Hong Kong travel guide
About Hong Kong
Steamy and gargantuan, Hong Kong has evolved into one of Asia’s most lovable cities. Its incredible skyline – part neon, part steel-and-glass, part towering hills – is one of the most majestic in the world, but it’s a mere backdrop to the 24-hour flurry of activity that makes Hong Kong what it is.
From its boat-buzzed waterfront to its packed dim sum restaurants, its incense-smoked temples to its clattering teahouses, its street markets to its old-world hotels, Hong Kong is a destination teeming with energy. For travellers, the best advice is to go with the flow.
Situated at the mouth of the Pearl River Delta on China’s southwestern coast, Hong Kong is a city that has a remarkable mix of Eastern and Western influences. The handover of this territory from Britain to China was back in 1997, but the centuries of British rule still have a lasting legacy, tangible in everything from the grand period architecture to the local passion for horse-racing.
Even the name of Hong Kong’s centrepiece – the iconic Victoria Harbour – harks back to another era, and today there’s an international flavour to the destination that sets it apart from other Chinese cities. The gastronomy, nightlife and shopping are all world-class.
Hong Kong Island, with its glistening skyscrapers and high-end shopping malls, is in many ways the heartbeat of the city. Get down to street level, however, and the laneways, wet markets and traditional Chinese haunts are a reminder that beyond the city lies a working class populace still making ends meet the old fashioned way – and often the hard way.
It’s also worth remembering, of course, that there’s far more to Hong Kong than the city itself. Its natural attractions include hiker-friendly ranges, volcanic landscapes, pristine woodlands, sleepy islands, protected marine parks and miles of golden beaches.
1,104 sq km (426 sq miles).
7,346,248 (UN estimate 2016).
6,468.4 per sq km.
Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.
President of China Xi Jinping since 2013.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam since 2017.
Last updated: 15 September 2019
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
In recent months, large-scale political demonstrations have taken place throughout Hong Kong. Unauthorised protests have become more frequent and widespread and affected many areas, including those popular with tourists. While a number of peaceful activities have taken place, many other protests have led to clashes between police and protesters involving significant violence. Reports indicate protests are likely to continue, including:
- A protest on the afternoon of 14 September that may affect public transport and road traffic to and from Hong Kong International Airport. If you’re travelling to the airport, allow extra time for your journey.
- A protest on the afternoon of 15 September between East Point Road, Causeway Bay and Chater Road, Central.
The situation around protests and public gatherings can change quickly, with the potential for violence, especially during unauthorised protests. Unauthorised protests have been met by a more rapid and severe police response, including heavy use of tear gas, bean bag rounds and “sponge grenades”. Police have also deployed water cannon and, occasionally, rubber bullets. Protests can deviate from planned routes or rally locations and spill over into nearby public spaces, such as shopping centres, housing estates and public transport hubs. If you’re in an area where demonstrations are taking place, you should remain vigilant, follow the advice of local authorities and move away quickly to a safe place if there are signs of disorder.
Demonstrations may lead to sections of the city being closed off and road blocks being set up, as well as significant disruption to public transport. During recent protests, local buses, metro (MTR), Airport Express services and the Hong Kong Macao Ferry Terminal have temporarily suspended operations without warning. Violent protests have also taken place inside or near MTR stations. You should remain vigilant at all times and check live service updates on the MTR website.
Protests and violent clashes at Hong Kong International Airport have previously resulted in mass cancellations of flights in and out of Hong Kong. Further disruption is possible if protests return to the airport or its transport links. If you’re due to travel, check your flight status regularly, keep up to date with the latest developments via local media and consider allowing extra time to travel to the airport and complete check-in procedures.
There are reports of greater scrutiny from mainland authorities at border crossings between the mainland and Hong Kong at this time, including checks on travellers’ electronic devices. You should be aware that the thresholds for detention and prosecution in China differ from those in Hong Kong.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Hong Kong, attacks can’t be ruled out.
The typhoon season in Hong Kong normally runs from April to October. You should follow the advice of the local authorities.
You should take sensible precautions against pick pocketing and other street crime. See Crime
572,739 British nationals visited Hong Kong in 2018. Most visits are trouble free.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.
Safety and security
Hong Kong is generally a stable society underpinned by the rule of law. However recent months have seen several large-scale political demonstrations, many of which have involved clashes between protestors and police. These have involved significant violence. Reports indicate that the protests are likely to continue.
You should be prepared that the situation could change quickly in areas where protests and public gatherings are taking place. If you are in and around areas where demonstrations are, you should remain vigilant, follow the advice of local authorities and move away quickly to a safe place if there are signs of disorder.
