Top Tips for visiting Hong Kong

Hong Kong is one of the most vibrant cities in the world, and it is also one of the most straightforward and safe to explore. Here are our top tips for getting the most out of HK.
 Traditional tourist junk sailing in Victoria Harbour. Photo: Shutterstock
Traditional tourist junk sailing in Victoria Harbour. Photo: Shutterstock

Hong Kong is one of the most vibrant cities in the world, and it is also one of the most straightforward and safe to explore. Signposts are in English as well as Chinese, while inexpensive public transport and taxis make it easy to get around.

Insider tip: According to the Hong Kong Tourism Board, the Airport Express Link is a very convenient and affordable way to get from Hong Kong International Airport to Central and Kowloon. (And it's often faster and definitely more affordable than taking local taxis.) For more general travel tips, click here.

Here are more top bits of advice for getting the most out of HK.

Book it now: Hong Kong Island Insights

Buy the book: City Guide Hong Kong

 Lan Kwai Fong, the hub of Hong Kong's nightlife. Photo: Shutterstock

Learn a little Cantonese. This is spoken as a first language by most Hong Kongers, with just under half the population now declaring that they can speak some English.

Savvy shopping. Look out for shops displaying a gold Q sign, which means it is a member of the Hong Kong Tourism Board’s Quality Tourism Services Scheme. For a list of QTS-accredited outlets, pick up a copy of HKTB’s A Guide to Quality Shops.

Explore Central on a weekday. Apart from Lan Kwai Fong/SoHo, this is not one of Hong Kong’s after-hours locations – many shops close by 7pm (unlike Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay). 

Cheap thrills on the Number 6 bus to Stanley. If you are travelling direct from Central to Stanley, take the No. 6 bus from Exchange Square. You’ll have the best views from the top deck going over the hill  along Wong Nai Chung Gap Road, and you can enjoy the white-knuckle ride down to Repulse Bay and Stanley.

Free admission to museums. Large museums, such as the Museum of History, have free admission every Wednesday.

Temple etiquette. The Chinese are generally relaxed about tourists visiting temples, but it is considered disrespectful to take pictures of people worshipping unless you have their permission.

The Peak Train takes passengers to Victoria Peak. Photo: Shutterstock

Relax in Victoria Park. This is the largest and lushest green space in urban Hong Kong. The park is at its best in the early morning, when hundreds of tai chi devotees practise their graceful movements. The centre of the park is dominated by a statue of Queen Victoria: at Chinese New Year, she’s surrounded by a giant flower market. During the mid-Autumn Festival, the park is full of families celebrating by the light of colourful lanterns – a beautiful sight. Outdoor pools offer respite from the heat, and there are tennis courts and jogging tracks.

Check out the great outdoors. The Hong Kong Tourism Board tells Insight Guides that beyond the city's vibrant street life and iconic skyline lies a surprising side of Hong Kong that beckons hikers and nature lovers into the great outdoors – with mountains, valleys, coastlines and picturesque walking trails all within easy reach. As is not very widely known, 70 percent of Hong Kong is undeveloped open land, 40 percent of it officially preserved in 23 Country Parks, four Marine Sanctuaries and four major hiking trails. Beginners and advanced hikers alike have endless options from which to craft their outdoor adventures in Asia’s world city. For more info on Hong Kong's stunning outdoor experiences, click here.

Hong Kong Stadium. South of Victoria Park, this is the venue for the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens in early March. A boisterous event, it involves three days of heavy drinking, silly hats and manic singing. Click here for more information, and book well ahead if you want to attend a particular game. 

Grave matters. On one day in spring (Ching Ming) and one in autumn (Cheung Yeung) families visit cemeteries and graves to pay their respects to their ancestors. They clean the graves, make offerings and burn ‘hell money’, as well as gifts such as houses, phones and iPads, all made out of paper. If you want to make an offering, shops and stalls can be found just steps away from most temples. 

Catch a ride on the Star Ferry. For an affordable and scenic ride across Victoria Harbor, jump on the Star Ferry! (The cost is than USD 50 cents.)

Surfing HK. Deep Water Bay and Repulse Bay are Hong Kong’s most popular and accessible beaches, but the best place is Big Wave Bay. Boards can be hired, and there are mellow places to eat and drink nearby in Shek O, one of Hong Kong island’s most easy-going villages.
Deep Water Bay, Repulse Bay and surrounding hills. Photo: Shutterstock

Book it: Hong Kong Deluxe

Read more: Insight Guides: Southern China & Hong Kong

Read more: Just back from Hong Kong