Throughout the years I’ve watched friends and acquaintances move from my home country Romania one by one, and we have always said we will too at some point. But little did we know what would expect us, and we were going to be moving to Hong Kong and become expats in Hong Kong.
They say “be careful what you wish for because you just might get it”, and sometimes the change one wants, might be much more than what one was expecting.
I always thought and will always believe that all things happen for a reason, and I was somehow meant to be moving to Hong Kong at some point in time.
I’m saying that because this wasn’t my first encounter with this idea, having applied for a Hong Kong short term assignment in my previous job. Something that obviously did not materialize, but I think it was for the best, and when my husband received the position here I knew he had to take it.
What it’s like to be moving to Hong Kong?
I must admit, it wasn’t all fun and games, and I had my moments of doubt and panic. But somehow, I’ve always felt that this was the best choice and step for us, and I’m taking it one step at a time.
There have been only three days since we arrived, and since we are going to be spending some time here (I honestly don’t know how much) we decided to take it slow and settle down before I go out exploring as I usually do, the best places for everything.
But I’ll be sharing with you some impressions Hong Kong left on me, in this short time here, together with some tips and tricks which we’ve learned by doing, and I think would be useful even if you are a tourist in Hong Kong.
Welcome to Hong Kong tips for first-time visitors
Getting the Hong Kong visa
Since my husband came here with a job we had already received the resident visa sent to us back home through the mail, thus we had to only show up at the immigration desk and the process was fairly quick.
For the tourist visa for Hong Kong, the process is simple and you will just need to fill in a form that will be given to you during your flight in order to have it ready.
For UK citizens visas are not required, while other nationalities are permitted to stay in Hong Kong for different periods for touristic reasons: Romanian, Canadian, and American citizens have 90 days, while others might have less. Check the full list here.
Getting from Hong Kong airport to town
Our flight from Bucharest took roughly 16 hours with a 3 hours stop in Doha, and even though it wasn’t the longest flight one could have to get here, it was still exhausting.
That’s why it is good to know what options you have in order to get from Hong Kong airport to the hotel in the most efficient way possible.
By train: the Airport Express is the fastest and most comfortable way of getting from the airport to Central in only 24 minutes and for 115 HKD (roughly 11 EUR) for an adult and half the price for children.
However, because we arrived late in the evening and because of current situations, we chose to take the taxi.
Taxies in Hong Kong have 3 different colors and will take you in 3 different regions:
- Red – Urban taxies traveling in and from Hong Kong island
- Green – New Territories, thus the North – Eastern part of Hong Kong
- Blue – traveling only in Lantau
For our drive from the airport to the Causeway Bay area, we paid around 350 HKD (around 35 EUR), but you can check this out for a price estimation for various destinations.
In order to get a taxi, we exited the airport on the left side and waited in line for the red taxies. They function on first come first served policy, and there is someone guiding you to a taxi.
By public transportation: maybe the cheapest way of getting from the airport to your destination, public buses schedules and prices can be seen here.
Weather in Hong Kong
We arrived in early October and the first time I got out for a walk it still felt like Summer. We were lucky the city welcomed us with a sunny day and around 30 degrees C, while evenings are more breathable.
After that one sunny day, two rainy ones followed, with on again off again showers during the whole day, and stormy nights where the sky lit up by lightning. But all this still came with a temperature of around 26 degrees C.
However, from my research (and I’ll keep an eye on that and confirm) the perfect time to visit Hong Kong as a tourist would be from September to January when precipitations and humidity in the air are lower, but temperatures are still in the 25 degrees C range (75 – 81 F).
Either way, I’ve learned thanks to a friend that whenever I go out and know that I’ll be going somewhere inside I’ll need to bring a scarf or jacket with me because of the strong AC in every restaurant, shop, lobby, hotel, anything.
Eating in Hong Kong
I must admit I was very looking forward to tasting Hong Kong food.
Mainly because I love Asian food, but also because I love soups, noodles, fried rice, dim sum, and everything in between.
Of course, in the little time spent here, I didn’t really have the chance to taste a lot, but we’ll surely will and I’ll get back with my top places to eat in Hong Kong, both local and Asian.
Because of the hour, we reached the city, we couldn’t find anything open, thus we had to go for plan B – McDonald’s.
Needless to say, the next morning we woke up craving something good, soothing, and filling. Thus, we went looking for the perfect food on Electric Road.
And yes, we are guilty of having Vietnamese food as our first lunch in Hong Kong. But we’re such great fans we couldn’t really help it.
We then went on and had dinner at one of the best restaurants in Tai Hang – Tipsy Restaurant and Bar. The place is rather touristic or frequented by expats in Hong Kong, the menu is not very big, but the food was delicious, while still pretty expensive as compared to all other places we have been to.
However, the first traditional lunch we had was on our second day in Hong Kong, in Happy Valley, at Tasty. And I must admit I loved every single bite!
Meanwhile, I’ve learned there are 3 types of places you could go out and eat in Hong Kong:
- Tea meal restaurants – like the one we have just at the base of our current hotel, and like the ones we saw plenty when walking around town. Here is where you will find plenty of local cuisine options (and I’m talking about tens of options and combinations), cheap prices, breakfast/lunch/dinner menus for somewhere around 5-6 USD, and everything served with tea of course.
- Asian restaurants – anything from Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Malaysian, you name it.
- Western – not exactly what you might eat in Italy let’s say, but western food, that usually comes with a price.
Getting around in Hong Kong
These days we mainly walked, also because the metro was suspended, but because we haven’t wandered far from the hotel just yet.
But the best way of traveling in Hong Kong is by far by public transportation.
The MTR system map covers a large part of the city, getting you to all the important places. And where you can’t go by metro, there is the tram or the bus.
A bus ride cost was 3.7 HKD per person (that is less than 50 cents), and since we did not have an Octopus card quite yet, we paid cash on the bus.
Oh, and by the way, they drive on the left side here, so this will take some getting used to from my side.
Octopus Card in Hong Kong
I’ve learned that the Octopus Card is the preferred way of paying, be it for public transportation, or for shopping.
It is basically a card where you store money and which is accepted in many locations throughout the city, not having to walk around with cash or more credit/debit cards on you.
In some cases, discounts apply when paying with the Octopus, but I’ll need to look further into that and test it.
The cards can be bought from any 7-Eleven or Circle-K shops, or buy it online before coming to Hong Kong.
Grocery shopping in Hong Kong
We went out looking for water and the only shop open on Friday at 11 PM was a K-Circle which is comparable to a 7-Eleven, with a small variety of products, but where we found the basic to survive until the next day.
On Saturday, we saw a Marketplace supermarket really close to our apartment and decided to go in and see what can we take for late-night cravings. We waited in line for 40 minutes but got the chance to see almost all the products the store holds.
It was clear to us that Marketplace is a somewhat fancy supermarket, with a large variety of goods from all over the world, but with prices to measure.
The even pricier option is Fusion, but I still need to check that out.
One thing is sure, from now on, I’ll be looking for a Wellcome supermarket because that’s where we found the greatest variety of products (local and foreign), at the affordable prices. And some are even open 24 h.
All in all, Hong Kong seems to be an incredibly lively place to be in, which will offer us great ways to fill our time and explore the city, its surroundings, but also South-Eastern Asia and beyond.
Who knows for how long we’ll be here, but we will surely make the best out of every day.
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