Hong Kong Travel Guide for solo female travellers: taking you to the city I once called home (kong)
If you can recommend some spots where I can hang and maybe meet other people, that’d be awesome! Plus you mentioned that you lived there, so if you can also share some tips and some fav restos or activities that would be really awesome.
I am based here in Hanoi now. Thanks for females like you who have given me the inspiration to leave the Philippines. Let me know if you’re gonna visit this charming city.
First, I’d like to apologize for not responding to you but I am sure you had an amazing time in Hong Kong 2 weeks ago. As I don’t write a lot of guides, I thought about writing this Hong Kong travel guide because I am also receiving a lot of questions from readers who have a lot of where-to-thoughts about Hong Kong. Even if I am late, I hope this will come handy for your next visit.
P.S. I know the title suggest that this guide is only for long-term travelers but it is also applicable to people who are going for a short visit.
Why I love HK
When I was young, Hong Kong, in my mind was a city you visit during your first-time travel as an Asian. Like many young girls, shopping was my Hong Kong keyword. I first visited during my 18th birthday (the entrance to society), a gift that I received from my mother. I didn’t go alone though but 2 years ago, I had the chance to go back, explore it on my own and stayed indefinitely.
Hong Kong and I immediately clicked. Through my second exploration, I was able to go into a deeper meaning of food, culture and the greatness of the city. There is something about Hong Kong that will make you want to stay. I’m not sure how I was able to manage to live in this expensive city but one thing I know for sure: if you love it, if you feel that it’s right, then you will find all the possible ways to stay.
Some essays I wrote about Hong Kong that might interest you:
What’s in this post?
This is a very long post so to make it easier for you to navigate, you can click on the links below to jump to the section you want to read.
Arrival in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of the biggest flying hubs in the world. Over 100 airlines fly to (and from) Hong Kong International Airport (HKIG) so I’m pretty sure you can easily find a flight. If you are coming from Asia, expect that the fares will be very cheap.
Hong Kong is one of the countries that don’t stamp passports upon arrival. Instead, you will be given an entry card which will be a proof of your entry to HK. Don’t lose it! In theory, the card will not affect your departure but some recommend applying for a replacement. As a Philippine passport holder, I am only allowed 2 weeks in Hong Kong so I always kept my landing slip however, there wasn’t a time that I was asked to present it when going out. This is from my experience of going out of HK every 2 weeks for a visa-run. In principle, lose your entry card however you want but never overstay.
Although HKIG has a bullet-like speed WiFi, most of us will still feel more secure if we have a working sim card. I use CSL sim card but I am sure that any sim cards in Hong Kong are very reliable.
If you don’t want to buy a sim card at the airport, the whole city (especially Central Area) has a free high-speed WiFi. You can also avail a portable WiFi rental in Hong Kong if you want to connect more devices.[/us_iconbox]
|Central, Admiralty, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay (Hong Kong Island)||HK$280-320 ($35-$40 USD)|
|Tsim Sha Tsui, Jordan, Yau Ma Tei, Mong Kok, Hung Hom (Kowloon)||HK$230 ($29.5 USD)|
Getting around Hong Kong
There are many modes of transportation in Hong Kong but the train is the most convenient. The Octopus card is a must as opposed to buying single train rides. A standard Octopus Card (upon purchase) costs HK$ 50 ($6.93 USD) that’s pre-loaded with HK$20 ($2.56 USD). You can get your cards in the following stations:
- All MTR stations (except Racecourse station)
- Light Rail Customer Service Centres at
Ferry Pier Terminus, Leung King, Town Centre, Yuen Long Terminus and Tin Yat stations
- First Ferry Customer and Octopus Service Centres at
Cheung Chau Pier, Mui Wo Pier, Central Pier 5 & Central Pier 6
- KMB Lok Ma Chau Ticketing Office
You can easily reload your Octopus Card in any convenience store all over the city. Other means of transportation include:
Taxis are very expensive in Hong Kong but you’ll never know when you’re going to need it. I kept saying I would avoid this mode of transportation at all costs, but sometimes, most especially when I am going farther than Central, I always take the taxi.
