Saturday, July 10, 2010

Hong Kong Series: Tips for Travelers

I am not a fan of package tours. As much as I can, I like to arrange things for myself whenever I travel. Researching, making my own itinerary and staying well within my budget are some of the things that make traveling the awesome adventure that it is!

We left for Hong Kong in the morning of July 4 via Cebu Pacific. We did not have much sleep because we had to wake up at around 3:30 AM to get to the airport in time for our flight.

Looking like a seasoned traveler at NAIA.
No time to put on make up! Pale, but definitely happy.

Tip: For international flights, be at the airport 2-3 hours prior to your time of departure. If you booked a flight online, make sure to pay your travel tax first (Php 1620 or around $36) before lining up to have your baggage checked in. Do check TSA's website for the list of prohibited items and for rules regarding liquids in your carry-on bags. Also prepare the amount of Php 750 or ($ 16) for your terminal fee.

Our flight was smooth and we got to the Hong Kong International Airport earlier than our expected time of arrival. It is easy to navigate your way around the airport. All signs are bilingual and the system is very efficient. There are maps and brochures everywhere that you can get for free. From the airport, you can either take a taxi, ride the airport express or climb on a bus to the city.

Photo courtesy of google images

Tip:  You have to give the exact amount when paying fares. For your convenience, buy an octopus card for a minimum initial amount of HKD 150. The HKD 100 is consumable and the remaining value (minus HKD 7) will be refunded once you return the card prior to your departure from Hong Kong. The octopus card can also be used in some stores and food establishments such as McDonald's and KFC. It can be reloaded at MTR stations and 7-11 convenience stores. If you are not in a hurry, the cheapest way to get to the city from the airport is through the Cityflyer bus. The bus is also a nice way to see Hong Kong on your way to your hotel, hostel or guest house. You will be fine as long as you know your stop.
  
While in the Philippines, I did some research and found out that you would have greater value for money if you have your pesos exchanged for US dollars then have your US dollars exchanged for HKD when you get to Hong Kong. This, unfortunately, is not much of a good advice. If you go to a good money changer in Kowloon, exchanging your pesos directly for HKD offers greater value for money. I cannot give you assurance on this though as exchange rates vary in money changers daily. This was at least the case during our stay in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong dollars increase in size as they increase in value.

Tip:  Do not have your money changed in the airport unless you really have to. They have the worst rates ever. A good money changer in Kowloon is Wing Hoi.

WING HOI Money changer
9B, Ground Floor Mirador Arcade,
58 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon

Because we are wanna be backpackers/travelers and we went to Hong Kong on a budget, we opted to stay in a hostel/guest house in Mong Kok. The rooms were very basic, but clean. There is not much leg room, but since you would be out most of the time, this shouldn't be that much of a problem. At HKD 280/night for an airconditioned room with twin beds, a functioning airconditioner, a private bathroom with water heater, internet access and room service, who would complain?

The airconditioner. We forgot to take photos of the room.

Tip: Hostel rooms are rather small in Hong Kong, but you should be fine as long as you are not claustrophic. Do look for reviews before booking a hostel. While some hostels are clean and reputable, you may come across several which are filthy and run down.While looking for the best accomodations, I googled for blogs with hostel reviews and came across several hostels vouched for by some seasoned travelers. I suggest that you do the same as this was how we found the hostel that we stayed in. For first timers, I guess the best place to book a hostel would be in Tsim Sha Tsui. Every where else is also fine though as long as you book an accomodation near any MTR station.

Hong Kong is tourist-friendly in terms of transportation. If you know how to read and comprehend English, you would be better off exploring Hong Kong by yourself rather than joining a package tour. Almost all signs are bilingual and they have a very efficient transportation system. The MTR is fast and on time. It also gives you access to the different key places in Hong Kong.

Courtesy of Google Images. 





Tip: Smoking, eating and drinking are not allowed inside the trains. Stops and interchange stations are announced in both Chinese and English.

If you would be going to Central for whatever reason, it would also be worthwhile to visit the World Wide House, which is the Little Tutuban of Hong Kong. We went there on a Sunday and were surprised by the sheer number of Filipinos and Filipino stores in the building. It is also a good place to get cheap tickets for Ocean Park and Hong Kong Disneyland. I do not know about you, but I am a sucker for promos and discounts.

Tip: Try buying tickets at Traveleasy, where we were able to get our Hong Kong Disneyland tickets for HKD 315 each (as opposed to HKD 350) and our Ocean Park tickets for HKD 215 each (as opposed to HKD 250). The discount may seem small, but if you are going as a group or as a family, saving HKD35/head may amount to something a little huge!

Hong Kong is synonymous to walking and walking during the summer season is not the best thing ever. Had  I not wanted to celebrate my birthday in Hong Kong, I would not go there in July. July is the sale month in Hong Kong though, so I would understand why tourists go to Hong Kong like flies to poo during this month.

Hong Kong is a pretty place to spend your birthday.





Tip: If you must go to Hong Kong in July, make sure to bring a pair of comfortable walking shoes, some sunblock, a cap and an umbrella. Also bring eco-friendly shopping bags as some stores charge HKD 0.50 for plastic bags. 

I would be giving some more tips/information on some tourist attractions. parks and places in Hong Kong in my succeeding posts. Please stay tuned!
  
Hong Kong. Live it. Love it!

2 comments:

  1. Wow! This is a pretty comprehensive HK tips for travellers entry!

    ReplyDelete

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