7 Myths About Hong Kong

K in Motion Travel Blog. Myths About Hong Kong. Sunset on the River

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 Number 1 – Hong Kong is Unsafe

This is a fairly new line of thought, given recent protests and political turmoil in Hong Kong. It’s not a situation that can be easily explained in one blog post, but nothing that has happened, no matter what the media hype tells you, poses any threat to anyone entering Hong Kong as a tourist. To be honest, it doesn’t pose a threat to most Hong Kongers in general.

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

Protests did not make the city unsafe for people going about their daily life. The political issues have made life interesting for some, but still have no effect on the average person.

Demostrations still do occur here and there, but not on the scale that they used to. You’re more likely to come across graffiti with political messages scrawled in random places. Although, if you don’t read Chinese, you’ll have no idea what is being said most of the time.

Aside from that, Hong Kong is a generally safe city with a low crime rate. Locals are very cautious and will tell you to be careful of pickpockets, but then you can tell by the way they walk around with phones and wallets half hanging out of their pockets that pickpocketing is not really a thing.

Pandemic Update

While a lot of the world struggles with the pandemic, things have more or less remained normal in Hong Kong. There are some restrictions on the number of people that can gather in public and dine at the same table. Foreign nationals are now allowed to enter Hong Kong, but must undergo a 21 day quarantine in a hotel where they will be subjected to meals of instant noodles and snacks of terrible HK made sweet biscuits every day.

You might want to put your visit off for a while, but when you do visit, check out our list of FREE and budget activities in Hong Kong

Myths About Hong Kong, Number 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 Number 3 – The Local Language is Mandarin

It is a common misconception and probably one of the most pervasive myths about Hong Kong that the language spoken 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.

Cantonese is the Main Language

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.

English Over Mandarin

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.

Myths About Hong Kong, Number 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.

Helpful Locals

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 Number 5 – There are Skyscrapers Everywhere

Perhaps one of the most widely spread myths about Hong Kong is that it is full of skyscrapers. Everyone has seen the iconic skyline photo of all the tall buildings on Hong Kong island. While it’s true that there are many skyscrapers in the city, they aren’t everywhere.

More Hills Than Skyscrapers – Myths About Hong Kong Busted

Hong Kong’s land area is a little over 1100kmĀ² 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 instituted by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. 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

Myths About Hong Kong, Number 6 – There Is No Public Transport To The Peak

Possibly one of the strangest myths about Hong Kong originated somewhere in internet land. I suspect it was 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.

A Tourist Trap With Transport

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 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?

Myths About Hong Kong, Number 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 trams, 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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Hong Kong on a Budget

There is an endless list of reasons to visit the wonderful city of Hong Kong, but did you know there are an amazing amount of quirky, cheap or free things to do in the city? If you’re looking to discover the real Hong Kong on a budget, then read on!

Free Things to do in Hong Kong on a Budget – The Iconic Skyline

Okay, so this one’s not exactly a secret, but did you know you can get the view for free and see some nature in the process? Sounds awesome, right? All you need to do is find the Hong Kong trail, which can be easily accessed from the Western and Central districts of Hong Kong Island. In between the second and third trail markers is a lookout where you can get that postcard view without the crowds. Better than this –

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong On A Budget. Hong Kong Skyline from The Peak

To see a bunch of pretty lights and escape the day time sun, head up at night. The trail is paved and lit the whole way. If you want to take the view up a level and see almost the whole city, from the island to the New Territories, get yourself up to Lion Rock from The Tai Wai MTR station. Not only is it as close to the geographical centre of Hong Kong as you can get, but it is also an icon for all Hong Kongers, who are said to have the Lion Rock Spirit.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong On A Budget. The New Territories From Lion Rock
The New Territories From Lion Rock

Hong Kong on a Budget – Historic Trams

You’ve probably heard of the Peak Tram. In truth, it’s a funicular, not a tram. It’s also far from the best transport experience in Hong Kong. There’s a way to get a more historical experience for a fraction of the price! Ride on the top deck of an historic tram, or ‘ding ding’ as they’re known locally.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Historic Double Decker Tram

The Best Way to Explore Hong Kong on a Budget

The earliest form of transport in Hong Kong was the double-decker trams that still run today. In fact, Hong Kong uses double-decker trams exclusively and therefore has the biggest fleet of them in the world. If you want to see Hong Kong at a slower pace, jump on one of these trams anywhere on Hong Kong island. They run west to east at regular intervals and the best part is that they only cost HK$2.60!

