Hong Kong is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world, attracting tens of millions of tourists every year. This wonderful and fascinating city is a joy to explore – as long as you do it right! Before you set off, check out this list of essential tips, as well as common tourist mistakes to avoid.
It would be a crime to visit Hong Kong without having dim sum, which is not just a meal but a way of life here. There’s a great variety of bite-sized dishes to try out, such as barbecued pork puns, steamed shrimp dumplings, rice noodle rolls, glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaves, and much more.
There’s no doubt that Hong Kong’s restaurants, nightlife and shopping opportunities are top-notch, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice by missing out on the city’s rich cultural offerings. Be sure to make time for some of Hong Kong’s excellent museums, galleries, historical buildings and temples.
Hong Kong has a subtropical climate, with warm weather predominating from March through November. In June to August, temperatures reach as high as 32°C, with humidity levels consistently above 90 percent. That being said, if you’re sensitive to cold, it’s a good idea to bring a light cardigan wherever you go, because air-conditioning is used aggressively and indoor temperatures can be quite chilly.
Hongkongers are used to doing things fast, fast, fast! If you’re walking in a crowded place, using public transport, or paying at a 7-11 with a queue behind you, try not to move too slowly or block anyone’s way. Locals are bound to feel irritated or exasperated if they feel that you’re holding them up.
Hong Kong attracts top chefs from all over the globe, so you shouldn’t restrict yourself to Chinese food while you’re here. It’s a good idea to do some research to get a feel for the limitless choices out there.
To get a sense of a restaurant’s most popular or signature dishes, the website OpenRice is a superb resource. You might want to use it if you’re planning on visiting a small, local Chinese restaurant that doesn’t get a lot of international customers. Sometimes, the staff at such restaurants have an outdated idea of what “foreigners” like to eat, and will recommend only deep-fried and sweet dishes, skipping over the excellent dishes favored by locals.
Hong Kong law bans smoking indoors, including in restaurants, bars, cafes, shopping malls and office buildings. Additionally, smoking is prohibited in outdoor spaces such as parks, beaches, swimming pools, and public transport facilities. If you want to smoke in your hotel, make sure that the hotel allows it (some don’t), and ask for a smoking room at check-in.
Hong Kong’s trams – cheap, slow, but reliable – have been around since 1904. Sometimes, these quaint double-decker vehicles seem like relics of a bygone era, when the pace of city life was much slower. For visitors, a rickety tram ride through some of Hong Kong Island’s busiest and most atmospheric streets is a uniquely charming way to get a feel for the city.
If you’ve been browsing the Hong Kong Tramways website, you may be tempted to purchase a 4-day pass, which gets you unlimited rides for HK$34. However, as the normal tram fare is $2.30 per ride, you’d have to take 15 tram rides within four consecutive days to make the pass worth it.
Now, this might be a good deal if the trams could take you anywhere in Hong Kong, but the truth is, the tramway only covers very small area of the city compared to the much faster (though more expensive) subway. You’d be better off paying on a per ride basis, like the locals do.
Octopus Cards are stored-value cards that can be used for all public transport in Hong Kong, as well as convenience stores, pharmacies, cafes, supermarkets and many fast food restaurants. Having an Octopus makes getting around Hong Kong ultra-convenient, and reduces the time you’d otherwise spend fiddling with change. You can buy a new Octopus at any MTR (subway) station.
Between 7am-9:30am and 5pm-7pm on weekdays, the MTR is packed to the gills with people commuting to and from work. Try to plan your days so that you can avoid the crush of commuters. Not only would it be extremely unpleasant, but the masses of people around you would make it much harder to figure out where you’re supposed to go.