Hi my loves!
Here is your ultimate guide for Hong Kong.
I never thought to visit Hong Kong (HK); actually China in general, I was always unsure about it, but I’m so glad I did. The reason why I never wanted to visit was because so many people told me they struggled with food and practically lived on bread and butter, and therefore I thought my whole suitcase will be full of food going there and I didn’t want to experience that.
My friend from London is currently working in HK and she invited me to come and explore the City together. With lots of thinking I said ‘eff it,’ I’m going to HK and booked my flights. We all know (in the least disrespectful way) about the lack of interest for Vegetarianism and Veganism within the Chinese culture, however I was proven completely wrong.
From street food to cheap takeaways to high-end restaurants. There was plenty of variety and cultural food for both vegetarians and vegans. More to follow below!
Let me clarify what I mean by Vegetarian before I start. I do not eat meat, fish or eggs, however the western culture still gets Pescatarianism and vegetarianism confused. Pescatarians eat fish and eggs.
There are some rules you will need to follow once you land at the airport (all the below are literally in the same spot, so there is no need to run around. It’s easy!)
- Get an Octopus card (this is equivalent to an Oyster in London, or Opal in Sydney) – This card will get you around everywhere. It initially costs $150 HKD to buy one and you can use it on the bus, trains, trams and even pay for your meal in a restaurant with it. I would juice up the octopus card with at least $150 HKD at the airport so you’re ready to go when you get to the City!
TIP: When your trip is over, return it at the airport and you’ll get a refund of any remaining balance left on the card plus the deposit you paid.
- Go to the visitors/information centre and get some free HK leaflets, which are in English and Cantonese. To be honest I didn’t need them because I did all my research beforehand, but I still took some as they gave some cultural/background information about the City.
- Travelling from the airport to the City.
There are many ways of getting around to the City but the two main ways are:
– Airport Express (train): $105 HKD – 20 minute journey
– A21 Bus (Red and Yellow bus): $33 HKD – 1 hour journey
I opted for the airport express as suggested by the lady at the information centre, also I landed in the evening so the last thing I wanted was another long journey. The train was quick and efficient and took me straight to Kowloon, where I was staying.
On the way back (from the City to the airport) I got the bus from Kowloon to save me some cash.
- Buy a sim card! There is a 7-eleven at arrivals which sells pre-paid sim cards, as well as Vodafone, 3 network, CSL and China Mobile stands; look around and find the best deal available. I bought a 5-day 3GB sim for $68 HKD from China Mobile, which was plenty of data for my 6 day trip. I highly suggest getting a sim because you will need it if you do any of the hikes, a paper map isn’t the best, google maps will get you by everywhere! If there are more than one of you, only one person should buy the sim card and the rest of the group should get it from Sham Shui Po market, as they are a lot cheaper.
Only take how much cash you think you’ll need to get out from the airport and into the city. I would say approximately around $500 HKD per person. The exchange rates it so much better in Hong Kong than buying HKD from the UK, USA, AUS etc.
In Australia, I got $5.02 HKD per $1 AUD but in Hong Kong I got $6.23 HKD per $1 AUD. I tried a few different money exchange places and “Kong Fung RMB Exchange” best one I came across. Look for this place in the city, as it has exceptional rates.
Also, try not to use your credit/debit card as banks usually charge 3% interest fee. I took cash in Pounds and Australian Dollars and exchanged for cash in HKD.
I stayed in Kowloon, but another popular destination is Wan Chai, which is on the HK Island. Please keep in mind that Hong Kong is the 2nd most expensive City in the world for real estate, so all hotels and hostels are very expensive. I cannot emphasise this enough!
My Hotel was called Homy Inn located in Tsim Sha Shui and it was perfect for me (great for solo or two travellers). It was like a Hostel but there was no sharing. I had a decent size double bedroom with an amazing ensuite. This is actually the first time I didn’t stay at a fancy hotel like I usually would, but I was not disappointed. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend hostels to you, as I wouldn’t know.
If you want to stay in a Hotel with a view and which is more luxury, I would recommend:
Kowloon/Tsim Sha Shui (perfect location):
- The Peninsula
- The Sheraton
- Intercontinental HK
- Holiday Inn Golden Mile
Wan Chai/Central HK Island:
- Grand Hyatt
- Novotel Century
- Shangri La
If you’re looking for more affordable hotels, I suggest checking Accorhotels.com. This is my favourite hotel chain in the world and I recommend it. Start collecting points too, as I get free hotel rooms around the world due to collecting these points.
