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Hong Kong, China

Star Ferry, Hong Kong
Star Ferry, Hong Kong


Introduction

This former British colony is where East meets West. Soaring skyscrapers and modern malls compete with lively street markets. If you're lucky, you'll get a late sail or overnight here. The city is extremely tourist friendly with signs in both English and Chinese, signposts pointing the way to nearby attractions, and maps of the area both on the street and in MTR stations. Only the older generation generally will not understand English. Skyscrapers are the norm here and can be considered vertical extensions of street level. You will find offices, residences, hotels, restaurants mixed together on different floors of many buildings with only a doorway as an entrance. Floors are numbered ground floor (G/F), first floor (1/F) and up. There may be no fourth floor since four sounds like "die" in Cantonese. In many buildings, the entrance may be on the side street of the actual address. Regions in Hong Kong include Lantau Island (location of the city's airport), Hong Kong Island with the business district of Central, and Kowloon on the mainland.

Visas

Though officially part of China, Hong Kong retains Special Administrative Region status retaining much autonomy from before the 1997 handover. Most nationalities including Australia, Britain, most of Europe, New Zealand, Canada, and the USA can stay up to 90 days without a visa. You will need to bring your passport to visit Macau and a Chinese visa for neighboring Guangzhou or Shenzhen. http://www.immd.gov.hk/en/services/hk-visas/visit-transit/visit-visa-entry-permit.html

Where You're Docked

Smaller ships dock at Ocean Terminal at the heart of Tsim Sha Tsui (pronounced Chim Sa Choy and abbreviated as TST) in Kowloon. Ocean Terminal has a huge mall connected to it (Harbour City) with luxury stores and restaurants. The Star Ferry terminal (with a tourist information office) and TST MTR station are both 5 minute walks away. Cruise schedule available here http://www.oceanterminal.com.hk/

A new cruise terminal at the old Kai Tak airport opened June 2013 capable of accommodating two mega cruise ships. Shuttles may be offered to Kowloon Bay, or Kowloon (Airport Express) stations. Shopping mall shuttles may run to APM mall (Kwun Tong station), Plaza Hollywood (Diamond Hill station) and Telford Plaza (Kowloon Bay station). All three stations are on the green line. Megabox Mall (with a skating rink, Imax theatre, Ikea, and views of Kai Tak from the eighth floor) may offer a shuttle as well but you need to walk a bit to get to Kowloon Bay station (10 min) or take another shuttle (long queues). Kai Tak also has a park and free wifi.

KMB bus route 5R operates to Ngau Tau Kok and Kwun Tong MTR stations. Green minibus #86 travels to Kowloon Bay MTR station. Transportation options here http://www.kaitakcruiseterminal.com.hk/facilities/getting-here/

Cruise schedule available here http://www.kaitakcruiseterminal.com.hk

Alternatively, smaller ships may dock at China Fisherman's Wharf in Kennedy Town beside the bus terminus. From this pier, it is a 10 minute walk to the edge of the commercial area (turnaround point for the trams) or the new Kennedy Town MTR station opened Dec 2014. Shuttles may be provided to the Central Piers (10-20 minutes away) or you can take the tram or buses 10 or 5B to get to Central. Return on any bus/tram headed to Kennedy Town. Taxi is approx $40HKD from Central.

There is a small possibility on busy days cruise ships may anchor in Junk Bay with tenders provided to the Central Piers on Hong Kong Island.

Cruise Ship Docked at Kai Tak

Ocean Terminal

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China Fisherman's Wharf

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Money and Tipping

Hong Kong dollars (HKD) are issued by the three major banks and notes will differ in appearance depending on the bank. Money exchange kiosks and banks can be found around TST with a concentration at Chungking Mansion on Nathan Rd by TST MTR station. Kiosks in the back and on the floor above may have better rates than those at the entrance. In Central, Berlin Exchange, 1703 61-65 Des Voeux Road, entrance on Pottinger St beside 7-11, has excellent rates. The Hong Kong dollar is pegged to the US dollar. ATM's are plentiful and most accept international cards but may limit transactions to between 2000-4000 HKD. Tipping is not a common practice and any tip left in a restaurant may end up going to the owner and not the server. Taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped though a small tip is appreciated.

