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Visas for Hong Kong

Depending on their nationality and the purpose of their stay, expats may need a visa in order to enter, work, study or live in Hong Kong. Fortunately, visa requirements aren't as stringent as in many other countries and the application process is relatively straightforward. 

Visit visas for Hong Kong

Expats planning to visit Hong Kong should find out whether an entry visa needs to be obtained prior to departure.

Citizens from a number of countries around the world can enter Hong Kong without a visa for a limited amount of time. Different periods of stay are granted to different nationals, so expats should be aware of the amount of time specifically associated with their nationality – usually either 14, 30 or 90 days.

For those who do need an entry visa, this documentation can be applied for at the nearest Chinese embassy

Work visas for Hong Kong

There are a number of options when it comes to work permits for Hong Kong, with the most common being the General Employment Policy (GEP) visa for skilled and qualified workers and the Working Holiday Scheme (WHS) visa, which allows nationals of certain countries to take up part-time employment while holidaying in Hong Kong. 

Dependant visas for Hong Kong

Expats in Hong Kong can apply to bring their dependants to Hong Kong, including dependent unmarried children under the age of 18 and spouses of the original visa holder. Once an expat becomes a permanent resident of Hong Kong, they are also able to apply for a dependant visa for parents over the age of 60.

Expats will have to provide proof of their relationship with their dependants, and must be able to show that they can financially support and accommodate these individuals while living in Hong Kong.

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Articles about Hong Kong

International Schools in Hong Kong

Expat parents looking for a good international school in Hong Kong have plenty of options. The city has a variety of international schools offering respected curricula from around the world. Parents looking to send their child to an international school teaching the American, British or International Baccalaureate curricula in Hong Kong will have the greatest range of choice, but there are also Australian, Canadian, French and German options. Spaces at the best international schools in Hong Kong are limited, and competition is fierce, so it's well worth applying early to secure a spot.

Apart from the academic benefits, international schools in Hong Kong also allow expat children to continue with their home curriculum, providing an anchor of familiarity throughout the relocation process. Small class sizes are another advantage that most international schools pride themselves on, resulting in each child beings cared for and nurtured as an individual.

As well as the quality of the education, other factors to consider when choosing a school in Hong Kong include the quality of facilities on offer and the range of sporting and extracurricular activities available. A growing number of long-term expats often choose to send their children to bilingual schools, particularly those offering education in both English and Chinese.

A few of the top international schools in the city offer boarding facilities for students whose families travel or live further out of Hong Kong. Still, Hong Kong is a city highly regarded as safe and family-friendly, with children often travelling to and from school on public transport.

Most international schools in the city are located on Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories, so expat parents looking to reduce their commute time should consider searching for accommodation in these areas and suburbs. Alternatively, some international schools in Hong Kong offer shuttle buses, usually at an additional cost.

Below is a list of some of the best international schools in Hong Kong.


International schools in Hong Kong

Nord Anglia International School Hong Kong

With three state-of-the-art campuses across Hong Kong, NAIS Hong Kong is a premium international school with students of more than 40 nationalities. Students at NAIS Hong Kong will be able to learn globally recognised curricula while honing their language capabilities, as the school offers tuition in English, Mandarin, Spanish and French. NAIS Hong Kong creates a nurturing and engaging environment for its students while allowing parents to plug into a warm and welcoming community. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: British (English National Curriculum and Cambridge IGCSE) and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18

American International School (AIS) of Hong Kong

A diverse and exciting school, AIS offers a high standard of education alongside a varied extracurricular programme. Staff are highly qualified and are able to give children ample attention thanks to the low teacher-student ratio. The school is located in picturesque Kowloon Tong and offers exceptional facilities. Although most of the students are American, AIS of Hong Kong has learners of more than 30 nationalities, creating a unique international school community. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American
Ages: 3 to 18

Australian International School Hong Kong

Australian International School Hong Kong is a not-for-profit school. Though there is a student body of more than 1,100, classes are kept small at a maximum of 25 pupils per class. Students graduate with either the New South Wales Higher School Certificate or the International Baccalaureate. Eighty percent of the pupils are from Australia or New Zealand, the remainder being from a diverse range of international countries. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Australian and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 4 to 18

