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A travel guide to Hong Kong

Hong Kong is hot right now and on the radar of many major travel magazines — with good reason. Shoppers, foodies and art lovers have known for a while that this bustling island is a hotbed for everything they love, so we’re sharing our best tips for travelling there. From what to see and do to how to get around, we have the scoop on how to make the most of your trip to Hong Kong.

Junkship in Hong Kong harbor

Getting around

First things first; Hong Kong is very easy to get around in. The transit system is fast, clean and efficient and can take you anywhere. Even novice travellers should have no problem navigating the city. Tourist attractions and points of interest are well marked, and there are even signs along the way (in English) to help guide you to your destination. This was a huge bonus for me, since I have a horrible sense of direction.

If you’re planning to stay in Hong Kong a few days, I recommend purchasing an Octopus card from any customer service booth at MTR stations (and some ferry piers). The electronic card allows you to ride all forms of transportation in Hong Kong — trams, subways, trains and ferries — without purchasing separate tickets for each. For the equivalent of about $20, you can buy a card, which has a stored value of about $15. I used mine for two full days and one half day, and only reloaded once with HK$100 (about $15).

Hong Kong destinations and activities - Star ferry, Temple Market and Kowloon Walled City Park

What to see and do

There is so much to see and do in Hong Kong that you could stay for weeks and not get to all of it. While it might be tempting to squeeze as much as possible into every waking minute, resist the urge to do too much. I find it’s always better to explore at a more leisurely pace so you don’t get burnt out or miss something by rushing. Need some tips on what to add to your itinerary? Here are a few of my favourite Hong Kong stops:

Hong Kong Star FerryRide the Star Ferry: One of the highlights of my stay in Hong Kong was taking a ride on the Star Ferry. These faithful ferries have been carrying passengers from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon (which can now also be done via car, train or MTR) since 1888. Skip an expensive harbour cruise, and instead pay the equivalent of about 30 cents to see the harbour via Star Ferry. The views are stunning, and you get to feel like a local.

Shop at a market: One thing I will always do no matter where I travel is head to the market. They’re a fun, lively way to get to know a new city and are good spots to souvenir shop. Both the Ladies’ Market and Temple Street Night Market offer the bustling, energetic atmosphere you would expect from most Asian markets, and if in the mood to bargain, you can find a deal on anything from T-shirts and shoes to tea sets, iPhone cases and accessories. If you have time for only one market, I suggest making it the Temple Street Night Market, which I thought had more character.

Head to a park: Local parks are another must-do for me when travelling, and Hong Kong has plenty of green space. Make a point to seek out Kowloon Walled City Park, a well-manicured maze of pretty pagodas, ponds, bridges and stone statues. Sprawling Hong Park, closer to the city centre, is also well worth a wander. If you have time, make a reservation at LockCha Tea House (right in the park) for delicious vegetarian dim sum and a large variety of tea.

Would I go back to Hong Kong?

Absolutely. It’s definitely a city you can revisit many times, since it offers so much diversity in terms of sites and activities, from shopping to culture to beaches and beyond. I was sad to miss out on a ride on the Peak Tram, which takes you all the way up to Victoria Peak, the highest point on Hong Kong Island. I had heard from just about everyone who’d been there that the views are stunning, but the lineup when I arrived was huge — and I was hungry — so I skipped it. If you want to go, go early. Operating hours start at 7 a.m., so that might be the best time to go.

My next visit will also include a trip to one of the outlying islands around Hong Kong. There are a few, and from what I’ve read and heard, each offers something unique. On Lamma Island, for example, you can check out a fishing village, the beach, caves and hiking trails. Lantau Island has the Big Buddha (more than 111 feet tall) and Po Lin Monastery.

Good to know

Hong Kong is an expensive city, so be prepared for some sticker shock on things like hotel rooms and food. But despite the price tag on some things, there are ways to save. Transportation is very affordable, and eating on the street (as you shop at various markets, for example) is a lot cheaper than in restaurants. There are also a lot of free things to do, like walking along the Avenue of Stars or exploring one of Hong Kong’s many parks.

Tell us

Have you been to Hong Kong? What did you like or dislike?

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