Hong Kong is not a very budget friendly destination, but it is the perfect blend of exquisite and exotic Oriental culture with the sensible finesse of the West. The city has a lot to offer and if planned ahead and traveled sensibly, it can be comfortable on the pocket too. It is divided into mainly Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, Outlying Islands and New Territories and every inch of Hong Kong has something interesting to offer.
Visa – Hong Kong offers free visa on arrival for most countries (for India, it offers visa free stay up to 14 days) and while Macau can be visited on its basis, entering mainland China will require a separate visa.
Getting In – Hong Kong is easily connected with the world and Indian travelers can avail cheap Hong Kong flights with Cathay Pacific, Jet Airways, Tiger Airlines, Air Asia etc.
Getting Around – The best part about Hong Kong is its excellent public transportation system. While the MTR is the lifeline, connecting all corners of HK, the city also has an excellent network of buses, vans, ferry and taxi services available around the clock. Moreover there are the unique Escalators going up the steep Hong Kong hillside and the merry heritage tram. Carry change to hand out exact bus and tram fares and Octopus card makes sense if staying in Hong Kong for more than 2-3 weeks. Airport express provides complimentary pick up and drop facilities to various points across the city and the Hong Kong station has quite a few airlines check in counters. Thus it is possible to check in at the MTR station and board the train to airport hassle free. Walking around the easily navigable city saves a lot of money and the far flung places can be traveled cheaply by tram/bus/van.
Language – English, Cantonese and Mandarin are widely spoken in Hong Kong.
Currency – Hong Kong dollar (HKD) is the currency of Hong Kong.
Travel Tips – Accommodation is most expensive in HK and be prepared to get used to tiny hotel rooms in the new properties. HK residents themselves live out of matchbox sized apartments due to its massive space crunch and that’s exactly what gave rise to its shooting skyline. Kowloon has some excellent luxurious and modest hotels/hostels/B&B’s as well as the dingy cheap rooms in ChungKing mansions.
Food in HK is absolutely a gastronomic delight and it is possible to indulge in exotic eats in the city on the cheap. There are plenty of high end Michelin starred restaurants, themed bars and specialty food stores crammed next to traditional dai pai dongs and cooked food markets. Mongok is famous for street food, Wan Chai for its pub crawl culture and Soho is always buzzing with young, cool tourists and expats at its rows of global cuisine restaurants. Food in Hong Kong is cheapest at dai pai dongs and cooked food markets which are mostly adjacent to wet markets. There are also lots of bakeries, food carts and quick snack stores to choose from.
Travel Caution – Hong Kong strictly prohibits import and export of dangerous drugs, arms, animals, plants, endangered species, meat, poultry etc. Some personal protection devices like mace spray are prohibited in Hong Kong.
Things to do – Since Hong Kong is not very big spatially, the city is densely packed with people and attractions. While the staggering amount of people can overwhelm a lot of travelers, the lack of space makes navigating the city very easy. The easiest way to go about exploring Hong Kong is to do it zone wise and understand the MTR route. Hong Kong offers interesting local markets, quaint walled villages in the Outlying Islands and beautiful temples and monasteries to culture lovers. The city also has quite a few interesting museums especially around Western District, and there are lovely city walks and hiking trails in and around Hong Kong. If traveling in May, don’t miss out the Cheung Chau Bun Festival and June offers the world class celebration of the Dragon Boat Festival.
Travelers with children can opt for Symphony of Lights show at Tsim Sha Tsui promenade, HongKong Disneyland, Ocean Park, Peak Tram and Snoopy House. Art lovers can enjoy the amazing Chinese operas, great street art (don’t miss the one at Mongok station) and beautiful galleries. Hong Kong is a shopper’s paradise and the city has the right mix of super luxe stores and jostling, unique street markets.
Nature lovers can enjoy the beautiful Dragon’s Back hike at Lantau Island, Silvermine beach, Tai O stilted fishing village and the quaint offbeat islands of Cheung Chau, Peng Chau and Lamma. Hong Kong also has some great wetlands and swamps and the Sai Kung East Country Park has amazing rock formations. Bride’s Pool located in the Plover Cove Country Park offers excellent hikes and bird watching options.
Things to Carry – The 220 volts AC, 50Hz standard (UK style 3 prong) travel adapter is required for Hong Kong. Don’t forget sunscreen, good walking shoes, cotton breathable clothes and umbrella.
Best time to Visit – Hong Kong is throughout the year destination, except from June to September when rain, humidity and typhoons lash the island.
Presenting a basic idea of Hong Kong travel costs as on 2013.
80 HKD (HongKong Dollar) airport express to Central station
60 HKD Queens Street Cooked Food Market dinner (1 soup,1 cup of steamed rice and stir fried beef)
3696 HKD Ibis Hotel for 3 nights
5 HKD tram ride from Des Voeux Road to Central
15 HKD 1.5 L Water 38 HKD Lunch at Graham Street dai pai dong (stir fried noodle with hot coffee)
40 HKD Dimsum and Chicken feet at a Wan Chai cha chaan teng
150 HKD return trip on Po Lin solo cable car
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE