Hong Kong, officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region , is one of the two special administrative regions of the People's Republic of China (PRC), the other being Macau. The territory lies on the eastern side of the Pearl River Delta, bordering Guangdong province in the north and facing the South China Sea in the east, west and south. Beginning as a trading port in the 19th century, Hong Kong has developed into a leading financial centre.
Hong Kong was a crown colony of the United Kingdom from 1842 until the transfer of its sovereignty to the People's Republic of China in 1997. The Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law of Hong Kong stipulate that Hong Kong operate with a high degree of autonomy until at least 2047, fifty years after the transfer. Under the policy of "one country, two systems", the Central People's Government is responsible for the territory's defence and foreign affairs, while the Government of Hong Kong is responsible for its own legal system, police force, monetary system, customs policy, immigration policy, and delegates to international organisations and events.
Human settlement in the location now known as Hong Kong dates back to the Paleolithic era. The region was first incorporated into Imperial China in the Qin Dynasty, and served as a trading post and naval base during the Tang Dynasty and the Song Dynasty. The area's earliest recorded European visitor was Jorge álvares, a Portuguese mariner who arrived in 1513.Contact with the United Kingdom was established after the British East India Company founded a trading post in the nearby city of Guangzhou.
In 1839, the refusal by Qing Dynasty authorities to import opium resulted in the First Opium War between China and Britain. Hong Kong Island was first occupied by British forces in 1841, and then formally ceded from China under the Treaty of Nanking at the end of the war. The British established a Crown Colony with the founding of Victoria City the following year. In 1860, after China's defeat in the Second Opium War, the Kowloon Peninsula south of Boundary Street and Stonecutter's Island were ceded to Britain under the Convention of Peking. In 1898, Britain obtained a 99-year lease of Lantau Island and the adjacent northern lands, which became known as the New Territories.
Hong Kong was declared a free port to serve as an entrep?t of the British Empire. The Kowloon-Canton Railway opened in 1910 with a southern terminus in Tsim Sha Tsui. An education system based on the British model was introduced. The local Chinese population had little contact with the European community of wealthy tai-pans settled near Victoria Peak.
In conjunction with its military campaign in World War II, the Empire of Japan invaded Hong Kong on December 8, 1941. The Battle of Hong Kong ended with British and Canadian defenders surrendering control of the colony to Japan on December 25. During the Japanese occupation, civilians suffered from widespread food shortages caused by imposed rations, and hyper-inflation due to forced exchange of currency for military notes. Hong Kong lost more than half of its population in the period between the invasion and Japan's surrender in 1945, when the United Kingdom resumed control of the colony.
Hong Kong's population recovered quickly, as a wave of mainland migrants arrived for refuge from the ongoing Chinese Civil War. With the proclamation of the People's Republic of China in 1949, more migrants fled to Hong Kong from fear of persecution by the Communist Party. Many corporations in Shanghai and Guangzhou also shifted their operations to Hong Kong. The colony became the sole place of contact between mainland China and the Western world, as the communist government increasingly isolated the country from outside influence. Trade with the mainland was interrupted during the Korean War, when the United Nations ordered a trade embargo against the communist government.
The textile and manufacturing industries grew with the help of population growth and low cost of labour. As Hong Kong rapidly industrialised, its economy became driven by exports to international markets. Living standards rose steadily with the industrial growth. The construction of Shek Kip Mei Estate in 1953 marked the beginning of the public housing estate program. Hong Kong was disrupted by chaos during the riots of 1967. Pro-communist leftists, inspired by the Cultural Revolution in the mainland, turned a labour dispute into a violent uprising against the colonial government lasting until the end of the year.
Established in 1974, the Independent Commission Against Corruption dramatically reduced corruption in the government. When the People's Republic of China initiated a set of economic reforms in 1978, Hong Kong became the main source of foreign investments to the mainland. A Special Economic Zone was established the following year in the Chinese city of Shenzhen, located immediately north of the mainland's border with Hong Kong. The economy of Hong Kong gradually displaced textiles and manufacturing with services, as the financial and banking sectors became increasingly dominant. After the Vietnam War ended in 1975, the Hong Kong government spent 25 years dealing with the entry and repatriation of Vietnamese refugees.
With the lease of the New Territories due to expire within two decades, the governments of the United Kingdom and the People's Republic of China discussed the issue of Hong Kong's sovereignty in the 1980s. In 1984, the two countries signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration, agreeing to transfer the sovereignty of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China in 1997. The declaration stipulated that Hong Kong would be governed as a special administrative region, retaining its laws and high degree of autonomy for at least fifty years after the transfer. Lacking confidence in the arrangement, some residents chose to emigrate, particularly after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.
The Basic Law of Hong Kong, which would serve as the constitutional document after the transfer, was ratified in 1990. Over strong objections from Beijing, Governor Chris Patten introduced democratic reforms to the election process for the Legislative Council. The transfer of the sovereignty occurred at midnight on July 1, 1997, marked by a handover ceremony at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. Tung Chee Hwa assumed office as the first Chief Executive of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong's economy was affected by the Asian financial crisis of 1997 that hit many East Asian markets. The H5N1 avian influenza also surfaced that year. Implementation of the Airport Core Programme led to the opening of the new Hong Kong International Airport in 1998, after six years of construction. The project was part of the ambitious Port and Airport Development Strategy that was drafted in the early 1980s.
The outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome took hold of Hong Kong in the first half of 2003. That year, half a million people participated in a march to voice disapproval of the Tung administration and the proposal to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law, which had raised concerns over infringements on civil liberties. The proposal was later abandoned by the administration. In 2005, Tung submitted his resignation as chief executive. Donald Tsang, the Chief Secretary for Administration, was selected as chief executive to complete the term.
Hong Kong consists primarily of Hong Kong Island, Lantau Island, Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories as well as some 260 other islands. The Kowloon Peninsula is attached to the New Territories to the north, and the New Territories spans northwards eventually connecting with mainland China across the Sham Chun River (Shenzhen River). Overall, Hong Kong encompasses a collection of 262 islands and peninsulas in the South China Sea. While Lantau is the largest island, Hong Kong Island is the second largest and the most populated. Ap Lei Chau is the most densely populated island in the world.
The name "Hong Kong", which literally translates to mean "fragrant harbour", is derived from the area around present-day Aberdeen on Hong Kong Island. This is an area where fragrant wood products and fragrant incense were once traded. The narrow body of water which separates Hong Kong Island from the Kowloon Peninsula is known as Victoria Harbour and is one of the deepest natural maritime ports in the world.
Despite Hong Kong's reputation of being intensely urbanised, the territory has made much effort to promote a green environment. Much of the territory remains undeveloped as the terrain is mostly hilly to mountainous with steep slopes. Of the territory's 1,104 square kilometres (426 sq mi), less than 25% is developed. The remaining land is remarkably green with about 40% of the landmass reserved as country parks and nature reserves. Most of the territory's urban development exists on the Kowloon peninsula, along the northern shores of Hong Kong Island and in scattered settlements throughout the New Territories.
Hong Kong's long, irregular and curvaceous coastline also affords the territory with many bays, rivers and beaches. Despite the territory's extensive wooded and ocean setting, environmental awareness is growing as Hong Kong's air ranks as one of the most polluted. Approximately 80% of the city's smog originates from other parts of the Pearl River Delta.
Hong Kong is 60 kilometres (37 miles) east of Macau on the opposite side of the Pearl River Delta. It borders the city of Shenzhen in Guangdong Province to the north. The highest elevation in the territory is at Tai Mo Shan, at a height of 958 metres (3,142 ft) above sea level. Lowlands exist in the northwestern part of the New Territories.
Hong Kong's climate is subtropical and, for nearly half the year, tends toward temperate. The region is cloudy in January and February, meeting with the occasional cold fronts. In March and April, it is pleasant, with occasional high humidity. From May to August, the region is hot and humid, occasionally confronted with showers and thunderstorms. During November and December, there are pleasant breezes, with plenty of sunshine and comfortable temperatures.
Hong Kong is most likely to be affected by tropical cyclones from July to September, although they are not unusual any time between May and November. An average of about 31 tropical cyclones form in the western North Pacific or China Seas yearly, half of them reaching typhoon strength. Winds increase and rain becomes heavy and widespread when the centre of a cyclone comes close to the city; the heavy rain may last for a few days, the subsequent landslips and flooding may cause more damage than the winds.
The highest recorded temperature in Hong Kong is 38 °C (100.0 °F) while the lowest recorded temperature is -4 °C (25.0 °F). Meanwhile, the highest and lowest temperatures ever recorded by the Observatory are respectively 36.1 °C (97.0 °F) on 19 August 1900 and 18 August 1990, and 0.0 °C (32.0 °F) on 18 January 1893. The average temperature in the coldest month, January, is 16.1 °C (61.0 °F) while the average temperature in the hottest month, July, is 28.7 °C (83.7 °F). The territory is situated just south of the Tropic of Cancer, a similar latitude to that of Hawaii. In winter, strong and cold winds generate from the north cool the city; in the summer, the wind's prevailing direction changes and brings the warm and humid air in from the southwest. This climate can support a tropical rainforest.
Legal system and judiciary
In contrast to mainland China's civil law system, Hong Kong continues to follow the common law tradition established by British colonial rule. Article 84 of the Basic Law of Hong Kong allows Hong Kong's courts to refer to decisions (precedents) rendered by courts of other common law jurisdictions. Articles 82 and 92 allow judges from other common law jurisdictions to participate in proceedings of Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal and sit as Hong Kong judges.
Structurally, Hong Kong's court system consists of the Court of Final Appeal which replaced the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, the High Court, which is made up of the Court of Appeal and the Court of First Instance, and the District Court, which includes the Family Court. Other adjudicative bodies include the Lands Tribunal, the Magistrates' Courts, the Juvenile Court, the Coroner's Court, the Labour Tribunal, the Small Claims Tribunal, and the Obscene Articles Tribunal, which is responsible for classifying non-video pornography to be circulated in Hong Kong. Justices of the Court of Final Appeal are appointed by Hong Kong's Chief Executive. The Basic Law of Hong Kong is subject to interpretation by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC:SC) and this power has been invoked three times: the right of abode issue, an interpretation regarding post-2008 election procedures, and an interpretation regarding the length of the term of the Chief Executive.
As in England, lawyers in Hong Kong are classified as either barristers or solicitors, where one can choose to practice as either one but not both (but it is possible to switch from one to another.) The vast majority of lawyers are solicitors, who are licensed and regulated by the Law Society of Hong Kong. Barristers, on the other hand, are licensed and regulated by the Hong Kong Bar Association. Only barristers are allowed to appear in the Court of Final Appeal and the High Court. Just as the common law system is maintained, so are British courtroom customs such as the wearing of robes and wigs by both judges and lawyers.
According to the Article 63 of the Basic Law of Hong Kong, the Department of Justice controls criminal prosecutions, free from any interference. It is the largest legal institution in Hong Kong, and its responsibilities involve legislation, judicial administration, prosecution, civil representation, legal and policy drafting and reform, and the legal profession. Aside from prosecuting criminal cases in Hong Kong, officials of the Department of Justice also appear in court on behalf of the government in all civil and administrative lawsuits against the government. As the protector of public interests, it may apply for judicial reviews and assign legal representation on behalf of public interest to take part in the trial of cases that involve material public interests.
Hong Kong is subdivided into 18 geographic districts for administrative purposes:
* Central and Western
* Kowloon City
* Kwai Tsing
* Kwun Tong
* Sai Kung
* Sha Tin
* Sham Shui Po
* Tai Po
* Tsuen Wan
* Tuen Mun
* Wan Chai
* Wong Tai Sin
* Yau Tsim Mong
* Yuen Long
Each district is represented by a District Council that advises the Government of Hong Kong on local matters such as public facilities, community programmes, cultural activities and environmental improvements. The Home Affairs Department is the governmental body responsible for coordinating services and communicating government policies and plans to the public. It interacts with the public at the local level through corresponding district offices.
There are no formal definitions for cities and towns in Hong Kong. The historic boundaries of Victoria City, Kowloon and New Kowloon are stated in law, but these entities no longer possess any legal or administrative status.
Hong Kong maintains a highly capitalist economy built on a policy of free markets, low taxation and government non-intervention. It is an important centre for international finance and trade, with the greatest concentration of corporate headquarters in the Asia-Pacific region. In terms of gross domestic product per capita and gross metropolitan product, Hong Kong is the wealthiest urban centre in the People's Republic of China. The GDP (PPP) per capita of Hong Kong exceeds the four big economies in Western Europe (UK, France, Germany, Italy), as well as Japan.
Continuing the practice established under the British administration, the Government of Hong Kong mostly leaves the direction of the economy to market forces and the private sector. Since 1980, the government has generally played a passive role under the official policy of positive non-interventionism. Hong Kong has often been cited as a prime example of laissez-faire capitalism in practice, most notably by economist Milton Friedman. It has ranked as the most free economy in the world in the Index of Economic Freedom for 14 consecutive years, since the inception of the index in 1995. It also places first in the Economic Freedom of the World Report. Together with Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan, Hong Kong is known as one of the Four Asian Tigers, or Dragons for its high growth rates and rapid industrialisation between the 1960s and the 1990s.
Hong Kong has little arable land and few natural resources within its borders, and must therefore import most of its food and raw materials. Hong Kong is the world's eleventh largest trading entity, with the total value of imports and exports exceeding its gross domestic product. As of 2007, there are 115 countries that maintain consulates in Hong Kong, more than any other city in the world. Much of Hong Kong's exports consists of re-exports, which are products made outside of the territory, especially in mainland China, and distributed through Hong Kong. Even before the transfer of sovereignty to the People's Republic of China, Hong Kong has established extensive trade and investment ties with mainland China. The territory's autonomous status enables it to serve as a point of entry for investments and resources flowing into the mainland. It is also a connecting point for flights from Taiwan destined for the mainland.
The currency used in Hong Kong is the Hong Kong dollar. Since 1983, it has been pegged at a fixed exchange rate to the United States dollar. The currency is allowed to trade within a range between 7.75 and 7.85 Hong Kong dollars to one United States dollar. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange is the sixth largest in the world, with a market capitalisation of about US$2.97 trillion as of October 2007. In 2006, the value of initial public offerings conducted in Hong Kong was second highest in the world after London. The City of London Corporation's Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI) 2007, which evaluates the competitiveness of 46 financial centres worldwide, ranks Hong Kong as the third-best financial centre globally and the strongest centre in Asia.
Hong Kong's economy is dominated by services, which accounts for over 90 percent of its gross domestic product. In the past, manufacturing had been the most important sector of the economy, as Hong Kong industrialised following the Second World War. Driven by exports, the economy grew at an average annual rate of 8.9 percent in the 1970s. Hong Kong underwent a rapid transition to a service-based economy in the 1980s, when growth averaged 7.2 percent annually. Much of the manufacturing operations moved to mainland China during this period, and industry now constitutes just 9 percent of the economy. As Hong Kong matured to become a financial centre, growth slowed to an average of 2.7 percent annually in the 1990s. The economy suffered a 5.3 percent decline during 1998, in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis. A period of recovery followed, with growth rate reaching 10 percent in 2000, although deflation persisted. In 2003, the economy was greatly affected by the outbreak of SARS, which reduced economic growth to 2.3 percent that year. A revival of external and domestic demand led to a strong recovery the following year, as cost declines strengthened Hong Kong export competitiveness. The 68-month-long deflationary period ended in mid-2004, with consumer price inflation hovering at near zero levels. Beginning in 2003, the Individual Visit Scheme has allowed travellers from some cities in mainland China to visit Hong Kong without an accompanying tour group. As a result, the tourism industry of Hong Kong has benefitted from an increase in mainland visitors, further aided by the opening of Hong Kong Disneyland Resort in 2005. The economy continues to grow strongly with the return of consumer confidence and rising trade. Hong Kong has set low rates in both personal and corporate taxation.