Beacon Hill School

From humble beginnings in 1967, Beacon Hill is now a thriving international school in Hong Kong with more than 500 pupils. The most common student nationalities include Hong Kong Chinese, Canadian, British, Australian and American. Beacon School is part of the English Schools Foundation network of 22 schools. Beacon Hill also boasts a top Special Educational Needs department offering the best support to expat parents. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 12

Canadian International School of Hong Kong (CDNIS)

Founded in 1991, CDNIS is a non-profit international school situated in the Aberdeen area of Hong Kong. The school offers a top academic programme with students earning two diplomas upon graduation (International Baccalaureate and Ontario). The school is one of the few international schools in Hong Kong offering all three levels of the International Baccalaureate programme. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Canadian (Ontario) and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18

Carmel School of Hong Kong

A school valuing both tradition and innovation, Carmel School of Hong Kong was established in 1991 to serve the city's Jewish community. Though teaching is done through the lens of Judaism, non-Jewish students can attend high school at Carmel. There are three Carmel campuses: two in Mid-Levels and one in Shau Kei Wan. Carmel School of Hong Kong accepts applications year-round and offers a personalised approach to learning with an emphasis on community service. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 2 to 18

French International School

The French International School of Hong Kong serves more than 2,600 students spread out over four campuses across Hong Kong. Students can either take the French stream or the English-language international stream, but both streams are well integrated, ensuring that students of all nationalities get the chance to interact. While the majority of the international student body is French, the remaining students are of 40 different nationalities. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: French, British (English National Curriculum and Cambridge IGCSE), International Primary Curriculum and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 4 to 18

German Swiss International School (GSIS)

GSIS offers a German stream and an English stream, with a focus on developing multicultural and multilingual international students. The school has two campuses across Hong Kong – the main campus is in the picturesque and prestigious setting of the Peak, with an additional campus in Pok Fu Lam. German, Austrian and Swiss students form most of the student body, but all nationalities are welcome. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: German, British (English National Curriculum and Cambridge IGCSE) and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18

Hong Kong Academy

Hong Kong Academy (HKA) is a non-profit international school with 500+ students from more than 40 nationalities enrolled. Founded in 2000 with the belief that all children bring a unique set of talents and strengths to their learning, HKA is a top through-train international school providing a personalised, student-centred programme that encourages every individual to fulfil their greatest potential. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18

Hong Kong International School (HKIS)

HKIS has a student body of more than 2,800 pupils occupying two campuses in the south of Hong Kong Island. This international school offers an American education grounded in Christian philosophy. Academic excellence, character development, and self-motivated learning are all highly valued at HKIS, making the school one of the best international schools in Hong Kong. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American
Ages: 4 to 18

International Montessori School (IMS)

Children at IMS will experience a unique dual-language Montessori environment, with teaching in both English and Chinese. IMS has four campuses across Hong Kong Island: Stanley, South Horizons, Mid-Levels and Aldrich Bay. As one of the few and top Montessori international schools in Hong Kong, IMS aims to foster independence and nurture children's natural abilities. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Montessori
Ages: 2 to 12

Kellett School

Kellett School is one of the foremost international schools in Hong Kong, offering a proudly British education and boasting a low student-to-teacher ratio. Its two campuses in Pok Fu Lam and Kowloon Bay are home to high-quality purpose-built facilities. While fostering academic excellence, Kellett also encourages holistic development with an exciting range of extracurricular activities. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: British (English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels)
Ages: 4 to 18

Yew Chung International School (YCIS)

YCIS is committed to providing a truly international education that merges Eastern and Western values to develop globally-minded students. To that end, YCIS offers globally recognised curricula, including the British curriculum and the International Baccalaureate programme, in a bilingual setting. The school's three campuses are located in Kowloon Tong. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: British (English National Curriculum  and Cambridge IGCSE) and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 1.5 to 18 years

Accommodation in Hong Kong

Accommodation in Hong Kong is expensive. In fact, real estate prices in Hong Kong are regularly ranked among the highest in the world, so expats will need to budget carefully when it comes to finding their ideal home in the city.

