City Guide 2016




I arrived here nearly 10 years ago, as a newlywed in my late twenties, and I can’t believe I’m still here. Back then, there was nothing like Expat Living to guide us, and we figured it all out with the help of friends – and a lot of trial and error! Navigating the healthcare system and working out how to be a parent here a couple of years later was another challenge, but having children in Hong Kong really cemented the place as home in our minds. A lot of people don’t realise that HK isn’t just a city of skyscrapers and shopping malls, but one of beautiful beaches and country parks too. The constant contrast is one of the things I love the most about it – the old and the new, the modern and the traditional, the chaos and the calm. It can be noisy and dirty, and overcrowded at times, but it can also be really beautiful, and I hope you get the chance to explore every part of it and immerse yourself fully in all that the city has to offer. Before you know it, it will feel like home for you too. We’re here to point you in the right direction as you settle in and build a life here, starting with our very first City Guide . Our bi-monthly magazine and our website ( also cover all aspects of life here, from food to furniture, and we continually keep you up to date with what’s on and where to go, and with recommendations from real people. We wish you all the best with your new life here and hope you’ll stay in touch!




Rebecca Bisset Shamus Sillar Brooke Chenoweth Kate Farr, Sophia Farrer, Danielle Higgins, Elle Kwan, Natasha Lloyd, Emily McCabe, Rachel Read, Sarah Richard Leanda Rathmell Liana Talib Nur Hanani Kamal Luddin Michael Bernabe Beatrice Ng Jeanne Wong Anna Tserlingas Valmai Dhir Grace Bantaran Veena Gill Kate Woodbury Wendy Chan Colin Purchase Juliet Keys

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GETTINGSTARTED 12 Meet The Panel Residents share recommendations and reflect on the pros and cons of living in HK 16 Getting Settled Sorting your bank account and essential utilities – plus, must- have apps for everyday life


24 Home Help

The benefits and how-to’s of hiring and keeping a helper

28 Getting Around

Exploring the different transport options, including ticketing and payment info


33 Fun Facts

25 things you might not have known about Hong Kong

38 What’s On?

Key festivals you shouldn’t miss throughout the year

42 Job Hunt


How to find work in Hong Kong, plus some ideas on charities and volunteering

HOME&PROPERTY 46 Neighbourhood Guide A checklist of some of the most popular places for expats to live in HK 51 Home Search Tips on looking for the right location and dealing with real estate agents 52 Island Life


66 Museums

Festivals, concerts, museums and churches: it’s all here!

70 Financial Advice

If you’re working hard to make money, make sure you plan well too

89 Leisure Ideas

72 Meeting People

Books to read, gift ideas and ways to keep kids and adults busy, from free activities to sporting teams Every area of HK has its own best buys, so be in the know before you go!

The etiquette of introductions, plus groups and associations you can join The lowdown on various schools – including interviews with parents and teachers – to help you make an informed decision

There are so many options of where to settle down, so don’t limit yourself!

81 Education Spotlight

99 Retail Therapy

58 Making a Home

All you need to know for making wonderful and practical décor choices



BODY & MIND 110 HK Healthcare

A rundown of what you can expect from the public and private systems

112 Head to Toe

Advice on everything from hormones and health insurance to tackling stress and vaccinations for kids

120 Getting Fit

New workouts, training tips, trampolines, martial arts andmore

126 Pampering Time

From foot massages to hair and beauty boutiques and tips

TRAVEL 132 Asia Calling

Hong Kong is brilliantly located for weekend breaks, from beach escapes to cultural capers Mainland China is right on the doorstep – here are some of the must-sees


136 Middle Kingdom

WINE & DINE 146 Great Eats


140 Further Afield

Sometimes we all need a getaway!

HK’s best destination dining, from panoramic settings and modern bistros to Chinese food with a twist

150 Two Foodies

Meet an Italian chef and a pie-selling entrepreneur

152 Market Forces

Our guide to getting your groceries, from wet markets to online

154 Here’s Cheers!

We hunt down the coolest bars and discover how to get wine delivered to your door

160 Hong Kong Christmas

How to adjust to end-of-the-year celebrations in your new home


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We couldwax lyrical about the amazing reasons to live in Hong Kong, but why just take our word for it? Meet our five expat readers who make up our City Guide panel – their pearlsofwisdomand recommendations will be found across thepages that follow. Meet The Panel


Fiona hails from Sydney, Australia; Hong Kong is her second posting – she spent three years prior to it in London. Six years ago, she took that leap-of-faith as a

“trailing spouse” to husband Justin and his employment opportunities. Prior to the HK move, Fiona enjoyed a long career in Australia’s travel and tourism sector. She’s now a stay-at- home-mum to daughters Sadie (4) and Jemima (1) and wears many hats as a result. She also dabbles in orientation consulting services for new expat arrivals to HK via a global relocation agency. Her love of exploring this ever-changing and intoxicating city, and the sharing of those hidden gems, has become a favourite pastime.


