With Chinese roots, some British influences, and a dash of hyper-capitalism, Hong Kong is a magical place to visit. Although it's the world's fifth-most expensive city, there are budget ways to enjoy it. There are plenty of cheap flights to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific, Air New Zealand, BA, Qantas and Virgin.
Once there, the shopper can revel in the stores, markets and factory outlets, sans sales tax. Public transport is inexpensive. Entry to the major museums is free on Wednesdays and on Thursdays and Saturdays you can catch a ride on the Duk Ling junk for a small fee.
Enjoy the free, nightly laser show and music extravaganza, Symphony of Lights. To centre oneself, free Tai Chi classes are held on the Tsim Sha Tsui harbour front overlooking Hong Kong Island or up on The Peak, courtesy of the tourist board.
Beyond the city, there are more than 260 islands to explore. Disneyland is on Lantau, Cheung Chau hosts a Bun Festival in May, and Lamma is a very popular spot with locals.
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Hong Kong climate
The best time to travel to Hong Kong is between October and November, the autumn months when the temperatures are milder. January and February are usually rainy and cold months while June to September temperatures average 30 degrees Celsius with 95 per cent humidity. Some rain and humidity can be expected throughout the year. Even during the height of summer it is worth bringing some warm clothing to combat the fierce air conditioning in shops and offices.
When to fly to Hong Kong
Autumn and spring used to be peak seasons for Hong Kong, and this is when the weather is most pleasant – it can get unbearably sticky during the summer months. However, it is increasingly becoming a year-round destination. Fair weather or foul, there is always something to do inside, usually in air-conditioned buildings. There are certain times of year, such as Chinese New Year, when HK will be especially busy and you will need to have booked Hong Kong flights and hotels in advance.
Even in the winter months, Hong Kong’s weather is usually mild, so this can be a good time to visit and avoid crowds.
Getting around Hong Kong
Public transport is good in Hong Kong and getting around easy.
Rail: There are two types of trains, the Mass Transit Railway (MTR), which primarily runs underground and has six lines. This is fast and efficient and also connects the airport to downtown. Overground trains run on the Kowloon-Canton railway, which is mainly used by commuters.
Tram: The famous peak tram runs up The Peak, climbing 373 metres. A trip up here is a must for tourists to see the city laid-out at your feet. There are also commuter trams running along the north part of the island.
Ferries: Many ferries run across the harbour and connecting Hong Kong to China. This is one of the most pleasant ways to get around.
Hong Kong insider information
- To escape the hustle of the city, head to Kowloon Park – take the subway to Tsim Sha Tsui. The park contains a bird lake, with hundreds of colourful flamingos, Bainiao Garden, a football field, children’s playground, banyan courtyard and a sculpture park. The park is open every day except Fridays. On a Sunday afternoon, various groups gather to practice martial arts or dance. A stroll through gives an excellent flavour of the many activities taking place in the city.
- One of the best views in Hong Kong is also accessible from Kowloon park. Head through the park past the bird sanctuary and over the bridge to a pier lit by fairy lights. From the very end of the pier, Hong Kong island is laid out in front of you, to the left are cruise ships in the harbour, and to the right the developments taking place on the reclaimed land.
- Shopping for electronics: Sham Sui Po has the greatest and cheapest computer accessories you’ll ever find. Head for the computer hardware store just by the metro. The basement has an assortment of gadgets for computers – from those you’ve always wanted, to those you never knew you needed but just can’t leave behind. Everything is on sale at prices substantially cheaper than those in the West.
- Entrance to all museums is free on Wednesdays. One of the biggest and best is the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, which has exhibitions on HK’s history, art and culture.
- To visit beaches, depart from Sai Kung, from where you can reach almost any beautiful island you want. Just take one of the boats and spend a day relaxing…
- It’s not the cheapest city to eat or drink in. To save money if you’re female, however, head for bars on “Ladies Nights” – most bars have these and it means free entrance and free drinks for women all night long. Wan Chai is the centre of the nightlife region. For celebrity-spotting, hit the Dragon, a favoured nightclub with the rich and famous. Needless to say, there is a strict dress code and door policy.