Hong Kong a truly magical island off of the coast of China has a large amount of diversity and has something to offer for everyone. This Fantastic and amazing island of dense skyscrapers and lush landscapes will not disappoint. From sandy beaches to rugby pitches, there’s more fresh air than most travelers suspect. And, of course, as a world-class metropolis, Hong Kong boasts numerous urban diversions, such as culinary hot spots and museums. After visiting Hong Kong, the only question you might be asking is: “Why didn’t I get here sooner?”
No doubt about it: Hong Kong will surprise you. There’s no way to prepare for the awe-inspiring view from Victoria Peak or for the Symphony of the Stars light show from the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade. Against the verdant terrain, glittering skyscrapers have never looked so beautiful. Taking in Hong Kong’s atmosphere is half the joy of being here. The other half is equally exciting: With Hong Kong Disneyland, Ocean Park and Happy Valley Racecourse, there are options for every interest.
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No doubt about it: Hong Kong will surprise you. There’s no way to prepare for the awe-inspiring view from Victoria Peak or for the Symphony of the Stars light show from the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade.
Happy Valley Racecourse
Every Wednesday from September to July, thousands of Hong Kong residents flood the stands of the Happy Valley Racecourse. Horse racing is the only legal form of gambling in Hong Kong, making Happy Valley one of the few places where you are allowed to gamble in the city. And many of Hong Kong’s citizens take full advantage. Even if you’re not into betting, you should visit this local institution simply for the electric atmosphere, not to mention the surrounding city skyline, which sparkles once the sun goes down.
Much like the locals, recent travelers agreed the Happy Valley Racecourse is must-visit if you’re in Hong Kong. Visitors reveled in the attraction’s fun atmosphere, cheap admission and to most, surprisingly good food and drink options. Some travelers were quick to note that unlike other racetracks, specifically in the states, attire is very casual, so there’s no need to pack any big hats or bow ties for your night at the track.
Standing room at the race track level costs just HK$10 (about $1.30), and tickets for the seated area start at HK$20 (about $2.60). You can purchase tickets the day of at the track or up to 10 days in advance from several outlets throughout the city. Only visitors 18 years or older are permitted inside the track. Located on Hong Kong Island, you can walk to the track from the MTR’s Causeway Bay Station or simply take a taxi from either one of the Star Ferry piers on Hong Kong Island. The races usually last from 7 to 11 p.m. For more information, check out Happy Valley Racecourse’s website.
Hong Kong Disneyland
“It’s a small world after all” has never been more true than at Hong Kong Disneyland. If you’ve been to either Disneyland or Walt Disney World, you might be disappointed by the relatively small size of this park. The Hong Kong iteration has many of the same attractions as the American parks, such as Space Mountain and Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, only they’ve been scaled down. But that doesn’t mean recent visitors didn’t enjoy their time at the “happiest place on Earth.” As expected, families loved it, but some adults found it to be a waste of time if you don’t have any little ones in tow. Much like the other Disney parks, travelers warned of large crowds and complained that the food is overpriced and mediocre.
Positioned on Lantau Island, Hong Kong Disneyland is easily accessible via the MTR’s Disneyland Resort Line. The park welcomes visitors from 10:30 a.m. to 8:15 p.m. every day. Admission costs HK$539 (about $69) for adults and HK$385 (about $49.60) for kids. For more information, consult Hong Kong Disneyland’s website.
Competing with Hong Kong Disneyland as the top spot to take your family in Hong Kong, Ocean Park pulls out all the stops. Spectacular natural scenery right on the coastline? Check. A diverse zoo that includes pandas and dolphins? Check. An aquarium with sharks and rays? Check. Electrifying roller coasters and carnival games? Check. Next thing you know, Ocean Park is going to have a cable-car ride and an underground funicular…Oh wait, it already does!
Recent visitors can’t get over how many attractions are packed into Ocean Park, with some suggesting to get there as soon as the park opens to take advantage of all that it has to offer. Others say that one day alone isn’t enough to see the park in its entirety. Families say it’s a sure fire hit with the little ones, and that the older crowd will appreciate the adrenaline-pumping rides available on site. Some lamented the high prices for food, but the majority admit that they couldn’t recall a moment when they were bored during their time at Ocean Park.