Free Things to do in Hong Kong on a Budget – See Some Statues

As a city, Hong Kong loves statues! From tiny and quirky statues near temples, tombs and memorials to huge gods and goddesses looking over entire districts. Can you find them all? You could start with the world’s tallest outdoor bronze statue of Kwun Yam, Goddess of Mercy. At 76m she towers over Tsz Shan Monastery in Tai Po and is twice the height of another famous statue in Hong Kong; the Tian Tin Buddha at Ngong Ping on Lantau Island.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Kwun Yam Statue, Tai Po, Hong Kong K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Tian Tin Buddha, Ngong Ping, Lantau Island K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Kwun Yam Statues, 10,000 Buddhas Monastery K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Buddha Statues, 10,000 Buddhas Monastery

Hong Kong on a Budget – Gods and Goddesses

As the 2 main deities worshipped in the area, Kwun Yam and Buddha feature prominently in monasteries. The 10,000 Buddhas Monastery in Sha Tin has areas dedicated to both. You can sometimes find shrines to Kwan Yam and Buddha near villages, or even up in the hills on hiking trails. Often locals make their own sculptures and place them in the forest for your viewing pleasure.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Buddha Statue Tuen Mun K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Shrine in Sha Tin K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Family Sculptures on the Wilson Trail Section 3 K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Sculptures on the Wilson Trail Section 3

You could spend several days seeking out these statues and sculptures!

Hong Kong on a Budget – Wet Markets

If you want to see Hong Kong at it’s craziest, then any of the city’s various markets won’t disappoint. I’m not talking about the street markets, I’m talking about what the locals call ‘Wet Markets’. Generally, these are the go-to places for fresh food. Like still breathing kind of fresh. You’ll see fish swimming around in tanks, right next to their friends that weren’t so lucky. Various cuts of meat hanging from rails in front of a butchers stall, or sometimes the occasional live chicken.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Fish at a Wet Market

Aside from your everyday fresh foods, some of these markets include local sweet shops and bakeries, where you’ll find the cheapest and tastiest traditional treats. You might have to go past the fish and meat sellers to find them though.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Wet Market Bakery

The bigger wet markets will also have hardware and clothing stores along with key makers, tailors and traditional goods store. You’re almost guaranteed to find anything you need at these markets.

Eating in Hong Kong on a Budget – Cha Chaan Tengs

Cha Chaan Teng roughly translates to Tea Restaurant. People go to these places to ‘Yum Cha’, which literally means drink tea, but colloquially means to eat food and drink tea. Cha Chaan Tengs offer set meals of local style food paired with local drinks like Lemon Tea and Milk Tea.

Cha Chaan Tengs are super common in Hong Kong, but most only have menus in Chinese. If you’re feeling adventurous, give it a go. Sometimes they have pictures. If you want to get the Cha Chaan Teng feel but prefer menus you can read, then Tsui Wah is probably the best option for you.

A lunch or afternoon tea set meal with a drink, soup and main course normally costs somewhere between HK$40-60.

Hong Kong on a Budget – Biking

Need a way to burn off all the calories you gained at the Cha Chaan Teng? The New Territories of Hong Kong are a biking paradise! There are hundreds of kilometres of dedicated bike trails that are signposted extremely well, so there’s no need to tussle with cars for road space or worry about getting lost. That means it’s a safe activity for the whole family.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. New Territories Bike Trail K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. New Territories Bike Trail Sign Post

Some of the trails follow rivers or meander along harbour promenades. There are bike hire places along the way that will let you hire a bike for around HK$80/day and even let you return the bike to another store along the trail. You can also hire a pedicab style machine if you have someone in your group who doesn’t feel like pedalling.

Free Things to do in Hong Kong on a Budget – WiFi Everywhere!

Hong Kong is a super-connected city. WiFi is available almost everywhere and it’s generally free. All shopping centres have anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours free access. MTR stations have 5 free 15 minute sessions per day. Airport buses and some city buses have it. Libraries and government buildings have unlimited WiFi, although it’s somewhat slower than in other places.

