If you’re first-time to get a visit to Hong Kong, these Hong Kong travel tips will make you easier during the time you visit. Learn the best tips on how to get from the airport to the city, things to do in Hong Kong, local insider recommendations, and much more to Hong Kong.
1. Pick up your Octopus card
Octopus card can be recognised as ‘touch n go’, which is also like a prepaid debit card and it work all over Hong Kong. Basically an Octopus Card is like a prepaid card that allows you to tap in at the entrance to the MTR rather than having to pay individually for each ride. Besides that, octopus card also can used to make purchases at supermarket, mini market, coffee shops, McDonald, vending machines etc. You can reload your octopus card at all 7-eleven stores and circle K stores.
For tourists just on a short visit, the best kind of Octopus card to get is the “Sold Tourist Octopus Card” for HK$39 or the “On-Loan Octopus Card” that has a refundable deposit of HK$50 to ensure uninterrupted service in case of negative value. All tourists can buy the octopus card from the Airport Express station at the Hong Kong airport after landing on the Hong Kong mainland.
2. Take the MTR in Hong Kong
The MTR in Hong Kong is super easy to understand and get around Hong Kong.
There are 2 ways to pay for your ride on the MTR: single ticket or Octopus Card. The Octopus Card is a smart magnetic card that stores money value for easy payment processing. Most MTR riders use it because of its convenience of not having to buy a ticket every time. There is also a discount on fares for using Octopus Card over single ticket.
For example: a typical ride from Causeway Bay Station to Mong Kong Station on the Tsuen Wan Line costs HK$10.50 per adult paying with Octopus Card. The same ride costs HK$11.50 paying by single ticket.
Plug in your destination on Google Maps and pick public transportation. The directions will give you a step by step guide on what MTR station to get off on and even what exit out of the MTR station to take.
3. Bring your umbrella all the time
Hong Kong is classified as a humid subtropical climate and has just come off a record heatwave year. Hong Kong gets an average of 101 rainy days a year! We visited in September which averages 8.5 inches of rain if you visit between June-September never leave without an umbrella. It’s best to prepare for some kind of precipitation during your stay so you’re not caught off-guard. Especially because when it rains in Hong Kong it can really come down. I’d recommend bringing along a mini umbrella that is easily packable so you can bring it in your purse during the day should a storm flare up.
4. Hong Kong taxi are cheaper
Hong Kong is the expensive city. However, Hong Kong taxi are much more cheaper in this city compare to the taxi in other big city. Basically the rate for the taxi in Hong Kong is first 2 kilometres being a set HKD22 and additional charges of HKD1.60 for every 200 meters. Uber is available in Hong Kong too. But obviously Uber is much more expensive in this big city. Eg. Uber price are twice as expensive as normal red taxis in Hong Kong.
The useful tips here for all first-time travel to Hong Kong, you should download the Hong Kong Taxi Cards App. The app can help both traveller and taxis drivers communicate much more easier. The apps actually will help you translate where you’re going in Cantonese or speak it out loud to your driver. Kindly note that most of the taxis driver only accept cash as payment.
5. Use Airport Express
Airport Express is an incredibly efficient train that links the Hong Kong Airport to multiple areas in the city for swift access in under 25 minutes. It even has free Wifi on board. I would highly recommend using this service (about $26 US round trip) when arriving in Hong Kong as it literally couldn’t be easier!
We opted to purchase our tickets online at Klook not only will you avoid that line, but there are 30% cheaper when you purchase them online. For about the same price Hong Kong Airport Express tickets can be purchased on Viator here, we’ve been using Viator for years and have always had good experiences.
Another amazing service available at the Airport Express station is something called “In-Town Check In.” This service allows visitors the ability to check in for their flight early and drop off their bags at the Airport Express station rather than having to do so all the way at the airport. What makes this so genius is that for travelers with an early hotel check-out and late flight, you can literally drop your bags and explore for the rest of the day without having to go back to your hotel to retrieve them — plus, you’ll already be checked in and ready to go for your flight!
Please note — An interesting change that I came across this second time around to Hong Kong is that as someone traveling back to the USA, I was not able to utilize in-town check in for my baggage at Airport Express. I’m not exactly sure when this rule was instated, but I would recommend double-checking the regulations before you plan to drop off your luggage. If you’re flying on to a different country other than the US, however, you should be fine.
6. How to communicate while you in Hong Kong
Most people speak Cantonese in Hong Kong, but Mandarin is also spoken as well as English. You’ll notice that there is a very large expat population in Hong Kong, so if you are a native English speaker it’s not hard to find someone to communicate with easily during your stay.
7. Get Situated before you choose your accommodation
First things first…let’s get situated. It’s important to know that Hong Kong is made up of two sides — the Hong Kong Island side and the Kowloon side. No side is better than the other and both offer amazing attractions, shopping, nightlife and views, but at some point you’ll have to cross the harbour to visit the other side, which can easily be done by MTR, ferry, or taxi (see below for more details).
Before figuring out what side you’ll stay on, it’s best to do some research surrounding the things that interest you most in Hong Kong and choosing a place that’s convenient to your itinerary. Another thing to factor in is that those epic views of the Hong Kong skyline you see from someone’s hotel room on Instagram? Those are taken from the Kowloon side as the view of the skyline is prettier looking out onto Hong Kong Island. If this is what you’re after, make sure to book a hotel on the Kowloon side that’s close to the harbour edge and ideally situated in a high rise.
8. Bring comfortable and supportive walking shoes
It may surprise people to know that Hong Kong is actually quite hilly to walk around, which is why the city has implemented an intense escalator system that runs through Central to aid in the journey from bottom to top (otherwise you’d be on a never-ending stairmaster)!
Despite this, it’s inevitable that you’ll come across some of these hills on foot, and wearing flimsy sandals or ones with no enclosed heel support will be challenging not only on your feet but on your shoes too! Instead of thongs, opt for comfortable walking shoes or at least sandals that have proper straps around your heels so you don’t break a shoe.
9. Save your money on the Victoria Peak Tram and hike up instead
The Peak Tram is definitely one of the most popular tourist attractions in Hong Kong and does have its charm. However, lines for the tram can take sometimes over two hours and will set you back $11 per person. Not a ton to spend, but I think there’s a better way than wasting time in line.
On my first visit to Hong Kong, I opted to do a hike up to Victoria Peak instead, which cost me zero dollars and gave me an awesome workout with killer views (and more views than you’ll get from just going to the top of the tram and back down)!