People with mobility issues face substantial obstacles in Hong Kong, particularly on Hong Kong Island, because of its extremely hilly topography, pedestrian overpasses and crowded – often obstructed – streets. Those with hearing or visual impairments will find several aids to help them, including Braille panels in lift lobbies and audio units at traffic signals.
Accessible Travel Online Resources
Lonely Planet Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Transport Department (www.td.gov.hk) Guides to public transportation, parking and pedestrian crossings for people with disabilities in Hong Kong.
Access Guide (www.accessguide.hk) A useful guide to accessibility of sights, hotels, transport, shopping and dining venues, run by the Hong Kong Society for Rehabilitation.
Ladder streets (streets so steep that they consist of steps instead of pavements) are particularly common in Central and Sheung Wan on Hong Kong Island, heading south away from the harbourfront.
Hong Kong's minibuses are not suitable for wheelchair users; about 70% of Hong Kong's full-size bus services are. Wheelchairs can negotiate the lower decks of most ferries. Taxis are easy to flag down, but note that most are not large enough to accommodate wheelchairs.
Dangers & Annoyances
Hong Kong is generally a safe city to travel around, even alone at night, but always use common sense.
- After dark Stick to well-lit streets if walking; note the MTR is perfectly safe to use at night.
- Shopping scams Retailers of genuine antiques should be able to provide certification proving authenticity; as a general rule, assume trinkets in markets are reproductions.
- Theft Hong Kong has its share of pickpockets. Carry as little cash and as few valuables as possible, and if you put a bag down, keep an eye on it. If robbed, obtain a loss report for insurance purposes at the nearest police station. See ‘e-Report Room’ at www.police.gov.hk.
Many of Hong Kong's attractions are free, but look out for combination tickets that save pennies on big-ticket sights like the Peak's Sky Terrace 428, Madame Tussauds and Disneyland. Good pass deals exist for tourists using the MTR to travel widely.
There are several Hostelling International (HI) hostels in Hong Kong but to stay at one you need to be a member. The annual membership card costs HK$150 and can be bought at any affiliated hostel at the time of check-in, if you don't already have one.
Those aged 65 and above can travel on most forms of transport for HK$2 per trip (more than a 50% discount on MTR, for example). The Elder Octopus card can be obtained from any MTR Customer Centre, which automatically applies the discount when valid.
Student, Youth & Teacher Cards
Hong Kong Student Travel, based at Sincerity Travel, can instantly issue you any of the following cards for HK$100. Make sure you bring your student ID or other credentials along with you.
- International Student Identity Card (ISIC) Provides discounts on some forms of transport and admission to some sights.
- International Youth Travel Card (IYTC) Gives similar discounts to the ISIC card for anyone aged 12 to 30 but not a student.
- International Teacher Identity Card (ITIC) Holders may enjoy discounts at certain bookshops.
Hong Kong Museums Pass
Most of Hong Kong's museums are free to enter so the value of this pass is questionable. It does, however, get you free entry to special exhibitions. The annual pass costs HK$50 for individuals and HK$100 for families up to four. Apply online or at a participating museum, including the Hong Kong Space Museum and Hong Kong Science Museum.
Embassies & Consulates
About 120 countries have representative offices in Hong Kong. Most are based on Hong Kong Island, in or around Central, and open in the mornings and afternoons Monday to Friday.
Emergency & Important Numbers
To make a phone call to Hong Kong, dial your international access code, Hong Kong’s country code, then the eight-digit number.
|Hong Kong country code||852|
|International access code||001|
|International access code US & Canada||011|
|International access code UK||00|
|Local directory enquiries||1081|
|Police||852 2527 7177|
|Anti-scam public helpline||18222|
|Weather/tropical cyclone warning enquiries||187 8200|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Many countries do not require visas to enter Hong Kong for shorter stays. Visas are required by every nationality to travel on to mainland China, however.
- The duty-free allowance for visitors arriving in Hong Kong (including those coming from Macau and mainland China) is 19 cigarettes (or one cigar or 25g of tobacco) and 1L of spirits (no limit for alcohol below 30% abv).
- There are few other import taxes, and you can bring in reasonable quantities of almost anything.