Local Transportation

Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is fast, frequent, clean and efficient and most places can be reached by the MTR or the bus. Fares are based on distance travelled. Though you can buy individual tickets, the most convenient option is to get an Octopus card. You can purchase an Octopus card at any MTR station service counter for $150HKD ($100 credit and $50 deposit). You can have a negative balance of up to -$35 which is covered by your deposit. There is a "sold" version of the Octopus sold at convenience stores but these have no deposit and they aren't a good deal unless you want to pay more to keep a card with prettier graphics. The Octopus is a contactless prepaid transit card good for the MTR or buses (similar to the London Oyster card). Just tap to enter a station and tap out when you exit (making note of your remaining balance). The Octopus is also accepted at restaurants, convenience stores, supermarkets and even mobile ice cream vendors. You can get a refund on any remaining balance before you leave less $9 administration fee if the card is returned within three months. If you want to keep your card for a return visit, the card will be deactivated after 1,000 days (approx 2 yrs, 9 months) but can be reactivated for free. Minimum top up is $50 and only multiples of $50 can be added to your card. Top ups can be done at machines or staffed counters. Concession Octopus cards are available for seniors (65 or older) and children (ages 3-11).

MTR stations are large so find an exit map to orient yourself before coming to the surface. Exits are designated by a letter and number. Good maps and directions will include station exit information. There may be a bit of confusion since the maps don't display the direction you are facing when you exit.

The MTR system is currently undergoing expansion with the first phase completed extending the Island Line west to Kennedy Town (Dec 2014). The MTR South Island Line East opened Dec 2016 adding a line from Admiralty South to Ocean Park. The South Island West line connecting Aberdeen has been delayed to 2021. They are also building a high speed rail line from Kowloon (lots of construction in the area for a new station) to Guangzhou (via Shenzhen) (Q3 2018) which will cut travel time to 50 minutes and connect to Beijing in 10 hours. Public toilets are also being added to some stations.

Taxis are color coded by area and you will probably encounter only the red ones. Drivers are generally honest and use the meter but surprisingly may have limited English skills. Have your destination written in Chinese just in case. They may be reluctant to cross the harbour, though there are specific taxi stands for this journey (Exchange Square-Central and Hankow Rd at Haiphong-TST). Fares start at $20 HKD for the first 2 km and passengers are expected to pay the driver back for any tolls. Generally, only cash in local currency is accepted. Passengers are also required by law to wear seatbelts.

City buses are operated by two main companies. Exact change or Octopus card is required. Most buses have an automated display and announcement system to indicate the next stop in both English and Chinese.

Two companies run hop-on, hop-off sightseeing buses: the Big Bus Company and the Rickshaw Sightseeing Bus.

A fun and inexpensive way to get around the north end of Hong Kong Island is to take the rickety tram.

Getting to/from the Airport

Hong Kong airport (HKG) is large, modern and has excellent public transportation access. There is an express MTR line from the airport with stops in Kowloon and Central. Though more expensive than the regular MTR, you can check in your bags at the station if heading to the airport. Therea are also group rates (between 2-4 people) with a small discount. Octopus cards and Airport Express tickets can be purchased at kiosks in the terminal after arrivals. There is a second, less busy counter closer to the train platform.

Airport buses can also get you into the city for much cheaper but slower.

Give yourself plenty of time if departing from HKG since the airport is large and you will need to go through customs on departure. There are excellent restaurants post-security including Cafe de Coral, Tsui Wah Eatery, Tasty Congee and Noodle, Popeye's, McDonald's, and Saboten (upper level of departures Terminal 1). There are also Maxim's Jade Garden and Crystal Jade restaurants outside before security.

http://www.hongkongairport.com/eng/transport/to-from-airport

Hotels

Mong Kok and TST have many hotels and direct access to the MRT on the Kowloon side. On the island, the main districts with easy access to the MRT are Central, Wan Chai and Causeway Bay. Search hotels in Hong Kong here

