With my first trip there fast approaching, I have put together some of what I’ve learned in the process of planning a first time trip to Hong Kong.
For the past few years, my husband (The Poolboy) has gone to Hong Kong to see the Art Basel and Art Central art fairs, but as the timing always falls into a school term, I’ve stayed at home to do all the school-related activities. However, this year with our oldest away at university and our youngest now in high school, we’ve been able to swing it that I can go to Hong Kong too! While The Poolboy has been to Hong Kong several times before, this will be my first time trip there and I’m keen to get a real-life taste of all the places I’ve seen in his photos over the years! (Some of which feature in this post.)
When to go
Our timing is locked in to the end of March as we’re going to Hong Kong specifically to see the art fairs which are on at that time. March is the beginning of Hong Kong’s spring and we can expect daytime temperatures of around 17oC – 26 oC, and cooler evenings.
Hong Kong’s climate is a sub-tropical climate with distinct seasons, with summer (June to August) being stiflingly hot and humid.
Another thing you should keep in mind when planning a time to go is that typhoon season begins in May and ends in November. Typhoons can have a significant impact on Hong Kong, but there are warning systems in place, which you should familiarise yourself with.
Possibly the best time to visit Hong Kong is between October and December when the temperatures are comfortable, there’s generally more sunshine and breezes, and the city is not too busy.
For a full description of each of the seasons, check out this page on the Discover Hong Kong (Hong Kong Tourism) website.
For up to date details of Hong Kong’s weather, including a nine day forecast, visit the Hong Kong Observatory website.
Where to go
I’ve been using the Discover Hong Kong website (and its Facebook page specifically for Australians) as a great source of essential information, itinerary suggestions, news, tips and links. Discover Hong Kong is the website of the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB). There is an excellent feature on the website “My Hong Kong Guide” which allows you to create your own personalised guide to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong covers 1,104-square-metres and comprises Hong Kong Island to the south of the harbour, the Kowloon Peninsula to the north, the New Territories (which are north of Kowloon) and continue to Mainland China, and more than 200 outlying islands.
We are starting our stay on Hong Kong Island, staying in the area known as Central, then swapping over to a hotel in Kowloon.
How we’re getting there
Cathay Pacific and Qantas both offer offer direct services to Hong Kong from many of the Australian capital cities, with both of them having daily direct flights from Melbourne. We’ll be flying up there with Qantas and back with Cathay Pacific.
It’s about 9 ½ hrs flight time from Melbourne or Sydney to Hong Kong. Flights from Australia to Hong Kong arrive at Hong Kong International Airport which is on Lantau Island (one of the 200 islands which comprise Hong Kong).
Once on the ground at the Hong Kong airport, the MTR’s high-speed Airport Express train takes about 24 minutes to reach Hong Kong Island and is the fastest way to get between the airport and the city. There’s a free shuttle bus from Kowloon and Hong Kong stations to some of the main hotels.
How to get about
There’s a lot of options for getting around Hong Kong to see all the sights and visit shops, restaurants and attractions:
MTR (Mass Transit Railway) system – This covers all major areas of Hong Kong including stops at the boundary with Mainland China (Lo Wu Station and Lok Ma Chau Station). You can purchase tourist day passes for unlimited travel, or you can use an Octopus Card (stored value card) for individual trips. Click here for my tips on using Hong Kong’s MTR system.
Taxis – are generally plentiful. They are cheap, air-conditioned and clean and can usually be hailed on the street.
Buses – Buses are also available, and most are air-conditioned. Some are double-deckers which offer great from the top deck. Various routes are operated by different bus organisations, but all accept Octopus Cards for payment.
Ferries – like most cities based on a harbour, ferries are also a viable option for getting about. The iconic Star Ferry is a particular attraction, but there are also ferries which service the outlying islands.
Where to stay
In choosing our accommodation, we’ve stuck with The Poolboy’s usual favourite hotel, but also added an additional hotel for a bit of variety.
We’re staying the first two nights in Central at Ovolo Central – a chic new hotel in the heart of the entertainment district between Wyndham Street and SOHO. The Ovolo offers a free happy hour between 6pm and 8pm each evening in the lobby lounge, plus they do snacks and coffee all day round. From the website, it kind of reminds me of the fabulous Kimpton hotels we stayed at in the USA.
