Hong Kong Basics

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The Basics

Time: GMT +8

Electricity: Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. The UK-style three-pin plugs are standard.

Money: The unit of currency is the Hong Kong Dollar (HKD), which is divided into 100 cents. Major banks are open from 9am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday, and 9am to 12.30pm on Saturday. Banks and money changers charge commission, as do hotels that provide exchange services. All major credit cards are accepted and ATMs are widely distributed.

Currency Exchange Rates

HKD1.00 = USD 0.13GBP 0.10CAD 0.17AUD 0.19ZAR 1.93EUR 0.12NZD 0.20
Note: These rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.

Language: The official languages in Hong Kong are English and Cantonese. The other main language is Mandarin.

Entry requirements for Americans: US citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least one month beyond the period of intended stay in Hong Kong. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.

Entry requirements for UK nationals: British citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least one month beyond the period of intended stay in Hong Kong. Expired British passports endorsed British Dependent Territories Citizen or British National (Overseas) issued in Hong Kong are accepted, provided they are accompanied by a Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card. For British passport holders endorsed British Citizen, no visa is required for stays of up to 180 days. For British passport holders endorsed British Subject, British Overseas Territories Citizen, British National (Overseas), British Overseas Citizen or British Protected Person, no visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.

Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least one month beyond the period of intended stay in Hong Kong. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.

Entry requirements for Australians: Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least one month beyond the period of intended stay in Hong Kong. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days. Visa exemptions apply to holders of an APEC Business Travel Card, provided that the back of the card states that it is valid for travel to Hong Kong, for a maximum stay of up to 60 days.

Entry requirements for South Africans: South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least one month beyond the period of intended stay in Hong Kong. No visa is required for stays of up to 30 days (two months, if in possession of a Hong Kong Travel Pass).

Entry requirements for New Zealanders: New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least one month beyond the period of intended stay in Hong Kong. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days. Visa exemptions apply to holders of an APEC Business Travel Card, provided that the back of the card states that it is valid for travel to Hong Kong, for a maximum stay of 60 days.

Entry requirements for Irish nationals: Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least one month beyond the period of intended stay in Hong Kong. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.

Passport/Visa Note: All foreign visitors to Hong Kong must be in possession of onward or return tickets (except when in transit to mainland China or Macao), the necessary travel documentation for their next destination, and proof of sufficient funds to cover their stay in the country. Note that admission and/or transit will be refused to any national holding a passport issued by Kiribati, and endorsed "N-Kiribati" or "Investor". NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Travel Health: There are no specific health risks associated with travel to Hong Kong. Food and water are generally safe, although visitors should consider only drinking bottled water for the first few days of their stay. Vaccinations are recommended for hepatitis A and influenza. Take precautions against mosquito bites, as there is a slight risk of Dengue fever. Outbreaks of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease are reported annually. Hong Kong's health facilities are first class, but expect to pay cash. High quality medical care is widely available but comprehensive medical insurance is recommended to cover expenses.

Tipping: A 10 percent service charge is usually added to restaurant bills in Hong Kong, but waiters will still expect some loose change in addition to this. If no service charge is included, a 10 percent tip is expected. Taxi fares are rounded up to the nearest dollar (usually automatically by the driver).

Safety Information: Hong Kong is considered a safe travel destination, although caution should always be exercised when travelling. Pickpockets are likely to target unsuspecting tourists so one should minimise this risk through vigilance and by leaving valuables locked up in hotel safes when possible. Be wary of accepting drinks from strangers, as reports of spiked drinks are on the increase. Robbers have recently targeted walkers in Hong Kong's Country Parks so it is advisable to stay on marked trails and not to carry large amounts of cash or credit cards. All street protests and political gatherings should be avoided. The typhoon season is usually between April and October, and the heavy rains may cause flooding and landslides.

Local Customs: Littering and spitting are illegal in Hong Kong and will incur spot fines. In Hong Kong the concept of 'face' is very important; avoid causing someone to 'lose face' by publicly insulting them or contradicting them in front of others as this is considered very impolite. The Chinese have great respect for hierarchical relationships.

Business: Despite its close proximity to China, Hong Kong's business culture is worlds apart. There tends to be a heavy British influence on business culture in Hong Kong. However, one typically Asian aspect is the concept of saving face. Saving face represents an awareness of positive appearances and perceptions of other people or companies. Bad news should never be presented in front of others and keeping ones cool is vital. Open displays of emotion, such as anger and irritation, are frowned upon, as is causing embarrassment to another person. Business culture in Hong Kong is quite conservative. Dress styles are formal and deference to senior members of companies is vital. Business suits are usually in dark colours. Avoid wearing bright ties, or blue or white coloured clothes, as these colours are associated with mourning. When greeting business associates, either shake hands or, if no handshake is offered, bowing is appropriate. Respect for personal space is important and physical contact should be avoided. Gifts are given during introductions, but never opened in front of the giver. Timepieces as gifts are inappropriate as they are associated with death. The business languages in Hong Kong are both Mandarin and English. Tone should always be even and measured and cultural sensitivity and etiquette are vital. When tea is served at a business meeting never sip from your cup until your host has taken his first sip. Business in Hong Kong is conducted efficiently and formally and punctuality is vital. It is advised to allow for sufficient travel time before meetings considering the high traffic congestion. If you are tardy, effusive and repeated apologies are in order, regardless of whether you caused the delay. It is customary to exchange business cards (printed in English on one side and Cantonese on the other) at the start of a meeting, along with a handshake. Business cards should be given and received using both hands, with the Cantonese side facing the recipient, and should be treated with respect. It is common to greet the more senior person first. Business entertainment is usually in the form of a lunch or dinner that is organised by the hosting partner. Food is also usually ordered and paid for by the host. Finally, the phrase 'have you eaten,' is a subtle form of greeting which generally means 'are you well.' Business hours run from 9am to 5pm during the week and 9am to 1pm on Saturdays.

Communications: The international access code for Hong Kong is +852. The outgoing code depends on what network is used. City codes within Hong Kong are not required. Prepaid Discover Hong Kong SIM cards are available at any 1010 centres, convenience stores and at Hong Kong International Arrival Hall. Internet cafes are widely available, and free wifi access is available at most coffee shops, shopping malls and hotels in town.

Duty Free: There are no restrictions on the import and export of local or foreign currency. Travellers to Hong Kong over the age of 18 years do not have to pay duty on 1 litre of spirits and a reasonable amount of wine or any other form of alcohol containing less than 30% of alcohol; 19 cigarettes or 1 cigar or 25g of tobacco.