I have a curious relationship with Hong Kong. It is my birthplace but I don’t have many memories of it (left when I was 6 years old). I look and speak Cantonese but I don’t dress or act like a Hong Konger.
As such, my advice about travelling to Hong Kong with kids combines a foreigner’s perspective on this intense city with a sprinkling of local knowledge about where to find respite.
Here are my Top 10 tips for travelling to Hong Kong with young children.
1. Airport transfer
Unless you’re hauling a lot of luggage the Airport Express takes passengers to Central in just 24 minutes. Quick and comfortable, trains depart at about 10-12 minute intervals. It costs HKD$100 to Hong Kong station (there are 3 other stops) but if you book through Klook you get a 30% discount to HKD$70.
If you take the Airport Express to the airport you can check-in your luggage at Hong Kong and Kowloon Stations between 90 minutes and one day ahead of the scheduled flight departure time. You can leave any hand luggage you don’t want to carry around at the Left Luggage counter at Hong Kong and Kowloon stations.
At the Airport Express ticket counter also buy an Octopus prepaid tap and go cards for public transport and sundries. We start our cards with HKD$200, note kids from 3-11 years have to pay ½ price. For our trip the grandparents gifted the kids a SmileyWorld Octopus ornament so they can wear and tap their own transport fares.
You can get a refund for the return of the card at the end of the trip.
If you’re taking a taxi just be aware that traffic jams can mean the fare is hugely expensive. If you have some local knowledge (or a helpful Airbnb host) it may be preferable to book a private car pickup.
2. Find accommodation out of the central area
On our first visit to Hong Kong as a family we decide to stay somewhere central. For 3 adults and 2 children we rent this Airbnb apartment in Wan Chai, right in the heart of the party and entertainment district.
The positive of the location is that public transport, convenience stores and eateries are all in close proximity. We also get to explore a bit of local Hong Kong culture through Wan Chai Market, the cooked food centre at Lockhart Road and the morning fitness regimes at Southorn Playground.
The negative of the location is the size and noise. Our apartment is relatively spacious by Hong Kong standards but tiny by Australian standards. I feel like we were all on top of each other and we are always forced to leave the apartment before the kids start climbing the walls. Also there is a bit of traffic noise from the front room even though the road doesn’t have buses or trams running along it.
Next time I visit Hong Kong with kids I’m going to stay out of the main commercial areas – Wan Chai, Admiralty, Central, Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsiu. Maybe Repulse Bay or another stop somewhere along the new South Island MTR line with direct connection into Admiralty. Even the ‘suburban’ areas are convenient for shops and eateries as Hong Kong is such a densely populated city and as long as you’re close to the MTR it’s easy to get to the commercial areas quickly.
If you book Airbnb use my discount link to get $50 off your first booking (I also receive credit) www.airbnb.com.au/c/jwatts3?s=8
3. Use public transport
Public transport in Hong Kong is generally fast, efficient and cheap. With your Octopus card you can travel on any mode of public transport easily.
I think public transport in Hong Kong is a tourist attraction in itself. There are 6 must do public transport experiences:
- Ride the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour, one of the most relaxing ways to see and experience Hong Kong. Apparently the view from Tsim Sha Tsiu (Kowloon) to Central or Wan Chai (Hong Kong Island) is better but either way is really find with kids.
- Take a double decker bus to the Mid-Levels or the Peak. My kids LOVE sitting in the front seat of the double-decker buses for the view and I find it much easier to orientate myself on a bus than in a subway. The buses all have English stop by stop announcements too so they’re easy to navigate. A bus that winds up the Mid-Levels towards the peak takes a particularly winding route that can be fun (if you don’t suffer from motion sickness). For more scenic bus routes in Hong Kong click here.
- Ride the Peak Tram. Hong Kong’s oldest public transport vehicle takes a gravity-defying trip up to Victoria Peak, Hong Kong’s highest point. Pre-purchase discounted tickets via Klook or avoid the queues and combine the your ticket with other attractions via Klook.
- Ride a double decker tram. It’s a bit squashy, a bit hot, but trundling on a double-decker tram is a quintessential Hong Kong experience.
- Take the MTR. Hong Kong’s subway is fast and clean and will transport you to longer distances quickly. Just avoid the intense squash of peak hour. For short distances (eg one or two stops) I prefer the bus.
- Ride the Central to Mid-Levels Escalators. The world’s longest escalator takes commuters from Mid-Levels in the mornings and from Central to Mid-Levels from 10am. There’s lots of shops and eateries enroute too.
