Hong Kong Travel Tips: what to know if you are Traveling to Hong Kong for the first time

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Hong Kong Travel Tips
Hong Kong Travel Tips

“I have an upcoming trip and I really need your Hong Kong Travel Tips”

“Is Hong Kong good for family holiday”

“For the upcoming long weekend, I am thinking to do a quick international trip. Confused between Dubai and Hong Kong. What is there to see and do in Hong Kong”

“I am planning to go on a quick international holiday, could you suggest a Hong Kong Itinerary for 3-4 Days”

“What is the best place to stay in Hong Kong”

“When is the best time to visit Hong Kong”

Out of all the months, when is the cheapest time to travel to Hong Kong”

“There are so many things to do and see in Hong Kong. I am so confused. What are the absolute must-see places”?

These are some of the questions I am often asked whenever anyone is traveling to Hong Kong for the first time. So, instead of answering each one of them individually, I decided to write a post for everyone’s benefit. So, without further ado, let’s begin.

12 Hong Kong Travel Tips you should know if you are travelling to Hong Kong for the first time

1. What kind of Visa do Indian citizens need to travel to Hong Kong?

For a short trip to Hong Kong, Indian nationals don’t need a visa. You are allowed a 14-day visa-free entry to Hong Kong after successfully completing Pre-arrival Registration (PAR) online. The application process for PAR is easy, convenient and doesn’t cost a penny. During the period of validity of the registration (six months), you may visit Hong Kong multiple times, each for a stay of 14 days, by presenting the printout of the PAR notification slip and your Indian passport. For more details of PAR, please click here. If your PAR application is not successful, or if you intend to visit Hong Kong for more than 14 days, you may apply for a visa with the Hong Kong Immigration Department directly.

2. When is the best time to visit Hong Kong?

Hong Kong is a season proof place. Ideal to visit any time of the year. Weather is mostly pleasant through. The average temperature is perfect for exploration – 17°C–26°C in Spring (Mar-May), 26°C–31°C in Summer (Jun–Aug), 19°C–28°C in Autumn (Sep–Nov) and 12°C–20°C in Winter (Dec–Feb).  I had visited the city twice – March (Spring) and September (Autumn) and both the times I had a great time.

Hong Kong Travel Tips: when to visit Hong Kong
Hong Kong Travel Tips: when to visit Hong Kong

Spring is a perfect time to explore the city’s cultural life, particularly the art scene. It’s Hong Kong Arts Month and for the entire month of March, the city welcomes visors to participate in the plethora of arts and cultural events around town, including the internationally renowned Art Basel Hong Kong and Art Central. The four-decade-old ‘Hong Kong Arts Festival’ features opera, theatre, music, dance and more. You can pick and choose from 166 performances and over 300 exciting arrays of outreach activities by over 1,700 artists from around the world till 29 March 2019. ⠀

And, it’s not just Spring that is the best time to visit the city, you can plan any time of the year and you won’t be disappointed. Here are the monthly highlights:

  • January: Hong Kong New Year Countdown Celebrations at Victoria Harbour
  • February: Hong Kong Chinese New Year, Night Parade and Hong Kong Marathon
  • March: Hong Kong Arts Festival, Art Basel, and FIA Formula E Hong Kong E-Prix
  • April: Hong Kong Sevens, Birthday of Tin Hau
  • May: Cheung Chau Bun festival, birthday of Buddha
  • June: Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival and Water Parade of Tai O
  • July: Hong Kong Summer Fun (music festivals, ports tournaments, major fairs and other events)
  • August: e-Sports and Music Festival
  • September: Mid-Autumn Festival and Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance
  • October: Hong Kong Wine & Dine Festival, Hong Kong Cyclothon and Hong Kong Tennis Open
  • November: Hong Kong Great November Feast, Hong Kong’s Music & Art Festival and Hong Kong Open
  • December: Hong Kong Pulse Light festival
Hong Kong Travel Tips: visit during mid-autumn Festival
Hong Kong Travel Tips: visit during mid-autumn Festival

3. What currency to use in Hong Kong

Like its own unique culture and identity, Hong Kong has its own currency too – the Hong Kong dollar, which is pegged at HK$7.8 to US$1. You can easily get currency exchanged at Currency exchange counters available at the airport, as well as all over the city. International credit and debit cards are widely accepted. You can also withdraw money from most ATMs.

