Hong Kong consists of a peninsula of the Chinese mainland, just east of the Pearl estuary in south-eastern China, and a group of islands. Lantau Island in the south-west of the territory is the largest island; while Hong Kong Island, separated from the mainland by a good natural harbor, is the main urban center. The mainland section of Hong Kong consists of the New Territories in the north and Kowloon on the tip of the peninsula. There are 234 other islands, many of which are quiet and undeveloped. Hong Kong Island was ceded to Britain in 1842 by the Treaty of Nanking; and the Kowloon Peninsula (south of Boundary Street and Stonecutters Island) in 1860 by the Convention of Peking. The New Territories were leased to Britain in 1898 for a period of 99 years. The transfer from British to Chinese sovereignty occurred on June 30 1997.
Human activity on Hong Kong dates back over five millennia and there were early influences from northern Chinese stone-age cultures. The British East India Company made the first successful sea venture to China in 1699, and Hong Kong’s trade with British merchants developed rapidly soon after. After the Chinese defeat in the First Opium War (1839-42), Hong Kong was ceded to Britain in 1842 under the Treaty of Nanking. In the late 19th century and early 20th centuries, Hong Kong developed as a warehousing and distribution center for U.K. trade with southern China. After the end of World War II and the communist takeover of Mainland China in 1949, thousands of people fled from China to Hong Kong. Hong Kong became an economic success and a manufacturing, commercial, finance, and tourism center. On July 1, 1997, China resumed the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong, ending more than 150 years of British colonial rule. Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China with a degree of autonomy in all matters except foreign and defense.
The Chinese people of Hong Kong are mostly of Cantonese origin, yet the Chinese consist of many clans with their own practices, dialects and ways of life. This is still particularly evident in the New Territories, where each and every village has its own performing arts, sports and community centers. Today, more than half of the Chinese population in Hong Kong is Cantonese, although some descendants of the Hakka, Tanka and Hoklo clans (which settled in Hong Kong) remain. The term “Han-Chinese” is used to distinguish the ethnic majority (about 92% of the mainland Chinese population) from the various minorities in and around the greater China region.
Handshaking is the common form of greeting. In Hong Kong, the family name comes first, so Wong Man Ying would be addressed as Mr. Wong. Most entertaining takes place in restaurants rather than in private homes. Normal courtesies should be observed when visiting someone’s home. During a meal, a toast is often drunk saying Yum Sing at each course. There may be up to 12 courses served in a meal. Although it is not considered an insult to eat sparingly, a good appetite is always appreciated and it is considered cordial to taste every dish. It is customary to invite the host to a return dinner. Informal wear is acceptable. Some restaurants and social functions often warrant formal attire. Smoking is widely acceptable and only prohibited where specified.
Chinese and English are the official languages, with Cantonese most widely spoken. English is spoken by many, particularly in business circles.
Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. Following British rule from 1842 to 1997, China assumed sovereignty under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s constitutional document, the Basic Law, ensures that the current political situation will remain in effect for 50 years. The rights and freedoms of people in Hong Kong are based on the impartial rule of law and an independent judiciary.
Hong Kong time is 12 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (EST).
The standard electrical voltage in Hong Kong is 220 volts AC, 50Hz. Most hotel bathrooms also have outlets for 100 volts, but if not, you will need a transformer for any appliance or electrical equipment. The majority of electrical outlets in Hong Kong take a three-pronged UK-style plug. You can buy an inexpensive adaptor for your electrical equipment at most convenience stores.
In winter (October) and early spring (March), when temperatures are around 17°C (61°F), the climate can be mild and fresh but come May, the ever-present humidity skyrockets and summer is both hot and frequently wet. Expect summer temperatures to be around 28°C (82°F). Typhoons hit during summer and early autumn and, even without them, ferocious rainstorms fall intermittently. For locals, a signal eight typhoon can mean a day off work. You shouldn’t venture out if the typhoon warning exceeds signal three. For visitors the tremulous weather is just another factor that makes Hong Kong such a diverse and unique destination.
CLOTHES TO WEAR
As the winter in Hong Kong can be quite cold, a warm sweater and coat are recommended, as are warm trousers. In the hotter months, light cotton clothing is recommended. Heavy rain and thunderstorms are normal features of the summer so bring an umbrella. Many of the better clubs, restaurants and hotels take a dim view of beachwear so bring light, comfortable trousers and proper shoes.