Although there are a variety of quality options, space is a limited commodity in Hong Kong, and apartments in the city tend to be small. Unless expats have large budgets to work with, they should be prepared to downsize. Tiny bedrooms, in particular, are something many expats struggle with at first.

Types of accommodation in Hong Kong

Accommodation in Hong Kong can vary tremendously, but the rental market can largely be divided into ‘old’ and ‘new’.

Older accommodation is often a bit rough around the edges, but if tenants are willing to spend a bit of time making it feel like home this could be a good, affordable option for people whose priority is space and a central location.

There are plenty of high-quality, modern apartments in the popular residential areas, but the luxurious lifestyle comes with a price tag and spaces are typically much smaller. Those on a budget wanting to enjoy modern living should consider adding a few extra stops to their commute and looking at some of the newer residential areas that are developing outside the Hong Kong city centre.

Finding accommodation in Hong Kong

Due to the short-term nature of most expat assignments in Hong Kong, most new arrivals opt to rent rather than buy property.

For those who are not lucky enough to have their employer assist them in their search for a property in Hong Kong, the best option is to enlist the services of a reputable real-estate agent. These professionals have a comprehensive knowledge of the region’s property market and can help expats find something that meets their requirements in terms of size, quality, price and location.

There are lots of online property portals and, while these are an excellent source of information, the fact is that desirable property in Hong Kong moves quickly. So often by the time a prospective tenant enquires about a property listed on a portal it has already been snapped up through an agent. Nevertheless, it's a good idea to use online resources to research the types, prices and availability of apartments in Hong Kong for an idea of what to expect before relocating.

Renting accommodation in Hong Kong


Most landlords use a standard government lease in Hong Kong. However, because they are allowed to add their own clauses, it is best to read through the contract carefully to ensure that there aren’t any hidden costs involved.

Rental period

Rental contracts in Hong Kong are generally for a two-year period, with a break clause after a year.


Two or three months’ rent is required as a security deposit, which will only be returned once the tenant vacates the property.


Utility bills are rarely included in the monthly rental fee, so expats will have to take these into account when planning a budget. Costs vary depending on usage and may differ from one service provider to the next.

Transport and Driving in Hong Kong

Getting around Hong Kong is easy thanks to its excellent public transport system and compact layout. In fact, driving is not a necessity but a luxury – or in some cases just an annoyance due to traffic jams and expensive parking.

Even expats who live off-island do not need to invest in a private vehicle. Kowloon is almost as compact as Hong Kong Island, and certainly very densely populated as well, making its terrific public transport network more convenient than a car.

Public transport in Hong Kong

Hong Kong's public transport system is made up of a well-integrated network of trains, buses, trams and ferries. All four modes of public transport can be accessed using a contactless smartcard known as an Octopus Card. Passengers simply tap in and out before and after their journey.

Mass Transit Railway (MTR)

The most popular mode of transport in Hong Kong is the MTR, the city's rapid transit system. It is extremely efficient and clean, and has added perks like air conditioning and consistent mobile phone reception underground. Commuters also have the advantage of avoiding the street-level congestion above.

The MTR system is made up of light and heavy rail. All in all, it consists of more than 20 lines serving around 160 stations throughout Hong Kong.

When riding the MTR, expats should bear in mind that Hong Kongers are perpetually in a hurry, so they should make sure they shuffle along quickly to avoid getting trampled on or pushed over, especially at busy interchanging stations.


Buses are a popular mode of transport in Hong Kong, especially for people who don’t live near the MTR lines. They are usually less packed than the MTR, but are subject to the same slow-moving traffic as private vehicles.


A limited network of historic trams is available in the northern area of Hong Kong Island. While they're worth riding once or twice for the novelty, they don't make for a good daily commute option as they are a slow form of transport.


The ferry is an essential mode of transit for expats living in Discovery Bay, Lamma Island, Park Island, or any of the other outlying islands favoured by foreigners.

Ferries are, of course, subject to Hong Kong’s occasionally extreme weather conditions, and service can grind to a halt in the event of a typhoon. In these cases, employees may be asked to leave work early, or find a friend to stay with until the storm has died down.