The best way to get around Hong Kong is the Mass Transit Railway (MTR). Ideally, you’ll use a combination of the MTR and your own two feet to get places quickly and cheaply. If you take a bus or minibus, you run the risk of missing your intended destination as these two options are difficult for visitors who do not speak Cantonese, especially if you take a minibus. The ferries and the trams offer scenic routes, which you should take when you have time to absorb Hong Kong’s bustling environment.
Most visitors arrive through Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), located just off Lantau Island. While many visitors simply hop in a taxi and zoom off to downtown, you can avoid the cab fare by using the MTR’s high-speed Airport Express. This train takes only 24 minutes to reach the city, and a complimentary shuttle bus will pick up passengers at the Hong Kong and Kowloon stations and transport them to popular hotels nearby.
The Mass Transit Railway (MTR) encompasses a subway system and an above-ground light-rail network that courses through downtown Hong Kong and its surrounding territories. The MTR is clean, efficient, cost-effective and extensive. What more could you ask for? The base fare for a one-way ticket is HK $4.50 (about $0.58) and quickly increases depending on the distance traveled. While you can purchase a one-way ticket for each journey, you’re better off getting the rechargeable Octopus card or a tourist day pass. These two alternatives will save you money. The Octopus card costs HK$50 (about $6.40), which covers the cost of the card and allows travel until visitors reach a value of HK-$35. You can be refunded the initial HK$50 if you return the card before you leave in good condition and its remaining value does not exceed HK$500. The base fare for a ride with an Octopus card is HK$4.40 (about $0.57) but increases the farther you travel. The tourist day pass costs HK$55 (about $7) per day and permits unlimited travel on all modes of the MTR. Trains start running at 6 a.m. and terminate between midnight and 1 a.m. depending on the line.
Taxi Three types of taxis, indicated by different colors, serve the Hong Kong territory. You’ll find the red in the urban regions, and they will go anywhere except for Tung Chung Road and Lantau Island’s south side. Green taxis operate in rural New Territories, so you probably won’t run into many of these. Lastly, blue taxis run only on Lantau Island. Each type of taxi maintains a different fare breakdown. If you run into traffic or need to cross a body of water, the rate can skyrocket in a hurry, and the ride can take longer than if you used the MTR. In downtown Hong Kong and the Kowloon Peninsula, taxis are easy to flag down from the street. In other areas, you should call the taxi dispatch to request one.
You’ll see tons of buses (including double-deckers) on the roads, but unless you know precisely which one to flag down (they will not automatically stop), you’re better off taking the less complicated MTR. Three separate companies (listed below) operate the bus lines within the Hong Kong territory. All of the companies accept the MTR Octopus card or exact change on board. Fares vary depending on the route, so you can sometimes spend as little as HK$2 (about $0.26) and other times more than HK$20 (about $2.58). You can catch most buses between 6 a.m. and midnight. Some buses, marked “N,” operate nighttime routes.
While you’re in Hong Kong, you should take a ferry ride. The Star Ferry is the most popular ferry company with tourists; however, there are numerous other companies that operate lines between the Kowloon Peninsula, Hong Kong Island and the outlying islands. The standard Star Ferry trip across Victoria Harbour costs between HK$2 and $3 (less than $0.45), depending on the day as well as the departure and arrival piers. Consult the Hong Kong Tourism Board’s website for more information about the various ferries.
It may not be the fastest means of getting around, but Hong Kong Island’s trams take you along scenic routes. Like San Francisco’s cable cars, these double-decker streetcars offer an enjoyable sightseeing experience; just don’t rely on them for traveling long distances. There is a flat fare of HK$2.30 (about $0.30), and you must either have exact change or use your MTR Octopus card. Also, remember to board at the rear of the tram.
Hong Kong Tramways
On FootWhile you should definitely get lost in Hong Kong’s streets and stumble upon street markets, you should not rely solely on your feet to get around. The hilly terrain will wear out your legs quickly, and the water divisions make walking impossible. If you do plan to explore on foot, grab an up-to-date street map from a Hong Kong Tourism Board visitor center.
There are two types of minibuses. Green minibuses cost a fixed amount and run along pre-determined routes. Red minibuses operate on routes as well but passengers can get off at any time. Fares on red minibuses are not fixed, so you’ll have to determine the price with the driver. Travelers familiar with Hong Kong’s layout who know a fair bit of Cantonese are best served on minibuses. If you do not meet either of those two criteria, consider another transportation option.