Often described as a meeting of East and West, Hong Kong is a place where traditional customs such as feng shui seamlessly — yet still distinctively — blend with bilingual signs and a large expat community. It’s this combination that makes Hong Kong such a vibrant place to visit. Ready to experience this fascinating fusion? Here’s everything you need to know before you head to Hong Kong.
Qantas flies direct to Hong Kong from Sydney and Melbourne; the flight takes approximately nine hours and 40 minutes. Services operate daily from Sydney and four times per week from Melbourne.
Entering Hong Kong
Hong Kong does not require Australian visitors to obtain a visa for visits of fewer than 90 days; longer stays will require a visa that should be organised before departure.
Although there is no COVID-19 vaccination requirement, all inbound persons must pass temperature checks upon arrival. Those found with symptoms will be referred to the Department of Health for further handling. Check Hong Kong Coronavirus for the latest travel requirements.
You are no longer required to wear a mask in public spaces, including public transport.
Flying in to Hong Kong International Airport
Hong Kong International Airport is located on the island of Chek Lap Kok, about 40 kilometres from Hong Kong Island. It’s well connected to Hong Kong CBD by both rail and bus. The Airport Express train takes passengers from the airport to Hong Kong Station in less than 25 minutes and runs every 15-20 minutes until 12.48am and the fare starts from HK$115 one-way. There’s an extensive network of public buses throughout the city which are significantly cheaper and take passengers to most parts of Hong Kong. For direct airport-central Hong Kong services, the A21 is a good choice (it serves the tourist areas of Kowloon and costs HK$33). There’s also the Airport Express train, a zippy, direct service that connects the city and the airport in just 24 minutes. Keen on a cab? They’re colour-coded: red represents urban taxis that serve all destinations through Hong Kong and fare from the airport to Central is around HK$375.
The language barrier
The official languages in Hong Kong are Chinese and English. Some locals use both languages – sometimes in the same sentence – but generally, Cantonese remains the dominant spoken language. Signage and announcements are in both English and Cantonese and many restaurant menus also have dual listings. The lack of a language barrier in Hong Kong makes it a welcoming and easy to navigate destination for international visitors.
- Hong Kong is extremely well serviced by public transport, with trains, buses and trams all crisscrossing the city. The prepaid Octopus card serves all forms of public transport as well as supermarkets, fast food restaurants, convenience stores and vending machines.
- Historic trams have been trundling along the north corridor of Hong Kong Island since 1904. The double-decker streetcars are open at the top making a ride double as an excellent sightseeing opportunity. They’re also the cheapest way to get around at HK$3.00 per ride. Trams run in two directions so it’s virtually impossible to get lost.
- Bus routes cover almost all of Hong Kong and fares are based on distance travelled.
- The Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is fast, efficient and covers all the major districts in Hong Kong and goes as far as the boundary with mainland China.
- Taxis are metered and cost HK$27 for the first 2 kilometres and HK$1.90 for every 200 metres or one minute idling time thereafter.
- Eating or drinking is not permitted on most forms of public transport.
- At the time of writing the Australian dollar was buying 5.3 Hong Kong dollars (HKD) – check a reliable currency conversion service for up-to-date exchange rates.
- Before travelling to any international destination, it's recommended that you check with your bank that you won’t be hit with extra fees when using your credit card. Your Australian bank and Hong Kong ATMs will both charge you for withdrawing money from your debit card, too, so it might be worth organising a travel card (most banks have one) with low or no fees to use while you’re away. In any case, inform your bank of your travel plans, lest overseas purchases are misconstrued as fraud and your card is cancelled.
- A 10 per cent service charge will automatically be added to your bill in most restaurants. There’s no requirement to leave more, and tipping is not required at cheaper fast-food restaurants and stalls. Some newer restaurants forgo the service charge, so tipping is at the discretion of the customer – make sure to check your bill.. Small tips for hotel porters are typical but it’s not customary to tip taxi drivers.
