Moving to Hong Kong
A comprehensive guide on relocating to Hong Kong
Don't be fooled by its size: though it may be tiny, Hong Kong packs an incredible amount of diversity and culture into a small space. From information about island beaches to importing your household goods, this Relocation Guide walks you through all the steps required to move to Hong Kong.
With its former links to the UK, pop culture influences from the US, and thriving expat population, Hong Kong is a truly international city. You’ll hear people in Hong Kong say ‘a New York minute is a Hong Kong second’, alluding to the fast pace of life that draws people to the city like a magnet. The mix of high-end skyscrapers just a ferry ride from island beaches and the ease of communicating in English are just a few of the benefits of moving to Hong Kong.
If you’re wondering how to move to Hong Kong and make it home, this guide is the perfect place to start. From practical tips on ID cards and visas to finding accommodation, we give you a balanced picture of how it is to move to Hong Kong. Before packing, take a look at the Relocation section for tips on what you can and can’t bring to Hong Kong, as well as pre-departure health information on vaccinations.
To make sure your expat life gets off to a smooth start in Hong Kong, read up on our Country Facts for tips on cultural norms and etiquette and navigating the ultimate international melting pot.
For many expats, Hong Kong is a long way from home and the process of moving to Hong Kong can seem a bit overwhelming. However, perhaps moving to Hong Kong is not be as tricky as you think. It’s been a top expat destination for many years now, so procedures are well defined, bureaucracy minimal, and English is widely spoken.
Much of the hard work comes before actually making the move. While importing personal and household goods are free from any tariffs or duties, you will need to make sure you have the right paperwork with you to collect your household goods once they’ve been inspected by customs. There’s no limit on how much currency you can bring with you, but Hong Kong has a fairly extensive list of restricted items and is especially fussy about bringing in food. Our articles on importing to Hong Kong cover everything you need to know when moving or shipping your household goods to Hong Kong.
As well as the right paperwork, your health should be a top priority: all the usual vaccinations are required in order to move to Hong Kong so make sure you’re up-to-date and consider additional shots such as hepatitis A and B, Japanese encephalitis, and rabies if you plan to travel across the region. When many people think of health in Hong Kong, they think of the various flu outbreaks. To put your mind at ease, head to our health section or read our dedicated article on flu in Hong Kong.
If you’re moving to Hong Kong with pets, be aware that both customs and health requirements for your furry friend are quite strict. You’ll need to apply for a special permit as well as presenting health, residence, vaccination, and airline certificates to the relevant authorities on arrival. Head to the section on moving pets to Hong Kong for links to the necessary forms as well as more information on everything from quarantine to microchipping.
How can you go from touching down at Hong Kong airport to catching the MTR back to the city in under 20 minutes? The Hong Kong ID card! Once you’ve got one of these high-tech cards, you’ll be able to make the most of the automated, biometric customs security gates. But first, you’ll need a visa.
This section looks at how to get a Hong Kong visa, as well as the application process, requirements, and costs. While most visitors won’t need a visa for a short visit under 180 days, most expats will need an employment visa, and Hong Kong visa requirements mean that you must have a confirmed job offer when you submit the visa application. You’ll also need to show that a local couldn’t fill the role. Once it’s approved, you’re ready for relocation. Expats with a work visa are allowed to bring their spouse and dependent children under the age of 18.
After you’ve touched down in Hong Kong, you’ll need to apply for a Hong Kong ID. This credit-card sized ID has a chip containing all your details, including your thumbprint for those handy biometric customs gates. Luckily this part of the process is a lot easier than getting the visa. The process can be completed in English and your shiny new ID card will be ready within 10 days. People do take the ID photo pretty seriously — there’s usually a handheld mirror on each table so you can double check your appearance before your close up.
As one of the most densely packed cities in the world, housing in Hong Kong is competitive. While there are different types of houses and accommodation available, most expats live in apartments on Hong Kong island. The average rent on the main island is around 44,000 HKD ($ 5,600 USD) per month for a three-bed apartment in the city center. Most furnished apartments will cost more and you’ll also pay a premium for expat neighborhoods like Mid-Levels or bigger homes on the outlying islands.