Entry & Exit Requirements:
To enter Hong Kong, you will need a passport that is valid for at least one month beyond the date of your intended stay, adequate funds to cover your stay without working locally, and evidence of onward/return transportation. Many neighboring areas require that your passport is valid for at least six months before they will allow you to enter, so if you plan on regional travel beyond Hong Kong, make sure that your passport is valid for at least six months beyond the date you plan to enter such areas. You do not need a visa for tourist visits of up to 90 days. You may be granted an extension of your stay if you apply to the Hong Kong SAR Immigration Department. You must have an appropriate visa to work or study in Hong Kong. Visit the Hong Kong SAR Immigration Department or the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China website for the most current visa information.
You should obtain all required visas prior to departing the United States. If you wish to travel to the PRC from Hong Kong, you will need a PRC visa and should apply at the PRC embassy or consulate closest to where you reside. If you are the parent of a child who holds U.S. passport, you should know that the PRC Visa Office may require a certified birth certificate or other documentation for your child. A certified U.S. birth certificated is generally required when applying in Hong Kong for PRC visas for U.S.-born children. Further information on travel to and around the PRC is available in our China Country Specific Sheet.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Hong Kong SAR.
Consulates General Locations:
Consulate General of the United States of America
26 Garden Road, Central, Hong Kong
Tel: (852) 2841-2211
Fax: (852) 2845-4845
Consulate General of Canada
8th floor, Berkshire House, 25 Westlands Road, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong
Tel: (852) 3719-4700
Fax: (852) 2810-6736
Good medical facilities are available, and there are many Western-trained physicians in Hong Kong. Prescription drugs are widely available, although they may have different names from those in the United States. Note that for many medications, a prescription from a Hong Kong doctor will be needed for purchase in Hong Kong. Therefore, you should bring prescription medications to cover your stay in Hong Kong, or plan to see a physician in Hong Kong to obtain a new prescription. Hong Kong emergency service response times for police, fire, and ambulances are good.
Please note: Some medications may not be permitted in the country. Please check if the medication you are bringing is permitted in the country you are visiting.
Air pollution is increasingly serious in Hong Kong. Congested vehicle traffic and mainland factories pump out ozone, sulfur, and nitrogen oxides, leading to a visible haze in the atmosphere on most days of the year. Average roadside pollution levels exceed WHO guidelines by 200% and continue to deteriorate, creating health risks for those with allergies, asthma, or cardiac problems.
Hong Kong remains at “Alert” response status for Pandemic Influenza. Further current information about Pandemic Influenza and other health-related concerns in Hong Kong are available on the Centre for Health Protection website.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or via the CDC website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/topics/infectious_ diseases/en/. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
BANKS & CURRENCY
Hong Kong Dollar (HK$) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of HK$1000, 500, 100, 50, 20 and 10. Coins are in denominations of HK$10, 5, 2 and 1, and 50, 20 and 10 cents.
Foreign currency can be exchanged in banks, hotels and bureau de change. Banks usually offer the best rate of exchange. MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club and Visa are widely accepted. Check with your credit card company for details of merchant acceptability and other services that may be available. Travelers’ checks are accepted almost everywhere. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travelers are advised to take travelers checks in US Dollars. You may find it most convenient to have money changed upon arrival at the money changes located in the airport. Banks will be closed if you arrive on Saturday afternoon or Sunday.
A wide-ranging and sophisticated communications network has developed in Hong Kong, reflecting its thriving commerce and international importance. International dialing code: +852.
Cell Phone Usage:
Please contact your cell phone provider to determine whether your contract includes coverage in the country you are visiting. Depending on your contract you may have to add international services and/or country specific services.
