Hong Kong was for 100 years part of the British Empire, it was handed back To Chinese rule in 1997 and despite initial unease life has very quickly returned to normal. Hong Kong is split into four regions; Kowloon and New Territories are on the peninsula of the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong Island is the main part of Hong Kong and the Outlying Islands are a collection of over 200 tiny islands which surround Hong Kong proper. The whole of Hong Kong is an incredibly busy city with a pace that most travellers first regard as frantic. After a day or so of adjustment you will find Hong Kong a rewarding destination. Although its cost might make a long stay in Hong Kong prohibitive, it is worth including for a few days on any tour of the Chinese mainland.
- Currency: Hong Kong Dollar (HK$) = 100 cents
- Time Zone: GMT + 8
- Language: Cantonese and English
- Telephone Services: Country code +852, International access code 00
- Emergency Numbers: 999 for all services
Hong Kong's climate is governed by four distinct seasons influenced by its bi-annual monsoons in the winter and summer months. The summers are very hot with a rainy season occurring between June and August, Spring and Autumn are both temperate with mild precipitation. During winter temperatures can fall quite low but in general the weather is quite mild. There is a risk of typhoons running from July to September.
Things to see and do
Kowloon is the main tourist region in Hong Kong, it is here that you will find the majority of consumer electronics stores nestled between bars, clubs and restaurants. Some travellers can find this area a little tacky, but it is quite a good chance to get orientated in a more familiar environment, besides there are some sights worth seeing. There is a large night market on Temple Street which although has fallen victim in part to the tourist trade is still worth a look. Also in this area is the Space museum which features an impressive OMNIMAX film projector as well as a range of hands on extension activities. Also of interest is the Museum of History and the Hong Kong Cultural centre which both have an impressive range of exhibits.
Hong Kong island itself is even busier than mainland Hong Kong and much like Kowloon has a significant amount of tourist tack on display. Most visitors come to see the junks anchored off the southern harbour in Aberdeen. Here you will find plenty of boat tours on offer which although pricy are well worth the cost. While here most tourists can't help but indulge in a meal on one of the many floating restaurants in the area. Other attractions include the Central Market which is the largest on the island and the ancient Man Mo Temple. When the frantic pace of the city gets on top of you, and it will eventually, you can escape by visiting the Zoological & Botanic gardens or perhaps the glorious beach at Repulse Bay.
The most notable other tourist attraction is the Victoria peak which rises 552m above sea level. While hardly a mountain it does offer some excellent views of the city, particularly Victoria Harbour. The best views are at night when the hordes of lights around the city make for a truly spectacular view. While at the peak it is worth doing some window shopping in the mall directly under the observation point, although don't expect many bargains here as these shops have geared up well to the "captive" tourist market the enjoy access to.
For tourists by far the most popular way to get around between the various regions is by boat. There are a number of options available, the most common is the cross harbour passenger ferries which run every 5 minutes. Most ferries are operated by Star Ferries but there are other smaller companies operating services. These ferry services only run between 6:30 am and 11:30pm but small motor boats, termed locally wallah wallahs run by enterprising individuals or small companies offer effectively a waterborne taxi service 24 hours a day. In Aberdeen Watertours offers a tour of the harbour in Junks and there are various passenger ferries to outlying islands.
Hong Kong has a reasonable sized metro system with four lines including a cross harbour route. It is generally faster than the ferry but works out slightly more expensive. Tickets are normally bought from automatic dispensers in the station and cost between 30p and £1 depending on the route. Visitors staying for longer than a couple of days could take advantage of an octopus card, which costs about £5. This card starts with $50 credit on it and the cost of fares are deducted when placed on card sensors in the stations, these cards have the benefit of giving the bearer a reduced fare.
There is a well connected local bus and tram network in operations which is inexpensive but often very crowded. These services also accept Octopus cards. Taxis are readily available and most drivers speak enough English to get by. There are also rickshaws available which are these days solely a tourist attraction.
There are plenty of hotels in all of the areas of Hong Kong with over 40,000 rooms estimated to be available in the city. Standards range from luxury international hotels to small family run guest houses. Despite the huge amount of accommodation in Hong Kong during the tourist season it is essential to book in advance. There is a reservation centre in Hong Kong international airport which can help you out if you haven't booked in advance but they do charge a pretty heft commission. For more information on hotels in Hong Kong contact the Hong Kong Hotels Association.
There are 4 YMCA hostels operating in Hong Kong including one in Kowloon, the YMCA can provide more information on facilities and prices of these excellent hostels. There are also a number state registered hostels which mainly operate outside the main cities. These are regulated by the Hong Kong Youth Hostels Association who can be contacted for more information.
The quality of Healthcare practised in Hong Kong is excellent and easily on par with Western standards. Charges are made for all services and medical bills can become quite expensive so it is highly recommended that you take out fully comprehensive travel insurance.
Vaccination is advised against both polio and typhoid, these vaccinations are available from your local GP for around £40. There is a slight risk of malaria so you should contact your GP for medical advice on whether it is necessary to carry any anti-malaria treatments.
The food and drink in Hong Kong is considered safe and only normal everyday precautions need be observed.
The Hong Kong Tourist Board provides official tourist information for travellers to Hong Kong
The Hong Kong Youth Hostels Association has information on a number of youth hostels in Hong Kong
The YMCA runs 4 youth hostels in Hong Kong
The Hong Kong Hotels Association can provide information on hotels in Hong Kong