Taxi drivers speak English perfectly well and if you ever leave something behind, they will definitely return it (this will be discussed in the Safety/Emergency section). You won’t be ripped off as HK drivers are normally honest but if you are hesitant, make sure to pay in small bills.
Tipping drivers (HK$ 1-2) is decent. Hong Kong strictly imposes the seatbelt law so don’t forget to buckle up![/us_iconbox]
Despite being a small country, Hong Kong is still divided by different islands so ferry as a mode of transpo is necessary. Star Ferry runs between Central (Pier 7) or Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui.
To get to the famous Lantau Island from Central (Pier 3), Discovery Bay Transportation is the best option. Hong Kong & Kowloon Ferry serves destinations on Lamma Island and Peng Chau only. To get to (and from) Cheung Chau, Peng Chau and Lantau Island, check New World First Ferry Boats.[/us_iconbox]
Note that prices for transpo vary so I didn’t include prices. The costs below are estimates. It’s just for you to have an idea what the cost is like.
|Buses||HK$4 to HK$46|
|Night buses||HK$7 to HK$32|
|Monthly ticket public transport||HK$522 ($67 USD)|
|Taxi trip on a business day, basic tariff, 8 km. (5 miles)||HK$62 ($8)|
Let’s get to know the Hong Kong neighbourhoods
I am biased with Central because this is where I spent most of my time in Hong Kong. It’s not that it feels comfortable because it’s an expat’s hub but you pretty much have everything in this area everything was so easy! When I first came here (11 years ago), there were only 2 choices – Mainland (Kowloon) or Hong Kong Island. I opted to stay in the latter because according to my mom, it was friendlier to families. I was traveling with the whole clan back then so I didn’t really have a say. And I was young.
Having the chance to explore things on my own (the second time in 2015) not only lead me to the different neighbourhoods in Hong Kong but also to stay for a longer term.
As usual, each neighbourhood is very distinct and have their own features. I suggest you check everything out but if you are pressed with time, this will help.
Uhm, yes. The one and only Central. I wouldn’t casually connect its name to geography but let’s say it is the center of everything. This area is home to skyscrapers, shopping malls, all things modern, and of course, the increasing number of expats in Hong Kong. In here, you will find many people, food and culture from different walks of life.
If you ask all your friends who’ve been to Hong Kong, TST is very familiar. This is what the tourists love! Located on the other side of the island (Kowloon), TST is home to many popular Hong Kong markets and odd food choices.
Aka the shopping bay. This is the locals go-to shopping place. You can easily spend a day in this area as it offers a lot of great dining options and huge number of shops.
Known to be the oldest district in Hong Kong, Wan Chai is home to the great dim sums, hot pots, even temples and parks that will surely give you a full-day diversity of things to do in Hong Kong.
… is my second favourite (next to Central). I overlooked this area before but when I did frequent visits, I observed that Sheung Wan is very hip (okay, hipster) and unique. If you are an antique love and an art installation geek, Sheung Wan is your turf.
Where to stay in Hong Kong
Before anything else, it is very important to know the rent costs in Hong Kong, especially for long-term travelers. For the most part of my stay, I stayed in an apartment because I wanted to have privacy. I don’t think I can stay in hotels/hostels for more than 5 days as there is no room for me to make friends and meet locals in the area.
I would also like to recommend a few places I had first-hand experience with. Each of the hotels below are categorised on the type of traveler that you (we) are.
For the luxury travelers
The Upper House starts at $300 per night for a room with a view. Facing a scenic view, this hotel has 117 rooms (21 suites, 2 penthouses) and considered to have the largest rooms in Hong Kong. Though I stayed here alone, I can say this hotel is also for families and group of friends who are on a mini staycation. They have everything in the hotel that will make you not go out (very dangerous if you ask me!). If you want an accommodation that is equally pleasant as the Upper House, J Plus Hotel is a good second (cheaper) choice. Known to be Hong Kong’s first boutique hotel, J Plus is also at par (amenities-wise) with the other luxury hotels out there.