Originally from Israel, Irit has three children, aged 17, 13 and six. They’ve lived in Hong Kong for the past four years after coming here for her husband’s work. The family lived in the Mid-Levels for the first three years, and they’re

now in Sai Kung, where the kids are at school. Irit is an architect by trade, specialising mostly in housing, which is fitting as she works from home. She says, “I try to enjoy my time here and not work as much as I used to before coming to HK – so I can have time for my kids and myself.”




C a r o l i n e i s a passionate expatriate and communicator. In he r prev i ous London life she has worked as a top-level advertising creative, a coach and a writer. Caroline came to Hong Kong in 2004, raised her two kids and kept writing. In January 2015, Caroline started “the hongkonqueror”, a b l og p l a t f orm f o r p e r s o n a l obs e r va t i ons on e xpa t l i f e . One article resulted in the launch of charitable project Plan B, which offers expatriates in crisis an approach to rebuilding their lives in Hong Kong with professional support.


Joakim hails from Sweden and has lived in many cities around the world in his life. After a brief period in Hong Kong in the 90s, Joakim returned in 2008 with his wife and three teenaged children; they promptly adopted two

rescue dogs. After nearly 30 years of working as an investment banker, Joakim decided to follow his heart and found a small business – eicó paints; with his partners he works hard to change the perception of paint and decorative products. Now that their children are older, Joakim, his wife and the dogs now reside happily in Happy Valley.


Marc is originally from Edinburgh (United Kingdom) and moved to Hong Kong in 2003, working as Chief Executive for an insurance brokerage. Married, with one daughter (aged 3), he’s a keen sportsman. He has previously also worked in the Middle East (Bahrain) as well as the UK.



We asked the panel for their tips for newcomers and some of the pros and cons about living in Hong Kong.

What advice would you give to a person moving to Hong Kong to live?

Get involved somewhere where locals, expats and long- term Hong Kongers mix. For me, that was my yoga studio. It made a world of difference. Let any judgment go when it comes to lifestyle and habits of people – whatever seems strange in the beginning, you will gradually understand. Look after yourself and accept that Hong Kong can be a lonely, alienating place as much as a nurturing and connected hub. Be honest about it. It’s easier and more real when you allow these extreme observations to happen. Keep “inventorying” your life, finances and contacts. If you don’t work, keep a record of projects you get involved in. This is very important when you get ready to leave HK or decide, after a few years, you want to work or change careers. – Caroline

Walk the streets. Eat at local restaurants. Talk to people. Use public transport – the tram is best. Join a club, sports or otherwise. – Joakim Talk with and get to know other people who already live here to get the maximum amount of information. – Irit Say yes to everything . You’ll be invited on hikes, to barbecues, drinks, dinners and clubs. Say “yes” to all of it and, before you know it, you’ll have a very large circle of new friends. – Marc Arrive with an open mind. Try to enjoy the experience. Be prepared for the weather (though I’m not sure if that’s possible ...) Try to explore Hong Kong and the region as much as possible.



Your home residence will most likely be far smaller (and more expensive!) than you had imagined. Keep this front-of-mind when considering what to ship and pack. Hong Kong expats are truly a treasure trove of knowl edg e and mo s t are willing to share their survival secrets. Consult the myriad publications, Facebook groups and online forums pre- and post-move for any of those niggling queries. To name a few: Expat Living , HK Moms, HK Aussie Mums, the HK Hub, Asia Expat and Geo Expat. Products and prices will differ wildly from that which you’re used to. Try to let go of comparisons and embrace alternatives. Failing that, online shopping accounts, frequent visitors, or trips home will become a necessity. Further to the above point, when it comes to online shopping, many of the “big” brands you know and love from home will ship to Hong Kong – clothing sites especially – and many of them FOC or at a minimal cost. So there’s no need to panic-shop before you arrive! Be prepared to have the time of your life. – Fiona

What are the pros and cons of expat life in Hong Kong?

Pros: A community of lively and cosmopolitan people who have all taken that “leap of faith”. Finding your “tribe” may take time, but once you’ve engaged with those people, life-long friendships might just prevail. Domestic help is relatively inexpensive – and life- changing in many ways. Education andmedical services can be exceptional, albeit at a cost (hello, insurance!). Con: The “cannot” mantra that so often prevails in our daily dealings here. – Fiona

Pros: Getting to know all different kinds of people. It’s convenient to live here. You get to have lots of interesting vacations! Cons: Living away from family. Saying goodbye to close friends that leave Hong Kong. – Irit Pros: The responsive and buzzing expat scene. The chance to reinvent yourself. The entrepreneurial environment. Con: It can be very stressful to be a tenant (though Hong Kong has great relocation agents amongst the expat community). – Caroline Pros: The heat and the weather (compared to the UK). Hong Kong’s perfect location for Asian travel. The efficiency of everything (things just work out all of the time!). Con: Supermarkets are poorly stocked and overly expensive due to the high rents. – Marc

Pros: Lifestyle – it’s a good balance of work and life, East and West. Food – this is a town of many restaurants. The sea – a great escape when it’s getting too crowded on land. Con: The pollution – summers can be really nasty. – Joakim




Hong Kong has a reputation as a fast- paced city, but the formality of opening a bank account here can seem slow and old-fashioned for many expats. Online banking isn’t too speedy and a visit to a branch can be required to complete proceedings. Instead, skip theDIYapproach and head straight to a branch with you r documen t s (Cent ra l , Sheung Wan and Ta i koo Shing are locations with a bigger expat presence). Here are our other tips to help you out.

