The vibrant, energetic, city-state of Hong Kong occupies a unique position in the world. Often referred to as the ‘New York of Asia’ due to its fast pace of life, Hong Kong is one of the two Special Administrative Regions of the People’s Republic of China. The uniqueness of Hong Kong lies in the fact that it functions as an intensely capitalist enclave in a communist country. Low taxation and free trade are the hallmarks of Hong Kong’s business environment and the city-state is today regarded as one of the leading financial centers in the world.
Administered under the, ‘one country, two systems framework’ Hong Kong has a separate judiciary and political identity from Mainland China. Hong Kong is administered under the Hong Kong Basic Law, a constitutional document, which states that Hong Kong will continue to enjoy a great amount of autonomy in all matters, except foreign relations and defense. The Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong, according to the stipulations of the Hong Kong Basic Law, is governed by a Chief Executive who is elected by a 1,200 member Election Committee, an electoral college consisting of individuals, and bodies that hail from 28 functional constituencies.
Located on the edge of Mainland China, on one side of the Pearl River Delta, Hong Kong is made up of four main territories, namely Hong Kong Island, situated in the spectacular world-famous, natural Victoria Harbor, Kowloon and the New Territories, which are attached to the mainland and more than 200 outlying, remote islands, many of which are uninhabited.
Hong Kong today is largely seen as a gateway to Mainland China and is visited by hordes of business and leisure travelers all year round. This former British colony, which offers a unique mix of Western and Eastern cultures, is also renowned as a choice shopping destination, as it is home to numerous luxury good-filled, multi-story malls and vibrant, animated local markets, which offer a wide range of local and imported products that aim to cater to all shopping preferences. Aside from shopping, Hong Kong is also well known as the gastronomic capital of Asia and the city-state is populated by a multitude of restaurants that offer almost every cuisine known to man. It is no wonder then, that Hong Kong, which is described as ‘Asia’s World City’, is one of the world’s foremost tourist destinations and is visited by more than 40 million tourists annually.
Hong Kong, which is located near the Tropic of Cancer, is bestowed with a humid sub-tropical weather pattern that features hot, humid summers and mild, rainy and foggy winters. The summer season in Hong Kong extends from May to September and is characterized by scorching temperatures coupled with high levels of humidity. The Hong Kong summers also have a wet, rainy period, which usually extends from June to August and is characterized by violent storms known as ‘typhoons.’
The winter season in Hong Kong usually extends from December to March and features one or two intense cold spells, occurring usually around Chinese New Year, when temperatures dip down to 8̊C(46̊F).
This weather pattern renders Hong Kong as a year round destination. However, it is said that the best time to visit this vivacious city, is during autumn between September and November, when the weather over Hong Kong is warm but amenable and humidity levels are more manageable.
Getting to and around Hong Kong
Hong Kong is usually accessed via its state of the art, Chek Lap Kok airport, which is situated on the reclaimed island of Chep Lap Kok. This airport is located at a distance of 34km (21 miles) northwest of Hong Kong Island and 23km (14 miles) from Kowloon.
The Hong Kong International Airport is a major aviation hub in Asia, and it welcomes a wide array of full-service and budget carriers from around the world. The airport is connected by express train (the airport express), public buses and taxis to the city center.
Getting around the city is also extremely easy, for Hong Kong is equipped with one of the best and most extensive public transport systems in the world. The transport network of Hong Kong is made up of buses, taxis, minibuses, trams, ferries, light rail and a subway network known as the MTR.
These various modes of public transport in Hong Kong are accessed using a stored value card called Octopus, though cash is accepted on buses, mini-buses and the trams in Hong Kong. However, it is necessary to have exact change for your fare. Visitors to Hong Kong can also avail of the on loan Octopus card, which is available at most MTR stations and requires a HK$50 deposit . This amount is refundable when you leave the city.
Citizens of nearly 50 countries require a visa to enter Hong Kong; most other nationalities are visa-exempt for entry into the city. However the period of entry granted varies from country to country. Visa-free access to Hong Kong is subject to the following conditions:-
1. All foreign visitors to Hong Kong must have a valid passport or travel document, which has validity of more than six months beyond the date of entry.
2. Visitors must also have a valid return/onward ticket and sufficient funds to cover their stay in Hong Kong.
More information on Hong Kong visas and entry requirements can be found at: -
Family-friendly accommodation in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a favored destination for vacationing families, for it offers a plethora of child-friendly attractions. It is no wonder then, that Hong Kong is equipped with several family-friendly hotels that accommodate all travel budgets.
