We love Hong Kong. I’m sure you love Hong Kong as well!
Hong Kong to us, is not just another place for holiday. Valerie is connected to Hong Kong because she’s born there. But for me (Marcus), I get to know more about Hong Kong since the day I know Valerie!
Since 2007 (that’s us below!), we have been traveling to Hong Kong every year.
For friends, for food, for fun!
Hong Kong, just like Singapore, is full of people, full of activities all year round. These two countries are heavily compared, in terms of people, economy, government, and many more. So while we can say there are lots of similarities (both places are food havens!), there are lots of differences as well!
If this is your first time to Hong Kong, then we have some travel tips to share with you. Here are the 10 things you must know before you travel to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is known for its sky-high property price. Due to its limited land, their property prices are the highest in the world.
If you walk around the streets, you will find lots of property agencies putting up prices of units on sale. This photo below that is taken in one of the agencies, featuring some of the cheapest property available. (Photo sent to us by our cousin, also called Marcus!)
If you look at the image above, you will find that the cheapest unit is a 233 square-foot unit which comes at a price of $2.8 million HKD (about USD360,000), which is about US$1545 psf.
And because of this, hotel rooms are high compared to other countries. A typical one night stay in a 4-star hotel is around 200USD. (200USD can probably get you a suite or deluxe room in a 5-star hotel elsewhere.)
Hence, if you are planning to travel to Hong Kong, be prepared of paying a few hundred dollars for 1 night stay in a standard room hotel (about 10 to 12 square metres big).
You can compare the prices of the hotels in Hong Kong quickly by using the free HotelsCombined app.
If a hotel stay is too expensive for you, there are cheaper alternatives!
You can consider staying in a ‘smaller type’ of hotel, or what they called ‘serviced apartments’. They look like hotels, but minus the frills like restaurants, swimming pools, or ballrooms. They only provide guest rooms.
One such hotel is the Butterfly on Victoria. A night of stay range from 80 USD to 100 USD, depending on the period of stay (peak vs non-peak). While the room is not spectacularly spacious (remember, most hotel rooms in HK are small), it is well equipped!
What impresses us at this hotel, is the free usage of handphone (with Wifi), and free rental of other travel accessories (like the selfie stick?!).
And this is the free phone that we had!
It’s not an iPhone, but an Android phone, with unlimited data, which is good for us. What’s more, it’s an app that will help you wipe out all your data, before you return it back to the hotel.
If you are here for holiday, you’ll definitely love this hotel!
Another option would staying in a ‘hotel-like’ hostel. We stayed at this place called S hotel at Causeway Bay. This hostel is located inside a building, and there are only a few guest rooms available.
The guest rooms include a double bed, a toilet, a TV, free Wifi, and a small dressing table – good enough for you to have a good night rest. We paid about 75USD for a night stay. That’s quite affordable.
The downside? It is located inside a building, as they only occupy only a floor of that building. You need to find your way there (can be difficult if it is your first time to Hong Kong!)
Yeap! So there are many types of these ‘hotels’ located inside buildings. One more type of accommodation for you!
Still can’t find a room? Try Airbnb then! They have some decent homes which are good for your short term stay, but they are not that cheap also. It is about 70 to 90USD a night. With that price, you are better off with the above options!
Check-In Your Luggage Outside The Airport!
I don’t know other countries have this service, but I have only experienced this in Hong Kong. I can check-in my luggage one full day before my flight OUTSIDE the airport! They call this In-Town Check-ins.
This means if I’m flying off tomorrow, I can go to Hong Kong or Kowloon MTR station to check in my heavy luggage first, go for a half-day shopping free with only my wallet, air ticket and passport, and head straight to the airport once I’m done.
No more dragging of your bulky luggage with you all the way to the airport. Oh, and don’t worry about your luggage being left behind at the MTR station. It will be transported all the way to the airport, into the plane, and onto the belt when you land in the next destination.
How convenient is that?
So go use that service – available at Hong Kong and Kowloon MTR station.
The All-In-One Octopus Card
In Singapore, we have that Ez-link card. We can use it to take public transport. We thought that card is amazing, until we saw the Octopus Card!
You can use them at…
Public transport – train, bus, tram
Supermarkets – ParknShop, Wellcome…etc
Fast food – McDonalds, KFC..etc
HK fast food – Cafe de Coral, Maxims, Fairwood…etc
This is a prepaid card. If it’s your first time to Hong Kong, you can buy the card at the Hong Kong airport MTR station, right after you arrive. You will pay HKD150 for an octopus card with HKD100 value in it, HKD50 being the card deposit. Once you use up the value, you can top up at any MTR station in Hong Kong.
Why use the Octopus card?
We know the convenience of the card. You can use it for purchase of almost anything. But what makes the card so good, is that you do not need to carry any coins with you – a big inconvenience for many tourists.