Which bank should I choose? Hong Kong has a mix of international and local players. If you need to shift funds between countries, choosing a bank that also operates in your home country can reduce costs associated with transfers and exchange rates. Popular banks among expats: HSBC Standard Chartered Citibank You might also like to consider: Hang Seng Bank Bank of China (Hong Kong) DBS And which type of account? Most common personal banking accounts in Hong Kong include checking, savings and multi-currency accounts. Credit cards can be linked to an account, as can an EPS card, which acts like a debit card. View the charges on credit cards, which can be high, and do not neglect to order a chequebook, since these are still frequently requested forms of payment in Hong Kong.



What should I bring? Check with the bank you are applying with as each has slightly different requirements; however, it’s likely you will need the following: Passport: Both are needed for joint accounts. Letter of employment, issued by your employer: If you’re in Hong Kong on a spousal visa, you should apply at the same time as your partner. Hong Kong ID or temporary ID: If you plan to open a joint account, you must both hold ID. Proof of address in Hong Kong: A copy of your rental agreement or a utility bill. Copy of a permanent address in your home country: Use your last address, or that of a relative who is still resident there. Social security number: Required for American citizens opening accounts with American banks. What does the process involve? At the branch, take a ticket and wait to be called. This can take 30 minutes or more in busy locations. A bank representative will check your documents and guide you through the set-up. Do double-check that you’ve brought all the requested documentation; if you haven’t, your application will probably be rejected and you will need to return at another time to begin the process again. You need a nominal amount to open an account – around HK$1,000 in most cases. Check bank charges on minimal monthly balances and consider having your wage paid into the account to avoid additional costs. If you bank with the same bank as your company you may be paid quicker. With a dash of forward thinking, your process will be smooth and your newcards will bewinging their way to you by post in a matter of days. What funds do I need to open an account?




Life in the city is certainly fast, but these apps make the day-to-day easier to navigate. From travel to trekking, just click to connect to your Apple or Android and off you go!

Getting Around

Whether you’re riding a train, bus or car, there’s an app to assist you. Jump lines and book a taxi through Easy Taxi and local success Fly Taxi , or arrive in style using Uber . If you need to travel cross-harbour, open up HK Cross-Harbour Taxi Stands Finder to locate a taxi, and if a driver doesn’t understand an address, flick open Hong Kong Taxi Translator to show him the location in Chinese. Two apps from the MTR will send you speeding along the subway. Next Train is useful if you use the Airport Express, Tung Chung, West Rail or Tseung Kwan O lines, while MTR Mobile has info across the whole network on route planning, station exits and nearby shops. And if you aren’t sure which transport to use, check road congestion with Traffic Hong Kong for Apple users and Live Traffic Hong Kong on Android, where you can peek at the roads you want to use, or check the fastest route between two addresses with comparison app HKeTransport . Residents of the outlying islands rely on apps like OnTime HK to get to the boats on time. Services like Easy Van and GoGoVan are a breeze when you need big items whizzed across the city. Just input collection and drop-off addresses and wait for a driver to contact you.



Living the Life

Venturing outside? Check in on MyObservatory , a government service that lists weather by local area and allows you to scan air quality with AQHI before you hit the streets.

Get a better look at Hong Kong’s strikingly green and tranquil country parks with TrailWatch , where you can map your walk using GPS and share it with others. There are 19 cool tree species waiting to be discovered on Tree Walks , while Enjoy Hiking lists rural routes that really take you away from the urban sprawl.

Back in town, take the hassle out of trawling cinema listings with Hong Kong Movie on iOS and Android, where you can check show times, view real-time seat plans and make your booking all in one app. Keep exploring with Sugar , which promises to uncover quirky stores, secret bars and other hidden gems right on your doorstep. If quality coffee is your thing, download Beanhunter to lead you to the city’s best baristas.

Discount Deals

Food Glorious Food

Hong Kong can be expensive but Groupon helps keep costs down – the app lists specials on everything from goods to getaways. Scroll through Klook for discount entry to kid-pleasing places like Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park, as well as the Peak Tram and Ngong Ping

Hong Kong is famous for good eating, and the community reviews on Open Rice have helped locals decide where to nosh for years. Now the app has expanded so you can make bookings and put in takeaway orders too. Restaurants here pack out quickly but handy Food Gulu allows you to make reservations or remote queue while you wait for your ticket number to be called. Feel like staying home? Apps like Deliveroo and Foodpanda deliver dishes from many restaurants, mostly on Hong Kong Island, and will save you from starving! So, there you are. Go forth and be click- happy!