A passport is essential for visiting Hong Kong, and it needs to be valid for at least one month after the period of your stay in Hong Kong. Carry your passport at all times as this is the only form of identification acceptable to the Hong Kong police (though it's rare you'll be asked to present it).
Visas are not required for Brits (up to 180 days); or Australians, Canadians, EU citizens, Israelis, Japanese, New Zealanders and US citizens (up to 90 days).
Citizens of British Dependent Territories and British Overseas citizens can stay for up to 90 days without a visa. Holders of some African (including South African), South American and Middle Eastern passports can visit for up to 30 days without a visa.
Anyone requiring a visa or wishing to stay longer than the visa-free period must apply before travelling to Hong Kong. See www.fmprc.gov.cn for your nearest Chinese consulate or embassy where the application must be made.
You must apply for a visa extension in person at the Hong Kong Immigration Department within seven days of visa expiry, they are granted the same day.
If you plan to visit mainland China, you must have a visa.
You can check all visa requirements at www.immd.gov.hk/eng/services/visas/visit-transit/visit-visa-entry-permit.html.
Feature: China Visas
Everyone except Hong Kong Chinese residents must have a visa to enter mainland China. Visas can be arranged by China Travel Service, the mainland-affiliated agency; a good many hostels and guesthouses; and most Hong Kong travel agents.
At the time of writing, holders of Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, US and most EU passports can get a single visa on the spot for around HK$150 at the Lo Wu border crossing, the last stop on the MTR’s East Rail. This visa is for a maximum stay of five days within the confines of the Shēnzhèn Special Economic Zone (SEZ). However the rules about who can get what change frequently, the queues for these visas can be interminable, and there have been reports of tourists being rejected on shaky grounds (such as certain passport stamps).
Taking that into consideration, it is highly recommended that you shell out the extra money and get a proper China visa before setting off, even if you’re headed just for Shēnzhèn. If you have at least a week to arrange your visa yourself, you can go to the China Visa Application Service Centre. For further details see www.fmprc.gov.cn.
Though informal in their day-to-day dealings, Hong Kong people do observe certain rules of etiquette.
- Greetings Just wave and say 'Hi' and 'Bye' when meeting for the first time and when saying goodbye.
- Dining At budget places, people think nothing of sticking their chopsticks into a communal dish. More high-end restaurants provide separate serving spoons with each dish; if they're provided, use them. Don't be afraid to ask for a fork if you can't manage chopsticks.
- Queues Hong Kongers line up for everything. Attempts to 'jump the queue' are frowned upon.
- Bargaining Haggling over the price of goods is not expected in shops. Do bargain when buying from street vendors (but not in food markets).
It is advisable to take out travel insurance before visiting Hong Kong. Check with your insurance company about 24-hour emergency coverage and bring records of the policy with you. Be sure to keep records from hospitals and/or police to back up your claim.
Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
Free wi-fi is available in virtually all hotels, at the airport, in MTR stations, on some buses and in various public areas including shopping malls, key cultural and recreational centres, and almost all urban cafes and bars. In short, Hong Kong is well hooked up.
Wi-fi hotspots There are more than 15,000 public hotspots in Hong Kong. They will pop up as 'CSL' or 'Wi.Fi.HK' on your device; you can search where the latter hotspots are by downloading the Wi.Fi.HK mobile app.
Portable wi-fi devices Some hotels now offer portable wi-fi devices as a free add-on for guests, or have them available to hire for a nominal fee.
Computer access If you don't have a smartphone, tablet or laptop, desktop computers are available for guests at some hotels and in some public locations such as Hong Kong's Central Library.
Hong Kong has a small but growing LGBT+ scene and the annual Pride Parade in November now attracts rainbow flag-wavers by the thousands. That said, Hong Kong Chinese society remains fairly conservative, and it can still be risky for gays and lesbians to come out to family members or their employers. It is not common to see LGBT+ couples making displays of affection in public.
In 1991 the Crimes (Amendment) Ordinance removed criminal penalties for homosexual acts between consenting adults over the age of 18. Since then LGBT+ groups have been lobbying for legislation to address the issue of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, but the government has been criticised for failing to recognise and embrace the community.