The level of violent crime is very low but pick pocketing and other street crime can occur. You should take extra care of passports, credit cards and money in crowded areas and when checking in and out of hotels. There have been some isolated incidents of robberies in Hong Kong’s Country Parks; these incidents have been reduced following a crime prevention operation by the Hong Kong Police. Nevertheless, if you intend to hike in Hong Kong’s Country Parks you should stick to marked trails and avoid carrying valuables.
Personal attacks, including sexual assaults, are rare but they do occur, including through drinks being spiked. You should take reasonable precautions - don’t leave drinks unattended and avoid accepting drinks from strangers. Women, travelling alone or with female friends, could be at greater risk - see our advice for women travelling abroad.
On 20 July, Hong Kong police announced that they had seized a quantity of explosives and offensive weapons in the New Territories and that they were still investigating the motive.
If you’re a visitor to Hong Kong, and not taking up residence, you can drive in Hong Kong with a valid UK driving licence for up to 12 months.
If you’re planning on taking up residence in Hong Kong, please visit the Hong Kong SAR Transport Department website for more information on applying for a full or temporary driving licence.
If you’re planning to hire a car, check with your car hire company for information on their requirements before you travel. Ongoing protest activity could affect certain road routes across Hong Kong, including the cross-harbour tunnel and other major bridges and toll plazas. In recent months, protesters have erected blockades throughout the city in areas where protests are taking place.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Hong Kong, attacks can’t be ruled out.
You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be in public areas, including those visited by foreigners.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Local laws and customs
The import and re-export of all elephant ivory and its products, including tourist souvenirs, is banned. Offenders could face a fine and/or imprisonment.
Hong Kong law is based mainly on UK law. There are on the spot fines for littering and spitting. There is zero tolerance for ticketless travel on the Mass Transit Railway (MTR).
Don’t become involved with illegal drugs of any kind. Possession of these drugs can lead to imprisonment.
Don’t take photographs of military installations. Since the 1997 handover, the defence of Hong Kong has been the responsibility of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). All previous British military barracks now belong to the PLA.
The Hong Kong SAR Government has restrictions in place on the quantity of powdered baby formula allowed for persons departing the territory. Penalties for non compliance are severe. See: Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department website
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Although Hong Kong is now part of the People’s Republic of China it remains a Special Administrative Region with its own immigration controls. You can visit Hong Kong for up to 6 months without a visa.
If you plan to work or study in Hong Kong, or stay for a period of longer than 6 months you will need to get a visa. For further information contact the nearest Chinese mission with visa issuing facilities or the Hong Kong Immigration Department (Immigration Tower, 7 Gloucester Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong; telephone: 852 2824 6111).
Your passport should be valid for at least one month after the date of your departure from Hong Kong.
Visits to mainland China
If you are travelling to mainland China via Hong Kong you must get a Chinese visa before arrival at the border. Visas are not available on arrival at the Chinese border for British passport holders. If you are entering Hong Kong via mainland China and leaving again via the mainland you will need a double or multiple entry visa for mainland China.
Bringing restricted items into Hong Kong
According to Hong Kong law, it’s illegal for visitors travelling to or transiting through Hong Kong International Airport to carry certain items including stun guns, objects with sharp points or edges (eg samurai swords) and martial arts equipment (eg knuckledusters). Offenders are liable to a severe fine or imprisonment. For a full list of restricted items, visit the website of the Hong Kong Police Force.
If you’re entering Hong Kong with e-cigarettes containing nicotine, you’ll need a medical prescription indicating that they’re for personal use. If the e-cigarette is nicotine-free and for personal use, no medical prescription is needed. For more information visit the Hong Kong Department of Health website.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Hong Kong.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
Mosquito-borne diseases like Dengue Fever occur all year round. You should take appropriate precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. UK health authorities have classified Hong Kong as having a risk of dengue virus transmission. For information and advice about the risks associated with dengue fever visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) website.
You may undergo temperature screening at borders. Depending on the results, further medical examinations may be required.
Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation. The cost of medical treatment in Hong Kong is high.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 999 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
The typhoon season in Hong Kong normally runs from April to October. Typhoons sometimes hit Hong Kong and may cause flooding and landslides. Local warnings are issued in advance. Public offices shut down when the ‘Typhoon 8’ signal is hoisted.
You should monitor local and international weather updates from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and Hong Kong Observatory. See Tropical Cyclones page for advice on what to do if you are caught up in a storm.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.