Hong Kong Travel Tips
Currency of Hong Kong:
Legal tender is the Hong Kong Dollar (HK$). There are 100 cents in a dollar. Notes issued by HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank have denominations of HK$10, HK$20, HK$50, HK$100, HK$500, and HK$1,000. The Bank of China issues all of the denominations except HK$10. Coins, issued by the government, are bronze-coloured for 10 cents, 20 cents and 50 cents, silver-coloured for HK$1, HK$2, and HK$5; nickel and bronze for HK$10.
Since the mid-1980s, the value of the Hong Kong dollar has been pegged at HK$7.8 to the US dollar, and consequent rates of exchange to other currencies. However, the market rate exchange to the US dollar fluctuates marginally. Banks and money changers charge commission. Similarly, commissions are payable in hotels and major retail outlets which provide exchange facilities for their customers. As elsewhere, the rates of exchange for cash and travellers cheques are marginally different and coins are not exchangeable.
Licensed money changers, such as Thomas Cook and Check point are abundant in tourist areas. Money changers are open every day, including Sundays and holidays and late into the evening. There is no commission, but the exchange rate offered is equivalent to a 5% commission when compared with bank rates. If you are changing several hundred US dollars, you can bargain for a better rate.
Health Care in Hong Kong:
As with all countries close to the equator, sunburn and dehydration can occur more easily than it would in cooler climates. Be sure to drink plenty of water and wear sunscreen if you plan to be in the sun for any length of time.
Tap water is safe for drinking in Hong Kong. Hotels usually provide bottled water for guests in their rooms.
There are no required vaccines for entering Hong Kong, unless arriving from a Yellow Fever infected area. Ask your physician and check with your state or local department of health for news on any current outbreaks of infectious diseases.
It is advisable when travelling to any foreign destination that you check with your local hospital as to what inoculations or medications you may need for your trip.
Hong Kong Customs:
Travellers entering Hong Kong at entry points are required to declare to Customs officers the quantity of dutiable goods (liquor, tobacco, cigarette and cigar) which are in excess of the duty-free concessions.
A passenger of the age of 18 or above is allowed to bring into Hong Kong free of duty, for his/her own use, the following quantities of dutiable commodities:
An incoming passenger aged 18 or above, who does not hold a Hong Kong Identity Card, is eligible for the following duty-free concessions: one litre of alcoholic liquor; and 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250 grams of other manufactured tobacco.
An incoming passenger aged 18 or above, who holds a Hong Kong Identity Card and has spent 24 hours or longer outside Hong Kong, is eligible for the following duty-free concessions: 750 milliliters of still wine; and 60 cigarettes or 15 cigars or 75 grams of other manufactured tobacco.
To verify a passenger's eligibility for the duty-free concessions, Customs officers may require an incoming passenger to produce his/her Hong Kong Identity Card in order to verify whether he/she has spent 24 hours or longer outside Hong Kong.
An incoming passenger, who fails to declare or makes a false or incomplete declaration to a Customs officer on the quantity of dutiable goods in his/her possession which are in excess of the duty-free concessions, is liable to prosecution.
Some personal protection devices like the spray mace, while legal in some countries are prohibited in Hong Kong. To avoid any unnecessary delays, please follow the guidelines from Hong Kong International Airport by visiting their website at: www.hongkongairport.com/eng/aguide/securitychk.html
There are no restrictions on currencies being brought in or taken out of Hong Kong.
Languages of Hong Kong:
Chinese (Cantonese) and English are the two official languages. English is fluently spoken among the business community and at tourist destinations such as hotels and certain restaurants.
All official signs contain English, some of them containing English only. Most shops and restaurants also have English signage, though don't expect this from the more local or obscure establishments.
Most Hong Kong people are not fluent in Mandarin, but can comprehend it to a certain degree. Mandarin proficiency is increasing, especially after the reunification with the mainland.
Religions in Hong Kong:
Religious freedom is one of the fundamental rights enjoyed by Hong Kong residents. It is protected by the Basic Law and the relevant legislation. The various religious traditions practiced in Hong Kong are, among others, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and Judaism. All of these traditions have a considerable number of adherents. Apart from offering religious instruction, many major religious bodies have established schools and provide health and welfare facilities.
Tax and Tipping in Hong Kong:
There is no sales tax in Hong Kong. The only tax you may be charged is 5% government tax on hotel rates. Most upscale hotels add this to a 10% service charge, making for a total surcharge of 15%.
Tipping is not a Chinese custom; however in Hong Kong, tipping is becoming expected from westerners. It is expected to tip hotel porters about HK$10. If you make use of the porters at the airport, HK$2 per bag is expected.
Check for hidden extras in your bill before you tip. Some hotels charge HK$5 for local calls when it should be free and some restaurants consistently get the bill wrong. Many bars have a policy of making you sit down before ordering and then sending a waitress to serve you, expecting a tip. If you don't want this, just order the drink yourself and sit at a table.
As a general rule, let your conscious be your guide. If you think the service was great, then you may want to tip.
Visas for Hong Kong:
Passport holders of a number of countries can enter Hong Kong without a visa for a period of 90 days. Anyone wishing to stay longer than the visa-free period must apply for a visa before travelling to Hong Kong.
Visitors to Hong Kong must hold a valid passport. Passports should be valid for at least six months after your planned departure date from Hong Kong. Nationals of most countries are not required to obtain visas for periods varying from seven days to 180 days, depending on nationality. Check with any Chinese embassy or consulate for the latest status or visit the Hong Kong Immigration Department's Web Site at: www.info.gov.hk
Visas for mainland China can be obtained in Hong Kong. They require one photo and usually take three working days to process. Visas can be obtained through the Visa Office of People's Republic of China, Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China in Hong Kong, China Travel Service (HK) Ltd, or China International Travel Service HK Ltd.
Frequent business travel to Hong Kong is made easy with the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Travel Pass. For more details on the Travel Pass, please visit the Immigration Department's website at: www.immd.gov.hk/index.html