The First-Timer’s Guide To Hong Kong

There is a first time for everyone: Follow our tips and you’ll be on your way to conquering this food and shopping city like a pro.


The language barrier

The main tongue in Hong Kong is Cantonese, which happens to be a dialect quite commonly spoken in Singapore as well. If you already speak it, great! You’re good to go. If not, it would be useful to pick up a few useful phrases before hopping on the plane. However, if you’re not confident, it’s alright to begin with English first. Try Cantonese next, before lastly trying Mandarin. Although not their first language, most Hong Kongers can converse in Mandarin. However, there has been political tension between China and Hong Kong, and hence it may be a bit sensitive.

Street sellers

While snaking the streets in search for your accommodation or the best food in town, you may run into roadside promoters. They are usually non-Chinese, and may be very persistent in their attempts to sell you their products. As they typically operate in a group, it can be quite intimidating. For safety, it is best to avoid and ignore them.


If you’re going to be out shopping and food hunting all day, it doesn’t make sense to splash hundreds on a luxury hotel, right? Those on a budget can consider the guest houses. Most of them are easily accessible, and are reasonably comfortable for a good night’s rest. The only thing is that the rooms and toilets may be small. However, they are completely functional.

Getting around

The public transport system is called the Octopus—like the sea creature with legs that can go everywhere, get it?—and it is the most efficient and cost-effective way to get around Hong Kong. With an Octopus card (loaded with value), you can take the trains and buses, and use it to pay at convenience stores. The trains and buses are the way to go, because traffic can get pretty congested in the city.

Food and shopping

We’ve saved the best for the last: Food and bargain hunting! Have a taste of authentic dim sum at the various tea houses along the streets, as well as well-known fancy restaurants in the malls. Try Din Tai Fung, and see how it compares to the local franchise. Itching for retail therapy? Head to the night markets at Temple and Stanley street for local souvenirs and then check out the malls for their seasonal sales! While bargaining is not a practice in malls, go ahead and flex those “auntie” muscles at the marketplaces.

Check out the fun things to do at Cheung Chau Island, the public transport guide in Hong Kong, and the guide to Hong Kong Disneyland.

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