Hong Kong 101 for first time travelers

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It’s that time of the year when major airlines are posting the most incredible flight promos that would enable just about anyone to travel around the country and even abroad.

And so, because a lot of our friends are going to Hong Kong for the first time this year, we are posting this travel guide for 5 days/4 nights that we use for our own trips to HK. This covers most of the tourist-y places that you have to check out and a few tips on the side to make your stay as smooth-sailing as possible.

BEST TIME TO GO

Summer in Hong Kong can get uncomfortably hot and humid so you may want to avoid going from June to September. Best time to go is during the cold season which starts in October all the way to March.

CHOOSING A PLACE TO STAY

I always say that the most important thing to remember when going to Hong Kong is to bring comfortable shoes. This is because of all the walking needed to get around the city. The second most important is choosing your hotel/airbnb. You need to pick a place that is accessible to public transport. An average day of touring would take anywhere from 15,000-20,000 steps on a Fitbit (yes, we actually computed for this one). That is a LOT of cardio and you wouldn’t want to end your day by walking a thousand more steps just to get to your hotel especially when you have shopping bags in tow.

TRAVEL NECESSITIES (Rates indicated are in Hong Kong Dollars.Prices quoted were rates as of December 2015 but you may click on the provided links for updated info.)

Airport Express ($200 round trip) – You will find the Hong Kong Airport Express booth right before you exit the Arrival area. This is the most convenient and fastest mode of transportation from the airport to the city. Fare ranges from HKD60-HKD100 depending on which station you will be getting off at. The train will get you to the closest stop where you will transfer to an Airport Express Bus. Be sure to check beforehand the closest stop to your hotel or AirBnB booking. You may also ask your hotel/host where you will need to get off.

Octopus Card ($250-$300) – This is an all-around card that you will be using on all public transportation (MTR, buses, cabs, ferry). You may also use this like a debit card to purchase food, etc. If you run out of credits, you may reload at any 7/11 branch or designated kiosks in MTR stations. You may also buy a new card at these kiosks in case you lose yours. The card has an initial stored value of HKD100 and a required HKD50 deposit. Discounted cards are available for senior citizens (66 years old and above). For our 3-day trip, we each used up around HKD300. If you end up with extra credits, you may still use this in the airport on your way back or save it up for your next trip. The card has a 1000-day expiration period from the last time you reloaded it.

CSL/three Sim card ($88 for 5 days unlimited internet) – Having internet is a must in Hong Kong – or any destination for that matter as you will need to rely on Google Maps and internet searches to get around. Local telcos like SMART and SUN Cellular provide reliable roaming services for P400-P600 a day. Alternatively, you may get a Sim card at the airport. I say at the airport because you wouldn’t want to step out without internet access.

Getting a SIM set-up is pretty easy. For CSL, for example, you just have to indicate the plan that you wish to get and the staff will do everything from installing the sim in your phone to subscribing to the prescribed internet plan.

Disneyland ($450) Ngong Ping Village ($165-$255) The Peak ($91) via China Travel Service
As soon as you get to the Arrival Area, look for China Travel Service (CTS). This is at counter A15. They have the most affordable tickets to popular HK destinations plus you get to avoid the hassle of extremely long lines when you try to get tickets at the actual tourist attraction.

To compare, Disneyland tickets at CTS are at $450/person while the rate when you get one at Disneyland is $539/person. Senior citizens (note that seniors in HK have to be at least 66 years old versus 65 in the PH) can get huge discounts but be ready to provide your passport when asked to validate your age.

ITINERARY DAY 1

Arrival

Buy/Reload Octopus cards
Buy SIM Cards
Buy Disney/The Peak/360/Ngong Ping Tickets at China Travel Service (CTS),
Take the Airport Express; Check in at Hotel
(Depending on where you will be staying) Ride ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui
Avenue of Stars, Symphony of Lights
Night Market

For any Hong Kong virgin, I would recommend starting off your trip with a stroll through Tsim Sha Tsui. This is the hub for designer brands and your gateway to the best view of the Hong Kong Skyline. Be sure to stick around until 8PM for the nightly Symphony of Lights.

ITINERARY DAY 2

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Disneyland

A. Festival of the Lion King
B. Grizzly Gulch
C. Eat at the Royal Banquet Hall at least once if only to check out the castle.
D. Don’t miss the parade at 3:30
E. Don’t miss the fireworks display at 8PM

There are maps provided at the airport and also at the ticket areas at Disneyland. The place is easy to explore depending on which rides you fancy. Be sure to give time allowance for the queues. You will have to line up for most of the rides/shows.

ITINERARY DAY 3

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MTR to Tung Chung
Ngong Ping 360 + Giant Buddha
Back to Tung Chung for Citygate Outlet
Stanley and Repulse Bay – a favourite tourist destination for souvenirs and discount items. Stanley Promenade is a hub for movie and photo shoots, more importantly a gorgeous backdrop for your Instagram feed.

ITINERARY DAY 4

IKEA (Kowloon Bay, Shatin, or Causeway Bay) – We usually allocate an entire day for this. We start at the pantry for those yummy meatballs, hotdogs and sausages – go shopping for home stuff (which are so affordable we even buy our beddings and kalderos from here), chocolates for pasalubong and our annual supply of mustard.

If you want to go souvenir shopping after this, you may want to drop off your IKEA loot at your hotel and head over to Mong Kok Night Market.

ITINERARY DAY 5

You may do some last minute shopping or exploring before your check out time. If your flight is scheduled at night, you may want to check out the rooftop at IFC Mall which offers an exquisite harbour view.
Airport Bus – Airport Express (If you have time, use your remaining Octopus Card credits at the airport for food or gift items)

All images © 2015 Dale Bacar.

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