I just got back from a weeklong vacation in Hong Kong, traveling with my friend E. We had a great time and agreed that Hong Kong is an excellent destination for US-based travelers.
Hong Kong has excellent food at every price point — street food, night markets, dim sum, afternoon tea, fancy Michelin-starred restaurants inside world class hotels.
It’s easy to explore the region using an Octopus card and the excellent public transportation system, which consists of subway, above-ground trams, buses, and ferries. The subway is AMAZING. The trains are so long, you can stand at one end of the platform and not even see the other end. There’s no need to rush for trains because a lot of them come every.single.minute.
For English speakers, it’s extremely easy to get around and communicate with others, since HK used to be a British colony.
And oh yeah — Hong Kong is really pretty.
How to Get There
From SFO, you can fly nonstop on United, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airlines, or Singapore Airlines. You can also fly nonstop from SEA, LAX, ORD, or NYC airports.
We flew nonstop from SFO to HKG in United Economy. We purchased our tickets two months in advance for $743. You can definitely get a cheaper fare by monitoring flight deal websites.
Where to Stay
Hong Kong is a “special administrative region” of China and consists of some land on mainland China (shares a border with Shenzen) and a bunch of islands.
Travelers seem to stay on either Hong Kong Island or on mainland. While there’s plenty to do on both sides, we stayed on the island which is where a lot of the nightlife is.
For our first six nights, we stayed in an airbnb near Wan Chai. We spent our last two nights at the JW Marriott Hong Kong (on top of Admiralty station).
Notes for First Timers
Cantonese and English are the two official languages of Hong Kong.
I don’t know anything about the Chinese language, but English is everywhere in Hong Kong so I got around just fine. My friend E is familiar with Mandarin and could read some of the characters around the city.
We bought Octopus cards at the Central MTR station. These cards are used for public transportation and many convenience stores accept them. Each one was $150 HKD ($50 deposit + $100 loaded onto the card).
The subway system is distance based (like BART), so you tap in when entering the station and tap out when exiting the station.
For above ground trams, you board at the back of the tram then tap off at the front.
The star ferry, which travels between Hong Kong Island and mainland, accepts Octopus cards and the fare is about $2 HKD (so about $0.25 USD).
Hong Kong uses the Hong Kong Dollar or HKD. At the time of travel, 1 USD = 7.85 HKD.
For more high end restaurants and shopping, I used my credit card. Everywhere else, I used my Octopus card or cash.
You can easily withdraw cash from any ATM using the Schwab debit card. More details can be found in my earlier blog post about it: The Best Debit Card for Travel (And Why You Should Have Two!)
I carried a jacket and umbrella with me every day. When walking around below the enormous skyscrapers, it’s easy to forget that this is an island in a tropical climate! Rain showers are frequent. Additionally, a jacket is useful, for when shops blast their air conditioning or when it cools off in the evening.
I loved my time in Hong Kong and definitely recommend it as a destination for a vacation!