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With its mega skyscrapers, bustling thoroughfares and constant din, Hong Kong is certainly an energetic place but it also exudes charm and Chinese culture. It is loaded with iconic sights and is especially renowned for its shopping, plus there are plenty of hideouts to escape to. Repulse Bay, Lantau Island and the winding roads of the New Territories are all good by car.
Traffic rules are similar to those in the UK and roads and signage are excellent throughout. It is always busy in the city and parking is virtually non-existent. Some islands are connected by car ferry, while tolls are in place for main bridges and tunnels.
Driving licences: visitors from the UK can drive here on their UK photo licence. Old style licences (without photo) should be accompanied by an International Driving Permit.
Which side does Hong Kong drive on: the left.
Motorways: 68mph (110kph)
Rural areas: 18-50mph (30-80kph)
Built-up areas: 31mph (50kph)
Alcohol limits: 0.05 per cent, which is tougher than the 0.08 per cent UK limit. Hong Kong police are strict on drunk drivers, with jail time likely for serious offences.
Driving age: 18 years.
Seatbelts: mandatory for all travellers, including those in the rear.
Mobile phones and GPS: mobile phones can be used with a hands-free system only, as can GPS. Coverage by GPS is excellent, with maps available for the main islands and New Territories.
Cost of fuel in Hong Kong: petrol is roughly the same price as in the UK, while diesel is considerably cheaper.
Car hire and fuel payment: major credit cards are widely accepted at fuel stations and are required for car hire. Always notify your card supplier prior to travel if you intend on using your card overseas to prevent it from being locked through anti-fraud measures.
Insurance: third-party insurance is the minimum requirement. Hire cars typically come with fully comprehensive insurance but may not include a collision damage waiver (excess).
Traffic and parking: expect heavy traffic on Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon. Driving anywhere near the Cross Harbour Tunnel in the morning or from about 16:00 onwards is very hard going. Parking spaces are rare and expensive in the city, but more readily available in towns and resorts.
Trains come in from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. The connection point is Shenzhen on the Kowloon/Guangzhou line, just across the border in mainland China. Hong Kong’s MTR (metro) serves tourist areas, including the north of Hong Kong Island (Central mainly), Kowloon and the New Territories, as well as the airport (via the Airport Express) on Lantau Island. Metro travel is cheap, with single tickets from around £0.30, with fares rising to around £0.70 between Central and Tsim Sha Tsui. The Octopus smart card covers travel on the MTR, trains, trams, buses and ferries. There are also double-decker trams in town, the touristy Peak Tram (about £2.90 return) and a light rail system (LRT) in the New Territories that connects Yuen Long and Tuen Mun.
Taxis are clean and reasonably priced though hardly necessary. Hong Kong taxis are colour-coded, with the red ones serving the city, blue ones catering to Lantau Island and green ones predominantly found in the New Territories. All types serve the airport. Taxis are metered and start at around £1.60, which covers the first two kilometres. After this the fare increases by around £0.12 per 200m.
Buses are useful, cheap and linked with the Octopus card. They serve destinations all over Hong Kong Island as well as the other main islands and the Northern Territories. They are useful as the MTR is limited away from the city proper (Central and Kowloon). Kowloon Motor Bus and New World First Bus/Citybus serve main areas, while New Lantao Bus plies Lantau Island. Services typically run from 06:00 to midnight, with fares from £0.10. Tourist double-deckers tour the city and there are also quicker maxicabs.
Star Cruises ships call at Tsim Sha Tsui’s Ocean Terminal (across the water from Central), while the nearby Star Ferry Terminal is served by ferries from Macau, Guangdong and Guangxi (in China). Ferry travel within Hong Kong is popular, with the iconic Star Ferry crossing between Central (Queen’s Pier) and Kowloon (Star Ferry Terminal) and taking in Victoria Harbour for the view. This is a viable form of travel, albeit slower than the MRT. Ferries also serve other islands.
Hong Kong International Airport (Chek Lap Kok) is the gateway. It is located on Lantau Island and has a good road connection with the city. Flights arrive from all over the world, including from London-Heathrow with British Airways, Virgin, Cathay Pacific and Air New Zealand. Fares are pricey; sometimes a cheaper option is to fly to Shenzhen and then take a train. Travellers from the UK can visit visa-free, with a visa stamp given on arrival.
Hong Kong Island, the main island to the south of the mainland (Kowloon) part of the territory, is the main draw. Central is where the city is at and contains the main highlights, including the iconic skyline, Victoria Harbour, Victoria Peak and the busy Wanchai and Lan Kwai Fong nightlife areas.
Victoria Peak has the best views over the city and is best accessed by the Peak Tram. A busy restaurant, several family attractions and the Peak Gardens are found here. Quieter Repulse Bay in the south of the island makes for a nice drive, while in the east is Big Wave Bay for surfing.
Tsim Tsa Tsui is across Victoria Harbour and home to the Star Ferry Terminal, several five-star hotels and many top museums such as the Museum of Art. Bustling shopping is nearby along Nathan Road.
Farther afield is Lantau Island, which can be driven to and explored by car. Here are quiet beaches, the airport and Hong Kong Disneyland near Discovery Bay. The Po Lin Monastery has a huge Buddha statue and fine views. A drive around the New Territories area provides access to the best hiking in Hong Kong.
It is hot, humid and smoggy in Hong Kong. There is fresher weather in winter and spring but it is generally always muggy, though rarely boiling. Average yearly temperatures are about 25°C, with temperatures of well into the 30s in the summer and the mid-20s at night. Being subtropical, Hong Kong receives monsoon weather from June to October when typhoons are a threat. The best times to visit are in spring (March to May) and autumn (October to December) when it’s not too hot or wet.