360. Once purchased, Klook’s coupons allow you to skip past ticket lines with one swipe of your phone.



Once you’ve secured the apartment and shipped the boxes, it’s time to turn up the heat! (Or at least turn it on…) Unless you’re staying in a serviced apartment, as a tenant it’s your responsibility to sign up for water, gas and electricity. Do ask your agent about any existing supply when you sign the lease, and then use our nifty guide to make connections.

On Setting up gas, water and electricity utilities in HK

Water SUPPLIER: Water Supplies

Department of the Water Authority SIGNING UP: Download form WW01 from the website ( hk/en/home/index.html) or collect one from the customer enquiry centres – there’s one inWan Chai (1/F, Immigration Tower, 7 Gloucester Road), and you can find others listed at the aforementioned website. DOCUMENTS: Applications should be sent with a copy of your Hong Kong ID, and they take about a week to process. BILLS: Sent quarterly. ENQUIRIES: 2824 5000 (Press 3 for English)



Gas SUPPLIER: Towngas, unless you are living in remote areas that use bottled gas SIGNING UP: Follow the links at the website ( to fill in a form and open an account, or you can call the customer service line (below) or visit a Towngas Customer Service Centre (there are around 20 of these). DOCUMENTS: For homes with a previous gas supply you should make note of the meter reading when you move in. A HK$600 deposit is taken for registration, which is used against any outstanding balance when you close the account. If a gas meter is installed but has not been connected previously (as with a new build) you will also need a copy of your lease. BILLS: Sent every two months, with a breakdown of monthly use. ENQUIRIES: 2880 6988


SUPPLIER: Hong Kong Electric (For Hong Kong Island and Lamma Island) SIGNINGUP: Apply online at, download the relevant form from the website and either email it to customerservices@ or drop it in at the customer service centre (9/F, Electric Centre, 28 City Garden Road, North Point, near Fortress Hill MTR Station). Transferring your account from a previous address takes one working day; new connections can take up to two weeks. DOCUMENTS: Hong Kong ID or passport, and deposit (equal to 60 days estimated consumption). BILLS: Monthly. ENQUIRIES: 2887 3411, 9am-6pm, Monday-Sunday.

SUPPLIER: CLP Power (For Kowloon and the New Territories, including Lantau, Cheung Chau and most other outlying islands aside from Lamma) SIGNING UP: Online at, or visit one of many customer service centres listed on the same website (under the “My Home” tab). DOCUMENTS : Hong Kong ID or passport, and a deposit (equal to 60 days estimated consumption). BILLS: Every two months. ENQUIRIES: 2678 2678 Tip : CLP also has a helpful guide for newcomers – visit home/home-advice/new- home-kit.

Payments Making payments is fast and efficient and may be done via a number of channels. Bills can be paid through your bank’s ATM machines, as well as by phone and online and at most convenience stores including 7-Eleven and Circle K if you have the bill present. Direct debits are often called “Autopay” in Hong Kong and require a trip to your bank to set up.



SETTING UP Was it easy setting up your bank, phone or internet account?With hindsight, would you have done anything differently? Here’s what our Panel says.

All everyday utilities are reasonably easy. Bank accounts are the hardest – get your company to help you, or if your bank is international get your current bank manager to help you before you move. I wish I did! – Joakim We got huge help and support frommy husband’s company, so it was easy! – Irit Banking in Hong Kong is primitive, and there’s no real face-to-face customer service. Even finding an ATM is hard! However, I had no real issues either with opening accounts or with the internet. (I would recommend that you ask an expat about which bank and which internet provider to use, though.) – Marc As an expat couple, make sure you have two separate bank accounts. If something happens to one of you, they freeze the account and you will have no access to funds otherwise until much later. – Caroline No one has an easy time of this! It’s one of the earliest hurdles we all face, yet so critical to overcome, quickly. It’s perhaps commonly our first exposure to the ‘cannot’ attitude and ‘paperwork’ culture that permeates the local business culture here and frustrates many. I’ve got no tips here! – Fiona




To f ind out everything about hiring domestic help in Hong Kong, we turned to LAURENCE FAUCHON, co-founder and CEO of , a social impact start-up eradicating illegal agency placement f e e s b y c o n n e c t i n g employers and domestic helpers directly. Laurence started her entrepreneurial adventure while she was pregnant wi th her f i rst daughter, and she believes that the employer-helper dynamic benefits from an ethical and open hiring process. HELPER ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW



