Last Updated on January 10, 2022 by Nellie Huang
Hong Kong is a vibrant metropolis with both modern and tradition flair. Explore the city like a local with this Hong Kong travel guide by guest blogger Susan Noel.
Located on China’s south coast and surrounded by the South China Sea, Hong Kong is an international metropolis. Home to more than 7 million people, 260 islands and more skyscrapers than any other city on the planet, Hong Kong is an immense destination in every sense of the word.
The city explodes with life: from busy streets lined with neon signs and larger-than-life skyscrapers to crowded night markets that stand alongside traditional Buddhist temples. But venture further, and you’ll find a very different side to the city, be it the lush greenery while hiking the Devil’s Peak or the calm beaches of Lamma Island.
Table of Contents
- Hong Kong Travel Guide
- Best Time to Visit Hong Kong
- How to Get to Hong Kong
- How to Get around Hong Kong
- Where to Stay in Hong Kong
- Budget: International Inn
- Mid Range: Butterfly on Prat Boutique Hotel
- Luxury: The Jervois
- Luxury: Rosewood Hong Kong
- Best Things to Do in Hong Kong
- Explore Central District
- Wander around Tshim Sha Tsui
- Take the Star Ferry
- See the Symphony of Lights Show
- Visit the Temple Street Night Market
- Experience Nightlife of Lan Kwai Fong
- Get a Panoramic View from Victoria Peak
- Go Shopping in Wan Chai
- Eat at the Cheapest Michelin Starred Restaurant in the World
- See the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery
- Hop over to Macau
- Where to Eat in Hong Kong
- Cost of Travel in Hong Kong
Hong Kong Travel Guide
A tourist visa is a compulsory for all travelers into China, except for Singapore, Qatar, Japan and Brunei passport holders. When applying for a visa, you will have to submit a detailed itinerary of the places you plan to tour and hotel bookings.
The Hong Kong transit visa allows eligible travelers to enter Hong Kong visa-free for 24, 72, or 144 hours. All visa applications to Hong Kong should be made in advance of your planned traveling date. The express services require three, and the regular service takes four days.
The single-entry visas are typically valid for 90 days, double-entry is valid for six months, and the multiple entries are valid for 6 months, 12, 24, 5 years or above.
Best Time to Visit Hong Kong
The best time to visit Hong Kong is between October to March. Peak travel season is between October to December when the temperatures are comfortably chilly, around 13 – 20°C (53 – 68°F).
Summer is a popular time for travelers and the weather can be moderately hot and humid. To save money, avoid Chinese holidays when hotel prices are at their highest. Keep this in mind when planning the rest of your China itinerary.
How to Get to Hong Kong
The main gateway to the city is the Hong Kong International Airport, located to the North of Lantau island and the west of Hong Kong island. It is a significant regional hub with daily flights arriving from different parts across the globe.
You can find affordable flights from many major cities like London, New York, Dubai and Singapore to Hong Kong. Flights from New York to Hong Kong are around US$600 return, and flights from London to Hong Kong are as cheap as $500.
How to Get around Hong Kong
Hong Kong Light Transit system features five underground lines, a modern tram service, three suburban rail lines, and an airport express. The prepaid contactless Octopus Card covers all of Hong Kong’s public transport and is available at MTR stations.
The Red Urban taxis can take you everywhere apart from southern Lantau. Their rates are HK$20 for a mile. In Green New Territories, taxis are slightly cheaper and cover rural regions, the new territory, as well as the airport and Disneyland. Avoid driving in Hong Kong as traffic congestions are very common.
Where to Stay in Hong Kong
There are plenty of accommodation options to choose from in Hong Kong, whether you are looking to book a cheap room or luxury suite. I recommend staying in the Central District if you’re looking to splurge on high-end luxury hotels. Otherwise, the Tshim Sha Tsui area of the Kowloon is great for those who want to be in the heart of the action, while Victoria Harbor is perfect for beautiful views of Hong Kong’s skyline.
Budget: International Inn
Staying at Inn Hotel Hong Kong means being surrounded by all the buzz of the city. The rooms higher up have great city views. Whilst this 3-star hotel doesn’t have any dining options of its own, the surrounding area is packed full of various restaurants to choose from. Check rates here.
Mid Range: Butterfly on Prat Boutique Hotel
True to its name, this boutique hotel is colorful and contemporary. It is a friendly place to stay and fantastic for families. The rooms at this 4-star hotel are filled with color and have carpets and floor to ceiling windows. Check rates here.
Luxury: The Jervois
This 5-star option is all about simply sophisticated interiors, shiny surfaces, marble floors, and custom furnishings by a French designer. Each room comes with a smartphone, which you can use to make long distance calls. Check rates here.
