As a major financial hub and transit point in Asia, Hong Kong is often talked about around the world. You’ve probably heard a lot about it, especially in recent months. Unfortunately, some of the things you’ve heard are not entirely correct. Luckily, this list of myths about Hong Kong has been compiled to make sure that you never get caught out with less than reliable information!
Safety and Financial Myths About Hong Kong
Myth 1 – Hong Kong is Unsafe
This is a fairly new line of thought, given the volatile political situation and ongoing protests in Hong Kong. It is true that radical factions among the protester ranks have resorted to violence. It is also true that the police have resorted to violence. Both groups are mainly directing their violence at each other. Or at property.
Despite what you may have heard in the media, these protests have not made it unsafe for people in the city to go about their daily life. They certainly haven’t affected the major tourist areas. In fact, protesters want tourists to keep visiting.
If you do happen to stumble onto a protest site, protesters will happily direct you away from the ‘danger’. They want to make sure that you’re going to be safe.
Now may also be one of the best times to visit Hong Kong, as airfares and hotel rates have fallen due to the unrest. Many flights are leaving, or coming in, half-empty. That means that a lot of airlines are pulling out all the stops to get more people on their planes. That ties in with the second in this list of myths about Hong Kong.
Myth 2 – Hong Kong is Prohibitively Expensive
There’s no denying that Hong Kong can be expensive, but you’d also be surprised at how easy it is to travel through or live in Hong Kong on a budget. Basically, it can be as expensive or as cheap as you make it.
If you spend all your time eating at western-style restaurants, things are going to get expensive rather quickly. However, if you opt to eat at local Cha Chaan Tengs, things will be a lot cheaper. You can make things even cheaper by shopping at local markets and cooking for yourself.
There are also many things to do in the city for free. Take a look at this article to learn more about free and budget-friendly things to do in the city.
Social Myths About Hong Kong
Myth 3 – The Local Language is Mandarin
It is a common misconception that the language spoken in Hong Kong is Mandarin. Mandarin is actually spoken by many in Hong Kong as a third language, after Cantonese and English. This is mostly thanks to a law put in place in by China in 1997, making it a mandatory subject in all schools.
Many people in Hong Kong have ancestors from the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, which was previously known as Canton. That means that the majority of the population speaks Cantonese as their mother tongue. Many historians believe that Cantonese is the only Chinese language spoken today that is close to what was spoken during the Dynasties. This is a point of pride for a lot of Hong Kongers, who may get a bit annoyed if you try to speak Mandarin to them.
If you don’t speak Cantonese, your best bet is to use English. English is the second official language in the area and is very widely spoken. It is also used as the medium of instruction alongside Cantonese, in all but a few local schools.
Myth 4 – Hong Kongers Are Unfriendly
I’ve heard this directly from many people that have visited the city. While it is completely untrue, I can see why people may come to that conclusion. One thing that you need to know about Hong Kongers is that they may not place much faith in their ability to speak and understand English. This can make them shy away from interacting with visitors. Or make them seem aloof when you try to engage them in conversation.
On the flip side of that, locals that do speak English well will often swoop in to help travellers that seem lost or need help communicating. The average Hong Konger will always rush to help someone in need, regardless of where you’re from. They’re also the kind of folks that would chase you to give you back your belongings if you accidentally left them behind.
Logistical Myths About Hong Kong
Myth 5 – There are Skyscrapers Everywhere
Everyone has seen the iconic skyline photo of all the skyscrapers in Hong Kong. While it’s true that there are many skyscrapers in the city, they aren’t everywhere. Hong Kong’s land area is a little over 1100km² but more than 70% of that area remains undeveloped. 40% of the land in Hong Kong belongs to the Country Park system of nature reserves. These reserves have hundreds of hills within their boundaries. That means there are more hills than skyscrapers in Hong Kong!
Aside from the hills, Hong Kong also has some distinctly different landscapes within its borders, from forests to innercity parks with waterfalls and gardens.
As well as rivers and reservoirs.
There are even wetland areas and a UNESCO listed Geopark. And don’t forget its world-famous deep water harbour.
Myth 6 – There Is No Public Transport To The Peak
This one originated somewhere in internet land, perhaps perpetrated by people trying to send business the way of the Peak Tram. If you haven’t heard of The Peak, it is the colloquial term for Victoria Peak, one of the city’s hundreds of hills. Many tourists flock to the Peak Galleria to get the iconic skyline view they’ve seen in so many pictures.
As you would imagine, the area is pretty much a tourist trap. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t several transport options besides the overly-priced Peak Tram. As of December 2019, there are in fact 3 bus routes that meander up the hill to the terminus behind the Galleria. Taxis also make the trip up the hill. So I can say with absolute certainty, that this myth is completely false! Why would a city that has excellent transport links everywhere else, not provide transport to their biggest tourist trap? Doesn’t make sense, right?
Myth 7 – Get A Free Ride on the Airport Express With an Octopus Card
This one can also be found on the internet and is also completely false. For those of you that are not aware, the Octopus Card is Hong Kong’s transport card and can be used on buses, ferries and trains. While it does offer a small discount over buying physical tickets, it does not offer any free rides. As much as we all wish it did.
Have you heard any other myths about Hong Kong? Let me know in the comments.