7 Myths About Hong Kong

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 by a local 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.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Myths About Hong Kong. Bricks on the Road
Protest aftermath

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.

Pandemic Update

While the rest of the world struggles with the pandemic, things returned to normal in Hong Kong last month, after over 3 months of non-enforced social distancing, school/government closures and aggressive testing. Foreign nationals are currently not allowed to enter Hong Kong due to the pandemic. This ban will remain in force until at least September. Once the city reopens to foreigners, hotels and airlines will no doubt be pulling out all the stops to get tourists to use their services. That could mean super cheap deals for everyone!

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.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Myths About Hong Kong. Local Market
Local Market

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!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Myths About Hong Kong. Hills and Skyscrapers

Aside from the hills, Hong Kong also has some distinctly different landscapes within its borders, from forests to innercity parks with waterfalls and gardens.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Myths About Hong Kong. Bamboo Forest K in Motion Travel Blog. Myths About Hong Kong. Inner City Waterfall

As well as rivers and reservoirs.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Myths About Hong Kong. River K in Motion Travel Blog. Myths About Hong Kong. Reservoir

There are even wetland areas and a UNESCO listed Geopark. And don’t forget its world-famous deep water harbour.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Myths About Hong Kong. Victoria 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 May 2020, 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.

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72 Replies to “7 Myths About Hong Kong”

  1. I would love to visit Hong Kong. My sister-in-law lives in Singapore and when my partner and I go to visit, I have a plan to visit Hong Kong too. I’ve heard quite a bit about it from my cousin who is currently teaching over there, and it’s only made me want to visit more.

    The idea that it’s unsafe has never crossed my mind, however, the expense has. It might be expensive to get there, but once there I’ve heard it’s quite decently priced.

    Great article for every traveler or wanna-be traveler.

    1. Come on over! We’ll be happy to have you! :o)

      I’m glad you never thought of it as unsafe! ‘Isn’t it dangerous there?’, is a question I hear too much recently.

      It can actually be quite cheap to get here if you’re willing to search a bit and avoid major holidays like Christmas and Chinese New Year. I’m flying to London for Chinese New Year, in a month, and it cost £540 return. Normally I can find fights for about £390.

      Once you get here, there are so many things to do for next to nothing. Or even free! You could never get bored in HK!

  2. Interesting read. I’m glad to hear that it’s safe to travel to Hong Kong. There’s so much coverage of the unrest that it’s hard to know. Thanks for shedding light on these myths.

    1. A lot of the media here has been over-sensationalising stuff. Aside from a few days of traffic and transport chaos back in November, things have been pretty normal here.

  3. I have definitely heard a few of these myths, in particular that the people there are unfriendly and that’s it’s unsafe for foreigners to visit. I think it’s great that you’re spreading the word and clearing up some of these myths as they may prevent someone from enjoying a trip there!

    1. I’d still say that HK is one of the safest places in the world, even with the protests going on. It’s a good time to visit because the weather is great at this time of year and prices are down!

      The protests have polarised families, but also brought strangers together. The general level of friendliness in HK has gone up since they started!

    1. Yes, that was one of my main reasons for writing this!
      Media is notorious for being skewed, so it’s always great to form your own opinions!

  4. Haven really head of any of those myths before but it good to be aware of those to avoid having a wrong perception about a place or overly excited. Thanks for the clarification, hong kong is one city i have always want to visit.

  5. I always have fun visiting Hong Kong. I love how old meets new and coexist nicely, and I love Cha Chaan Tengs. So charming! Also, I agree, the people are not as unfriendly as legend has it. They were helpful when I was there.
    I found out about public transportation from the Peak after refusing to wait in the crazy line for the Peak Tram! We waited in the crazy line for the tram to go up the Peak so my sister gets the experience. Then we took a 小巴 on the return trip and it’s a nice experience too!
    This is a great list! I’ll have to check out the trails and local markets the next time I visit!

    Julie | Darkbluejournal.com

    1. I begrudgingly took the Peak Tram twice. Both times because people were visiting me and insisted on it. Also, they paid, haha. I actually think the view from the bus is nicer than from the tram. It’s also much cheaper.

      We have so many trails! I can definitely give you some recommendations on which ones to try. I’ve done a lot of them!

    1. How long is your layover? If it’s longer than 5 hours, you should head out. There are some things you could see near the airport.

  6. In the USA the news and media are so sensationalized that I always appreciate reading and hearing other views from people who are actually in or have visited the place. It’s great to know that Hong Kong isn’t as unsafe as people think it is now. That’s a good point about it actually being a good time to visit with lower costs. Wow never knew that so much of the land was part of the Country Park system of nature reserves. I was one of those people who thought the city was all skyscrapers! Very informative :)

    1. I learned to stop paying attention to the media a long time ago.

      Our country parks are amazing! There are so many trails to explore and so many natural wonders to see!

  7. Just the post I needed to read! We’ve been planning for Hong Kong for a while but my husband was concerned about several points you’ve discussed. Thank you!

  8. I honestly thought Hong Kong was extremely expensive! I’m glad you clarified. I can’t wait to travel there and get to see the gorgeous waterfalls in person.

    1. It’s a complicated situation that will not be resolved any time soon. But in the meantime, we’ll all just keep doing what we do.