Food & Drink:
Hong Kong is one of the great centers for international cooking. Apart from Chinese food, there are also many Indian, Vietnamese, Filipino, Singapore, Malaysian and Thai restaurants. It is the home of authentic food from all the regions of China, which may be sampled on a Sampan in Causeway Bay, on a floating restaurant at Aberdeen, in a Kowloon restaurant, in a street market or at a deluxe hotel. Hotels serve European and Chinese food but there are also restaurants serving every type of local cuisine. Chinese regional variations on food include Cantonese, Northern (Peking), Chiu Chow (Swatow), Shanghai, Sichuan and Hakka. Cantonese is based on parboiling, steaming and quick stir-frying to retain natural juices and flavors. The food is not salty or greasy and seafood is prepared especially well, usually served with steamed rice.
Specialties include Dim Sum (savory snacks, usually steamed and served in bamboo baskets on trolleys). These include Cha siu bao (barbecue pork bun), Har gau (steamed shrimp dumplings) and Shiu mai (steamed and minced pork with shrimp). The emphasis in Northern food is on bread and noodles, deep-frying and spicy sauces. Specialties include Peking duck and hotpot dishes. Shanghainese food is diced or shredded, stewed in soya or fried in sesame oil with pots of peppers and garlic. Seafood dishes are a speciality. Chiu Chow is served with rich sauces and Hakka food is generally simple in style with baked chicken in salt among the best dishes. Sichuan food is hot and spicy with plenty of chillies. A speciality is barbecued meat.
The Chinese do not usually order a drink before dinner. Popular Chinese wines and spirits are Zhian Jing (a rice wine served hot like sake), Liang hua pei (potent plum brandy), Kaolian (a whisky) and Mao toi. Popular beers are the locally brewed San Miguel and Tsingtao (from mainland China) with imported beverages widely available.
Enterprising night animals in Hong Kong can try to get invited to a local karaoke party or join in a lively dice game with a bunch of beer-swigging regulars in a Tsim Sha Tsui bar. Lan Kwai Fong, the famous square mile of Central with the most relaxed drinking hours and the most intense partying, is still a beating nightlife heart. SoHo (‘South of Hollywood Road’) is slightly more chic and relaxed concentration of brasseries, bars and beer spots, just off the Mid-Levels Escalator. Chinese locals tend to favour Tsim Sha Tsui, riddled with bars and clubs.
Those wanting a dose of culture can check out one of Hong Kong’s up-and-coming local bands, stroll around the hip contemporary art galleries on Hollywood Road or catch a local action film. While Hong Kong isn’t exactly a cultural hotspot, it should be remembered that this is Greater China’s film and media powerhouse and one area where Chinese arts and culture have flourished without political and ideological interference.
Whether one is shopping in modern air-conditioned arcades or more traditional street markets, the range of goods available in Hong Kong is vast. Many famous-name shops have opened in Hong Kong, bringing the latest styles in great variety. Places that display the QTS (Quality Tourism Services) sign are the best guarantee of satisfaction. Bargaining is practiced in the smaller shops and side stalls only. There are excellent markets in Stanley on Hong Kong Island, which is in a beautiful setting in a small village on the coast, and in Temple Street, Kowloon, which is a night market. Tailoring is first class. Except for a few items such as alcohol and tobacco, Hong Kong is a duty-free port.
Shopping hours: 0930-1900 daily and later in many cases.
Baggage rules for international and domestic air travel have changed much in recent years, differ from carrier to carrier and these days even may cover your on-board bags. Checking luggage may cost a separate fee or may be free depending on your personal status with the carrier. We therefore encourage you to read your ticket’s small print and/or contact your carrier for exact rules.
Gratuities are not included as a part of our service. However, we would like to reiterate that tipping is NOT mandatory and is entirely at your discretion, based on your level of satisfaction for the services that you have received. Having said that, most service providers do expect gratuity. We are pleased to provide you with the suggested guideline, that you may use at your discretion.
There is no public laundry on the streets. Laundry services are available in hotels and cruise ships, usually through the floor attendant or housekeeping. One-day dry cleaning and pressing services are offered at better hotels.
PHOTOS & VIDEOS
In some countries you must refrain from photographing sites such as Military bases and industrial installations. Also be aware of cultural sensitivities when taking pictures of or near churches and other religious sites. It is always courteous to ask for permission before taking photographs of people.
USE OF DRONES
The use of drones is being legislated by many countries. In some cases drones are already forbidden and their unauthorized use may carry severe penalties. If you plan to travel with a drone please contact the embassy or consulate of the country you wish to visit.