First Time Visitor Guide to Hong Kong

Hong Kong means Fragrant Harbour, a poetic name for a place that has both Chinese and British heritage. The former British colony, now under the control of China, is a favoured destination for Asian, American, and European tourists. Hong Kong has an immigration system independent from China, so most visitors will not need to acquire a visa in advance — any visit to mainland China, however, will require a visa. October through December is sunny, dry and warm; January through March is cooler and wetter; April through September is hot and humid.


Hong Kong Dusk
Hong Kong @ Dusk
Photo by webel

The very first thing you must do in Hong Kong is to obtain an Octopus card. It’s a contactless debit card whose main use is for public transport, but many other roadside facilities allow you to pay via the Octopus card, including the McDonalds chain, convenience stores, and many types of vending machines. And your first use will be for the ride from the airport into the city, at a discount over cash.

The Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is Hong Kong’s public transport system, ten lines both over ground and underground. You’ll get around quickly, but you won’t see much while riding. To get a good view of the Hong Kong skyline, head across the harbor to Kowloon and look back.

Hong Kong Island, though not the largest area of Hong Kong, is still considered its center. Central, the capital city formerly called Victoria, contains the Escalator and the Peak Tram. The Escalator is free, and takes you through the neighborhoods of Central to the Mid-Levels. The terminus of the Peak Tram has the most fantastic views of the harbour and, nearby, you’ll see the most expensive homes in Hong Kong.

February through April and October through December are the times to visit Hong Kong for arts, film and cultural events. For rugby fans, visit Hong Kong around the end of March or the start of April for the three-day Rugby Sevens showdown. The horse racing season is September through June, at Happy Valley (near the MTR station for Causeway Bay) on Wednesdays, and on other days at Shatin on the mainland in the New Territories.

There are three major theme parks in Hong Kong, each quite different from the others.


Hong Kong Disneyland

The Hong Kong Disneyland Resort on Lantau Island has shorter queues than other Disneyland resorts and several wonderful attractions. Avoid visiting around Halloween, the week of Chinese New Year, or the week between Christmas and January 1st.

Ngong Ping 360, also on Lantau Island, is a Buddhist theme park with the longest cable car ride in Hong Kong, ending at the largest seated Buddha found in an outdoor setting.

Ocean Park, on the south side of Hong Kong island, is the local amusement park with aquariums, roller coasters, and a cable car — go if only to see the pandas.

There are many flights to Hong Kong from London and other cities — look for the ever-changing flight deals that are available through airlines, travel agencies, and other firms that service tourists.

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PkTan is fascinated with this beautiful, complicated country. He loves advising travellers to Hong Kong and have developed this site to share all his knowledge of Hong Kong with everyone. Learn more about me [+]

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