    1. Hong Kong culture is amazing. Some of the really old superstitions and beliefs that disappeared from China are still alive and well in Hong Kong!

  9. Would love to visit. Never thought of HK being unsafe but always thought it would be expensive so it is good to know there are ways to make it more purse friendly

  10. I really love Hong Kong and it’s honestly one of my most fave destinations. Hope the street protests pass thru. Cheers for a peaceful and great 2020.

    1. The protesters are still at it in the new year, but nothing that really gets in the way of our lives at the moment. We normally know where demonstrations will take place ahead of time anyway.

    1. Oh yeah. There are definitely things I don’t like about HK, but most of those are to do with terrible policies, haha.

      Although it can be overwhelming, it’s definitely a great place to visit :o)

  11. You’ve covered all the myths that I’m aware of. I visited solo back in 2009 and decided to stay on Kowloon, where I’d have some breathing room. HK Island was just too congested for me!

    1. I don’t really like the island either. It’s pretty much just a shrine to consumerism these days. Kowloon can be pretty crazy too! I live in a village in the New Territories, where I have plenty of breathing room and get to speak Cantonese every day.

  12. It’s certainly been experiencing some turbulent times recently, and pre-Covid I suspect was impacting on tourism. One of my friends went to Australia in January and was due to stop over in Hong Kong but changed her plans as a result of the demonstrations. Let’s hope your blog helps to put this into perspective.

    1. We just started the craziness earlier than everyone else, hehe.
      Yes, it has had significant affects on tourism, mainly due to misinformation, which is sad. Even in times of political issues, I still count HK as one of the safest cities in the world. Even now in Covid times, we’re all going about daily life as we normally would, except that we can only dine in at restaurants until 9pm.

  13. I’m very curious to visit Hong Kong actually and indeed had this image of a busy city packed with high-rises so I’m very pleased to hear there are so many nature reserves nearby. You first points are very good to hear as these factors made me more hesitant towards visiting Hong Kong. So thanks for the reassurance and also the really great practical tips like the free airport ride, that’s really valuable information to know beforehand!

    1. When you do decide to come, let me know! I can show you all the awesome places away from the crowds :o)
      Hong Kong is an amazing place to hike! From my village I can be at the top of a ridge looking over all of HK in an hour! I wish more people knew more about our nature.

  14. We love Hong Kong and have been there so many times. Interestingly, I have never heard any of those misconceptions. It is true, however, that buying real estate was extremely expensive in the past. I don’t know how it is today.
    Eating out is super inexpensive in HK as long as you visit the tiny 2 or 3 table restaurants that make some of the best food ion the planet.

    1. I’m so glad you haven’t heard any of these!
      Unfortunately, real estate is still stupidly expensive and buying a flat is a bit of a pipe dream for a lot of people. Even just a small studio flat is HK$10,000,000. Rent on a 700sq ft flat is around HK$20,000/month in the New Territories. It’s depressing. But luckily we have cheap tasty food and awesome hiking to cheer us up!

  15. I had a 7 hours layover on my way to Australia so I left the airport to explore the city a bit. I had no idea what I was going to see or feel, but overall the city really surprised me. in just a few hours I didn’t get enough of Hong Kong and one day I will go back.

    1. You definitely need more than 7 hours, but it’s a nice amount of time to get a taste for the city.
      Make sure you check out some of our hills when you come back! :o)

  16. Oh dear, I have somehow missed all of these myths. I would not have expected any of them to be true.

    I would loooove to visit HK, mostly for the food, but I have also heard so many good things about the hiking as well. I will do my best to learn some basic Cantonese before I visit. :)

    1. That makes me so happy! HK is often misunderstood and I’m glad some people are smart enough to know better! :o)

      Let me know when you do visit, I can show you where all the good hikes and food are at, (in that order, because the food is so much better after a hike!), and help you with some Cantonese!

  17. I’m guilty of thinking that Hong Kong is full of skyscrapers. So cool to hear about the nature reserves and the hills, forests and waterfalls! Learned so much from this post.

    1. It’s true that we have a lot of tall buildings, but we have a lot of amazing trails and hills too!

      I’m glad you found it helpful :o)

  18. I love posts like these! It’s so interesting, especially when I haven’t heard of some of the myths. I dislike when people stereotype an area, like ‘Argentina is dangerous, Switzerland is expensive’ as it’s not true for everywhere in that country! So thank you for dispelling these myths.

    1. Presumptions about places are stupid. When I told people I was going to South America, the first thing they’d say every time was , ‘Isn’t it dangerous? Be careful!’. I spent months there with no problems.

  19. Thanks for this insightful post! I actually lived with a roommate from Hong Kong during my summer school programme at Berlin and she was adorable. So I can absolutely vouch for the fact that having interacted with someone from that country, was a very pleasant experience and boy, she was a stickler for time, while I used to be rushing every time. Haha! Thanks for this myth busting post, which not only unravels the myths and shatters them for good, but also helps us delve into the lesser known facts about this country! Its definitely on my list.

    1. A lot of people have a huge thing with time here. If you show up to work 1 minute late, after showing up on time for years, they’ll think you’re the worst employee ever! But life here is hectic and every moment of time is filled with some activity.

  20. Breaking a lot of great myths with this post. I definitely didn’t know how undeveloped Hong Kong actually is. Wonder how things will change post pandemic.

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