In July 2018 there was a landmark ruling by Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal, stating that the same-sex partner of a British expat should be granted a spousal visa – a move that has given the local LGBT+ community hope that change (and, importantly, greater equality) is on the horizon.
Pink Alliance (https://pinkalliance.hk) For information about LGBTIQ+ culture and events in Hong Kong.
Dim Sum Magazine (http://dimsum-hk.com) Hong Kong’s first free gay lifestyle magazine covers local lifestyle, news and entertainment.
- Carry your passport all the time. As a visitor, you are required to show your identification if the police request it.
- All forms of narcotics are illegal in Hong Kong. Whether it’s heroin, opium, ice, ecstasy or marijuana, the law makes no distinction. If police or customs officials find dope or even smoking equipment in your possession, you can expect to be arrested immediately.
- If you run into legal trouble, contact the Legal Aid Department, which provides residents and visitors with representation, subject to a means and merits test.
Most popular trails have maps at the starting point and bilingual signs along the trails.
Enjoy Hiking Hong Kong (www.hiking.gov.hk) This government-affiliated website and mobile app has maps of many of Hong Kong's walking trails.
There are several English-language newspapers and radio stations in Hong Kong.
- South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com) The city's biggest daily broadsheet toes the government line, has an excellent website and is a good source of both current affairs and lifestyle news, particularly new restaurant reviews.
- China Daily (www.chinadaily.com.cn) The Běijīng mouthpiece prints an English-language edition and covers news from across Asia.
- Time Out Hong Kong (www.timeout.com/hong-kong)The international what's-on guide has a dedicated Hong Kong edition with its finger on the pulse of local life, especially events, eating and drinking.
The local currency is the Hong Kong dollar (HK$). ATMs are widely available; international debit/credit cards are accepted in most places except budget Cantonese restaurants.
- Most ATMs are linked up to international money systems such as Cirrus, Maestro, Plus and Visa Electron.
- Withdrawal fees will typically be between HK$20 and HK$50 per transaction, and the local ATM provider may levy an extra surcharge.
- American Express (Amex) cardholders can withdraw cash from AEON ATMs in Hong Kong if you have signed up to Amex's Express Cash service before arrival.
The local currency is the Hong Kong dollar (HK$). Hong Kong has no currency controls; locals and foreigners can bring, send in or take out as much money as they like. No foreign-currency black market exists in Hong Kong; if anyone on the street does approach you to change money, assume it’s a scam.
Moneychangers Licensed moneychangers, such as Chequepoint, abound in touristed areas such as Tsim Sha Tsui and Central. While they are convenient (usually open on Sundays, holidays and late into the evenings) and take no commission per se, the less-than-attractive exchange rates offered are equivalent to a 5% commission. These rates are clearly posted, though if you’re changing several hundred US dollars or more you might be able to bargain for a better rate. Before the actual exchange is made, the moneychanger is required by law to give you a form to sign that clearly shows the amount due to you, the exchange rate and any service charges. Try to avoid the exchange counters at the airport or in hotels, which offer some of the worst rates in Hong Kong.
- Credit (and debit) cards are widely used in midrange to upmarket shops, restaurants and bars, and it is safe to pay with them.
- The most widely accepted cards are Visa, MasterCard, Amex, Diners Club and JCB – pretty much in that order. It may be an idea to carry two, just in case.
- Note that transactions using an international credit or debit card will incur a handling fee from your home bank.
- Hotels A HK$10 or HK$20 note for the porter at luxury hotels; gratuity for cleaning staff at your discretion.
- Restaurants Most eateries, except very cheap places, impose a 10% to 15% service charge. At budget joints, just rounding off to the nearest HK$10 is fine.
- Bars and cafes Not expected unless table service is provided, in which case 10% will often be automatically added to your bill.
- Taxis Tips are never expected, but many people leave the small change.
Travellers cheques offer protection from theft but are becoming less common due to the preponderance of ATMs and are increasingly difficult to cash.
Some shops and restaurants are closed on the first and second days of the Lunar New Year, some for a longer period of time. The following list summarises standard opening hours.
Banks 9am to 4.30pm or 5.30pm Monday to Friday, 9am to 12.30pm Saturday.
Museums 10am to between 5pm and 9pm; many close on Mondays as well as sometimes Sundays.
