Hong Kong Travel Guide for First Timers

Hong Kong is an autonomous territory, and a former British colony, in southeastern China. It is also considered as a major shopping destination in Asia. Over the years, Hong Kong has been dynamic city which has been greatly developed for the past couple of decades – theme parks, skylines, shopping, booming businesses, tourist attractions, and a lot more.

I’ve been to Hong Kong for a few times and whenever I visit, it gets different all the time. Travelers, especially for first timers, will definitely enjoy lots of activities to do in Hong Kong. Here are some of my suggested destinations in Hong Kong for first time visitors.

Hong Kong Disneyland

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Disneyland has been a perennial tourist attraction especially in the United States. Since its establishment in Hong Kong, tourism has boomed in the country. People from all over the world, especially in Asia, visit Hong Kong for Disneyland. The theme park can offer you all the fun, rides, attractions, etc. This attraction is perfect for first time tourists, especially if you have kids. After all, Disneyland is the happiest place on earth.

Big Buddha, Po Lin Monastery, and Ngong Ping Village

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The bronze Big Buddha, or Tian Tan Buddha, is located in Ngong Ping Lantau Island. It has a height of 34 meters and weighs around 250 metric tons, which makes it the second largest sitting statue of Buddha in the world. Massive, isn’t it?

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From the Ngong Ping 360 cable car terminus, or from the bus station, you can reach it by walking for a few minutes. You have to climb up the stairs which has 268 steps until you get to the top where the Big Buddha sits. You can even go inside the statue and climb to the top, however, it’s not for free.

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At the top of the stairs, there are smaller statues surrounding the Big Buddha, which are portrayed like they are praying or offering something to him. The view of Po Lin Monastery surrounded by countless pine trees can be seen as well. The view was amazing.

From Big Buddha, you can go to Po Lin Monastery for a few minutes walk. Visit the Buddhist temple for a feel of tranquility and culture.

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In Ngong Ping Village, there are lots of vendors selling souvenirs of the Big Buddha and the village. However, I think buying souvenirs here is not recommended since you’ll end up paying more. Buying in night markets will give you more purchasing power.

Address: Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Price: No entrance fee. The price of the cable car round-trip ticket for the standard cabin is HKD 185 for adults and HKD 95 for children (aged 3 to 11). For a single trip, it costs HKD 130 for adults and HKD 65 for children. If you’ll be taking the bus, it costs HKD 17 on weekdays and HKD 27 on weekends and holidays.
How to get there: Ride the MTR going to Lai King station then transfer to Tung Chung Line. Go to Tung Chung station then ride the cable car or bus going to Ngong Ping Village.

Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery

IMG_7210It’s amazing to know that there is a beautifully preserved Chinese garden in the middle of the urban city.

IMG_7220IMG_7230Visiting the garden makes you feel at peace because of the zen-like gardens, temples, bonsais, and all the other garden plants displayed. The pond beside the temple is filled with koi fishes.

IMG_7255Bonsai trees are displayed for good luck. Inside the house you’ll see a museum.

IMG_7238Beautiful gardening designs in Nan Lian Garden. The house in the picture is a restaurant which serves organic vegetarian food.

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Climbing up the stairs in the garden, you’ll see the Chi Lin Nunnery. It is a big Buddhist temple with a big pond outside. You can take pictures of the vicinity, but please not with the statue of their gods. Some Buddhists do not like taking pictures of their god’s statues. Let’s respect their religion.

Address: 60 Fung Tak Rd, Ha Yuen Leng, Hong Kong
Price: Free
How to get there: Ride the MTR going to Diamond Hill. Go out of Exit C2 then follow the signs.

Shopping Malls and Outlets

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Hong Kong has been a shopping haven in Asia. From bargaining in markets in Mong Kok to high-end luxury malls such as Harbor Square, you can buy many branded clothes, accessories, bags, and many more. One of the best malls I have been is the K11. I love the location since it is connected to the subway and it feels invigorating with all the arts, lights and youthful environment. Here is a link to the  list of malls in Hong Kong.