Just note that the green mini buses can be more difficult to navigate than the double decker buses. The bus stops are not always apparent, you’re allowed to flag them down but only in designated areas and they don’t always have English signage.
Avoid peak hour
Peak hour is normally weekdays 7:30-9am and if you can avoid travelling by MTR then do so. The exchange stops of Central and Admiralty are particularly crowded because it’s the financial and business district.
Note about prams and the subway. Subway stations will normally have at least one elevator to get you from ground level to platform – but you may not be at the right entrance for such a facility. In such cases you will have to bounce or carry a pram down stairs so it’s a two-person job. It is sometimes easier taking the pram on the escalator, though technically you’re not supposed to.
Uber is an international taxi, private car and rideshare app which I use regularly in Australia. It’s easy, quick and convenient.
I use Uber in Hong Kong to get to the airport with kids and luggage instead of taking the Airport Express. It’s cheaper than a standard taxi plus I can track a car’s progress and the cars and drivers are vetted and rated and I get billed to my credit card so I don’t have to fuss about with the right money.
Note that in Hong Kong child seats are not required by law but of course recommended (more info here). As such, you can use UberX vehicles with kids even thought they are private citizen’s cars.
Sign up to Uber with my referral code ‘cnoub’ to get $10 off your first ride.
Hong Kong is an international city so if you choose to you can eaten (good) Western food the whole time.
However, it’s worth trying some quintessential Hong Kong dining experiences:
- Yum cha – there’s high end and low end options. We choose to go to Maxim’s Palace at City Hall as it’s spacious, with great views of the Hong Kong Wheel and the food is pretty good.
- Won ton noodles – It’s worth seeking out won ton noodles even though the restaurants can often a bit squashy and with no English menus. Just point! The most famous chain is Mak’s Noodle.
- Egg puffs – a street food that’s best eaten fresh, these Hong Kong style waffles are the throwback to my childhood.
- Hong Kong desserts – sweet soup and glutinous rice balls are two of my favourite Chinese desserts. We try the famous steamed egg and milk puddings at cranky Yee Shun Dairy Company and the sesame and almond soup at Ching Ching Dessert.
- Cha chaan tang – what do Hong Kongers eat for breakfast? Traditionally congee (rice porridge) but often a mish-mash of Western and Chinese food at a Cha Chaan Tang (Tea restaurant). Lady AB and I become regulars at the one in Wan Chai Market where she gets a fried egg, sausage and white toast and I get instant noodles with processed ham with tea for just HKD $34.
- Dai pai dong – really more of a late night venue, with street food galore at rowdy, messy ‘cooked food centres’. Best to go with a recommendation and a blind eye to the dirty surroundings.
For food research I like to use OpenRice, the Zomato/Urbanspoon equivalent in Hong Kong with user reviews. Many of the reviews are in Chinese but a few in English so you’ll get the gist. I find English-dominant sites like Tripadvisor/CNN etc provide more of an ‘expat’ view of the food scene in Hong Kong.
Prepare for nightlife
Hong Kong is a late night city – everything opens late and stays open late.
This poses problems with our early-rising crew, not aided by the 3 hour time difference which means 4am wakeups.
In the mornings we take advantage of no crowds to visit produce markets (normally open 6am) and park playgrounds to kill time before most things open at 10am.
Hire a pocket wifi
If you are using a smartphone save on international roaming and data fees by renting a pocket wifi for your time in Hong Kong. I find it invaluable as we can search Google Maps on the go, check emails for ticket information and communicate with each other via iMessage or Whats App whenever we get separated or lost!
I book through Klook, the cheapest company I could find for 7 day hire with 1GB data usage for HKD$60. You pick up the pocket wifi at the Airport Arrivals terminal and drop off at the same place. Easy.
Book ahead for attractions
If you’re visiting the big theme parks Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park Hong Kong then book ahead to get discount tickets sent to your email/mobile and avoid waiting in queues.
Find some quiet
Hong Kong is an intense, noisy and busy city and when you’re travelling with young kids you need to find some respite.
It’s highly likely that your accommodation will be too small to hang out comfortably for long periods so seek out playgrounds inside parks, Hong Kong Central Library (including the Toy Library) and the Star Ferry.
Note: This post contains Klook affiliate links. If you purchase via affiliate links there is no extra cost to you and I receive a small commission. I used Klook in Hong Kong with no problems and saved time and money! Check out all the discount activities, tours and attractions they offer here.