Offices 9am to 5.30pm or 6pm Monday to Friday (lunch hour 1pm to 2pm).
Restaurants 11am to 3pm and 6pm to 11pm.
Shops Usually 10am to 8pm.
Hong Kong Post (www.hongkongpost.com) is generally excellent; local letter delivery takes one to two working days and there is Saturday delivery. The staff at most post offices speak English. Mail boxes on the streets are green and clearly marked in English.
If you need anything sent to you while travelling in Hong Kong, address it c/o Poste Restante, GPO Hong Kong, and it will go to the GPO on Hong Kong Island. Pick it up at counter No 29 from 7am to 8pm Monday to Saturday and 8am to 7pm on Sunday. If you want your letters to go to Kowloon, have them addressed as follows: c/o Poste Restante, Tsim Sha Tsui Post Office, 10 Middle Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. Overseas mail is normally held for two months and local mail for two weeks.
On Hong Kong Island, the General Post Office is just east of the Hong Kong MTR station. In Kowloon, the Tsim Sha Tsui Post Office is just east of the southern end of Nathan Rd. Post office branches elsewhere keep shorter hours and usually don’t open on Sunday.
Allow nine to 14 working days for delivery of letters, postcards and packages to Australia, seven to 16 for the USA, and around 10 days for Europe, by airmail.
Local letter mail is HK$2 for up to 30g; local packages are HK$5.20 up to 100g.
Airmail letters weighing up to 30g cost about HK$5 to Europe and HK7.60 to North America. Packages weighing up to 50g cost HK$13.50 to Europe and North America, plus HK$ for every 10g over. Rates to Australia are broadly similar, and it's a little cheaper to send letters or packages to the rest of Asia.
The fastest way to send letters and small parcels is via Hong Kong Post’s Speedpost (www.hongkongpost.com/speedpost), which covers 210 destinations worldwide. The fee and delivery timeframes vary massively depending on the destination; every post office has a schedule of fees and a timetable. Fees include registered delivery.
Western and Chinese culture combine to create an interesting mix – and number – of public holidays in Hong Kong. Determining the exact date of some of them is tricky, as there are traditionally two calendars in use: the Gregorian solar (or western) calendar and the Chinese lunar calendar.
New Year’s Day 1 January
Chinese New Year 5 February 2019
Easter 19-22 April 2019, 10-13 April 2020
Ching Ming 5 April 2019
Labour Day 1 May
Buddha’s Birthday 12 May 2019
Dragon Boat (Tuen Ng) Festival 7 June 2019
Hong Kong SAR Establishment Day 1 July
Mid-Autumn Festival 13 September 2019
China National Day 1 October
Chung Yeung 7 October 2019
Christmas Day 25 December
Boxing Day 26 December
- Smoking Banned in all public indoor spaces and some outdoor areas, but the law isn't always strictly enforced in some bars and restaurants.
Taxes & Refunds
There is no value-added tax (VAT) or sales tax in Hong Kong, except on alcohol and tobacco. Shops levy a HK$0.50 charge for plastic bag usage.
As in the rest of the world, public telephones are increasingly rare. More and more hotels are including free mobile handsets with 4G data and free local calls as part of the room deal.
- IDD service If the phone you’re using has registered for the IDD 0060 service (or if you have the IDD Global Calling Card), dial 0060 first, then 852, and then the number; rates will be cheaper at any time.
- Rates All local calls in Hong Kong are free. However, hotels charge from HK$3 to HK$5 for local calls from your room landline.
Any GSM-compatible phone can be used here. If you have an unlocked handset, buying a local SIM card with 4G mobile data and free local calls is convenient and easy.
The Hong Kong Tourist Board sells a prepaid Tourist SIM, which includes 4G mobile data, unlimited CSL wi-fi hotspot usage and unlimited calls. A five-day pass costs HK$88 and includes 1.5GB of data; the eight-day pass is HK$118 for 5GB. It can be purchased at the HKTB counters in the airport arrivals hall or at 7-Elevens and dozens of other retailers in the city. Other SIM card options are available at CSL stores and 7-Elevens.
Coverage Mobile phones work everywhere, including in the harbour tunnels and on the MTR.