Must See Sights

  • Star Ferry - No visit to Hong Kong is complete without a trip on the Star Ferry. For less than $3HKD (Octopus accepted), you can travel across busy Hong Kong Harbour. Make sure you board on the upper deck for the best views (you can't change decks inside the ferry). There are two routes TST-Central and TST-Wanchai and they operate harbour tours as well. The Central route has been less popular with commuters since they moved the pier due to land reclamation but it is still cheaper than crossing on the MTR. The newly reclaimed land in Central is slated to be converted to green space with a plaza and market and the ferry terminus may be relocated to this area.
  • Avenue of the Stars - This promenade has excellent views of Hong Kong Island. It is modeled after the Hollywood Walk of Fame but with Asian stars handprints in the ground. This is a popular place to view the Symphony of Lights show every evening at 8pm and for a picture with the Hong Kong skyline in the background. To escape the crowds but not the views, you can head to the West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade from Kowloon MTR. Update - The promenade is closed until end of 2018 for repairs and improvement. Statues have been temporarily been relocated to Garden of Stars above Tsim Sha Tsui East station. http://www.discoverhongkong.com/us/see-do/highlight-attractions/themed-attractions/avenue-of-stars.jsp
  • The Peak - For a view from Hong Kong Island, you can take either a bus or the Peak Tram from Central. The tram is more expensive but more direct. At the top, you will find two shopping malls (with tourist trap pricing) and hiking trails. For a scenic and less obstructed viewpoint, head 15 minutes west on Lugard Rd by the Peak Tower. From Central Ferry Pier, Bus 15C takes you to the lower Peak Tram station, saving you a bit of a walk. Bus 15 goes to the Peak from Central Pier and Exchange Square taking the long way up.

Shopping

Hong Kong is a shopper's paradise with goods tax and duty free. Though Hong Kong has numerous large and modern shopping malls, the city is known for its vibrant outdoor markets. When shopping for clothes, be aware Asian sizes are much smaller than North American sizes. You will need to buy at least one or two sizes bigger than you are used to. Knockoff clothing may seem a great deal but not if they shrink or if the fabric dye runs in the wash. Same with purses and bags where handles may break and the logos could fall off.

Ladies Market - One of the better shopping areas located beside Mong Kok MTR (Exit E2). There are computer and electronic centers, sportswear streets and a large outdoor section on Tung Choi Street. The market runs into the evening. Grab a takeaway, Taiwanese-style, oversized chicken cutlet or nuggets at Hot-Star on Sai Yeung at Dundas. A second location is on Jordan at Temple St.

Temple Street Night Market - Stalls start setting up around 4pm but most aren't up til later. Restaurants also set up tables on the street. The south section can be reached from Jordan MTR exit A. Turn right when you exit onto Jordan road and take another right on Temple Street after a couple of blocks. Walking north, the street ends at a car park and temple but the north section of the market continues past these buildings. Detour to the east side of the temple past the fortune tellers and avoid the west side if stalls selling adult toys offends you.

Jade, Bird, Flower & Goldfish Markets - These specialty markets can be found on the Kowloon side. The Goldfish market is on Tong Choi St north of Mong Kok Road and the flower market and bird market are adjacent to each other off Prince Edward Rd east of the MTR station.

Stanley - Located on the far side of Hong Kong island, Stanley is a small fishing village with a famous market. Make sure you exit the market to walk along the seaside promenade. Have lunch at the restaurants facing the harbour or head to Curry Tiffin on Stanley's Main Street for Indian food. There is a beach on the opposite end of the village from the market. Stanley can be reached by bus in Central and the ride is very scenic. The express bus is quicker and shortcuts using the tunnel to the south side. Take bus 6, 6A, 6X, 66 or 260(express) from Exchange Square in Central. From TST (Canton Rd), you can take the 973 bus which stops at Po Fuk Lam Reservoir, Aberdeen, and Repulse Bay as well.