Taxis in Hong Kong

Taking a taxi in Hong Kong is incredibly cheap in comparison to places like Tokyo or even some cities in Western Europe. Expats will soon realise that each driver's English proficiency and mapping skills can vary tremendously. There are three types of taxis: red, green and blue, each of which serves a particular area.

Ride-sharing applications such as Uber are also operational in Hong Kong and can be useful in avoiding communication problems with drivers.

Driving in Hong Kong

Buying a car in Hong Kong is not necessary. The region is small, and the costs of buying and parking a car are high. That said, it is still a common mode of transport for expats, especially those that choose accommodation further away from the city centre. Hong Kong has a good road safety record, but expats are advised to nevertheless take extra caution when driving. Traffic jams are frequent so drivers should be prepared to spend a significant amount of time on the road. 

Walking and cycling in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is relatively safe for pedestrians, and people generally stick to pedestrian crossings and the signals that accompany them. Hong Kong is not very bicycle-friendly and, for the most part, cyclists use the roads to get around. This can be dangerous, especially on highways and in the evenings. It's also important for expats planning on walking or cycling to keep an eye on air pollution levels and avoid long periods of rigorous exercise outdoors when pollution is high.

Domestic Help in Hong Kong

Hiring domestic help in Hong Kong

One of the luxuries of living in Hong Kong is the ability to hire a low-cost, full-time domestic help. Life in Hong Kong is fast-paced and busy, and expats often decide to hire a domestic worker to help with household chores such as cleaning, doing the laundry, cooking for the family, taking care of the kids and running errands. In some families, domestic helpers also help with activities such as gardening, cleaning the car and taking care of the pets. However, hiring a helper also comes with rules and labour laws that must be followed.

There are around 400,000 foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong. About half are from the Philippines with the other half mostly being Indonesian. A small minority hail from countries such as Thailand, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Expats who decide to hire a full-time foreign domestic helper should be aware that the individual will be officially recognised as an overseas domestic worker and not a Hong Kong permanent resident. Their work visa is totally dependent on their current employment contract which means that, when hiring a helper, the employer has to sponsor their helper’s work visa.

Visa fees and costs incurred in meeting visa requirements are paid or reimbursed by the employer. This includes the cost of applications, medical examinations and insurance as well as other miscellaneous administrative fees. The employer also needs to pay for or reimburse the helper's transport from their home country to Hong Kong.

Labour laws in Hong Kong

There are several regulations that expats considering hiring a domestic helper in Hong Kong should be aware of.

  • The Minimum Allowable Wage (MAW) for domestic helpers is set by the government. Employers who pay less than the MAW may be subject to fines or imprisonment.

  • Foreign domestic helpers can only be employed on a full-time basis and are required to live at their employer’s place of residence. They must be provided with suitable accommodation with a reasonable level of privacy.

  • Employers are required to provide three meals a day to their helper, though a food allowance can be offered as an alternative. The minimum food allowance is also set by the government.

  • Helpers have to be given at least one day off a week and are also entitled to all statutory holidays.

  • Initially, helpers are entitled to a minimum of seven days of annual leave per 12-month period. For each consecutive year of service to a particular employer, leave must be increased by one day up to a maximum of 14 annual leave days a year (this would be after nine years of service).

  • Employers also have to provide their helper with a ticket from their country of origin to Hong Kong as well as a return flight on expiry or termination of the employment contract.

  • The employment contract must be signed for no less than two years.

  • The employer is responsible for their helper’s health expenses. It is therefore recommended to subscribe to health insurance (several providers have special packages for domestic helpers).

Foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong

As long as they are treated well by their employers, many foreign domestic helpers are happy to be living in Hong Kong; they are decently paid in a stable work environment, and the size of the Filipino and Indonesian communities in Hong Kong usually helps with homesickness.

There are a few organisations in Hong Kong that provide classes specifically for domestic helpers. Employers sometimes decide to send their helper for training classes when they want them to improve their cooking, or if they want them to receive proper training in childcare or first aid. 