Handsets CSL stores all over the city sell cheap handsets and mobile accessories, should you need to replace your phone while in Hong Kong.
Rates Local calls cost between 6¢ and 12¢ a minute (calls to the mainland are about HK$1.50–HK$3 per minute with IDD0060 – significantly more without it).
Buy an International Direct Dial (IDD) Global Calling Card for cheaper rates on global calls; they are available at CSL and 7-Eleven stores.
- Hong Kong Time is eight hours ahead of London (GMT); 13 hours ahead of New York (EST); the same time as Singapore, Manila and Perth; and two hours behind Sydney (AEST).
- Hong Kong does not have daylight-saving time.
- Hong Kong has a vast number of free western-style public toilets, including decent facilities in Central, all MTR stations, markets and parks.
- Equip yourself with tissues, as toilet paper isn't always available.
- Many public toilets have wheelchair access, and baby-changing shelves in both men’s and women’s rooms.
- Hong Kong's Toilet Rush mobile app will show you where the nearest public toilets are to your location.
Hong Kong Tourism Board (www.discoverhongkong.com) visitor centres have helpful and welcoming staff, and reams of information – most of it free. There are two branches in town, as well as visitor centres in the airport.
Hong Kong International Airport In Halls A and B on the arrivals level in Terminal 1, and the E2 transfer area.
The Peak In a vintage tram, between the Peak Tower and the Peak Galleria.
Kowloon On the Star Ferry Visitor Concourse, right by the ferry terminal.
Lo Wu At this border crossing to Shēnzhèn, mainland China.
Travel with Children
In a city where skyscrapers tower over city streets, subtropical trees swoop low, and excellent museums are connected by characterful trams and ferries, there's a lot for kids to get excited about. Food and sanitation are of a high standard, but crowds, traffic and pollution might spook more timid mini travellers.
- Hong Kong Science Museum
The three storeys of action-packed displays at Hong Kong’s liveliest museum are a huge attraction for toddlers to teens. There’s a theatre where staff in lab coats perform wacky experiments.
- Hong Kong Museum of History
This excellent museum brings the city’s history to life in visually and aurally colourful ways. Kids will enjoy the ‘Hong Kong Story’ exhibition with its splendid replicas of local traditions, and a life-sized fishing junk.
- Hong Kong Space Museum & Theatre
Kids eager to test their motor skills will go berserk – there are buttons to push, telescopes to peer through, simulation rides and computer quizzes. Older kids will enjoy the Omnimax films shown on the convex ceiling of the theatre.
- Hong Kong Maritime Museum
Even if the exquisite ship models at this museum don't do the trick, there's plenty to fire junior's imagination – gun-toting pirate mannequins, real treasures salvaged from shipwrecks, a metal diving suit… Plus an environmental angle with 'Water Jai' and his tears for plastic waste in the ocean.
- Hong Kong Railway Museum
Thomas and his friends jolt to life at this open-air museum converted from a historic railway station; it comes complete with old coaches and a train compartment.
- Hong Kong Heritage Museum
Though some youngsters may appreciate the displays, the real gem is the hands-on children’s discovery gallery where they can dress up, play puzzle games and enjoy an exhibition of vintage toys.
Great Parks for Kids
- Ocean Park
Hong Kong’s premier amusement park offers white-knuckle rides, a top-notch aquarium, real giant pandas and a cable-car ride overlooking the sea.
- Hong Kong Park
Ducks, swans and turtles inhabit the ponds here, and the massive forest-like aviary has an elevated walkway that lets visitors move through the tree canopy to spy on the birds.
- Hong Kong Zoological & Botanical Gardens
After a visit to this park, your offspring will have seen the American flamingo, the Burmese python, the two-toed sloth and may even be able to tell a buff-cheeked gibbon from a cheeky child.
- Hong Kong Wetland Park
Patience may be required for appreciation of the wetland habitats, but not for the themed exhibition galleries, the theatre and ‘Swamp Adventure’ play facility.
- Kowloon Park
This large verdant space has lakes with waterfowl, two playgrounds, swimming pools, an aviary and dragon dances on Sundays.
- Hong Kong Disneyland
This famous theme park is continually upping its game; a fancy new Marvel-themed area is being launched in phases from 2018 to 2023.