The MTR (trains/tube/underground) is brilliant. It is fast and efficient and it is not scary at all. Actually I felt so safe in Hong Kong than I have felt safe anywhere else in the world and believe me, I have travelled to a lot of countries in my life and I can say there is nothing to be scared about here.
I was walking home after seeing friends at 1am and there were still so many people around, and they were all so friendly!
I would suggest getting the MTR or walking everywhere, it’s super easy and you cannot get lost. I got the MTR most of the time and only used the bus and tram once each.
The buses are also very convenient, however I wasn’t too sure about the bus routes so I guess that’s something for you to find out if you’re planning on using it often.
Tram – experience the tram from Causeway Bay to Wan Chai (or the other way round) just to say you did it. The trams reminded me of the bus ride from Harry Potter for some reason haha.
I am going to separate these according to the areas rather than other categories like markets, hikes, shopping malls etc.
I toured the City according to the area I was in. I preferred it this way as it saved me a lot of time, for example, one temple in Northern Hong Kong to another temple in South Hong Kong, which would take over 30 minutes, so I stayed put in one area for the day.
Tsim Sha Shui
1) Avenue of Stars & Symphony of Lights
The Avenue of Stars is a location that honours the movie industry. There are many handprints as well as statues of famous celebrities; one of my favourites to see was Bruce Lee. This is also the best location to see the Symphony of lights show in HK. The other place to see the show is the Golden Bauhinia Centre on HK Island. The show starts at 8pm but try to get there before 7.30pm because it does get really busy.
2) Star Ferry Pier
This is HK’s most important landmark. It has been carrying passengers from Kowloon to HK Island since the late 1800’s and it is still a significant part of HK’s culture. Take the ferry to Aberdeen, you will not be disappointed.
3) K11 and the surroundings
Seriously, one of the best shopping malls/art centres I went to in HK. This area has the best nightlife in Kowloon and I was so impressed. It is one attraction to visit if you have spare time in the evening. They had an event called After Dark to celebrate their 10-year anniversary with music, models, entertainment and lots of artwork.
4) Rooftop bars (These are expensive so be aware, I would check the menu & price before you go)
Eye Bar at iSquare Mall – smart/casual, no entry fee (I went before 6pm, so this may vary) – great view of the Symphony of Lights show, but you will need to get there at around 5pm and get a table, as it gets busy.
Aqua Bar at One Peking – definitely a classier place than the Eye Bar. Smart/casual and I suggest booking a table, you will get a view of the HK Island and Kowloon from this one, but I didn’t think it was that great.
Sky Lounge at The Sheraton – This is also very expensive and classy, reserve a table and don’t wear sportswear.
5) Other Bars (around Hart Avenue):
This area and all the bars are full of foreigners and will literally feel like home. I would recommend anything on this street and most places are open till 3am, but the two bars I loved were:-
- Tequila Jacks – Authentic Mexican Cantina and a lot of sports (Football, Cricket and Rugby), with plenty of vegetarian food and bar snacks.
- The Old Monk Bar and Grill – this place has such a good atmosphere! They have beer pong, hookah/Shisha (I don’t drink beer or do shisha) and a lot of other entertainment.
6) Temple Street Night Market
This was one of my favourite markets! It is a very well known tourist attraction so don’t expect it to be quiet at any time of the day, 7 days a week. This market is a little harder to bargain, as tourists are willing to pay whatever price they are told so you will have to try hard to drop prices, but it is not unachievable. I got my fridge magnets from here for $10 HKD (original price at $25 HKD each).
Sham Shui Po (King of markets)
1) Golden Computer Arcade (Fuk Wa Street) – this is every computer geeks and gamers dream. If you haven’t bought a sim card from the airport, buy one from here because it is so much cheaper! There is this one lady that sells it (below), and she has the best deals.
2) Flower Market – one of the biggest flower markets I have seen in my life, just streets and streets full of beautiful flowers. It was actually so pretty.