When you are leaving Hong Kong, you can simply sell back the Octopus card at any MTR station, or keep it until your next Hong Kong trip!
Share seats in Cha Chan Teng / Eating Places
Sharing seats in Hong Kong is normal.
You and your 2 friends (total 3 persons) sit down in a 4-seater table in cafe. If you are in some other countries, you can decide to put your stuffs on that extra seat.
But not in Hong Kong.
As you already know, Hong Kong has a the highest property price in the world. In other words, every square foot of space is expensive, and if not utilized fully, it is money lost. So for that extra seat beside you in the cafe, you have to leave it empty, and share it with a stranger who needs a seat. (Oh, you don’t have a choice. The cafe owner or the waiter will ask you to give up that seat).
Oh, not only that.
If you and your 2 friends (3 persons) sit in the cafe, you have to purchase at least 3 items – 1 item for each person, of at least $X dollars, or you have to pay $X dollars ($X can be between HKD10-15) just for sitting there. If you are not buying anything, you are costing them money by taking up a place which could have been given to another buying customer.
As you are traveling in Hong Kong, it is important that you know this culture, so you won’t get agitated when the waiter sit a stranger with your group of friends.
You will likely to share seats in most eating places in Hong Kong – fast food restaurants like McDonalds, KFC, or HK fast food cafes like Cafe de Coral, Maxims, Fairwood, and Cha Chan Tengs (Hong Kong Tea House).
If you really want to have some privacy and not sharing seats with others, then you have to eat at higher end restaurants, where the opportunity costs is already factored into the food price.
Hong Kong is highly connected to many nearby cities and islands
People like to compare Singapore and Hong Kong. Financial hub, property values, culture, language…etc And there’s one more thing that both countries are similar in:
They are highly connected to nearby countries and cities!
For Singapore, you can take a bus or drive up to Malaysia, or take a ferry to Pulau Ubin, Batam and Bintan…all these within 1 hour of travel time.
For Hong Kong, you can take their train into mainland China to Shenzhen, or take a ferry to Macau or Zhu Hai. You can also take a ferry to the little islands around Hong Kong!
What these means? When you plan for your tour around Hong Kong, you don’t have to stay at only one place. You can add these nearby places as part of your itinerary.
If you are planning to go to Shenzhen from Hong Kong, you can just take the MTR to Lo Wu, a station at the HK/China border. Alight the station, cross the immigration, you’re in ShenZhen! (Before you rush into Shenzhen, check if you need a Chinese visa!)
Shenzhen is a huge city in China, and it has developed into a busy commercial hub over the past few decades. If you were to go to Shenzhen from Hong Kong, you can do some eating and shopping over there.
The popular shopping district would be Dong Men (East Gate). You will have to take the Shenzhen MRT from the immigration there. Just a few stops, and you can walk and eat, and walk and eat…
If you’ve been to Shenzhen long ago, then you would want to go again this time. Things have changed. Streets are cleaner. The city is more developed.
There are many more things in Shenzhen other than just eat and shop, and we have yet to explore that. If we do, that will be a separate post!
If you are planning to go to Macau from Hong Kong, you can just take the ferry from Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal at Sheung Wan. We usually take the TurboJet ferry, which is about 1 hour ride. (If you want a unique travel experience, you can try the helicopter ride!)
Macau is another place for holiday itself. We’ve been to Macau a few times, as we have friends over there.
That’s the good things about having friends from overseas. They bring you to good places to eat, and these places are hardly found in tourist books.
One of the places Macau is famous for, is the Ruins of St Paul’s. I went there twice, once in 2012, once in 2016.
Same same but different?
Macau is also the place with the most numbers of casinos. Singapore have two only, one being the famous Marina Bay Sands. But of course, there are quite a number of things to do, other than gamble there. Again, it will be a separate post!
From the same Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal, you can also take the ferry to Jiuzhou port of Zhuhai, China. (By the way, Zhuhai and Macau are also connected by land. You can drop by both places at the same time!)
If you are keen on exploring the little islands around Hong Kong, you can take the ferries at Central Pier, near Hong Kong Central MTR Station. From the Central Pier, you can take ferries to LammaIsland, Cheung Chau, and Lantau Island)
We first visited Lamma Island in 2008. We came back again in 2009, and we decided to make a video about the whole island. Watch below!
That was the Lamma Island in 2009.
We visited almost every year until 2013, where we made our last visit. The place has become too touristy, and there are too many tourists there nowadays. It lacks the peaceful and tranquil environment it used to have.
But if you still want to drop by (and we think you should at least once), then go find this famous Lamma Island Beancurd (we showed you the beancurd in the video!)
The beancurd stall is run by an old couple, for many years. Whenever we go to Lamma Island, we will definitely drop by their stall. (beware, there are many copycats along the way!)
