I am very fortunate to visit Hong Kong each year, it’s one of my favourite destinations to go to in Asia. It is a city of “everything”: fantastic shopping and nightlife, amazing food, and lots of sightseeing and many things to do.
Having recently visited this lively and vibrant city to celebrate Chinese New Year with family and friends, I feel now is a good time to write a guide with things you need to see, do and eat when visiting Hong Kong. Whether you are visiting Hong Kong for 3 days or 3 months, you can definitely fit a lot in your stay. Here is a guide that will help you out when you are there, I hope you find it useful.
I’ve flown to Hong Kong International Airport from Manchester and London. From Manchester I have used the airlines: Air France (connecting flight from Charles de Gaulle in Paris), Finnair (connecting flight from Helsinki in Finland), KLM (connecting flight from Schipol in Amsterdam). From the connecting flight it usually takes eleven to twelve hours to get to Hong Kong Airport. I’ve never ever experienced any problems with these airlines and have flown many times with them before. This year, I flew with Cathay Pacific as they now fly directly to Hong Kong from Manchester and it takes around eleven hours.
WHERE TO STAY
I am extremely lucky to have Residency in Hong Kong, although I have stayed in a number of hotels in the past on Nathan Road in Kowloon. Nathan Road, also known as the Golden Mile and it is one of the busiest and popular roads in Hong Kong as you are within the shopping, dining and business district. It’s one of the best places to stay and is a favourite for visitors and locals to hang out and explore. You can click here to check out the different hotels you can stay at in this area, or click here to find hotels in Hong Kong.
I have been to Hong Kong at different times of the year and because of it’s subtropical location, Summer is very hot and very humid, and Winter is generally cool and dry. Here is a breakdown of the months so you get a better idea of the water all year round:
From December to February the weather Hong Kong is the coldest but it is mainly dry and cloudy. However, when I went this January there were some sunny days but at night it was chilly. The temperatures are around 20°c during the day but can drop to around 10°c so wearing a jacket is still needed.
From March to April and October to November, this is the ideal time to go as Spring is still warm but not too humid, temperatures are around 18°c to 27°c. Autumn has sunny days with hardly any rain or humidity, and moderate temperatures from around 20°c to 25°c.
From May to September it is typhoon season (lots of rain) and I have mostly travelled to Hong Kong during this time. June to August is hot and incredibly humid, with temperatures between 31°c to 35°c which many people find uncomfortable because the humidity feels like you’re walking in a deep rainforest but in a crowded City rather than a jungle. Clothes just “stick” and cling on to you and everywhere is muggy.
GETTING AROUND HONG KONG
Getting around in Hong Kong is super easy and they have lots of different public transport that are very reliable and very efficient. The MTR (Mass Transit Railway) underground is the easiest way and the most popular choice when getting around Hong Kong, most lines run from 6am to after midnight. There are stops at literally every major spot in Hong Kong and you can walk to your destination within 10 minutes from the closest stop.
In Hong Kong, the Octopus Card (very similar to using an Oyster Card in London) is a MUST when you are taking public transport like the MTR and Public Light Buses (these have a green or a red roof and they take you to various places where the MTR and buses don’t go. You pay a flat rate when you hop on). The Octopus Card can be bought at any MTR station and topped up at MTR stations and convenience stores. If you are going to Hong Kong for a few days you can buy a one-day or three-day pass for unlimited MTR rides and to save you from having to buy lots of single bus and train tickets. You can also use the Octopus Card to make payments in certain places like 7-Eleven convenience store to buy snacks and drinks.
There are other public transport that you can use but I have rarely used them myself. These include:
Buses – I only use these for travelling from the Hong Kong Airport to home, because it’s cheap and it goes directly there. These are good to use to get to hard-to-reach locations like New Territories.
Taxis – These are everywhere but I think they are best used when you are in a rush or going to somewhere that isn’t near an MTR station or bus stops/stations. They are quite cheap compared to Europe and all run on a meter. If you are going to use taxis, there are three types to take note as they can only travel within these boundaries. These are:
Green – New Territories.
Red – Urban/City of Hong Kong.
Blue – For Lantau Island area and includes Disneyland and the airport
Double Decker Tramways – I haven’t used these in a while but these are brilliant for tourists who want to see great views of Hong Kong island above ground level. They are slower than the MTR but the views make up for it, and they run from around 6am to midnight.
Once you get to Hong Kong, it’s really important to have have some cash (HK Dollars) on you as you’ll need it to pay for taxis and for any items you want to buy at the markets. In major restaurants, credit and debit cards are accepted but in local Hong Kong diners (also known as “cha-chaan-teng“) these generally accept cash only.
AREAS IN HONG KONG & LANDMARKS
Lan Kwai Fong (LKF) – An area filled with bars and nightclubs, it’s a classic tourist destination but be warned – the drinks in bars and restaurants (both soft and alcoholic) are very expensive. You can simply get to LKF by heading to the Central Station and exiting at D2.
Causeway Bay – This place is jam-packed with restaurants and shops. Times Square has plenty of unique boutique shops as well as international designer stores. Fashion Walk is brilliant for the fashionistas who wants to see all the latest trends.
