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Hong Kong, China

| Airport | Weather | Money | Tipping | Safety | Business Hours | Visa |
| Customs | Electricity | Water | Medical Service | Transportation |
For National holidays, festivals, and trade shows check Calendar.


Both, modern and vibrant, Hong Kong is among the world's most captivating cities, with something for everyone here. As a regional hub for finance, trade and tourism, Hong Kong now has a new international airport that complements this surge in activity.

On Monday, July 6, 1998, the new Hong Kong International Airport opened its doors at Chek Lap Kok, Lantau for operation, replacing the old one at Kai Tak. The opening concludes one of 10 infrastructures which has generated major change in Hong Kong's transport system. It also provides new land for use that stretches to office buildings and housing. Developments in transportation structures include 34 km of expressways and tunnels, a high-speed rail link connecting the airport with Hong Kong's urban centers, the world's longest road-rail suspension bridge and a third cross-harbour tunnel link.

As statutory government bodies, the Airport Authority and MTR corporation continue to manage the airport operations and transport railway, whilst the private sector operates individual businesses on the island. The completion of the Hong Kong International Airport marks the conclusion of the $155.3 billion in money of the Day (MOD) terms Airport Core Programme and is Hong Kong's largest construction project to date.

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March to mid-May
Temperature: 18oC (64oF) to 27oC (80oF).
Humidity: Around 82%.
Occasional mist and rain showers
What to wear: Have sweaters and shower proof jackets ready.

Late May to mid-September
Temperature: 26oC (79oF) to 33oC (91oF).
Humidity: 80% plus.
Normally sunny, but during the typhoon season (July-September) there can be heavy rain.
What to wear: Short sleeves and cotton dresses for outdoor wear on sunny days.

Late September to early December
Temperature: 18oC (64oF) to 28o(82oF).
Humidity: Around 72%.
Sunny and clear, ideal walking weather
What to wear: Light clothing for the day, and sweaters and light jackets for the evenings.

Late December - February
Temperature: 14oC (57oF) to 20oC (68oF).
Humidity: Around 72%.
Sunny, bright and coolish
What to wear: Bring suits and some warm clothing. Overcoats may be needed on a few days.

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Legal tender is the Hong Kong dollar (HK$); there are 100 cents in a dollar. Coins, issued by the government, are bronze-coloured for 10 cents, 20 cents and 50 cents; silver-coloured for $1, $2, and $5; and there is a new nickel-and-bronze coin for $10. Notes issued by two private banks (the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank and Standard Chartered Bank), have denominations of $10, $20, $50, $100, $500, and $1000. The Bank of China issues all of the denominations except HK$10.

Since the mid-Eighties, the value of the Hong Kong dollar has been pegged by the government at HK$7.80 to the American dollar, and consequent rates of exchange to other currencies. However, the market rate exchange to the US dollar fluctuates marginally, and banks and money changes charge commission. Similarly, commissions are payable in hotels and major retail outlets which provide exchange facilities for their customers. As elsewhere, the rates of exchange for cash and travelers' cheques are marginally different, and coins are not exchangeable.

The display of net rates of exchange by money changers is a legal obligation -- visitors are advised to check them -- and also the amount of any additional commission payable for the exchange of traveler's' checks, before handing over the money for exchange. Receipt notes must be issued by law, but there is no need to retain these as there are no restrictions on currencies being brought in or taken out of Hong Kong.

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Most restaurants will levy a 10 per cent service charge, but will expect to be given some loose change. Restaurants that don't add a service charge will expect a 10 per cent tip. However, the tipping is left to your discretion. Bellboys, porters, restroom attendants and taxi drivers will happily accept loose change.

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Hong Kong is generally considered a very safe city both at night and during the day. As everywhere, however, protect yourself from pickpockets and carry as little cash and as few valuables as possible; traveler's' checks and credit cards are widely accepted.

The Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) has stations and reporting centers throughout the territory. The staff at the HKPF reporting center in Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon and in Central on Hong Kong Island - at the Star Ferry Concourse, for example - are accustomed to helping visitors.

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Business Hours
Major banks are open from 9:00am to 4:30pm, Monday to Friday, and 9:00am to 12:30pm on Saturday. They close on Sunday and public holidays. Some banks and branches are open slightly longer hours; some banking services are not available an hour before closing. Office hours are similar as in the West, 9:00am to 5 or 6:00pm. Shops usually open up at 10:00am and stay open until 9:00 or 10:00pm, especially in the tourist and residential areas.

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Visitors from most countries can enter Hong Kong without a visa for periods varying from seven days to six months, depending on their nationalities. Anyone wishing to stay longer than the visa-free period must apply for a visa before traveling to Hong Kong.

For country-specific visa information Applications should be made to the Immigration Department, 2/F, Immigration Tower, 7 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong (Tel: (852) 2824 6111, Fax: (852) 2877 7711) or the nearest Chinese Consulate. When applying for a visa, it is advisable to give at least six weeks' notice.