The beancurd grandma still serves the beancurd to the guests daily. Sometimes, you will see the grandma, sometimes the grandpa as well. This photo was taken in 2013. I hope they are still doing well there!
So this is the beancurd!
You can get it warm, or get it cold.
The photo was taken in 2013. A long queue of tourists buying the beancurd. There are now some other stalls opened beside to sell curry fishballs, and other snacks. (A big difference from what you see in the video above, yea?)
Cheung Chau is another island we explore after Lamma Island. It is a huge island, but most of the buzz is near the harbour where all the tourists will hang around.
There are many boats parked along the coast of Cheung Chau. We’re not sure why. Probably they are used for transport around the island?
What you see above is the streets of Cheung Chau, near the harbour, where most shops and eateries are.
There are also many seafood restaurants along Cheung Chau. Do they get their seafood from the seas around Cheung Chau?
But for us, we didn’t do much shopping or eating there. Instead, we rent a tricycle and ride round the island. If you do ride, you can ride inwards into the island to explore more about Cheung Chau!
Want to travel a little further? You can try flying over to Taiwan, which is just a 2-hour flight from Hong Kong. (About the same flight duration between Singapore & Bangkok!)
No GST. No Sales Tax. Just No.
Ever wonder why the Hong Kong tourism board promotes Hong Kong as a shopping heaven? Just like Singapore, they have huge shopping districts, with lots of international brands, lots of choices for shopaholics.
But this is something that makes it more enticing than Singapore: Hong Kong do not have any Goods and Service Tax (GST), or Value Added Tax (V.A.T), or whatever sales tax you call it!
Singapore has a GST of 7%. . Europe has V.A.T of around 20%. Other countries similar form of sales tax.
But Hong Kong?
Yes, No sales tax.
I’m not bluffing you. I have even checked the Hong Kon government website to confirm this!
And this is probably why goods in Hong Kong can be cheaper compared to other countries. And this is also one reason why you will see mainland Chinese flock to Hong Kong to snap up luxury goods in the dozens. Statistics show that luxury goods in mainland China cost 45% more than Hong Kong, largely due to the ‘luxury tax’ imposed by the their government.
But will all goods in Hong Kong be cheaper? You have to do your own math! Sometimes it will be cheaper, because of the lower prices. Sometimes, it is not, because of the foreign exchange rate! But either way, we guess you will definitely have fun shopping in Hong Kong!
Keen to shop in Hong Kong? Just bring your credit cards along, and return home with two more luggages!
A great place for hiking
Hong Kong is popularly known as a place to ‘eat and shop, and eat and shop’. But little did people know it is a great place to hike! If you’re a nature lover, and want to burn some calories because of the food you have tasted while touring Hong Kong, do consider to climb some mountains there!
If there’s one big difference why it is so much better to hike in Hong Kong, than in Singapore, it is this:
The cooling and windy weather.
No more sweaty armpits or sticky elbows – like the ones you get even when walking through MacRitche Reservoir in Singapore.
Here are the places you can hike:
As mentioned above, you can take a ferry out from Hong Kong Island Central Pier 4 to Lamma Island, one of the little islands of Hong Kong. The hiking trial starts from Sok Kwu Wan, which is the harbour where you alight from the ferry.
There will be directions that lead you to Shek Pai Wan, the largest beach on Lamma Island. You’ll then pass through Tung O Village, and climb up Yam Ling Au. Catch a nice view from the top of the hill, then make your way back to Sok Kwu Wan.
Hiking in Lamma Island is not difficult. If you had the beancurd earlier, you would have the energy to hike!
This is the huge power plant that you will see. I guess this plant generates the energy for the whole island?
We reached the top (which is not very high anyways), and enjoyed the view. We then return back to eat one more bowl of beancurd before we left.
The total hiking time would be about 2.5 hours, but it’s worth it!
Dragon’s Back is a popular hiking place for locals and tourists. The slope is mild, and you won’t feel like climbing a mountain. It is more like walking up a gradual slope, feeling the wind brushing your face, and enjoying the scenery around you.
So we climbed the mountain early in the morning one year, and we quite liked it.
It helped us burnt off some calories from Chinese New Year feasting.
Watch the video below as I show you around the top of the Dragon’s Back. Video was taken in 2014. Sorry for some shakiness, as it is windy up there!
It is not a difficult climb. That is probably why you will see many older folks walking up the Dragon’s Back with ease.
Take the MTR and alight at Shau Kei Wan Station. From Exit A3, take bus 9 at the Bus Terminas to Tei Wan, Shek O Road. Once you alight the bus, the trekking starts!
To return back, walk from Tai Long Wan to Shek O. Then take bus 9 at Shek O Road back to Shau Kei Wan Bus Terminus. The whole trekking takes about 4 hours. If you want a good weather, start early in the morning, preferably 7am, and end your hike at around lunch time.