Wan Chai – There’s so much to see here and lots of iconic landmarks such as the Golden Bauhinia Square. It’s also a good place to stroll around to experience local street markets and to sample some local Hong Kong food. After dark it’s known as the party district of Hong Kong with plenty of bars, pubs and clubs as well as lots of fine dining places.
The Peak (Victoria Peak) / Victoria Harbour / Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) – If you want amazing views of the harbour and skylines then take The Peak Tram or catch a taxi like we did (cost around $60 HKD each way which is less than £10 return). At daytime you’ll see as far as the surrounding islands and at night the view is beautiful with all the lights lit up from the skyscrapers. Victoria Harbour – Again, you get amazing view of Hong Kong from here and you can ride (very cheaply) on the Star Ferry across the harbour, it’s like a mini tour of Hong Kong. There are loads of shopping malls everywhere in Hong Kong but Harbour City is the largest with over 700 stores, 50 restaurants, 2 cinemas and 3 major hotels – it’s literally a shoppers’ paradise. In TST there is also the Avenue of Stars where you can walk around and take lots of pictures of handprints of famous Hong Kong people in the movie industry (such as the Bruce Lee statue). There is Symphony of Lights which is amazing to watch, buildings light up above the harbour with music playing in the background.
Sai Kung – I feel so lucky I can stay in Sai Kung when I am in Hong Kong. It’s known as the “back garden of Hong Kong”, and it’s such a refreshing change from seeing all the huge skyscrapers in the City. Here you can go on hiking trails and enjoy the relax atmosphere. It is a small seaside town in the New Territories and you can stroll along the promenade and watch the fisherman selling their catches. This little village is locally known for it’s seafood restaurants however, there is a variety of other restaurants that do different cuisines like, Thai, Japanese, Italian and French.
Lantau Island – The Giant Buddha on Lantau Island is one of my favourite places to visit. It’s best to do this when the weather is clear, and you have a whole day free as it’s difficult (probably impossible) to do in a couple of hours. The view is pretty amazing and you have to climb up 268 steps to reach the platform it’s on. I usually ride the cable car to get there but you can hike it too if you wanted to. Disneyland – This is a must-see in Hong Kong, but it is still on my things to do in Hong Kong(!) I have to be honest and I have heard mixed reviews about it. Perhaps it depends on whether you have been to other Disneyland’s across the world and it gets compared? Either way, I would still love to visit it. For more details and ticket prices on this resort click here.
Popular Street Markets
When you are in Hong Kong, it’s definitely worth visiting the street markets. You don’t have to buy anything and you can take a stroll so you can see and experience what the local life is like in Hong Kong. You get to see the different local products being sold like electronics, food and unique souvenirs. There are so many markets in Hong Kong so I have listed the popular ones which I think are worth visiting and where I think you can get the best bargains and buy hard-to-buy-back-home items (see below for my bargaining tips).
Ladies Market – A famous market in Hong Kong and it got it’s name for mainly selling feminine goods in the past but there are loads of other stuff they sell for both men and women of all ages including tourist souvenirs. If you’re a tourist visiting Hong Kong and you only have time to see one market, then it would be this one because of it’s variety. Beware – there are loads of copies and fakes sold so check your items properly before you buy. See my bargaining tips below for more advice.
Ap Liu Street – This market is best if you’re after electronic items including computer products, new and used gadgets, toys and watches. It’s located right next to Sham Shui Po MTR so it’s easy to find. The items sold are quite cheaply and are affordable, but just remember to bargain with the sellers and to check everything works properly before you buy.
Temple Street Market – This is well known for it’s night flea market and is one of the busiest in Hong Kong. Here you will find all kinds of clothing, jade artefacts, electronics, antiques and “branded” items which are cheaply priced (due to many being fakes). If you’re feeling peckish there are food stalls serving unique snacks at quite reasonable prices like chinese egg waffles and skewered satay fishballs.
Cat Street – Also known as Upper Lascar Row or Cat Alley, and is located near Central. This market is perfect for antique enthusiasts or anyone looking for rare Oriental memorabilia. It’s a good place to check out silk products, jade, paintings, wooden handicraft items and even old telephones. You will have to really sift through the fake antique stuff and other knick-knacks to find some decent antique goods at a good price (so bargain hard!).
Stanley Market – This is located in the Southern part of Hong Kong. Its quieter than the other markets I’ve mentioned and has a more relaxed feel. Here you’ll find clothing similar products other markets like tourist souvenirs, hand bags and jade artefacts. I enjoy the scenic bus journey on the way there. There is a beach on one side of this small town and a promenade on the other which makes a nice change from the hustle and bustle of the City.
Bargaining Tips When Purchasing From Street Markets In Hong Kong:
- When buying things from Street Markets in Hong Kong, I ALWAYS bargain with the seller because they always start off by asking for a higher price. For any products that don’t have prices marked on them, just be warned that the seller will have different prices in mind for different customers, usually over-priced and even more so if they know you are a foreign tourist.