In 2006, Hong Kong's per-capita GDP ranked as the 6th highest in the world at US$38,127, ahead of countries such as Switzerland, Denmark, and Japan. Its GDP ranked as the 40th highest at US$253.1 billion.
Residents of Hong Kong are sometimes referred to as Hongkongers. Hong Kong's population increased sharply throughout the 1990s, reaching 6.99 million in 2006. About 95% of Hong Kong's population is of Chinese descent, the majority of which are Cantonese or from ethnic groups such as Hakka and Teochew. Cantonese, a Chinese language originating from Guangdong province to the north of Hong Kong, is Hong Kong's de-facto official dialect. English is also an official language widely spoken by more than 38% of the population. According to the 1996 Hong Kong Government by-census, some 3.1% regard English as their 'usual' language with 34.9% claiming to speak English as 'another' language. Signs displaying both Chinese and English are common throughout the territory. Since the 1997 handover, new groups of mainland Chinese immigrants have arrived. The usage of Mandarin, the official dialect of People's Republic of China and Republic of China (Taiwan), has also increased. The integration with mainland economy led to a demand in Mandarin speakers.
The remaining 5% of the population is composed of non-ethnic Chinese forming a highly visible group despite their smaller numbers. A South Asian population comprised of Indians, Pakistanis and Nepalese are found. Vietnamese refugees have become permanent residents. Approximately 140,000 Filipinos live and work in Hong Kong with the majority as foreign domestic helpers. An increasing number of domestic workers also originate from Indonesia. There are also a number of Europeans, Americans, Australians, Canadians, Japanese, and Koreans working in Hong Kong's commercial and financial sector.
Considered as a dependency, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated countries/dependencies in the world, with an overall density of more than 6,200 people per km2. Hong Kong has a fertility rate of 0.95 children per woman, one of the lowest in the world and far below the 2.1 children per woman required to sustain the current population. However, population in Hong Kong continues to grow due to the influx of immigrants from mainland China approximating 45,000 per year. Life expectancy in Hong Kong is 81.6 years as of 2006, 2nd highest in the world.
Hong Kong's population has an extremely dense urban core, consisting of Kowloon and the north of Hong Kong Island. The rest is relatively sparsely populated, with millions of residents scattered irregularly throughout the New Territories, south Hong Kong island and Lantau Island. An increasing number of citizens are living in Shenzhen, and commuting from mainland China.
A former Crown colony, Hong Kong's education system has roughly followed the system of the United Kingdom, and in particular, the education system in England. At the higher education levels, both British and American systems exist. The University of Hong Kong (HKU), the oldest institution of tertiary education in Hong Kong, has traditionally been based on the British model but has incorporated elements of the American model in recent years. The second oldest university, Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), follows the American model with a characteristically British college system. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) was established on the American model of higher education. There are nine public universities in Hong Kong, and a number of private higher institutions. Lingnan University (LU) in Tuen Mun is the only university in Hong Kong that provides Liberal Arts Education.
Hong Kong's public schools are operated by the Education Department. The system features a non-compulsory three-year kindergarten, followed by a compulsory six-year primary education, three-year junior secondary education; a non-compulsory two-year senior secondary education leading to the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examinations and a two-year matriculation course leading to the Hong Kong Advanced Level Examinations. A new "3+3+4" curriculum, consisting of a three-year junior secondary, three-year senior secondary and four-year undergraduate academic system, will be implemented from 2009 (for senior secondary) and 2012 (for tertiary) onwards. There are also tertiary institutions offering various Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctoral degrees, other higher diplomas, and associate degree courses.
Most comprehensive schools in Hong Kong fall under three categories: Public schools, subsidised schools and private schools. Public schools are rare, and subsidised schools are the most common, which include government aids and grant schools, run by charitable organisations often with religious affiliations. The majority of such religious affiliations are Christian, but there are also Buddhist, Daoist (Taoist), Islamic and Confucian ones as well. Meanwhile, private schools, often run by Christian organisations, have admissions based on academic merit rather than on financial resources. Outside this system are the schools under the Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS) and private international schools.
The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the OECD, currently ranks Hong Kong's education as the 2nd best in the world.
Hong Kong is frequently described as a place where East meets West, a meeting reflected in its inhabitants, their customs, economic infrastructure, education and culture. British rule may have ended in 1997 but Western culture is deeply ingrained in Hong Kong and coexists seamlessly with traditional philosophy and practices of the Chinese. On one street corner, there may be traditional Chinese shops selling Chinese herbal medicine, Buddhist paraphernalia or bowls of synthetic shark fin soup, but around the next, one may find theatres showing the latest Hollywood blockbuster, an English-style pub, or a Catholic Church. Hong Kong's official languages are Cantonese and English; signs in both languages are omnipresent throughout Hong Kong. The government, police and most workplaces and stores conduct business bilingually.
While Hong Kong is a global centre of trade, another famous export is its entertainment industry, particularly in the martial arts genre which gained a high level of popularity in the late 1960s and 1970s. Several Hollywood performers originate from Hong Kong cinema, notably Bruce Lee, Chow Yun-Fat, and Jackie Chan. A number of Hong Kong filmmakers have also achieved widespread fame in Hollywood, such as John Woo, Wong Kar-wai and Tsui Hark. Homegrown films such as Chungking Express, Infernal Affairs, Shaolin Soccer, Rumble in the Bronx, Eros and In the Mood for Love have also gained international recognition. Hong Kong is also the world's main hub for Cantopop music.
The Hong Kong government also supports cultural institutions such as the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, Hong Kong Museum of Art, the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. Furthermore, the government's Leisure and Cultural Services Department also subsidises and sponsors international performers brought to Hong Kong. Many international cultural activities are organised by the government, consulates and privately.
Taoism and Buddhism 90%
Hong Kong enjoys a high degree of religious freedom, a right enshrined and protected through its constitutional document, the Basic Law. The majority of Hong Kong's population (90%) practise a mix of local religions, Buddhism (mainly Chinese Mahayana) alongside with Taoism. but according to the International Religious Freedom Report 2007 from U.S. Department of States; there are only 700 thousand Buddhists or Taoists. Buddhists and Taoists share a common background of Confucian theory, Chinese folk religion (worship of folk deities and figures of Chinese mythology) and ancestor worship.
A sizable Christian community of around 560,000 local adherents (320 thousand Protestant Christians, 240 thousand Roman Catholics) to 660,000 exists (if including over 100 thousand Filipino Catholics), forming about 8% to 9% of the total population; it is roughly equally divided between Catholics and Protestants. Apart from the major religions, there are also a significant number of followers of other religions, including an estimated 90,000 Muslims; 22,000 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; 4,000 Jews; 4,600 Jehovah's Witnesses and a number of Hindus, Sikhs and Bahá'ís. Apart from offering religious instructions, many major religious bodies have established schools and provided social welfare facilities.
Hong Kong's religious beliefs are tied to the region's early role as a fishing community. Tin Hau, the protector of seafarers, has been honoured with several temples throughout Hong Kong for at least 300 years. Hong Kong residents, especially elder generations, visit Taoist or Buddhist temples to appease the deities and, usually, to request compassion, good health or good fortune. Gifts of food, and in particular fruit, are presented, and incense and paper offerings are burnt in respect.
With the transfer of Hong Kong to the PRC, there were significant concerns over religious freedom in Hong Kong. So far, this has proved mostly unfounded. Despite the banning of the Falun Gong movement by Beijing in 1999, adherents are still free to practice in Hong Kong. Similarly, the Catholic Church freely appoints its own bishops in Hong Kong, unlike on mainland China where the only approved 'Catholic' institution is the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association where bishops and priests are appointed by Beijing (though there is also an unofficial and illegal part of the Catholic church that maintains contact with the Vatican). A significant issue in the normalisation of ties between the PRC and the Vatican is Beijing's insistence that the Vatican drops its diplomatic ties with the ROC.
At present, Hong Kong has the world's biggest skyline with a total of 7,681 skyscrapers, placing it ahead of anywhere else in the world, despite the fact that New York is larger in area. Most of these were built in the past two decades.
Due to the lack of available space, few historical buildings remain in Hong Kong. Instead the city has become a centre for modern architecture, especially in and around Central. Dense commercial skyscrapers between Central and Causeway Bay lining the coast of Victoria Harbour is one of Hong Kong's most famous tourist attractions and ranked the best skyline in the world. Four of the top 15 tallest skyscrapers in the world are in Hong Kong. In Kowloon, which once included the nihilistic settlement called the Kowloon Walled City, strict height restrictions on structures were in force until 1998 with the closure of nearby Kai Tak Airport. With restrictions lifted, several new skyscrapers in Kowloon are under construction, including International Commerce Centre which, when completed in 2010, will become the world's fourth tallest.
One of the notable buildings in Hong Kong is I. M. Pei's Bank of China Tower, completed in 1990 and now Hong Kong's third tallest skyscraper. The building attracted heated controversy from the start, as its sharp angles were said to cast negative feng shui energy into the heart of Hong Kong. Predating the Bank of China Tower, another well-known structure is the HSBC Headquarters Building, finished in 1985. It was built on the site of Hong Kong's first skyscraper, which was finished in 1935 and was the subject of a bitter heritage conservation struggle in the late 1970s. Both banks' buildings are featured on many of Hong Kong's banknotes.
The tallest building in Hong Kong is currently the International Finance Centre 2. Other well-known projects in Hong Kong include the new Hong Kong International Airport on Chek Lap Kok near Lantau, a huge land reclamation project linked to the centre of Hong Kong by the Lantau Link, which features three new major bridges: Tsing Ma, the world's sixth largest suspension bridge; Kap Shui Mun, the world's longest cable-stayed bridge carrying both road and railway traffic; and Ting Kau, the world's first major four-span cable-stayed bridge.
Particularly notable about Hong Kong's skyline and streetscape is the omnipresence of public housing estates, which began as a squatter resettlement program in the 1950s, and now houses close to 50% of the population. These estates have evolved from seven-storey walk-up apartments with public toilets and minimal amenities, allocated on a basis of 24 square feet (2 m2) per adult, half of that for a child, to high-quality high-rises. The public rental program has been supplemented with a government-subsidised Home Ownership Scheme.
Hong Kong has a highly developed and state-of-the-art transport network, encompassing both public and private transport. Over 90% of daily travels are on public transport, making it the highest percentage in the world. The Octopus card stored value smart card payment system can be used to pay for fares on almost all railways, buses and ferries in Hong Kong. The Octopus card uses RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) to allow users to scan their card without taking it out of their wallet or bag. All parking meters in Hong Kong accept payment by Octopus card only, and Octopus card payment can be made at various car parks.
Hong Kong is dominated by steep, hilly terrain, and some unusual methods of transport have been devised to ease movement up and down the slopes. For example, the Peak Tram, being the first public transport system in Hong Kong, has provided vertical rail transport between Central and Victoria Peak since 1888 by steeply ascending the side of a mountain. In Central and Western district there is an extensive system of escalators and moving pavements, including the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world, the Mid-Levels escalator.
Hong Kong has several different modes of public rail transport. The metro system for the city is the MTR, both an underground rail system and a link between Hong Kong and mainland China. The tramway system covers the northern parts of Hong Kong Island and is the only tram system in the world run exclusively by double deckers.
Five separate companies (KMB, Citybus, NWFB, Long Win and NLB) operate franchised public bus services in Hong Kong. Double-decker buses were introduced to Hong Kong in 1949. They are now used almost exclusively in Hong Kong, just as in Singapore, Dublin and the United Kingdom. However, single-decker buses remain in use for routes with lower demand or roads with lower carrying capacity. Such single-decker buses are mainly used on Lantau Island and for overnight services. Most normal franchised bus routes in Hong Kong operate until 1 am. Public light buses run the length and breadth of Hong Kong, through areas where standard bus lines cannot reach or do not reach as frequently, quickly, or directly. Taxis are also widely used throughout Hong Kong. All taxis in Hong Kong run on liquefied petroleum gas; driving a diesel taxi on the streets of Hong Kong has become illegal as of January 1, 2006.
Most ferry services are provided by licensed ferry operators serving outlying islands, new towns, across Victoria Harbour, Macau and cities in mainland China. The oldest service, the legendary Star Ferry, operates four lines between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island and has provided cost-effective transport for over a century. Popular with tourists desiring a panoramic view of Hong Kong's skyline and harbour, many Hong Kong residents consider the Star Ferry as one of the city's most treasured cultural icons. Additionally, 78 "kai-to" ferries are licensed to serve remote coastal settlements.
Hong Kong has one active international airport, known as Hong Kong International Airport located at Chek Lap Kok. In 1998, this replaced the former Hong Kong International Airport — Kai Tak Airport located at Kowloon City, which was simultaneously closed. After high-profile delays in the cargo systems in the first few months, the airport now serves as a transport hub for Southeast Asia, and as the hub for Cathay Pacific Airways, Dragonair, Air Hong Kong, Oasis Hong Kong Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines and Hong Kong Express. Additionally, both Hong Kong International Airport and Cathay Pacific Airways have been voted best in the world, in the airport and airline criteria respectively, by Skytrax from 2001 to 2005, and again in 2007. Hong Kong International Airport served more than 36 million passengers in the year 2004, and increased to over 40 million passengers in 2005.
Access to the airport includes 'Airport Express', 'CityFlyers' and 'Airbuses' provided by bus companies. These services connect the airport to the rest of Hong Kong. The Airport Express zooms passengers to Central on Hong Kong Island in just 23 minutes. The opening of Sunny Bay Station of the MTR allows easy access to the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort.
While the traffic in mainland China drives on the right, Hong Kong still maintains its own road rules, with traffic continuing to drive on the left. Similarly, the Hong Kong highway code uses the British road sign system, which is different from the system used on the mainland.
There are about 517,000 registered vehicles in Hong Kong, 64% of which are privately owned passenger cars. As a metropolis for luxury in Asia, Hong Kong is world famous for having the most Rolls-Royce cars per capita in the world.
Hong Kong's medical infrastructure consists of a mixed medical economy, with 12 private hospitals and more than 50 public hospitals. There are also polyclinics that offer primary care services, including dentistry.
Hong Kong has two medical schools, one with the University of Hong Kong (the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine) and the other with the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Medical graduates obtain the MBChB or MBBS, based upon the British model. There are also schools of nursing, both public and private, and training for professions allied to medicine, including a school dedicated to dentistry.
The Hospital Authority is a statutory body established on 1 December 1990 under the Hospital Authority Ordinance to manage all 38 public hospitals and institutions in Hong Kong. It is mainly responsible for delivering a comprehensive range of secondary and tertiary specialist care and medical rehabilitation through its network of health care facilities. The Authority also provides some primary medical services in 74 primary care clinics. Hong Kong's 12 private hospitals have partnered with the United Kingdom for international healthcare accreditation. All 12 private hospitals are "Trent Hospitals", having been surveyed and accredited by the United Kingdom's Trent Accreditation Scheme. The Hong Kong Academy of Medicine is an independent institution with the statutory power to organise, monitor, assess and accredit all medical specialist training and to oversee the provision of continuing medical education in Hong Kong. In addition, The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada has also accredited the postgraduate medical education (1994-present) in Hong Kong and allowed these graduates from the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine seeking RCPSC Certification and practising in Canada.