The relationship between employer and helper

It is very important that employers take time to liaise with their domestic helper to ensure that the helper has a clear idea of what their duties are and when they are to be performed. Employers should encourage the helper to speak up about any problems they may encounter; this way they can be resolved quickly and efficiently.

Keeping in Touch in Hong Kong

Keeping in touch with friends and family back home isn't a challenge for expats living in Hong Kong. Famous for being a fast-paced business hub, options for communication in Hong Kong are endless. Internet, mobile phones, telephones and postal services are available and easily accessible.

Telecommunications in Hong Kong are of the most sophisticated in the world and come with high-quality service standards and affordable prices. 

Internet in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is very well connected and internet access is available almost everywhere via broadband, cable, DSL and fibre. If expats are worried about dealing with frustratingly slow speeds, they'll be happy to learn that internet speed in Hong Kong is among the fastest in the world.

There are thousands of public WiFi hotspots throughout the region. Setting up internet at home is just as easy. Although most apartments do not come with internet included as part of the rent, the subscription process is simple and there are a number of reputable providers to choose from. Packages vary and some internet service providers will charge based on usage rather than a flat monthly fee, so it's a good idea to shop around.

Internet censorship in Hong Kong

Unlike in mainland China, there is very little internet censorship in Hong Kong, apart from the distribution of certain incriminating materials, including obscene or pirated materials. 

Mobile and landline phones in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has an extremely high cellphone density rate. Expats spending an afternoon out will quickly notice that if someone is old enough to talk, then they’re old enough to have a mobile phone in Hong Kong. Most people rely heavily on smartphone apps such as WhatsApp.

Phones are often given for free or at a reduced price when signing a new contract, and almost all plans in Hong Kong start on a two-year basis. Expats can easily sign a mobile contract, often with nothing more than proof of address.

For those wanting a mobile phone while in Hong Kong but not wanting to be bound to a plan, most companies also offer prepaid SIM card options, which can be bought from many convenience stores. Buying a SIM card locally will be the cheapest and easiest way to make calls. 

Landline telephones are not as common as mobile phones in Hong Kong but can be installed if needed. Most telephone landlines in Hong Kong are managed by PCCW, which will need to activate the line in order to use it.  

Postal services in Hong Kong

Postal services are very reliable in Hong Kong. If sending post within Hong Kong, it will generally be received within one working day. International shipping costs are reasonable and generally less expensive than in the US.

English media and news in Hong Kong

English media is readily available in Hong Kong. The Standard and The South China Morning Post are the most popular English-language newspapers, which circulate daily. There are a number of other English newspapers and magazines available in Hong Kong, and it also isn't difficult to find imported publications.

There is an abundance of cable television channels in Hong Kong. Cable television is cheap and leading companies offer the option to add on popular foreign channels for a nominal monthly fee.

Diversity and inclusion in Hong Kong

Below is some useful info about diversity and inclusion in this vibrant island city.

Accessibility in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is one of the most wheelchair-friendly cities in Asia. Most sidewalks in populous areas have ramps, although crowded streets pose a limitation to their use, and Hong Kong's public transit system is well constructed – 97 percent of metro stations have ramps or elevators to the street level, and the remainder can provide staff-operated stair lifts on request. Gap ramps may be needed to get on and off the trains and are available on request. Most city buses have low floors and wheelchair ramps, as do ferries. On-street trams and the public light bus, however, are wheelchair-inaccessible.

There are tactile guide paths on the floor of the stations to assist the visually impaired. There are also tactile station layout maps.

Residents over 65 and those certified severely disabled can apply for a transport fare concession scheme that caps the majority of public transport at 2 HKD per fare. There is also the Rehabus service, operated under the supervision of the Transport Department. This service has over 170 vehicles outfitted to cater for people with disabilities.

Most taxis will allow folding wheelchairs or crutches, which are carried free of charge. They often have Braille signage on the doors. Many taxis also have talking meters. There are a limited number of accessible wheelchair taxis with wheelchair ramps. Reserving one of these taxis is critical and it is recommended to do this well in advance of the trip.

