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Hong Kong Facts & Trivia: 10 Things Foreigners Should Know


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Becki Keyser



Welcome to Hong Kong – a vibrant and dynamic city that effortlessly blends East and West, tradition and modernity. Situated on the southeastern coast of China, Hong Kong is renowned for its stunning skyline, bustling streets, and rich culture. Whether you are visiting for business or pleasure, there are several essential things foreigners should know to make the most of their time in this unique destination.


With a fascinating history and a unique status as a Special Administrative Region of China, Hong Kong offers a blend of Chinese and Western influences that shape its distinctive identity. From its colonial past to its handover to China in 1997, Hong Kong has preserved its own legal and judicial system, currency, and customs. This allows for a seamless integration of different cultures and traditions, making it a truly cosmopolitan city.


One of the first things foreigners should be aware of when coming to Hong Kong is its geography. The city is divided into three main areas: Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Peninsula, and the New Territories. Each of these areas has its own unique characteristics and attractions, ranging from towering skyscrapers to picturesque mountains and islands.


With English and Chinese as the official languages, communication in Hong Kong is usually not a problem for most visitors. English is widely spoken in business and tourism, making it easy to navigate the city and interact with locals. However, it is always appreciated to learn a few common Cantonese phrases as a sign of respect for the local culture.


When it comes to currency and economy, Hong Kong is known for its robust financial sector and free-market economy. The Hong Kong Dollar (HKD) is the official currency, and most establishments accept major credit cards. With its low taxation rates and business-friendly policies, Hong Kong is a major player in global trade and finance.


Getting around Hong Kong is a breeze thanks to its reliable and efficient public transportation system. The Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is the backbone of the city’s transport network, connecting various districts and attractions. Buses, trams, and ferries also provide convenient options for getting around and exploring the city’s different neighborhoods.


Hong Kong’s Status and History

Hong Kong has a unique political status as a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China. It was a British colony from 1842 until its sovereignty was transferred back to China on July 1, 1997. This event marked the end of more than 150 years of British rule and the beginning of Hong Kong’s integration into China. Under the principle of “one country, two systems,” Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy in its internal affairs, including its legal and economic systems.


The historical development of Hong Kong has had a significant impact on its culture, economy, and identity. Originally a small fishing village, Hong Kong grew into a bustling trading port during the 19th century due to its strategic location and natural harbor. The city became an important hub for international trade, attracting merchants from around the world.


During World War II, Hong Kong fell under Japanese occupation for nearly four years before being returned to British control. The following decades witnessed rapid economic growth and modernization, transforming Hong Kong into a global financial center and one of the world’s busiest ports.


The handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997 marked the start of a new era for the city. The “one country, two systems” principle guarantees Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy and allows it to maintain its capitalist economy and common law legal system. This unique arrangement has played a crucial role in maintaining Hong Kong’s position as an international financial and business hub.


Despite its integration into China, Hong Kong retains certain distinct features that set it apart from mainland China. Its legal system is based on English common law, and it enjoys a higher degree of political freedom and civil liberties compared to other parts of China. Hong Kong also has its own currency, the Hong Kong Dollar (HKD), and issues its own passports.


The status and history of Hong Kong make it a fascinating and diverse destination. Its multicultural environment reflects its historical ties with the West as well as its integration into Chinese culture. Visitors to Hong Kong can experience a unique blend of east and west, from traditional Chinese temples and markets to the glamorous shopping districts and international cuisine.


Geography and Landmarks

Situated on the southeastern coast of China, Hong Kong is a dynamic city that boasts a stunning natural landscape alongside a bustling urban environment. The city is made up of Hong Kong Island, the Kowloon Peninsula, the New Territories, and over 200 outlying islands.


Hong Kong Island is the heart of the city, known for its iconic skyline dominated by towering skyscrapers. The Victoria Harbour separates Hong Kong Island from the Kowloon Peninsula, offering breathtaking views of both sides. The harbor itself is a major attraction, with its picturesque waterfront promenades and the famous Symphony of Lights, a nightly multimedia show that illuminates the skyscrapers.