The Department of Health, under Food and Health Bureau, is the health adviser of Hong Kong government and an executive arm in health legislation and policy. Its main role is to safeguard the health of the community through promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative services in Hong Kong. The main function of the department includes child assessment service, immunisation programmes, dental service, forensic pathology service, registration of healthcare professionals etc, though boards and councils (i.e. Medical Council of Hong Kong, Pharmacy and Poisons Board of Hong Kong) are independent statutory bodies established under the relevant ordinances that operate independently to discharge their statutory functions.
Hong Kong is one of the healthiest places in the world. Because of its early health education, professional health services, and well-developed health care and medication system, Hongkongers enjoy an average 82-year-long life expectancy, which is the second highest in the world, and 2.94 infant mortality rate, the fourth lowest in the world.
* Chinese (Lunar) New Year
Although this may seem like an ideal time to go to Hong Kong, many shops and restaurants close down during the Chinese New Year. However, unlike Christmas in Europe where you can hardly find shops open on this big day, you can still get food and daily products easily during the Lunar New Year period. The week or two leading up to the Chinese New Year as well as the period just after the third day up to the fifteenth day are good times to soak up the festive mood and listen to Chinese New Year songs being played in the shops.
* Spring Lantern Festival
If you go to Victoria Park of Hong Kong Island, you will be able to experience this tradition Chinese festival. A number of beautiful lanterns can be found in the park at this time.
* Ching Ming Festival
This festival in Spring is also known as grave sweeping day. To show respect to the deceased, family members go to the grave of their ancestors to sweep away leaves and remove weeds around the grave area. Paper offerings are also burned, such as fake money.
* Cheung Chau Bun Festival
This is takes place on the tiny island of Cheung Chau. In the past the festival has involved competitions with people climbing Bun Towers to snatch buns. After the unfortunate collapse of a bun tower in 1978, due to an overload of people, the competition was abandoned. It was resumed again in 2005 with better safety measures.
* Tuen Ng Festival
This is a festival in memory of a national hero from the Spring and Autumn Period of Chinese history. Dragon boat races are typically held during this festival and glutinous rice dumplings, usually with pork fillings, are eaten by many.
* Hungry Ghost Festival
This festival runs throughout the seventh month of the Chinese calendar. It is believed that the gates of hell open during this period and hungry ghosts are allowed to roam freely into our world. Though not a public holiday, this is the time where one can see many people perform various rites to appease the wandering ghosts, such as offering food and burning joss paper. One can also see traditional performances such as Chinese opera which are held to appease these ghosts.
* Mid Autumn Festival / Moon Festival
This festival is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month. Moon cakes which contain lotus seed paste and duck egg yolks are a popular delicacy. Many western people will find the traditional mooncake hard to appreciate, so you might like to try the ice-cream version as well. The festival is also known as the lantern festival and various parts of Hong Kong will be festooned with decorative lanterns which set the night scene ablaze with colour.
* Chung Yeung Festival
Is a day also known as Autumn Remembrance, which is similar to Ching Ming in spring, where families visit the graves of their ancestors to perform cleansing rites and pay their respects. As the weather cools down during this part of the year, hiking is a good activity to do during this holiday.
Halloween has grown rapidly in popularity and many people dress up to party till late. Trick or treat is not common but most restaurants and shopping centres are decorated and have special programmes. It is not a public holiday.
Christmas is celebrated Hong Kong style. The city is adorned using traditional western Christmas decorations, including real or artificial Christmas trees in Central and shopping centres and plenty of opportunities for children to meet Santa in shopping centres. Most shops and restaurants remain throughout Christmas. You should expect large crowds out shopping for the Christmas sales.
* New Year's Eve
New Year's Eve in Hong Kong is something to check out if you are seeking a carnival experience. Hundreds of thousands of people out on the streets to celebrate the New Year is truly an unforgettable time. There are all-night services on the MTR, night-buses, and of course, many taxis. Fireworks go off on the harbour front, which a lot of people attend to watch on both sides of the harbour: Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon side) and Central (Hong Kong Island). The young adults and older adults decide to party with the rest of Hong Kong at the hot-spots such as Causeway Bay, Lan Kwai Fong and Tsim Sha Tsui. Many people dress up and attend private parties and others flock to the streets to enjoy the atmosphere. Police patrol around popular areas to make sure the city is a safe party-zone. Hong Kong people are not great drinkers and most of them stay dry for the night. Drinking alcohol on the street is uncommon. So visitors who drink should moderate their behaviour or risk being screened out by the police as the only drunks in the crowd.
When to visit
Weather For those who are seeking warm, dry and sunny weather, the ideal time is October to December. Those who are wanting to escape the humidity of tropical climates will appreciate the cooler months of January and February. The humidity is typically high in the spring and worse in the summer, when high temperatures (usual maximum of 33-34°C) are often recorded.
Events During Chinese New Year, whilst there are some extra celebratory events such as a lion dances, fireworks, and parades, many shops and restaurants are closed for three days to 5 days. Official public holidays last 3 days.
Culture lovers will be able to feast on a multitude of cultural activities from February to April. The Hong Kong Arts Festival, a month-long festival of international performances, is held in February and March. The Man Literary Festival, a two-week English language festival with international writers as guests, is held in March. The Hong Kong International film festival, a three-week event, is held in late March to early April.
Rugby fans, and those wishing to party, should come during the weekend of the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens.
There is a second round of cultural activities in the autumn lasting till the end of the year.
Christmas is also a nice time to visit as many shops and shopping centres are nicely decorated and the festive mood is apparent across the city.
Hong Kong retains control of its own immigration. The good side of this is that, unlike mainland China, most Western visitors do not need to obtain visas in advance, but the bad side is that a separate visa is required to enter mainland China from Hong Kong. Detailed visa requirements are available from the Immigration Department. Anyone arriving at Hong Kong International Airport and requiring an onward visa for mainland China, during your stay in Hong Kong, will find a kiosk in the downstairs foyer that issues them. A photograph will be required and the staff will be happy to accommodate you.
Hong Kong International Airport
Internationally, there is a major way to get into Hong Kong — through the modern Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA or HKG) which is also known as Chek Lap Kok, the name of the small island it was built over. The architect for the impressive airport terminal was Sir Norman Foster. This modern and efficient building opened in July 1998, and it has since been named the Best Airport worldwide by Skytrax for five years.
There are many direct flights to Hong Kong from every continent in the world. Most major cities in Oceania, Europe and North America are all served with at least one daily flight. Sydney has 6 daily flights, Melbourne 4 (5 from October 2007), London 11(1 to Gatwick), Frankfurt 2, Paris 3, Amsterdam 2, Los Angeles 4, San Francisco 3, Vancouver 3, New York 3, Chicago 2 and Toronto 2.
Flights between Hong Kong and other major Asian cities are extremely frequent: between 10 and 40 flights per day connect Hong Kong with Singapore, Taipei, Tokyo, Shanghai, Manila, Seoul, Bangkok and Beijing. Other routes may be cheaper, however. For destinations within China, it is often cheaper to fly from Shenzhen than from Hong Kong. For elsewhere in Asia, consider Macau. The discount airlines land there because it has lower fees than Hong Kong.
Oasis Hong Kong Airlines started its services in October 2006, offering flights to London, Vancouver and soon other destinations in Europe and the US for as low as HK$1000, excluding taxes and fees. Cathay Pacific and its subsidiary airline Dragon Air are also based in Hong Kong. Cathay Pacific is part of the Swire Group which is head quartered in London, England.
Hong Kong International Airport is the third busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic in Asia and the second busiest airport in terms of cargo traffic in the world.
Outside the security area, travellers will find an efficient post office in the airport which provides boxes, wrapping material, scissors and tape. Travellers can reach Central, Hong Kong from the airport in less time than taking a local bus to the village on Chek Lap Kok.
There is a public lounge inside the airport with prices as follows (in HK Dollars):
* Shower Only $80
* 2 Hours Lounge Use $250
* 5 Hours Lounge Use with Seated Massage (15 mins) or Nap (2 hrs) $300
* 10 Hours Lounge Use with Seated Massage (15 mins) or Nap (2 hrs) $350
* Overnight Package with Shower + Nap (8 hrs) + Breakfast $450
* Whole Day Package with Lounge Use + Nap (8 hrs) $600
The exchange rate is usually around $1 US = $7.80 HK
Unlike car travel, the Airport Express is a fast and environmentally friendly form of passenger transport to and from the airport. The clean and efficient train speeds you on a journey that takes only 23 minutes, and there are plenty of baggage handling officers to help you get heavy bags on and off of the train. There is no need to tip them. Each way costs $60-$100, or a round trip for $110-$180, depending on the distance travelled. If you buy your ticket from a machine you will have to pay the standard fare, however, if you travel with other people you can get a discount from the staff at the counter. If in doubt, ask the staff for advice before you hand over your money. After arrival, free shuttle buses connecting to major hotels in Kowloon and Central are provided, or you can continue onward by MTR or taxi
* The Airport Express Tourist Octopus 3-Day Hong Kong Transport Pass gives you an Octopus card (see Get Around) good for 3 days of unlimited MTR travel, plus one ride on the Airport Express (for $220) or two (for $300). In effect, you're paying $70 for 3 days on the MTR, which is a fair bit of travel but might be worth it if you're planning to visit the Lantau Island or the New Territories. You can return the card after use to get back $50 deposit, or keep it for your next trip — any leftover value will remain valid for 3 years. [You can also add money to the card, which you can use for payment for the busses, the tramway, at many vending machines, some stores, and when taking the Star Ferry.]
However if views is what you are looking for, then you might as well take the bus or taxi then. Around 50% of the trip will be underground and at least 20% of the "above-ground" travel is through "covered" tracks.
The various Airbuses are cheaper, slower but more direct bus services to the city. For example, the A21 (HK$33) bus will take you down Nathan Road, the main artery of Kowloon, stopping outside many hotels and hostels. Lines A10, A11 and A12 go to Hong Kong Island ($48, $40 and $45 respectively). Alternatively, take bus S1 to Tung Chung ($3.50) and connect to the ordinary MTR for a cheap ride to the city (Kowloon $17, Hong Kong $23). The free Airport Express shuttle buses connect Kowloon and Hong Kong airport express stations to various hotels in each area.
For a full listing of buses available at HKIA refer to the airport website.
If you are on a budget, take an "E" route bus rather than the "A" routes bus, they take about 20 minutes longer (50-60 min instead of 35-40 min) and are about half price (e.g. $21 for the E11 from Central). These 'External' buses are aimed more at airport workers, so they make several detours around Tung Chung. They will give you a nice tour around the airport island. However, E21 (Kowloon KCR Station to Airport) takes about an hour to the airport comparing to A21 (as E21 tour around not only airport island but Kowloon peninsula).
A taxi from the airport to the city will cost you around $300 depending on your exact destination. If you have 3 or more people travelling together, it is generally cheaper to travel by taxi than by Airport Express, but you may have a problem fitting so many bags into the taxi. Use a red taxi for destinations to Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, Green taxis are restricted to the New Territories and Blue Taxis are for Lantau Island.
There is a large chart at the exit to the taxi stand, also available online, on the approximate fares to most destinations. The law is strict on taxi drivers who must charge according to the meter. The meter fare does not include the luggage fee, toll fee, waiting fee, pet fee.
Taxis from the Airport to downtown Kowloon do not suffer from much traffic congestion. If you are going to Hong Kong Island, tell the taxi driver to use the "Western Harbour Crossing" to avoid congestion, but it will attract an additional surcharge.
From the airport there are private cars and vans operating illegally as taxis. Do not take these as they are not licensed and in case of accidents, your insurance will not cover you.
Shenzhen International Airport
Because flying from Hong Kong to the mainland is considered an international flight, flying around mainland China using Shenzhen airport is often significantly cheaper. There is a new convenient bus connection from Kowloon to Shenzhen Airport. In the recently completed Elements shopping centre above the Kowloon MTR station on the Tung Chung and the Airport Express line, there is a shop front waiting room where one can check-in and receive ones boarding pass, and then board a bus direct to Shenzhen airport. This in-town check-in is completely separate from the in-town check-in provided for Hong Kong International Airport. Take the escalators up from the AE/MTR station to 1/F of the Elements Mall, turn right, and then look for Starbucks. It is opposite Starbucks. The bus uses the new western passage immigration facilities where both Hong Kong SAR and Chinese immigration formalities are completed under one roof. The cost of the service is $100HK and the bus is advertised to take 75 minutes (more like 90 minutes in reality). Buses currently run every half an hour from 7:30am to 5pm at Hong Kong side, and from 10am to 9pm at Shenzhen side.
Macau International Airport
Because of higher fees at Hong Kong International Airport, it is often cheaper to fly out of Macau International Airport. AirAsia has set up a hub at Macau and flies to destinations such as Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok among others. Macau International Airport is easily reached by ferry from Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and Hong Kong International Airport. Before completing immigration formalities at the ferry terminal in Macau, one can take a direct bus to Macau Airport without going through Macau immigration. Details are on the Macau Airport Website
A helicopter service is available from the Terminal Marítimo in Macau to the Shun Tak Heliport (ICAO: VHST) at the Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Pier in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong Island. However, prices tend to be much higher than if coming in by ferry.
Hong Kong is only a 1 hour hydrofoil ride away from Macau, and there are good connections to mainland China as well. The main terminals are:
* Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Pier, 202 Connaught Road (Sheung Wan MTR exit D), Central
* TurboJet, 24 hours a day to Macau plus 6-8 times a day to the Shenzhen airport.
* Hong Kong China Ferry Terminal, 33 Canton Road (Tsim Sha Tsui MTR exit A1), Kowloon
* Chu Kong Passenger Transport, to Zhuhai and various points in Guangdong.
* New World First Ferry, every 30 min to Macau.
* Xunlong to Shekou in Shenzhen
* TurboJet to Shenzhen airport.
* Tuen Mun Ferry Pier
* Hong Kong North West Express Limited offers trips to Zhuhai and Shekou, Shenzhen.
The Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui is one of the hubs of Star Cruises. Cruise ships leave from here for various cities in Vietnam, mainland China and Taiwan. There are even long haul service all the way to Singapore via various points in Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia.
Crossing the border to Mainland China puts you in Shenzhen, a well-developed boomtown. Please note that there are special visa regulations if you plan to visit Shenzhen.
There are six land checkpoints between Hong Kong and mainland China, namely Lo Wu, Lok Ma Chau Spur Line, Lok Ma Chau, Man Kam To, Sha Tau Ko and Shenzhen Bay. Lo Wu is a train and pedestrian crossing; Lok Ma Chau spur line is a pedestrian crossing; Lok Ma Chau and Sha Tau Kok are road, cross-boundary bus and pedestrian crossings; while Man Kam To and Shenzhen Bay bridge are road and cross-boundary bus crossings.
