Hong Kong

ABOUT THE CITY

Hong Kong is a diverse modern metropolis steeped in unique blends of Eastern and Western traditions.  Hong Kong is geographically compact and boasts one of the world’s most efficient, safe, affordable and user-friendly public transport systems. It is a remarkably safe city day or night. Police officers patrol frequently and they are very helpful. If the pursuit of wealth is the engine that drives Hong Kong, its fuel is food. Noodles are slurped, succulent seafood savored, dishes at banquets praised for their presentation, freshness and texture as well as taste, and many chefs enjoy celebrity status. Hong Kong’s combined use of the Western calendar and the Chinese lunar calendar can make trying to determine the exact date of festivals a bit tricky.  But you won’t want to miss Chinese New Year which takes place some time in late January or early February, and many people get four days off for the event. Expect a massive fireworks display over Victoria Harbour.

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    About Hong Kong

    On July 1, 1997, Hong Kong was passed to Chinese sovereignty by the British.  While it is now officially part of China, it is a special administrative region that functions with a certain level of autonomy, and is significantly different from mainland China.  Because of its history as a colony, it is home to many expatriates from around the world, and these people have shaped its culture.

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    History

    Hong Kong has been inhabited at least since 3000 BC, when the first documented settlers arrived on the island, most likely from Vietnam. The area now known as Hong Kong became important to trade and military power during the middle of the first millennium for the Chinese, during the Tang and Song dynasties. After the Mongol invasion in the beginning of the 13th century, Hong Kong’s prominence declined.

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    Geography

    Hong Kong is located in the South China Sea at the mouth of the Pearl River.  The Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories were later added to Hong Kong. The New Territories has over 200 islands of various sizes. Victoria Harbour separates Hong Kong Island from Kowloon.

    Hong Kong is 35 miles east of Macau and shares a border with the Chinese city of Shenzhen to the north of Kowloon.

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    Districts

    Hong Kong is divided into a number of distinctly different districts.

    Hong Kong Island
    Hong Kong Island was the site of the original British settlement, ceded from China in 1842.  It’s across Victoria Harbour from Kowloon and the mainland NewTerritories.  It’s the second largest island of Hong Kong behind Lantau Island.  Total area is 80.4 square km, or about 32 square miles.  It makes up about 7% ofHong Kong’s land area but has 19% of the population.

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    Government

    The Hong Kong operates as a special administrative regions (SARs) in the People’s Republic of China.  Hong Kong is responsible for it’s judicial and court system, immigration, customs, currency, and other duties.  China controls diplomatic relations and national defense.  Public polls in Hong Kong have shown that the general population is satisfied with the freedoms allowed the region and with China’s influence over policies. Hong Kong continued using English common law after it was handed over to China.

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    Climate

    Month Avg Hi Avg Lo Avg Precip
    Jan 74°F 47°F 0.90 in.
    Feb 76°F 47°F 1.90 in.
    Mar 81°F 52°F 2.60 in.
    Apr 85°F 59°F 6.40 in.
    May 90°F 68°F N/A in.
    Jun 91°F 73°F N/A in.
    Jul 92°F 74°F N/A in.
    Aug 92°F 75°F N/A in.
    Sep 91°F 72°F N/A in.
    Oct 88°F 66°F 5.70 in.
    Nov 82°F 56°F 1.40 in.
    Dec 77°F 49°F 1.10 in.

    By Car

    Hong Kong is easily navigated without a car.  If you chose to have one, remember that Hong Kong maintains its own road rules, with traffic continuing to drive on the left.   On mainland China, this is switched to the right.  As a metropolis for luxury in Asia, Hong Kong is famous for having the most Rolls-Royce cars per capita in the world.

    If you have a driver’s license from the US or another country, you can legally drive in Hong Kong for up to a year.  Any longer, and you’ll have to get a Hong Kong license.  Your US license can be used when you apply for your Hong Kong one, so you won’t need to take a driving test.

    Cars really aren’t necessary living in Hong Kong, and the cost can be prohibitively expensive.  Gas costs around $14 per liter, which is nearly 7 US dollars per gallon.  Add on the taxes, parking fees, and licensing, and it literally is likely to be cheaper to take a taxi everywhere.  Add into that the highly efficient transportation system, and a car may turn out to be unnecessary.

