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Ultimate guide for Singapore travellers. What you need to know about Hong Kong.
In Europe, it's Paris and London. In the US it's New York and Los Angeles. And in Australia, it's Sydney and Melbourne. The tendency to want to compare great cities seems to be part of human nature, possibly because those cities have so many points of difference. That's also why Hong Kong is a popular destination for Singaporeans, even if some people want to see some sort of rivalry between the two.
Yes, there are points of similarity, but also there are glorious differences that make Hong Kong a fabulous destination for Singaporean travellers.
From the slick airport and excellent Airport Express train to the centre of town to the high-end dining and spectacular hotels, Hong Kong makes life easy for travellers except perhaps those on really tight budgets, though there are activities that cost next to nothing. It’s a city of contrasts, and beguiling for that.
Quick Travel Notes
Etiquette & Customs: Hong Kong is an international city with a global outlook. Most etiquette issues stem from the fact that most Hong Kongers seem to be in a hurry – you can, at times, feel like you’re being pushed out of the way.
Transportation: You can get around Hong Kong by train, bus, tram, taxi, and ferry. Read on to learn more about getting around in Hong Kong.
Temperature & Weather: Subtropical Hong Kong enjoys cool winters, averaging top temperatures around 20 Celsius between December and February, and hot and often steamy summers between June and September. Arguably the Autumn and Spring seasons are the best times to visit. Be aware that Hong Kong frequently experiences typhoons between July and September – pay attention to typhoon warnings (more later).
See & Explore
- Central/Hong Kong Island: Most of Hong Kong’s historic colonial buildings are in Central, so that’s a great place to start. The charming Peak Tram to the Peak Tower with its spectacular views (weather/pollution permitting) over Central and Victoria Harbour is also an excellent diversion. Try the Peak Circle Walk for a taste of nature with the spectacular views. Lang Kwai Fong’s bustling bars and restaurants are worth a try, as well as the slightly more subdued ones in the Mid Levels – accessible by escalator. Happy Valley racecourse offers the opportunity to try your luck on the horses – Hong Kong’s only legal betting option. From glitzy shopping malls to hole-in-the-wall shops, there’s shopping for all tastes on the island. Head to the quieter southern side of the island for shopping at the seaside Stanley Market, hiking the trails in Shek O, or feasting at the iconic Jumbo Kingdom floating restaurant.
Across Victoria Harbour, the Kowloon waterfront offers some of the best views back towards Central for free, or push the boat out (figuratively) with a drink in the bar at the venerable Peninsula Hotel. Bustling Tsim Sha Tsui offers plenty of shopping and dining opportunities. Ladies’ Market in Tung Choi Street, Mong Kok, is bursting with clothing, accessories and cosmetics, while the Temple Street Night Market in Yau Ma Tei offers trinkets, menswear, antiques and food, of course.
- Off the beaten track: The outlying islands make great day-trips to get away from the bustle of downtown, to feast on fresh seafood, hike in the countryside or laze on a beach. The big Buddha on Lantau Island is a popular tourist attraction. Disneyland on the same island is an obvious choice for those travelling with children. There are even quiet fishing villages to explore. Lamma Island features a traditional fishing village and has a laid-back bohemian feel.
Health & Safety
Check the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ travel advisory for Hong Kong here www.mfa.gov.sg.
Singaporeans are advised to carry identification at all times – police can request proof of identity at any time, and failure to do so is an offence.
If you are travelling in typhoon season (usually between May and early November), pay attention to the typhoon warning system, somewhat confusingly grading storms on a scale that only includes 1,3 8, 9, and 10. Warnings are posted by the Hong Kong Observatory here: http://www.hko.gov.hk/m/home.htm. As a tourist none are particularly pleasant. The advice for signals 9 and 10 is to ‘stay indoors and away from exposed windows and doors to avoid flying debris.’ Expect to see uprooted trees and debris when the storms reach signal 8. Public transport services (except the MTR) are suspended when the signal reaches 8.
Typhoons also affect the airport. The direction of the wind is important and can see delays or cancellations caused by crosswinds in a signal three typhoon, or regular operation even in a signal 8. Check with your carrier, or better still, avoid travel when there’s a warning in place.
Numerous daily flights connect Singapore directly to Hong Kong’s excellent airport on Chek Lap Kok island. If you’re staying on Hong Kong island, Kowloon, or Tsing Yi, there’s no better way of getting there than on the Airport Express train. You can even check in downtown rather than drag your bags back to the airport when you leave.
Hong Kong’s MTR operates a railway network covering 91 stations on ten different lines. MTR also operates light rail and bus services, as well as the Airport Express. Details for tourist services, trip planning and fares can be found here: http://www.mtr.com.hk/en/customer/tourist/index.php
Taxis in Hong Kong are plentiful and cheap, though many drivers only speak Cantonese, and peak hours they can be frustrating to find – the local HKTaxi app is reportedly the most reliable ride-hailing app. Uber is also an option.
On the north side of Hong Kong Island, a narrow-gauge heritage tram system transports commuters and tourists on double-storey trams between Kennedy Town and Shau Kei Wan through Central, with a branch line circulating through Happy Valley. It’s not the fastest way to travel, but rather charming.
While the MTR beats it hands-down for speed, the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour – from Wan Chai or Central to Tsim Sha Tsui – is a tourist attraction in its own right, and remarkably cheap too (Adult upper-deck tickets on weekends and public holidays cost HK$3.70, or approx. SG$0.65).
The ‘outlying islands’ – Lantau, Lamma, Chueng Chau, and Peng Chau – are accessible by ferry from Central, and there’s a Lamma service from Aberdeen.
Hong Kong is relatively close, easy to get to and around, and offers an array of experiences to satisfy the tastes of most travellers. Its alluring blend of history and modernity, of glitzy shopping malls and street markets, of modern high-rise towners and quaint fishing villages, and of high-end dining to street food, make the city a deservingly popular destination, regardless of any rivalry, one may feel.
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