M any expats moving to Hong Kong are pleasantly surprised by the readily available and affordable domestic help. Life in Hong Kong is fast-paced and busy, leaving little time for household tasks, and while some expats prefer to hire a part-time helper who comes once or twice per week, for others (especially those families with young children) a full-time helper to cook, clean and handle childcare can be a blessing. Most of these helpers in Hong Kong are from the Philippines or Indonesia and are assiduous, earnest women who are working abroad to provide for their families back home. Options Hiring a helper may be attractive, but it can also be daunting. In Hong Kong there is a distinction between local and foreign domestic helpers. Local helpers, permanent residents or holders of dependency visas can be hired at any moment for either part- time or full-time duties; local helpers may have limited English. Foreign helpers can legally only be employed on two-year, full-time, live-in contracts. Cost Part-time local helpers are available between HK$65 and $120 an hour, and can be hired independently or through the Smart Living government programme. Foreign part-time helpers charge between $60 and $110 an hour, but be aware that this is illegal. For full-time, live-in maids you need to budget at least the minimum wage of $4,210 per month, but many expats pay $5,000 or more,

depending on the years of duty and the level of experience, plus a Christmas and/or Chinese New Year bonus. Employers must also provide free food or a food allowance of not less than $995 per month. You must also offer suitable accommodation, insurance and free medical care, as well as pay all hiring-related costs and airfares for the bi-annual home leave. Requirements Only residents who hold a Hong Kong Identity Card are able to hire a foreign domestic helper, and you must have a household income of more thanHK$15,000 per month or assets of comparable value for the two-year duration. When hiring a helper, the Standard Employment Contract (ID407) is the only legally binding document. Note that the helper must work and live at the contractual address and that she may only perform domestic duties – special permission needs to be obtained for driving duties. Holidays In Hong Kong, employers must give their helper a rest day, at least 24 hours continuously, every week. In case you need your helper to work on her rest day, you must give her a substitute day as this cannot be settled by payment. Like every employee in Hong Kong, helpers are entitled to enjoy 12 statutory holidays as well as annual leave. But most expat employers grant their helper all general public holidays – six extra days on top of the statutory holidays (generally known as the red calendar among helpers).



Hiring In Hong Kong there are various ways to find a helper. The traditional way is through employment agencies, but in recent years many of these have been heavily criticised for unethical practices and overcharging of helpers. A better solution is to find a helper yourself through ethical online platforms –, for example, has been set up for successful ethical matches – or by personal recommendation, which has many benefits. Be aware that the hiring procedures of a helper and the agency prices depend on her country of origin and current visa status. An employment agency must be used for paperwork, except for finished-contract Filipino helpers.

Helper Lingo There are various costs and timeframes involved when you hire a helper, depending on her employment history. Sometimes the processing will need to be done by an agency (and their fees are highly variable), while other times the helper can do the paperwork herself. The timeframe also varies depending on whether or not she will need to return to her home country before starting with you. “Finished contract”: Helper has completed her two-year contract and she can start as soon as she receives her new visa, if you requested permission for her to start immediately. Approximate fees and timeframe: $1,800-$3,000 and 4-6 weeks with agency; less than $800 and 2-6 weeks without agency “Terminated for relocation/financial reasons or death of employer”: Employer has dismissed the helper before the end of the two-year contract for the listed reasons. If these reasons are declared to immigration, it will be handled as a finished contract. Approximate fees and timeframe: Same as for finished contract “Terminated for other reasons or break contract”: Employer has dismissed the helper or the helper has quit before the end of the two-year contract. The helper will have to leave Hong Kong before starting a new contract. Approximate fees and timeframe: $3,500-$9,000 and 8-12 weeks

“First timer or overseas hire”: Helper is not currently in Hong Kong and has either never worked abroad or has previously worked in Hong Kong or other countries. Approximate fees and timeframe: $4,000-$10,000 and 10-12 weeks



Interview hacks Plan enough time for the interview, as both you and the helper need to get to know each other in order to decide whether or not you’re the right fit. Introduce your family to the helper so that they can get to know her as well. Your helper will live with you 24/7 so it’s important that you and your family feel comfortable with her. Explain your expectations and requirements in detail so that your helper is aware of what you’re looking for and that she can meet those. Let her know what you would like her to do fromthe outset and be specific. Childcare can include anything from handling the baby during the night and supervising homework and play- dates to cooking meals for the children. Good questions include scenarios and real-life “what would you do if this happened?”-type questions so that you can evaluate the experience, response and capability of your potential helper.

Successfully managing your helper It can be tricky at times, but it’s important to remember that you are now an employer and need to manage. Don’t expect your helper to know everything immediately, but train and guide her patiently in the first months – every employer is different and she will have to learn your way of doing things. Be considerate when your helper starts and give her time to adjust, especially if she comes straight from her home country. She will have left her children and family behind and may experience homesickness. Support her as much as you can. Lay down your detailed house rules. They can change, but it is good to state them clearly from the start. Also provide your helper with a clear monthly or weekly schedule of tasks. Give straightforward instructions that are to the point and easy to understand. Your helper is not a native English speaker and you may not be either. Avoid the use of vague words and be precise with tasks, timing and expectations. It sometimes helps to write things down or make lists. Set up monthly reviewmeetings where both you and the helper can voice your opinions and discuss what can be improved. Be open-minded and non-confrontational so that the helper feels comfortable sharing, and mutual trust is built. Treat your helper with respect – nobody is perfect. Accept your helper’s flaws and work on improving her skills if necessary. Let your helper know that she should come to you if she needs money or is in financial trouble. Many helpers are taken to loan sharks by agencies so let her know you are there for her. This does not mean you give the money to her, but together you can work out a plan.