3) Ladies Market (This is more towards Tsim Sha Tsui but I’m putting it under here as it’s so close to the flower market)
This was the best market to bargain prices. I wanted to buy a gorgeous grey cashmere scarf and the lady started off with $340 HKD, which is around £40 and that is ridiculously expensive, but I am very good at bargaining and after a few minutes of battling, she settled with $25 HKD (£3)
Wong Tai Sin/Diamond Hill (North East Kowloon)
1) Chi Lin Nunnery & Nan Lian Garden
I was so indecisive whether I should go to this Buddhist temple or not, but to go was one of the best decisions I made. This is one of the most authentic and stunning Nunnery’s I went to in North Kowloon. The architecture, the detail and the culture really pulled through. It gave me some sort of inner peace and the garden is surely a place to visit and relax.
2) Sik Sik Yuen
Another Buddhist temple not so far away from the Chi Lin Nunnery, which was also very pretty. The colours in this temple were beautiful and bold. It is smaller than Chi Lin Nunnery, but the atmosphere is a lot more vibrant.
3) Lion Rock Hike (best view from North Kowloon overlooking Kowloon and the HK Island)
I started my Hike from Sik Sik Yuen Temple – closest station Won Tai Sin MTR station. You have two options from here (1) Walk to the starting point (2) Get a cab to the starting point from the MTR station which costs around $25 HKD. I walked and it took me around 45 minutes to get to the starting point.
I started climbing at 12pm and I got to the top just past 1.30pm. This was one of my hardest hikes in Hong Kong, as the steps were very steep. I wouldn’t suggest this to be your first hike in HK if you’re not used to hiking. I would start off with the Dragons Back on HK Island (see below).
TIP: Take plenty of water and a cap/sunhat, as it can get very hot the higher you go.
Lantau Island (airport Island)
1) Hong Kong Disneyland – I didn’t get to go, but I’m sure this is a magical place for everyone that visits. The price to enter the park is $619 HKD, which is around £63 and you will need the whole day there.
2) Ngong Ping (My FAVOURITE place) – this is such a cute and intimate village completely filled with tourists. Get the cable car up from Tung Chung MTR Station, however you can also take the bus, both routes are scenic views but almost everyone gets the cable car. Please keep in mind that queues can be up to an hour during peak times.
– The Village – lots of Chinese influenced architecture and shopping. I would suggest not buying things here as all the markets I named above have a lot of the items at a much cheaper price. Make sure you check out the Bodhi Wishing Shrine tree, where you can write a wish and leave it on the tree. Note: unfortunately the tree is not real, but it is still a pretty sight from far!
– Tian Tan Buddha – The most spectacular and very, very large Buddha statue. I would highly recommend this, actually if I was a tourist for even one day, this is something I wouldn’t miss.
– Po Lin Monastery – Another huge-sized Buddhist Temple, with the most amazing colourful architecture and the best vegetarian restaurant. I loved the spring rolls and fresh mango juice at this place and I would go back to try more of their other food if I could.
– Wisdom Path – 38 wooden steles overlooking the South China Sea, and the world’s best-known prayers are spoken here.
3) Lantau Peak Hike – I started hiking from the Wisdom Path and we walked all the way to the Peak. This was also a moderately easy hike. It still took us just over an hour, but the view was worth it.
4) Tai-O fishing Village – North West of the island sits a beautiful little village called Tai O and it is famous for fishing and its beautiful river that splits into two. This will give an insight of the local fishermen’s lives and their busy daily schedules.
Hong Kong Island
This is perfect for all the shopaholics and socialists. There are so many restaurants, clubs, food options and cafés here for everyone. It is best to discover them as you go, rather than having a set place to eat, but here are some of the things you may want to visit or do:
– Bedu middle-eastern restaurant
– Cat Street for souvenirs
– Pak Sing Ancestral wall – amazing to see
– Club 71 nightclub
– Chancery Lane Gallery Art projects
Wan Chai/Causeway Bay
– Victoria Harbour
– Botanical Gardens
– Central Plaza shopping centre – high end
– Tin Hau Temple
– Golden Bauhinia Square
– OVO café (see the food section below)
– The start of your Victoria Peak Hike! It is a hard hike as the slopes are super steep, but it’s fine if you take breaks in-between. I got the MTR to Wan Chai station and walked all the way up to the Peak. It is an easy route, but I did have it on Google maps all the way. I started climbing 2 hours before sunset and by the time I got up, the sun was setting. The view would’ve been perfect if there wasn’t so much fog.
There is another way to get up there, which is the Tram from Central Station MTR, and this will take you all the way up for $52 HKD (return). If you do have the time and money, I would also purchase a ticket for the Peak Tower (only if it is a good day with clear views), and this will give you the best views of HK Island and Kowloon City.
