star ferry

Photo credit: Hong Kong Tourism Board

If you’re planning a trip to Hong Kong, don’t miss out on these Hong Kong travel tips! As Hong Kong locals, we’ve put together all the secrets and hacks we know, so that you can get around the city just like the locals do.

1. Get an Octopus card

The Octopus card will get you far in Hong Kong. The equivalent of London’s Oyster card or Tokyo’s Pasmo or Suica card, the Octopus card can be used to pay for the MTR (Hong Kong’s extremely clean and efficient subway), buses and minibuses, ferries, and even supermarkets and restaurants. MTR fares paid with the Octopus card are slightly cheaper than single-ride ticket prices, and you also get to look like a local tapping your card nonchalantly at the gates.

To get yourself a card, visit the customer service center at any MTR station (you can access these centers without entering the paid area) and ask for a Sold Tourist Octopus card or an On-Loan Octopus card. Besides MTR customer service centers, you can also get one at the MTR Ticket and Octopus Selling Machine at the airport. Check out this page for more places to get your Octopus from.

The Sold Tourist Octopus card costs HK$39 and doesn’t come with any stored value, so you will have to top it up. It does come with a special illustrated design though, and makes for a cute souvenir.

The On-Loan Octopus card doesn’t come with the special design, but is a relatively better deal. Hand over a HK$50 refundable deposit and you can have the card and a convenience limit of up to HK$50. Here’s a little hack–you can pay with your card until you’re HK$50 under the value you stored into your card, and take the card with you as a souvenir! You can also simply get your remaining value and the HK$50 deposit back at any MTR customer service center.

You can top up your Octopus card at supermarkets, convenience stores, or any MTR station at either the customer service center or automated add-value machines. Each Octopus card can hold up to HK$1000.

2. Take the Airport Express

If you’re looking for the fastest way to reach the city, the Airport Express is your best bet. Board the Express at the airport and you could be in Central in just 24 minutes. It departs every 10 minutes from 05:54 to 23:28 and around every 12 minutes from 23:28 to 00:48. The Express even offers free WiFi on board!

Staying somewhere other than Hong Kong Island? The Airport Express also stops at Tsing Yi Station, Kowloon Station and AsiaWorld-Expo Station. There are also free shuttle buses that take you from Hong Kong or Kowloon Stations to most major hotels and transport interchanges.

Updating fares of the Airport Express can be found here. Paying with your Octopus card will be cheaper, but pre-booking your tickets on KLOOK will give you the best deal, check out their deals on their website or app!

3. Check in for your flight and drop off your bags early

Have an early hotel check out and a late flight? Don’t want to haul your baggage around while you explore the city for the rest of the day? Check in for your flight and drop off your bags early at the In-Town Check-In counters at Kowloon Station and Hong Kong Station, so you won’t have to drag your bags to the airport yourself!

Simply check in and collect your boarding pass at the counters between 90 minutes and one full day before your scheduled flight departure time. Be sure to contact your airline to check whether the service is currently available! Click here for more details.

4. Take public buses from the airport

Save even more money by taking public buses from the airport! Most bus rides to the city cost at most HK$50, and the majority hover around HK$20-30. The catch is that bus rides take much longer compared to the Airport Express, but a slow and calming bus ride is always a great way to see the city and its people, especially if you sit on the upper deck.

5. Know where to get free WiFi

Free WiFi is available at most government facilities, including public libraries, parks, beaches, and sports centers. You can also get free WiFi at the airport, some convenience stores, McDonalds restaurants, and all MTR stations near their Free WiFi Hotspots. Some MTR stations also offer free-to-use computers connected to the internet (called “iCentre”s), such as Central, Kowloon Tong and Mong Kok. See this page for more information.