Hong Kong Travel Tips: carry Hong Kong dollars
Hong Kong Travel Tips: carry Hong Kong dollars

4. How to stay connected in Hong Kong

Connectivity is not an issue at all in this global city. Prepaid SIM cards can be bought cheaply from any convenience store. I picked up a Discover Hong Kong Tourist SIM Card, special 5-day or 8-day passes loaded with minutes and data. If you’d prefer to stay mostly unplugged during your excursions and catch up in the evening, free Wi-Fi is available.

Hong Kong Travel Tips: how to stay connected in Hong Kong
Hong Kong Travel Tips: how to stay connected in Hong Kong

5. How to reach Hong Kong

All major Airlines have regular flights to Hong Kong. I flew with Cathay Pacific and had a very comfortable experience. Currently, Cathay Pacific Airways and Cathay Dragon operate 48 flights a week from India, with double daily services from Delhi to Hong Kong and ten flights a week from Mumbai to Hong Kong, daily flight from Chennai and four weekly flights from Hyderabad. Cathay Dragon operates daily flights from Bengaluru and six weekly flights from Kolkata.

Hong Kong Travel Tips: How to reach Hong Kong
Hong Kong Travel Tips: How to reach Hong Kong

And, please keep an eye on offers the airlines come out with like I got a discount of Rs. 300 on their UberPremier ride during Woman’s day to and from the airport. Right now, they even have an ongoing offer wherein if you are traveling before July, you get discounts on a range of popular attractions and more. And, please retain your boarding pass to get discounts at many restaurants where you can get up to 20 % discount on food and beverages. You can read my full Cathay Pacific Airlines review here.

6. How to reach the city from the Airport

The Airport Express is the quickest way to get into the city, a 24-minute train journey that makes stops in Tsing Yi, Tsim Sha Tsui and Central. There are also buses that cover all major districts of the city. However, they take more time as compared to the Airport Express. I took Bus A21 from the airport to reach my hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui district. While it took approx. 1hr 15 minutes, I didn’t have to change over. On top of that, it’s the cheapest option. For all seven ways to reach the centre, check https://www.rome2rio.com

7. How to get around in Hong Kong

The best way to get around Hong Kong is by using an Octopus Card, even if you’re visiting for a couple of days. You to travel cash-free on all major transport systems, and can also be used at convenience stores and some shops. It costs HK$150 at any MTR station (HK$100 value, plus HK$50 deposit refunded on return), and can be topped up easily. Here are different modes of transport to explore Hong Kong:

Hong Kong Travel Tips: How to get around in Hong Kong
Hong Kong Travel Tips: How to get around in Hong Kong

MTR: Hong Kong’s subway system covers nearly every part of the city. You can either by tickets at cash machines or use your Octopus Card. Tip: Be sure to check the signs to see which exit to take, as walkways can be long.

Hong Kong Travel Tips: Use MTR for local transport
Hong Kong Travel Tips: Use MTR for local transport

Bus: Buses operate all across Hong Kong. Double-decker buses are most frequent, minibusses are harder to navigate, green ones have set paths and stops, but red ones follow whatever route is the quickest.

Taxi: Taxis in Hong Kong are cheap and found almost everywhere at any given time. Red taxis run across the city, green ones are for New Territories, Blue is for Lantau Island. Red taxi metre starts at HK$24, and each piece of luggage carried costs HK$6.

Tram: Street trams travel between the east and west points of Hong Kong Island. The Peak Tram, meanwhile, is really a funicular that scales up to the island’s highest viewing point.

Hong Kong Travel Tips: Use trams to get around in Hong Kong
Hong Kong Travel Tips: Use trams to get around in Hong Kong

Ferry: Most ferries start from Central Pier, including the Star Ferry to Kowloon, as well as Outlying Island ferries to Cheung Chau, Lamma Island, and Lantau Island. Other piers include Wan Chai, North M Point, Aberdeen, Stanley, Hung Hom, Kowloon City, and Sai Kung.