After that we will be crossing the harbour to stay the rest of the time at The Langham Hotel which is The Poolboy’s usual haunt. It is located in the centre of Hong Kong’s shopping district of Tsimshatsui, and is just a two-minute walk from Victoria Harbour.
Check back in future weeks when I’ll post all my thoughts about these accommodation options!
What to see and do
A few things we’re thinking about doing are:
- Visiting The Peak and doing the Peak Circle Walk
- Seeing the Temple Street Night Markets
- Taking a Star Ferry on Victoria Harbour
- Shopping at the Ladies’ Market
- Taking a day trip to Macau
- Having lunch at a seafood restaurant on Lamma Island
- Wandering through Central and Sheung Wan
- Plus, just maybe…a bit of shopping!
I’ll be writing posts about all the best experiences after we return. Sign up for email updates (see the box in the sidebar) or my monthly newsletter if you don’t want to miss a single word. And, of course, I’ll be live-Instagramming and Facebooking the trip!
How to stay connected
I’d be lost without my iPhone – it’s so much more than a way to make and receive calls! I’ve found that I’m using it more and more in my travels as my main camera. Plus, it’s handy for Google Maps on-the-go, looking up details of anything and…of course, updating Facebook and Instagram!
However, all those uses can chew through both the battery and the data. I carry a portable Powerbank in my handbag for a quick recharge during the day, and I make sure I have cheap access to data rather than incurring exorbitant data roaming charges.
This time, we’re just away for just over a week, so I’m going to use the option my mobile provider (Vodafone) offers of accessing my home data allowance for an extra $5 per day while travelling in the Hong Kong. At around $40 AUD is a realtively cheap and no-fuss way to be constantly connected.
There are however other options including:
- A Discover Hong Kong Tourist SIM card (5 day and 8 day passes available)
- Free wi-fi.hk hotspots around Hong Kong
Guide books are really useful in the planning stage of any travel. There is just sooooooo much information on the Internet, that narrowing it down and making sense of it can be an overwhelming task.
I like to start off reading through a couple of trusted guidebooks, which I then use to create the framework of an itinerary. After I have all the essentials in place, the Internet is great to add the colour and spice.
For this trip the guidebooks I’m using are:
- Lonely Planet’s Pocket Hong Kong: a concise guide which fits in a pocket or handbag and includes a handy fold-out map.
- Lonely Planet’s Guide to Hong Kong: this is the more comprehensive guidebook, which I like to have in an e-version on my iPad.
- Luxe Hong Kong and Macau: Luxe city guides are always great to point you in the right direction for good restaurants, shops and tucked away hidden spots. And again, it is small and light so fits into a handbag.
- DK Eyewitness Top 10 Travel Guide for Hong Kong: I love the very visual nature of DK guides and the Top 10 guides offer lots of great ‘top 10’ lists.
Plus for a bit of pre-trip fiction reading just to set the mood:
- White Ghost Girls by Alice Greenway (2006)
- Noble House by James Clavell (1981)
- Kowloon Tong: A Novel of Hong Kong by Paul Theroux (1997)
- The Honourable Schoolboy by John Le Carre (1977)
- The Piano Teacher by Janice Y K Lee (2009)
Bookdepository.com has a huge range of travel guide books at great prices and I usually order all the ones I need from there for delivery straight to my mailbox.
Disclosure: The links to travel guides and novels at bookdepository.com in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you click on them and then purchase anything from the site, I will receive a small amount of each sale. You don’t pay any more than you would normally.
Packing and what to wear
Packing is always my biggest headache. I’m not one of those people who can throw a couple of items into a suitcase and turn it into twenty seven different looks…but I suspect Kirralee at Escape With Kids is. And I’ve relied on her twice before (Hawaii and Japan) for some great visual packing guides. They are such great prompts to organise my packing so that I don’t take too much stuff, but still have enough for all the various activities and occasions.
And now she’s done another excellent one for me for a week in Hong Kong. Check out her blog post on What to Pack for Hong Kong for all the details (click the text link or the image below for all the fabulous details).
Have you already been to Hong Kong? Or are you planning a trip? I’d love any tips or ideas!
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