    Hong Kong Transport Dept
    1st floor, Immigration Tower
    7 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
    852-2804 2600

    Hong Kong Licensing Office (852) 2804 2600
    Kowloon Licensing Office (852) 2150 7728
    Kwun Tong Licensing Office (852) 2775 6835
    Shatin Licensing Office (852) 2606 1468
    www.td.gov.hk

    Public Transportation

    Octopus Card
    Transport Department
    www.td.gov.hk

    The Octopus Card is the heart of the public transport system. It’s a contact-less smart card. Even inside a wallet or bag, you can tap on card readers and the correct amount will be deducted from money stored. In addition to being used for all forms of public transport (except red minibuses and taxis), it is also accepted for payments in virtually all convenience stores, restaurant chains like McDonald’s, vending machines, parking meters, and more. Some housing estates and schools use the card for identification at entry.

    Basic adult Octopus cards cost $150, $100 face value plus $50 deposit ($20 non-refundable), but a $7 service charge now applies if being refunded in less than3 months. Any unused balance on the card is fully refundable.  They can be purchased at MTR stations, either as anonymous “gift card”-type debit cards, or as cards linked to a personal account you refill.

    The Octopus card allows you to ‘debt’ once, e.g. if you have a card balance of $.25, you can still use the card to pay for a $15 fare, but you must pay back the debt and add to the balance before you can use the card again.

    Hong Kong has a highly developed and sophisticated transport network, encompassing both public and private transport.

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    Air Transportation

    Hong Kong International Airport
    Chek Lap Kok Island, HK
    852-2181-0000
    www.hongkongairport.com

    Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA or HKG) is Hong Kong’s modern aiport.  The airport was named best in the world for five straight years by Skytrax.  The passenger terminal of the HKIA is the world’s largest airport terminal building, but it is simply laid out and easy to navigate.  The airport is serviced by dozens of airlines with routes across the world.

    There are car parks available, but the easiest option is to take on of the many trains that go to the airport from across the island.

    Local Phone Numbers

    Emergency 999
    Police – Crime hotline (English) (852) 2527-7177
    Directory Inquiries (local) 1081
    Directory Inquiries (international) 100-13
    Community Advice Bureau 852-2524-5444
    Collect telephone calls 100-10

    Phone numbers are normally ###-####-####
    with area code 852

    Electricity
    220 volts, 50 cycles

    Time Zone
    GMT + 8 hours, same as Singapore and Manila.  If it’s 5 pm in Hong Kong, then it’s 4 am the same day in Chicago.

    US Consulate
    US Consulate Office for
    Hong Kong and Macau
    26 Garden Road, Hong Kong 852-2523-9011
    http://hongkong.usconsulate.gov

    The consulate’s hours are usually M-F 8:30 am – 12:30 pm and 1:30 pm – 5:30 pm

    Television

    Broadcast Stations

    1 TVB Cantonese
    2 ATV Cantonese
    3 TVB Pearl English
    4 ATV World English


    Cable TV
    Hong Kong

    9 Hoi Shing Rd
    Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong
    (852) 2112-6868

    www.i-cablecomm.com

    Cable TV Hong Kong is the cable TV provider in Hong Kong.  It has a broad range of information and entertainment to its viewers through over 100 different channels, of which 54 are produced by HKCTV.  It’s owned by i-Cable Communications, which also offers high speed internet access.

    Cable TV

    Customer Service Hotline: (852) 1832-832

    www.cabletv.com.hk

    Internet & Multimedia

    Customer Service Hotline: (852) 2112-8899

    www.i-cable.com

    Radio

    FM
    88.1 Cantonese News/Talk
    90.3 Cantonese Talk/Pop Music
    92.6-94.4 Cantonese News/Talk
    94.8-96.9 Cantonese Talk/Pop Music
    97.6-98.9 English Classical
    99.7 Cantonese Entertainment News
    104 Cantonese News/Finance
    AM
    567 and 1584 English News/Talk
    621 Mandarin News/Talk
    675 English BBC World Service
    783 Cantonese News/Talk
    864 English Music Variety
    1044 English Variety Programming

    Newspapers

    South China Morning Post

    4/F., Morning Post Centre,
    22 Dai Fat Street,

    Tai Po Industrial Estate, Tai Po, Hong Kong
    (852) 2680-8822
    www.scmp.com

    Sometimes referred to as the SCMP, the South China Morning Post is the leading English language newspaper in Hong Kong.

    The Standard

    Sing Tao News Corporation Building,
    3 Tung Wong Road
    Shau Kei Wan, Hong Kong
    (852) 2798-2798
    www.thestandard.com.hk

    The Standard is an English business newspaper based in Hong Kong. It targets at investors interested in the China market by covering a great deal of news about the business and financial sector in China.

