THE BASICS

Photo by Elaine Li
  • Capital: Victoria City
  • Area: 1,063 mi² (2753 km²)
  • Population: 7.3 million
  • Languages: Hong Kong Cantonese and English
  • Currency: Hong Kong dollar (HKD)
  • Time Zone: Hong Kong Time
  • Major Airport: Hong Kong International Airport (HKG)
  • Drive on the: Left

Located at the mouth of the Pearl River Delta on the coast of southern China, Hong Kong is a gateway between the East and West, making it a crucial center for international trade. Its area is comprised of Hong Kong Island, which lies to the south of the harbor, the Kowloon Peninsula, which forms its northern shores, the New Territories, which stretch all the way to mainland China, and more than 200 outlying islands.

Photo by Romain Jacquet-Lagreze

While Hong Kong is technically part of China, it’s an autonomous region that is separate and more or less self-governed — it even has its own police force, border control, and monetary system. Because of its colonial history and presence in international trade, Hong Kong boasts a rich blend of cultures, which adds to its unique character — most of its residents are bilingual, speaking both Cantonese and English.

Photo by Chak Kit
Photo by Marc Bächtold

Though it’s home to a subtropical climate with four distinct seasons, Hong Kong is almost always humid. Since typhoon season spans from May to November, many people regard autumn as being the best time of year to visit. Fall temperatures are comfortable with light breezes and plenty of sunshine, while winter is cool and cloudy, spring is warm and increasingly humid, and summer is hot and exceptionally humid (with occasional thunderstorms).

Photo by Edward Barnieh
Photo by Chak Kit

There are a number of festivals in Hong Kong throughout the year, with Chinese New Year being the largest visitor attraction. The months from February to April also see such festivals as the month-long Arts Festival and the International Film Festival. When planning your visit, make note of which festivals align with your travel dates.

Photo by Audrey Wang

Hong Kong is often referred to as “the New York City of Asia,” but it’s really more like a tropical island with a dash of skyscrapers. The city is famous for its skyline, but is also home to beaches, national and marine parks, mountains, and waterfalls — all within close proximity of the Central Business District (CBD). In fact, even though Hong Kong is considered a metropolis, almost three-quarters of its area is countryside. And if you’re an avid hiker, you’re in luck! Hong Kong offers more than 50 hiking trails just waiting to be explored.

Photo by Romain Jacquet-Lagreze

Getting around the territory is surprisingly simple. The city’s subway system, the Mass Transit Railway (MTR), is a marvel of speed, economy, and efficiency — it even features bilingual (English-Cantonese) station maps and signs. There will often be three or four different transportation options for any area, and the coverage network reaches nearly every corner of Hong Kong (including its outlying islands). With affordable ferries, buses, minibuses, trams, trains, airport rail, and walkable streets, Hong Kong is one of the least car-dependent cities in the world with 90 percent of daily commuter journeys taking place on public transportation.

Photo by Elaine Li
Photo by Edward Barnieh

There are a few important things to take into account when exploring the city:

  • Although people drive on the left, you should walk on the right side of the sidewalk.
  • When using escalators, stand on the right and allow others to walk on the left.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • Carry plenty of water and stay hydrated — it’s always humid.
  • Keep an extra layer of clothing for when you enter buildings, as AC levels tend to be rather high due to the aforementioned humidity.

From cheap, tasty meals to Michelin-starred restaurants, Hong Kong also offers an array of food options that are sure to meet your appetite. In fact, Hong Kong actually has one of the world’s highest per capita concentrations of eateries — there is one restaurant for every 300 people. So go wild! Whether you have a hankering for Lebanese cuisine, Vietnamese pho, Wagyu burgers, Cantonese dim sum, or Asian desserts, Hong Kong has it all.

Photo by Romain Jacquet-Lagreze

Lastly, remember that most shops, malls, and galleries open late in the day and close late in the evening. (For example, most boutiques don’t open until 1:30 p.m.) So treat yourself: sleep in, go for a late morning breakfast, then enjoy Hong Kong’s buzz long into the night.

Whatever you do, you’re bound to have a memorable time in Hong Kong.

Photo by Kenneth Yeh
Photo by JD Lee
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Hailing from the foothills of Northern California, Kacie is a writer and editor who's worked on everything from quarterly surf magazines to art books, zines, lookbooks, novels, and emoji style guides. She's a bit of a story junkie, but we forgive her for that. To view more of her work, creep her website and Instagram.