- Stand to the right of escalators to let others pass.
- Dining etiquette in Hong Kong is fairly relaxed. There are a few no-nos, but don’t worry – the locals will forgive a faux pas.
- Don’t leave your chopsticks sticking upright out of your rice bowl – it’s considered inauspicious. Use the chopstick stand provided or rest them across the top of your bowl.
- Space is at a premium in Hong Kong so if you and a friend take a four-seater table in a cha chaan teng (Hong Kong-style cafe), expect some company.
- Tea is served in all cafés and restaurants – your cup will be continually refilled. Leave it full if you don’t want any more tea; an upturned lid in your teapot will indicate you’re after more tea.
- If you are being hosted for dinner, make sure you try a little bit of everything offered – but always leave a little food on your plate or your host will think you’re still hungry!
- You will notice people in Hong Kong give you things with both hands – you should accept them with both hands, too. It’s considered polite and respectful, whether you’re accepting a business card or change.
Good to know
All retail businesses are required to charge at least HK$1.00 for each plastic shopping bag.
Summer is hot and humid in subtropical Hong Kong. Typhoons and thunderstorms occur with some regularity between May and November but the city is well adept at managing them. Spring is warm and humid with cooler evenings; autumn is warm with pleasantly cool breezes and winter is cool but dry and temperatures average between 12 and 20 degrees. Find up-to-date weather updates at Hong Kong Weather Information for Tourists.
When to go
The autumnal months between September and October are recommended because the weather is less extreme than at other times of the year. Expect warm, sunny days and cooler nights. Timing your trip with Chinese New Year — generally in late January, early February — is a great idea. The city comes alive with its celebrations, fireworks, flowers and Chinese zodiac-themed gifts, as well as events celebrating the occasion. The week-long Cheung Chau Bun Festival in early May culminates in locals scrambling up a bao 'bun' wrapped bamboo tower, grabbing as many as they can on their way up.
Bring light, breathable clothing for those humid days and lots of layers. Even if you’re visiting at the height of summer, bring a cardigan or wrap – air conditioning is everywhere and generally set to high. A hat and sunglasses will also stand you in good stead for long days of wandering. Also pack comfy, closed-toe walking shoes – you’re going to need them..
Where to stay
Hong Kong is a buzzing metropolis (more than seven million people live in the city) so chances are your accommodation – from B&Bs to high-end hotels – will be located somewhere vertiginous within the shimmering skyline.
Central is the financial district but it’s a great place to stay, located near Victoria Peak and Lan Kwai Fong. There are plenty of places nearby to eat, drink and be merry frequented by the city’s expats. Hotels in Tsim Sha Tsui are also popular with tourists thanks to their proximity to Victoria Harbour and many of Hong Kong’s museums and galleries as well as restaurants and shopping.
Phone calls and mobile data
Before you land, disable data roaming and don’t answer incoming calls on your mobile phone if you want to keep your monthly bill in check.
To call Australia, dial +61 followed by the phone number – including the area code minus the zero. So, to call a Sydney landline telephone, you would dial +61 2 then the phone number. To call a mobile phone, use the same country code and dial the mobile number minus the first zero.
Hong Kong has almost the same voltage as Australia (220V as compared to Australia’s 230V) and the same frequency so all gadgets and chargers should work without a problem. You will need a power adaptor – most electrical outlets take UK-style plugs.
There are more than 15,000 wi-fi hotspots around Hong Kong, including at all MTR stations.
Handy apps and websites
- The Australian Consulate-General in Hong Kong for emergencies.
- Hong Kong International Airport provides flight information.
- XE for currency conversion.
- Hong Kong Airport Express for the train timetable from the airport.
- MTR for subway lines and timetables.
- Hong Kong Tramways for tram timetables and routes.
- Smart Traveller for up-to-date safety information.
- Toilet Rush to find your nearest public toilet.