Though there are many shopping malls in Hong Kong, the most convenient ones are the following. Harbourfront Mall - located beside Ocean Terminal and home to mostly luxury retailers and restaurants. I-Squared Mall - connected to TST MTR. IFC Mall - connected to Hong Kong MTR and beside Central Piers. This new mall features a rooftop terrace with a nice view of the harbour. Silvercord Mall - located across from Harbourfront Mall on Canton Rd. This mall has an excellent food court and restaurants.

Supermarkets - Closest to Ocean Terminal are City Super at Harbour City (3/f). Supermarkets not in malls and in high rent areas tend to be hidden in basements with only a small entrance on the ground floor. Look for the large chains Wellcome and ParknShop. There is a Marketplace by Jason's supermarket in the basement of I-Squared mall on Peking Road and a ParknShop International across from the main entrance of I-Squared. Marketplace by Jason's and City Super tend to be a bit more upscale. There is also a Marketplace by Jason's on Hankow Rd around the corner from I-Squared mall.

Electronics aren't the deal they used to be in past and you will probably find better prices in your home country and a valid warranty. You may save on taxes however. You do have to worry about grey market(refurbished) and counterfeit items so do some research online beforehand. Large chains stores such as Broadway and Fortress will offer genuine merchandise but may be more expensive. There is a large Apple store in IFC mall. Avoid camera and electronic shops in touristy areas such as Nathan Road and Star Ferry Terminal since you have a high probability of getting ripped off. If you do decide to buy something, check all items before leaving the store and check if an international warranty is offered. Merchants generally will not offer refunds. Golden Computer Arcade (Sham Sui Po MTR, exit D2), Mongkok Computer Centre (Mong Kok MTR, exit E2) and Wanchai Computer Centre (Wan Chai MTR, exit A4) are some of the larger computer/electronics markets.

Along Canton Rd in TST, you will see lineups to enter the luxury shops on this street. These customers are typically mainland Chinese tourists avoiding the high taxes on luxury goods back home.

Restaurants

Be careful with restaurant locations listed below since restaurants close or move frequently. Also be wary of look alike or sound alike versions of popular restaurants trying to draw in confused tourists and locals.

Dim Sum originated in this region and consist of small plates or bamboo steamers of meat, dumplings or deep fried items. Traditionally served in carts roving around the dining room as a brunch meal, ordering from a checklist has become more common. Specialty restaurants now serve dim sum all day and you can find take away restaurants on the street as well. To find a good restaurant, look for a restaurant busy with locals. This is a good indication it is both inexpensive and good. Small groups and solo diners should not be surprised if they are forced to share a table. You may see some diners rinsing their dishes in hot tea before eating. Recommended restaurants for dim sum include Maxim's City Hall for the food and views. It's a bit tricky to find since it's in the low block building with the auditorium closest to the water and on the second floor. Tim Ho Wan is considered the cheapest one star Michelin restaurant. The original location in Mong Kok moved to Olympian City 2 (Olympic MTR Exit D3). Other locations include Sham Shui Po and in the MTR shops level connected to IFC Mall (beware of the look alike restaurant nearby). Ask for an English checklist to order. Jade Garden in Star House (beside Star Ferry in TST) and Telford Plaza also serve dim sum and should be easy to find. Other recommended restaurants are Lin Heung Tea House (160 Wellington St, Central), the newer and larger sister restaurant Lin Heung Kui (2-3/F, 46-50 Des Voeux Road West, Sheung Wan), London Restaurant (3/f, 612 Nathan Rd, Mong Kok), Tao Heung (Carnarvon Place, TST), another inexpensive, one star Michelin One Dim Sum (15 Playing Field Rd, Prince Edward MTR, entrance on Tung Choi St) and Fung Shing (next to Western Market, Sheung Wan MTR). Lin Heung and London restaurants require some self-service so be prepared to grab your open bill, get up, and find a cart yourself versus waiting for a cart to come by. Jostling with locals for food may not be the best experience for tourists but a good way to experience local culture. Lin Heung is a traditional teahouse where drinking tea and reading a newspaper is the main reason for visiting versus eating. They take Octopus payments.