On arrival in Hong Kong, visitors will have to satisfy immigration officers that they possess an onward or return ticket (unless they are in transit to China or Macau) and that they have adequate funds for their stay in Hong Kong without work. (Generally, a confirmed hotel reservation, a valid international credit card and/or an appropriate amount of cash will suffice.)

Visitors are not allowed to enter employment (paid or unpaid), to establish or join any business, or to enter school as a student. Nor, except in the most unusual circumstances, are visitors allowed to change their status after arrival.

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All visitors to Hong Kong must have valid travel documents, endorsed where necessary for Hong Kong. These should be valid for at least one month beyond your planned departure from Hong Kong, and in the case of certain nationalities, at least six months.

Hong Kong residents are required to carry an identity card. To avoid any possible confusion, visitors are advised to carry at all times a similar form of photo identification, such as a passport.

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Voltage in Hong Kong is 200 / 220 volts, so a transformer will be needed to operate 100-volt appliances. Most major hotels provide hair dryers and other amenities.

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The government-run water supply more than satisfies United Nations World Health Organization standards. Care is necessary only in some rural and island areas where water is still drawn from wells. Bottled water is widely available in hotels, restaurants and convenience stores.

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Medical Service
Most hotels have a medical clinic, with registered nurses. Qualified doctors are on duty at specified hours, and on call 24-hours-a-day for emergency treatment. There are also many government and private hospitals with 24-hour emergency and out-patient departments.

Hong Kong's medical facilities are among the finest in the world, and many of the territory's registered doctors and dentists were trained or have undergone postgraduate training overseas. Pharmacists, too, are registered; their dispensing hours are usually 9am to 6pm or 8pm. All hotels have lists of recommended medical services; alternatively, contact your consulate for assistance.

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There are three taxi areas: Hong Kong Island and Kowloon (red taxis), New Territories (green), and Lantau Island (blue). All 17,500 taxis are licensed, air-conditioned and metered, with differing flagfalls. Most are licensed to carry up to five passengers. Price tariffs are displayed clearly inside the taxis; tunnel tolls are extra charges (and the toll for the two cross-harbor tunnels is doubled, as drivers based on Hong Kong Island or in Kowloon usually stay in their own known territory and will return to it after a cross-harbor trip). Red taxis' minimum fare is HK$15.00 plus HK$1.40 for every additional 200 meters. Permitted extra charges are HK$20 for the Cross-Harbour Tunnel and HK$30 Eastern Harbor Crossing (includes the return journey toll); HK$5 for the Aberdeen Tunnel; HK$8 for the Lion Rock Tunnel, and HK$5 for a radio call. Fares for green and blue taxis are HK$12.50 and HK$12 respectively (plus HK$1.20 for every additional 200 meters).
Although many drivers understand English, visitors are advised to ask their hotel's information desk to write down their intended destination in Chinese, or ask the hotel doorman to tell the driver. Many drivers also have the official bilingual street map at hand for reference. Most can also call up their radio-service headquarters which will usually provide translation from English to Cantonese for the driver.

Taxis are easily hailed from the street, though areas marked with yellow lines are restricted for pick-ups and drop-offs. At peak periods, you might opt for a hotel taxi queue. Taxis are least available around the 4:00pm end-shift changeover period.

Buses: Double-decker and regular buses have their final destinations marked in English and Chinese on the front top panel. Fares are inexpensive, ranging from HK$1.20 to HK$45. Passengers pay their fares into coin boxes when boarding the buses; have small coins available, as the drivers do not provide change.

Bus services usually run from 6:00am to midnight daily, and at frequent intervals in the urban areas. There are late and overnight bus services connecting Hong Kong Island with major population centers in Kowloon.

Longer-staying visitors or those who ride the bus frequently will find the Octopus card, a hi-tech debit card, very useful.

Visitors should be advised that not all bus routes are operated with air-conditioned buses, and rush hour bus travel can be uncomfortably crowded. The better views are gained from the no-standing room upper deck of double-decker buses. Large luggage is prohibited, as is smoking.

Car Rental: Self-drive and chauffeur-driven car-rental services are available from major hotels' transportation counters or other agencies. Few visitors consider self-drive, as the public transport network is extensive and daytime parking is difficult in urban areas. If you choose to drive, always carry your travel documents and driving license. Chauffeurdriven limousines, hired by the hour or day, are air-conditioned.

Visitors with a valid overseas driving license are permitted to drive in-Hong Kong for a maximum period of 12 months. Motor vehicles, including motor scooters, may not be hired or driven by anyone under 18 years of age or those disqualified by a court from holding or obtaining a license. Third-party insurance is compulsory. Following British practice, Hong Kong traffic drives on the left.

