It's been 10 days since our arrival in Hong Kong and generally speaking, we're having a good time. However, despite the beautiful city views, efficient metro system, free tea refills in the restaurants and fast WiFi, we have encountered some negative aspects of Hong Kong we think you should know about before you arrive. Read our tips to find out how you can avoid the negatives and enjoy your trip.
1. Hong Kong accommodation is not cheap
If, like us, you spend most of your time wandering and less of your time dealing with the fine details such as booking your accommodation, expect to pay. Upon arrival in Hong Kong we went in search of a cheap hostel we could afford to stay in for two weeks.
With everything either booked out or extremely overpriced, we eventually settled on the cheapest we could find - a tiny single room without an outside window, in a small guesthouse in the middle of a twenty - something story building for the equivalent of $40 a night.
Having just come from Thailand (a backpackers haven) where we were paying a mere $10 a night for a room in a clean guesthouse with fresh air and a good atmosphere, we were feeling ripped off to say the least.
2 tips to avoid blowing all of your budget on accommodation before you've even started:
- Book online at least 1 week before you arrive in Hong Kong to secure a room and pay less for it. It'll also save your legs from lots of walking.
- Create a profile on Couchsurfing. The online community is home to thousands of hosts throughout the world who offer their spare couch to travelers willing to create new friendships along their journey.
2. Hong Kong can be stressful
If you're looking for somewhere to go where you can relax and take your mind off all the stress in your life, this is not the place to come. Day 1 in Hong Kong and we were already feeling completely drowned by the fast paced, must make money now attitude of the people surrounding us (and there's a lot of people in Hong Kong).
We started feeling agitated and stressed ourselves as the city began to rub off on us. People push and shove to get to where they want to be with no consideration of others and they also become quite rude, losing their patience (especially with foreigners) very quickly.
Women line the streets handing out fliers offering cheap massage for relaxation but the problem is, nobody has time for that!
2 tips to avoid the stress:
- Do your research and find somewhere to stay that's a little further away from the major areas of Hong Kong. You'll have somewhere to escape to and chances are it'll cost you less. With Metro's connecting you to the entire city it is also extremely easy to get to all business, shopping and nightlife areas.
- Step back, take a breathe and smile. Just because all of these people have deadlines to meet, places to be and money to make it doesn't mean you do. Remember, you're on holiday and they're not, so go about your day at your own leisurely pace and enjoy yourself.
3. The people can come across as rude
We've experienced this on many occasions now. Perhaps three times we've gone to purchase something in a shop and been spoken to rudely, yelled at in Chinese or simply ignored.
Okay, there's a language barrier, we get that but seriously, all they need to do is kindly accept our money, give us a smile and we'd be satisfied customers.
In most cases we've felt as though we've been an annoyance rather than a couple of people doing them a favour.
How do we suggest you avoid this? Our 2 tips:
- Learn some basic Cantonese. Knowing words and phrases such as hello, goodbye, thank you, sorry, 'how much is this?' And 'I don't speak Chinese' would be a good start.
- If that fails, smile. It's contagious. Maybe they just need their day brightening up. If you're still getting nowhere, chances are, that's how they choose to treat everybody so don't let it get to you.
4. Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated places in the world
Twice now we've been walking down the ramp and into the ferry that takes people across to the other side of Victoria Harbour when an alarm goes off and a gate begins to close as people try to squeeze through. The crowd then pushes it's way through to the ferry entrance in order to get a seat for the ten minute boat ride.
Now, first of all, who cares if you don't get a seat? Stand outside and breathe some fresh air. Second of all, we are not cattle, so why act like it?
Another example is on the underground Metro's. Let's just say being 'close' to random people you've never met before is an understatement. Get on one of those trains in peak hour and you'll be practically cuddling the person in front of you. How romantic!
2 tips to avoid being drowned in a sea of people every time you want to do anything:
- Beat the peak time traffic. Don't travel anywhere between the hours of 7 - 9 am and 4 - 6 pm. Enjoy a coffee and some cake while you wait.
- Plan where you want to go for the day. It helps to map out where you're going and how long you want to spend there so you can organise your mode of transport around it. There are many other modes of transport other than the metro, bus and ferry. Some of which include taxi, tram and walking - all of which are less crowded.
5. You may be seated with random people in restaurants
Because of the above factor, customers are sat wherever there's a spare seat. This is usually at your table. Now we understand that in order for these restaurants to profit they need to be able to turn over customers.
However, someone should at least ask us before placing someone we don't know on our table. We don't have a problem with others sitting with us but if we are discussing something private or important we would like the option to say no.
Another thing is that the restaurants are usually freezing cold to get people in and out quickly, which is kind of annoying and uncomfortable.
My 2 tips:
- If you want to sit alone, request a table with no extra spots available. If you sit at a table for 4 and there's only 2 of you, it's only logical for the restaurant to seat other people at the unused spots, considering the amount of people that flow through.
- Bring a jacket. You will be cold.
6. People sell fake products
If you happen to be staying in the Tsim Sha Tsui area, be prepared to be approached by numerous salesmen offering everything from suits, hand bags and fake watches to illegal drugs.
Whilst you will learn how to avoid the people on the streets, it's the shop owners that you've got to look out for.
The first time Dan was in Hong Kong he planned to buy a camera. Looking through the window at a Canon 550D in a shop that seemed legit, he was invited inside to have a look. When he got to the counter the man pulled out what seemed to be a camera of better brand and quality for a slightly higher cost than the Canon.
Thinking he'd got himself a good deal, Dan purchased the camera and went home to test it out, taking some pictures along the way. When he put the video and picture files onto the computer, he noticed that they were of terrible quality, so he instantly began doing his research.
It turned out that the camera he'd bought was a complete fake. Furious, Dan went back to the shop to get his money back. As soon as he walked in, the man knew exactly what was wrong and within seconds he had the original camera ready to go.
2 tips to avoid spending money on fake products:
- Do your research and have a clear vision of what it is that you want before being persuaded into buying something. If you've never heard of the product before or if the salesman is trying hard to sway your decision, it's most probably of bad quality or a fake.
- Bring a smart phone with you. If you are unsure about the product, you can look it up right there and then before you commit to paying any money.
While we love Hong Kong, these are just a few things that are getting to us a little. But hey, that's what travelling is all about!
Have you encountered any negative things about Hong Kong? What experience did you have? Tell us below!