Luxury: Rosewood Hong Kong
Located along the harbor front just a few steps from Avenue of Stars, Rosewood Hong Kong is definitely one of the best hotels in Hong Kong. Ceiling-to-floor windows open up to spectacular views of the harbor. Check rates here.
Best Things to Do in Hong Kong
Explore Central District
Central District is the place to see and be seen in Hong Kong. This crammed district is marked by high-end restaurants, luxury hotels and towering high-rise buildings. It is the commercial and cultural center of the city.
But Central is more than just high-end establishments. You can also pop over to the beautifully green Hong Kong Park for a walk, or spend an afternoon at the Zoological and Botanical Gardens.
Wander around Tshim Sha Tsui
Head down to Tsim Sha Tsui at the southern tip of Kowloon Peninsula for beautiful views of Hong Kong’s skyline. The best view is from Victoria Harbor’s Promenade at the Avenue of Stars.
Tsim Sha Tsui has the greatest concentration of hotels, restaurants, and shops. Weird little local shops and authentically local restaurants and cafes pack Nathan Road which rocks neon lights to rival Las Vegas. Incredibly modern shopping malls dot Canton Road, but you can escape all the big-city bustle at Kowloon Park where you can take a relaxing stroll through abundant greenery.
Take the Star Ferry
By night, take the Star Ferry to cross the Victoria Harbor. While it may not be the fastest way to cross Victoria Harbor (the MTR is faster), the Star Ferry wins the award for most scenic. The Star Ferry has been making the 10-minute crossing since 1880 and offers incredible views of the famous skyline. To make it extra special, take a ferry into Central at sunset or 8pm for A Symphony of Lights, a light and sound show.
Rent a junk boat
The junk boat is a traditional Chinese sailboat still in use, especially for tourists to cruise the bay in. I’ve been on a junk boat several times, and it’s the absolute best way to experience Victoria Harbor with friends. Sign up for a sailing trip to Stanley on a junk boat or romance your loved one with an evening cruise on a junk boat (with wine included!).
See the Symphony of Lights Show
Head to the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbor around 8pm every evening to catch the dazzling night show by the waterfront, the Symphony of Lights. Recognised by Guinness World Records as the largest permanent light and sound show, it’s one of the most popular attractions in Hong Kong. It is free for all, and offers great entertainment before a night in town.
Visit the Temple Street Night Market
Most markets in Hong Kong close when the sun goes down, but that’s when Temple Street comes alive. The wares here are standard, but the Temple Street Night Market is about more than haggling. Grab a plastic stool at one of the dai pai dong restaurants and tuck into the freshest seafood available. Later, stop by the fortune tellers on your way out for a glimpse into your future.
Explore Ladies Market in Mong Kok
If you haven’t gotten enough of night markets, head over to Ladies Market, an open-air bazaar is located in the central area of Mong Kok. It is one of the busiest areas in the city and is filled with cheap goods and shops. Always remember to bargain.
Experience Nightlife of Lan Kwai Fong
Lan Kwai Fong in Central District is the nightlife hub of Hong Kong. It’s known for its raucous taverns, swanky nightclubs, lavish wine bars and trendy restaurants. Be prepared to spend a few dollars as the nightlife in Hong Kong can be expensive.
Get a Panoramic View from Victoria Peak
For the best view of Hong Kong from above, you can’t miss Victoria Peak. You can take a bus or a taxi to the top of the mountain, but the Peak Tram is far more fun. Buy a fast-track combo package to skip the ever-present queue, and you’ll be enjoying stunning views in no time. For the more adventurous, the Morning Trail offers a lovely, though strenuous, hike to the top.
Wander around Sheung Wan District
Popularly known for its shark and bird’s nest, this place reflects the old Hong Kong. Its massive apartment and office blocks tower over small stores and old markets, and it’s less developed more than buildings than other parts of Hong Kong City.
A must-see in Sheung Wan is the Man Mo Temple, tucked inside Hollywood Road. Dedicated to Man Cheong (the god of literature) and Mo Tai (the god of war), the elegant Man Mo Temple has the most impressive interior of all temples in Hong Kong. Step inside and be humbled by the hundreds of smoking spires of incense.
Go Shopping in Wan Chai
Wan Chai is the place to visit when you want to buy something specific. Unlike many other neighborhoods in Hong Kong, Wan Chai has specific streets that specialize in specific products. You can head to Tai Yuen Street for interesting Asian toys, Queen’s Road East for exotic antiques and Wan Chai Computer Centre for electronics.