When our night came to an end, we hiked back down from the top for more views of the city from different angles and ended up in Soho for drinks!
Shai Tei Kew/Chai Wan
– Repulse Bay – famous beach on HK Island
– Big wave Bay beach – this is also a beautiful surfing beach and the Dragons Back hike ends here so if you don’t want to do the Hike, you can get the bus number 9 straight to the beach from Shau Kei Wan MTR.
– Dragon’s Back Hike – my favourite hike in HK for sure. It was super easy and gave the best beach views, so if you’re not much of a Hiker, this would be a good hike for you!
I got off at Shau Kei Wan station and from outside the station, I got the bus no. 9 towards Shek-O. Remember to count 11 stops from Shau Kei Wan to To Tai Wan. That is the stop you need to get off, but there will be plenty of other hikers on the bus, so basically get off where and when the other hikers do.
As soon as you get off, you’ll see the point where the hike starts and from there you go!
There are two routes: one, you end the hike where you started (at the bus stop) or two, end the hike at the big wave bay beach! I took the full route and finished at the beach and it realistically took me around 2 hours.
The feeling of accomplishment when I saw the beach was on another level, one of the best feelings. I literally laid on that sand like a seal.
On the way back, you can get the bus number 9 to Shau Kei Wan MTR from Shek-O, which is a short 10 minute walk from the big wave bay beach, or get a private taxi. For more info click on this blog: https://droneandslr.com/travel-blog/hong-kong/the-dragons-back-hike/
Aberdeen (South West HK Island)
This is the floating village of Hong Kong. The Jumbo Kingdom should definitely be on your must-see list if you have enough time; there is a floating restaurant in there! (It is completely rubbish for vegetarians though)… Ocean Park is another tourist attraction people love. It is basically a theme park & water park.
Other exciting places to visit if you have time
– Instagrammers dream: Rainbow Village, google it!!
Lamma Island (Ferry from Central Pier on HK Island to Sok Ku Wan)
– Fisherfolks Village – local fishing community
– Kamikaze Caves – caves from WW2
– Hung Shing Yeh beach, best known for Barbeques
– Ling Kok Shan Hiking Trail
– Tin Hau Temple
Macau (Turbojet Ferry from HK in less than 1 hour)
Macau is China’s Vegas. This is the only legal place to gamble in China and it is full of luxury entertainment as well as lots of world-class glitz and glam. I personally didn’t go to Macau but I have heard a lot of good things about it. One day is enough here if you are short of time, otherwise you can stay at one of the fancy hotels for one night to experience the real deal, such as the nightlife and the history. Here is a list of things to see or do in Macau:-
– The Macau Tower
– Macau Peninsula
– Senado Square for shopping
– A-Ma Temple
– The Venetian Hotel
– St. Dominic’s Church
– Macau Grand Prix Museum
– Science Centre
– Fishermen’s Wharf
There are many tours that will take you to the more rural area of Hong Kong (more up North), where you will get to see the lifestyle of the Hongkongers and more history such as stunning Buddhist Temples. I would recommend going to www.discoverhongkong.com for more tour details.
FOOD (onto my favourite part)
The food is absolutely exceptional. Don’t believe anyone that says there is not enough food or variety in Hong Kong! Well, that’s my vegetarian opinion anyway. I did hear there’s less veg options in Beijing and Shanghai from an English guy I met in HK, who is currently living in Beijing. If you are travelling in Hong Kong there are obviously a lot for the people who consume meat, but there is also enough for us vegetarians!
I have a strong stomach (touch-wood and thank you Lord) so I’m not scared to try new food. I was eating a lot of street food and I found such an amazing place near Temple Street (picture below), it was a small fast food restaurant near my favourite night market. I have made a list of places I went to eat and also have included the recommended places by others, but to be honest with you, you will discover your own delicious restaurants/places to eat yourself as you walk around. Please note the places listed below are all vegetarian friendly:-
Chinese & Japanese Food/street food:
Temple Street night market – look for this place (picture below)
Chi Lin Vegetarian – Diamond Hill
Isoya – Wan Chai HK Island
Thai Vege Food – Kowloon
Pizza Express in K11 – Kowloon
Saravana Bhavan – Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon)
Sangeetha – Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon)
The Langham – Kowloon West
Hard Rock Café – Central, HK Island
OVO – Wan Chai
Greenwoods Raw – Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon)
Favourite shopping area
Do not underestimate how expensive Hong Kong is. It is one of the most expensive cities I have been to. I was spending around £20 on each meal a day, which is quite expensive for Asia. I went to the Hard Rock Café in Central and it cost me around £45 for 2 starters and a drink, and anywhere else in the world it would usually cost me between £20-£30.
