Strategically located at the doorstep of China and the centre of Asia-Pacific, Hong Kong has, in the last 150 years, developed into one of the world's leading manufacturing, trading and service centres. Its open economy is built on free trade and free enterprise. Geographically, the territory is divided into four distinct areas: Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, the New Territories and the outlying Islands. Hong Kong is subtropical with a relatively high humidity. Temperature ranges from 10 oC in the winter to 30 oC in the summer.
English and Chinese are the official languages. Street signs, menus, tourist and government publications are usually bilingual.
Money and Banking
Most banks are open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on weekdays, and from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. There is no foreign exchange control in the territory and the Hong Kong dollar is freely convertible. In Hong Kong, any currency, including mainland China's renminbi (RMB), may be bought and sold in the open market. Visitors can exchange foreign currency at any bank or exchange shop or at the cashier counters of hotels. Daily exchange rates are available through any bank, but the Hong Kong dollar is pegged at HK$7.8 to US$1. The government issues coins in denominations of 10c, 20c, 50c, $1, $2, $5 and $10. There are also three different kinds of notes in denominations of $10, $20, $50, $100, $500 and $1,000.
Hong Kong's efficient and low-cost public transport system includes three railways, buses, trams, taxis and ferries. There are three road-only tunnels crossing the harbour.
To and From the Airport
From July 6, 1998, travellers to Hong Kong will be served by one of the world's largest and most modern airports situated at the Chek Lap Kok on the outlying island of Lantau. The easiest connection from the airport to Central and Kowloon is the Airport Express Railway, which takes just 19 minutes to get to Kowloon, and an extra 4 minutes to Hong Kong. Adult single journey fare is HK$100. In addition, express bus service called "Airbus" operates on frequent schedules to popular spots in the city, with stops near most major hotels. An overnight bus service will cover the airport's 24-hour operation. Taxis are also an option and fares from Chek Lap Kok range from HK$200-HK$400.
The Mass Transit Railway (MTR) [Tel: (852) 2881-8888] is an underground/elevated railway network comprising 11 lines and 91 stations. Depending on which line you take, the system generally runs from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. Cars and stations are air-conditioned. The MTR links up with the Kowloon-Canton Railway (KCR) [Tel: (852) 2602-7799] which runs from Tsimshatsui East in Kowloon to Lo Wu at the border to the Special Economic Zone of Shenzhen on the Mainland. The third railway is the Light Rail Transit [Tel: (852) 2468-7788], which runs between Tuen Mun and Yuen Long in the New Territories.
Trams ply the northern shore of Hong Kong Island at a fixed fare from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. There is also the century-old Peak Tram, a funicular railway which runs up to the Peak from 7:00 a.m. to midnight at about 15-minute intervals. Tel: (852) 2522-0922.
The Star Ferry Co [Tel: (852) 2366-2576] operates a shuttle service between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Ferries between Central and Tsim Sha Tsui run every few minutes from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Other Star Ferry boats connect Central with Hung Hom (7:00 a.m. to 7:20 p.m.) and Wan Chai to Tsim Sha Tsui (7:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.). The Wan Chai Ferry Pier is within a few minutes walk of the HKTDC offices and the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Taxi fares are charged by metered tariff. When crossing the harbour by either cross-harbour tunnel, the two-way tunnel toll is added to the fare. With the other tunnels, only the one-way toll is added. There is an extra charge per piece of luggage (both of these extra charges are signposted in the taxi). Flagfall and charges are displayed. Tipping is usually confined to small change. There are two taxi jurisdictions in Hong Kong -- urban and New Territories. Radio taxis: Tel: (852) 2574-7311 / (852) 2527-6324 (Hong Kong Island), (852) 2760-0411 / (852) 2670-0477 (Kowloon), (852) 2457-2266 / (852) 2697-4333 (New Territories).
According to Hong Kong Immigration Department, nationals of most foreign countries can visit Hong Kong visa-free. Applicants may submit their visa applications directly to Hong Kong Immigration Department, or through Chinese diplomatic or consular missions in their place of domicile.
Enquiries can be directed to:
Hong Kong Immigration Department
Immigration Tower, 7 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong.
Tel : (852) 2824-6111 Fax : (852) 2824-1133 / 2877-7711
Visas for Mainland China Travel
All travellers to the Chinese Mainland, except Hong Kong Chinese residents, require visas. The mainland issues single-entry, double-entry and multiple-entry (six months, unlimited entry) visas, the latter designed for frequent travellers who have long-term business establishments (e.g. joint ventures) in the mainland. The Visa Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC at 42 Kennedy Road, Central, Hong Kong. [Tel: (852) 2585-1663 / 2585-1680]. Hours: Monday to Friday 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., and the China Travel Service at various locations, Central office, [Tel: (852) 2522-0450], Tsim Sha Tsui office, [Tel: (852) 2736-1863]. Many travel agencies specialising in China travel can also obtain visas. The China Travel Service normally takes 48 hours to issue a visa, but can do so in one day for a premium. The Visa Office takes 24 hours and also offers a more expensive same-day service.