For the mid-range travelers
I would usually favour Central over Kowloon but some of the mid-range hotels in the Central area have declined in terms of service because it got too touristy. They don’t care anymore because they know people will book anyway. For an accommodation that will give you the best of both the Hong Kong islands, Hop On Inn is one of my favourites. The design is modern chic and I enjoyed the books very much! It’s clean, quiet and cheap for its quality.
For budget backpackers
Staying in hostels is one of the best ways in cutting costs in Hong Kong. I never had the chance to stay in a hostel here but most readers recommended the Yesinn (now called Hi Inn) at Nathan Road.
Where to eat in Hong Kong
Now for the part we’ve all been waiting for: we all know that Hong Kong is a legit food hub. There’s no denying that you can find anything in this city – from Lebanese to Italian, this seems to be the city that has it all! Hong Kong has a myriad of cuisines and is my favourite gastronomic destination in the world. Food is the best way to know the culture and history of Hong Kong so dig in for a genuine experience! As a long term traveler myself, I’m sure you also travel on a budget but heed my advice: don’t be cheap on food.
I know most of us will be a bit uncomfortable but sharing tables in Hong Kong is perfectly normal. Take this as a way of getting to know people (think share-a-seat-win-a-friend kind of thing) and making friends while traveling.
A few of you asked about the not-so-hygienic reputation of Hong Kong when it comes to food but who cares? I was there for a long time and never got sick because of the food. You’re on vacation! Don’t worry about it! Just eat!
Servers in restaurants can be a bit rude sometimes but every time I feel like they are being impolite, I let it go – I don’t understand their language anyway! I’ve seen a lot of foreigners complain about bad service in Hong Kong but please bear in mind that this is cultural. It’s not something you should be worried about nor exert your efforts into.
Cheap eats (under $50 HKD)
- The best in Central: Fish ‘n chips at Beer and Fish
- The best in Sheung Wan: Spam and egg (with rice and a drink) at Ma Sa Restaurant
- The best in Causeway Bay: Cart noodles at Wing Kee Noodle
- The best in Wan Chai: Bacon pineapple burger at Burger Home
- The best in Sai Wan Ho: Taiwanese pancake at I Miss You
- The best in Sai Ying Pun: Samosa at Tulsi & Wine
- The best in Tsim Sha Tsui: Austrian cheese bun at Guschlbauer
- The best in Hung Hom: Double burger at Si Sun Fast Food
- The best in Jordan: Egg sandwich at Australia Dairy Company
- The best in Cheung Sha Wan: Salmon musubi at Hana-musubi
- The best in Tsim Sha Tsui East: Uni hand roll at Tasty Reminiscence
The Iconic HK foodUpon arrival not just in Hong Kong but in every city in the world, the first thing we think about is “what am I going to eat?” The shitty plane food makes you prioritize eating upon landing. Not to mention the crave for authentic and legitimate food is part of the quest. In this list, you will not only see the most popular food in Hong Kong but you will also discover where to find them.
- Best dim sum: Dai Pai Dong (aka Chinese street food stalls; can be found anywhere)
- Best noodles: Wing Kee Cart Noodles in Causeway Bay
- Best dumplings: Din Tai Fung at Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay
- Best Peking duck: Peking Garden at Tsim Sha Tsui
- Best hot pot: Megan’s Kitchen Hot Pot (Wan Chai)
When craving for Asian food(s)
I never got tired of Chinese (HK) food because it is my favorite but some of my expat friends start dreaming in Japanese, we tend to bend the food rules a little. Asian food is not so much of a trend but those who live in Hong Kong and just got back from their vacations in Thailand, Vietnam, etc are the regulars in these cuisines. If you are not a fan of Chinese food (or maybe too disgusting for you), here are some Asian food options that you can enjoy while in Hong Kong.