This guide also highlights all the little extras to think about before signing a lease, from management fees to government stamp duty for tenants. Unless you’re in a serviced apartment, tenants are responsible for taking care of the utilities in Hong Kong. As there isn’t a wide selection of providers and most people speak English fluently, this shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. Once your utility accounts are set up, you can pay electronically, or pop into your local 7-eleven store to pay at the ATM. We also take a look at the internet and phone service providers as well as satellite versus local TV.
If you’re planning on staying long-term, take a look at our articles on how to buy a house in Hong Kong and start saving for your perfect place in one of the world’s most expensive property markets.
If there’s one thing you don’t have to worry about when moving to Hong Kong, it is healthcare. Affordable and accessible, the healthcare system in Hong Kong is a great asset for expats, with both public and private healthcare options. The government provides low-cost healthcare services across Hong Kong for all residents, including expats: as long as you have a valid visa and ID card, you’re eligible for public healthcare.
While public healthcare is of a high standard, some expats do prefer to get private health insurance to cut waiting times and guarantee service-oriented, multi-lingual staff. Whether they’re giving birth or going to a routine doctor’s appointment, those with private insurance will find themselves in some of Hong Kong’s best hospitals that feel a lot like five-star hotels.
The one area where you will need private insurance is dental care. Except in extreme emergency cases, only students and civil servants get free dental care. As well providing as an overview of the healthcare system and health insurance in Hong Kong, our guide covers everything from how to find a doctor in Hong Kong to getting medication and how much to budget for healthcare charges.
As you’d expect from one of the world’s major financial hubs, banking in Hong Kong is straightforward with many services available in English. For expats, the best banks are usually one of the major international ones. Bear in mind that even if you use the same bank back home, you’ll likely still be charged for transferring money to your Hong Kong account.
This guide walks you through opening a bank account as well as tips such as making sure an EPS card is included with your account. We also cover Hong Kong tax rates including how much to budget for tax, why you need to be careful about all those extras if you’re on an expat package, and the one thing that will double your basic tax allowance.
Starting from before they even turn three, Hong Kong’s education is competitive: the public school system is geared towards earning a place at one of the prestigious Grant Schools. From the very start, secondary schools are categorized into three levels based on their academic standards.
While the government has put integration initiatives in place to make public schools more accessible, the competition combined with the language barrier means that many expats opt to send their children to international schools in Hong Kong. With some of the best schools in the world, you’ll even find schools teaching the curricula from France, Germany, Korea, and Japan amongst others.
But it takes more than just a strong academic background to get into these prestigious international schools. Applicants can expect to sit entrance exams, show medical records, and even purchase hefty ‘debentures’ that cost up to 250,000 HKD ($ 3,200 USD) to secure a spot.
How much rice should you eat at dinner with business associates? What message do different-colored clothes send? From finding work in Hong Kong to the business culture, this guide covers all aspects of working in Hong Kong.
Between the tough rules about proving a local can’t fill the position and the language barrier, the most common way to get a job in Hong Kong is through a company transfer. If you’re braving it on your own, our guide walks you through the process of applying for jobs in Hong Kong as well as the social security and pension implications once you’ve secured your dream role. Feeling even braver? We also cover the visa options and legal requirements for starting your own business or being self-employed in Hong Kong.
From Mong Kok night markets to premium shopping malls, loud karaoke bars in the red-light district of Wan Chai to high-end clubs with international DJs, Hong Kong is a city of extremes. It might be a small place, but it’s almost impossible to get bored in Hong Kong. You can shop at well-known luxury brand boutiques in Central, then hop on a ferry and be on an island beach in just ten minutes. This amount of choice in such a small place comes at a price. The cost of living in Hong Kong is one of the highest in the world. Although public transportation and eating out is relatively cheap, almost everything else is expensive, especially rent.
As well as practicalities such as transportation and cost of living, we look at the unwritten rules that underpin social etiquette in this Asian expat hub.