If you venture to Hong Kong in the summer, you might be more than happy to hang out in the air conditioning with WiFi for a few hours. It beats melting in the unbearable humidity! Some public parks, such as Sha Tin Park and Hong Kong Park even have WiFi. So when it’s a bit cooler, you can enjoy nature and WiFi at the same time!

Hong Kong on a Budget – Free WiFi and Nature

You can even access free WiFi on the go from CSL, one of the local phone companies. All you need to do is send the code *165# using an overseas mobile phone roaming on the CSL network. CSL will then send you a code that’s valid for a week on all their public networks. If you stay in Hong Kong longer than a week, you can just get another code sent.

Free Things to do in Hong Kong on a Budget – Nature

No one would blame you for thinking that there isn’t much nature in the world’s most densely populated city. Luckily, that is just not the case. The centrally located Hong Kong Park covers a huge area and even contains an aviary with many exotic birds. The Hong Kong Wetland Park showcases a unique ecosystem within Hong Kong’s New Territories and the UNESCO Hong Kong Geopark in the east gives you a glimpse into the region’s geological history.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Waterfall Near Hong Kong's Tallest Hill, Tai Mo Shan K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Highland Island Reservoir

Aside from that, there are many different natural wonders within Hong Kong’s Country Parks. Waterfalls, bamboo forests, reservoirs and streams, just to mention a few.

Free Things to do in Hong Kong on a Budget – Hillside Cemeteries and Tombs

As you would be aware, space is a commodity in Hong Kong, so when it comes to burying the dearly departed, people head to the hills. Designated cemeteries can often be seen on the sides of very steep hills. It’s also quite common to find tombs in the middle of forests. If you happen to pass one at the right time of the month, you may even see some of the more traditional folk leaving food and incense near the tombs to stop any ghosts from haunting the living.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Hillside Tomb K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Small Hillside Tomb K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Food Left Out At Hillside Tomb

Hong Kong on a Budget – Islands and Camping

Did you know that Hong Kong is made up of over 200 islands? Some of these islands are uninhabited, untouched paradises. While not all of them are accessible, there are quite a few that are. Some, like Po Toi Island, only have ferry services on the weekends, due to the small populations residing there. Others, like Lamma Island and Cheung Chau have hourly services.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Po Toi Island K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Lamma Island

The government allows camping on some of these islands, as long as you register with them and stay within the designated areas. Not only that, but there are many camping sites within the government maintained Country Parks. A list of them can be found here

Hong Kong on a Budget – Beaches

You didn’t know Hong Kong had beaches? Well, it does and some of them are pretty damn good! Of course, there are ones that are quite popular and easily accessible, but they can get a little too crowded. If you’re looking for something a little bit more relaxed, there are some beaches in the east that are only accessible by hiking for an hour or so.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Secluded Beach off a Hiking Trail K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Secluded Beach

Sai Wan, Ham Tin and Tai Long in Sai Kung are 3 such beaches. What’s even more charming about these beaches, is that there are small locally-run stores there. They always have a fresh supply of cool drinks and ‘dou fu fa’, a popular sugary beancurd desert.

Free Things to do in Hong Kong on a Budget – Hiking

This is, in my opinion, the most enticing reason to visit the city; it has the most amazing hiking in the world! That’s not an exaggeration. Over 40% of the land in Hong Kong is hills and forests. The government has wisely instituted a nature reserve system of Country Parks to keep these areas free from development. There are 24 Country Parks across the territory, with hundreds of hiking trails.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Easy Hiking Trail K in Motion Travel Blog, Hong Kong on a Budget. Not So Easy Hiking Trail

Hong Kong on a Budget – Trails For Everyone

Trails range from super-easy walks that are kid and dog friendly, to technical rock climbing and everything in between. The 4 major trails, the MacLehose, Wilson, Lantau and Hong Kong Trails cover over 300km of ground between them. They stretch from Hong Kong Island in the south, to the remote New Territories in the north, Sai Kung in the east and Tuen Mun/Lantau in the west.

Hong Kong on a Budget – Websites For Hiking Information

The Hong Kong Government has even compiled a one-stop site for all of Hong Kong’s trails here and the Hong Kong Hiking Meetup runs several hikes for all levels, every day of the year.

You might also be interested in our myths about Hong kong article

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Would you like to know more about travelling Hong Kong on a budget? Do you need information about free cultural walking tours and hikes? Feel free to contact me or leave a comment so I can help you out :o)