Planning a trip to Hong Kong? Check out my tips for making the most out of your vacation from discovering hidden gems to finding the best areas to stay.
Hidden Gems in Hong Kong
Looking for something a little bit different to do in this Asian metropole? After you’ve exhausted the Big Buddha and Stanley, here are a few ideas for your Hong Kong bucket list!
- The islands: HK is famous for skyscrapers and shopping, but there’s so much more to it! HK is made up of a series of islands, each with their own style: Lamma is the most popular, but also the most crowded. My recommendation would be either Cheung Chau or Peng Chau where you’ll find pretty beaches, walks, temples, and good seafood only a 20 to 30-minute ferry away from central.
- Ming Cha Tea House: a little ride away on the MTR, this place is worth a visit. Book one of their tea tasting sessions to learn about all the different types of tea whilst nibbling chocolate to match! You’ll be able to tell your white tea from your red tea by the end of the session, and buy some to take home with you. Don’t let the outside of the building put you off! You’ll find these lovely tea experts on the 12th floor.
- Foot massage: I’d never had one before moving to HK, nor did the idea really appeal to me, but you have to give it a go. More corrective than relaxing, firm hands will iron out the kinks of a long journey. The room full of armchairs and semi-comatose people may seem bizarre at first, but you’ll soon be one of them.
- Happy Valley Race Track: even if you’re not a fan of racing, Wednesday evenings here are all about the atmosphere. Nights are often themed with K-pop acts, German bands in Lederhosen, or magicians getting up on stage. The food is limited to “Asian snacks” or McDonalds though, so eat before you go. Entry is cheap at just 10 HKD (approx. 1.30 USD), and the Happy Valley Tram will take you to the door.
- Camp in Sai Kung: the beautiful country parks make HK the perfect spot for beach camping. One of the most popular spots is Sai Kung East Country Park. Head for Ham Tim Beach, by taking a subway, cab, and a mini five-kilometer hike. The beachfront restaurant rents out all the equipment you’ll need, including tents, mats, and sleeping bags.
Hong Kong Area Guide
Wondering where to stay in Hong Kong? It can be hard to get your head round the different areas and names, and pick a place to call home for a few days. Don’t stress too much, as it’s a relatively tiny city, so you’ll be close to the action wherever you pick. I’ve put together a quick summary of the main areas to help narrow down your options.
As the name suggests, this is the central and busiest area of Hong Kong. It’s basically the business district, with high-end shopping and high-rise skyscrapers.
An expat haven just up the hill from Central, this area was my home for over two years. What it may lack in character, it makes up for in convenience: it’s a short walk down the hill to Central via the world’s longest outdoor escalator, and you’re near to pretty much everything.
Sheung Wan has plenty of personality with places like PMQ, a great creative hub. It’s one stop on the MTR to Central, but only a ten to 15-minute walk if it’s not too hot.
Kennedy Town is a really convenient place to stay: just a 15-minute MTR ride will take you straight to Central! There’s not a lot in the area itself, so you’ll find yourself spending a lot of time in Central, but with a good transport link and cheap taxis, it’s a strong option.
On the map, this area looks to be a good place to stay. Located just one stop along from Central, what’s not to like? In reality, Admiralty is more of a place to pass through, but is popular with tourists thanks to international hotel chains.
Infamous is probably the best way to describe Wan Chai. Before I came to Hong Kong, I knew it only as the Red-Light District, but that doesn’t really do it justice. It doesn’t have the same seedy, slightly threatening atmosphere as other cities’ Red-Light Districts — maybe because there are no naked women in the windows. It’s not in your face, there just happens to be a disproportionate number of young Filipino women talking to older men in the bars! Fundamentally, it’s a party place, so don’t rule it out because of its reputation.
I lived in Causeway Bay when I first arrived in Hong Kong and it was certainly a baptism of fire! HK’s most popular shopping district, it’s basically like staying on London’s Oxford Street. That might sound entertaining, but streets get so packed that you’re not going to want to attempt leaving your accommodation at the weekend. Great to visit, go shopping, and sample the madness, but I wouldn’t recommend staying here.
Though Causeway Bay is a nightmare, go one stop along to the Tin Hau station and check out Tai Hang. This hidden gem is near enough to Causeway Bay and Central to make the most of the city, but still undiscovered enough to find some more affordable accommodation. You’ll also have the benefit of being near Victoria Park and its outdoor swimming pool.
Round the south side of HK island, Stanley is often the place families turn to for some sanity and space in the HK madness. Be prepared for a long journey into the city center, though, as there’s no MTR connection. You’ll have to rely on long bus journeys, or getting lucky and finding a taxi. One way over to Central will cost around 150 HKD (approx. 20 USD).
I worked over on Kowloon side (a peninsula) for a year, and it has a completely different feel to HK island. Closer to China, literally and culturally, it’s an intense experience with bustling crowds, noisy markets, and plenty of tofu. Though your money may go a lot further, you may find yourself feeling quite isolated. Also, be prepared to hunt down and spend a decent chunk on taxis after late nights out when the MTR will be closed.
It’s possible to escape the city completely and find your peace on one of the many islands. But be warned that the ferries stop running late at night and during bad weather, so make sure you have a fallback on HK island where you can crash if a typhoon gets wild. Discovery Bay on Lantau Island is a particularly popular spot. Known affectionately as “DB” — jokingly said to stand for Dogs and Babies — it’s family friendly to the point of being pretty sterile.