- Best Thai: Chachawan in Central
- Best Japanese: Katsuhachi in Causeway Bay
- Best Vietnamese: BEP Vietnamese Kitchen in Central
Comfort food. When we are lost, this is the cuisine we can all relate to. Hong Kong, fortunately, shares that sentiments. Along with many expat chefs who moved to Hong Kong and try their luck came the boost of the unstoppable Western/European restaurants in the small crowded city.
- The best Italian: 8 1/2 Otto E Mezzo Bombana
- The best Spanish: Iberico & Co in Central
- The best French: Caprice in Central
The rest of the world
This is probably my favorite part because I got to explore the many different versions of food available in Hong Kong and I concluded they have EVERYTHING. Have you sat down in a foreign city and suddenly thought “Where can I have Lebanese in this city?” It actually happened to me but in a different way. I was walking in the Soho area when this loud salsa bang (that sounded really familiar) amused me. I followed the sound, walked in and saw a bunch of Colombians in a cool Colombian bar! It was clearly an accident but this is what Hong Kong will do to you – it will give everything you want and catch you by surprise.
- The best Mexican: It’s a tie between Taco Chaca in Sai Ying Pun and XOCO at Mid-levels
- The best Lebanese: Another tie between Maison Libanaise in Central and Mama Malouf in Kennedy Town
- South American: Gaucho in Central
Food trends in Hong Kong
I should’ve not given you a lot of recommendations. You might be too overwhelmed now but this food culture in Hong Kong is very important. And I promise this is the last! If you are up for a real cultural immersion (nope, this is not about eating street food), here are the food trends in the city you should try.
- Best HK style steak house: Goldfinch Restaurant in Causeway Bay
Tiffany Restaurant in Prince Edward
- Best brunch: Lily & Bloom in Central
- Best vegan: Pure Veggie House in Central
- Best specialty coffee: The Cupping Room in Central
Things to do in Hong Kong
Alright, here comes the part where we all question the existence of things to do in Hong Kong. This city is usually known as a food destination (which is 100% true) but there are many things to explore in Hong Kong that is outside the food department. We’ve talked about neighborhoods in the first part of this article so, in this section, I will divide the things to do in Hong Kong to neighborhoods.
- Embark on a trip via the Peak Tram. I highly recommend taking the peak tram down from Victoria Park. You get a spectacular view of the Hong Kong city and the journey is worth it. It is one of the world’s oldest funicular railways and the tram rises to about 1300 feet above sea level.
- State of the art shopping mall. IFC is a high-end shopping mall above Hong Kong station and the airport express. It is the ultimate lifestyle hub. I thought the best store among the content is “Apple” and their three floors of electronics accompanying magnificent views of the city.
- Relive old Hong Kong in Graham Street Market. I started walking from Sheung Wan Station through Wellington Street towards Central; at the middle of Wellington Street, I came to Graham Street. It is one of the authentic markets situated on a slope where you can find fresh vegetables, fruits, flowers, tofu, fish and meat along with local and western restaurants.
- Experience the Hong Kong nightlife in Lan Kwai Fong. A very lively social scene with every taste catered. Expats and locals congregate here after work and well into the night. A regular Friday looks like a festival day and some live music is happening even mid-week.
- Sunset drinks at the Knutsford Terrace. Lively and happening. Good buzz with a row of bars and restaurants. Italian, Spanish, American and Chinese restaurants can all be found at Knutsford Terrace.
- Food trip at Houston Street (aka Food street). The best tasting and authentic Hong Kong style wonton noodles and hot pot offerings in Houston, hands down! I have been there a lot of times, craving the wonton noodles that are reminiscent of the best kind I had while living in Hong Kong.
- Party at Lockhart Road Bars. In all honesty, as red light districts go, Wan Chai is really very mild, especially if you compare it to say Bois de Boulogne in Paris or Amsterdam but on Lockhart street, there are many really good dance clubs with live music.
- Antique Street and Cat Street. I stumbled across this little street and had a great time poking around the mixture of old & new wares. It’s a great change from the usual market shopping and an interesting part of the island
- Go to the best area to eat street food (Sai Yeung Choi Street, Dundas Street, Fa Yuen Street, and Soy Street). If you want to binge on street food at good prices, this is the place to be!
