My first trip to Hong Kong brought with it the chance to learn a lot about a brand new city and a new culture too. Every day was filled with new things, some of them strange and most of them wonderful. If you’re planning on visiting Hong Kong and it’s your first time, you may be like me and not know quite what to expect. So, to help you prepare, here are my top tips for things you should know before you visit Hong Kong. (By the way, you guys, don’t laugh at the suburb named Mong Kok.)
1. The people are lovely
If you’re wondering how you’ll be received by the locals, don’t! Everyone we met was absolutely lovely, from the hotel staff and restaurant servers through to friendly smiling locals on the street and train. Everyone greets you with a big smile and a wave if you smile at them and they’re happy to help you with directions if they can. The servers at bars and restaurants were all smiling, happy, laughing and took great care of us.
2. There’s lots of free wifi
If you’re a wifi addict or just need it to do your job or stay in touch, then have no fear because there’s loads of free wifi floating around in the air everywhere. Just be sure you switch your phone to airplane mode, to avoid any nasty overseas charges, then turn the wifi on and you should be able to connect. Can’t find any? Walk a few blocks and try again or grab a cup of tea at a local cafe and settle in for a quick few minutes of wifi action and a much-needed rest for those tired legs.
3. It’s humid as heck
We visited a few weeks ago in early May and it was very hot and very humid, so just prepare yourself accordingly. I’d recommend tying your hair up in a bun and wearing nice loose-fitting cotton or breathable clothing. You’ll probably need to carry around some water with you to stay hydrated, we went through around 2 litres a day between us. Also, take care of yourself by catching cabs or the train to break-up the amount of time you spend exerting yourself walking. I went too hard one day and thought I was dying, it wasn’t pretty.
4. Public transport is a piece of cake
Not literally or I’d have eaten the whole thing. But it is really easy to navigate and it’s really affordable too. We had absolutely no trouble figuring out the maps and working out how to get around and found it only cost a few dollars (AUS) to get around. If the train doesn’t take your fancy, catch a tram. It’s worth doing anyway as it’s a really cool experience, just jump on board and take off. Trams only run in two directions really so it’s hard to get lost.
5. Walk on the right
If you’re like us, you’re used to driving and walking on the left. In Hong Kong, they tend to drive on the left but walk on the right, which is slightly confusing. We stuffed up a few people’s set walking path by sticking hard left, thinking we were getting out of their way when really we were just messing up their mojo. The same goes for escalators, don’t stand still on the left thinking you’re being polite, stand on the right. Remember, right is right!
6. There are some funky smells
Every now and then, when you’re walking around, you’re going to catch a whiff of something putrid. I can’t tell you what it is or where it comes from, but it’s pretty nasty. Before you go, practice breathing in and out of your mouth without smelling anything through your nose. Think I’m being crazy? Let me know how your confidence holds up when you get smacked in the face by the invisible cloud of stinky butt.
7. People don’t mind if you take photos
I took thousands of photos and many of them were of the locals doing their thang. Nobody minded at all and, in fact, a lot of the time I felt invisible which was really great. I could skip around and take photos and have Matt take photos for me and nobody would look twice. It was really nice! When I asked politely, the locals were all too happy to smile and pose for a photo.
8. Comfortable shoes are necessary
I really underestimated just how much my feet would hurt. After the first day, my feet were in agony. By the second, my calves and knees were aching too! The key here is to pack a number of comfortable shoes you can switch between and to take lots of rest breaks. Don’t go too hard too early, you guys, pace yourselves. Also, you may like to pack some nice cream or heat balm or something you can rub on your legs and give yourself a massage with to ease the pain. For bonus points, treat yourself to some foot reflexology at a local day spa.
9. Getting around is easy
It isn’t hard to find your way around town as long as you have a paper map and/or are able to load google maps on your phone. You may or may not know this but if you load google maps of where you are, i.e. Hong Kong, before you move away from wifi access the map will stay loaded on your phone and you can track where you are. We got a great paper map from the lobby of a swanky hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui and it got us through our whole trip, it was really easy to find the spots we were looking for!
10. Everything opens late
I swear I was supposed to be born in an Asian country because I love sleeping in and so do the locals in countries like Hong Kong and Singapore. Nothing opens until late in the day but it stays open much later into the night. For example, we got up early thinking we’d really tackle a few things on our to-do list… the boutique shops run by local Hong Kong designers don’t open until 1:30pm. Yea, that late. So, treat yourself! Sleep in late, go for a nice lazy breakfast and coffee somewhere then get amongst Hong Kong life later in the day until later at night. It’s dreamy.
So, there you have it, my top 10 tips on things you absolutely should know before you visit Hong Kong. Have you been before? If so, I’d love to hear your tips too! Please share your advice and thoughts in the comments below.