8. What are the must see attractions in Hong Kong?

Cloud-piercing skyscrapers, top-of-the-town panoramas, villages built on stilts, eminent night markets, buzzing art scene and home-grown theme parks. Hong Kong will spoil you with its variety of attractions. No other city in Asia offers such an amazingly varied array of attractions as Hong Kong.

If you are a first time visitor to the city, make sure you visit Avenue of stars, Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, 1881 Heritage, Old town central, DukLing Harbour Cruise, Ngong Ping 360 (the Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery), the Peak, Tai O Village, Hong Kong Disneyland, Stanley, Repulse Bay, Outlying Islands of Cheung Chau, Lantau Island and Lamma among others. For more details check out the 15 must-see attractions in Hong Kong.

9. Where to shop in Hong Kong?

Shopping is almost a national pastime in Hong Kong, a place where anything can be found if you look hard enough. From designer stores to local markets, Hong Kong is a shopping haven. For thrift shopping, I prefer the CAT market, Ladies market, Li Yuen East and West Streets, Temple Street and Stanley market. Sift through Cat Street’s antiques by day, and then cross the harbour to its nocturnal counterpart in Temple Street.

Hong Kong Travel Tips: Shop at Temple street night market
Hong Kong Travel Tips: Shop at Temple street night market
Hong Kong Travel Tips: Shop at local markets
Hong Kong Travel Tips: Shop at local markets

Browse hipster stores in Wan Chai, and then make your way through Causeway Bay’s frantic mini-malls. Hunt for hidden finds in piled-up vintage stores, and then get fitted for a classic suit at a refined tailor. Whatever you desire, it’s here.

10. Where to try outdoor activities in Hong Kong

Hong Kong might have one of the best skylines in the world but it has an equally outdoorsy side too. Escape the urban hustle and take a walk on Hong Kong’s wild side. Whether you prefer paragliding over rural hills or reclining on a pristine beach, hiking over mountains for spellbinding views or taking in the thrills of a major sporting event, there’s something for everyone. Some of the places I highly recommend are Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark, Sai Wan Beach, MacLehose Trail, High Island Reservoir, Dragon’s back trail, and Shek Pik Country Trail

11. Where and what to eat in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is the ultimate place for foodies, with some of the world’s very best restaurants. Here the variety is mindboggling –  from cheap eats and street food to high-end Michelin-starred eateries. But what makes Hong Kong’s dining scene truly unique is undoubtedly its local dishes.

As you’ll bite into Hong Kong flavours you’ll realise like its DNA, its dishes also capture Hong Kong’s east-meets-west heritage in the most delicious of ways. From traditional Cantonese dim sum to beverages influenced by British culture, there’s a lot to surprise your taste buds. For one of the world’s most affordable Michelin star and Michelin recommended restaurants check out Tim Ho Wan at Tsim Sui Po.

Hong Kong Travel Tips: try Hong Kong dim sums at Tim Ho
Hong Kong Travel Tips: try Hong Kong dim sums at Tim Ho

For an authentic taste of Hong Kong food culture check out wonton noodles at Mak’s Noodles, egg tarts at Tai Cheong Bakery, seafood in Sai Kung, barbecued meats at Joy Hing.

Hong Kong is not just about meat, here are some of the must-try vegetarian and vegan restaurants:

Grassroots Pantry: A haven for veggies and vegans that serves nutrient-rich food made using the freshest, most nutrient-rich, organic and locally sourced sustainable ingredients, but with a creative spin. Highlights of the menu include the pan-fried gyoza, the macadamia cheese, and beetroot agnolotti, and the braised jackfruit and konnyaku claypot rice. One big advantage Cathay Pacific passengers have over others is that you can get a straight 15% discount on the food bill by just showing your boarding pass. So, don’t throw that boarding pass away once you land in Hong Kong.

Bodhisattva, Mong Kok: I was staying nearby so this happened to be one of my first HK vegetarian restaurants, thanks to a quick search on HappyCow. With a seating capacity of 100, this restaurant was pretty packed at lunch hour. The menu was in Chinese but had pictures. The restaurant serves vegetarian Chinese food based around mock meats and is mostly vegan as dairy is rarely used. They have one of the best dim sums in Kowloon. The only weak point is their staff’s limited English vocabulary.

