Hong Kong

Dubbed the ‘City of Life’, Hong Kong, set on South China’s eastern Pearl River Delta, is a true gem of Asia. This destination is a fusion of ancient and modern, natural beauty and urban bustle, mysticism, and cosmopolitan flair. While this pulsing urban metropolis may bring to mind a slew of glittering skyscrapers, there is certainly no shortage of natural wonders. In fact, mountains and sprawling country parks encompass over 70 percent of Hong Kong. See the highest number of skyscrapers in the world from the famous Star Ferry, the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, or by heading up Victoria Peak. Explore spectacular sacred temples, go on a food tour, or party the night away. Enjoy the flurry of fascinating museums, shopping at the many chic side-street boutiques, antique stores, and cheerful gadget bazaars.


Banking and Currency

Currency

The currency of Hong Kong 1 Renminbi Yuan (CNY; symbol ¥) = 10 jiao/mao or 100 fen. Notes are in denominations of ¥100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 1, 5 jiao and 1 jiao. Coins are in denominations of ¥1, 5 jiao and 1 jiao. Counterfeit ¥50 and ¥100 notes are commonplace. The Yuan is often referred to as the ‘guai’ in street slang.

Banking

Banking Hours: Monday-Friday 09h00-16h00/17h00. Some banks close for lunch from 12h00-13h00. Select branches in major cities offer extended hours in the evenings and on weekends.

American Express, Diners Club, Mastercard and Visa are widely accepted in major provincial cities in designated establishments. Credit cards are often unlikely to be accepted away from the major cities

ATMs can generally be found in airports, hotels, shopping centres and banks, as well as in many major cities and towns.

Travellers Cheques To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in US Dollars.


Travel, Transport and Getting Around

Hong Kong has only one commercial airport, there are no domestic flights in Hong Kong

There are double-decker Hong Kong Tramways trams on Hong Kong Island, running from Kennedy Town to Shau Kei Wan (with the red and blue lines heading inland to Happy Valley Racecourse). Get on at the back and pay the fare upon disembarking; the Octopus Card, which stores credit for pay-as-you-go travel, can be used on trams.

A wide selection of self-drive and chauffeur-driven cars are available. Car hire isn’t very popular however, since congested roads mean that it’s generally easier to use public transport on Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon. Some of the outlying islands are completely car-free.

Taxis are plentiful in Hong Kong and Kowloon and are reasonably priced, although note that there is an extra charge for the Cross Harbour Tunnel. Red taxis serve most of Hong Kong (except for Tung Chung Road and the south side of Lantau Island); green ones serve the New Territories; and blue ones serve Lantau Island.

Hong Kong Island is not particularly cycle-friendly, since roads tend to be busy, steep, or both. Traffic is also heavy in Kowloon, but there are plenty of good cycling options in the New Territories and on the outlying islands.

The bus network is extensive, covering the New Territories and outlying islands, as well as Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Helpfully, the destinations are marked in English and may be accompanied by an X (express), R (Sundays and public holidays only) or M (links up with a station on the MTR metro network). Note that no change is given on buses.


Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice

Visitors to Hong Kong will find authentic food from all the regions of China, including Cantonese, Northern (Peking), Chiu Chow (Swatow), Shanghai, Szechuan and Hakka. What’s more, there’s the chance to sample them in all kinds of surroundings: on a sampan in Causeway Bay or a floating restaurant at Aberdeen; in a Kowloon back-street restaurant or street market; or in the dining room of a luxury hotel. Don’t miss the chance to try one (or more) of Hong Kong’s private kitchens, which started out as unlicensed venues inside private homes but have developed into a scene of their own. Some of them are really quite upmarket and the best offer serious treats for gourmand visitors; many also have the added thrill of being in odd or unexpected locations.

All water used for drinking, brushing teeth or freezing should first be boiled or otherwise sterilised. Bottled water, widely and cheaply available, is the most advisable way of getting around this. Be especially careful when eating at small street-side stalls or restaurants where standards of hygiene may not be high. Pork, salad, scallops, snails and mayonnaise may carry increased risk. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled.

Tipping is not expected.


Climate and Weather

Hong Kong has a subtropical climate with four seasons, and weather strongly influenced by two monsoons: the north-northeast monsoon from October to March and the south-southwest monsoon from April to September.


Clothing and Dress Recommendations

Lightweight clothing and a light raincoat are recommended during the warmer months, while warmer clothes are useful in winter. It should be noted that even during the hottest weather, a jacket or pullover will be required for the sometimes fierce air conditioning indoors.


Internet Availability

Internet cafes are available in cities.


Electricity and Plug Standards

Electrical sockets in Hong Kong are Type G (BS-1363). If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of this sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance's plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into. If it's crucial to be able to plug in no matter what, bring an adapter for all types.

