General Info about Hong Kong

The currency is the Hong Kong dollar (HK$). Notes come in denominations of $10, $20, $50, $100, $500 and $1,000 and the coins in use are 10c, 20c, 50c, $1, $2, $5 and the new $10 coin.

The official languages spoken in Hong Kong are Chinese and English. Cantonese is the most widely spoken Chinese dialect but Mandarin, Shanghainese and some others are also used. Most people in tourist areas and in shops and hotels speak English as well as all policemen wearing a red shoulder badge.

Hong Kong has a sub-tropical climate. During November and December there is plenty of sunshine but pleasant breezes meant that temperatures remain comfortable. Many regard these two months as the best to travel to the region. January and February are cloudy and cold and temperatures often drop to below 10 °C. March and April are pleasant but there are occasional spells of extremely high humidity. From May to August the weather is hot and humid with occasional showers and thunderstorms. And finally, September and October are the months when Hong Kong is most likely to be hit by tropical cyclones although gales are not unusual at any time between May and November.

Time Zone
Hong Kong is eight hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.

Opening Hours
The majority of shops in the central district of Hong Kong are open seven days a week between 10.00am and 6.00pm. In the Causeway Bay and Wan Chai area they open from 10.00am until 9.30pm and in Tsim Sha Tsui East they open between 10.00am and 7.30pm. Practically all bars open until 2.00am but many remain open until at least 5.00 or after sunrise.

Businesses open between 9.00am and 5.00pm from Monday to Friday with lunch from 1.00pm until 2.00pm. Many also open between 9.00am and 1.00pm on Saturdays.

The voltage in Hong Kong is 200/220 volts, 50 cycles AC.

Post Office
The main post offices are on beside the Star Ferry on Hong Kong Island and at 10 Middle Road, Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon. Both branches are open between 8.00am and 6.00pm from Monday to Friday and between 8.00am and 2.00pm on Saturdays.

Visa Requirements
All that visitors from Western Europe, North and South America, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and many African countries require to enter Hong Kong is a valid passport. The legal duration of your stay will depend on your particular nationality and ranges between fourteen and ninety days. If you do intend to extend this period you should apply for a visa before travelling as it is very unusual to gain permission to change it once you are in Hong Kong. Furthermore if you have any doubts as to whether you need a visa to enter the region in the first place you should contact the Hong Kong Immigration Department or the Chinese consulate in your home country.

Currency Exchange
The best place to exchange money in Hong Kong is in any of the number of banks. It is worth noting, however, that the exchange rate can vary from bank to bank and branch to branch so it is worth shopping around for the best value. The three main banks are the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, Standard Chartered Bank and Bank of China. Opening hours vary among the different banks but they are generally between 9.00am and 4.30pm from Monday to Friday and from 9.00am until 12.30pm on Saturdays. It is worth remembering, however, that many banks stop all transactions one hour before closing time.

You will come across money changers in the tourist areas but you should avoid them if you can. They often charge a commission fee and give a much lower rate than the banks do. If you are changing money at the airport, only change what you need to get by on until you get to a bank.

There are also twenty-four hour money changing machines in Hong Kong called Ea$yxchange. These machines accept British Sterling and Australian, Canadian and US dollars and change them into Hong Kong Dollars. Again be prepared to receive a poorer exchange rate if you do avail of this service.

All major credit cards are accepted in the bigger restaurants and shops and can be used in ATMS throughout Hong Kong. As well as this bankcards which are members of international networks such as Cirrus and Plus can be used in ATMs which state that they accept them. It is worth remembering, however, that you pay a nominal fee every time you withdraw cash using either your visa or your ordinary ATM card.

The international country code for Hong Kong is 852 so if you are calling from abroad you need to dial 00, followed by 852, the local area code and the local number. When making an international call from within Hong Kong you need to dial 001~009 followed by the country code, the local area code and the local number. For information dial 013.

The public telephones in the city are advanced, economical and user-friendly. Local calls are free so many shops and restaurants will offer use of a telephone free of charge to their customers. A call from a public phone will cost you $1 but a more convenient method involves using stored-value phonecards which come in denominations of $50, $150 and $200. These are especially good value for international calls. The other option is the Hello Phonecard which will cost you either $100, $200, $300 and will allow you to make calls to over 30 countries world wide. Both can be purchased in most shops and newsagents in Hong Kong.

Most establishments include a ten per cent service charge and where this is the case and additional five per cent is gratefully accepted but not necessary. If a service charge has not been added, a ten per cent tip is sufficient. Taxi drivers should also be given a small tip.

Public Holidays
It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel to a country as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day. In Hong Kong they take place on January 1st, 24th, 25th and 26th, April 5th and 30th, Good Friday, Easter Saturday, Easter Monday, May 1st, June 25th, July 1st and 2nd, October 1st, 2nd and 25th and December 25th and 26th. It is a good idea to check the particular area too as certain towns and cities also shut down during special events.

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