Gingko House: Eating can feed a lot of mouths, especially the ones who have fed others their whole life. Established in 2006, Gingko House provides employment to elderly people, while also promoting vegetarian food. All the waiting staff and the chef are elderly folks, and sometimes they even put on live performances by senior citizens. 

Isoya: Love Japanese but struggle for vegetarian options on the menu? No worries. Wan Chai-based Isoya serves up vegetarian versions of beloved Japanese classics. Dishes are delicate, delicious and immaculately presented.

Mana, Central: This popular café, with locations in Poho in Sheung Wan and Central, specialises in healthy, organic and vegetarian fare. 

Kind Kitchen: Based in Nan Fung Place, Central, it is a completely vegan café that serves both Asian and Western fare. 

Veda: Located in Ovolo Central, Veda is the first hotel restaurant in Hong Kong to serve only vegetarian cuisine. 

Chi Lin Vegetarian: Nestled in the renowned temple at Chi Lin Monastery, this restaurant is visited by pilgrims and visitors alike. The vegetarian meal here is a must.

Tulsi Indian Restaurant: Named after a holy herb, Michelin-starred restaurant Tulsi boasts a delectable selection of authentic Indian cuisine.

Pure Veggie House, Mid-Levels: Pure Veggie House does not use any food additives or dairy products in any of its food, and all dishes are prepared with organic produce freshly harvested from a local farm.

Kung Tak Lam Shanghai Vegetarian Cuisine: This Northern Chinese veggie joint’s dishes are completely MSG (Monosodium glutamate) free, with a heavy reliance on mock meats 

Tishifang Tea House: Run by Taiwanese Buddhists, Tishifang Tea House offers affordable and healthy dining options for around $60 per head. Try the steamed vegetable dumplings and Indonesian fried rice.

12. Where to stay in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong is a place where there is no dearth of good places to stay. Depending on your liking and budget, there are a lot of options. The most popular areas

Hong Kong Travel Tips: where to stay in Hong Kong
Hong Kong Travel Tips: where to stay in Hong Kong

Tsim Sha Tsui: Located in the heart of Hong Kong, Tsim Sha Tsui is a popular place to stay for tourists. It’s close to the Victoria Harbour, Avenue of Stars, Nathan Road. From posh hotels like the Sheraton, Peninsula, and InterContinental to cheap hostels and low-budget hotels located in the Chungking Mansions; Tsim Sha Sui is an ideal place to stay in Hong Kong. I stayed at BP international, which is located in the heart of Tsim Sha Tsui and is in walking distance of many attractions.

Hong Kong Travel Tips: Stay at BP International in Tsim Sha Sui
Hong Kong Travel Tips: Stay at BP International in Tsim Sha Sui

Central: The financial hub of Hong Kong, is an attractive place to stay since it’s located near Lan Kwai Fong and Victoria Peak, two of the most popular spots in the city. Nearby attractions include Man Mo Temple, the Mid-Levels Escalators, and the International Finance Center.

Mong Kok: Ideal for people looking for good Airbnb options as it is mainly a residential area. It’s also within walking distance of the Temple Street market and Langham Place which is a good contrast between old and new Hong Kong.

Wan Chai: One of the oldest and the busiest commercial areas in Hong Kong, but relatively cheaper to stay here than the neighboring Causeway Bay area, which is arguably the best place to shop.

Hong Kong is a megacity, which will keep attracting you. One trip is never enough. I have visited the island thrice, yet I have barely scratched the surface. I hope these Hong Kong Travel Tips help you to at least explore the key attractions. For more details, check out the following:

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Disclaimer

I was hosted by Cathay Pacific. However, everything expressed above is based on my personal experience. Images used are either shot by me or provided by the airlines. Please do not copy anything without written permission.

18 Comments

  • Vibhu batra says:

    Amazingly well descripted, you covered almost all questions that I have in my mind before planning to visit HK 🙂

    • Hi Vibhu,

      Really appreciate you taking out to read and commenting on the post. I am glad you found it useful.

      If you ever need any help, pls feel free to reach out.

      Hope to see you soon in Hong Kong!

      Cheers!

  • Emman Damian says:

    We actually don’t need visa to visit Hong Kong. I have been there 3 times in my life and I keep on coming back. I like that you have good food and great scenery especially at Causeway Bay and Kowloon.

