Beginner's Guide to Hong Kong

Updated: Apr 3, 2020

A city where Western and Eastern cultures collide in an ultra-modern setting. It is known for its international business, fashion, and a hub for travel throughout Asia. Hong Kong is small, but broken up into different islands and sections, which can be confusing. Here is my guide to help you conquer this international city:

First things first: Money

Hong Kong is EXPENSIVE. Very expensive. Especially compared to its neighboring Asian countries. So be prepared to pay about $150-300 HKD (About $20-40 USD) for a decent meal and $20 HKD (About $2.50 USD) for a 6-stop metro ride. The most common forms of payment are cash, WeChat (Chinese bank account only), and Alipay (any bank account). With WeChat and Alipay, the vendor will scan the QR code on your phone to charge you and the money will come straight out of your account after fingerprint/face ID confirmation. Most places also accept visa, but make sure to double check before-hand.


How to get there

1. Fly

If you fly into the Hong Kong Airport you will fly into Lantau Island. From here you will need to get into the city by either taxi or metro.

> A taxi ride will be about $250 HKD to Tsim Sha Tsui (Around $31 USD) and will take about 30 minutes.

> A metro ride will be about $80-100 HKD to Tsim Sha Tsui (Around $10-12 USD) and take 45 minutes. You can take the Airport Express Line (green) to Kowloon, transfer to the Tung Chung Line (yellow) to Nam Cheong, and transfer to the West Rail Line (purple) to East Tsim Sha Tsui


2. Bullet train

As of fall 2018, there is now a bullet train that will take you into the heart of Hong Kong from Mainland China. From Guangzhou it's a 50 minute ride, and from Shenzhen it's only 15 minutes. When you arrive at West Kowloon station in Hong Kong, you can easily walk anywhere. To find out more details on how to make this journey, read my blog here.


Where to stay

I recommend staying in Tsim Sha Tsui area because there is a lot to do, and it's easy to travel to the other islands and areas from this point. When looking into accommodations, again remember: Hong Kong is very expensive. Even a dorm bed in a hostel was $18 USD per person. We opted to stay at Cosmic Guest House because it was $20 USD a night for a private room. Beware the rooms look nothing like the pictures; the room was super small, with 2 smaller-than-twin-size beds crammed in and no windows. But, the location was great, we were able to walk everywhere we wanted. If you don't care about luxuries and just want to save money, this is one of your best options.


Tsim Sha Tsui

A neighborhood in Kowloon with skyline views, great shopping, and fine dining.


> Star Ferry Pier: here you can see the amazing skyline views of Hong Kong Island, walk along the Avenue of Stars (modeled after the Hollywood Walk of Fame), and take a ferry to Wanchai or Central


> Clock tower: a photo-op stop along the pier! A large clock tower lined with palm trees and ocean views


> Hong Kong Space Museum: only $10 HKD to enter (About $1.20 USD) right on the pier. A great place to go if you enjoy interactive learning, are fascinated by space, or just need to kill some time in between other HK activities. It's completely interactive with gravity surfing, speed of light bicycling, and lifting weights to compare gravity on different planets.


> Kowloon Park: a great place to escape the city, ironically right in the middle of the city. It's a green oasis filled with plants, fountains, and flamingos! Great for a picnic lunch and enjoying the views where nature meets skyscrapers.


> iSQUARE (& surrounding streets): this is where the shopping is at! It's an indoor mall filled with shops and restaurants. But all around the mall, there are designer shops for blocks and blocks. Walk around this area and shop/eat as much as your bank account allows!

Food recs:

> Eastern- Chee Kei is a Dim Sum restaurant in the heart of Tsim Sha Tsui. Dim sum is basically the Chinese version of Tapas, where you order lots of small dishes and share. Typically served as a brunch, but can be enjoyed anytime of day. It's around $50 HKD per dish (About $6.40 USD).

Location: G/F No.52 Lock Road, Tsim Sha Tsui

> Western- Delaney's Irish Pub has all of your western cravings. It can be quite expensive, but has some great deals you can take advantage of like the $144 HKD (About $18 USD) full Irish breakfast or buy 1 get 1 free pizza on Tuesday afternoons!