Symphony of Lights

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You’ve never been to Hong Kong if you haven’t seen this. This attraction is somewhat an icon of Hong Kong for tourists. The symphony of lights can be viewed every evening at 8pm. From the city skyline across the Victoria Harbour, laser lights dance around to the beat of the music. It’s a very nice show in Hong Kong which can be witnessed for free.

Address: Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Price: Free
How to get there: Ride the MTR going to East Tsim Sha Tsui station Go out of Exit L6 then follow the signs.

Ten Thousand Buddha Monastery

IMG_7327IMG_7355A hidden attraction somewhere in the north of Hong Kong is a hilltop monastery where you can see temples at the top. On the way up, Buddhas with different poses are lined up on each side of the stairs. It’s amazing that every step you’ll see various expressions and faces of Buddha statues.

IMG_7350A cool view of the city can also be seen at the top.

Address: Sha Tin, Hong Kong
Price: Free
How to get there: Ride the MTR going to Sha Tin station Go out of Exit B then go left after the exit.

Street Food


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hk2Street food is a must-try when you are in Hong Kong. Bustling street food hawker stalls can be found in almost every corner of the streets. There are many street food you can choose from – dimsum, noodles, roasted duck, chicken, fish balls, and desserts. You might experience having a hard time communicating with the vendors in English. I think the best way to order your food is to just point out what food you want to eat. I’ll be posting a separate page about the must-try street foods in Hong Kong.

Avenue of Stars

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The Avenue of Stars is a park which showcases the different statues, sculptures, and artworks of several Asian stars as well as in Hollywood. The picture shows the actual hand print of Jackie Chan. It is just beside the skyline viewing deck located at the second floor. I had a hard time finding it though based on the maps. Apparently, I had to go up the stairs before I can find it.

IMG_7417Street art portraying Chinese culture in the Avenue of Stars.

Address: Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Price: Free
How to get there: Ride the MTR going to East Tsim Sha Tsui station. Follow the signs. The Avenue of Stars is at the 2nd floor above the bus stations.

Ocean Park

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Ocean Park Hong Kong is one of the best theme parks in Asia. It opened in 1977 and is located at the southern island of Hong Kong. It houses a marine-life theme park attracting many tourists for its thrill rides and shows. Ocean Park consists of two major areas, the Waterfront and the Summit. The two major areas are connect via cable car and the Ocean Express train. Discover more about marine life and have a fun day in Ocean Park.

Address: Ocean Park, Hong Kong
Price: General admission is HKD 438 for adults (12 and above). HKD 219 for children (aged 3-11).
How to get there: Ride the MTR going to Ocean Park station of the South Island Line.

Victoria Peak

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Victoria Peak is the highest place in Hong Kong Island with an altitude of 552 meters. It is a mountain in the west of Hong Kong Island where you’ll be have a great bird’s eye view of the Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong Island, and Kowloon area. During my first visit in Hong Kong, which was more than two decades ago, the only way to go up the peak was through a bus. Today, more people can already go up by riding a tram. The tram operates through an inclined railway connecting straight up to the mountain.

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At the peak, you can find many restaurants, cafés, gifts shops, bookshops, and a supermarket. Also, the main attraction at the peak is the Sky Terrace 428 which is Hong Kong’s highest viewing platform. There are telescopes within the area which you must drop coins before you can take a look. However, the view of the city can’t be seen sometimes due to intense fog.

Address: Garden Road, Central, Hong Kong
Price: Round trip ticket for the Peak Tram is HKD 45 for adults and HKD 20 for children (aged 3-11) and elderly (aged 65 or above). If you want the package of the Peak Tram and the Sky Terrace 428, the round trip ticket is HKD 90 for adults and HKD 43 for children and elderly.
How to get there: Ride the MTR going to Central station, then take Exit J2 and walk up to the ground level. Turn right, through Chater Garden, cross Queen’s Road Central, and make your way up Garden Road. You will pass the Bank of China Tower and Citibank Plaza on your left and St John’s Cathedral on your right.

Madame Tussauds

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Madame Tussauds is a wax museum that showcases the most famous people in the world in the form of wax statues. But, the awesome part here is that the wax displays look like real. Take a picture with your favourite stars in the Madame Tussauds wax museum. Famous actors and actresses, from Hollywood to Asia, as well as sports superstars are displayed in the museum. You can also see statues of historical figures such as Albert Einstein.