Useful resources

An extensive study, which was sponsored by the HKSAR Government, was undertaken by the Hong Kong Society for Rehabilitation and Chronic Health Conditions. Based on the findings, an Accessible Facilities Guide was compiled:

Diamond Cab provides wheelchair-friendly taxis in the city and can be contacted at +852 2760 8771.

LGBTQ+ in Hong Kong

Homosexuality is legal in Hong Kong, and there is increasing public support for equality and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ population. The constitution protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Same-sex marriage and civil partnership are not recognised in Hong Kong, though for expats, some progress has been made in this area. Following a landmark 2018 court case, dependant visas can now be granted to a same-sex couple where the union is between two foreigners and is registered abroad.

The decision means the marriage status and civil union partnership of same-sex couples will be recognised in Hong Kong for the specific purpose of immigration and the dependant visa. However, the city’s definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman remains unchanged.

There is a cultural difference between the ‘local’ Cantonese-speaking scene and the English-speaking scene. The latter is more publicly active, and the former tends to be more low-key and organise social events through personal networks. There are numerous well-known gay bars and nightclubs, mostly congregated in Soho and Lan Kwai Fong in Central, and a number of festivals celebrate the LGBTQ+ community throughout the year, including Hong Kong Pride and the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

One of the largest global events, the XI Gay Games, will be held in Hong Kong in 2023. This world-class sport and cultural festival is organised by the LGBTQ+ global community every four years. Hong Kong will become the first Asian city to host the games.

There is still room for improvement, especially in attitudes towards trans and gender-diverse individuals, and the growing group of trans and gender diverse people are fighting hard to obtain acceptance from society. Although the law protects everyone there will still be challenges in day-to-day life, as the mainstream Hong Kong community still holds conservative values.

LGBTQ+ community groups

Hong Kong has several community groups which organise events throughout the year. Below are some of the main groups.

  • Pink Alliance/Pink Dot is the umbrella organisation that organises Pink Season, a month-long Pride celebration. The site not only has information on the group and affiliates but general information on the LGBTQ+ community. They also have a Facebook group with active updates.
  • Big Love Alliance was founded by local celebrities Anthony Wo and Denise Ho, with the support of several legislative council members. The group hosts community events including concerts, workshops and panel discussions.
  • Rainbow HK is a non-profit organisation established in 1998. They operate the only LGBTQ+ Community Centre in Hong Kong and organise over 100 activities every year, including workshops, sports events, camping and music concerts. They also provide blood testing, counselling, education, legal support and an outreach programme.

Events to attend

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia in Hong Kong. This started off as a single event but has grown into a cluster of gatherings which have been organised by various groups and companies.

Pink Season (October–November)
Asia’s largest LGBTQ+ festival. It runs for a full month in Hong Kong with numerous festivities throughout the month.

Hong Kong Pride March (November)
This is a thriving annual event that attracts more than 12,000 participants yearly.

Gender equality in Hong Kong

The past three decades in Hong Kong have seen an increasing number of women entering the workforce and becoming financially independent. In many aspects – socially, economically, and politically – both males and females receive the same standing. Although the number of women in the workforce is increasing, inequality remains a big issue. The pay gap in Hong Kong is 22 percent.

Hong Kong’s Employment Ordinance law disallows gender-based discrimination in the workplace. The law further stipulates that employers can’t discriminate based on marital status, pregnancy and (since 2021) breastfeeding. In practice, however, these laws aren’t always applied, and women can still face several career obstacles.

Useful resources

Women in leadership in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has women in prominent leadership positions in areas such as politics, financial institutions, education, healthcare, and many more. With equal access to obtaining higher education, women have plenty of opportunities to participate in the workforce, as well as be promoted to senior positions.

Though women outnumber men in Hong Kong, the majority of leadership roles are held by men. Although progress has been made in certain areas – for instance, women now hold 36 percent of general management positions in Hong Kong – there remains a glass ceiling, with low female representation in top-level C-suite positions. As of 2022, nearly 17 percent of HSI-listed companies have all-male boards.

Notably, Hong Kong has an excellent support system for women to pursue their career goals after becoming mothers. It is common practice in Hong Kong to hire live-in helpers who assist with all household chores and caring for children. This eases some personal burdens associated with managing home life, allowing more freedom to focus on professional aspirations and a career.