The Salisbury YMCA
The Salisbury YMCA is located near the Kowloon waterfront and offers easy access to the Star Ferry, the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station, the China Ferry Terminal as well as the many shopping and dining options of Nathan Road and the Harbor City Mall.
The Salisbury YMCA is equipped with 363 guestrooms and suites including spacious family suites, which can easily accommodate a family of four. All of the guestrooms at the Salisbury YMCA are kitted out with modern-day essentials, like remote controlled air-conditioning, TVs with cable and satellite channels, tea/coffee making facilities and wireless broadband Internet access (for a fee). Common facilities at the YMCA include an indoor lap pool and a separate children’s pool, a rock climbing room, a well-equipped fitness center, a wellness center, squash courts, a dance studio, a children’s playgroup, two restaurants, a gift shop and a hair salon.
The Holiday Inn Golden Mile
The Holiday Inn Golden Mile is a well-established hotel that is located in the heart of Kowloon’s bustling Tsim Sha Tsui District. The hotel provides easy access to the district’s many large malls like i-Square, The One, the K-11 Art Mall, the Miramar Shopping Centre and The Park Lane Boulevard, which offer a plethora of dining and shopping opportunities. This large hotel offers 614 well-appointed guestrooms and ten suites, which are equipped with amenities like in-room safes, TVs with cable and satellite channels, minibars, tea/coffee making facilities and wireless Internet access (chargeable). Common facilities at the hotel include four excellent eateries – Bistro on the Mile, Loong Yuen, Osteria and Delicatessen Corner, a well-equipped fitness center, a shopping arcade and an outdoor pool. The hotel additionally offers child-care services and is equipped with a tour desk, which can help plan sightseeing expeditions.
The Island Shangri-La Hotel
The Island Shangri-La Hotel is the largest hotel and the flagship property of the Hong Kong based Shangri-La group of hotels. The hotel is located in the heart of Hong Kong Island and offers easy access to attractions like the Pacific Place Mall and the Hong Kong Park. The hotel is equipped with luxurious guest rooms and suites that offer breath-taking views of the city, Victoria Harbor or Victoria Peak. These sumptuous accommodation options are kitted out with antique furniture, luxurious soft furnishings and conveniences like complimentary Internet access, in-room safes and flat screen TVs, equipped with cable and satellite channels.
Common facilities at the hotel include Michelin starred eateries that offer western and Asian fare, a well-equipped health club and wellness center and indoor and outdoor swimming pools. The hotel also offers a slew of services like butler service in the suites, a concierge service and babysitting and child-care services.
Family-friendly attractions in Hong Kong
The Victoria Peak on Hong Kong Island is perhaps Hong Kong’s star attraction which also hosts the city’s most prestigious residential addresses. This mount, which rises to a height of 552 m (1,811 feet), is locally referred to as ‘the Peak’ and is accessed via a quaint funicular railway known as the Peak Tram. The viewing gallery at the Peak is located 140m (459 feet) below its actual summit and features several restaurants, observation decks and a shopping center. The Peak offers stunning vistas of Hong Kong island and beyond on a clear day and is an attraction that must not be missed on any visit to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s Big Buddha or the Tian Tin Buddha is the world’s tallest outdoor, seated bronze Buddha Statue in the world. This 34m meter (112 foot) Buddha is located near the Po Lin Monastery on Hong Kong’s Lantau Island and is an important center for Buddhism in Hong Kong. The Big Buddha statue is seated on a lotus throne, atop a platform and is surrounded by eight smaller statues of gods. Visitors can access the platform where the Buddha is seated by climbing 268 steps.
The Ngong Ping Cable Car is a spectacular 5.7km (4 mile) bi-cable ropeway which connects Tung Chung (a relatively new town on Lantau Island) with the Ngong Ping Village on Ngong Ping Plateau. This 25-minute journey offers stunning views of Tian Tan Budda Statue, the Po Lin Monastery and beyond. The Nong Ping Village is located near the cable car terminal and offers several entertaining attractions like the ‘Ngong Ping Teahouse’ , and the Monkey’s Tale Theater. The latter hosts a comical show inspired by the Buddhist Jataka tales, guaranteed to amuse both adults and children alike.
The grand Wong Tai Sin Temple dates back to the early 20th century. This Taoist temple is dedicated to Wong Tai Sin, a deity associated with the power of healing. This ornate temple is an exponent of Chinese temple architecture and features red pillars, gold ceilings and ornate lattice work. The temple complex also hosts a pharmacy and a verdant park called ‘Good Wish Gardens’. The Wong Tai Sin temple complex is one of the most frequented temples in Hong Kong.
