Hong Kong travel guide, including famous attractions such as Victoria harbour, key facts, recommended experiences and travel tips for Hong Kong
No longer just the ‘barren rock’ occupied by the British two centuries ago, the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong – which includes the eponymous island, the Kowloon Peninsula and extensive New Territories as well as outlying islands – is an Asian powerhouse, punching well above its weight and size.
Hong Kong attracts a deluge of domestic and international travellers, ideally placed as a launchpad for exploring southern China and South-East Asia, and a riveting destination in its own right.
Don't be misled by the gleaming glass towers, Hong Kong is a unique synthesis of ancient traditions. Push past the lingering evidence of British and Portuguese colonies, past the modern-day icons of Hello Kitty and fast food chains and you'll discover the conservative culture that underpins Hong Kong. In the shadows of skyscrapers, traditional fishing settlements and Taoist temples thick with sandalwood thrive, while scrummy noodle shops and vibrant street markets enjoy the daily grind.
Hong Kong has something for every traveller: the view of the city's night-time neon-rainbows, delicious array of noodle soups, bite-sized dim sum and Chinese black tea are worth the flight alone. To others, nothing beats hiking, brid watching and climbing in the region's beautiful and mountainous countryside.
Hong Kong Island has the Peak Tram, lifting you to lofty vistas of the city's lambent skyline; the Star Ferry, criss-crossing the harbour for a bargain historic ride; and the bars and restaurants of Central, Lan Kwai Fong and Soho.
Kowloon is home to Hong Kong’s best shopping, with up-to-the-minute shops and quirky markets, while the New Territories harbour wildlife, traditional villages and trekking.
Buy an Octopus card for convenience; it's an electronic fare card that is accpeted by fast food chains, stroes and nearly all forms of public transport.
Take a stroll through the alleys of Sheung Wan west of Central for tantalising glimpses of Hong Kong’s past.
Board the top deck of an old tram at Causeway Bay and head west through Wan Chai, Central and onto Sheung Wan to watch the city unfurl.
Susie Maggie Thorne on the things you need to know before you visit HK:
"The tram is so cheap! Save your pennies and plump for a ride on the tram, which costs HK$2.30 (less than 20p) for an adult whether you go ten stops or one. Their routes even stretch our to the beached areas of Hong Kong via Kennedy Town, for some serenity. Mostly running until midnight and simply going either westbound or eastbound, you can't really go wrong."
"For a slice of peace and quiet, immerse yourself in some literature in Hong Kong's library. There's a beautiful seating area overlooking the city where you can read 'til your heart's content. Out of the hustle and bustle of the busy streets, an area of peace is hard to find."
Summer (late May- mid-September) brings sweltering heat, high humidity and thunderstorms, with temperatures reaching 31°C+. It is also typhoon season. Spring (March-April) and autumn (October-November) are the most comfortable times to visit. Winter (January-February) is often cool and overcast, although temperatures rarely drop below 10°C.
Pretty much every month is festival month in Hong Kong. Most important is the Chinese New Year in late January/early February, with parades, a riot of fireworks and special dishes served in homes and restaurants.
Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) is on Chek Lap Kok, an outcrop of Lantau Island, and west of Hong Kong Island.
Ferries are important transport modes between Hong Kong’s harbours and numerous islands. The iconic Star Ferry links Kowloon with Hong Kong Island. Other services link Central with Cheung Chau, Lantau and Lamma Islands, and west to Macau. Ferries from Wong Shek and Ma Liu Shui serve islands in the New Territories.
Trams trundle along Hong Kong Island’s north shore, while the Peak Tram – really a funicular railway – ascends the eponymous viewpoint.Buses and cheap taxis are easy ways of exploring – red taxis serve most of Hong Kong (except for Tung Chung Road and the south side of Lantau Island); green taxis operate in the rural areas of the New Territories; and blue taxis only run in Lantau.
Hong Kong has the full range of accommodation options from budget hostels to top-end hotels – some of the world’s finest, in fact, including the Peninsula and the Mandarin Oriental.
The country parks have basic campsites.
Hong Kong is a foodie paradise; eating is the national pastime. From simple snacks and noodles eaten at street-side stalls or dai pai dong to yum cha feasts of dim sum and lip-smacking gourmet cuisine, Hong Kong is the place to expand your palate.
Though Cantonese cuisine is dominant, other Chinese, Japanese and Asian dishes are easily found. Seafood is, unsurprisingly, excellent – try soft-shell crab in chilli for a taste sensation. Chinese Tsing Tao beer is common; wine is imported. Naturally, green or black Chinese tea is ubiquitous.
There are few places safer than Hong Kong, though it’s best to keep an eye on possessions, as you would in any other city. Water quality is variable, due to old pipes – drink filtered or bottled water.
Venomous snakes in the New Territories tend to avoid humans, but take care in long grass. Heat can be intense – carry plenty of water if walking on remote tracks.