Discovering Hong Kong
by Simon Friend
Hong Kong is a great city to visit for business and pleasure. Here are some tips to make your visit as efficient and enjoyable as possible.
If you need to contact someone on arrival there is complimentary internet access and free phones (for local calls only) in the baggage hall before clearing customs. Once you've collected your bags and cleared customs, it's time to head into the city. Unless you have a driver waiting for you, the best way into the city is the Airport Express for only HKD100 each way. You can pay by card at the information counter. Or better yet, get yourself an Octopus card (see below).
1. Octopus card – Similar to London's Oyster card but much better, the Octopus card opens up Hong Kong's impressive public transport system with nothing more than a "beep". You can also make purchases from convenience stores, McDonalds, and even Starbucks. A HKD50 deposit plus a minimum of HKD100 stored value is required for a new card. Octopus cards can be topped up in all MTR stations and convenience stores (such as 7-11 and Circle K).
2. Taxis – If you prefer hailing a taxi then take note of these hot taxi tips.
- The light on top of the car does not necessarily mean the taxi is available. You need to look in the windshield for the small round "for hire" signal.
- If this "for hire" signal is covered, it means one of two things: a) the taxi is off duty or has been reserved or, b) the taxi is for the other side of the harbour. The latter one can be of use when travelling across the harbor (e.g., you're on the island and want to go to Kowloon, or vice versa). To signal a cross harbor journey you make the wave motion with your hand.
3. Uber – Uber is in full force in Hong Kong and usually a more pleasant experience than the red taxis.
Dealing with the HK summer
If you find yourself on a walk of more than 5 minutes in Hong Kong's notorious heat and humidity (especially if wearing a suit) there is a secret to prevent you from getting too sweaty for your next meeting. A tactical aircon pit stop (in any shop or mall) to cool down will make all the difference.
Things to do if you have a few hours of spare time
1. Visit Victoria Peak on the peak tram. This classic has to be done smart. Go up and come down as early as possible to avoid the lines that start forming between 10am and 11am.
2. Visit Aberdeen Harbour for a sampan ride through the old harbour and a delicious seafood lunch at either the Jumbo Restaurant or Aberdeen fish market restaurant (not fancy but couldn't be fresher).
3. Visit the markets of Sham Shui Po. Tourists go shopping in the Mong Kok markets, locals go shopping in Sham Shui Po. This is a real insight into Hong Kong of old and one of my favourite districts because of its authenticity. There are two Michelin starred dim sum restaurants to be found in this district: One Dim Sum and Tim Ho Wan.
Like many visitors to the city, you may want to get a new suit tailored. There are countless experts who will be able to assist but as a rule of thumb, avoid any tailors with the promise of a 24-hour turnaround time as these suits will look like a 24-hour job. A fine suit cannot be rushed.
This is where the Airport Express really comes into its own. At either Hong Kong or Kowloon station, you can check in your luggage and get your boarding pass up to 24-hours prior to your departure.
The most popular Hong Kong departures are late at night, and if you don't have lounge access these are my departure dinner recommendations:
A) Have a sumptuous dinner at Isola (Italian restaurant in IFC) while overlooking Victoria Harbour before hopping on the train to the airport and your onwards flight.
B) Head to the airport with time to spare and have dinner at Pizza Express overlooking the airport runways before heading to your gate.
Hong Kong has a lot to offer, and these are just some of the tips from a local on how to make the most of your time in this incredible city.