I would 100% visit again; there is no doubt about that. I genuinely loved my time there, and don’t worry, there is a lot of mixed culture there, I met a lot of British, European and American people who were either travelling or living there, so you will never feel too far away from home.
I got to experience the culture and religious side of HK by visiting temples and speaking to the locals, and they told me a lot about the country’s history. I would highly recommend to visit Hong Kong (if I’ve taken the time to blog about it from my busy schedule, trust me, I must’ve really liked it).
Lastly, I would give you one piece of advice… You are visiting a cultural City, so obviously keep an open mind. There will be things you’ll experience and see which you never have before, so embrace that and enjoy their values and culture. I come from a very cultured family and I can easily respect and adapt to every country’s customs and rituals, but it might not be easy for someone who doesn’t come from that background. For example, when you visit a Buddhist temple, they prefer your arms and legs to be covered just to show that sign of respect, but then again that’s common sense. Little things like that…
I also want to thank a few people who inspired me and helped me throughout my visit:-
Before my visit:
– Wilson (my friend’s best friend), who literally sent me half of the things I’ve said above, so most of this is basically him!
– My friend Stiliana for making me book this trip
– Roshini Daswani (IG: Roshinidaswani) for giving me a whole list of stuff to do, eat and visit.
– Bosco Hu (IG: Boscojyho)
Five of my favourite HK Instagram pages:
– Finally STA travel for sorting out this whole trip for me
During my visit:
– Jasmine (she my FAVVVV) I spent a few days with this girl and I haven’t laughed that much since I have moved out of London. She made my trip for sure (born in Peru, living in South Korea)
– Jack (my British younger from Brighton who happens to live in Beijing) who was the sweetest guy Jas and I met on the Victoria Peak, and he’s also the one that took me to Pizza Express – typical English bloke haha!
– My Friend Stiliana’s friend Chirag, who took me and Jas for an amazing Lebanese meal in Soho. It was the first time Jas had middle-Eastern food and it was so funny to watch her. That was the day she lost her ‘hummus’ virginity LOL!
– A family I met during my hike on the Dragons Back. They literally stuck with me the whole way from beginning till the end to ensure I was safe, even though I knew I would be okay. I loved their company and those Hongkongers knew amazinnnnng English, so it was so fun to chat with them and understand their life growing up in HK.
Frequent questions asked:
- Do people speak English there? Yes
- Foreign experience for tourists? Plenty of culture to see, promise.
- Did I see amazing tech/gadgets? Yes, go to Sham Shui Po!!
- Top 3 things to do? I have four, sorry! The four are: Temple Street night market (+ street food), Tsim Sha Tsui symphony of lights show (you’ll get an incredible view of the harbour), Tian Tan Buddha and Victoria Peak
- Best things to do in HK? The Hikes! I did 4 in 5 days and I feel like it wasn’t enough.
- One day, one night itinerary? Day: Chi Lin Nunnery, Sham Shui Po Market, Central (HK Island) shopping, walk up to the Victoria Peak before sunset and watch the sunset. Night: down to the harbour to see the light show at 8pm, head up to the Eyebar for a drink and then finally, end your night in the Temple Street night market or one of the bars in Kowloon!
I really really really hope this has been useful to you and I hope you use this blog post wisely…
Octopus card: https://www.octopus.com.hk/en/consumer/octopus-cards/about/index.html
Airport Express and bus: https://www.hongkongairport.com/en/transport/to-from-airport/airport-express.page
7-eleven HK airport: https://www.hongkongairport.com/en/shop-dine/shopping/7-eleven
Homy Inn Hotel – http://www.homyinn.com.hk
Hong Kong MTR – http://www.mtr.com.hk/en/customer/main/index.html
Tequila Jacks Bar, Kowloon: http://elgrande.com.hk/wp-content/uploads/TJs-Menu-1.jpg
The Old Monk Bar, Kowloon: https://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Restaurant_Review-g294217-d10712551-Reviews-The_Old_Monk_Bar_Grill-Hong_Kong.html