Location: Hong Kong No.77 Peking Road, Tsim Sha Tsui


Wanchai

A metropolitan area on the NE shore of Hong Kong island.

How to get here from Tsim Sha Tsui: Ferry (7 minutes, $2.70 HKD) or Metro (15 minutes, $11 HKD)


Ferry: Go to Star Ferry Terminal and follow the signs for Wanchai. When walking up to the gangplank, you'll see a metal machine where you can insert your $2.70 HKD cash and get a token. When you go through the gangplank, you'll insert the coin and be able to board the ferry.


> Golden Bauhinia Square: stop for a photo-op of this statue of a gilded bauhinia flower placed on top of a granite plinth.


> Wan Chai Heritage Trail: roughly a 2-hour walk through the district stopping at a total of 15 sites, including temples, markets, civil buildings and old housing which has been preserved in its former glory.


> Times Square: not as impressive as its NYC counterpart, but it is a huge mall for shopping!


> Tai Yuen Street Market: fun alleyway of stalls selling children’s toys, clothes, accessories and cheap souvenirs.


> Lockhart Road: go at night for a great bar/restaurant scene!


Food recs:

> Istanbul Turkish Kebabs and Grills: this place is amazing. The veggies are so fresh, the meat is perfectly salted, and don't forget to add their home-made sauces (chili, garlic, or mint).

Location: 177 Wanchai Road, G/F, Shop No.3

Price: About $60-100 HKD (Around $7-12 USD)


> The Point: a high-end pasta/pizza restaurant. They have so many variations of pizza and pasta, they even have truffle mac & cheese! They also have incredible desserts like a brownie with bananas, ice-cream, walnuts and chocolate sauce or a dessert pizza with bananas and marshmallows.

Location: Hong KongG/F, No.52 Tang Lung Street, Causeway Bay

Price: About $180-400 HKD (Around $22-50 USD)


Central

This is the central business district area, filled with skyscrapers and people walking around in business attire! The main thing to do in this area is admire the buildings or go shopping, but you can also check out these recommendations:

How to get here from Tsim Sha Tsui: Ferry (5 minutes, $2.70 HKD) or Metro (10 minutes, $11 HKD)


> Victoria Peak: a high vantage point that offers great views of the Hong Kong, Harbor Bay, and the Kowloon skyline


> Lan Kwai Fong: come at night for the great restaurant/bar scene!


> Central Ferry Pier: the cheapest way to get from Tsim Sha Tsui is to take the ferry! You'll get off the ship at the pier and can see great skyline views and even hop on the Hong Kong Observation Wheel


Lantau Island

The largest island in Hong Kong, filled with green, mountainous views!

How to get here from Tsim Sha Tsui: Metro (20 minutes, $20 HKD)


> Tian Tan Buddha: one of the most iconic sight-seeing things in all of Hong Kong. It is a 112 foot bronze Buddha statue on top of a green hill. From here you can see ocean views, green mountainous hills all around, and the Po Lin Monastery. To get up to the mountain you either take a bus or the cable car. I recommend the Ngong Ping 360 cable car because you get amazing views. Buy your ticket on Klook and it will be $172 HKD per person round trip (About $22 USD), or on-site it will be $235 HKD (About $30 USD). If you buy online, you'll also be able to skip the long lines!


How to get here from Tsim Sha Tsui: Enter at East Tsim Sha Tsui station and hop on the West Rail Line (purple). Exit on Nam Cheong, and switch to the Tung Chung Line (yellow). Exit on Tung Chung, walk straight ahead to the cablecars!


> Disneyland: no explanation needed. Fill your day with Disney magic and charm at the Hong Kong Disneyland. It's normally $619 HKD for the day (About $79 USD), but purchase on Klook to get a discounted price of $553 HKD (About $72 USD)


How to get here from Tsim Sha Tsui: Enter at East Tsim Sha Tsui station and hop on the West Rail Line (purple). Exit on Nam Cheong, and switch to the Tung Chung Line (yellow). Exit on Sunny Bay and transfer to the Disneyland Resort Line (pink).




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