A guide to settling in Hong Kong

Hong Kong skyline

High quality of life, great job opportunities, prosperous economy… Hong Kong is one of the most dynamic cities in the world and attracts new expatriates every year. If you are ready to take the leap, discover everything that you need to know to successfully expatriate in the city. 

Finding a place to live in Hong Kong

If you are completely new to Hong Kong, it can be a little delicate to know what the best place for you to live is. Here are a few tips to decide which area(s) could suit you the most. There are indeed many things that will impact on your choice: are you moving alone or with your partner? Do you have children and want to live close to their school? Would you rather live closer to your office?

Areas like Stanley, Repulse Bay or Discovery Bay attract many expats families because of their great quality of living and attractive coastal life. Other areas like Kowloon Tong and West Kowloon are also very family-friendly and can be less expensive options. If you want to stay closer to Central, you might consider Mid-Levels, Sheung Wan or Sai Ying Pun as your new home. All these neighbourhoods gather a young, dynamic expat community and offer a great variety of restaurants, bars, coffees shops… There are many other areas that attract a lot of expatriates – simply try to define your priorities to decide which one could be the perfect fit for you.

To find an apartment in Hong Kong, you will then have plenty of options. If you have already decided in which neighbourhood you want to settle, you can start by contacting several real estate agencies in this area. If you don’t know any, don’t worry, you will be able to find many just by walking in the street. Tell them your budget, your preferred moving date and all your expectations. Don’t be afraid to be exigent: you can visit many apartments before finding the one that really suits you. There are also many websites and Facebook groups where you will be able to find offers for apartments for rent. And if you are on a budget, don’t forget that there are numerous flat share opportunities in Hong Kong

Once you have found the perfect apartment, you will have to pay a security deposit. Most of the time, the amount corresponds to two-months rent plus one month in advance. Lease agreements can vary widely depending on the landlords or agencies. Some will rent their apartment under long-term leasehold while some others won’t even require a minimum stay. Always pay close attention to the rental agreement before signing anything to make sure that the terms offered meet your expectations.

Sending your kids to school in Hong Kong

If you have children, you will be glad to know that Hong Kong possesses a high level educative system. However, it is really important for you to start looking for a new school as soon as know that you will be relocating to the city. A normal school application should actually be done at least one year in advance. Many schools consider late applications for families who have just moved to Hong Kong but note that your child will only be accepted if a place is still available. Choosing a school for your children as early as possible will give you more chances to place them in the establishment of your choice.

Hong Kong offers a great variety of local and international schools for children of all ages as well as some world-class universities. However, education costs are incredibly high so you need to be prepared to dedicate a large part of your budget to the education of your children. Also keep in mind there is a huge competition to enter Hong Kong’s top private schools. Even if you have the budget, your child might not enter in the school of your choice, so always be ready for an alternative.

Getting around Hong Kong

Hong Kong has an incredibly efficient and modern transportation network and there are many ways to get around the city:

The MTR: Hong Kong’s subway system, including eleven rail lines to get all around the city

The bus: Hong Kong possesses an incredible number of bus and minibus lines that will take you anywhere. Buses are a really cheap alternative to the MTR.

-  The ferry: As a coastal city, Hong Kong possesses numerous ferry routes. If you need to cross the sea from Tsim Sha Tsui to Hong Kong Island, the Star Ferry will easily make the connection and offer you breathtaking views of the city. Many ferries also operate from Central to outlying islands such as Lamma, Lantau or Cheung Chau.

-  The tram: Probably the oldest mean of transportation in Hong Kong, trams are one of the most affordable but also fun ways to get around the city. The fixed price is only $2.30, no matter where you go.

-  The taxi: If you need an alternative to public transportation, you will be able to find taxis very easily in most areas. The transportation fare starts at $24, which is relatively cheap, and all cars are air-conditioned, clean and comfortable. 

To get around the city easily, the first thing you should do is purchase an Octopus card. This stored-value electronic card can be used in all MTR lines, ferries and trams and in most buses and taxis. In addition to transportations, you will also be able to use it in convenience stores, fast food restaurants and supermarkets!

Staying healthy in Hong Kong

Hong Kong possesses one of the most efficient healthcare systems in the world. Both public and private hospitals offer high-quality care, advanced equipment and highly-trained practitioners and it will be very easy for you to find a doctor or a specialist all around the city.

However, this quality of care also comes with a high price and healthcare costs are known to be extremely high in Hong Kong. One of the most important things to do when you settle here is therefore to purchase a quality health insurance that will cover all your medical expenses. To learn more about Hong Kong’s healthcare system as well as your insurance options, don’t hesitate to contact [dot] hk [at] april [dot] com (contact one of our advisors.)

Enjoying the city

Hong Kong is an incredibly dynamic city and always surprises newcomers with its diversity of cultures and its great landscapes diversity.

Start exploring the city to become more familiar with the different neighbourhoods and islands, with the food, with the transportation or with the local culture. Among the most famous activities to do in Hong Kong, here is where you should start:

  • Head to Victoria Peak

If you are looking for a breathtaking view of Hong Kong, this is definitely where you should start. You can either enjoy a one-hour walk to the Peak, take the bus or the Peak Tram to head to the top.

  • Try local food

One of the first things you should do in the city is trying its famous dims sums. You will be able to find numerous restaurants serving local specialities in all areas of Hong Kong.

  • Go hiking

Hong Kong is home to numerous hiking trails where you can enjoy beautiful landscapes all along the way. Whether you are in the mood for an urban hike or an island trail, you will be able to discover Hong Kong from another angle. Try Dragon’s Back or Tai Long Wan for amazing ocean views or head to Lion’s Rock for a glimpse of the city’s skyline.

  • Visit Hong Kong’s many islands

If you have the chance to arrive during spring or summer, you should definitely visit Hong Kong’s outlying islands and enjoy its beautiful beaches only a few minutes away from the city. Go to Lamma Island or Cheung Chau to enjoy amazing seafood restaurants.

  • Go to the races

Horse races are an event that shouldn’t be missed in Hong Kong. Every Wednesday, they gather hundreds of locals and expats who come to enjoy the show and bet on their favourite horse.    

  • Visit local markets 

All over the city, you will be able to find numerous local markets. Among the most famous ones, head to Mongkok to visit the Ladies Market and discover many goodies, from electronics to handbags or local souvenirs. While you are there, don’t miss the Flower Market, and only a few blocks away, the Jade Market and Temple Street’s night market.

Not in Hong Kong yet? Discover five reasons to expatriate to the city!

Date of publication July 25, 2017