Kowloon Peninsula, located to the north of Victoria Harbour, is known for its vibrant shopping and entertainment districts. Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui are popular areas frequented by both locals and tourists, offering a wide range of shopping options, from trendy boutiques to bustling street markets.


The New Territories, situated in the northern part of Hong Kong, is a more rural and traditional region. It is home to picturesque landscapes, including mountains, hiking trails, and idyllic villages. The New Territories also house several historical sites, such as the ancient walled villages of Hong Kong, where visitors can get a glimpse of traditional Chinese architecture and culture.


One of the most famous landmarks in Hong Kong is The Peak, or Victoria Peak. It offers panoramic views of the city’s skyline and Victoria Harbour and is accessible via the Peak Tram, a historic funicular railway. The Peak also boasts shopping, dining, and entertainment options, making it a popular tourist destination.


Another must-visit landmark is the Big Buddha, located on Lantau Island. This giant statue stands at 112 feet tall and is the world’s largest outdoor seated bronze Buddha. Visitors can reach the statue via a cable car ride, enjoying breathtaking views of the island and surrounding waters.


Hong Kong also has a rich cultural heritage, evident in its numerous temples and religious sites. The Wong Tai Sin Temple, dedicated to the god of healing, is a popular attraction known for its vibrant colors and ornate architecture. Other notable temples include Man Mo Temple, dedicated to the gods of literature and war, and Po Lin Monastery, located near the Big Buddha.


Language and Communication

Hong Kong is a multilingual city, with both English and Chinese (Cantonese) serving as official languages. This linguistic diversity makes it relatively easy for foreigners to communicate and navigate their way around the city.


English is widely spoken in Hong Kong, especially in business, tourism, and government sectors. Most signage, menus, and transportation announcements are available in both English and Chinese, making it convenient for visitors to understand and access information.


While English is widely understood, it’s always appreciated to make an effort to learn a few common Cantonese phrases. Locals will be delighted to see foreigners attempting to speak their language, even if it’s just basic greetings like “hello” (nei hou) or “thank you” (m̀h’gōi).


Additionally, learning how to say basic numbers, directions, and ordering food in Cantonese can be helpful for everyday interactions. Politeness and a friendly attitude go a long way in Hong Kong, regardless of the language spoken.


It’s worth noting that Mandarin, the official language of mainland China, is also spoken by a significant portion of the population, particularly among recent immigrants. Many people in the service industry, such as hotel staff, may also have basic Mandarin language skills. However, Cantonese remains the dominant language in Hong Kong.


Apps and translation tools can also be useful for communication in Hong Kong. There are several translation apps available that can help with basic conversations and translating signs or menus in real-time.


Overall, language barriers are unlikely to pose a significant challenge for visitors to Hong Kong. Most locals are accustomed to interacting with international tourists and are generally welcoming and helpful. However, making an effort to learn a few key phrases in Cantonese can greatly enhance your experience and show respect for the local culture.


Currency and Economy

Hong Kong has a robust and vibrant economy, and its currency is the Hong Kong Dollar (HKD). The city is widely recognized as a global financial hub, known for its strong banking sector, bustling stock exchange, and free-market economy.


The Hong Kong Dollar (HKD) is the official currency of Hong Kong. It is subdivided into 100 cents and is denoted by the symbol “$” or “HK$”. Banknotes come in denominations of HK$10, HK$20, HK$50, HK$100, HK$500, and HK$1,000, while coins are available in HK$0.1, HK$0.2, HK$0.5, HK$1, HK$2, HK$5, and HK$10.


When it comes to money exchange, there are numerous currency exchange counters and banks throughout the city where you can convert your foreign currency into Hong Kong Dollars. Travelers should be aware that some money exchange counters may charge a commission or have varying exchange rates, so it’s advisable to compare rates before making a transaction.


Hong Kong’s economy is known for its low taxation rates, free-market policies, and business-friendly environment. It is ranked highly in terms of economic freedom and competitiveness, attracting international businesses and entrepreneurs.