Ferries: The Star Ferry Harbour Cruises is one of Hong Kong's most scenic (and inexpensive) mode of travel across Victoria Harbour, celebrated 100 years of service in 1998. The eight-minute ride between Central and Tsim Sha Tsui costs only HK$2.20 upper deck and HK$1.70 for lower deck. The Star Ferry also runs a service to Hung Hom for HK$2.70 and between Wanchai and Tsim Sha Tsui for HK$2.20.

Trains: The 43.2-kilometre Mass Transit Railway (M.T.R.), serving major population centers on either side of Victoria Harbour from around 6:00am to 1:00am (depending on which line you take), is a highly efficient urban transportation network, running mostly underground. A loop of three interconnecting lines with two spurs links Central, Kowloon and Hong Kong Island's northern coastline. An interchange station at Kowloon Tong allows connection to the Kowloon-Canton Railway (K.C.R.) services. Station announcements are made in both Cantonese and English. The M.T.R. is fast, air-conditioned, efficient and very clean (smoking, eating and drinking are prohibited). It is also quite busy during morning and early-evening commuter hours, and should be avoided at these times. Maximum fare for adult single journey is HK$26, and the ticketing system is electronic, using single-value cards obtainable from ticket machines in all station lobbies or stored-value cards (HK$70, HK$100 and HK$200) obtained from ticket-office windows. Children aged under 3 travel free; children under 12 and students pay reduced fares. Any amount left on a stored-value card (even 10 cents) is sufficient for the last-ride bonus. Cards are valid on both the M.T.R. and K.C.R.. Bulky luggage cannot be taken onto M.T.R. trains.

The 34-kilometre Kowloon-Canton Railway (K.C.R.) electrified railway line connects Hung Hom, near Tsim Sha Tsui East, with 12 stations in Kowloon and the New Territories (including the New Towns of Sha Tin, Tai Po, Fanling and Sheung Shui). Train compartments are air-conditioned and busy during suburban commuting hours. Stopping services run every 10 minutes or so from early morning to midnight, more frequently during peak hours, and total journey time to the last New Territories station is only about half an hour. The final stop, at Lo Wu, is in the restricted borderland and can be used only by passengers with visas to China.

There are express services from Hung Hom via Shenzhen City in the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone (S.E.Z.) to Guangzhou (Canton City), with customs and immigration clearance facilities at Hung Hom. Onward train connections from Guangzhou to other Chinese cities - and, eventually, to Europe - can be booked. As with the M.T.R., electronic cards are used, and fares are inexpensive, maximum fare is HK$33. There is usually at least one first-class carriage per train, for which fares are double the normal rate. Children aged under 3 travel free; children under 12 pay half fare.

The Light Rail Transit (L.R.T.) system, run by the K.C.R., is a high-speed surface system operating in the northwestern New Territories, within the New Town of Tuen Mun, and from Tuen Mun to Yuen Long. Information offices are located at its terminal stations (Yuen Long and Tuen Mun Ferry Pier) and in Tuen Mun Town Center. It is also air-conditioned, frequent and inexpensive. Fares range from HK$4 to HK$5.80 for adults. Children aged under 3 travel free of charge.

Longer-staying visitors or those who ride the MTR, KCR and LR frequently will find the Octopus card, a hi-tech debit card, very useful.

Rickshaws: First designed by an American missionary living in Japan, these man-drawn, two-wheeled, two-seat vehicles are relics of a bygone era. They were introduced to Hong Kong in the 1870s, but the present generation of elderly rickshaw-pullers at the Star Ferry Concourse in Central is the last- new licenses are no longer being issued. For a ride or a photo session, negotiate the price first.

Trams: There are two tram systems.

The Peak Tram provides extraordinary harbour views during its eight-minute, 397-metre ascent of Victoria Peak. Inaugurated a century ago, and recently fully modernized with automated and computerized two-carriage trams, the service runs every 10-15 minutes from 7:00am to midnight daily (and until 8:00pm on Sunday and public holidays), from the Garden Road terminal (just above the Hilton hotel). A free shuttle-bus service runs every 20 minutes from 9:00am to 7:00pm daily, from Hong Kong Island's Star Ferry Concourse to the terminal. Tram tickets cost HK$18 one way or HK$28 round-trip. There are three stations enroute, serving local residents, while the new Peak Galleria shopping and dining complex at the top of the tramway is a major tourist attraction.

Hong Kong Transways, a 13-kilometre street transit system, was established more than 90 years ago. It runs along Hong Kong Island's northern coast, from Kennedy Town to Shau Kei Wan, with a side loop around Happy Valley racecourse. The double-decker trams trundle safely along their midstreet rails, providing top-deck passengers with fascinating slow-motion overviews of Hong Kong's urban bustle, from 6:00am to 1:00am. The fare is HK$2.20 (HK$1.00 for children), no matter how many stages are taken, and paid into the driver's coin box upon alighting; have exact change ready.

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