Hong Kong is home to numerous organisations advocating for better representation in the workplace. These organisations do important campaign work and research, which can be accessed on their websites.

Useful resources

Mental health awareness in Hong Kong

Expats can be at greater risk of mental health issues, especially depression and anxiety, exacerbated by stress and loneliness.

Mental health stigma still exists in Hong Kong, including the traditional belief that one should be able to cope with challenges on their own, and the fear of being labelled as "crazy" or "weak". It also stems from the misguided concept that talking about mental health problems will only make them worse.

As a result, many people struggling with mental health problems are reluctant to seek help. This can lead to isolation and rapidly deteriorating health. Many members of the community feel discouraged from seeking help for mental health concerns.  

The concept of mental health in Hong Kong is changing, however, as more people seek professional help for their mental health needs. This shift indicates a growing understanding of mental health as a complex issue that requires expert care.

Companies are also becoming more aware of the impact of mental health issues, and many have adjusted their policies to provide better support. This includes ensuring that mental illness is well covered by the company’s chosen employee healthcare schemes, as well as promoting knowledge and decreasing stigma by holding in-house workshops.

Although the public healthcare sector in Hong Kong faces a shortage of professionals and long waiting times, in practice most expats use private healthcare services, enabling them to bypass these difficulties. For this reason, we advise that expats ensure that their international health insurance covers access to psychological and psychiatric care.

The Clinical Psychological Service of the Social Welfare Department also offers free professional help and advice from a social worker. Call +852 2343 2255 for assistance.

Useful resources

Unconscious bias training in Hong Kong

The concept of unconscious bias is an implicit set of often stereotyped ideas an individual carries about groups of people different to themselves. These ideas are not purposefully adopted but rather develop subtly over time, and people tend to hold unconscious biases about groups they never or rarely come into contact with. As a result, they're often inaccurate and based on assumptions.

In Hong Kong, it is not uncommon for local employers to seek out job candidates who are native Chinese, and certain industries favour men in their recruitment. This preference may lead to unconscious bias against foreigners, even if they are otherwise qualified for the job.  

Unconscious bias can profoundly affect both personal and work conditions. In the workplace, unchecked bias undermines vital aspects of the company, with negative effects on employee performance, retention and recruitment. In a bid to create a better work environment, many companies are beginning to institute unconscious bias training. There are also several online resources that can be used to improve self-awareness regarding bias.

Useful resources

Diversification in the workplace in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a hugely diverse city with a highly skilled workforce, thanks to its long historical ties to both China and the UK. The city’s blend of East and West is a useful backdrop for doing international business, and it’s no surprise that Hong Kong is home to many global industries. In particular, Hong Kong is notable as a worldwide finance hub. Plenty of multinational companies set up shop here, finding it an ideal place to set up regional headquarters.

With these multinationals pulling in employees from around the world, expats can expect to encounter a fairly diverse work environment. Studies show that diversification of the workplace is hugely beneficial to companies and employees alike. In recognition of this, about half of companies in Hong Kong have diversity policies in place to ensure varied representation.

Safety in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is one of the safest places in the world. The crime rate in Hong Kong is one of the lowest in the world, and most expats report feeling safe in the city-state. In fact, Hong Kong has one of the lowest murder rates globally. Be that as it may, pickpocketing and fraud are some of the realities that come with life in Hong Kong.

Public transportation is affordable, safe and clean, with plenty of options. The last subway train departs around midnight. Buses and ferries offer 24-hour service, although it is pertinent to check the timetables for trips to outlying islands as the services may be restricted.

When walking late at night, it’s best to walk with another person or in a small group. If this is not possible, a taxi is a viable alternative. If a person misses the last train crossing the harbour at night, it is suggested to utilise a taxi as they are plentiful and safe.

Taxis run 24/7 and can be found within the city, ask the driver if there are willing to “Goh hoi?” (“Cross harbour?”). If it feels unsafe, ask the driver to stop, then pay the fare and get out of the taxi. It may be a good idea to text the licence plate to a friend or family member.