Major sectors driving Hong Kong’s economy include finance, trade, logistics, tourism, and professional services. The city is home to numerous multinational corporations and hosts numerous international conferences and exhibitions throughout the year, contributing to its thriving economy.


As a tourist, you’ll find that credit cards are widely accepted in most establishments, including hotels, restaurants, and shops. ATMs are plentiful in Hong Kong, making it convenient to withdraw cash in the local currency. Many ATMs support international debit and credit cards, but it’s always a good idea to inform your bank beforehand about your travel plans to avoid any inconveniences.


Gratuities or tipping practices can vary in Hong Kong. In restaurants, a 10% service charge is often included in the bill. However, it is customary to round up the amount or give a small additional tip for exceptional service. Tipping is also appreciated in hotels, for taxi drivers, and in other service-oriented industries.


Overall, Hong Kong’s currency and economy make it a thriving global financial center with a favorable business environment. Whether you are a business traveler or a tourist, you’ll find that the city’s efficient banking system and acceptance of major credit cards make financial transactions convenient and hassle-free.


Public Transportation System

Hong Kong is known for its efficient and reliable public transportation system, making it incredibly convenient for locals and tourists to navigate the city. The public transportation network includes various modes of transportation, offering extensive coverage throughout Hong Kong.


The Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is the backbone of Hong Kong’s public transportation system. It is a fast, efficient, and extensive subway network that connects all major districts and attractions, including Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and the New Territories. The MTR is known for its cleanliness, punctuality, and ease of use, providing a hassle-free way to get around the city.


In addition to the MTR, Hong Kong has a comprehensive bus network that covers virtually every corner of the city. The buses are an affordable and convenient mode of transportation, especially for reaching areas that are not served by the MTR. The bus routes are well-marked, and the fares are relatively low, making it an excellent option for budget-conscious travelers.


Trams, or “ding-dings” as they are affectionately called, are another unique mode of transportation in Hong Kong. They run exclusively on Hong Kong Island and offer a nostalgic way to explore the city. Trams are an inexpensive and leisurely option, allowing passengers to sit back and enjoy the sights and sounds of the bustling streets.


Ferries also play a significant role in Hong Kong’s public transportation system, connecting the city’s islands and outlying areas. The Star Ferry, in particular, is an iconic mode of transport that crosses Victoria Harbour between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Peninsula. It provides stunning views of the city’s skyline and is a popular experience among tourists.


For those looking to explore the city in a more leisurely manner, renting a bicycle is a great option. Hong Kong offers several cycling tracks and designated bike lanes, especially in the New Territories and outlying islands. It’s an excellent way to enjoy the natural scenery and visit lesser-known attractions at your own pace.


Fortunately, navigating the public transportation system in Hong Kong is made easy with the use of the Octopus Card. The Octopus Card is a rechargeable smart card that allows seamless and cashless payments on various modes of transportation, including the MTR, buses, ferries, and even some taxis. It can also be used at convenience stores, supermarkets, and other retail outlets, making it a convenient all-in-one payment method.


With its comprehensive and efficient public transportation system, getting around Hong Kong is a breeze. Whether you’re exploring famous attractions or venturing off the beaten path, the city’s transportation options will ensure a smooth and convenient travel experience.


Cuisine and Dining Etiquette

Hong Kong is a food lover’s paradise, renowned for its diverse culinary scene that combines traditional Cantonese dishes with international flavors. From delectable dim sum to mouthwatering street food and Michelin-starred restaurants, Hong Kong offers a wide range of dining options to satisfy any palate.


Cantonese cuisine is the dominant style of cooking in Hong Kong, known for its emphasis on fresh ingredients and delicate flavors. Dim sum, a popular Cantonese style of dining, consists of bite-sized portions of food served in steamer baskets or small plates. It is often enjoyed in the morning or for a leisurely brunch, and it’s a must-try when visiting Hong Kong.


