Essential Guide to Hong Kong

First time in Hong Kong? Then our essential travel guide for gay visitors is for you.

Essential Guide to Hong Kong

Hong Kong 香港

Hong Kong is one of the two Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China (the other being Macau).  Located on China’s south coast, with an area of about 1,100 km² and a population of around 7 million, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

Hong Kong had been a British colony for nearly 150 years before sovereignty was transferred over to China in 1997.  Today, this harbour city is a major tourist destination and an important hub in Asia.  It is a unique place with diverse personalities and cultural influences.

Hong Kong consists of four main areas:

Hong Kong Island – home to an amazing number of tall buildings along Victoria Harbour waterfront.

Kowloon – the peninsula opposite Hong Kong Island on the other side of Victoria Harbour; one of the most densely populated places on the planet!

The New Territories – to the north of Kowloon and often ignored by tourists who unfortunately miss this diverse, partly mountainous landscape.

The Outlying Islands – all the other bits of Hong Kong to the south including Lantau Island (home to Disneyland) and Hong Kong International Airport Island.

 

Gay Rights in Hong Kong

Hong Kong decriminalised homosexuality in 1991, and the age of consent between two males is 16.  Same-sex marriages are not permitted, nor are overseas same-sex marriages officially recognised.

Whilst coming out to one’s own family or work colleagues as being gay is still a difficult thing for many Asian gay men, Hong Kong’s wider population generally accept the gay community.

The gay community continues to raise its profile through annual events such as the Lesbian & Gay Film Festival.

Gay Scene

The gay scene is mostly focused the Central District entertainment zone (commonly referred to as Soho) on Hong Kong Island, Causeway Bay District on Hong Kong Island and the Tsim Sha Tsui district in Kowloon.  The most popular beach for gay sun seekers is Middle Bay Beach.

For more information, see our Gay Bars & ClubsGay Saunas and Gay Massage Spas pages.

 

Getting to Hong Kong

Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), also known as Chek Lap Kok 赤鱲角, is the main port for visitors to Hong Kong by air. It is voted one of the world’s best and most efficient airports.

There are many direct flights to Hong Kong from every continent in the world. For destinations within mainland China, it is often cheaper to fly from Shenzhen than from Hong Kong. There are also flights between Hong Kong and several mid-Pacific islands and countries.

 

Getting around Hong Kong

Hong Kong has an excellent public transport system, consisting of the MRT (an underground and overground railway system), trams (northern coast of Hong Kong Island), buses and ferries.  There is no shortage of taxis which are generally clean, efficient and cheap.

Where to Stay

Hong Kong has an enormous choice of accommodation from cheap guesthouses to 5-star and beyond, though the rates are on the high side by Asian standards.

Whether you decide to stay near Central area and Causeway Bay on HK Island or closer to the popular Tsim Sha Tsui area in Kowloon, you’ll find that most places offer convenient public transport links.

For a list of the best hotels for gay travellers, click here to go to our Gay Hong Hong – Luxury Hotels and Gay Hong Kong – Mid-Range & Budget Hotels pages.

 

Things to See & Do

Besides shopping, Hong Kong has plenty of interesting sights and attractions.  For our recommended list, click here to go to Hong Kong – Things to See & Do page.

 

Weather

Hong Kong has a winter, summer, spring and autumn.  Spring (March to May) and autumn (September to December) are generally considered the best times to visit – from a weather point of view – with temperatures averaging around 25˚c.

Winter (December to February) can be quite cool, with a sweater needed during the day and coat in the evening.  Summer (June to September) can be hot and very wet, with occasional typhoons bring the city to a standstill for a day or so.

 

Visa

Hong Kong maintains a different immigration system from that of mainland China.  Most Western and Asian visitors can obtain a ‘visa on arrival’.  However, if you want to visit mainland China, a separate visa (applied for in advance) is required.

Technically, tourists should carry their passport with them at all times in Hong Kong, but in practice, it’s better to keep it locked in your hotel room safe and carry a photocopy of the details in your wallet.

 

Money

The currency of Hong Kong dollar (HKD or HK$) is the Hong Kong dollar which is subdivided into 100 cents.

Most banks are open from 9am – 4:30pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 12:30pm on Saturday.

 

Shopping Hours

Shopping malls and most other shops are open from 10am to 8pm seven days a week.

 

Language

Most Hong Kong people speak Cantonese as their first language.  However, English is also widely understood and spoken in the gay community.  Learning a few words of Cantonese for ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ will go a long way.

 

Tipping

Tipping is not expected by taxi drivers, but passengers will usually round the fare up the nearest dollar.  In hotels a tip of $10 – $20 for a porter carrying your bags or waiter delivering a room service tray is the norm.  Upmarket restaurants are likely to add a compulsory 10% service charge and this should be regarded as the tip.

 

Health

Hong Kong has excellent, world-class medical facilities.  But they are expensive and you will be expected to pay.  Suitable travel insurance is strongly recommended.

Getting to see a doctor is easy.  Doctors that practice western medicine are almost certainly going to speak English.  Most Doctors will be able to sell you medicine, and will accept credit cards (check when making an appointment)

 

What to Wear

Day Wear  – shorts and tee shirts during the day
Eating Out – jeans and tee shirts / polo shirts
Club Wear – jeans and tee shirts / tank tops
Sauna Wear – bring your own flip-flops
Beach Wear – speedos or surfer shorts

 

Phone and Internet

Hong Kong has a number of GSM and 3G networks with excellent geographical coverage – even underground.  If you are staying for more than a few days and expect to make a lot of calls, then consider purchasing a prepaid  SIM card.  These are available at most convenience stores.  Mobile calls are cheap, but you pay for both making and receiving calls.

Many hotels offer free wired internet access or WiFi, although some still persist with charges. PCCW and Y5ZONE offer flat rate daily, weekly or monthly packages that provide access in many coffee shops, restaurants and other public places.

 

Drinking Water

Tap water is drinkable unless you are staying in an old building.  However, in practice most tourists will purchase bottled water.

 

Electricity

British style 3-pin plugs running at 220V / 50 hertz.  Adapters are widely available and loaned in most hotels.