    China Daily Hong Kong Edition
    15, Huixindongjie, Chaoyang District
    Beijing, PR China 100029
    +86(10) 64995000
    www.chinadaily.com

    The Hong Kong edition has published since 1997 and is a state-run newspaper of the People’s Republic of China

    Sights

    Victoria Peak
    (852) 2849-7654
    www.thepeak.com.hk

    Victoria Peak provides magnificent harbor and city views. The Peak also has plenty of entertainment, dining and shopping options.  The best way to get to the top is via the Peak Tram.  The tram has been in operation since 1888.  The Peak Tram runs every day, including Sundays and public holidays, between 7:00 amand 12:00 midnight. The tram departs every 15 minutes.

    Peak Tower & Peak Galleria are indoor entertainment centers with a lot of fine and casual dining options.  It’s right next to Madame Toussaud’s wax museum and other touristy attractions.  There’s high end fashion shopping available, too.

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    Parks & Gardens

    Zoological and Botanical Gardens
    Garden Rd, Hong Kong, SAR, PRC
    www.lcsd.gov.hk/parks/hkzbg

    This zoo and botanical garden is the popular among local families and visitors.  It has plants and birds in simulated natural habitats. Beautiful fountains punctuate the landscape at this educational attraction.

    Hong Kong Park
    www.lcsd.gov.hk/parks/hkp

    An oasis of green amid the urban landscape, Hong Kong Park features an aviary, greenhouse, the Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre, fountains, lily ponds, playgrounds, and a restaurant. The aviary features more than 150 species of birds in a carefully designed tropical “rainforest”.

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    Beaches

    Deep Water Bay
    The public beach is next to the Hong Kong Golf Club’s annex.  The bay itself is near Aberdeen Harbour. A scenic pathway winds along the coast from here toRepulse Bay.

    Take bus no.6, 6A, 6X or 260 from Exchange Square bus terminus and get off across the road from Deep Water Bay Beach.

    Repulse Bay
    This large, sandy beach was extended recently and there are many facilities for beachgoers like shops, restaurants and bars.  There’s also a pair of large statues of two goddesses, Kwun Yum and Tin Hau.

    Take bus no. 6, 6A, 6X, 66, 260 from Central (Exchange Square) Bus Terminus and alight at Repulse Bay.

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    Fishing

    Hong Kong is a great place for fishing, with 17 scenic reservoirs stocked with a variety of species. They are located throughout the territory, but the more popular reservoirs that are easily accessible by public transport are Pok Fu Lam, Tai Tam, High Island and Shing Mun. Fishing season is from September to March.

    Obtaining a license to fish in Hong Kong is easy. Apply to the Water Supplies Department in person, and the license is usually issued the same day, or you can apply in writing.

    Hong Kong Water Supplies Dept
    48/F Immigration Tower,
    7 Gloucester Road,
    Wan Chai, Hong Kong
    (852)  2824-5000
    www.wsd.gov.hk

    Museums

    Hong Kong has plenty of museums exploring everything from history to space and defense.  You can buy a museum pass for just $30 that will grant access to all of the following 6 museums for a week.

    Hong Kong Heritage Museum
    1 Man Lam Road
    Sha Tin, Hong Kong
    (852) 2180-8188
    www.heritagemuseum.gov.hk

    The Heritage Museum focuses on Chinese history, art and culture.  It has six permanent exhibit areas and plenty of rotating attractions, and features plenty of interactive exhibits.  The museum was built by the Regional Council and opened in 2000.

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    Performing Arts

    City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong
    Suite 2207, Art Services Center
    22/F, 181 Queen’s Road Central
    Hong Kong
    (852) 3420-0107
    www.ccohk.com

    The Hong Kong Chamber Orchestra was founded in 1976 and has grown to about sixty professional and non-professional musicians and gives around six concerts in Hong Kong annually.

    Opera Hong Kong
    12/F Po Wah Commercial Centre
    226 Hennessy Road
    Wanchai
    (852) 2234 0303
    www.operahongkong.org

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    Holidays & Festivals

    There are plenty of festivals going on in Hong Kong, especially because the population is so diverse.  The list below represents many of the major ones, and the Hong Kong Tourism Board has a list of upcoming ones online at:
    www.hkta.org/eng/showtime/festivals

    Chinese Arts Festival
    Hong Kong, SAR, PRC
    (852) 2734-9009

    This festival is celebrated every two years (on even-numbered years) to focus on the talents of Chinese artists from all over the world. The festival takes place in late October or early November and has all types of performances and productions in the arts.

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    Shopping

    Duty-free Prices
    All goods, other than alcohol and tobacco, are tax-free. This makes Hong Kong one of the world’s most attractive shopping destinations.