We have not hiked the Lautau Peak ourselves, but many people have did it. It is the second highest peak in Hong Kong, and one of the best places to catch sunrise in Hong Kong.
To get to Lantau Island, take the MTR to Tung Chung Station, Exit B. Take the cable car ride to Ngong Ping Terminal. Follow the signs and walk along the Lantau trial for 25 minutes. If you want to catch the sunrise (but don’t want to wake up so early to reach there), you can consider staying at the hotels at Ngong Ping. Just wake up at 4am, and reach the top before the sunrise at 6am!
The best time of the year to catch a ‘instagram-worthy’ sunrise on Lantau Peak, is during Hong Kong’s dry winter (December to February), where there are less clouds and thinner haze.
A (really) fast paced city
Singaporeans can get used to the fast paced lifestyle in Hong Kong. We can only share what we observe as travelers there (as we don’t work there). People in Hong Kong there tend to move fast. They eat fast, they walk fast, their cafes serve fast, and clear tables fast.
Everything is fast. Even when you are walking at your fastest speed, you may still feel you are walking slower than the aunties there.
What it means?
If you intend to sit in a cafe in Hong Kong, buy a coffee and sit for 4 hours reading a book, you won’t feel at ease. People will zoom past you every now and then. And you may feel the social pressure for taking up the seat for too long, and denying the cafe owner of serving other paying customers.
When you are walking along the streets, or crossing the traffic light junction, people may accidentally bump into you. But don’t get offended. They are just moving faster to another place.
However, not everything is bad about fast paced!
You get your food really fast. I’m not talking about McDonalds that fast food. I’m talking about real Hong Kong dishes. If you eat at Cafe De Coral, a popular fast food chain in Hong Kong that serves real food, you can get your Fragrant Roast Pork Rice, or Hot Soupy Wanton Noodles within 5 minutes.
Just like this, at Fairwood Fast Food (大快活)
It’s that fast and efficient.
And if you need a clean table for your meals, there’s a high chance you will get it. Their waiters clean tables once the customers finish their food (not when they leave). You will hardly have to wait for a table to be cleaned.
The Hong Kong MTR is also famed for its first class service. You never have to wait too long for any train, and they always come on time (at least for us).
Despite its fast-paced lifestyle, you can still find graciousness in the Hong Kong people. When you board the MTR, even at peak hours, you will not see people pushing one another into the train, or fighting for seats in the cabin. They will queue in order, and let you alight first before they board. (Sorry to say this, we Singapore commuters need to be a bit more gracious in this area!)
Hong Kongers speak Cantonese, English, Chinese Mandarin (in this order)
Cantonese is the main language in Hong Kong. If you’re a Singaporean or Malaysian and speak Cantonese at home, then you are good to go! Your cantonese may not be as perfect as the Hong Kongers, but they will still like you as you can converse fluently with them.
If you can’t speak Cantonese (like me), then it’s fine. They can converse with you in English too. Because of the historical background (Hong Kong was part of British from 1841 to 1997), most Hong Kongers can speak English fluently. So people like me who can’t speak Cantonese, don’t worry, you can still survive in Hong Kong!
Oh you may ask, “Why Chinese Mandarin came after English? Isn’t Hong Kong part of China, and the Chinese speak Mandarin?” True, Hong Kong is a Special Administration Region (SAR) of China, but Hong Kong and China are different in many areas – culturally, language, behaviour..etc.
So does Hong Kongers speak Mandarin? Yes they do, just not as fluent as the Chinese. Will they understand your Mandarin? Definitely yes. I’ve been to Hong Kong since 2008, and I frequently used Mandarin while ordering food or asking for directions. No issues so far.
A Food Heaven (You already know this!)
I guess you already know Hong Kong is a Food Heaven. Lots and lots of food to try.
Not only that, as of 2016, there are 8 restaurants with 3 Michelin Stars, 14 restaurants with 2 Michelin stars, and 51 restaurants with 1 Michelin stars. Some street food in Hong Kong are awarded Michelin stars as well.
“So what should I eat?”
For all our trips in Hong Kong, we tried many food. Street food, fast food, restaurant food. We tried most of them.
But the only regret I have, is not taking notes of the food I tried. I can show you the food, but can’t guide you where to get it.
She will show you exactly what to eat, and where to eat in Hong Kong. Plus, her big and clear images of the food will make you hungry instantly. Enjoy!
Hong Kong is an amazing place. The photos we show above are taken between 2008 and 2016. You can see lots of things have changed in Hong Kong within these short years.
But some things you just can’t change. Their people, their culture, their food, and probably their high-end property prices. We still think we have yet to uncover the whole of Hong Kong. But we will be back again for more!