Aside from Cantonese cuisine, Hong Kong also offers a diverse array of international cuisines due to its multicultural population. You’ll find a wide variety of Chinese regional dishes, such as Sichuan, Shanghainese, and Beijing cuisine. Additionally, there is a vibrant scene of international restaurants serving everything from Japanese sushi to Italian pasta.


Hong Kong is also famous for its street food culture, with numerous street vendors and outdoor markets offering delicious and affordable snacks. From tantalizing fish balls to fragrant egg waffles, experiencing street food is a must for any food enthusiast visiting Hong Kong.


When dining in Hong Kong, there are a few etiquette tips to keep in mind. It is customary to wait to be seated in restaurants, especially in more traditional establishments. While chopsticks are widely used, Western cutlery is usually available, so don’t hesitate to ask if needed.


Table manners in Hong Kong are generally similar to those in Western cultures. It’s polite to wait until everyone is seated before starting the meal and to take small portions to share, as communal dining is common. It’s also considered good manners to try a bit of everything offered, as a sign of appreciation for the host.


Tipping in Hong Kong is not mandatory, as a 10% service charge is often included in the bill. However, it is customary to round up the total amount or leave a small additional tip for exceptional service. It’s best to check the bill to see if a service charge has already been added.


It’s important to note that Hong Kong has a bustling dining scene, and popular restaurants can become crowded, especially during peak dining hours. It’s advisable to make reservations in advance to secure a table, especially at popular dim sum restaurants or Michelin-starred establishments.


Overall, Hong Kong’s cuisine and dining culture offer an incredible array of flavors and experiences. Whether you’re sampling traditional Cantonese dishes, exploring international cuisines, or indulging in street food delights, the city’s vibrant food scene is sure to leave you satisfied and craving for more.


Cultural Etiquette and Traditions

Hong Kong has a rich cultural heritage that is shaped by a combination of Chinese traditions, Western influences, and its unique history. When visiting Hong Kong, it’s important to be aware of the local customs and traditions to show respect for the local culture.


In Hong Kong, greeting practices tend to be more formal compared to Western cultures. When meeting someone for the first time, it’s customary to offer a handshake. However, when greeting someone of a higher age or status, it is polite to use a slight bow or nod of the head as a sign of respect.


Respecting personal space is also important in Hong Kong. While the city can be crowded, it’s customary to maintain a certain distance when interacting with others. Avoid standing too closely or touching someone unless it is necessary or in a more casual setting.


The concept of “saving face” is significant in Hong Kong’s culture. This means showing respect and avoiding confrontations or embarrassing someone publicly. It’s important to be mindful of this and maintain a polite and considerate demeanor in social interactions.


Etiquette in Hong Kong extends to the dining table as well. When invited to someone’s home for a meal, it is customary to bring a small gift, such as a box of chocolates or a bottle of wine, as a token of appreciation. It’s considered polite to try a bit of everything that is offered and to finish what is served on your plate as a sign of gratitude.


When using chopsticks, it’s important to avoid sticking them vertically into food, as this is reminiscent of funeral rituals. Instead, rest them horizontally across your bowl or plate when not in use. If you are unsure how to use chopsticks, it’s perfectly acceptable to politely ask for a fork and spoon or request guidance.


Hong Kong also has its share of traditional festivals and holidays, such as the Lunar New Year, the Mid-Autumn Festival, and the Dragon Boat Festival. These celebrations are rich in customs and traditions, and visitors are welcome to join in the festivities and experience the cultural heritage of Hong Kong.


It’s worth noting that Hong Kong is a cosmopolitan city, and many residents are accustomed to interacting with people from different cultures. Nonetheless, showing respect for local customs and traditions is always appreciated and helps create a positive cultural exchange experience.


By being mindful of cultural etiquette and traditions, visitors to Hong Kong can ensure that their interactions are polite and respectful, allowing for a deeper appreciation and understanding of the local culture. Embracing local customs and showing respect for tradition will enrich your experience and help you form meaningful connections with the people of Hong Kong.


Climate and Weather

Hong Kong has a subtropical climate, characterized by hot and humid summers and mild winters. The city experiences four distinct seasons, each offering a unique experience for visitors.


