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Looking for advice on first-time Hong Kong trip

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Dec 12th, 2017, 11:53 PM
  #1
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Looking for advice on first-time Hong Kong trip

I'm planning a solo trip with 12 days to spare, so after about 2 and a half days travel time, I'll have around 9 days. I've been to Tokyo before, but after spending the last couple years in Europe I decided I'd like to get back to Asia. NYC is currently my favorite city in the world, so Hong Kong having that same walkable/easy transport big city vibe is a large part of the appeal to me.

I'm not big on nightlife or shopping, but love that there's so much natural beauty to see and plenty of shrines/temples and museums to visit, and I can see myself even just enjoying exploring the big city. I'm also not crazy about Chinese food, but have found there to be tons of good western food options available, and I'll definitely be trying a few of the famous local specialties such as dim sum. Here are a few things I'm wondering:

1. How can I make sense of the US dollar exchange rate? I see it will get me 7.81 HKD right now, but does that make USD strong or weak by comparison? What kind of buying power will 7.81 HKD typically have? Is it enough to buy one can of Coke, for example?

2. I was considering at first to go in late Oct-Dec after reading that's the ideal time to go, but have also read late Mar-Apr can be good aside from lots of fog. Any other good reasons I shouldn't go in Spring, and wait for Fall/Winter instead?

3. I was thinking I'd get a hotel on Hong Kong island for 7 days, then go to Macau for 2 days. But I'd also like to visit a few things on Lantau island such as Tian Tan Buddha and Disneyland. Would it make sense to split my trip 5 days on Hong Kong island, 2 days in Macau, then 2 days on Lantau island, since that would be closer to the airport for departure?

4. My hotel price range goes up to about $150 USD max per night and I'm thinking I'd prefer to stay on Hong Kong island instead of Kowloon. Any arguments in favor of Kowloon, or personal recommendations for good hotels around that price?

Any help appreciated!
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Dec 13th, 2017, 06:28 PM
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The HK$ exchange rate is linked to the US$ so it will stay the same but there is a huge difference in prices between supermarkets & restaurants

I find supermarkets pretty cheap, certainly you can get a can of coke for HK$8 especailly if you buy in bulk, but restaurants are a different story and drinks can become pretty expensive and you do not get free refills

Personally I prefer Oct to Dec, I find Feb / Mar pretty depressing as it always seems to be grey, foggy and miserable

HK island is usually more expensive than Kowloon but I have seen some good deals for Wanchai and Causeway Bay which are pretty convenient
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Dec 13th, 2017, 08:25 PM
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Just a quick note re accommodations . . . I love LOVE the Salisbury YMCA on the Kowloon side. If you get an upgraded room you have magnificent views of all of the Hong Kong waterfront and the light shows at night. It is just steps from the Star Ferry so could not be easier/cheaper to get back and forth across the harbor.

http://www.ymcahk.org.hk/main/en/home/index.html
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Dec 14th, 2017, 12:29 PM
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"4. My hotel price range goes up to about $150 USD max per night and I'm thinking I'd prefer to stay on Hong Kong island instead of Kowloon. Any arguments in favor of Kowloon, or personal recommendations for good hotels around that price?"

I don't think it matters. I was in Hong Kong in Jan 2017 and stayed on the Hong Kong side. But, I took the ferry to the Kowloon side as the ferry is really fast a really cheap. Personally, I thought it less busy on the Hong Kong side than on the Kowloon side. But, that probably won't matter to you as you'll end up on both sides when you're out and about sightseeing.

As for the YMCA-Salisbury, I didn't stay there, but know of it, as I know those who have stayed there. YMCAs are quite good in Asia as I stayed at YMCA International House-Singapore, starting in the late 1990s and will have 3 nights, out of my 11 nights in Singapore, at the same one, on this upcoming trip. So, keep YMCAs in mind, in general, when you travel in Asia and want to keep the cost down.

As for Hong Kong, accommodations are expensive. I was at the Four Seasons and it cost me nearly double of what I pay at the Four Seasons in Singapore. If you're going to book a YMCA hotel, then I'd highly recommend jumping on it as rooms can sell out fast.

Happy Travels!
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Dec 14th, 2017, 02:53 PM
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And just to clarify -- it isn't a 'Y' like you may be familiar with back home. It is a full service hotel.
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Dec 14th, 2017, 03:03 PM
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Look at the well located local Hotel Butterfly on Wellington, near the famous elevator that goes up and down the steep hills on HK Island. It is part of a locally owned hotel group, Butterfly, and they offer great deals for booking far in advance.. Last trip to HK was in April and it rained a lot. We loved it anyway. Only bummer was fog on Victoria Peak.
We love all Asian food but there are other choices too. The hotel doesn’t offer breakfast but there are many western cafes nearby.
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Dec 14th, 2017, 03:06 PM
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The Metro system is fantastic. You can easily visit Lantau Island from HK Island. Get an Octopus Card in the airport and refill it as needed.
For airport, there is a terminal on HK Island where you check in at your airline, check bags, then take a train directly out to airport.
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Dec 14th, 2017, 08:33 PM
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Hong Kong is the most expensive city in Asia for hotel rooms - more than Tokyo or Singapore.
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Dec 16th, 2017, 10:26 AM
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We stayed at the YMCA-Salisbury in January this year (for 7 nights) and really liked it, both for location and the view -- we booked one of the harbour view suites and adored the lounge with sweeping curved window (and another regular flat window from the bedroom) out onto the harbour.