Address: Garden Road, Central, Hong Kong
Price: HKD 199 per person if you’ll buy online. But there are promos offered when you buy there. Just approach the persons in charge there.
How to get there: Ride the MTR going to Central station, then take Exit J2 and walk up to the ground level. Turn right, through Chater Garden, cross Queen’s Road Central, and make your way up Garden Road. You will pass the Bank of China Tower and Citibank Plaza on your left and St John’s Cathedral on your right.

Night Market

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Night markets are popular in Asia, especially in Hong Kong where it is a center of tourism. In night markets, you can see different lines of products, from branded clothes and accessories to jewelries and other stuff like souvenirs. You have to bargain hard to keep prices low and increase your purchasing power. Here is a link of a list of the best night markets in Hong Kong.

Kowloon Park

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Kowloon Park is located within Tsim Sha Tsui. It is a public park in which you can see many attractions for free.

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Great sights of artistic landscape can be seen in the park. This definitely makes people more inspired to jog and exercise in the park.

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IMG_7480There is an aviary which houses different species of birds such as parrots, swans, and ducks. I was even surprised to see a flock of flamingos in the small lake within the park.

IMG_7484The park is also connected to the Harbour City, which is one of the best malls in Hong Kong, as well as the Star Ferry, the gateway to Macau.

To make your trip more convenient, here are some of my tips in traveling to Hong Kong. These travel tips are based on personal experiences and stories of friends.

Travel Tips

  • If you’ll be staying in a budget hotel, I do not recommend bringing a big luggage. Rooms in Hong Kong are very small especially in budget hotels.
  • Free wifi is available in some malls in Tsim Sha Tsui. If you need to be online, just go to the malls or restaurants. I went to iSquare whenever I’m out and I need wifi.
  • Almost all the time the streets are crowded in Hong Kong, especially in night markets such as Mong Kok. It can’t be helped that there will be pickpocketing crimes. Just be careful of your belongings all the time, particularly your bags and wallets.
  • When you’re in the market, you may find yourself haggling with the vendors to lower the prices. Sometimes, you don’t even know the true value of the products. You might end up paying more than the true value of the products. It is better if you can find a local friend and ask him on advice about the best shops to buy and where to eat.
  • Beware of vendors selling electronic gadgets that are defective and fake. Some of the fake gadgets are very similar to the original brand and you might end up buying it if you’re not really focusing.
  • Whenever you use public toilets, always bring toilet papers. Sometimes, there are no toilet papers available in the public toilets.
  • You may find yourself having difficulties communicating with the locals in English. In this case, it’s better to download Google Translate. From my experience, it helped me a lot in communicating with locals who do not understand English.
  • In getting around Hong Kong, I suggest you take the MTR. It is fast and cheap compared to buses and taxis. Time won’t be wasted and you can even enjoy the artworks in the subway.
  • Plan your itinerary efficiently before your trip to avoid wasting time and money. Some of the attractions are just near to each other. If it is possible to reach your target places within an area by just walking, then walk. That way you can save money from transportation while you fully immerse yourself in the place. Don’t worry it’s not that hot in Hong Kong.

Costs

The cost of living in Hong Kong is relatively higher compared to most countries, especially in Asia. Most people think that traveling to Hong Kong will also cost a lot. Yes, you have to spend a lot of money if you’ll be going to theme parks such as Disneyland, Ocean Park, and Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. But, for budget travelers who enjoy sight seeing and traveling more than theme parks, there are many beautiful places in Hong Kong that can be visited for free and it won’t empty your pockets that much.

As for food, it depends where you will eat. Of course, food is expensive if you’ll be eating in a fancy restaurant. In Tsim Sha Tsui, there are lots of affordable delicious and safe food to find ranging from HKD 20-55. Street food is much cheaper than this but you have to take the risk of its cleanliness.

Hostels can be good choices to stay for budget travelers. There are many low cost hostels in Hong Kong. Try checking out Agoda or booking.com.

 

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