Summer in Hong Kong lasts from June to September, with temperatures often reaching into the high 30s Celsius (mid-90s Fahrenheit). Humidity levels can be quite high during this time, making it essential to stay hydrated and seek shade when exploring the city. Summer is also the typhoon season in Hong Kong, so it’s important to stay updated on weather forecasts and take necessary precautions in case of severe weather conditions.


Autumn (October to November) brings relief from the summer heat, with cooler temperatures and more comfortable weather. It is a popular time to visit Hong Kong, as the skies are clearer, and the humidity levels start to drop. Autumn is an ideal season for outdoor activities and exploring the city’s natural landscapes, such as hiking trails and country parks.


Winter in Hong Kong (December to February) is relatively mild, with temperatures averaging around 15-20 degrees Celsius (59-68 degrees Fahrenheit). While cooler than other seasons, winter in Hong Kong rarely drops below 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit). It’s advisable to pack a light jacket or sweater for the occasional cooler days and evenings. Winter is also the peak tourist season in Hong Kong, with many visitors coming to enjoy festive events and Chinese New Year celebrations.


Spring (March to May) brings warmer temperatures and blooming flowers to Hong Kong. It is a pleasant time to visit the city, with mild weather and comfortable temperatures. Spring is also known for its vibrant festivals and cultural events, providing visitors with a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the local traditions and celebrations.


It’s important to note that Hong Kong can experience sudden changes in weather, so it’s advisable to check the forecast before heading out and bring suitable clothing for the conditions. Sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses are essential during the summer months to protect against the strong sun rays.


Overall, Hong Kong’s climate offers visitors a diverse experience throughout the year. Whether you prefer the warmth of summer, the festive atmosphere of winter, or the comfortable temperatures of autumn and spring, Hong Kong has something to offer no matter the season.


Safety and Security

Hong Kong is generally considered a safe and secure city for residents and visitors alike. The local government prioritizes safety and has efficient law enforcement agencies in place to maintain order and protect the public. However, it is still important to take precautions and be aware of your surroundings to ensure a safe and enjoyable stay in Hong Kong.


Like any other major city, Hong Kong has its share of petty crimes such as pickpocketing and bag snatching, particularly in crowded areas and tourist hotspots. To minimize the risk, it is advisable to keep an eye on your belongings, especially in crowded places, and avoid displaying valuable items openly.


When exploring the city, it’s always a good idea to carry a photocopy of your passport or other identification documents instead of the originals. Keep valuable items, such as your passport, credit cards, and cash, secure in a hotel safe or concealed on your person.


Hong Kong has a reliable and extensive public transportation system, making it safe to travel around the city. However, it’s recommended to remain alert and be cautious while using public transportation during busy hours, especially in crowded MTR stations or when boarding buses.


Protests and demonstrations occasionally take place in Hong Kong. While most of these events are peaceful, there is a possibility of disruptions or tensions escalating. It’s important to stay informed about any ongoing protests and avoid areas with large gatherings as a precautionary measure. Monitoring local news and official government announcements can provide valuable information regarding potential disruptions.


It’s worth noting that Hong Kong has strict laws and regulations regarding illegal substances. The possession, use, or trafficking of drugs can result in severe penalties, including imprisonment. It’s essential to abide by local laws and refrain from engaging in any illegal activities during your stay in Hong Kong.


Emergency services in Hong Kong, including the police, fire, and medical services, are efficient and readily available. In case of emergencies, dial 999 for immediate assistance.


Overall, Hong Kong is a safe city for travelers, but it’s always a good idea to exercise common sense and take necessary precautions to ensure your personal safety and well-being. By being aware of your surroundings and following basic safety practices, you can enjoy your time in Hong Kong with peace of mind.


Must-Visit Tourist Attractions

Hong Kong is a vibrant and exciting city with a plethora of tourist attractions that cater to various interests. From iconic landmarks to cultural sites and stunning natural landscapes, here are some of the must-visit attractions in Hong Kong:


1. Victoria Peak: Take a ride on the historic Peak Tram to reach the top of Victoria Peak, the highest point on Hong Kong Island. Enjoy panoramic views of the city skyline, Victoria Harbour, and surrounding mountains.