There’s plenty of culture to be found in Wan Chai. Head over to Golden Bauhinia Square for a daily flag-raising ceremony. The district also boasts the Hung Shing Temple, Old Wan Chai Post Office and Pak Tai Temple.
Eat at the Cheapest Michelin Starred Restaurant in the World
Tim Ho Wan started out as a hole-in-the-wall dim sum restaurant, but it gained worldwide recognition after receiving a coveted Michelin star. It is now known as one of the cheapest Michelin starred restaurants in the world. It’s also opened up many branches around Hong Kong and the rest of Asia, but the original one is Tim Ho Wan Shan Shui Po.
Visit the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island
Tian Tan Buddha – better known as the Big Buddha – is one of Hong Kong’s biggest attractions. Standing 34 metres (112 feet) high above the Po Lin Monastery, the enormous statue brings a steady stream of visitors to this quiet corner of Lantau Island. Book a glass-bottom Ngong Ping cable car for the ride up and take in stunning 360-degree views over the mountains below. You might even meet a friendly cow or two while you’re visiting – they roam wild across the island.
See the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery
The Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is one of the most underrated things to do in Hong Kong. Technically, it is not a monastery (because no monks live here), and it’s home to far more than 10,000 Buddhas. Sitting high in the Sha Tin countryside, the 430-step stairway to the top of the monastery is flanked by countless golden Buddha statues.
Visit Lamma Island
Leave the city behind with a quick 20-minute ferry ride to Lamma Island. Known for its seafood restaurants and relaxed atmosphere, a day exploring Lamma is the perfect way to unwind. Wander through twisting streets, and pop into the quirky shops before setting off to one of the pristine beaches. A quick hike will take you to secluded Shek Pai Wan Beach, where you can embrace idyllic island life for a few hours. Lantau, Sai Kung, Cheung Chau and Grass Island are also worth exploring.
Hike the Dragon’s Back
Hong Kong’s most famous trail, the Dragon’s Back, can be easily accessible from Hong Kong. It is an excellent way to experience Hong Kong’s backcountry and escape the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong city. It takes around four hours to complete the trail and is not too difficult. Just make sure to carry a lot of water.
Go Birdwatching in the Mai Po Natural Area
Mai Po is an endless stretch muddy swampland and mangrove forest that is a paradise for invertebrates and birds. Around 430 kinds of birds are documented here, and this area is protected from development.
Because this area is protected, the World Wildlife Federation’s Public guided tours are the only way to explore this area. These tours are from Friday to Sunday starting at 9:30 a.m. and the last tour at 2:30 p.m.
Hop over to Macau
Catch a ferry to Macau in the Central district for a taste of European flavor in Asia. Macau used to be a Portuguese colony up until 1999, when they transferred sovereignty back to China.
Macau is not just casinos — it’s also well known for European-inspired architecture and traditional bakeries selling some of the best Portuguese egg tarts outside of Portugal. With ferries leaving about every half hour from Hong Kong, it’s a quick and easy day trip from Hong Kong. Alternatively, book a day tour here to explore with a guide.
Where to Eat in Hong Kong
Undoubtedly, Hong Kong is a foodie destination and you’ll find no shortage of street food, dim sum and Chinese banquet feasts. Part of the thrill of traveling Hong Kong is tasting its amazing food. Here are some of my favorite restaurants in Hong Kong:
- Man Wah — Located on the 25th floor, this Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant is referred to as Hong Kong’s most beautiful dining space.
- Tim Ho Wan — Known as one of the cheapest Michelin starred restaurants in the world, Tim Ho Wan has many branches around Hong Kong and the rest of Asia, but the original one is Tim Ho Wan Shan Shui Po (now renovated and has lots of seating).
- One Dim Sum — Serving some of the best dim sum you’ll find in Hong Kong, this is hugely popular with tourists and locals alike. Watch out for long lines on weekends!
- Sister Wah — Best place in Hong Kong for beef brisket in soup! Other items worth trying include homemade dumplings with pork and white cabbage, and drunken chicken and Dan Dan noodles.
- Sang Kee Congee Shop — This traditional congee restaurant is always popular and crowded, for a good reason. It dishes up truly authentic local comfort food, for low prices.
Cost of Travel in Hong Kong
The official currency in Hong Kong is Hong Kong Dollars; HK$. Hong Kong is slightly more expensive than other parts of China, but it is still relatively affordable to travel Hong Kong especially for those from US, UK and Australia.
Expect to spend around $80-150 a day (depending on what type of hotel/restaurants you go to). On average, a restaurant meal costs around $10-15 while an average hotel costs $120 a night.
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