- Stroll the Soho. This was a great neighborhood with boutiques and shops, restaurants, and it was really cool that is basically built into the mountain and just keeps going up and up. They have a series of about 10 escalators to help you so don’t worry, you don’t have to hike up a mountain to see it all.
I can make this list longer but you can easily bookmark P.S. I’m On My Way’s top 42 things to do in Hong Kong. They are categorized by neighborhoods so it wouldn’t be too overwhelming for you!
Currency, budget, cash, etc.
The currency in Hong Kong is called Hong Kong dollar (HK$). $1 HKD = $0.13 USD. To understand this conversion, I’m going to give you an idea about some basic prices:
- Basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district: $11 USD
- Combo meal in fast food restaurant: $4.97 USD
- 1 cocktail drink in a downtown club: $16 USD
- 1 beer in neighbourhood pub (500ml or 1pt.): $8.15 USD
- Cappuccino in a specialty coffee shop: $5.73 USD
- 1 package of Marlboro cigarettes: $7.52 USD
From living in Hong Kong, I learned that the trick is not to exchange your money at the airport. City rates are still more favorable than that of the airport. It’s not that big but HK$ is a powerful currency so when you come to think of it, all those little cents can still make up big bucks.
Please note that there is no black market for currency exchange in Hong Kong. Tsim Sha Tsui and Central areas always have the best exchange rates.[/us_iconbox]
Is this a thing in Hong Kong? It’s not a part of their culture but service people like hotels are expecting tips. Hotels in Hong Kong are usually the ones expecting the tips (housekeeping, bell boys, porters, concierge, etc). HK$10 to HK$20 is the usual rate.
Most bars and restaurants have service charge and table fees so you don’t have to worry about tipping your bartender/server not unless you really want to do it. I bet it’s going to be a bit weird as most of these people are not used to ‘small time’ tips. I’m not even sure how they will react if they are tipped! I’ve done this once and the guy just gave me a grin and said, “it’s okay. Keep it.” This dilemma is so weird![/us_iconbox]
Safety in Hong Kong
Safety, in my opinion, is subjective but I never felt harmed in Hong Kong. I walked the streets alone at 3 in the morning and didn’t feel danger. Hong Kong is generally a safe place but it’s not bad to practice some precautions. For example, if you are walking in the wee hours of the night, always make sure to be in the well-lit areas so you can see your way better.
Pickpocketing is also common but very rare. From my experience, this case of ‘theft’ happens all over the world so as usual, don’t carry a lot of cash with you or leave your belongings unattended.
For insurance purposes, you can easily get a ‘loss report’ in any police station in the area where the robbery occurred. In case you left an item in the taxi, drivers definitely give it back. You just have to call the Hong Kong taxi lost and found hotline to claim what you lost. I am not giving you false hopes here as I only used this hotline once (and it worked) but give it a try. I hope you’ll never have to call them but it’s good to know what to do when things like this happen.
Hong Kong is surely the street food haven, as seen and experienced with their Dai pai dong culture but I have never been sick in Hong Kong. I guess you just need to play it by ear when eating street food – their routines and how they make food are pretty much obvious.
Vaccines are also not required when entering Hong Kong but every year, there are big cases of winter flu in this region. In case something happens to you while traveling in Hong Kong, you can definitely go to public hospitals even without a Hong Kongese identity card. To check the hospital rates, click here. Medical services in Hong Kong is really expensive but if you have travel insurance, these fees may be reimbursed easily.
Tap water in Hong Kong is labeled safe to drink but many locals preferred the filtered ones because of the flavor.
When to go
Personally, I think Hong Kong is good to visit all year round but take into consideration the price of the flights during high season. October to December is a good time to visit because winter in Hong Kong is perfect! It’s not too cold and it’s super refreshing!
June to August is super hot and rainy. Typhoons come every September.
