Monday, February 1, 2010

Hong Kong Tips

Never fear Hong Kong. They're becoming more globalized and they're far to being primitive. Even though they're predominantly Chinese and only speaking little bit of English, you could survive. They are somehow used to tourists and they try to answer in English words or phrases.

HK Preparation:

Hong Kong is a tourist friendly country. You could get around even as a first- timer, but you have to do a little research. It's best if you can picture Kowloon and Hong Kong island. It greatly depends on your itinerary and hotel location. Hong Kong Island has a more finacial and formal business nature. Though professional in nature, it still houses various tourists spots such as Victoria Peak, Peak Tram, Madame Tussauds, Ocean Park, IFC tower, brand shopping and nightlife. Kowloon side is more of downtown. Imagine Greenhills gone bigger. It has night markets, bargain goods and tourist hotels and shopping center.

Also, you need to acquire a comprehensive map. This is your holy grail in HK. You could google and print it or buy it in Powerbooks or any leading bookstore. Find a map that shows you the trail of MTR. This would get you to points you want to visit.

If yoeu're not on a packaged tour and you plan to visit HK on your own, Google is a lot of help. You would be surprised how Google collects information on the how-to-go-to's in HK's top destinations. Read blogs of travelers sharing their experiences about HK. Visit Virtual Tourist to have an idea on the travel time and what to expect.


We searched our hotel in It displays discounted rates in HKD, USD or PHP. I was impressed on the convenience this site brings. It also depends on your itinerary. If you're more into street food and shopping for cheap stuff, book your hotel in Kowloon. But regardless which hotel you pick, every island is just a train ride away. You could get to HK island in as fast as 5 minutes from Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon. Distance is never an issue once you're using MTR.

HK rooms are also smaller compared to western standards. But there are new boutique hotels catering to a more sophisticated western taste in either Kowloon or Hong Kong island. And if you're just planning to stay in hotels to plainly catch a few winks, their guest houses and tourist-class hotels would do. Just make sure there's a fire exit, IDD phone, in-house safe and hotel accreditation. Reading reviews online always helps.

Most importantly, location, I believe is a main consideration. We stayed in BP International in Kowloon. It is a recognized tourist hotel. The rate we got was cheaper than most hotels, but the rooms are small. It may be so, but the room is sufficient enough. We had everything that we needed there. Admittedly, the selling point was the location. It's less than 5 minutes walk from Jordan MTR station and China Ferry Terminal to Macau. In front of our hotel, there's a 711, nearby McDo, KFC and just across the building is a Forex station. We are few blocks away from Temple steet. We're beside Kowloon Park and a block away from Park Lane Shopping Mall. From my hotel, I could get to Central Station in Hong Kong island via Jordan MTR station in less than 15 minutes.


MTR is their Train transit. It links various lines all over Hong Kong. Central Station, Mong Kok, Yau Ma Tei and Admiralty are some of their interchanging stations. It's never a problem going to Disneyland, which is on Lantau Island even if you're in Kowloon side. Take the nearest MTR in Kowloon, get off at Central Station in Hong Kong Island and get the interchange to Tung Chung MTR line. Exit at Sunny Bay and there you have Disneyland. It takes about 25-30 minutes from Kowloon to Sunny Bay.

If you plan to go to Temple Street and you're staying in Hong Kong Island, get the nearest MTR you have in Hong Kong Island and use the interchange found in Central Station or Admiralty and follow the arrows to get to the train bearing the Tsuen Wan Line. Tsuen Wan line carries the whole stations of Kowloon. In three stations from Central or Admiralty you will reach either Yau Ma Tei station or Mongkok which will take you to the long street of Temple in a span of 15 minutes.

If you're a train junkie and your itinerary dictates an endless train travel, get a tourist day pass. This pass offers unlimited use of the MTR for 24 hours. You could visit different parts of Hong Kong in minutes. MTRs are also operating until midnight, so the pass would be maximized. But if you have tons of activities that would only require the use of MTRs at around 5 to 8 per day, I suggest you take the Octopus card, a regular card that is purchased by most locals. Octopus Cards are priced 150 HKD. 50 HKD for deposit and 100 HKD for the card's value. The most expensive charge I got was at around 17 HKD from Jordan Station to Tung Chung Station. I crossed three islands and three MTR lines in a span of 35 minutes, such a small price to pay. My Octopus card still has 30HKD usable value and 50 HKD deposit. I would've refunded it all, but since my brother is going to Hong Kong this summer, I would just give the card to him. He would just have to reload it in the available machines found in MTR stations. The Octopus Card can be used in Cafe De Coral Fast food shops and 711 too.


