Pre-planning & ACCOMMODATION
VISIT ON WEEKDAYS | If possible, plan your trip to stay in Hong Kong during the week. Accommodation is already expensive here, and at the weekend most hotels have higher 'weekend prices'. Also, it will be more crowded at the weekend in restaurants and scenic spots when many locals are not working.
Accommodation | Accommodation is typically very expensive and also very small for what you pay for, so don't be surprised when looking if things seem poky...that's just Hong Kong! In terms of where to stay, Hong Kong has two main Islands. Kowloon is more 'old school' and home to all those famous Hong Kong neon lights and the accommodation here is said to be slightly cheaper. Hong Kong Island is where 'Central' is located in and is modern, hilly and hipstery. It doesn't matter where you stay too much in terms of locations, as the MTR train system is efficient and easy to use, so will get you to where ever you want to be.
I decided to book at Tuve hotel which is located on the eastern side of Hong Kong Island in the Causeway Bay area - this area is also known to be great for shopping. I liked that it was super minimal, and in such a densely populated and hectic city, I thought this minimalism would be a nice breather to come back to after a day of exploring.
Here are some of my favourite spots I found, which all happened to be on Hong Kong Island:
- TUVE Hotel | Modern, clean and minimal, we booked their premier room which is described on their website as: "Premier rooms feature a king-size bed, minimalist décor, and a spacious walk-in shower. The translucent glass panels invite the natural light to seamlessly merge with the space in harmony with the materials and interior elements. Sensual lighting creates a visual balance that calms the mind. We provide wi-fi, LE LABO bath amenities, fine linen and bedding, gourmet snacks and beverages, and HDTV with cable channels. The room is approximately 30 square metres." Prices start at around $280 NZD - $420 a night. Link to their website HERE and TripAdvisor HERE.
- THE FLEMING | Located in Central, this boutique hotel is inspired by Hong Kong’s heyday during the industrial era of the 60’s and ’70s, as well as its unique maritime heritage. Prices start at around $545 NZD - $660 NZD per night. See their website HERE and TripAdvisor HERE.
- EAST HOTEL | If you have a little more in your accommodation budget for Hong Kong, then East Hotel has some stunning rooms with gorgeous views over the harbour, and obviously the more you pay the bigger the room and better the view. Waking up in their rooms to those views would be a dream! Prices range from $360 - $890 NZD per night. Link to their website HERE and TripAdvisor reviews HERE.
BUY AN OCTOPUS CARD | One of the best things to do as soon as you land is to buy an octopus card at the airport. It is called an Octopus as there are 8 ways of public transport to use it and you can also use it to pay for things at some shops like
7-Eleven. At the end of your holiday, you can return the card and get any money back that is on it. The other thing to get at the airport is a SIM card - you will need the data especially for mapping and getting around.
TAKE the airport express train | At the airport, after immigration and after you have your octopus card and SIM, head to the Airport Express. This train is the fastest and cheapest way of getting into the city and departs every 10 minutes. It costs $115 HKD ($22 NZD) to get to Central on Hong Kong Island, or $105 HKD ($20 NZD) to get to Kowloon Island and takes 24 minutes. A taxi might take 1 hour + depending on where you are going. Once at these two main train stations, you can get a taxi to your hotel. Read more about the Airport Express HERE.
CHECKING LUGGAGE IN FOR THE WAY BACK | When leaving to go back to the airport, you can actually check into your flight at the Central train station and also, check in (and leave) your luggage there. Super convenient if you have to check out of your hotel but still have exploring to do before your flight departs.
tips for the train
DOWNLOAD THE APP | The MTR app is so useful for not only planning trips but for also checking stations. I love how you can also put in well-known locations (eg Temple Street) and the app will give you the closest station to that destination. See more HERE.
know the station names at the end of the lines | If you can, try and remember the names of the stations at either end of the line you are using, as this is the name that will be initially used at the station to direct you to the correct platform. For example, the closest station to our hotel was Tin Hau, on the blue line. The very last station on the blue line one way is Kennedy Town and at the other end was Chai Wan. So if we were going to any other station in between the initial signs at the station will give either of these two locations. Why? Because this indicates to people the correct direction of train to get on. Might sound a little confusing at first, but you can use your MTR app to check these station names. There are boards/maps up all over the stations so you can check, and there are also ticket kiosk counters at the stations where you can ask for help if you need it. It may sound a little complicated at first, but at the end of day one, we were train pros!
google the exit | There are so many exits at the train station, and to save walking time and confusion, I would google "what exit do I take at ______ station to get to ______ (my destination)". There would always be an answer online. In my itinerary, I have tried to include these exits as much as possible.
tips for eating out
ESSENTIALS FOR YOUR DAY PACK | Always take your own tissues and wet wipes as a lot of the cheaper style eateries do not have them. Take a light layer with you in your day bag as the air conditioning in restaurants (and malls etc) can be much cooler than the temperature outside.
RESTAURANTS | Don't be surprised if you get seated at the same table with strangers, in fact, you should expect this to happen several times over your trip. There are so many people living in Hong Kong, everywhere is busy, so it's all about fitting as many people in rather than social comforts. For me personally, I did not have a problem with this, but I wanted to mention this especially for first-time travellers to Hong Kong, as you might not be expecting it. When visiting the more popular spots, try to get there are close to opening time as possible, as many places do not take bookings, and it is said that people will queue for up to 1 hour to eat at their favourite spot. An alternative is to not eat at the 'peak times' and try some of the popular spots in between the main breakfast, lunch and dinner times. Watch this Hong Kong food guide on YouTube HERE to give you a taste of what to expect.
Here are a few words you may come across in the food scene in Hong Kong:
Dai Pai Dong | "Dai pai dong are open-air street stalls that serve cooked food. The name literally means ‘restaurant with a big license plate’, referring to the large size of the licenses they were issued in the past. Today, the term is applied to all open-air food stalls, and not just the ones with this specific license. Dai pai dong will serve just about any snack or food but they are best known for stir fries. Although stir fries are a humble home dish, they are quite difficult to pull off. To make a good stir fry, the chef has to have excellent cutting skills and ensure there is sufficient heat, precise seasoning, quick thickening and plenty of ‘wok hei’ (the subtle combination of aroma and taste that a well-used wok imparts to food). Dai pai dong also commonly serve the unique cuisine of Chiu Chow people, which includes fried oyster omelette, braised dishes and chilled crab and fish. Eating at a dai pai dong is also a truly Hong Kong dining experience as you will probably end up sharing a table with strangers during busy hours, can cross order from different vendors and get a front-row view of the local street life. Dai pai dong can be found almost anywhere in the city. Side streets and lanes are the most likely place to spot them. You can find ones that are decades old near the Central-Mid-Levels Escalator in Central on Hong Kong Island and in the neighbourhood of Sham Shui Po in Kowloon." - Discover Hong Kong.
CHA CHAAN TENG | A cha chaan teng is a type of restaurant commonly found in Hong Kong and are known for eclectic and affordable menus, which include dishes from Hong Kong cuisine and Hong Kong-style Western cuisine. Although open all day (some 24 hours), people often eat here for breakfast or for snacks. They offer French toast, scrambled eggs, sandwiches, various fried rice and Chinese noodles, milk tea and coffee etc.
VIDEOS & GOOD READ’S
I love this YouTuber called 'Matts Travel Tips' and he has done a video on '13 Tips for Hong Kong' which you can see HERE.
Lots of good Hong Kong guides on Trip Savvy. Link HERE.
If you love market shopping and finding authentically local spots, this article has all the best information about Hong Kong gems. Read it HERE