    Shopping centers in Hong Kong are similar to those in the United States.  Because of space constraints, however, they’re often housed in multi-level office complexes instead of the sprawling malls in the U.S.

    Harbour City
    Canton Rd
    Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
    (852) 2118-8666
    www.harbourcity.com.hk

    Harbour City, in Kowloon, is the largest shopping center in Hong Kong.  There’s restaurants, child care, and a whole lot of stores.

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    Currency

    The Hong Kong dollar is the common currency. The official exchange rate is fixed at 7.80 HKD to 1 USD, although bank rates may fluctuate slightly.  The currency is printed by different banks, so it comes in a variety of forms.
    $10, green or purple
    $20, grey or blue (old or new)
    $50, purple or green (old or new)
    $100, red
    $500, brown
    $1000, gold

    Some shops do not accept $1000 notes due to counterfeiting concerns.

    The coins come in units of:
    $10, in bronze/silver, circular
    $5, in silver, circular, thicker
    $2, in silver, wavey-circular
    $1, in silver, circular, thinner
    50c, in bronze, circular, larger
    20c, in bronze, wavey-circular
    10c, in bronze, circular, smaller

    Except for the $10 coin, these get smaller in size as the value decreases.

    Credit Card Payments
    Most Hong Kong shops accept credit cards. Credit card companies may charge a currency-exchange fee on overseas purchases if you’re using a US-based card. Please check with your credit card issuer for further details.

    Taxes

    Income Tax
    Hong Kong has a very simple tax system: 16% flat income tax.  There are no tax brackets like in the United States.  There are personal exemptions and exemptions for children, other dependent relatives you’re caring for, etc.  Because of the number of exemptions, many workers do not end up paying any income tax at all, or at least a reduced amount.  There’s also no tax on capital gains, which is money gained from selling investments, like stocks and bonds.

    US citizens’ income tax liabilities are based on worldwide income, so you’re still responsible to pay the IRS on income earned in Hong Kong or other countries. You do get an $80,000 dollar exemption on money you earn overseas, so the tax burden will be significantly lower.  In some countries, you can get foreign tax credits, but that’s only useful if the country you’re in has a higher tax rate than the US, which Hong Kong doesn’t.

    Property Taxes
    The simplest explanation of Hong Kong’s property tax structure is that you pay 16% of what your property would be worth if you rented it out for a year.  If you are renting property, you are responsible for its taxes, unless the rate is included in your rent.  These taxes are paid quarterly.

    Dining

    Hong Kong is home to thousands and thousands of restaurants, and given it’s history as a British colony, showcases plenty of Western cuisine in addition to traditional Chinese fair.  Hong Kong residents tend to dine out more often than those in other countries.  Eating out can be fairly cheap, especially if you stick to local restaurants.

    Hong Kong has a lot of great seafood restaurants, and the fact that you’re never far from the ocean ensures that your food is fresh.  Tea cafes are very popular as well.  If you see someone tap the table with three fingers, it’s a silent gesture to thank the person who refilled their cup.

    Tap water is safe to drink, but the government recommends boiling it because the pipes may contain contaminants.  An easy solution is to boil or filter the water, or buy inexpensive bottled water.

    The supermarkets that cater specifically to westerners are typically more expensive than regular grocery stores, but you’re much more likely to find exactly what you’re looking for if you want western food.  Regular supermarkets are generally more Asian-focused, though you can still find what you need.  Local fresh food markets, called ‘wet markets’ in the vernacular, are generally cheap, and have all manner of fruit, Chinese vegetables and greens, fish, meat, and household items.

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    Business Etiquette

    Business Hours
    Typical business hours for private and government offices are 9 am to 6 pm weekdays and 9 am to 1 pm on Saturdays. Business hours may vary depending on area. In the Central district, stores open around 9:30 am and close around 6 pm, but Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui stores run on a little later schedule: around 10:30 am to 10:30 pm.

    Business Dress
    Coat and tie for men, and suits or dresses for women are traditional business attire.

    Tipping
    A 10% service charge is automatically added by most restaurants. However, waiters will appreciate small tips. Taxi drivers usually expect a tip; simply round the fare up to the nearest Hong Kong dollar.

    Other Business Etiquette
    Business cards are given out very frequently in Hong Kong, so it’s a good idea to always have some on you.  Receiving a card without offering one in return is a signal that you do not want to make the other person’s acquaintance or that you lack status. Cards are often presented immediately on the first meeting with both hands and a slight bow from the waist.