* Lo Wu: This control point can only be accessed by the MTR East Rail Line and the crossing can only be done on foot (unless you take a through-train from Hung Hom where the train will not stop at all. See "By train" section below). It is often congested with travellers during weekends and holidays, so if you want to avoid for the long queues, please use the other control points on holidays. Visa-on-arrival can be obtained on the Chinese side. Getting there/away: Trains from Tsim Sha Tsui East to Lo Wu run every five to eight minutes. Shenzhen city centre lies just beyond the Chinese immigration checkpoint.
* Lok Ma Chau Spur Line: This crossing can be accessed by the MTR East Rail Line, by bus/minibuses or by taxi, and the crossing can only be done on foot. Using the double-decked Lok Ma Chau-Huanggang pedestrian bridge, passengers will find themselves at the FuTian immigration checkpoint of the PRC. The control point is not popular and thus less crowded than at Lo Wu. Travellers should note that its opening hours is slightly shorter than that of Lo Wu. Getting there/away: While 1 out of 2/3 northbound East Rail Line trains terminates at that station, the control point can also be reached from Yuen Long by KMB bus number B1 or by minibus number 75. On the Shenzhen side, Huanggang metro station is just after the immigration checkpoint.
* Lok Ma Chau: This crossing consists of separate facilities for pedestrians which is accessed by bus and for road vehicles, and is the only border control point which offers 24-hour immigration services. A shuttle service, known as the "Yellow Bus", operates between the Lok Ma Chau Public Transport Interchange located at San Tin and Huanggang Port of the PRC side. Alternatively, travellers can board the express buses from urban areas of Hong Kong which will carry their passengers directly to the control point. For both modes, passengers after passing through Hong Kong Immigration control has to board the same bus at the other side of the control point, which will then carry them to Huanggang port of Shenzhen side, where they need to get off again and pass through PRC immigration control. Getting there/away: The Lok Ma Chau Public Transport Interchange is served by KMB buses 277, N277, 76K, and 276B, and passengers can board the "Yellow Bus" shuttle there. Alternatively, passenger can board the buses to the port at urban areas in Hong Kong (See "By bus" section below). Over in Shenzhen, a large taxi stand and a bus terminus is right outside the control point but its no where near the Huanggang metro station .
* Man Kam To: This crossing is mostly used by private vehicles and cross-boundary buses. See "By bus" section below.
* Sha Tau Kok: Located furthest east, this control point can be accessed by taking the cross-boundary coach. It is quite a distance from the centre of Shenzhen and is relatively quiet. There are no Chinese visa-on-arrival facilities. See "By bus" section below.
* Shenzhen Bay Bridge: This control point links Hong Kong directly with Shekou, Shenzhen. It can be used by private vehicles and cross-boundary buses. See "By bus" section below.
Please note that all the crossings, save for Shenzhen Bay Bridge, are located in the Frontier Closed Area and everyone is required to have a permit to be there unless crossing the border. Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau can be easily reached by train, but if you are just there to look around, be ready for some security questioning. It is also not easy to directly access the train departure area from the arrivals area.
There are some Cross Boundary coaches operating from the business districts in Kowloon or Hong Kong Island to the Chinese side of the checkpoint. If you take these coaches, there is no need to change for the yellow shuttle bus and hence it is a good choice for boundary crossing to avoid the queues.
There are 6 lines of short trip cross boundary coaches serves the port,
1. Jordan, Kowloon departs from Scout Centre, Austin Road, Tsim Sha Tsui (5 mins walk from Jordan MTR)
2. Mongkok, Kowloon departs from Portland Street, near Metropark Hotel Mongkok (exit from Prince Edward Hotel)
3. Wanchai, HK Island departs from Wanchai Ferry Bus Terminus
4. Kwun Tong, Kowloon departs from Lam Tin MTR, stops at Kwun Tong APM Shopping Plaza and Kwun Tong Rd, Kowloon Bay MTR
5. Tsuen Wan departs from Discovery Park Bus Terminus (10 mins walk from Tsuen Wan MTR)
6. Kam Sheng Road departs from Kam Sheung Road West Rail Stn
Except the route to Kam Sheng Road, 24 hour services are provided with half hourly or hourly departure in midnight and around 10-20 mins per bus during the day and evening.
Lok Ma Chau is a around-the-clock border crossing ; visa-on-arrival can be obtained on the Chinese side (subject to nationality, at current applications from USA passport holders are not accepted).
Man Kam To control point can be accessed by taking the cross-boundary coach on the bus interchange under the shopping centre of West Kowloon Centre, Sham Shui Po (near Sham Shui Po MTR)in Kowloon, which costs $35, the bus calls at Landmark North also, which is just adjacent to Sheung Shui KCR Station, with section fare of $22. It is seldom crowded with travellers even during holiday periods. You can also enjoy the free shuttle service outside the Chinese checkpoint, which takes you to the central area of Shenzhen. However, no Visa-on-arrival can be obtained on the Chinese side, which means you need to arrange for your visa in advanced before arrival.
It is the best route to go to the downtown in Shenzhen especially during holidays.
Sha Tau Kok control point can be accessed by taking the cross-boundary coach on the bus interchange at Luen Wo Hui in Fanling and Kowloon Tong. It connects the eastern boundary of Hong Kong and Shenzhen and it is a bit remote from the central part on Shenzhen. As a consequence, only very few passengers choose to cross the boundary using this checkpoint. No Visa-on-arrival can be obtained on the Chinese side.
Coaches departs from Kowloon Tong MTR from 7:00 to 18:30 every 15 minutes which costs $20, which is also the cheapest direct coach to Shenzhen.
Shenzhen Bay control point links Hong Kong directly with Shekou, Shenzhen, and can be accessed conveniently by public buses. Route B2 departs from Yuen Long Railway Station via Tin Shui Wai Railway Station to Shenzhen Bay, while B3 departs from Tuen Mun Pier. There is also a express coach service departing from Sham Shui Po to Shenzhen Bay.
Cycling across the border is possible at the four land crossings with Shenzhen, with Lo Wu probably the easiest to deal with. You can also take your bike across on the ferries, but cycling to or from the international airport is difficult to impossible.
Lok Ma Chau
Travellers entering Hong Kong first go through China immigration and then catch a bus to Hong Kong immigration checkpoint. Foot passengers have a choice of using the "yellow bus " to the Hong Kong Side or cross border buses which go eventually to different areas of Hong Kong. Bikes are currently not allowed on the yellow buses and have to be wheeled through China immigration to the bus terminus to buy a ticket the chosen destination. It's helpful to know where you want to go. Sometimes you need to pay for the bike(about $HK30).You then load the bike onto the bus yourself and have to unload again about 5 minutes later to go through Hong Kong immigration and then put it back on the bus. All passengers have to do this with their luggage. Usually this whole process is frenetic (even for locals) due to the number of people travelling over the border.
A train runs from the border crossing at Lo Wu into the centre of Hong Kong and cycles are allowed on the train (known as the KCR) with the payment of between $20 and $40 depending upon the time of day and with the front wheel removed. As for all border crossings travellers have to pass through the Chinese side and then the Hong Kong side before boarding the train
Man Kam To and Sha Tau Kok
These two border crossings are usually used by heavy lorries and cars although it is possible to transit with cycles. Sha Tau Kok is used if the onward route is to the east of Guangdong.
MTR Corporation runs regular Through Train service between Guangdong Province, Beijing and Shanghai. The through train terminus is Hung Hom Station on the Kowloon side, while the current terminus of the domestic service is East Tsim Sha Tsui station.
The destinations of the Intercity Passenger Service are Guangzhou (East), Dongguan, Foshan and Zhaoqing in Guangdong Province, as well as Beijing and Shanghai.
The online directory of  of MTR Corporation provides information on the timetable and fare information of the Intercity Passenger Service.
Train service between Hong Kong and Mainland China stops before midnight as the border, at Lo Wu, is closed at midnight.
Hong Kong's public transport system is highly developed, to the point where often the hardest part is choosing your means of transport. Centamap, produced by a local estate agency, is one of the best tools for looking up a location.
The Octopus payment card (Bat Dat Toong in Cantonese, with reference to a saying in Cantonese Sai Tung Bat Dat, which means convenient transport) is the heart of the public transport system. Octopus is a technology proposed in 1992, developed in 1995 and usable since September 1997. It is a contactless smart card. Even inside a wallet or bag, you can tap on card readers and the correct amount will be deducted from money stored. Those who are familiar with London Underground's Oyster card will quickly understand the Octopus card. In addition to being used for all forms of public transport (except most of the red-top minibuses and taxis) Octopus is also accepted for payment in almost all convenience stores, restaurant chains like McDonald's and Cafe de Coral, many vending machines, all roadside parking and some car parks. Some housing estates and schools use the card for identification at entry.
When travelling by MTR and some bus routes, payment by Octopus card can sometimes be cheaper than cash. As it has a fully refundable deposit on the card and on unused credit, it is highly advisable to get an Octopus card when in Hong Kong.
Basic adult Octopus cards cost $150, with $100 face value plus $50 refundable deposit. A $7 service charge applies if the card is returned in less than 3 months. The maximum value that an Octopus card can carry is HK$1,000. The Octopus card also allows the remaining value to go negative once. For example, you may pay for a ride of $5 with a remaining value of $2, but you cannot use the card again until the value is topped up. The negative value of an Octopus card can go as far as $35.
Your Octopus cards' balance is displayed as you exit the gates after each ride, or after each transaction. The balance can also be checked using a small machine near regular ticket machines in MTR stations.
For travellers, there are three convenient ways to refill a card:
* Add Value machines, usually located next to regular ticket machines in MTR stations. As of June 2007, these machines accept cash only.
* Customer service at any MTR or KCR station.
* Merchants that accept Octopus (ex. Mcdonalds, Cafe de Coral, 7-Eleven)
In addition to the Airport Express Octopus (see above), you can also buy a 24-hour pass for $50 at any MTR station; however, this is valid only on MTR lines.
By underground and overground railway
Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway (MTR) underground and overground network is the fastest way to get around the territory, but what you gain in speed you lose in views and (at least for short distances) price. There are ten lines (including the airport express) plus a network of modern tram lines operated by the MTR in the North West New Territories. The most important line for many visitors is the busy Tsuen Wan Line (red), which tunnels from Central to Kowloon and down Nathan Road towards Tsuen Wan in the New Territories and the Island Line (blue) which runs along the north coast of the Island. The new Tung Chung Line (orange) is the fastest route to Lantau and one of the cheapest ways to the airport when coupled with the S1 shuttle bus stationed at Tung Chung MTR station. The line also provides a link to Hong Kong Disneyland via a change at Sunny Bay station. All signs are bilingual in Chinese and English and all announcements are made in Cantonese, Mandarin and English so tourists should not have a problem using the rail system.
Most underground MTR stations have one Hang Seng Bank branch (except for the massive Hong Kong/Central station, which has two). Since they're a common feature, unambiguous and easy to find, they're a good place to tell people to meet you.
Note that in Hong Kong, a subway is an underground walkway, not an underground railway, as in most English speaking countries outside of North America. While most of the trains travel underground, there are also stations whose trains travel above on raised platforms.
Major Stations in MTR system:
Island Line (Blue) : Sheung Wan, Central, Causeway Bay.
Tsuen Wan Line (Red) : Central, Tsim Sha Tsui, Mongkok, Shum Shui Po.
Kwun Tong Line (Green) : Mongkok, Wong Tai Sin, Choi Hung(transition of mini-bus to Sai Kung), Yau Tong.
Tsang Kwan O Line (Purple) : Yau Tong, Hang Hau.
Tung Chung Line (Orange) : Hong Kong, Sunny Bay (exchange for Disneyland Line), Tung Chung.
West Rail Line (Violet) : Yeun Long, Long Ping, Tin Shui Wai (exchange Light Rail to Wetland Park).
East Rail Line (Light Blue) : East Tsim Sha Tsui, Shatin, Lo Wu.
Ma On Shan Line (Brown) : Che Kung Temple.
The Kowloon Canton Railway has now merged with the MTR.
Operated by Hong Kong Tramways, the narrow double-decker city trams trundling on the north coast of Hong Kong Island are a Hong Kong icon. Trams are slower but the route along the length of Hong Kong Island's centre is useful and with a flat fare of only $2, they're the cheapest sightseeing tour around.
In a league of its own is the Peak Tram, Hong Kong's first mechanised mode of transport, opened back in 1888. The remarkably steep 1.7-km track up from Central to Victoria Peak is worth at least one trip despite the comparatively steep price ($22 one-way, $33 return; return tickets must be purchased in advance).
There are three flavours of bus available in Hong Kong, operated by a multitude of companies. While generally easy to use (especially with Octopus), signage in English can be sparse and finding your bus stop can get difficult. Buses are pretty much your only option for travelling around the south side of the island and Lantau.
The large double-decker buses cover practically all of the territory, stop frequently and charge varying fares depending on the distance. The first seats of the upper deck offer great views. The franchised bus operators in Hong Kong include Kowloon Motor Bus (KMB) (and its subsidary Long Win Bus), Citybus, New World First Bus and New Lantao Bus. Route and fare information can be found on the companies web sites.
Van-sized public light buses carry a maximum of 16 passengers (seats only) and come in two varieties, namely red minibuses and green minibuses (also called maxicabs); the colour refers to a wide stripe painted on top of the vehicle. Riding a minibus may not be easy for travellers, as it is customary to call out the name of the stop or ask the driver to stop in Cantonese. Red minibuses do not accept Octopus but will give you change, while green minibuses do accept Octopus payment but can not give you change if you pay in cash. The Hong Kong Island green minibus #1 down from the Peak to Central is particularly exhilarating. Red minibuses tend to have a more Chinese feel than green buses. Prices on red minibuses are often displayed only in Chinese numbers. The price displayed on a red minibus can legally vary according to the market price, so expect to pay more at busy times. Some people argue that the driving standards of red minibuses is lower than green minibuses; Minibus drivers generally drive fast, especially at night. Always use minibus seatbelts where available. You will notice that they all have an extra, large, digital speedometer in the cabin for the passengers to view, this is required by the government after a few fatal accidents due to speeding. Since the introduction of these passenger speedometers mini-bus accident rates have dropped.
Kowloon Canton Railway also maintains its fleet of feeder buses. KCR passengers can enjoy a free feeder service if the payment is made by Octopus. The route K16 is especially useful for tourists who need to go to Tsim Sha Tsui from the New Territories and mainland China by rail.
Note that if paying in cash, the exact fare is required and no change can be given. Paying by Octopus is much more convenient.
Route numbering is independent in six regions: bus on Hong Kong Island/ in Kowloon and in New Territories/ on Lantau Island, green minibus on Hong Kong Island/ in Kowloon/ in New Territories and several exceptional auxiliary buses route. (Red minibus does not have a route number.) This leads to duplication of routes in different regions. Although the Transport Department of Hong Kong Government has been working on the unifying of the route numbers, it is still a little bit messy at the moment. If you are confused a bit by the numbering of routes, here is a suggestion: just remember the route number of buses in Hong Kong Island/Kowloon/New Territories only whenever it is necessary. In other special circumstances, ask the driver or the station staffs for the Lantau buses and green minibuses and they can answer you.
Generally you need not to mention which district the route belongs to when you are asking for directions (almost all people will assume you will asking for the route which runs in the district you are in, e.g. if you ask for bus route #2, locals will assume you will asking for bus route #2 running in Kowloon if you are in Kowloon), but you really need to mention whether the route is bus or minibus when you ask, since in some cases both bus and minibus can have same route number in the same area which are actually different routes. (e.g. there are both bus route #6 and minibus route #6 in Tsim Sha Tsui, which are actually different routes.)