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Hong Kong is ultra-convenient becauseof itsspeedyandefficient transport network. If you’re used to endless commutes, there’s no need to fret here, where train delays are rare (and, if they do happen, they’re measured in minutes not hours), and a range of transport options means you’ll be zipping rather than crawling across the city. If your preference is fully focussed on taxis, though, expect a few jams. Transport in HongKong GETTING AROUND


TAXI Hong Kong’s familiar red taxis are cheap compared to taxis in many other global cities, making them a popular choice. Generally, they are reliable, although keep Google Maps and apps like Hong Kong Taxi Translator on hand for assistance. Lantau’s blue taxis are only permitted to travel on the island, similar to the green taxis that don’t leave the New Territories. Urban reds roam anywhere. During morning and evening rush hours, rain, and a daily shift switch between 4pm and 4.30pm, taxis can be hard to hail and it’s little wonder that demand for booking apps like Easy Taxi and private car hires like Uber has shot up; plan longer for your journey at these times as roads can get clogged.



BUS A strong bus network makes getting from A to B (and anywhere in between) fairly easy (though they can get busy): see Wikipedia’s list of common bus routes in Hong Kong for an idea of how comprehensive the service is. In addition, over 4,350 minibuses are in service across the city. Whether the bus is large or small, you just hop on, use an Octopus card to pay and push the bell before you get to your stop. Shouting “ yauh lohk ” tells your driver in Cantonese that you want to get off if you can’t see a bell. TRAIN Nine easy-to-navigate MTR subway lines ensure that travel across the territory can be straightforward. Trains arrive at intervals of two to five minutes on most lines, but factor in extra travel time during rush hours – from 8am in the morning and from around 6pm nightly – when people pack out the carriages. The MTR will take you right up to Disneyland on Lantau and across the China border at Lok Ma Chau and Lo Wu. TRAM Be sure to take a nostalgic ride on a “ ding ding ” or tram. Six lines stretch across Hong Kong Island, from Sheung Wan to Shau Kei Wan and up to Happy Valley, and a ticket costs just HK$2.30. There’s something very special about sitting on the top deck on a balmy evening and winding your way through the city. Find out more at

BOAT Ferries remain an active and necessary form of transport in Hong Kong. Aside from Hong Kong’s famous Star Ferry, which still shuttles commuters and tourists from Central and Wan Chai to Tsim Sha Tsui’s Clock Tower, others provide regular services for

residents of the outlying islands. Lamma, Cheung Chau, Discovery Bay, Ma Wan’s Park Island, Mui Wo and Peng Chau have dedicated daily services leaving from the Central Ferry Piers. Other ferries shunt from Aberdeen, Wan Chai, Hung Hom and North Point. Everything you need to know about timetables can be found on the Transport Department home page; go on and then follow the “Transport in Hong Kong” tab. PAYMENTS

Octopus card is an acceptable form of payment on almost all transport (including many, but not all, taxis).

Happy travelling!



ON THE MOVE Our contributors share their thoughts on the best ways to get around Hong Kong.

Are you a fan of Hong Kong’s public transport? Public transport in Hong Kong can take you everywhere fast and easily; it’s inexpensive and easy to use. – Joakim It’s cheap, reasonably safe, and convenient, once you get used to being su r rounded by o t he r people. – Irit So reliable, so cheap and so on-time, it’s unbelievable. – Marc For the most part, it’s fantastic – it works, and it’s cheap and clean. It’s the one thing our out-of-town visitors always remark on. – Fiona Like most big cities, try your best to avoid change- over time (4pm), especially around Central or when it rains – it can be brutal then. Get yourself the HK Taxi Translator app for those moments when you encounter communication barriers, and, finally, hold on tight! – Fiona It’s difficult to get a taxi when it rains and around 4pm in the afternoon. If you have other means of transport, take it – it can often be a long wait otherwise! – Joakim Tips on using taxis?

Is it worth having a car here?

Absolutely worth it, if a home parking space falls within your budget. After two years, we bit the bullet and bought second-hand for a reasonable sum. The convenience (and safety) that it offered with kids was a no-brainer for our family and now our weekends are full of opportunities for exploration. – Fiona I realised I wanted a car after two months here, though I was living in Mid-Levels. We bought a car and I use it often. I guess money-wise it’s maybe cheaper to use taxis, but I like to have that independence. – Irit I don’t think a car is worth the cost, but with children it’s often hard not to have one. Public transport is good, though, and taxis aren’t too expensive. – Joakim We loved having a car. With kids, it makes a difference. – Caroline Not worth it. It will cost between HK$2,000 and $5,000 a month just to get a parking space. If you have a high-flying job or if you have kids then you might consider it, but the taxis, buses, trains and ferries run like clockwork. – Marc




JOB HUNT If you plan to look for work in Hong Kong, there are certain things you’ll need to know about the process. To kick things off, here are some thoughts from our contributors.

