March to May – warm and humid during the day with cool evenings. Temperatures vary in between 17°C and 26°C.
Summer – June to August – hot and humid with occasional showers and thunderstorms. Temperatures vary in between 26°C and 31°C, although the humidity will make it feel warmer. Summer is also Typhoon season and although flights might be cancelled and businesses might close during more severe storms Hong Kong is used to and well versed at dealing with its sometimes extreme summer weather.
Autumn – September to November – widely recommended as the best time of the year to visit Hong Kong, Autumn sees plenty of pleasantly dry but breezy days with temperatures falling in between a comfortable 19°C and 28°C.
Winter – December to February – cool and dry with occasional cold spells. Winter in Hong Kong usually starts mild and sunny, but progressively gets cloudier towards February. Temperatures vary between 12°C and 20°C, although it can occasionally drop below 10°C in urban areas.
Important Information & Travel Tips
The official language of Hong Kong is Chinese, with most of the population speaking it as their first language. However, English is widely spoken as a second language and all signs and public announcements are done in Chinese and English, due to Hong Kong’s large international population. A minority of the population also speaks Cantonese.
Visas depend on where you are coming from, how long you intend to stay and what you will be doing during your stay, but there is a wide list of nationalities that don’t need a visa if only coming for a holiday. Business or regular travellers can apply for a Hong Kong Travel Pass or an e-Channel immigration clearance facility. Please check here for more information.
Upon arrival at the Hong Kong International Airport your temperature will be taken and if it’s considered high, you will be requested to take a quick health check.
Money & Banking
The currency in Hong Kong is the Hong Kong Dollar (HK$), which is divided into 100 cents.
Cash machines, or ATM's, are widely available and many take international cards.
You can exchange your currency to Hong Kong Dollars in any authorised money exchanger, but if you wish to be extra safe, look for the Quality Tourism Service Scheme (QTS).
All international credit cards are widely accepted throughout Hong Kong. Businesses and premises usually display at their entrance which cards they accept.
Travel Cheques are not widely accepted in stores, but are accepted and can be exchanged into Hong Kong Dollars at the airport, banks and hotels.
Tipping and Service Charges
In Hong Kong it’s common for waiters to serve you teas and unordered snacks that are later added to your bill. To avoid disputes please check with the waiter before being seated. It’s also common for seafood to be charged per weight and this can vary per season and per restaurant that you visit, so it’s important to confirm the price before agreeing to order. Most restaurants will add a 10% service charge to the bill.
Voltage & Electricity
Hong Kong’s voltage is 220AC (50 hertz). Most hotels will also provide 100AC sockets for electric razors only. Power outlets use a flat three-pin plug.
Phones & Emergency Numbers
Free Wi-Fi provided by the government is widely available in Hong Kong, especially on public spaces such as parks, visitor centres, libraries, sport venues, transport terminals and landmarks.
The international dialling code for Hong Kong is +852.
In case of an emergency 999 can be dialled from any public or domestic line. This will connect you to the emergency operators for Police, Fire and Ambulance services.
Police who speak English can be identified by a red badge on their shoulder.
Hong Kong has one time zone, 8 hours forwards from the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).
Hong Kong observes a number of public holidays a year; however, because some of these dates are based on the Chinese lunisolar calendar, they tend to vary year to year. All dates marked by a star (*) will change according to the cycle of the moon, so it’s always worth double-checking for the particular year of travel.
Every Sunday - general holiday. When a special date falls on a Sunday, the following Monday is taken in lieu.
1st January - New Year Holiday
*January/February – Lunar New Year
*4th or 5th April - Ching Ming Festival (Tomb-Sweeping Day)
Good Friday, the day after Good Friday and Easter Monday
1st May - Labour Day
*May - Buddha’s Birthday
*May/June - Tuen Ng Festival (Dragon Boat Festival)
1st July - Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day
*September/October - Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival
1st October - National Day
*October - Chung Yeung Festival
25th December - Christmas Day
26th December - Boxing Day
Most shops and restaurants in busy touristic areas might remain open during public holidays, but traditional shops and restaurants, Chinese medicine stores and small family businesses might close. It’s worth checking before visiting.
Please note that eating or drinking on most public transports are not allowed in Hong Kong. Littering and spitting also carry heavy fines.
Getting to Hong Kong:
Chek Lap Kok Hong Kong International Airport is located on an island of the same name that has been extended to house the airport. It's Hong Kong's one major international airport and it receives flights from all over the world.
High-speed ferries link Hong Kong to mainland China via Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and Hong Kong International Airport.
Travelers coming from Shenzhen, in mainland China, can take the train into Hong Kong after passing immigration check points.
Getting Around Hong Kong:
Hong Kong has an extensive subway system, the MTR, which runs 10 lines around the whole territory including up to the border with mainland China. Buses are also available for territory wide journeys, covering most of the districts and charging according to distance. In some cities, minibuses are available offering a route focused service, but they won’t stop if they don’t have seats available or you, as a passenger, don't request them to stop.
Taxis are an easy and relatively simple way to get around Hong Kong. They a metered and can be hailed from the street or ordered by phone, but like the buses, you will have to pay the exact fare when you are finished. Trams are also an option, covering particularly scenic routes; and ferries link Hong Kong city to all its major islands and mainland China.