If you are curious enough, you may discover a pattern on the allocation of buses in Hong Kong/Kowloon/NT:
* Prefix 1 on hundred digit: routes use Cross Harbour Tunnel
* Prefix 2 on hundred digit: refers to some air-conditioned bus routes
* Prefix 3 on hundred digit: refers to several peak-hour only cross-harbour routes, Hong Kong Island recreational or special bus services
* Prefix 6 on hundred digit: uses Eastern Harbour Crossing
* Prefix 7 on hundred digit: refers to some Island Eastern Corridor routes, New World First Bus West Kowloon or Tseung Kwan O routes
* Prefix 8 on hundred digit: refers to specialized Shatin Racecourse lines
* Prefix 9 on hundred digit: uses Western Harbour Crossing
* Prefix A: Airport Airbus routes
* Prefix E: North Lantau external bus routes
* Prefix K: KCR Feeder Bus routes
* Prefix M: Some bus routes that are terminated at Airport Express station
* Prefix N: Overnight bus routes
* Prefix P: North Lantau peak-hour only routes
* Prefix R: North Lantau recreational bus routes (for Hong Kong Disneyland)
* Prefix S: Airport shuttle bus routes
* Prefix T: Recreational bus routes (T stands for tourists)
* Prefix X: Express routes for special services
* Suffix A, B, C, D, E, F: Conventional routes
* Suffix K: Mainly connecting to KCR East Rail stations
* Suffix M: Mainly connecting to MTR stations
* Suffix P: Mostly peak-hour only routes
* Suffix R: Recreational bus routes
* Suffix S: Peak-hour only routes or special services
* Suffix X: Buses using highways or express services
A vast fleet of ferries plies between the many islands of Hong Kong. The granddaddy of them all and an attraction in itself is the Star Ferry, whose most popular line travels between Kowloon and Central from early morning until late at night, and offers amazing views (especially when coming from Kowloon). Upper deck seats cost $2.20 while the lower deck cost $1.70, both payable with Octopus or cash (change given). The Star Ferry also operates between Kowloon and Wanchai.
Ferries to Lamma, Lantau and other islands depart from a variety of ports, but the largest and most important terminal is at Central adjacent to the Star Ferry. Ferries are usually divided into fast ferries and slow ferries, with fast ferries charging around twice the price for half the journey time, although not all destinations offer both kinds of service. Example fares for trips from Central to Yung Shue Wan (Lamma) are $10/15 slow/fast, and to Mui Wo (Lantau) $10.50/$21. Note that all fares increase by around 50% on Sundays and public holidays.
Taxis are plentiful, clean and efficient. They were just recently (2003) rated as the cheapest of all big cities in the world. Not good news for the drivers, but good for the tourist. Fares in Hong Kong & Kowloon start at HK $16, and you can ride for 2 km before additional $1.40 per 200m increments start ticking. New fare increases are indicated in writing until the meter is adjusted. No tipping is required but welcomed, and drivers often round up the fare to the nearest dollar when giving change.
Drivers are required to provide change for HK $100 notes, but not for higher denominations. If you only have a $500 or $1000 note and are going through a tunnel, let the driver know beforehand and he will change it when paying at the toll booth.
Life is made slightly more difficult by the fact that there are three different flavors of taxi. These can be distinguished by colour: red taxis typically serve the Island and Kowloon, and some parts of the New Territories (for example Shatin), but they are permitted to travel all over Hong Kong except to Lantau Island; green taxis serve the New Territories (only), but with a slightly cheaper fare than red taxis; blue taxis serve Lantau (only). (You are unlikely to ever encounter a blue Taxi, as there are only about 50 of them in existence.) All three types of taxis can take you to the airport. When in doubt, just take a red taxi.
In addition, red taxis are based in either the Island or Kowloon, if they do take you across the harbour, they will charge you twice the bridge/tunnel toll so they can get back! But you can use this to your advantage by picking a homebound taxi from a cross-harbour taxi rank in places like the Star Ferry pier or Hung Hom station. In these cross-harbour taxi stands only single toll charge will be applied to the taxi fare.
There are no extra late-night charges. Baggage carried in the boot ("trunk" in American) will cost you $5 per piece and all tolls are payable. The wearing of seat belts is required by law.
All taxis are radio equipped and can be reserved and requested via an operator for a token fee, payable to the driver. You are unlikely to need to call a taxi though as they are plentiful.
It is good practice to get a local person to write the name or address of your destination in Chinese for you to hand to the taxi driver, as most drivers do not speak sufficient English. For example, if you wish take a journey back to your hotel, ask a receptionist for the hotel's business card.
Renting a car is almost unheard of in Hong Kong. With heavy traffic, extremely complex road network and rare parking spaces, renting a car is very unappealing. However, if you must (which may be necessary if you need to get to more remote parts of Lantau Island or the New Territories), expect to pay over $600/day even for a small car. Nevertheless, driving habits in Hong Kong are generally much better than in mainland China with drivers generally following traffic rules. Roads are also generally well maintained. Unlike in mainland China, International Driving Permits(IDPs) are also accepted in Hong Kong. Note that unlike in mainland China, traffic in Hong Kong moves on the left.
If you wish to drive to mainland China, note that your vehicle must have a second set of number plates issued by the Guangdong authorities and a separate Chinese license will be required. You will also need to change sides of the road at the border.
Cantonese is the language spoken by 95% of the people in Hong Kong. Due to British influences from the colonial era, colloquial Cantonese in Hong Kong tends to incorporate some English words and slang, which may sound strange to Cantonese speakers from mainland China. Though Hong Kong is a former British colony, the degree of English proficiency is limited among non-professionals in those districts where more locals visit than tourists. Also, some locals, even if they can understand English well, do not feel comfortable speaking it. However, others including most taxi drivers, street vendors, salespeople etc. are fluent enough for sufficient communication, especially at tourist destinations such as hotels and certain restaurants. English is spoken fluently among the business community. English language education usually starts in kindergarten. To ensure that local people understand you, it is a good idea to speak in short sentences, use standard English and avoid slang or colloquial expressions.
Hong Kong also has several minority communities, such as the Teochews (Chiuchow in Cantonese) and Shanghainese who fled to Hong Kong when the mainland fell to the communists in 1949. Some of them still speak their respective dialects, though most of them are also fluent in Cantonese. There are also non-Chinese resident communities in Hong Kong, largely originating from the Indian subcontinent, and among them, various South Asian languages are spoken, though it should not cause much of a problem as almost all of them are fluent in English and many are fluent in Cantonese as well.
Most locals are not fluent in Mandarin, but can comprehend it to a certain degree. Mandarin proficiency is increasing, especially after the reunification with the Mainland. Due to the increasing number of tourists from mainland China, most (if not all) shops and eateries in the city centre and more touristy areas will have at least one staff member who can speak Mandarin.
All official signs are bilingual, in both Chinese (Traditional) and English. However, Chinese only signs have become more common in recent years, e.g. at minibus stops. Most shops and restaurants also have English signage, though don't expect this from the more local or obscure establishments. Under the "one country, two systems" policy, Hong Kong continues to use traditional Chinese characters and not the simplified Chinese characters used in Mainland China.
The Hong Kong dollaris the official currency, with one unit known formally as the yuen and colloquially as the men in Cantonese. The official exchange rate is fixed at 7.80 HKD to 1 USD, although bank rates may fluctuate slightly. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) issues the new purple plastic $10 notes while the rest are issued by three banks (HSBC [a.k.a. Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation], Standard Chartered Bank and Bank of China). The old green paper $10 notes, which were issued by HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank remain legal tender. The style of notes varies a lot between banks though the colour and size are about the same for notes of the same denomination. The larger the denomination, the larger the size of the banknotes. Banknotes come in denominations of:
* $10, green or purple (paper or plastic)
* $20, dark blue or light blue (old or new)
* $50, purple or green (old or new)
* $100, red
* $500, brown
* $1000, gold
Some shops do not accept $1000 notes due to counterfeiting concerns.
The coins come in units of
* $10, in bronze/silver, circular
* $5, in silver, circular, thicker
* $2, in silver, wavey-circular
* $1, in silver, circular, thinner
* 50￠, in bronze, circular, larger
* 20￠, in bronze, wavey-circular
* 10￠, in bronze, circular, smaller
varying in a descending size (except $10 coin)
Since September 1997, the use of the small coins and change has been reduced due to the innovation of the Octopus card. Originally used just for fare payment for the MTR and buses, it now is used all over the city, for purchases in any amount at convenience stores, fast food restaurants, pharmacies, vending machines, etc.
Automated Tell Machines (ATM's) are common in urban areas. They usually accept VISA, MasterCard, and to certain degree UnionPay. They give out $100, $500 or rarely $1000 notes depending on the request. Credit card use is common in most shops for major purchases. Most retailers accept VISA and MasterCard, and some accept American Express as well. Signs with the logo of different credit cards are usually displayed at the door to indicate which cards are accepted. For small purchases, in places such as Mac Donalds or 7-Eleven, cash or Octopus Card is the norm.
Hong Kong is still known as an excellent destination for shopping, especially for goods from the Mainland. Prices are often comparably cheaper than Europe, North America, or Japan, especially since Hong Kong has no sales tax (VAT). Although Hong Kong prices are still expensive by regional standards, the choice and variety is a lot better than in most south-east Asian countries. Popular shopping items include consumer electronics, custom clothing, shoes, jewellery, expensive brand name goods, Chinese antiques, toys and Chinese herbs/medicine. There's also a wide choice of European clothing but prices are high.
As a generalisation, Hong Kong Island and nearby Tsim Sha Tsiu have the upmarket shopping malls (particularly near Central and Causeway Bay), while Kowloon is the place to go for cheap open markets. Kowloon's Nathan Road has many shops selling electronics, cameras and gadgets, mainly to tourists (not locals!). Beware that some of the business practices there can be quite deceptive - see the section Tourist traps below.
Most shops in Hong Kong's city centre open at about 10am and stay open until midnight, even on weekends. However, there is no hard and fast rule and shops will typically stay open as long as there are customers, which makes Hong Kong a late night shopping paradise.
For cheaper goods, some Hong Kong residents shop in Shenzhen just across the border into China.
Antiques: Head for Hollywood Road in Central. Here you will find a long street of shops with a wide selection of products that look like antiques. Some items are very good fakes, so you should only buy things that you like and always try and bargain on the price.
Books: Swindon Books is one of the oldest English language bookstores in Hong Kong. Its main branch is on Lock Road in Tsim Sha Tsui but it also has smaller branches in malls like the Ocean Terminal. Page One is a chain-bookstore with branches in Central, Festival Walk (Kowloon Tong) and Times Square (Causeway Bay) offering a wide range of English language and Chinese books. Dymocks is an Australian chain and has stores in the IFC, The Princes Building, and other locations. The Commercial Press has bookstores in many shopping malls. It has more Chinese titles than English ones but its prices tend to be a bit more reasonable than many other booksellers that specialise in English titles. The Commercial Press has a large store in Star House that has a decent collection of English titles.
Cameras: Avoid camera shops in tourist areas such as Tsim Sha Tsui. Instead, seek out one of the larger electronics shops along Sai Yeung Choi South Street in Mong Kok.
Chinese Art: Try Star House near the Star Ferry pier in Tsim Sha Tsui for more expensive items, otherwise buy from the street markets in Mong Kok.
Computers: The Wanchai Computer Centre is located above Wanchai MTR station and is worth a look for anybody seeking computers and computer accessories. Prices are reasonable and you may find a bargain. Don't be afraid to ask the seller to demonstrate to you that the product is in good working order.
Consumer Electronics: There are many small shops selling electronic goods but as a tourist you are advised to avoid such vendors unless you have the help and support of a local person. Major shops such as Broadway, Fortress or TaiLin are more reliable but may not provide you with the sort of of guarantee and after sales service as you would get in your home country.
Music and Film: HMV is a tourist-friendly store that sells a wide range of expensive products. For real bargains you should find your way into the smaller shopping centres where you will find small independent retailers selling CDs and DVDs at very good prices. Some shops sell good quality second hand products. Try the Oriental Shopping Centre on Wanchai Road for a range of shops and a taste of shopping in a more down-market shopping centre. Alternatively, brave the warren of CD and DVD shops inside the Sino Centre on Nathan Road between Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tai MTR stations.
Sports Goods: A good place to buy sportswear is close to Mong Kok MTR station. Try Fa Yuen Street and the roads around it for a wide range of shops selling sports wear (especially sports' shoes) - you could be spoilt for choice.
Tea: Buying good chinese tea is like choosing a fine wine and there are many tea retailers that cater for the connoisseur who is prepared to pay high prices for some of China's best brews. To sample and learn about Chinese tea you might like to find the Tea Museum which is located in Hong Kong Park in Central. Marks & Spencer caters for homesick Brits by supplying traditional strong English tea bags at a reasonable price.
Watches: Hong Kong people are avid watch buyers - how else can you show your wealth if you can't own a car and your home is hidden at the top of a tower-block? You will find a wide range of watches for sale in all major shopping areas. Prices vary and you should always shop around and try and bargain on prices. When you are in Tsim Sha Tsui you will probably be offered a "copy watch" for sale - just say no thanks.
* Shopping Malls
Hong Kong has a vast number of shopping malls. While some people might prefer a certain building, the shops are similar, so just head to the mall closest to where you are staying.
1. Harbour City - Huge Shopping centre in Tsim Sha Tsui on Canton Road, to get there take the MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui, or take the Star Ferry
2. Pacific Place - also a big shopping centre. Take the MTR to Admiralty.
3. Festival Walk - A big shopping centre with a mix of expensive brands and smaller chains. There is also an ice skating rink there. Take the MTR or KCR East Rail to Kowloon Tong.
4. Cityplaza - A similarly large shopping centre, also with an ice-skating rink. To get there, take the MTR to Taikoo on the Island Line.
5. Landmark - Many the luxury brands have shops here Gucci, Dior, Fendi, Vuitton, etc. Central, Pedder Street. It used to be a magnet for the well-heeled but has since fallen behind in its management; one look at the toilets is enough.
6. APM - All new 24Hr Shopping centre in Kwun Tong. Take the MTR to the Kwun Tong station.
7. IFC Mall - Located near the Star Ferry and Outlying Islands Ferry Piers. Has many luxury brand shops, an expensive cinema and superb views across the harbour from the rooftop.
8. Times Square - a trendy but not stylish multi storey Shopping Mall with food courts at the lower levels, and Gourmet Dining at the upper stories. Take MTR to Causeway Bay, and exit at "Times Square". Crowded on weekends.
9. Citygate Outlet - Located right next to Tung Chung MTR Station, the Citygate is a rare outlet mall with tonnes of mid-priced brands, some of them being Adidas, Esprit, Giordano, Levi's, Nike, Quiksilver and Timberland.
10. Golden Computer Arcade - located in Sham Shui Po, this shopping centre is specialized in selling computer and TV gaming related products. Take the MTR to the Sham Shui Po station. Other computer malls with better environment would be Star City in Tsim Sha Tsui just right on top of the McDonald's as you get out of Star Ferry; Windsor House Computer City in Causeway Bay; Wan Chai Computer mall right outside Wan Chai MTR Station; and Mong Kok Computer Centre on Nelson Street 2 minutes from Mong Kok MTR Station Exit E2.