I got the feeling here that I wouldn’t be able to compete (inmy occupation) with the locals in terms of the working hours that I can or want to work, and the language barrier is a big obstacle too; so I’ve kept my occupation, but I’m actually working from home. – Irit It’s hard to find a job in Hong Kong and even harder if you like to change the type of work you do. Never give up, and be sure to use all your contacts and friends. Agencies haven’t really helped me – I often feel they do it for the money only. – Joakim Agreat resource I recently stumbled on may be just your saviour: backtoworkhk. com. It offers a range of p rog ramme s to he l p establish what you may be looking to do and the best ways to get there. – Fiona Unless you fit into the Hong Kong job market, it’s not easy to find a job via conventional channels as an expat. It’s easier to go through personal connections than through HR. Having said that, there are people here to help expats get back to work – for example, the fabulous Caroline Carson, director of Back-to-Work (info@ – Caroline

CHARITIES & VOLUNTEERING I’m a regular volunteer in the classrooms and other projects at City Kids, where my kids attend both the playgroup and the preschool. I find it hugely rewarding giving back this way and my kids love it, for now anyway! – Fiona I’m one of the board members of the JWA (Jewish Women Association of HK). We organise several fundraising charity events throughout the year, and support organisations that help women and children in need. – Irit I founded Plan B (, a charity that helps expatriates rebuild their lives after a personal crisis, which gave me the most interesting insights into the problems that expats run into. Most important, really, is what I said already: keep a record of your life, keep control of your finances and look after yourself and your relationships well! – Caroline




5 K Fun Facts A teeming East- meets-West metropolis that is home to almost 7.2 million aspirational residents, vibrant Hong Kong is a land about


Hong Kong may be famous for its towering skyscrapers but 40 percent of the territory is actually country park and nature reserve. Hiking the green trails is a favourite

weekend pastime.

Hong Kong’s half-mile Mid- Levels Escalator is the

You probably know that Hong Kongmeans “fragrant harbour” in Chinese, but did you

know that every time you utter the word “Kowloon” you are

3 world’s longest covered escalator.

saying “nine dragons”? Folklore says that when a young emperor noticed the area’s eight hills, he named the land “eight dragons,” until his servant pointed out that the emperor should be considered a dragon too, making nine. Kow sounds like “ gau ” or nine in Cantonese, and Loon is like “ lung ” or dragon.


Hong Kong’s beloved Star Ferry began running in 1880 and the service from Victoria Harbour to Tsim Sha Tsui took up to one hour. Due to reclamation, the same journey today takes just 10 minutes.

of surprises. Read on and discover…



Hong Kong’s current Chief Executive is Leung Chun-ying, more commonly referred to as CY Leung. The 61-year-old took office on July 2012. Hong Kong Island steals the limelight, but there are actually 263 islands in Hong Kong. Some of them, like Lantau, Cheung Chau and Lamma, are accessible by ferry while others are totally uninhabited and virtually unreachable.

Hong Kongers have a long-established entrepreneurial spirit and desire to make money. In 2016, Hong billionaires list, with 64 residents holding personal fortunes of US$1 billion or over. Kong was ranked fourth in a global

Dim sum originated here in southern The mystical art of feng shui is still common practice in Hong Kong. Two rods located on the rooftop of Central’s HSBC Hong Kong building were included to deflect bad energy, and they face the Bank of China building, whose sharp edges are believed to cut and dilute good energy. 9 87 Chinaandmeans“touch the heart”. These tiny bites of goodness were created as snack food for travellers and today are an essential part of local culture.

Don’tworry if you findyour apartment building is without a fourth floor. Omitting the number is common because four sounds like the word “death” in Chinese and is considered unlucky. Conversely, lucky eightmeanswealth.




Egg tarts and pineapple buns – the latter named not because they contain the fruit but for their pineapple- like crust – are must-try local specials at the bakery.

“Albert is so amused at my having got the island of Hong Kong,” British Queen Victoria wrote in 1841 after HK was ceded to the British. Possession Point, where the Union Jack flag was first raised by the British, was known as Tai Hang Hau, or “big puddle”, since it stood right on the island’s shoreline collecting water. The site today is located in Hollywood Road Park.

Typhoons. May to November is typhoon season, but there’s a highly efficient system for dealing with the tropical storms. A T1 signal indicates a brewing storm still some days away, a T3 means

the storm is gathering speed and school children stay home. A T8 or T10 means winds of up to 180km/h spin across Hong Kong and work and public transport are cancelled.

Cathay Pacific is Hong Kong’s home airline and has won “World’s Best Airline” four times – more than any other.

