Hong Kong at a Glance
Living in Hong KongiStockphoto
Life in Hong Kong combines Chinese tradition and new urban development.
Living in Hong Kong comes with all the pros and cons of a modern megacity. The population density is very high, traffic congestion is the norm, and chances are high that in Hong Kong’s centre, the view from your window will simply be the next 35-floor skyscraper.
On the other hand, living in Hong Kong also means enjoying sheer endless possibilities. Hong Kong offers you a great infrastructure, a vibrant nightlife as well as countless entertainment and shopping opportunities. Moreover, many tend to forget that living there also includes activities such as hiking and rock-climbing in one of the country parks and natural reserves.
For a fairly high price, Hong Kong offers all comforts expats might look for. There is a large variety of international schools for expats with children. Furthermore, Hong Kong provides an excellent healthcare system. Even buying your favorite groceries from your home country is no problem while you are in Hong Kong – the city’s larger supermarkets stock them all.
Many expats take their car with them when they relocate to Hong Kong – only to realize that it can make their life there more difficult. With a car density of around 530 registered cars per square kilometer, it is easy to imagine what rush hour traffic looks like.
Streets are usually extremely crowded, and traffic jams are a common phenomenon for everybody in Hong Kong. Parking spots are nearly impossible to find and very expensive. High fuel costs and annual vehicle licensing fees further add to the immense cost of living in Hong Kong. Having a car can be useful, though, if you need to drive your kids to various activities.
In Hong Kong, cars drive on the left – another reason why some expats prefer not to drive their own car while in Hong Kong. Additionally, expats may only import right-hand drive vehicles, i.e. cars from countries with left-hand traffic.
The cheaper and more comfortable option to get around town is public transport. The Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway (MTR), the main artery of life in Hong Kong, has eleven train lines (including the airport express line) across all major districts, with trains running every few minutes.
Further catering to the needs of expats in Hong Kong, the MRT operates 12 intercity trains across the border to Mainland China travelling as far as Beijing. In addition, there are many buses, minibuses and ferries as well as a historic tram line available. Light rail services are available as well and mostly serve the New Territories.
As in every big city, legions of taxis crowding the streets are part of everyday life in Hong Kong. Taxis are color coded, indicating in which areas they operate. Strict governmental regulation makes using taxis safe and inexpensive. All taxi drivers are required to have their ID as well as a taximeter in their vehicle, and there are maximum fares which they may charge. For a current fare table, please refer to Hong Kong’s Transport Department.
Housing for Expats
Expats should take a few things into consideration when searching for a place to live. If you are only planning to stay for a few years, it is advisable to rent rather than buy a home.
If you are unfamiliar with Hong Kong’s housing and rent market and not fluent in Cantonese, your best choice is to hire a real estate agent to help you in your search for a suitable home. There are a number of real estate agencies which cater especially to expats living in Hong Kong.