Arguably, the best egg tarts in Hong Kong are at Tai Cheong on Lyndhurst Terrace in Soho. They have shops at the Star Ferry terminal (Kowloon side) and Peak Galleria which aren't as busy. The original location always has fresh out of the oven egg tarts due to the high volume. Try their chicken pies as well. For pineapple (bo lo) buns, check out Kam Wah Cafe at 47 Bute St (Mongkok MTR, exit B1). Pineapple buns don't contain any pineapple, but have a cookie-like crust on the top resembling the fruit when baked. Kam Wah's other specialties are milk tea, chicken wings and egg tarts. Another snack to try are bubble waffles (mini eggs) available at street side restaurants. Ask for a freshly made one if possible.

Food Republic is a good food court in the basement of Silvercord Mall on Canton Road. There are also locations at Plaza Hollywood and Citygate Outlet Mall in Tung Chung if you are by the airport or going to the Big Buddha. Also, inside Silvercord Mall is Ippudo, a famous ramen chain. Langham Place Mall in Mong Kok has good restaurants inside. Another popular place for ramen is Yokozuna, 466-472 Nathan Rd (Yau Ma Tei MTR, Exit D).

For Shanghai soup dumplings (XiaoLongBao), try Crystal Jade (Harbourfront, IFC mall, or Telford Plaza) and Din Tai Fung in Silvercord Mall TST.

Recommended Peking duck restaurants are Spring Deer (reservations needed) on Mody Rd in TST, Yung Kee on 32-40 Wellington St in Central and Peking Garden (part of the Maxim group) in Star House (beside Star Ferry terminal), TST. You can also find more casual BBQ restaurants such as Yat Lok in Central and Kam's Roast Goose in Wanchai. Both have a Michelin star.

For wonton noodle soup or beef brisket noodle, Mak's Noodle is famous with a lots of look-alike and sound-alike competitors. Portions are small and relatively expensive so consider it a snack versus a meal. Various locations including Wellington St in Central, Parke St in Jordan and Galleria Mall at the Peak. Other recommended places are Tsim Chai Kee Noodle (across from Mak's in Central on Wellington), and Traditional Noodle on 183 Portland St in Mong Kok and on Ashley Rd in TST. Kau Kee in Sheung Wan is famous for their beef brisket noodles. Tasty Congee and Noodle has a location inside security at the airport and another in Telford Plaza.

Asian fast food chains are abundant. They typically post rotating menus at the entrance where you order and pay first. Take a seat and wait for your number to be called. Try Cafe de Coral, Yoshinoya (Japanese), Maxim MX, Fairwood, MOS Burger (Japanese burgers), Lotteria (Korean burgers), Hui Lau Shan (mango drinks and dessert, many locations but one a couple of shops down from McDonalds at the Star Ferry terminal, TST), and Jollibee (Filipino, Central). Beside Jollibee is a Filipino mall, World Wide House.

The very adventurous can try snake soup. Shia Wong Hip restaurant can be found behind the market stalls on Apliu St in Sham Shui Po. Take exit A2 and turn left onto Apliu St. She Wong Lam 13 Hillier St in Sheung Wan and Ser Wong Fun 46-48 Cochrane St in Central are other options.

For other recommendations, check out openrice http://www.openrice.com/english/award/winner.htm

Post Offices

The main post office is in Central beside IFC mall. You will see it on your left coming from the Central piers on the overhead walkways. In TST, the post office is on Middle Road just off the southern end of Nathan Rd. Post offices may be open Saturday and Sunday but with reduced hours.

Internet

Most cafes and malls have wifi. McDonalds and Starbucks provide limited free time but you can purchase a 24 hr account for only 18 HKD with unlimited data from the Y5Zone network (credit card online purchase). Time limited free access is available on this network at other hotspots including IFC Mall. There is a Starbucks inside the Hong Kong Cultural Centre beside the Star Ferry terminal in TST. Free wifi is also available in the library in Kowloon Park and museums in TST. The new Apple Store in IFC mall will have free internet. Limited free wifi is available at MTR stations and trains. Free wifi article here http://www.discoverhongkong.com/us/plan-your-trip/traveller-info/communications/wi-fi.jsp