Tycoons. Not to be confused with tropical storms, these Hong Kong businessmenwhip up pots of cash. The city’s number one tycoon? Li Ka-shing, who in 2015 was crowned Asia’s richest man by Forbes.

16 15 14 K e e p a n ear out for rhythmi c C h i n e s e

ThemajorityofHongKong’s Chinese population speaks Cantonese. The language has nine tones and its system of Romanisation is called Jyutping.

drums announcing the arrival of a Chinese lion. Acrobatic lion dances are an essential element at Chinese New Year and for groundbreaking ceremonies and shop openings.



Hong Kong International Airport is the same size as 20 soccer fields. 18 A famous Hong Kong landmark, the bronze Big Buddha located on Lantau Island is one of the world’s largest seated Buddhas and is 34 metres high.

20 With over 8,000 glittering skyscrapers, Hong Kong’s skyline is always one to marvel at. Its tallest building, almost half a kilometre high, sits in West Kowloon and is the International Commerce Centre or ICC. Crowning the building is The Ritz- Carlton Hong Kong, whose bar and swimming pool are located on the building’s 118th floor, making them the highest in theworld.

At 1,377m, Tsing Ma is the world’s longest bridge with functioning motorway and railway. 21


You are considered lucky if you have a daughter followed by a son in Hong Kong – their characters inChinese symbols mean “ double happiness ”.

The Peak Tram began running in 1888 and was Asia’s first funicular railway. It remains one of the oldest – and steepest – tramways in the world.



A foodie paradise , Hong Kong has one of the highest numbers of restaurants or cafes per capita and is also the place to score the cheapest Michelin-starred food on the planet. Go eat!



Getting Festive From acrobatic lion dances to buns on bamboo towers, Hong Kong’s unique culture is on full display at a festival – and there are plenty to see throughout the year. Get set for Hong Kong’s best celebrations and enjoy the selfie overload as ELLE KWAN takes us through the annual line-up of fun.




Learn those words – “Happy Chinese New Year” – and you’ll be welcoming in the biggest festival of the year. During this celebration you’ll see locals exchanging lai see , or lucky red envelopes, with children, employees and unmarried friends; and, if you want to guarantee good service in the year to come, it’s worth preparing some of these packets of good fortune for your helper and door staff too. During the weeklong festival, visit a temple like Man Mo or Wong Tai Sing and soak up some spirituality, or head to Causeway Bay’s massive flower market during the day. By night, join crowds bustling for Cathay Pacific’s enormous Chinese New Year parade. Held on New Year’s Day, the event is a spectacle of colour, noise and movement as drummers, acrobats, floats, dancers and Chinese lions shimmy along the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui. On the second day of the Lunar New Year, throngs gather to watch a dazzling fireworks display light up the skies across Victoria Harbour. An insider tip? The views from Tsim Sha Tsui also give views of Central’s jaw-dropping skyline. Stake your claim early on the boardwalks at the Avenue of Stars. Spring Glow Falling on the first full moon of the Lunar New Year, Spring Lantern Festival is held to bid farewell to the previous year. Huge, brightly-lit lanterns of all shapes and sizes can be found as part of a parade, themed by zodiac animal, winding around Tsim Sha Tsui’s Clock Tower close to where the Star Ferry docks. If you miss the big night, don’t worry – many of the lanterns are displayed at the same location for about a month. FEBRUARY



APRIL A Birthday to Remember

Ov e r 7 0 t emp l e s dedicated to Tin Hau, goddess of the sea, are scattered across Hong Kong and stand as a testament to the territory’s rich maritime heritage. Crowds old and young visit the temples in April for Tin Hau’s birthday. The biggest celebration is out in Yuen Long, where marching bands follow on the tails of dancing lions in a colourful procession and participants don fortuitous fa pau floral wreaths.

APRIL/MAY Buns of Distinction

Sleepy fishing village Cheung Chau wakes up and revels during its annual bun festival, held on Buddha’s Birthday every May. Marked to honour the Taoist god Pak Tai, the centuries-old celebration is famous for a bun-capturing event held to appease hovering spirits, where locals retrieved and threw to villagers below blessed sweet buns hung from 60-foot bamboo towers. Today, the towers remain, although the buns are more sensibly handed around to the gathered crowds. Still, the festival culminates in a spellbinding tradition with the Floating Colours parade where local school children in billowing coloured costumes are suspended above procession floats by poles and appear to be floating through the crowd.

MAY/JUNE Beasts on Water

Dragon boat racing originated in the third century and continues to get the whole nation excited – as well as attracting local and international racing teams. Stanley Main Beach on Hong Kong Island’s Southside is a prime viewing area with a lively, festive atmosphere. Spectators watching races stampede the sands early on, while docked junks make perfect party locations. Closer to town, a massive three-day party takes place down at the Central Harbourfront space as dragon boaters race across Victoria Harbour. San Miguel hosts a beer-fest at the same time, while a family zone keeps kids entertained.



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