11. DFS (Duty Free Shopping) - located in Tsim Sha Tsui (across from Harbour City Shopping Mall) and in Tsim Sha Tsui East. Because Hong Kong is a tax-free city, you can find DFS in Hong Kong itself not just in airports. A fantastic way to find luxury items and buy them without the burden of sales tax.
Hong Kong has a lot of street markets. Some of them just selling regular groceries, others clothes, bags or even electronics.
1. Ladies Market - Find fake brand label goods here, or illegal imports. Other goods include clothes, toys etc. Make sure to bargain here! Located in Mong Kong and accessible by MTR or bus.
2. Flower Market - Prince Edward
3. Goldfish Market- a whole street full of shops selling small fish in plastic bags and accessories Tung Choi Street, Mong Kok
4. Bird Market - MTR Station Prince Edward, exit "Mong Kok Police Station". Walk down Prince Edward Road West until you reach Yuen Po Street Bird Garden
5. Jade Market
6. Temple Street - Situated in the middle of Kowloon, this is a place that sells anything from the Little Red Book to adult toys. Hong Kong is a really safe city, but this is probably one of the only places you might want to be more careful with your handbags.
7. Seafood Street - Sai Kung
8. Apliu Street - MTR Station Shum Shui Po, this is the place where you can find cheap computer goods, peripherals and accessories. However this would be the worst place to buy your mobile phones, they tend to be even more dodgy than small stores in Mongkok.
9. Stanley Market - One of the more touristy places, this market sells everything from luxury luggage items to cheap brand name clothes (usually overruns from factories). Accessible with number 40 minibus from Causeway Bay. Also, no.6 and 6A bus from Central.
* Discounts and haggling
Many stores in Hong Kong (even some chain stores) are willing to negotiate on price, particularly for goods such as consumer electronics. Always feel free to ask "is there any discount?" and "do I get any free gift?" when buying anything in the territory. You can often get an additional discount if you pay cash (since the store can avoid paying the credit card charges).
* Tourist traps
Just as in any city, there are certain areas with tourist traps. They are often nameless stores that sell electronics such as digital cameras, mobile phones, and computers. These shops can easily be identified with usage of attention-grabbing neon signs of electronics brand names, numerous employees in a very small store space, and often several of these stores in a row. There are many of these stores on Nathan Road, Kowloon and in Causeway Bay. The selling price in these places is often overpriced, so make sure you compare prices before you buy.
One common trick to be aware of, is for the store owner to offer a low price on a particular item, take a deposit or full payment from you and then "discover" that he doesn't have any stock, offering to substitute another (always inferior) item instead. Be sure that you see the actual stock that you will buy before parting with any money.
The skyline of Hong Kong is one of the best in the world. See the stunning Hong Kong Island skyline from Kowloon.
Hong Kong Tourism Board offers many free walking tours, including Nature Kaleidoscope Walk and Architecture Walk.
Get a stunning view of Hong Kong Island on Victoria Peak with the giant, Wok shaped Peak Tower. Within the building are shops, restaurants, museums, and viewing points. The Peak Tram runs from Central to the bottom of the Peak Tower. Although the view of Kowloon and Victoria Harbour can be good, be prepared for the view to be spoilt by air pollution. The tourist area on The Peak is tending towards the trashy and will appeal to some more than others.
The racing season runs from September to June, during which time meetings take place twice weekly, the location alternating between Shatin in the New Territories and Happy Valley near Causeway Bay MTR station. Both off these races are easily accessible by MTR train but Happy Valley is the more convenient and impressive location, although live races only take place here on Wednesday night. For only $10 entrance fee, a night in Happy Valley can be filled with entertainment. Get a local Chinese gambler to explain the betting system to you and then drink the cheap draft beer! Be sure to pick up the Racing Post section in the South China Morning Post on Wednesday to guide you. A 'beer garden' with racing commentary in English available at Happy Valley near the finish line, and many expatriates congregate here during the races. One good tip, take along your passport and you can get in at tourist rate of 1 HKD.
The most effective way to know how Hong Kong people live is to observe the local life of an ordinary Hong Kong resident.
Go and visit a public housing estate and then a private estate on the same day and you can witness the differences between rich and poor in the city. Next, visit a fresh food market and a larger supermarket or "superstore" and you can witness the struggle between small retailers and corporations. Alternatively, go and visit one of the small shopping centres in Mongkok where you can see teenagers spending their pocket money on overpriced footwear and youth fashions.
Just wander and observe - and don't worry - most areas in town are quite safe.
There are many traditional heritage locations throughout the territory.
* Heritages in Central District
* Ping Shan Heritage Trail in Tin Shui Wai, New Territories
* Kowloon Walled City Park in Kowloon City, Kowloon
* Tsang Tai Uk in the New Territories
* Che Kung Temple in the Sha Tin, New Territories
* Man Mo Temple and Fu Shin Street Traditional Bazaar in the New Territories
* Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas Located 5 minute walk from Shatin KCR station. This is one of the best temples to visit in Hong Kong. There are over 12,000 buddha and you can usually see monkeys. There is also a pagoda that you can climb. If you are hungry before you climb the large number of stairs there is also a very delicious hot pot restaurant on the way. Although, at the top of the hill there are also amazing vegetarian spring rolls.
* Stilt houses in Tai O (aka Hong Kong Venice) -- to have a taste of a traditional fishing village.
* Po Lin Monastery and the Tien Tan Buddha Statue on Ngong Ping, which can now be accessed by riding on the Ngong Ping Cable Car that takes you to the massive golden buddha on Lantau Island. A 20-25 minute ride on the Cable Car with a fantastic view of the island and a great way addition to this already amazing trip.
There are a variety of museums in Hong Kong with different themes, but to be honest, the people on the streets seem to offer more insights than the exhibits in most of these government-run museums.
One exception is the Hong Kong Museum of History which gives an excellent overview of Hong Kong's fascinating history. Not the typical pots-behind-glass format of museum you find elsewhere in China. Innovative galleries such as a mock-up of a colonial era street make the history come to life. Allow about two hours to view everything in detail.
The following is a list of major museums in Hong Kong:
Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum (Central)
Fireboat Alexander Grantham Exhibition Gallery (Quarry Bay Park)
Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware (Hong Kong Park)
Hong Kong Film Archive (Sai Wan Ho)
Hong Kong Heritage Discovery Centre (Kowloon Park)
Hong Kong Heritage Museum (Shatin)
Hong Kong Maritime Museum (Stanley)
Hong Kong Museum of Art (Tsim Sha Tsui) Hong Kong Museum of Art is a fascinating, strange and elusive place. The entrance lies up one floor, mimicking the “temple” approach to the high altar of culture and art. Here it doesn’t work, instead of the broad sweep and sense of grandeur, one feels threatened and unwelcome. Once you arrive on the first floor, the cold unwelcoming entrance is forgotten and you are bathed in light from the wall of glass that gives you a panoramic view of Hong Kong Island. The objects on show are Chinese ceramics, terracotta, rhinoceros horn and Chinese paintings. There is also a temporary exhibition space devoted to items from their own collection with additional lent material. There is also space for contemporary art produced by Hong Kong artists, most of whom have moved away from the traditional Chinese art forms to North American and British art.
Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence (Shau Kei Wan)
Hong Kong Museum of History (Tsim Sha Tsui)
Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences (Mid-levels)
Hong Kong Police Museum (The Peak
Hong Kong Railway Museum (Tai Po)
Hong Kong Science Museum (Tsim Sha Tsui East) A museum which decided to make an architectural statement about its purpose, yet somehow got it horribly wrong.
Hong Kong Space Museum (Tsim Sha Tsui)
Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre (Hong Kong Park)
Law Uk Folk Museum (Chai Wan)
Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb Museum (Sham Shui Po)
Madame Tussauds (The Peak)
Hong Kong is not all skyscrapers, and it is worthwhile to go to the countryside (over 70% of Hong Kong), including the country parks and marine parks.
* Lantau Island is twice as big as Hong Kong island and is well worth checking out if you want to get away from the bright lights and pollution of the city for a spell. Here you will find open countryside, traditional fishing villages, secluded beaches, monasteries and more. You can hike, camp, fish and mountain bike, amongst other activities.
* The Sai Kung peninsula is also a worthwhile place to visit. Its mountainous terrain and spectacular coastal scenery make this a special place. If you like challenging routes, try going to Sharp Peak (Nam She Tsim in Cantonese). Sharp Peak is famous for its steep slope with a height of more than 400m. The view from the top is fantastic. For a more relaxed route, try to walk along Section 2 of Maclehose Trail.
* Hong Kong Wetland Park is a relaxing park set amidst an ecological mitigation area. One can stroll along a network of board walks built over the marshy area and watch birds from a tower. The park also features a large visitors centre/museum. The museum has many interactive exhibits ideal for children, as well as some live animal habitats. To visit, take KCR West Rail to Tin Shui Wai Station, then the #705 light rail to Wetland Park. The park is pushchair and wheelchair friendly.
* North East New Territories is also famous for its natural environment. Yan Chau Tong Marine Park is located in the North East New Territories. A few traditional abandoned villages are connected with hiking trails in the territory. North East New Territories is one of the famous hiking hot spot for the locals.
* Short hiking trails (2 hours) can be found on Hong Kong Island and the New Territories.
* There are some outlying islands are also worth to visit, e.g.: Lamma Island, Cheung Chau, Ping Chau, Tap Mun, Tung Lung Island.
* For further information, please visit the homepage of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.
* Hong Kong Disneyland opened on September 12, 2005. It is on Lantau Island and may be reached via the MTR Disneyland Resort Line from Sunny Bay Station. (Note that, to get to Disneyland from the HK Airport, you must make two connections, the first at Tsing Yi and the second at Sunny Bay.) Though significantly smaller in size than other Disney parks elsewhere, it does offer some great attractions ("Festival of the Lion King" stage show, "Golden Mickey's" stage show, "Mickey's PhilharMagic 3D" show) and very short queues most of the year (except the week of Chinese New Year). Disneyland has not been as successful as anticipated and reports in the South China News indicate that it has failed to reach its visitor numbers by as much as one million people. It's not all bad, though - a second theme park should open next door in the near future.
* Ocean Park is on the southern side of Hong Kong island. With roller coasters and large aquarium altogether, it's still packed on weekends with families and tourists after opening to the public for 30 years. The cablecar is an icon and an essential link between the two parts of the park. The views of the South China Sea from the car is always terrific. It would be fair to say that many local people would choose Ocean Park if they had to pick a single theme park to attend. For many, the chance to see Hong Kong's pandas would be a deciding factor. Young adults will be attracted to the wider range of rides. You can get to Ocean Park by a direct bus ride from Admiralty MTR station; it will be the first stop after you clear the Aberdeen Tunnel.
Seeing different sides of Hong Kong by Public Transport
Travelling on a bus or a tram is ideal for looking at different sides of Hong Kong. Not only it is cheap to ride on a bus or a tram, it also allows you to see completely different lifestyles in different districts in a short time. Below are some recommended routes.
* KMB Route 70 starts from the downtown in Jordan, Kowloon. It goes along Peninsular Kowloon and heads through the New Territories. Then it goes into Sha Tin new town. Afterwards it goes through Tai Po Road, where you can see many traditional Chinese villages and the sceneric Chinese University of Hong Kong. The bus further goes to Tai Po and you can see the traditional Market. After Tai Po, the bus again passes through the countryside and eventually reaches its terminus at Sheung Shui (below Landmark North), which is near the Hong Kong - Shenzhen boundary. The journey takes 105 minutes and costs $8.20 for the whole journey with a traditional non air-conditioned bus.
* NWFB Route 15 starts from Central (Exchange Square) to The Peak. It is an alternative way for getting to The Peak by bus rather than by Peak Tram. Your journey to Hong Kong will not be complete unless you have visited the Victoria Peak. You can see the beautiful view of Hong Kong Island, Victoria Habour and Kowloon Peninsula along the Stubbs road during the journey. When you arrive, there are two shopping malls: The Peak Tower and The Peak Galleria, which provide restaurants, a supermarket, and souvenir shops for your convenience. In addition, Madame Tussauds Hong Kongis temporarily closed for renovation, and it may be re-opened in May 2006. Direction: you can take MTR and get off at Hong Kong station. You can approach Hong Kong station by the underpass from Central station. After that, follow the exit B1 to Exchange Square and you will see the bus terminus. You can also get off at Admiralty station. Then, follow the C1 exit toward Queensway Plaza. The bus stop is located at the motorway beside Admiralty Garden. After you get in the bus, just stay on until it arrives to The Peak bus terminus. The bus fare is $9.2 and it takes about 30 minutes for the journey.
* Citybus Route 973 starts from the Tsim Sha Tsui East Bus Terminus which is located at the Concordia Plaza, which is directly opposite the Science Museum at Science Museum Road. It goes along Salisbury Road, where the Avenu of the Stars, The Space Museum and the HK Art Museum is located. Later it goes to Hong Kong University, which is the most prominent and the oldest university in Hong Kong after crossing the Western Harbour Crossing. It later pass through the country side of the southern part of Hong Kong . It will reach the Hong Kong southern side, where the Jumbo/Tai Pak Floating Restaurant is located at Aberdeen. Not long after, the bus past through a football field, which is a 5-10 minutes walk to the Ocean Park. Finally, the bus past through the beautiful sandy beach of Repulse Bay, before it actually arrive its terminus station at Stanley Village, where the famous Murray House and the Stanley Village Market is located. The fare is HK$13 and it takes about 95 minutes for the journey.
* Take a tram journey on Hong Kong Island.
The tram system refers to Hongkong Tramways, a slow yet special form of transport running on Hong Kong Island. It, has been operating since 1904 and is an obvious relic of the British administration. A trip on a tram is a perfect way to have a leisurely tour around Hong Kong Island's major streets and to have a glimpse of the local life. Fares are relatively cheap, just two HK dollars per trip for an adult and one HK dollar for Senior citizens (age 65 or older) and children.
It is recommended to ride from as far as Kennedy Town in the west, to as far as Shau Kei Wan in the east, in order to get a strong contrast of "East meets West" and "Old meets New".
A new, modern, tram system operates in the north west New Territories and serves New Towns between Yuen Long and Tuen Mun. Few tourists will be inspired by these trams but they may appeal to trainspotters.
Avenue of the Stars and A Symphony of Lights
Hong Kong's version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Avenue of the Stars celebrates icons of Hong Kong cinema from the past century. The seaside promenade offers fantastic views, day and night, of Victoria Harbour and its iconic skyline. This is the place to have your picture taken by a professional photographer who is experienced in night photography. The Avenue can be reached from the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station or the Star Ferry.
The Avenue of the Stars is also a great place to see A Symphony of Lights, a spectacular light and laser show syncronized to music and staged every night at 8:00pm. This is the world's "Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show" as recognised by the Guinness World Records. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the light show is in English. On the other nights, it is in Cantonese. However, whilst the show is not such a big deal, during festival times the light show is supplemented by fireworks that are worth seeing.
You are never far from the sea in Hong Kong and going to a good beach is only a bus-ride away. However, if you want a really good beach then it is worth making the effort to travel, possibly on foot, and seek out the beaches of the New Territories. Hong Kong's urban beaches are usually well maintained and have services such as showers and changing rooms. Where beaches are managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Dept. shark nets and life guards are present. Dogs and smoking are not permitted on these beaches.
When on Hong Kong Island the best beaches to use include:
Repulse Bay is a large urban beach on the south side of Hong Kong island. It has recently had money spent on its facilities and will appeal to those who have young children.