Electrical sockets in Hong Kong usually supply electricity at 220-240 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need. If your appliance isn’t compatible with 220-240 volts, a voltage converter will be necessary.


China

This remarkable 5,000-year-old civilization offers a vibrant and intriguing combination of the ancient and modern. From the exceptionally remote deserts of the wild northwest to the ultra-modern city of Hong Kong in the south, the diversity of this vast country’s archaeology, architecture, cuisine, and cultural heritage is astounding. From ancient historical sites and antique relics to grand imperial palaces, exquisite water towns and enchanting natural wonders, there's so much to explore that it can at times seem overwhelming. Top attractions include the Forbidden City, The Great Wall, the Terracotta Army, and Chengdu’s panda sanctuaries. But try to avoid a jam-packed itinerary as one of the great joys of touring China lies in aimlessly wandering through the backstreets and exploring the immaculate public parks, traditional teahouses or tranquil hidden temples. Whether you prefer a slow boat down the Yangtze or taking in the extraordinary architecture, shopping and nightlife of Shanghai, exploring China provides countless opportunities for adventure.


Banking and Currency

Currency

1 Renminbi Yuan (CNY; symbol ¥) = 10 jiao/mao or 100 fen. Notes are in denominations of ¥100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 1, 5 jiao and 1 jiao. Coins are in denominations of ¥1, 5 jiao and 1 jiao. Counterfeit ¥50 and ¥100 notes are commonplace. The Yuan is often referred to as the ‘guai’ in street slang.

Imports and exports of local currency are limited to ¥20,000. The import and export of foreign currency is unlimited, but amounts exceeding the equivalent of US$5,000 must be declared.

It is possible to exchange CNY outside China, albeit mainly in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong. Foreign banknotes and traveller's cheques can be exchanged at branches of The Bank of China. In hotels for tourists, imported luxury items such as spirits may be bought with Western currency. Scottish and Northern Irish banknotes cannot be exchanged.

Banking

Banking hours: Mon-Fri 09h00-16h00/17h00. Some banks close for lunch from 1200-1300. Select branches in major cities offer extended hours in the evenings and on weekends.

American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa credit cards are widely accepted in major provincial cities in designated establishments. Credit cards are often unlikely to be accepted away from the major cities.

ATMs can generally be found in airports, hotels, shopping centres and banks, as well as in many major cities and towns.

To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in US Dollars.



Travel, Transport and Getting Around

China's airlines operate about 1,000 domestic routes, serving over 150 cities. Routes are served by the three major state-owned groups of Air China (www.air-china.co.uk), China Southern (www.csair.com/en) and China Eastern Airlines (http://uk.ceair.com).

International airports in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou have undergone massive upgrades with stylish new terminals added. Tickets will normally be purchased by guides and the price will be included in any tour costs.

Independent travellers can also book through the local Chinese International Travel Service (CITS), which charges a small commission, popular online agent Ctrip.com (http://english.ctrip.com) or alternatively buy tickets in booking offices or at some hotel travel desks. It is advisable to purchase internal air tickets well in advance if travelling during April, May, September or October.

There are multiple daily connections to Hong Kong from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, as well as other cities. You can also fly directly to Taiwan from 21 cities on the mainland. Flights are always overbooked so seats must be confirmed before travel.

Be aware that while car hire services are available, it is not possible to drive in China without a Chinese driving licence and an International Driver’s Licence will not be recognised. Obtaining a Chinese license can be a long and complicated process and in most cases it is preferable and relatively inexpensive to hire a car with a driver. China’s road infrastructure itself is generally of a high standard, particularly between major centres. Police road blocks are not uncommon, and standards of driving can be erratic. Distances should not be underestimated and vehicles should be in prime mechanical condition as away from the cities, China is still very much an agricultural nation without the mechanical expertise or services found in the West. From Beijing to Shanghai is 1,461km (908 miles), and from Beijing to Nanjing is 1,139km (718 miles).

As part of its economic drive, China has undergone rapid expansion of its road network and it is now possible to reach 80% of settlements by road, although a high percentage of roads are simple gravel tracks rather than tarmacked surfaces. A superhighway links Beijing and Tianjin, and a 138 km (86 miles) four-lane toll highway links Hangzhou and the port of Ningbo in the Zhejiang province.

Taxis are available in large cities from most hotels and shopping districts, and are generally permitted to stop at the passenger's signal. It is best to check if the taxi is metered. If not, then it is important to agree a fare beforehand (especially at railway stations), before getting into the taxi. Drivers are not normally tipped. Visitors should have their destination written down in Chinese characters before starting any journey as most drivers do not speak English. Hotels often provide cards with the hotel address and that of several key attractions or points in the city. Taxis can be hired by the day.