- Don’t hand over the cash just yet! – Do you feel the seller is telling you the truth? Think about whether you feel the item(s) are worth the asking price and go with your gut instinct. Always be prepared to bargain with the seller and don’t ever be shy to walk away if you’re not happy, or comfortable with the price. I’ve done this numerous times where I’ve walked away and some desperate sellers will call you back with a much lower price.
- Always compare prices. Chances are, there are other stalls just doors down that will be selling the same things and you can see what other sellers are willing to sell theirs for.
- Check your items carefully because once you buy it you won’t be able to return it. Test the item out and if it’s electronics check it’s working properly and the compatibility so it still works when you return home. Also…
- Keep an eye on your purchase if you decide to buy, because some sellers wrap or package a different product (may be of less value than what you paid for) to give to you.
- And lastly because these areas are so busy and crowds, you’re in close contact with people so watch out for your bags and pickpockets.
Hong Kong has so much choice of food, ranging from street food to Michelin Star Rated restaurants. Many restaurants in Hong Kong are influenced by both Eastern and Western cultures and the City pretty much caters for EVERY cuisine there is – it’s paradise for all foodie fans out there (me included). I won’t go through every single meal or type of food that’s eaten in Hong Kong as this post will be extremely long:
In the mornings, it’s traditional for locals to have congee or “juk” which is a rice porridge. This is easy to make at home and is also served in most Chinese Restaurants, especially the local cha-chaan-teng’s. Don’t worry there is also western style breakfasts available in Hong Kong, like pancakes, eggs etc.
This may not appeal to everyone but I have to say, this is one of my favourite dishes: Phoenix Claw or “feng jao”. This is chicken feet but people like to use the word phoenix rather than chicken, it is fried and you get about four in a portion that’s either placed on a small plate or in a bamboo steamer with some rice and some pork ribs. (From a beauty blogger’s opinion, the phoenix claws are great for the skin as they contain a lot of collagen and calcium.)
Pineapple bread or “bor lo bao” is probably the most popular Chinese bun around. They even sell it here in Chinatown in Manchester (at a slightly higher price however). It’s a sweet bun but doesn’t actually contain any pineapple – it’s just the surface of the bun that looks like one hence the name. It’s best eaten when warm/hot.
“Dahn tat” and “Po tat” – Dahn tats are tasty egg tarts and there is a another version called Po tat also known as Portuguese tarts which are eggier, creamier and are sprinkled with cinnamon or nutmeg. It’s easy to tell the difference between the two as dahn tats will have a smooth yellow top whereas po tats have a slight browning on top and the pastry is thicker. They are made on a daily basis and are best served hot. They’re also very cheap to buy in many local restaurants and food stalls.
“Har gow” and “Siu mai” – Both very very popular in dim sum dishes. Har gow is steamed shrimp dumplings, get around 3-4 in a portion in a bamboo steamer. Each dumpling is one or two shrimps mixed in with some pork and then it’s wrapped around in a thin translucent pastry. Siu mai is a must when ordering dim sum, it’s usually a pork mixed in with prawns filling (there are slightly different variations like pork and scallop) which is wrapped in a thin dough before it is steamed. Other classic dim sum dishes are char siu bao (steamed sweet pork buns) and cheung fan (rice noodle rolls available with a choice of filling). Dim sum is all about small servings of different dishes which are mainly served in hot bamboo baskets, I recommend going to a dim sum restaurant for tourists. They are lively and often crowded with diners but you get to experience local life and interact with local people, as well as having great authentic food.
Bubble tea / Pearl Tea – My all time favourite drink, the shaken and milky tea with small, chewy tapioca balls is refreshing to have on a hot summers day. They can also be served warm and come in a variety of different flavours. Some of my favourites are lychée, green tea, taro and mango.
When you walk around Hong Kong, it is likely you’ll see entire ducks and other barbecued meat (like char siu for example) hanging off hooks in the windows. These are so popular in Hong Kong and are available in restaurants and at street stalls. When ordering the roast ducks or goose, they are cut into small pieces and usually served alone on placed on top of white rice.
If you are a seafood lover like me, then you’ll enjoy the seafood in Hong Kong as there is so much to choose from and the meat is amazingly fresh. Main options are usually abalone, grouper fish, lobsters, scallops and crab. They can be found everywhere in Hong Kong including seaside villages like Sai Kung. In restaurants you’ll see tanks full of their live swimming around and you literally pick what you want on the spot and tell the server how you want them cooked, like steamed, stir-fried or braised. In seaside villages, you’ll see lots of smaller tanks with more choice to choose from.
In Hong Kong you’ll see lots of all fresh produce markets, they are usually fruit and vegetable stands by food stalls or shops scattered around on the streets. As well as seeing the usual fruits like I do back in the UK, I like to buy the “exotic” fruits that I find slightly more difficult to buy back in Manchester, like Dragon fruit or Rose apples and guavas.
I hope you found this guide useful and have you seen my latest blog of when I was in Hong Kong? Click on the video below to watch. If you like my channel don’t forget to subscribe!
Have you been to Hong Kong? I would love to hear from you and you can leave your comments down below.