Hongkongers or Hong Kongese are very friendly and helpful. English is widely spoken in the city because of the growing expat community. You can easily ask people for directions and they can deliver well.
Make sure to bring comfortable walking shoes. The streets of Hong Kong have a lot of uphills so it’s very important to wear shoes that will fit these roads. Unless you don’t plan to walk and pay for expensive taxis, forget the shoes.
Hong Kongese are definitely fashion forward to come as you are. Wear anything you want! Just make sure to note their seasons. I went here for the first time when I was 18 and it was November. Hailing from a tropical country (next to Hong Kong), I didn’t think we’d have different weathers so I brought a thin jacket![/us_iconbox]
Hong Kong is now conducting annual pride parades every November which attracts thousands of LGBTQ+ communities to join the fun in the city. That said, the LGBTQ+ scene in Hong Kong is widely accepted – you can even see some couples displaying public affection and it’s super cute!
However, it is still hard for people in Hong Kong to come out to family members and employers. Some Hong Kongese families still remain conservative.[/us_iconbox]
If you have more time in Hong Kong and wants to experience a deep Hong Kongese culture, you can try a different travel method (like I do). It’s not very popular in Hong Kong yet and you will not find a lot of volunteering or work exchange opportunities in Hong Kong but I came across a few and I want to share it with you.
Note: Work exchange is a way to immerse in local culture. You will work for 4-6 hours a day (max, not more than that) in exchange for a deep cultural immersion, food, and accommodations. This is one of the methods that lead me to continuously afford a life of travel.
Discover the farm life in Hong Kong
What? Farms?! There are farms in Hong Kong?! A family (young couple with a 3-year old child) of 3 lives in a remote part of Hong Kong and are participating in a community development and farming revitalization programme. Hiking, parks, trails are the best features of their area. The couple needs help in gardening, building, farming and a lot of environmental-friendly projects. If you are a nature-lover and wants to escape the bustling city of Hong Kong, then this work exchange opportunity is for you. Apply here >>>
Live in a wooden boat
Sarah & Rex are experienced travelers from Hong Kong and recently finished their 365-day world trip from 38 countries. At present, they are back in Hong Kong and are eager to change the way they live. They bought a wooden pleasant boat and plan to live there. They are currently looking for for some artistic volunteers to help on decorating their boat. Apply here >>>
Teach English and live with an Italian family in Hong Kong
Sai Kung, part of the Hong Kong new territories is another place to get away from the city. An Italian couple with 2 sons is looking for a person to practice English with their children. They want someone who can be a big sister/brother to their sons while constantly speaking to them in English. Apply here >>>
If you didn’t find anything that will fit your Hong Kong travel Guide preference, feel free to refer to the following websites:
- Discover Hong Kong. The official tourism website of the Hong Kong Tourism Board offers a lot of articles about things to do, restaurants to check out and best accommodation options.
- Telum Media. This is a website about recent media news in Hong Kong. I met a lot of magazine editors and business tycoons by subscribing to their newsletter. Their announcements (newsletters) consists of who’s who in the media and business industry of Hong Kong. (i.e. “New Editor in Chief for Lifestyle Asia). They provide email addresses of valuable contacts, too!
- That Food Cray. In 2015, I went on a media trip in Indonesia and met Nicole Fung, a local blogger in Hong Kong. As her blog name suggests, you will find a wide variety of dining options by browsing.
- Time Out Hong Kong. For the best writing in food, drinks and nightlife, this website has a lot of comprehensive articles written by pros.
- TaoBao. A website used by many locals to shop for cheap stuff. Clothes and kitchenwares are the most common. If you are planning to stay in Hong Kong long-term, this is definitely your shopping site! Please take note that this website in this Chinese.
- Hong Kong Expats Facebook Group. An easier way to network, connect and meet foreigners living in Hong Kong. You can also post questions here and everyone will definitely help!
More articles about Hong Kong
Have you been to Hong Kong?
If yes, please share your where to’s: things to do, where to sleep, where to eat, etc and help other travelers make the most out of their Hong Kong trip!