If your hotel package doesn't include hotel transfers, the most convenient way (30 mins.tops) to get to your destination is through Airport Express. It only takes around 30 minutes to get to either Kowloon or Hong Kong Island. The interchanges are in Kowloon Station and Hongkong Station, connecting you to Central station. It's valued at around 2,000 PHP for a roundtrip ticket. If you're a tourist, get the Airport Express Travel pass worth 300 HKD. This specific pass entitles you to a round trip Airport Express ticket and a 3 day unlimited MTR use. Though not refundable, this saves you time and the hassle of additional expenses in hiring cabs and coach all throughout your stay.


Cabs are everywhere whether you're in Kowloon or HK. Its flag down rate is 18 HKD. Since HK is not really clogged with cars and the traffic system is very efficient, this is another option aside from MTRs. But cab drivers pick their passengers sometimes and it's a challenge to tell them where you want to go especially if you're going to a less popular place. You have to have a map to point it to them.


Food is plentiful in Hong Kong. If you're a fan of Chinese Cuisine, this is a place to be. But you would also be surprised to find good Western restaurants here. Google the restaurants and most probably travel-bloggers have a thing or two to say.

CAFE de Coral is one of their most popular fast food stations that serves more sophisticated western food. Their price range is at around 25 HKD to close to 100 HKD for group menus. Looking for familiar tastes, there are McDonald's, Burger King, KFC and Pizza Hut. If you like authentic rice pot dishes, Temple Street eateries are there. Don't expect ambiance, but expect authentic food at a cheap price. Good Hope Noodles that serve authentic Chinese noodles is in the middle of bustling Mongkok. Cafe Mido in Yau Ma Tei exit is also a classic food destination.

For night life and drinks, if you're in Kowloon there is a downright street food drinking ambiance at Temple Street. But if you like a cozy, relaxed bar type, there's Knutsford Terrace at Kimberly Street. Bars in Peking road in Tsim Sha Tsui are good options. In Knutsford Terrace, in the middle of Jordan and Tsim Sha Tsui stations, you would find hippier crowds drinking Carlsberg and Stella Artois. The menu is a toss amongst Italian, Australian and Chinese. If you're in Hong Kong Island, Lai Kwai Fong and IFC tower are one of the top spots.


Expect a lot of walking, train hopping, eating fried foods and sight seeing. Hong Kong is a lively city. It's not for those who do not love action and going on foot. Hong Kong is also a place to shop, though not as cheap as in Bangkok.

Go visit Lantau Island's Ngong Ping (Buddha and Po Lin Monastery), The PEAK TRAM is always an option. Go have dinner there and visit Madame Tussauds.


If you forget everything else, even clothes or toiletries, you could buy cheap items in Mong Kok or in Giordano or 711. But do not forget these:

1. MAPS or PRINTOUTS - This is your official guide on MTRS and how to get to specific destinations. This will lead you to the top tourist / resturants as seen in icons. Some maps are very informative now, identifying catergories easy for tourists.

2. MEDICINE - Buy your trusted medicine at home. This is a foreign country. Medicine is crucial to try and test.

3. RUBBER SHOES / SLIPPERS - If you're not used to wearing boots and your itinerary involves a lot of walking, don't attempt to wear one. The best option are rubber shoes or flip flops

4. USD or HK dollars- Upon getting to HK, you don't necessarily have to have lots of HK currency. Money changers are everywhere.

5. PETROLEUM JELLY or RELIEVING OINTMENT - This is a good treat for your feet after a long day of touring.

6. FOCUS - You have to be attentive especially in MTR Stations. Directions are everywhere, but you have to do your job in immediately reading them and remembering routes. Walk briskly.

7. SANITY - Don't get easily frustrated if the locals do not understand you. They do try their best. Or you could just write down words for them. They are better reading English words than being speaking them. Also, just learn how to breathe through your mouths in MTR stations. There might be strong instances of undesirable body odor lurking. In shopping, make sure you stand firm. Don't get intimidated with the salesperson's aggressive ways. Don't haggle unless you're not entirely sure you like the product.

Happy Trip. Enjoy it!

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