There is an extensive intercity network of long distance buses which tourists can use as an alternative to air or train travel. These are much cheaper than trains and most have air-conditioning, toilets, and depending on the length of the journey, may have sleeping berths. Seats can generally be booked in advance at the coach station.

There are metro systems in Beijing, Shanghai and several other cities including Tianjin, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu and Nanjing. Hong Kong has its Mass Transit System, and tramways and trolleybuses operate in a number of other cities. New systems are under construction in Xi'an, Harbin, Qingdao and other cities. Most cities have public transit systems, usually bus.

Railways provide the principal means of transport for goods and people throughout China, with the network standing as one of the busiest and most comprehensive worldwide. The routes are generally cheap, safe and well maintained. Routes operate between major cities; services include Beijing to Guangzhou, Shanghai, Harbin, Chengdu and Urumqi.

There are three types of train, of which Express is the best. There are four types of fare: hard seat, soft seat (only on short-distance trains such as the Hong Kong to Guangzhou line), hard sleeper and soft sleeper (the priciest option). Children under 1m (3ft) tall travel free and those under 1.3m (4ft) pay a quarter of the fare. Rail travel is usually comfortable but time-consuming due to the vast distances between destinations. High-speed intercity trains travelling up to 350kph (218mph) link Beijing with Tianjin, and Shanghai with Suzhou and Hangzhou.

The Qinghai to Tibet railway which is a 1,142km (710mile) route from Golmud in Qinghai to Lhasa in Tibet is the most elevated rail route in the world, reaching an altitude of 5,072m (16,640 ft). Services now operate to Lhasa from Beijing, Xi'an, Chengdu, Chongqing, Guangzhou and Shanghai.

All major rivers are served by river ferries, especially the Yangtze. Coastal ferries operate between Dalian, Tianjin (Tientsin), Qingdao (Tsingtao) and Shanghai. There are regular ferry services between mainland China and Hong Kong, conditions on which vary.


Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice

All water used for drinking, brushing teeth or freezing should first be boiled or otherwise sterilised. Bottled water, widely and cheaply available, is the most advisable way of getting around this. Be especially careful when eating at small street-side stalls or restaurants where standards of hygiene may not be high. Pork, salad, scallops, snails and mayonnaise may carry increased risk. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled.

Chinese cuisine has a very long history and is renowned all over the world. Cantonese (the style most Westerners are most familiar with) is just one regional style of Chinese cooking. There are eight major schools of Chinese cuisine, named after the places where they were conceived: Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong (Cantonese), Hunan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Sichuan and Zhejiang. 

While tipping is still not officially approved of, the practice is becoming more commonplace in China. It is usual in tourist hotels and restaurants, and with tour guides and drivers. A service charge is often added by restaurants in large hotels.


Climate and Weather

China’s extreme size means it has a great diversity of climates, but being located entirely in the northern hemisphere means its seasonal timings are broadly comparable to those in Europe and the US. The northeast experiences hot and dry summers and bitterly cold winters. The north and central region has almost continual rainfall, hot summers and cold winters. The southeast region has substantial rainfall, with semi-tropical summers and cool winters. Central, southern and western China are also susceptible to flooding, and the country is also periodically subject to seismic activity.


Clothing and Dress Recommendations

If arriving in winter, heavyweight clothing and boots are recommended to cope with what can be extreme cold. Likewise, lightweight clothing should be packed for a visit at the height of summer.


Internet Availability

Internet cafés can be found in most towns and cities, and Wi-Fi is increasingly available at hotels and cafés in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Hangzhou and other major cities. Access is cheap and usually reliable. The state routinely blocks access to sites run by the banned spiritual movement Falun Gong, rights groups, Western social networking sites and some foreign news organisations. Postings by bloggers are closely monitored.


Electricity and Plug Standards

There are two official standards for plugs and sockets in the People's Republic of China. The first is the grounded, three-blade CPCS-CCC which is practically interchangeable with the type of socket found in Australia. Their non-grounded two-blade standard is very much like a 2-blade North American/Japanese plug, but the sockets generally will not accept U.S. plugs because the sockets are non-grounded and non-polarized. An adapter will probably still be required for that type. Due to a substantial Hong Kong presence in mainland China, some buildings are wired with British BS-1363 sockets, which is the primary socket type used in Hong Kong. If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need one or more travel plug adapters in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance's plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into. If it is crucial to be able to plug in no matter what, bring an adapter for all three types.

Electrical sockets (outlets) in the People's Republic of China usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need.

But travel plug adapters do not change the voltage, so the electricity coming through the adapter will still be the same 220-240 volts the socket is supplying. If your appliances are not compatible with 220-240 volt electrical output, a voltage converter will be necessary.


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