- Peak Tram
Children will be fascinated by the ride on the gravity-defying Peak Tram.
- Star Ferry
Cruise liner, barge, hydrofoil, fishing junk… Your mini-mariners will have a blast naming passing vessels, as their own tugboat chugs serenely across Victoria Harbour.
Looking out of the window of a Harry Potter-esque, skinny double-decker tram that rattles, clanks and sways amid heavy traffic can be exhilarating.
The metro is interestingly colour-coded, full of myths and futuristic enough to enthral younger travellers.
Symphony of Lights
Children will be awestruck by the dance of laser beams projected from skyscrapers on both sides of the harbour, to accompanying music. Bring the Darth Vader costume.
Shopping with Kids
All the essential toiletries you need for younger kids and babies can be found in Hong Kong's chain-store pharmacies, such as Mannings.
Hong Kong Book Centre has a good range of English-language children's books. Horizon Plaza has megastores selling kids’ books and clothing. Tai Yuen St is known for traditional toy shops catering to youngsters of all ages.
See the second-smartest animal on earth in the wild – and here it’s in bubble-gum pink! Hong Kong Dolphinwatch runs three four-hour tours a week to waters where Chinese white dolphins may be sighted.
Tips for Visiting Theme Parks
Both parks are extremely popular with mainland Chinese tourists. For a quieter visit, avoid Chinese public holidays, in particular Labour Day (1 May) and the ensuing two days, National Day holidays (1 to 7 October), Ching Ming Festival in April, and Chinese New Year in January or February. The summer months of July and August are also very busy. At the weekend, Sunday is slightly less busy than Saturday.
Some of the rides have height restrictions.
There's plenty of decent Chinese and western food at both parks.
- Ocean Park
Most teens and grown-ups will prefer Ocean Park to Disneyland; it's much bigger, has a lot more to offer, and the rides are more intense.
Ocean Park consists of two parts – Waterfront near the entrance, and Summit on the headland. You can't walk between the two, but you can take the scenic Cable Car or the subterranean Ocean Express train. The former is busiest in the morning and just before closing. To avoid long lines, take the Ocean Express up and the Cable Car down.
Younger children may like Whisker's Harbour, the age-appropriate play area, and Pacific Pier where they can look at and feed seals and sea lions. Note that it may seem like a lovely idea but animal-welfare groups suggest interaction with sea mammals held in captivity creates stress for these creatures.
Although Disneyland has historically catered for younger audiences, it is in the process of adding new attractions that will appeal to older kids. A hotly anticipated Marvel-themed area will open between 2018 and 2023; an Iron Man Experience flight simulation was already in operation at our last visit.
Though Hong Kong Disneyland is comparatively small, do bring a stroller if you have one. It's stroller-friendly with parking near the rides. The park also has a limited number of strollers for rent.
There are lockers on Main Street, USA, where many of the shops are located.
Fantasyland is by far the best for the very young set. Here's where you'll find Dumbo, Mad Hatter’s Teacups, It’s a Small World and the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. The highly popular Toy Story Land and Grizzly Gulch usually have the longest lines.
Taking the train on Disneyland Railroad is nice if you're tired, but note it does not take you all the way around the park. There are two stops – at the entrance and in Fantasyland.
There's no need to stake out a position to watch the fireworks that come on at 8pm, unless you're looking to take awesome photos. On the other hand, watching near the entrance will allow a quick exit.
Going to Disneyland in the afternoon may let you make flexible use of your time and avoid long lines. The park also takes on a special magic in the twilight hours (6pm to 9pm), when some rides are lit up.
Volunteering opportunities do exist in Hong Kong, in areas such as food poverty, environmental clean-ups, and social care, but most charities require a regular commitment from volunteers.
HandsOn Hong Kong (www.handsonhongkong.org) Organises flexible one-off volunteering events; simply register, check the online calendar and sign up.
Weights & Measures
Although the international metric system is in official use in Hong Kong, traditional Chinese weights and measures are still common. At local markets, meat, fish and produce are sold by the léung, equivalent to 37.8g, and the gàn (catty), which is equivalent to about 600g. There are 16 léung to the gàn. Gold and silver are sold by the tael, which is exactly the same as a léung.