  • Maggie says:

    One of my favorite cities! I was there in November with my 7 year old. You covered it really well, there’s so much to do in this awesome city. What did you think of Tim Ho Wan? We love dim sum and one actually just opened by our house, but this was underwhelming!

  • Lisa says:

    Reading this brought back great memories for me of Hong Kong. It’s been a while since I was back, and I’d love to visit the Old Town; I didn’t even know there was one! The Global Geopark is somewhere I’d love to see too. Though I’m a city girl, I prefer getting out of the urban jungle when I can. I adore dim sum, so just try and stop me!!

  • Leah says:

    As someone who hasn’t been to Hong Kong yet but who really hopes to go soon, I loved reading your post. It was funt o raed about all of the fun festival options. It sounds like it’s a great destination any time of year. I would love to seek out the outdoor opprtunities. The scereny is really stunning!

  • Vanessa says:

    I would be a first-timer when I visit Hong Kong so this article would be super useful. It’s great to see a list of the celebrations and festivals throughout the year as well as tips on getting around. I’m a big fan of street art, glad to see HK has a lot to feast your eyes on!

  • Becki says:

    I visited Hong Kong quite a few years ago for just a fleeting visit, I didn’t see half the things you’ve mentioned so it’s great to read what else there is to see. I’m absolutely loving the look of the Street Art Scene, those murals are beautiful, and the image painted on the stairs is so clever. One of my favourite things in Asia is the food, it’s my favourite cuisine. I think I need to go back just try some of the dishes in the photos. They look mouth-watering.

  • amar singh says:

    I must admit that I was lucky enough to visit Hong Kong 2 years ago and your post has brought back loads of memories. It is such a beautiful destination with so much to offer for all ages. One of my favourite spots would be watching the skyline and the laser show along the harbour. Riding the old tram was a great experience as well. The food is another aspect that makes it such a special treat to visit Hong Kong. A trip to the Happy Valley racecourse was another interesting aspect for me and must say I did win some money so made my holiday even more special. thanks for sharing

  • Katie Diederichs says:

    Super helpful post! I’m planning to go to Hong Kong in a couple of months and this will be a great resource! I’m super excited to explore and eat ALL the food!

  • Shaily says:

    We are planning our next trip to Hong Kong and I’m glad I stumbled upon this post before my bookings. From the visa requirements, currency, best time to visit to the places to visit, what to eat and what to shop; you’ve covered almost everything a first-timer needs to know about the place. I’m saving this post for reference. Thanks for the lovely photographs, great tips and detailed information about Hong Kong.

  • Andreja says:

    Wow thank you for such a great guide! I have never been to Hongkong but will definitely save this for my trip to HK! Im happy there are also outdoor activities to try in such a big city as HK! Im not a bog city fan!

  • Arnav Mathur says:

    This is really helpful Archana, and quite a detailed one too, answering all possible queries in a realistically and detailed manner. My urge to visit Hong Kong grew 10folds when I was stalking you during your travels there. Its really a delight to see that the Visa scene is not a major hassle and Hong Kong is well connected to India, and appealing to a variety of tourists having different motivations.

  • Nicole LaBarge says:

    I love HOng Kong. The food and the street art are just amazing. You have captured it so well!

  • Hong Kong really does have something going on no matter when you want to visit! Thanks for going over all the details to make our visit easier, this is a super helpful article.

  • Suruchi says:

    That is quite a detailed one! You have answered all the questions so well which every traveller would like to know before travelling to Hong Kong. I am going to bookmark this for our travel to this beautiful land.

  • Shreya Saha says:

    It is so helpful Archana to come across blogposts like this where you actually gave detailed information of how to get to different places and where to eat and where to stay in a city like Hong Kong where I haven’t been to yet but planning to visit soon. You got me at the list of vegetarian/vegan restaurants. I am surely going to try Grassroots Pantry and Bodhisattva of all.

  • Tami Wilcox says:

    When I think of Hong Kong, I think of a huge dense city — I hadn’t realied there are so many beautiful natural resources surrounding the city as well. Love all your Instagrammable shots — especially with street art.Great guide and information!

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