I would say that while it's a large spacious and comfortable room with decent furniture, it's definitely not quite at the level of higher end hotels, with rougher fabrics used for bed linen (and little holes of wear and tear spotted in the bed linen too). But for us, for the price, we found it very decent. We booked room only and ate breakfast out, btw.

For Macau, we took a day trip (no overnight) and were kindly given a private tour by the tourist board who created a customised itinerary based on my specific requests to focus on culture and food, and not on casinos etc. Here's my long and detailed report and photos of the day, which we thoroughly enjoyed. It did help having the guide and car with driver, as it meant less time wasted finding our way around or parking ourselves, as the driver could take the car off and park and then meet us at another location if we walked through an area... worked very well. We did a full day, but could have stayed overnight instead, but for me I liked that we returned back to our HK hotel, no need to pack and unpack etc.

https://www.kaveyeats.com/2017/03/a-day-in-macau.html
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Dec 18th, 2017, 06:37 AM
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We spent 5 nights in HK this past January also. Weather was ok, but not great. And we stayed at the YMCA Salisbury and agree with the comments above. For the price you can't beat the hotel and its location. I would recommend a room with a view so you can watch the light shows and enjoy the view back to HongKong waterfront.

We enjoyed our day trip by ferry to Macau and thought it interesting. We didn't go for the casinos so can't comment on them. Having a guide could be nice, but it's quite easy to get around.

We used the octopus card and took the ferries regularly from Kwoloon to HK. The metro system was very easy to use also. If I were to ever return I think I would stay on the HK side. It seemed that we spent more time on that side.
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Dec 21st, 2017, 09:37 AM
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gosh, we fodorites seem to be beating a path to the Salisbury - we stayed there too and loved it.

I agree that for a second trip I'd probably stay HK side.

An area that no-one has yet mentioned is the mid-level escalators and the area round them which we loved.
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Dec 21st, 2017, 11:09 AM
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hi ann! We also liked tha area around the mid-level escalators and thought if we ever were to return that might be where would stay. I think part of the reason was it wasnt as crowded as other places were, but it was a nice area for sure.
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Dec 21st, 2017, 08:05 PM
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Annhig, the mid-level escalator area was mentioned indirectly by Happytrvlr:
"Look at the well located local Hotel Butterfly on Wellington, near the famous elevator that goes up and down the steep hills on HK Island." I suspect that by "elevator" HT meant "escalator" as it's just a couple minutes walk from that hotel.

Thanks for the reminder, HappyTrvlr. I've been dreaming of a return trip, looking at that hotel which has been recommended by others as well on Fodors. Not only is it close to the escalators, it's also close to Central terminal, from which many ferries travel to the best feature imho of greater HK:its nearby outlying islands which, in an hour or less, transport you to different worlds of village vs busy commercial city.

Like Yestravel and Annhig, next time I would stay on the HK Island side, rather than the Tsim Sha Tsui/Kowloon area. True, the views at night of the famous HK skyline from Kowloon are not to be missed, but can be easily seen by taking ferry or MTR across to the promenade at TST. Having been only once, fortunate to stay in a gorgeous view room at the Sheraton (Starwood points--hurray!) my recommendation to first timers would nevertheless be to stay on the HK island side.

There's a time advantage of being at the departure point of ferries (without having to transfer from the Kowloon side). For example, rcz77, you can get the ferry from Central HK to Mui Wo on Lantau Island, and from there get a local bus to the "Big Buddha"--then from there, if you want, another local bus to Tai O fishing village. Walk about ten minutes away from where the bus stops, past the area of fish, snack, and souvenir stands, and out to the old police station at the end of the path. On the way you'll pass local cafes and the stilted houses. The police station is now a heritage hotel where you can stop for a cup of tea, meal, etc.
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Dec 21st, 2017, 10:12 PM
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If I were to return to Hong Kong, which I probably won't as Hong Kong and I didn't click, I would also again stay on the Hong Kong side.

Happy Travels!
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Dec 22nd, 2017, 06:11 AM
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Great thread! bookmarking for future trip (hopefully in early 2019)
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Jan 3rd, 2018, 06:18 AM
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Either time frame is fine for Hong Kong, and lots of fun. Hit up the street markets, in Kowloon and on HK Island.

See lots of cool temples. Enjoy great food from around the world.

Splitting your trip up like that is not a bad idea at all.

Rent/hotels and food are on the pricier side in HK. Clothes for example, and shopping in general is great in HK. People come from the mainland, China, to go shopping in HK. The American dollar is strong and you'll do well all in all, financially.

I spend lots of time in HK and blog about it, precisely for people such as yourself.

https://expatphotographer.blog/

And I'm from New Jersey: HK is way better than NYC.
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Jan 3rd, 2018, 03:27 PM
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Yes, I meant escalators! Up to Hollywood with Man Mo Temple and antique shops, down to connect to covered walkways through buildings , all the way to ferries. We had a large room , king bed plus sofa, double views. Booking far in advance we paid $200 a night , large corner room, high floor,views,.Rooms under $100 were available too.
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