Hong Kong at a Glance
Population: 7.24 million
Capital City: Hong Kong
People: Predominantly ethnic Chinese
Language: Chinese, mostly Cantonese
Currency: Hong Kong dollar
Time Zone: GMT + 8 Hours
International Dialing Code: +852
Passport and visa
Passport should be valid for six months from the date of entry into Hong Kong. Australian, United Kingdom, Canadian and United States passport holders do not require visas and can stay for a maximum of 180 days. Nationals not referred to above are advised to check with the embassy for more detailed visa requirement since there may be subsequent changes.
Phone & Internet service
Telephone connections are widely available. Hong Kong prepaid SIM cards are available to buy, however, you will need to unlock your phone to be able to use them. Mobile telephone companies offer different Internet packages which are available from monthly subscriptions to charges according to usage. Free WiFi access is available throughout Hong Kong in hotels, cafes, restaurants and at the airport.
Emergency Number: 999 for Police, Fire and Ambulance service
Mobile Networks: GSM 900, PCS 1800, CDMA and WCDMA operate in Hong Kong.
People, Cities & Culture
Before its rise to global prominence, Hong Kong was little more than a small fishing village with a humble agricultural economy. During the onset of the Opium Wars, the island's strategic geography and its safe harbour led to it becoming a British colony. Shortly after, Hong Kong enjoyed a population boom as immigrants from the Chinese mainland moved to the island in serach of work. After negotiations with Britain, the former colony would go on to become Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, but its lengthy colonial history continues to be an important element in its economic and cultural distinctiveness from its neighbouring countries.
With its humble agricultural roots now firmly in the past, modern is now home to the world's sixth largest GDP per capita, and is a major hub for foreign capital into China. Visitors to Hong Kong will find the city a glittering example of an Asia's rapid rise in economic strength. Its towering skyscrapers and booming financial districts and bustling shopping centres dominate the cityscape. But beyond the ultra-modern hubs of commerce, Hong Kong retains an intriguing balance of traditional Cantonese and British influences - but with a strong pride in its distinct Hong Kong culture.
One of the most prominent elements of Chinese culture is the country's majority religion -a Chinese folk religion that blends elements of Confucianism and Taoism. Vivid and fascinating, visitors will find remnants of these beliefs deeply rooted in history within Hong Kong's traditional architecture and residential districts, which promise a charming escape from the vast shopping malls in other parts of the city. This is also where you'll find Hong Kong's best examples of local cuisine - famous for its tasty twists on Cantonese and other Chinese fare. The most famous local fare is dim sum, which holds a special place in the hearts of many Hong Kongers.
90% of Hong Kong’s population relies on mass transit as their primary mode of transportation, making its use among locals the highest percentage in the world! Hong Kong’s public transportation network is highly developed, with buses, trams, trains and ferries running from morning until midnight.
Though Hong Kong's train and bus system is very highly developed, the most convenient way to travel in the city is by taxi. Most taxi drivers can speak basic English, but it's a good idea to have your destination written in Chinese characters just in case.
For travellers in less of a hurry - and those looking to infuse a bit of culture and experience with their commute - the famous Hong Kong tram system is well worth a ride. As the only tram system in the world operated exclusively with double-decker trams, this is also one of the most environmentally-friendly ways to travel around the city. Thanks to its important historical and cultural significance in Hong Kong, these tramways are a starring element in many Buffalo Tours' itineraries.
Among all of Hong Kong's modes of public transportation, the most famous and celebrated is the Star Ferry. Equal parts public transportation and tourist attraction, the Star Ferry's principal route travels across Victoria Harbour between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. The ride boasts one of the most impressive views of the city's skyline, and has been rated among the 10 Most Exciting Ferry Rides by the Society of American Travel Writers.
When to visit Hong Kong
Given its seaside location, it’s no surprise that Hong Kong maintains a relatively humid environment throughout the year. However, this does vary from season to season, with spring and summer being the warmest and wettest, and fall and winter being drier and cooler. The fall, with its warm yet dry temperatures, offers some of the best weather, though Hong Kongers certainly don’t shy away from a little humidity. In the warmer months, the island’s beaches stay buzzing all day.
Hong Kong experiences the most rainfall from May through November, with typhoons occurring in September. Depending on the level of typhoon, you might be advised against going outside.
Given the beautiful fall weather, October through December remains the most popular time to visit Hong Kong. During the fall, expect pleasant temperatures ranging from 20-25°C, and a dry and typhoon-free climate.
Hong Kong’s temperatures never dip too low. Unless you plan to spend time at the higher elevations on Victoria Peak and Tai Mo Shan, two of the island’s highest points, you shouldn’t need more than a light jacket to feel comfortable.
Festivals and National Holidays
From confetti-filled parades to colourful dance festivals, Hong Kong’s event calendar promises some of Asia's most extravagant and fascinating celebrations. The most popular of these is Chinese New Year, celebrated in January or February, on the first moon of the Lunar Calendar. Hong Kong’s Lunar New Year celebrations are arguably Asia’s most spectacular, with dancing lions, banging gongs, red and gold confetti and more filling the streets for up to 15 days. The Lunar New Year culminates in the Lantern Festival, which celebrates the first full moon of the lunar year. If your travels find you in Hong Kong during the Chinese New Year or the Lantern Festival, photo opportunities abound from street parades with dancing dragons and lions to massive illuminated lanterns throughout the city -just be sure to book things in advance, as the city becomes quite crowded during this time.
