Out of all the tours I’ve run in the past 3 years, a lot of my guests told me that they wish they had known the tips I had given them earlier. So here are the things you should know before packing up for Hong Kong to make your trip easier, better and smoother!
1. Exchange enough cash in HKD before your trip
Surprise surprise. Hong Kong is a city that heavily relies on cash payments at small shops, diners and local restaurants. Do exchange enough cash at your local bank before flying out. Credit card payment is available at bars and restaurants located in the shopping malls.
2. Take the airport express into the city
First thing to do once you arrive in Hong Kong: buy tickets to take the Airport Express train into the city, which directly takes you to Kowloon Station and Hong Kong Station (that’s interconnected to Central Station, which is on the blue Island line). A round trip costs 115 HKD only (if your destination is at Hong Kong Station) and it only takes 25 minutes to get into the city. Easy peasy!
3. Check out the sight at the Peak from a different trail
Out of all the tour operators in Hong Kong, I’m fairly sure that I’m the only one that never takes my guests to the Peak. In my humble opinion, you can definitely check it out by yourself without the guidance of a tour guide. Here are some pro tips: Take a taxi up to The Peak if you want to avoid the queue at the tram terminal, and check out the view of the skyline of the skyscrapers along Lugard Road instead, a trail that would steer you away from the touristy crowd.
4. Get an Octopus Card for commute
It’s easy to commute in Hong Kong when you have an Octopus card in your pocket. The card allows you to take transport including MTR (subway), bus, minibus, and Airport Express. You can purchase the card at the customer service counter at any MTR station or at 7-11 convenience stores. If you purchase it at the MTR, the card costs 150 HKD, which comes with a deposit of 50 HKD and 100 HKD for credit. You can get your deposit of 50 HKD back if you return the card within 90 days of purchase, with a processing fee of 9 HKD deducted upon return at the customer service counter.
If you purchase the Octopus card at 7-11, the card costs 39 HKD but does not include credit nor value. The card is for yours to keep when you disembark from Hong Kong. That being said, you can still refund the credit on your card at any customer service counter at the MTR stations.
Pro tip: you can use Octopus card to purchase food, drinks / whatever shit you need at convenience stores, McDonalds (I know I know, why would you want McDonalds while in Hong Kong right? But hey we got a different menu here and there are thai sweet chili chicken wings y’know), and restaurants that have the Octopus card machines at the cashier.
P.S. For those who are travelling in groups, you need one Octopus card per individual.
5. Dim sum is NOT dumplings
One of the myths that I hear a lot from my guests is that dim sum = dumplings. Dim sum is actually an umbrella term for Cantonese tapas. These small dishes range from rice noodles rolls with barbecued pork / beef / shrimps, bean curd rolls with mushroom, pork and veggies, steamed egg custard buns, sesame balls with red beans, steamed pork patty with sweet Chinese preserved veggies, shrimp dumplings (har gow), and the list goes on. So don’t forget to stuff your belly with dim sum while in Hong Kong.
Also a word of advice: dim sum is usually served in the early morning to 2-3 pm depending on the restaurant. However, drunk dim sum is also available in the city if you’re feeling adventurous and need some greasy food for hangover preventive measures. You can watch my drunken dim sum experience on my YouTube channel here.
6. There’s also much more to dim sum in Hong Kong
While dim sum is a must in Hong Kong, there’s one thing that a lot of people don’t know about in our culinary culture. The mums in Hong Kong are known for making the most delicious homemade soup, with ingredients such as chicken, corn, carrots, and coconuts. They’re known for their health benefits and you can order it at restaurants. If you see soup on the menu next time, give it a go!
7. Bring a few packs of napkins
Most local restaurants in Hong Kong do not provide napkins and would charge for a pack of napkins. You can tell your waiter you’d like some tissues instead of napkins, as tissues is the universal word in Hong Kong. Or you can bring your own to avoid messy eating!
8. Take the Mid-level escalator
If you’re looking to explore Central and Sheung Wan, take the Mid-level escalator if you’re going uphill. It would save you a lot more energy as the roads there are as steep as the ones in San Francisco!
9. Book a tour at the beginning of your trip
A little shameless plug here, but a lot of my guests told me they wish they booked a tour with me at the start of their trip since it helped them get their bearings around a lot easier in Hong Kong and gave them the confidence to venture out in local neighbourhoods and restaurants on their own. If you’re interested in booking a tour with me, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or direct message me on Instagram @hkfoodcrawlers.