2. The Big Buddha: Located on Lantau Island, the Big Buddha is an impressive statue that stands at 112 feet tall. Reach the statue via a scenic cable car ride and explore the Po Lin Monastery nearby.


3. Avenue of Stars: Stroll along the Avenue of Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui and admire the handprints of famous Hong Kong film stars. The promenade also offers stunning views of the Hong Kong skyline and Victoria Harbour.


4. Hong Kong Disneyland: Experience the magic of Disney at Hong Kong Disneyland. Enjoy thrilling rides, meet your favorite Disney characters, and immerse yourself in the enchanting atmosphere of this world-class theme park.


5. Temple Street Night Market: Explore the bustling Temple Street Night Market in Jordan, where you can shop for everything from clothes and accessories to electronics and street food. Immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere of this popular local market.


6. Stanley Market: Visit the Stanley Market on the southern side of Hong Kong Island. This bustling market offers a wide range of souvenirs, clothing, and antiques, as well as restaurants and waterfront promenades.


7. Ocean Park: Dive into the marine world at Ocean Park, Hong Kong’s premier marine-themed park. Experience thrilling rides, encounter various marine species, and enjoy stunning ocean views from the cable car.


8. Wong Tai Sin Temple: Immerse yourself in the spiritual ambiance of Wong Tai Sin Temple, one of Hong Kong’s most famous Taoist temples. Admire the colorful architecture and witness locals offering prayers and seeking blessings.


9. Nan Lian Garden: Escape the hustle and bustle of the city at Nan Lian Garden, an oasis of tranquility in the heart of Diamond Hill. Explore the meticulously landscaped gardens, traditional architecture, and serene ponds.


10. Symphony of Lights: Witness the mesmerizing Symphony of Lights show, a nightly multimedia extravaganza that showcases the city’s iconic skyline and Victoria Harbour. The synchronized light and music show is a sight to behold.


These are just a few of the many tourist attractions that Hong Kong has to offer. Whether you’re seeking cultural experiences, thrilling adventures, or simply enjoying the breathtaking views, Hong Kong caters to every traveler’s taste and guarantees a memorable visit.



Hong Kong is a captivating destination that seamlessly blends tradition with modernity, East with West, and natural beauty with urban sophistication. From its unique status and rich history to its stunning landmarks, diverse culinary scene, and vibrant cultural traditions, Hong Kong offers an unforgettable experience for visitors.


Exploring the different neighborhoods of Hong Kong, from the towering skyscrapers of Hong Kong Island to the bustling markets of Kowloon, provides a glimpse into the city’s dynamic energy and cosmopolitan charm. The efficient public transportation system makes it easy to navigate and discover all that Hong Kong has to offer.


Those with a penchant for food will be spoilt for choice in the culinary paradise of Hong Kong. From delectable dim sum to international cuisines and mouthwatering street food, the city’s diverse gastronomic landscape is sure to satisfy every palate.


Immersing oneself in the local culture and customs is a must-do when visiting Hong Kong. Etiquette and respect for traditions play a crucial role in interactions and add depth to the overall experience. From observing cultural practices at temples to participating in festive celebrations, visitors can forge a deeper connection with the vibrant heritage of the city.


Hong Kong’s climate, safety, and efficient infrastructure make it a comfortable and secure destination for travelers. With its subtropical climate, visitors can enjoy a variety of experiences throughout the year, whether it’s exploring the city’s outdoor landscapes, attending traditional festivals, or indulging in shopping and entertainment.


In conclusion, Hong Kong has a unique blend of charm, cultural diversity, and modernity that sets it apart as a remarkable destination. Whether you are captivated by its stunning skyline, enticed by its culinary delights, or fascinated by its rich history and traditions, Hong Kong is sure to leave a lasting impression and provide an enriching experience for every visitor.