6. Get a prepaid SIM card

Despite easy access to free WiFi, we still wouldn’t recommend relying on it. Getting around Hong Kong will be much easier with mobile data, and to have that we suggest getting a prepaid SIM card. Data cards in Hong Kong are amongst the cheapest in the world, with impressive internet speeds. Get a SIM card at any 7-11 or Circle K (even at the airport!), or from major mobile carriers such as CSL, Three, or China Mobile.

7. Download essential apps

Whenever we’re asked for Hong Kong travel tips, the first thing us foodies would mention is to download OpenRice, Hong Kong’s Yelp for restaurants. Find the best eats wherever you are using the nearby function, and read reviews to see what you must order. Don’t read Chinese? Don’t worry– people leave reviews in both Chinese and English.

Other key apps to download include the MTR Mobile app, which will show you route, duration, and fare information with the Train Trip Planner, tourist information, which exits to take and much more. Also download the Hong Kong Observatory app, as the HKO will provide you with the most accurate and up-do-date weather information based on your location.

8. Take a Foodie Tour with Hong Kong Foodie

OpenRice might help you find the hottest eateries in town, but if you’re looking for old-school Hong Kong classics, or simply want to take a back seat and have your adventures planned for you, you’ll love taking a Foodie Tour with Hong Kong Foodie. Our Foodie Guides will take you to feast at local gems and old mom-and-pop eateries you wouldn’t discover otherwise, while sharing about the neighborhood’s history, architecture, and unique culture. We’d recommend the Central and Sheung Wan Foodie Tour for first timers, and the Sham Shui Po Foodie Tour for those who’d like to see a more working-class side of Hong Kong.

9. Catch lunch deals at high end restaurants

Weekday lunch is cheaper at most restaurants in Hong Kong, from cha chaan tengs to fine-dining establishments. The difference is especially apparent if you visit high end restaurants, where lunch menus can be half the price of dinner. Some of our lunch favorites include 298 Nikuya Room for Japanese yakiniku, The Chairman for upscale Cantonese cuisine, and Michelin-starred Arbor for modern Japanese-inspired French fare.

10. Skip the line to the Peak Tram

It’s undeniable that the Peak Tram is a classic Hong Kong tourist attraction, but you can actually get the same views by taking a bus or a taxi up to the peak and walking down. Skip the 2-hour wait and the HK$84 tram fare by catching bus 15C from Central pier 8, bus 15 from Exchange Square bus terminus, or minibus 1 from the public transport interchange at Hong Kong Station, Exit E.

11. Hike up the peak

Skip transportation all together and get those legs moving! Fit a workout into your trip and hike up Victoria Peak for the best views. Trailheads to the peak are spread out across western and central Hong Kong Island, so you’ll find a route no matter where you are. See this page for more information.

12. Get out of the city

Besides the Victoria Peak hike, Hong Kong has tons of other stunning hikes to offer. Escape the hustle and bustle by checking out our hiking guides here and here.

13. Take the Star Ferry

No article on Hong Kong travel tips is complete without mentioning the Star Ferry. Most articles would tell you that it’s one of the cheapest scenic boat rides in the world, but few let you in on this secret– take the ferry at 8pm from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central for the best view of the Symphony of Lights, instead of going on pricier cruises travel agents might suggest. A ride on the Star Ferry is less than US$0.5!

14. Enjoy Ocean Park for free

If you’re an HKID card holder, you can enter Ocean Park for free on your birthday! Free admission on birthdays is also granted to local senior residents 65 years old or above with an HKID card or the “Senior Citizen Card” issued by Social Welfare Department, and holders of a Registration Card for people with Disabilities.

15. Get a museum pass

Get yourself a museum pass for unlimited admission to permanent and special exhibitions at all museums under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, including the Hong Kong Museum of History and the Hong Kong Science Museum. Family passes, individual passes and student/senior passes are available. Check the updated cost here. Museum passes are valid for 12 months, and you also get a 10% discount at museum gift shops. You could also simply visit museums on Wednesdays, when many of them offer free admission to everyone.

Keep these Hong Kong travel tips in mind when you visit the city, and you’re bound to have the time of your life!