Hong Kong is often referred to as the gateway to China. Since it is not part of mainland China, different rules apply, for example, entry requirements. During the pandemic, Hong Kong lifted travel ban restrictions on different terms from mainland China. For instance, there is no longer a mandatory hotel quarantine when traveling to Hong Kong. How can you travel to Hong Kong now? We share some tips on traveling to Hong Kong and getting around the area.
Travel to Hong Kong – practical information
Hong Kong, officially a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (SAR), has its own political and economic system. Around 160 countries have visa-free travel to Hong Kong. There are three different visa-free periods:
- 14 days (Ukraine, Mongolia)
- 30 days (Bolivia, Honduras)
- 90 days (EU countries, the US).
If you have to get a Chinese visa and want to enter Hong Kong from mainland China and then go back to the mainland (mainland China – Hong Kong – mainland China route), you have to obtain a two-entry visa to China.
- Currency in Hong Kong: Hong Kong dollar (HK$)
- Time zone: UTC+8:00
- Hong Kong plugs and sockets: Type D, Type G, voltage 220V, frequency 50Hz
- Official languages: Chinese, English
- Climate: tropical monsoon (extraordinary rainfall in summer, occasional typhoons)
How to prepare for travel to Hong Kong?
There is no requirement to present a negative result of a COVID-19 test or a COVID-19 vaccination certificate upon entry to Hong Kong.
Note! The above information is subject to change. We recommend that you check announcements on official websites.
Travel to Hong Kong – tips to get the best experience
Vaccinations before traveling to Hong Kong
Vaccinations are not mandatory when traveling to Hong Kong but are recommended. They protect against infectious diseases and ensure that your trip is not interrupted by health reasons. You should contact your health provider a few weeks before departure.
Adults traveling to Hong Kong are recommended to be vaccinated against the following diseases:
- diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough
- hepatitis A, hepatitis B
- typhoid fever
- Japanese encephalitis.
If you are taking medication on a regular basis, bring enough for your trip and your prescription (it may be useful at the airport).
Paying in Hong Kong – currency exchange, cash, cashless payments
It is always a good idea to have some cash with you. Currency exchange in Hong Kong is not a problem. The working hours of the exchange office at the airport are extended. For cash-free payments, we recommend the Revolut app tested by ExamineChina. Cash withdrawals and card payments are interest-free (limits vary depending on the selected plan). What is more, you can enjoy the most favorable currency conversion rate.
Most shops, hotels, and restaurants in Hong Kong accept credit cards. Some also accept Apple Pay, Google Pay, WeChat Pay, or Alipay. WeChat Pay is a popular solution; having a card linked to your WeChat account, you can pay by scanning the QR code with your phone.
Other useful information:
- In 2015, a plastic bag charging scheme was introduced. Hong Kong consumers must pay HK$ 1 for every plastic bag/laminated paper bag when shopping.
- It is common practice in restaurants to charge for the so-called “waiting snacks” like not ordered tea and appetizers. Additionally, restaurants may use different weight units. In most restaurants service charge (10%) is added to the bill.
Internet and SIM cards in Hong Kong
There are many free Wi-Fi hotspots in Hong Kong. Although the Internet in Hong Kong is not as censored as in mainland China (you can still access sites like Facebook or Google services in Hong Kong), it is monitored. Therefore, we recommend using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) encryption application, especially Express VPN. It is best to download the app before departing.
If you want to make phone calls, send SMS from your mobile device, and have mobile data no matter where you go, consider getting a SIM card. Buy a SIM card in Hong Kong from many stores from HK$ 33. You need to register with your real name to get a Hong Kong phone number.
If you run out of battery in your phone in the city, you can recharge it in some shopping centers and rail stations or rent a power bank in convenience stores.
How to get around Hong Kong?
Hong Kong’s transportation system is one of the best in the world.
If you plan to travel around the city often by various means of transportation, we recommend getting a prepaid Octopus Card (八達通). It can be purchased at many stores. You can use an Octopus Card on your smartphone (the tourist version is available in the Apple App Store). In addition, the Octopus card can be used to pay in some restaurants, cinemas, swimming pools, shops, and other places.
To make your Hong Kong trip easier, download the HKeMobility app from the Hong Kong Department of Transportation on your mobile device.
MTR – rail and light rail
MTR is a mass transit system that provides a safe, reliable, and efficient way to get around Hong Kong. About 4.7 million passengers use the MRT every day.
The railway is the most important part of this system. There are ten “subway” lines, with a total of over 260 km of routes. Adult and concessionary tickets (for children and senior citizens) are available.
The light rail consists of 12 lines serving the districts of Tuen Mun and Yuen Long. It is the only mode of transportation in Hong Kong where there are fare zones. Reduced tickets cost half as much as regular tickets.
Hong Kong buses and minibuses
Hong Kong buses are air-conditioned and usually double-decker. To signal to the driver that you want to get on the bus, hail it like you would a taxi. To get off, press the red buzzer on the bus.
Minibuses can carry up to 19 people. Green minibusses run on fixed routes, unlike the red ones. Green minibusses accept Octopus payment, but you usually pay the driver on red minibusses.
Trams in Hong Kong have been present for over a century. They are electric and double-decker but relatively slow. The tram track runs along the north coast of Hong Kong Island, between Kennedy Town and Shau Kei Wan. In total, there are six lines operating from 5:30 AM to 00:30 AM. There are adult and concessionary tickets (for children and senior citizens). A great tourist attraction is a get on an ancient-style tram.
Getting around Hong Kong by ferry
The ferry is the perfect mean of transportation between the peninsula and the islands. Ferry services are provided by 12 operators, offering 19 regular services.
Hong Kong taxis can accommodate 4-5 passengers. The taxi fare for the first two kilometers is HK$ 22-27. The fare for each additional 200 meters (or part) is HK$ 1.70. An additional fee is charged for the transport of a larger piece of baggage, as well as an animal. Taxis have designated operating areas.
Getting around Hong Kong by bicycles
Cycling in Hong Kong is possible, but it is not the best way to get around Hong Kong. Hilly landscapes, numerous regulations, other traffic participants, and air pollution make it harder to enjoy a ride.
It is difficult to get around by bicycle in the most crowded parts of Hong Kong. You can take trails in the country parks (sometimes you need a permit) or cycle tracks in the New Territories. Renting a mountain bike costs HK$ 85-170 per day. A folding bike is the best solution if you want to use public transportation.