The Ten Thousand Buddha monastery is located at the top of Po Fook Hill near Pai Tau Village, in an area known as Sha Tin in the New Territories. The monastery was established in 1949 and contains 13,000 small Buddha statues and a nine-story pagoda. The monastery is managed by laypersons and is not home to any monks. The monastery is accessed by climbing up a pathway that consists of 400 steps and is lined with Buddha statues of all shapes and sizes.
Family-friendly activities in Hong Kong
Pay a visit to Hong Kong’s Disneyland Park
Hong Kong’s Disneyland is an outpost of the famed American theme park. The Disneyland in Hong Kong is located on reclaimed land in Penny’s Bay on Lantau Island and is the smallest of all the Disneyland Parks. The park encompasses two Disney themed hotels and various themed areas like Main Street USA, Adventureland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Toy Story Land, Grizzly Gulch and Mystic Point. Hong Kong’s Disneyland features many of the thrilling rides, parades and iconic characters of the original. However keeping in mind its location, the park also incorporates aspects of Chinese culture, like featuring a layout which is in accordance with the principles of feng shui, a highly respected science in Hong Kong that governs all walks of life.
The Star Ferry is an iconic commuter ferry that traverses the Victoria Harbor throughout the day. The ferry connects Hong Kong Island with Kowloon, and offers passengers a chance to view the stunning, skyscraper littered skyline of Hong Kong from the water. The best time to ride the Star Ferry is at sunset, for at nightfall many of the city’s towering monoliths are illuminated and present a truly dazzling sight.
Every night at 8pm, Hong Kong puts on a spectacular multi-media show that features much light and sound and the active participation of 40 skyscrapers located along both sides of the Victoria Harbor. This visual and musical extravaganza is known as ‘A Symphony of Lights’ and the best spot for viewing this spectacle is along the Avenue of Stars (a sea-facing promenade that pays homage to Hong Kong’s famed movie industry) on the Kowloon waterfront or on a twilight cruise around the Victoria Harbor.
Hong Kong is a world famous shopping destination and the city is equipped with numerous glitzy, glamorous malls like the IFC Center, Festival Walk, New Town Plaza, Times Square, Harbor City and Ocean Terminal, all of which are chock a block with stores and eateries. Shopping is a national pastime in Hong Kong and these malls offer hundreds of outlets that sell designer goods and more, at fairly competitive prices.
These Hong Kong malls attract hordes of tourists from all over the world, but they are especially favored by Chinese tourists hailing from the mainland. Aside from malls, Hong Kong is also home to several vibrant street markets like the Tung Choi Street Market (Lady’s Market), the Temple Street Market, the Kansu Jade Market, the Apliu Street Market which sell a wide range of products like apparel, shoes, jewelry, home wares and accessories and are hugely popular with locals and tourists alike. Bargaining is customary at these traditional street markets and you can usually start the process by offering the vendor half the price that he quotes you
For a densely populated city, Hong Kong offers quite a few verdant parks and lush green spaces, which are worth exploring on any visit to the city. The Hong Kong Park, the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, Victoria Park and Kowloon Park are some of the most prominent parks in Hong Kong, which give tourists and locals the chance to stretch their legs and take in the splendors of nature.
Ocean Park is a homegrown theme park located on the south side of Hong Kong Island, in an area known as Aberdeen. This park, which was founded in 1977, features several marine exhibits, shows and thrilling rides, which aim to educate as well as entertain guests of all ages. The park encompasses various themed zones like Aqua City, Rainforest, Thrill Mountain and Old Hong Kong, each of which offers a wide array of attractions. Also located within the park is a cable car system which connects the waterfront and summit areas of the park.
Hong Kong City Emergency Numbers
Hong Kong International Airport Visitor Centre
Buffer Halls A and B, Arrivals Level, Terminal 1
Hong Kong Island Visitor Centre
The Peak Piazza (between The Peak Tower and The Peak Galleria)
9am – 9pm daily
Kowloon Visitor Centre
Star Ferry Concourse, Tsim Sha Tsui
8am – 8pm daily
Lo Wu Information Centre
Arrival Hall, 2/F, Lo Wu Terminal Building
+852 2508 1234 (9am – 6pm daily)
Foreign Embassies in Hong Kong
United States Consulate-General, Hong Kong: +852 2523 9011.
British Consulate-General, Hong Kong: +852 2901 3000.
Canadian Consulate-General, Hong Kong: +852 2810 4700.
Australian Consulate-General, Hong Kong: +852 2827 8881.
South African Consulate-General, Hong Kong: +852 2577 3279.
Honorary Irish Consulate, Hong Kong: +852 2527 4897.
New Zealand Consulate-General, Hong Kong: +852 2525 5044.