Answers from Our Experts (2)
Hong Kong is a global financial capital, a dynamic, modern city with a high standard of living. Cantonese is the main language but English is also an official language, and widely spoken.
Though part of China, Hong Kong is designated as a Special Administrative Region with its own laws, political system and currency. It was a British territory until 1997, when the “handover” occurred, which placed Hong Kong back under Chinese control.
Most visitors, including Americans, do not require a visa to enter Hong Kong, but travelers from some countries do. Check the requirements before your trip. Note that entry to mainland China is governed by completely different rules.
Summers are extremely hot and humid. Typhoons and heavy rainstorms may occur, so pay attention to any weather warnings issued. Autumn is sunnier, less humid and generally pleasant; winter highs hover around 60°F, and starting in late March, the temperature, humidity and rainfall start to increase again.
And Leanne is right: Even if you visit in summer, bring a sweater. HK loves air conditioning.
Hong Kong is a relatively easy city to visit, but there are a few things worth knowing while you plan your trip:
Hong Kong is a "Special Administrative Region" of China. Though Hong Kong is a part of China, there are some logistical differences due to "One Country, Two Systems" (which will be in effect until 2047). The currency and visa requirements are different in each place. Renminbi generally isn't accepted in Hong Kong — so make sure to exchange your currency for Hong Kong dollars, instead (approximately HK$7.8 per each US$1). American passport holders can visit visa-free for up to 90 days (click for a full list of requirements), while entering China proper requires a visa to both enter and exit the country. Laws in both places are different, as well — e.g. censorship of various social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, and of other online content, doesn't apply in Hong Kong.
It's fully possible to travel in Hong Kong using only English. Since English is one of the two official local languages and the city is a bustling commercial hub, you'll easily be able to get by on English alone. (Click for more about languages in Hong Kong.)
Hong Kong is a safe city with a low crime rate. However, violent crime — though rare — does occur, and you should safeguard against pickpockets in dense and crowded areas.
It's hot and humid at least eight months out of the year. For the most part, temperatures range between 68F to 90F and humidity is always at about 75 percent or higher. It's easy to get dehydrated due to the heat when you're outside, so drink lots of water. Also pack a few layers and light jackets along with your summery clothes, since the air conditioning in shopping malls, restaurants, buses and other indoor areas is often cranked up to high.
Don't visit during Chinese (Lunar) New Year. Not unless you plan your trip way in advance, that is. It's traditional for locals to visit relatives — including relatives abroad — for Chinese New Year, so there's plenty of traffic both in and out of Hong Kong. Flight costs soar as a result. Chinese New Year is on a different date every year, but usually falls some time in late January or early February.