Another crowd favourite is the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival, also known as the Tueng Ng Festival, which takes place on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. This celebration typically falls in May or June. Legend has it that the Dragon Boat Festival originated many centuries ago, when an official named Qu Yuan found himself so disillusioned by the system that he attempted to drown himself in protest by jumping in the river. In an attempt to save him, locals hopped on boats and sped through the waters, banging gongs and creating ruckus to scare away anything that might harm Qu Yuan. This legend is commemorated every year, in Hong Kong and throughout the world, in exciting dragon boat races with extravagantly colourful displays.
Finally, Hong Kong National Day brings vibrant celebrations to this city island. Held on Oct 1 every year, National Day marks the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Expect an exciting day full of parades and parties, and be sure to gather along the harbour with locals at night for a fireworks display of epic proportions.
Where to travel in Hong Kong
Otherwise known as Mount Austin or simply The Peak, Victoria Peak offers what is arguably the best panorama of the city -or any city. If you’ve ever seen a sweeping picture of the Hong Kong skyline from above, it was likely taken from atop The Peak. Ride the swift, modern tram up the slope of the mountain to reach its summit and make sure you've got your camera handy.
One of the world’s deepest harbours, Victoria Harbour is situated between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. What was once a strategic location instrumental in the city's establishment as a British colony, Victoria Harbour is now a visitor favourite thanks to its stunning skyline views and historical significance. The best way to explore it is aboard the Star Ferry, a historic route with a story as vivid as the harbour itself.
Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade & Avenue of the Stars
Nestled alongside beautiful Victoria Harbour, the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade stretches from the colonial-era Clock Tower all the way to Hung Hom. On a stroll down the promenade, visitors pass the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Space Museum and the Avenue of Stars, Hong Kong's answer to Hollywood's Walk of Fame. Here you'll find tributes to the people who help make Hong Kong the "Hollywood of the East", with a perfect backdrop of the stunning Harbour.
The New Territories
The New Territories is one of the three main regions of Hong Kong, covering a peninsula that constitutes over 80% of the island's territory. In this region that used to be made up of peaceful countryside, quiet farms and sleepy fields, the area is now a residential hub thanks to a massive boom in population growth that transformed parts of this area into an urban jungle virtually overnight. The New Territories are home to Red House, the Ping Shan Heritage Trail along with hiking routes leading to traditional villages as well as Hong Kong Wetland Park and Ha Pak Nai Beach for more adventurous travellers.
Temple Street Night Market
You can find everything in this bustling night market, from trendy menswear to mobile phones and dumplings. Nestled between two popular intersections in Kowloon, a stretch of Temple Street closes its gates to traffic every evening as hundreds of vendors set up shop. Navigate your way through crowds of tourists, expats, and locals while bargain hunting, and take in the colourful sights and vibrant smells that fill this lively marketplace. It's not uncommon to stumble across a fortune teller or impromptu street opera performance here.
Things to do in Hong Kong
Symphony of Lights Harbour Cruise
Hong Kong’s iconic harbour boasts unrivalled views of the city’s skyline. While the views during the day offer glimpses of green peaks in the background, the views from the harbour at night feature ‘bright lights, big city’ like you’ve never seen before. From the vantage point of a luxurious ship sailing down the harbour, you can bask in the delightful evening breeze and take in the 360-degree panoramas of Hong Kong. Don’t miss the world-famous Symphony of Lights show, a dazzlingly colourful showcase of lasers projected onto skyline’s walls.
Shop ‘Til You Drop at Nathan Road
People travel from all over the world to hit Hong Kong’s shopping circuit, and with good reason. From high-class, globally-renowned designers to boutique Asian brands, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better place to lighten your wallet. Nathan Road is a local and visitor favourite that's home to nearly all of the major brands, and makes for an interesting vantage point to take in Hong Kong's unapologetically commercial buzz.
Get Your Fill of Dumplings, Buns, and Sweets
Given Hong Kong’s complex history as a Chinese city under British colonial rule for over a century, the cuisine is understandably varied. You can travel from a posh British high tea room to a traditional Cantonese Dim Sum hall just by crossing the street! Stepping outside, Hong Kong’s array of street food is sure to delight your palate. From exotic local seafood specialties at Temple Street Night Market to bits from the open-air food stalls at Stanley Market, there's no doubt that a stroll down Hong Kong’s bustling streets will leave you well fed.
Say Hi to Big Buddha
Board a boat that’ll carry you across the harbour to the picturesque Lantau Island, one of Hong Kong’s most expansive nature reserves. Weave around towering trees and up a challenging hill to arrive at one of Hong Kong's most iconic and statuesque landmarks, the Big Buddha. Standing 34 meters high and adjacent to the Po Lin Monastery, this spiritual icon is a destination for Buddhist pilgrims around the world and a must-see sight for any visitor to Hong Kong.