Been Here Before

Macau - Macau is less than an hour by ferry from Hong Kong but you will need your passport. Ferries run frequently from the pier by Sheung Wan MTR or from China Ferry Terminal in TST. In Macau, you can get around for free with the casino hotel shuttles. Take the Grand Lisboa/Lisboa Hotel shuttle to get you close to downtown or you can take a local bus. Hong Kong money is accepted everywhere including the bus though they don't seem to like $10 HKD coins. Wong Chi Kei Congee & Noodle (17 Largo do Seal Senado, Senado Square) is a recommended restaurant. Have a pork chop bun (literally a pork chop in a bun) at Tai Lei Loi Kei (locations at Venetian Canal Shoppes or near bottom steps of the Ruins of St. Paul). Try portugese style egg tarts at Lord Stow's (various locations including one at the Venetian), Koi Kei Bakery (various locations including Senado Square and a few in Hong Kong) or Margaret's Cafe e Nata (near Grand Lisboa).

Shenzhen - This Chinese border city is easily visited by train from Hong Kong (Hung Hom). Depending on your nationality, a five day Shenzhen region only visa can be obtained for 168 Yuan (Chinese currency only) at the Lo Wu border crossing after exiting Hong Kong customs. This special visa is not valid for American citizens.

Cheung Chau Island - This island has no private cars and plenty of seafood restaurants. Ferries depart every half hour from Pier 5 in Central with alternating slow and fast ferries. Site of an annual bun festival in May where participants climb a tower of buns.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - An interesting temple worthy of the trip off the beaten path. You'll need to wind your way uphill on a path lined with buddhas to reach the temple with walls filled with thousands of more little buddhas. There is a vegetarian restaurant up top if you are hungry. Take the MTR to Shatin station and follow the signs to the government offices. The trail starts between the goverment buildings and the parkade to the HomeSquare mall. Ignore the fake monks at the start (there is no admission fee and real monks don't beg).

Two Days in Hong Kong

Day 1 - From Ocean Terminal, walk over to the Star Ferry and cross over to Central. From the Central Ferry pier, walk to IFC mall and check out the views from the garden terrace on the 4/f. Walk to the Peak Tram terminus and head up to the Peak. Head back down and find a place for dim sum lunch. Take the MTR over to Mong Kok to check out the markets in that area. In the evening, head to the Avenue of Stars to watch the light show and then over to Temple Street Night Market. For nightlife, Lan Kwai Fong, Soho, Knutsford Terrace (TST) or Wanchai have lots of bars and restaurants.

Day 2 - If you have a second day, options include

  • Disneyland - The Hong Kong park is smaller than its sister parks, but they have expansion plans. Easily reachable by the MTR Tung Chung line.
  • Ocean Park - A theme park, cable car ride, aquarium and zoo all combined into one in a scenic location. A great value for only 280 HKD (May 2013) but they get you on the food and drinks (bottle of water 20 HKD). Your bags will be searched before you enter but they won't take your water. Save 40 HKD by buying your ticket from China Travel Services (Peking Rd and Nathan Rd). Get there when it opens at 10am and catch the cable car to the upper section to beat the crowds and tour groups arriving later. Avoid on weekends and holidays if possible. Be sure to catch the free dolphin and bird shows. They have shelves to leave your bags/cameras when you go on the rides and bring a rain poncho to keep dry for the water rides. Take the MTR South Island Line from Admiralty station to Ocean Park.
  • Big Buddha on Lantua Island - few ways to get there. Ferry from Central Pier 6 to Mui Wo and then bus 2. MTR to Tung Chung and then either cable car (closed on windy days) or bus 23. https://www.np360.com.hk/en/

Maps (right-click to save)

Kowloon

Kowloon Hong Kong Map

Tsim Sha Tsui

Tsim Sha Tsui Hong Kong Map

Central

Central Hong Kong Map

MTR System Map 2017

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Weather

Hong Kong Weather Forecast

Find more about Weather in Hong Kong, CI
Click for weather forecast

Weather and climate http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/plan-your-trip/know-hong-kong/climate.jsp

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