Middle Bay is popular with gay people and is a 20 minute walk from the crowds at Repulse Bay. Middle Bay has lifeguards, showers, changing rooms, shark nets and a decent cafe serving drinks and snacks.
Shek O is a beach popular with many Hong Kong people. It is away from the bustle of the city but is well served by restaurants and has a good bus service from the north side of the island. The Thai restaurant close to the beach is worth a try.
Big Wave Bay This beach is smaller than others on Hong Kong Island but still has good services which include a beach side cafe selling a range of drinks and meals that may appeal to Western tourists. Big Wave Bay, as the name suggests, has the sort of waves that appeal to surfers. From Big Wave Bay it is possible to take the coastal footpath to Chai Wan where you can find the MTR and buses. The walk to Chai Wan is about one hour, or more if you are not used to the steep climb up the mountain.
If your hotel does not have a pool or you have concerns about swimming in the sea, then public swimming baths are a great place to cool off when the heat and the humidity is too much to bear. Swimming pools are built and maintained to a very high standard in Hong Kong and cost very little to use (19HK$ adults). Swimming pools are great places for young children to play and most pools cater for their needs with shallow pools and fountains. All swimming pool complexes offer swimming lanes and swimming clubs for serious swimmers.
Kowloon Park swimming baths (Tsim Sha Tsui MTR exit A) are centrally located and offer visitors a wide range of pools. Indoors is a main pool that is olympic sized, a slightly smaller training pool, a diving pool and a leisure pool for younger swimmers. During the summer months the indoor pools are air-conditioned. Outdoors, during the summer season, they have four leisure pools to meet the needs of all ages. In summer, the pool is popular with teenagers but all age-groups make good use of the pools. A limited number of sun loungers are available. Family changing rooms are available in addition to the regular changing rooms. Males and females have separate changing areas but changing rooms do not offer much privacy between users of the same sex.
The pools in Kowloon Park open at 6:30 am and close at 10:00 pm. There are session breaks when the centre closes for lunch at 12 noon until 1 pm and then it closes for another hour from 5 pm to 6 pm. Most public pools in Hong Kong have similar opening and closing times.
Swimmers are expected to provide their own towels and toiletries. A 5HK$ coin is needed to operate a locker or you can provide your own padlock. An Octopus card or coins are needed for payment to enter the complex.
There are six public pools on Hong Kong island and a further 12 are located across the Kowloon peninsula. More pools of the same high standard are to be found in the New Territories. The pool located in Victoria Park is perhaps the least good because of its aging facilities and close proximity to a major elevated highway.
You can rent out a Junk Boat for a sailing trip with your family and friends. A typical junk boat can accommodate more than 30 people and can be rented for the day to take you on a tour of your choice. Sai Kung is a popular spot for the trip to start and you can sail to nearby beaches for a more secluded time. A cheaper alternative is to hire a much smaller water taxi to take you to where you want to go.
Hiking is the best kept secret in Hong Kong, it is a great way to appreciate Hong Kong's beautiful landscapes that include mountains, beaches and breathtaking cityscapes. The starting points for many hiking trails are accessible by bus or taxi. Hiking is highly recommended for active travellers who want to escape the modern urban world.
Hiking in Hong Kong is strenuous because of the steep trails, mosquitos and the hot, humid, weather which combine to make even the easiest trek a workout. It is highly recommended that you wear suitable clothes, and bring plenty of water and mosquito repellent. Most local people choose the winter months to undertake the more demanding hiking trails. Another tactic is to take a bus or taxi to the highest point of the trail and then walk downhill.
There are four major trails in Hong Kong:
* Lantau Trail on Lantau.
* Hong Kong Trail on Hong Kong Island.
* Maclehose Trail through the New Territories. Oxfam organizes an annual charity hike of this 100Km trail every November. Winning teams finish in around 11-12 hours but average people take 30-36 hours to finish the whole trail, which starts from the eastern end of the New Territories (Sai Kung) to the western end (Tuen Mun).
* Wilson Trail starting on Hong Kong Island and finishing on the New Territories.
* Hong Kong Outdoors is packed with info on hiking, and other great things to do and places to go in the wilder side of Hong Kong.
This guide uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
Budget Under $50
Splurge Over $300
Perhaps the number one highlight of Hong Kong is the cuisine. Not only is it a showcase of traditional and modern Cantonese cuisine, the various regional cuisines from around China, such as northern Chinese, Chaozhou (Chiuchow/Teochew) and Sichuan are all well represented. There are also excellent Asian and some fairly good western restaurants as well.
Residents tend to eat out a lot more than in other countries. Perhaps because of this eating out can be fairly cheap, as long as you stick to local restaurants, and avoid the often overpriced western counterparts.
Whilst dining out it is easy to find places offering mains for well under $80 ($US10) offering both local and international food. Fastfood chains such as McDonald's and Café de Coral offer meals in the vicinity of $20. Mid-range restaurants generally charge in excess of $100 for mains, whilst at the top end the city's best restaurants (such as Felix or Aqua) can easily see you leave with a bill in excess of $1200 (including entrées, mains, desserts and drinks).
When tipping, tourists can make fools of themselves. Tipping is not a local tradition, except among some green expats who find it difficult to shake off their North American habits. If you do tip, you should know that the money is very unlikely to reach the hands of the person who gave you such good service. In cheaper restaurants, you should certainly take all your change, not to do so may be seen as patronising. In more upmarket places a ten percent service charge will have already been included in your bill, so many local people will accept that as the tip. Should you wish to tip, it is acceptable to leave a few coins.
What to eat
Hot Milk Tea ~ Hong Kong style
You might expect that after more than a century of colonial rule tea might be served British style - well, almost. Order hot milk tea in a traditional cafe and what you will get will be a cup of the strongest brew imaginable. With the addition of evaporated milk, this is not a drink for the faint-hearted.
Above all, Hong Kong is known for its dim sum, delicately prepared morsels of Cantonese cuisine served from a never ending procession of carts and eaten with tea. Dim sum is usually eaten for breakfast or lunch and is often the focus of family get-togethers on Sundays. An excellent place to go for dim sum is City Hall in Central - just be sure to ask for the dim sum restaurant. If you go to some restaurants in the more local areas (such as Kennedy Town) ask if they have an English menu. In such restaurants customers are often required to write their requirements on a tick-box sheet and hand them to the waiter.
Besides dim sum, Hong Kong is also known for its roasted meats, especially roast goose though duck and pork are also readily available. Roast meat is typically served with rice or noodles. Congee is also widespread in Hong Kong and is best eaten at the smaller eateries, though many of them have only Chinese menus. Nevertheless, that shouldn't put you off and nobody can claim to have experienced the cullinary culture of Hong Kong without having a taste of its congee.
Hong Kong also has some pretty good snacks, the most famous among ethnic Chinese tourists being a sweet pastry known as Sweetheart Cakes (lo po peng) and the most famous shop selling this is Hang Heung, located at Yuen Long in the New Territories, though there are branches located throughout all of Hong Kong.
For those who wish to eat Hong Kong's famous seafood, there are different locations in Hong Kong's coastal areas where freshly caught seafood is cooked and served. Places like Sai Kung, Po Doi O, Lei Yu Mun, Lau Fau Shan are good places to find restaurants specialized in seafood. These restaurants have different tanks to keep the seafood alive and will present live seafood specimens to their patrons for them to choose before cooking. Raw fish, known as yee sang in Hong Kong, is a relatively popular dish and is prepared differently from Japanese sashimi.
Many exotic delicacies like abalone, conch and bamboo clam can be found for sale in many seafood restaurants. The price of seafood increases where the species is a rarity. Some of the fish and seafood for sale maybe endangered by overfishing, so the WWF urges consumers to be aware of buying endangered species. Try to avoid buying juvenile fish that have not had a chance to breed. A vigorous campaign has been fought in Hong Kong to stop people buying shark fin.
For those who want to have other, less endangered, exotic food, snake meat is a popular delicacy in Hong Kong. The winter months are the season for eating snakes and can be bought from a number of restaurants that specialise in this surprisingly tasty meat.
In addition to the usual Cantonese fare, Hong Kong is also home to several good Teochew (known locally as Chiuchow) restaurants serving Teochew dishes such as braised goose and yam paste dessert.
As with Chinese cuisine elsewhere, food in Hong Kong is generally eaten with chopsticks. The usual etiquette when using chopsticks apply, such as not sticking your chopsticks vertically into a bowl of rice. Dishes in smaller eateries might not come with a serving spoon though they would usually provide one if you request.
Where to eat
A uniquely Hong Kong-style eatery starting to make waves elsewhere in Asia is the cha chaan teng, literally "tea cafe", but offering fusion fast food that happily mixes Western and Eastern fare: innovations include noodles with Spam, stir-fried spaghetti and baked rice with cheese. Usually a wide selection of drinks is also available, almost always including the popular tea-and-coffee mix yuenyeung, and perhaps more oddities (to the Western palate) like boiled Coke with ginger or iced coffee with lemon. Orders are usually recorded on a chit at your table and you pay at the cashier as you leave.
Hong Kong also has a staggering range of international restaurants serving cuisines from all over the world. These can often be found in, though not restricted to, entertainment districts such as Lan Kwai Fong, Soho or Knutsford Terrace. Of these Soho is probably the best for eating as Lan Kwai Fong is primarily concerned with bars and clubs and on Friday and Saturday nights especially can become crowded with revellers. Top chefs are often invited or try to make their way to work in Hong Kong.
Cooked food centres (Dai Pai Dong) provide economic solutions to diners, and they are popular with local citizens. There are many cooked food centres in various districts. The cooked food centre in Sha Kok Estate, Sha Tin is easily accessible by KCR. It is adjacent to Sha Tin Wai Railway Station. It is highly recommended to tourists, as this is where you will find true Hong Kong cuisine and experience a local's way of life.
Barbecue (BBQ) is a popular local pastime. Many areas feature free public barbecue pits where everybody roasts their own food, usually with barbeque forks. It's not just sausages and burgers - the locals enjoy trying a variety of food at BBQ, such as fish, beef meatballs, pork meatballs, chicken wings, and so on. A good spot is the southern part of HK Island. Every beach is equipped with many free BBQ spots. Just stop by a store, buy meat, drinks and BBQ equipment. The best spots are Shek’O (under the trees at the left hand side of the beach) and Big Wave Bay.
Wet markets are still prevalent. Freshness is a key ingredient to all Chinese food, so frozen meat and vegetables are frowned upon, and most markets display freshly butchered beef and pork (with entrails), live fish in markets, and more exotic shellfish, frogs, turtles and snails. Maids who cook for their employers usually go to the market everyday to buy fresh ingredients, just like the restaurants.
Supermarkets include Wellcome, Park N Shop, CRC Shop. Speciality markets catering to Western tastes include CitySuper and Great. 24 hour convenience stores 7-Eleven and Circle K can be found anywhere.
Drinking has not been something the locals were big on in the past but it is becoming much more popular with the younger generation. There are plenty of bars . The traditional hotspot for both eating and drinking with westerners is Lan Kwai Fong in Central. Wan Chai is also fun, if slightly sleazier with numerous girly bars along Lockhart Road, while Causeway Bay and Eastern Soho out beyond Quarry Bay offer a less touristy experience.
Popular lagers include Tsing Tao (pronounced 'ching dow') or San Miguel. Carlsberg is also very popular and widely available. Beer, wine and spirits are also widely available for purchase, including at supermarkets and 7-Eleven stores.
Imported San Miguel is better than the locally produced variety. More expensive bars will likely serve this, but at others you may have to specifically ask for "Philippine San Miguel" (and pay more). At the lower end only local stuff will be available. Imported bottles can be easily distinguished as they have brown glass with white frosted lettering. Locally filled bottles use a label.
One of the best ways to drink in Hong Kong is to have a walk around all the bars first and have a look which ones are doing special offers and what time they run Happy Hour. Most bars have a Happy Hour, which is a cost effective way to drink. Also keep in mind the races on a Wednesday night at Happy Valley race course, you only pay $10 for entry and pay around $100 for a jug of beer. Also Wednesday nights is ladies night, during which many bars in Wan Chai give free drinks to the ladies.
The legal drinking age is 18, though ID checks are rare.
* Ned Kelly's Last Stand A really good bar to go for pre-partying. Located on Ashley road parallel to the famous Nathan road on Kowloon side, it's an Australian themed jazz bar with great food and good live music almost every night starting at 21-22, which is about when the happy hour ends. The place is laid out with long tables where total strangers can sit together, it's quite big with the frequent visitors to Hong Kong such as travelling businessmen and the art-community.
* Sticky Fingers The awesomest place around? Who knows, but its a nice place to get some women and listen to a great house-band play live rock music on stage. The drinks are pretty good too.
* Knutsford Terrace is a popular drinking and dining spot in Kowloon but there are many other places in and around Tsim Sha Tsui. Some of them can get pretty expensive though - up to 50HK$ for a drink in some places.
* Joe Bananas A wonderful place located on Lockhart road, where the drinks are friendly and the women are cheap (or was it the other way around?).
* Skitz Sports Bar A bar with a good selection of drinks with 2 pool tables, darts and large selection of sports on big screens.
* Armani Bar A more upscale bar with great house music in a trendy indoor setting as well as an outdoor section.
* Red Bar A mostly outdoor bar at the top of the IFC building (in Central) that usually hosts big events such as on New Years Eve and more.
* Blues by the Bay Located on the Avenue of the Stars one would tend to have a drink there while watching the Symphonie of Lights. But the drinks and cocktails in this bar can not be recommended, since the quantities are very small compared to what you would expect for the price.
A word of caution for Western men: Some women lounging in Western bars and restaurants on Lockhart Road Wan Chai eg Pussy Cat, Mes Amis are prostitutes. They sometimes have a second job as 'waitresses', ie till the bar/restaurant closes. Scams involving drugged drinks, inflated bills, and once more personal info is exchanged, blackmailing the men, a sick mother back home needing an urgent, expensive, life-saving surgery, etc. are very common. Don't fall in love with them, only to be ruined economically and personally by them. Robberies and deaths involving drugged drinks have also occurred. The bars with curtains on the doors are very clearly brothels where your drinks may be cheap but those for the girls will be expensive. Bar fines run from HK$1500-HK$3000 and up.
To really go to town, spend a few hundred $ drinking in the Felix bar at the top of the Peninsula Hotel, Kowloon-side. Possibly the best view in the world, especially from the gents'! Another similar option is nearby Aqua Spirit in the Intercontinental Hotel. Both bars are attached to superb restaurants (in Aqua's case two superb restaurants - Aqua Tokyo and Aqua Roma), though as in the bars expect to pay for the pleasure (see above).
Gay and lesbian nightlife
Gay bars and clubs are located in Central, Sheung Wan, Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui (TST). The quality of these venues varies considerably and will perhaps disappoint those expecting something similar to London or Paris. There is certainly no gay area as in many western cities.
* Works A good bar for tourists to start with and get a feel of the gay scene in Hong Kong. Located a short walk from Central MTR in Hollywood Road. Don't expect many other customers to arrive much before 23.00.
* Propaganda This is the sister nightclub to Works. The entrance can be hard to locate, so you can follow the crowd that migrates along Hollywood Road when Works starts to fade. PP, as the locals like to call it, is popular and attracts a good selection of people.
