5 Hong Kong Travel Tips For First-Time Visitors

If you’ve never been to Hong Kong before and are thinking about visit for the first time (which I highly recommend), here are a few travel tips to help make your first trip a little easier. If you’ve already been there you probably know these already, but if not, you may have had no idea:

#1 – Know Your Taxis

Unlike most cities, Hong Kong actually has multiple kinds of taxis – and getting in the wrong one could cause you some serious headaches. Fortunately, they’re color-coded: Red (“Urban Taxis”), Green (“New Territories Taxis”), Blue (“Lantau Taxis”)

You’ll most likely be dealing with Red / Urban taxis, because they serve the entire area and are the only ones that serves Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. They’re also the most expensive, but still relatively affordable. Green and Blue taxis are both limited in terms of the areas they can visit, with Blues being the most restricted. For a more detailed explanation of the different taxi types (including which areas they serve), be sure to check out the Wikipedia page.

Unlike Mainland China, you will occasionally find a Hong Kong taxi driver who understands English, but it’s best not to count on it. Make sure you have address or destinations written out in Cantonese to let the driver know where you’re going. Hotel staff can be really helpful if you’re leaving from your hotel, and most hotels will also have a pre-printed card you can hand to the driver.

#2 – Know Where To Stand For A Symphony Of Lights

Every night at 8pm, there’s a laser light show on the waterfront called “A Symphony of Lights”. Let that sink in for a moment – Hong Kong puts on an elaborate light show every single night of the year (weather permitting, of course)! The “Avenue of Stars” on the Tsim Sha Tsui (“TST”) waterfront (Kowloon side of the water) is considered to be one of the best vantage points – and it is. There are unobstructed views of Hong Kong Island, and music coordinated with the light show.


View of Hong Kong Island at night from the “Avenue of Stars”

That all said, I think the views are much better from up high. You’ll miss out on the music, but it’s a much more impressive sight. If you have a room on a high floor at the Intercontinental, Sheraton, Peninsula, or another hotel in TST – you’ll probably have a great view from your room! There are a number of nicer restaurants that also have a great view – just make sure you’re sitting down at your table by the time the show starts at 8.

#3 – Pay The Premium To Add The Sky Terrace To Your Peak Tram Ticket

One of the most popular tourist stops in Hong Kong is checking out the view from Victoria Peak on Hong Kong Island. It’s a really steep climb, so the most common way to get to the top is to take the Peak Tram. Return tickets are HK$ 40 (~$5USD), and one-way tickets (to the top) are HK$ 28 (~$3.50USD).


Even on a dreary day the view is pretty impressive!

In addition to deciding whether to buy a return ticket vs. a one-way ticket, the other option you have is to buy a Sky Pass, which includes access to the Sky Terrace 428. It’s just a little bit higher, but the views are noticeably better – with fewer obstructions and better angles. It’s only an extra HK$ 35 (~$4.50USD) if you buy the Sky Pass, and well worth it in my opinion. If you decide not to buy the Sky Pass and regret your decision at the top, you can still buy a Sky Terrace 428 ticket for only slightly more (HK$ 40).

#4 – Familiarize Yourself With The Metro

This is good advice for pretty much any city you’re visiting for the first time, but the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is an especially great way to get around Hong Kong.


The coverage is pretty extensive, and the fares (which are calculated on a distance basis) are quite reasonable. A single day, unlimited use “Tourist Day Pass” is HK$ 55 (~$7USD) – but you’ll need use it quite a bit for it to work out cheaper than simply paying on a per-trip basis for each ride you take. The MTR is renowned for it’s efficiency and cleanliness, and in my experiences it has lived up to that reputation. One thing to note: if you see signs for “subway”, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve found an entrance to the MTR. There are a number of underground tunnels and walkways that allow you to cross busy streets, and these are often labeled as “subways”. If you want the metro, make sure to look for MTR signs.

#5 – Don’t Avoid The “Mall Food”

Here in the US, “mall food” is generally associated with really bad fast food, and while there are exceptions, that’s generally what you’re going to get. Not so in Hong Kong.

Soup Dumpling From Din Tai Fung

Soup Dumpling From Din Tai Fung

Most (if not all) of the shopping malls in Hong Kong are really, really high end – both in terms of the shops they have inside, and the food as well. There are a lot of high-quality food options available in the malls – everything from casual establishments, all the way up to fine dining. While I certainly wouldn’t recommend limiting yourself to “mall food”, definitely don’t shy away from it either because you’ll be missing out on a lot of great options!


I hope you’ve found these Hong Kong travel tips helpful – time to start planning that first trip!

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  4 comments for “5 Hong Kong Travel Tips For First-Time Visitors

  1. LufthansaFlyer
    January 12, 2014 at 1:36 am

    Download the MTR app. Makes the MTR a breeze.

    Also, buy an Octopus prepaid card that you can use on the MTR and at many shops across Hong Kong. Rechargeable and helps eliminate the abundance of coins that you’ll build up if you use cash! :)

  2. dotti cahill
    January 12, 2014 at 11:00 pm

    do not take pepper spray into the country cause on the way out they will arrest u..my teen age college dauighter came right from her dorm added some clothes and we were off to atl-sfo to meet her sisters to get onto singapore air and hong kong for dim sum class all was well but as we were going thru their tsa to leave for vietnam she was pulled out of line and her things searched and they found a small pepper spray that she has kept with her for years..then the police came etc etc her passport taken etc and she was interviewed by police and military what a hassle –she will never go back again only the criminals can carry so called weapons in HK they would not just throw it away had to do 3 reports in chinese

    • January 14, 2014 at 12:06 am

      Wow – good to know!

      Sorry for the hassle it cause you, but hopefully others can learn from it!

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