    When it comes to picking up the check after a business meal, the rules of Western business generally apply: If a local acquaintance has invited you to discuss business, you should gracefully allow him to pay, and vice-versa if it was your invitation.  Chinese custom may dictate that your business acquaintance will want to pay the bill, you can easily side step it by tell him or her that they can pick up the next one.

    Work Visa

    You need a work visa in Hong Kong if you’re not a permanent resident.  You can’t apply for one on your own; you need to be sponsored by a company that will employ you, and then you submit a visa application through at the Hong Kong Immigration Department.

    Until recently one spouse having a work visa meant that the other spouse was unable to get a work visa too, but regulations have since been relaxed, and employment is permitted again.

    Mail Delivery

    Hong Kong Post Headquarters
    2 Connaught Place
    Central, Hong Kong
    852-2921-2222

    Mail delivery usually takes one business day, if you’re in a bigger hurry than that, you can pay extra to get same day delivery if it’s the morning.  A local letter will cost $1.4 Hong Kong dollars, about US$.20.  To send a letter to the US costs about HK$3, a 1 pound package would cost about HK$75.

    Telephone

    Phone numbers are normally ###-####-#### with area code 852

    Hong Kong’s country-code is 852 (different from China and Macau). Local phone numbers are 8 digits; no area codes are used.  For the operator, dial 1000. For police, fire service or ambulance, dial 999.

    Hong Kong has one of the highest penetration rates for mobile phone usage in the world, 115% as of 2004.  The phones run off of a GSM network, so you may not need to change phones if you have a GSM world phone.  You can purchase prepaid SIM cards.  Mobile phone numbers in Hong Kong are 8 digits long and start with either a 6 or a 9.  Like the US, you pay whether you’re making or receiving a call on your cell phone.

    Payphones are $1 is for a local call for 5 minutes.  Many businesses will let you use one of their phones if you ask politely.

    Healthcare

    Healthcare
    Hong Kong’s healthcare system is just as good as that in the United States.  There are both private and public systems.  The private practices are usually general practitioners.  Those costs may be covered by your employers benefits package, the package varies from one employer to the next.  Depending on what is covered in the plan, some people chose to use public hospitals similar to how they’re used in the US, as in, for emergency room visits and surgery.  Western expatriate doctors are typically much more expensive than the Chinese doctors, who have often been trained at the same schools.

    Crime
    Hong Kong is very safe. The crime rate is much lower than that in the United States, especially for violent crime.  This is partially due to high government expenditures on policing, and partially due to cultural norms.

    Higher Education

    At the higher education levels, both British and American systems exist. In particular, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology was established on the American model of higher education.  The University of Hong Kong has traditionally been based on the British model but has switched to the American model in recent years. There are eight public universities in Hong Kong, and a number of private institutions.

    The University of Hong Kong
    Pok Fu Lam Road, Hong Kong
    (852) 2859-2111
    www.hku.hk

    City University of Hong Kong
    Tat Chee Avenue
    Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR
    (852) 2788 7654
    www.cityu.edu.hk

    Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
    Clear Water Bay, Kowloon Hong Kong
    (852) 2358-8888
    www.ust.hk

    Religion

    Religious freedom is one of the fundamental rights enjoyed by Hong Kong residents. It is protected by the Basic Law, which is Hong Kong’s Constitution.  The majority of Hong Kong’s population practices ancestor worship due to the strong Confucian influence. A sizable Christian community of around 500,000 exists, forming about 10% of the total population; roughly equally divided between Catholics and Protestants. There are also followers of Buddhism or Taoism. There are also estimated 3,000 Jews, and a few Hindus; Sikhs and Bahá’ís are also represented. Apart from offering religious instructions, many major religious bodies have established schools and provided social welfare facilities.

    Compulsory Education

    A former British colony, Hong Kong’s education system is roughly based upon that of the United Kingdom, and in particular, the system used in England.

    The system features an optional three-year kindergarten, followed by a compulsory six-year primary education, three-year junior secondary education, and an optional two-year senior secondary education leading to the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examinations.

    Hong Kong’s public schools are operated by the Education and Manpower Bureau of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

    International schools are private schools that cater mainly to children who are not nationals of the host country, often the employees of international businesses. They typically are more expensive than other forms of elementary education.

    American International School
    125 Waterloo Road
    Kowloon Tong, Kowloon, Hong Kong
    (852) 2336-3812
    www.ais.edu.hk

    Kellett School
    2 Wah Fu Lok Path
    Wah Fu, Pokfulam, Hong Kong
    (852) 2551-8234
    www.kellettschool.com

    Discovery Bay International School
    Lantau Island Hong Kong
    (852) 2987-7331
    www.dbis.edu.hk