* New Wally Matt Located in Tsim Sha Tsui the Wally Matt is a welcome change from the more pretentious gay bars on Hong Kong island. Located in Humphrey's Avenue it is a short distance from TST MTR station.
The major tertiary/post-secondary institutions in Hong Kong are:
* University of Hong Kong
* Chinese University of Hong Kong
* City University of Hong Kong
* Hong Kong Polytechnic University
* Hong Kong Baptist University
* Hong Kong Institute of Education
* Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
* Lingnan University
* Hong Kong Shue Yan University
* Open University of Hong Kong
There is a large movement for the Cantonese speaking folks to learn Mandarin as more visitors arrive from mainland China.
You will need an employment visa in Hong Kong to take up any paid employment, even if you are from UK or mainland China. This usually involves any potential employer making an application to the Immigration Department on your behalf; crucially you should have skills that are probably not available from the local job market. In June 2006 the Immigration Department revived a rule that allows the spouse of anyone currently working legally in Hong Kong to get a "dependent visa". This allows the spouse to take up any employment they wish, without having to seek approval from the Immigration Department. Unfortunately, a dependent visa is not available if the spouse is from Mainland China, unless they have been living abroad for more than one year. In 2006, the Hong Kong government introduced a new program called the Quality Migrant Application Scheme which targets skilled, preferably university educated, labour with good knowledge of languages to come and settle in Hong Kong and seek for employment. See more at http://www.immd.gov.hk.
As large international cities go, Hong Kong is one of the safest in terms of crime and personal safety. Unless you are travelling from Japan, the chances are that your home-town is more crime-ridden than Hong Kong. Nevertheless, Hong Kong does have its share of petty crime, that can be avoided with some street smarts.
Hong Kong cinema has often portrayed the triads as machine gun wielding gangsters who shoot anything that gets in their way and just kill for thrill. This reputation is very much undeserved and while the triads are still very much active and powerful, even running a couple of businesses, they generally would not target the average person on the street. Just avoid the triads by using some commonsense, such as not engaging in illegal betting or borrowing money from loan sharks, and they will not bother you.
Do not do business with people pushing their cards to you on the streets (so called street hawkers, mainly legal and illegal immigrants near Nathan Road, Kowloon). They may advertise tailor services and consumer electronics and the prices are 20-100% higher than in reliable chain stores and department stores. Usually you are asked to pay half beforehand, and when you come to claim your product, they say it's sold out and offer another model for much higher price. It can be very hard to get your money back from them as they might even hold your credit card as a 'hostage' and refuse to give it back unless you agree to take the more expensive item. Don't buy electronic items from brands you'd never heard of because they might be overpriced low quality chinese products without any warranty anywhere else. Best advice is to avoid street hawkers completely (don't even reply to them or you will attract only more!), and if already in trouble, contact the nearest police officer immediately.
There appears to be scams around the Avenue of Stars, Tsim Sha Tsui, where a group of people target (Japanese) tourists. They will ask you to put banknotes into their bags for magic performance, and of course after the performance you will find yourself getting back forged banknotes. Unlike places such as Thailand, monks in China are not always held in high regard and you should be suspicious of requests for money. In fact, Chinese Buddhist monks are fed by volunteers working in the temples and usually do not beg for food so if you see any monks begging for food, they are likely to be fake. Use your common sense at all times.
Watch your purse and wallet at all times. When in restaurants, do not sling your pack or purse behind your chair. Clutch any bags or purses in front of you when on the buses and railways. Always look like you know what you are doing or where you are going to avoid any pickpockets.
The emergency number for police, fire and ambulance is 999. Be aware that police officers have the authority to check your ID/Passport without prior cause or suspicion. When there is a search for illegal immigrants, visitors, especially those who are not Caucasian, are also sometimes checked. Cooperate with the police during these investigations, though if police violate their authority, do not hesitate to call the Police Complaint hotline on 2866-7700. There are also very rare reports of some police officers requesting bribes when checking IDs. If this happens, don't be intimidated. Just dial the number mentioned above and report the matter.
Hong Kong has some great hikes, but be safe and always hike in a group, particularly in Lantau Island and the New Territories. Although you are never more than a few kilometres from urban areas, you may encounter natural obstacles such as steep ravines and washouts. Incomplete mobile phone services in some areas may add to the risk of exploring country parks. In many places you will only be able to pickup a mobile phone signal from Mainland China, so you should carry a phone that is able to make international calls. If you are forced to use a signal from the Mainland you should note that it is not possible to dial 999 for emergency assistance.
A number of hikers get lost each year, occasionally resulting in tragic death or injury. Hikers should equip themselves with detailed hiking maps, compass, mobile phone, snacks and drinking water. Hazards include falling, overheating and snakes. Robberies have also been reported on remote footpaths.
Hong Kong has some exceptional rural landscapes and visitor impact is an issue. Please respect the countryside by taking your litter home with you. Avoid using litter bins in remote areas as these are not emptied on a regular basis and your litter may be strewn around by hungry animals.
Campsites in Hong Kong are plentiful within the country parks and range from the basic with a drop-toilet to those that are serviced with showers and running water. Some campsites have places to buy water and food, whilst others are serenely remote.
Typhoons normally occur during the months of May to November, and are particularly prevalent during September. Whenever a typhoon approaches within 800km of Hong Kong, typhoon warning signal 1 is issued. Signal 3 is issued as the storm approaches. When the storm is expected to hit, signal 8 is issued. At this point, most of business activities shuts down, including shops, restaurants and the transport system. However, some entertainment facilities such as cinemas may still open for business. Signal 9 and 10 may be issued depending on the intensity of the storm. During a typhoon visitors should heed all warnings very seriously and stay indoors until the storm has passed.
Taxis may still be available when signal 8 or above is raised, but they are under no obligation to serve passengers as insurance cover is no longer effective under such circumstances. It is sometimes possible to negotiate a fare with the driver, typically up to twice the meter fare.
Rainstorms also have their own warning system. In increasing order of severity, the levels are amber, red and black. A red or black rainstorm is a serious event and visitors should take refuge inside buildings. A heavy rainstorm can turn a street into a river and cause serious landslides - why else does the government spend a fortune covering slopes with steel and ugly concrete?
Hong Kong Observatory is the best place to get detailed weather information when in Hong Kong. In summer a convectional rainstorm may affect only a small area and give you the false impression that all areas are wet.
Signage on the roads in Hong Kong is similar to British useage. Zebra lines (zebra crossings) indicate crossing areas for pedestrians and traffic comes from the right. To stay safe, visit the Transport Department's Road Users' Code for complete details.
Crossing roads by foot should also be exercised with great care. Local traffic in Hong Kong generally moves fast once the signal turns green. To help both the visually impaired and even people who are not, an audible aid is played at every intersection. Rapid bells indicate "Walk"; Intermittent bells (10 sets of 3 bells) indicate "Do Not Start to Cross"; and Slow bells indicate "Do Not Walk".
One unexpected cause of sickness in Hong Kong is the extreme temperature change between 35°C humid summer weather outdoors and 18°C air-conditioned buildings and shopping malls. Some people experience cold symptoms after moving between the two extremes so often; it is not unusual to wear a sweater or covering to stay warm indoors (though the Hong Kong Government currently encourages the temperature in air-conditioned buildings be kept at 25.5 °C for energy saving, etc.)
Many will agree that the tap water in Hong Kong can taste horrible. Nevertheless, cases of water-bourne diseases are extremely rare nowadays and many people are happy to drink the water. Old habits die hard and a number of people still prefer to boil and chill their drinking water when it is taken from the tap. The official advice from the Water Board is that the water is perfectly safe to drink unless you are living in an old building with outdated plumbing and poorly maintained water tanks. Bottled water is widely available but remember that Hong Kong's landfill sites are filling up fast and plastic bottles are a major environmental problem.
A smoking-ban came into effect in 2007. Unlike other places, the smoking ban includes a number of outdoor locations such as university campuses, parks, gardens and beaches. Places for adult entertainment such as bars, clubs and saunas are excluded from the ban for the next year or so. Expect to pay a substantial fine if caught smoking in the wrong place.
Air pollution can be a problem due to high population densities and industrial pollution from mainland China. During periods of very bad air pollution tourists will find visibility drastically reduced. Persons with serious respiratory problems should seek medical advice before travelling to the territory and should ensure that they bring ample supplies of relevant medication.
Pollution is a contentious topic in Hong Kong and is the number one issue among environmental campaigners. Levels of pollution can vary according to the season. The winter monsoon can bring polluted air from the Mainland, whilst the summer monsoon can bring cleaner air off the South China Sea. During major holidays in mainland China when many factories close down, levels of air pollution in Hong Kong can drop significantly.
Some Westerners say Hong Kong can be a rude city with the large crowds, pushing, shoving, and crowdedness — similar to New York City or London. However, it can be best described as hurried and efficient (terse, perhaps), but not mean spirited. Even on a night out, the atmosphere is rarely menacing and most people in shops and restaurants are helpful and friendly. Most folks know a modicum of English, since Hong Kong was a British colony, so you don't have to worry about offending anyone by speaking English. Some Hong Kong people use the term gwai lo (commonly translated as "foreign ghost" in English; it literally means "ghost guy") to refer to Caucasian foreigners. However, locally, this term is simply used as a term to refer to Caucasians and usually no longer carries the derogatory meaning it once intended.
Manners and Etiquette
Manners are very important to local people. However, their ideas of manners can be different from Western ideas and this is especially obvious when it comes to table manners. More than half of the people you see on streets are visitors, and it can be difficult to tell the difference between mainland Chinese, Hong Kong Chinese and other Asians. All these may carry no meaning at all to non-locals, but they do to local people and it is especially apparent in terms of manners. The culture itself and the level of public education is very different across the region (viz Americans and Mexicans, Germans and Italians). English is a second language to the locals, and they are usually a lot more reserved (i.e. especially polite) when using it.
Due to increased tourism and competition from both Mainland China and other places, courtesy in Hong Kong has increased dramatically. Now, when you approach a department or chain clothing stores, staff greet you when you enter the store and thank you when you leave the store, even if you haven't bought anything. Just a quick glance at a particular item will instantly provoke an employee to ask if you need assistance. Usually, they will stay at your side getting the right sizes, etc until you are ready to make the purchase. Some visitors will be impressed by this kind of service, though others might find the service rather pushy.
Hong Kong used to be known to be pretty conservative, but women wearing sleeveless tops and halternecks, can occasionally be easily spotted. But nowadays you see fashionable cloth in any kind of length and style everywhere. It seems like Chinese women and girls are interested in up to date clothing, even if it does not fit the weather conditions, for example warm winter long boots. Public nudity is illegal, so don't try to go topless on the beach. On the flip side, very few restaurants (even upscale ones) have strict dress codes and it's unlikely you'll be refused entry anywhere for not wearing a jacket and tie.
Hong Kong has communications facilities as modern as anywhere in the world. The cost, particularly for mobile phone users, is one of the cheapest globally.
Postal services are efficient and of high quality. You will find post offices in major city areas and outside of opening hours, coin- and Octopus card-operated stamps vending machines. You can buy stamps (sets of ten stamps of $1.4, $2.4, $3) from many convenience stores such as 7-Eleven or Circle K (OK). It is relatively inexpensive to ship your purchases back home from any Post Office.
Hong Kong has one of the highest penetrations of broadband in the world, and almost all homes and businesses are connected to the Internet through high-bandwidth broadband connections. Cyber cafes are widespread in the city, but they are generally geared towards gamers. For simple Internet access, you may want to go to terminals in cafes like Pacific Coffee which can be used for free by customers. Free terminals can also be found in some public areas, such as shopping malls, the airport, MTR Wanchai station and Central Station, and the public libraries. The central public library in Causeway Bay, opposite Victoria Park, has hundreds of free terminals and free broadband access if you bring a notebook computer, however, there is no wireless access, so you will either have to bring a network cable, or borrow from the library. There is also free power connections, so you don't have to rely on battery power.
WiFi internet access can be found in most urban areas, including Starbucks and Pacific Coffee shops and some shopping malls.
The standard prefix for international calls 001, but there are also other prefixes, different prefix means different long distance phone companies, all prefixes start from either 0 or 1. For example, 0060 prefix is PCCW, 0030 prefix is HKBN, 1686 prefix is One-Tel. However, before you use these long distance companies, make sure your phone has registered in the respective company first.
Hong Kong's country-code is 852 (different from China (86) and Macau (853) ). Local phone numbers (mobile and landlines) are typically 8 digits; no area codes are used. All numbers start from 6 or 9 are mobile numbers, while numbers start from 2 or 3 are fixed line numbers. For the operator, dial 1000. For police, fire or ambulance services dial 999.
Mobile phone subscriber penetration is very high (115% in 2004). If you have a GSM handset (GSM 900, 1800) or WCDMA (UMTS or know as 3G-GSM) handset , purchase a prepaid SIM card to use in your phone. They can be bought for cash at most convenience stores. 2G (cheaper) and newer 3G cards are available, but both are relatively cheap. If your CDMA handset has a SIM slot, you can pick up the less popular CDMA SIM cards, note that the CDMA network is NOT popular in Hong Kong, so coverage is not as great as that of GSM and WCDMA (UMTS). A card with value of around $50 should be sufficient unless you are making international calls. Most cards provide standard services such as SMS and voice mail. For the adventurous types, discounted prepaid SIM Cards can be purchased in Ap Liu Street in Sham Shui Po, and "Sin Daat" arcade in Mongkok (Argyle St - close to Lady street). Cheap GSM and 3G phones can be purchased here as well. Mobile phone numbers also have eight digits and begin with 6 or 9.
For those on short visits, international roaming is available in Hong Kong onto its GSM 900/1800 and 3G networks, subject to agreements between operators.
Although the mobile phone toll in Hong Kong is one of the lowest in the world, all mobile phone companies charge for BOTH incoming and outgoing calls (similar to USA, but different from most European countries, Japan, Taiwan or Korea) and this includes the unfortunate situation of having to pay to listen to increasingly common spam (advertising) calls. Coverage is generally excellent and is available on almost all operators even when underground, including the whole MTR system, on board the trains and cross-harbour tunnels.
Payphones are available and $1 is for a local call for 5 minutes usually. If you don't have a mobile and need to make a short local call, most restaurants, supermarkets and shops will oblige if you ask nicely. Public payphones are becoming more and more difficult to find on streets nowadays, the take is to go into any MTR/train stations, they always have payphones there. The airport have a courtesy phone just before you step out of the glassed area after the customs - you cannot go back there once you have left.
* Macau, the former Portuguese colony and present gambling haven is just an hour away by TurboJet ferry. Ticket prices start at $141 for the one-hour ride to Macau. The ferry building is near the Sheung Wan MTR station on Hong Kong Island. Less frequent ferries are also available from New World First Ferry in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon.
* Zhuhai, across the border from Macau, is 70 minutes away by ferry.
* Shenzhen, mainland China boomtown just across the border can be reached by KCR East Rail in about 40 minutes. The train is convenient if you are keen on shopping as it terminates in the Lo Wu commercial centre. Another alternative, especially if you are starting from the island is the ferry to Shekou which takes around 50 minutes and costs around $100.
* Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province can be reached by train within 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the type of train. If you are on a budget, many cross border buses are available throughout Hong Kong. The trip will take more than 3 hours, including going through customs at the border and changing buses. Here is a link where you can check bus schedule and fares. http://www.ctshk.com/english/bus/zhonglv.htm