It’s best to exercise caution in crowded places by keeping valuables out of sight and avoiding dark alleys at night. Residents should also thoroughly review online shopping sites and investment offers to avoid falling victim to internet scams, as deception crimes spiked in the first half of 2022 according to the city-state's crime statistics.

Following the 2019/2020 pro-democracy protests, Hong Kong’s political stability and the right to freedom of speech have come into question. China implemented a new national security law in 2020, curbing protest and freedom of speech rights in Hong Kong. Since then, more than 150 people have faced arrest for allegedly contravening the law. To stay safe, residents should be careful of the content they post and share on social media and avoid joining protests.

Useful resources

Calendar initiatives in Hong Kong

4 February – World Cancer Day
18 March – International Women’s Day
March – TB Awareness Month
April – Stress Awareness Month
19 May – Global Accessibility Awareness Day
June – Pride Month
10 September – World Suicide Prevention Day
October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month
8 October –World Mental Health Day
14 November – World Diabetes Day
November – Men’s Heath Month ("Movember")
1 December – World AIDS Day

Moving to Hong Kong

Expats moving to Hong Kong will discover deep tradition at the foundations of the city's towering skyscrapers and neon lights. East truly does meet West here, which results in a unique cultural mix. Some things may feel fairly familiar to Westerners who are new to Hong Kong, while others will be entirely foreign.

Living in Hong Kong as an expat

On the whole, many expats find it relatively easy to live in Hong Kong thanks to its efficient infrastructure and amenities. The former British colony has one of the world's most successful economies and is known for being one of Asia's fiscal tigers, perched near the top of global economic rankings. 

The fast pace of working life and the packed city centre can be a challenge to new arrivals in Hong Kong. Over 7 million people are packed into the archipelago, and the luxury of elbow room becomes fully appreciated as members of the population frenetically whizz past.

Air pollution has also unceremoniously drifted down from the factories of southern China and has come to settle over and around the city's upward-reaching skyline. As overwhelming and unattractive as this may be to some, however, fresh air and open spaces can always be found outside the expat-friendly central area.

Cost of living in Hong Kong

While ostentatious luxury and a devotion to quality are still part of its richly woven fabric, Hong Kong doesn't necessarily offer the same lucrative employment packages it used to. As the cost of living continues to climb, vast wealth is becoming less attainable for anyone other than the most senior employees. High living costs and limited prospects are also proving a deterrent for expats who don’t already have employment secured in the city.

Accommodation, in particular, is characterised by sky-high price tags for disproportionately small spaces. Expats should attempt to negotiate a housing allowance or at least carefully consider the cost of renting in Hong Kong before signing a contract.

Expat families and children

The territory has an advanced healthcare system, an elevated standard of schooling and an exemplary public transport system that all serve to significantly decrease the burden of transition. Once some of the wrinkles of relocation have been ironed out, expats will also find themselves able to appreciate the city's high levels of safety and practically unlimited entertainment.

Climate in Hong Kong

The city-state has a subtropical climate, which brings hot, humid summer days and dry, cold winters. The rainy season is in spring and summer, from March to September. Typhoons are a concern from May to November, during which time expats should keep an eye on local forecasts for weather warnings. See our page on Climate in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong has many layers and expats will find that just as they’ve finished pulling back one layer, more swiftly take shape. Whether they feel safer in the insular yet comfortable expat scene or prefer to explore the indigenous culture of this age-old port city, an exciting and invigorating experience is guaranteed.

Fast facts

Official name: Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China

Population: 7.5 million

Capital city: Hong Kong

Neighbouring countries: Hong Kong is spread over a number of islands – most notably Hong Kong Island, the Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories. Part of Hong Kong also extends to Mainland China, north of Hong Kong Island. The west, east and south of Hong Kong are bordered by the South China Sea.

Geography: Most of Hong Kong is hilly and mountainous, and many areas of Hong Kong are undeveloped. Many of the city-state's developed areas are built on reclaimed land.

Political system: As a Special Administrative Region of China, Hong Kong is autonomous on most fronts, excluding defence and foreign affairs.

Major religions: About half of Hong Kong follows no religion, with Buddhism and Taoism being the most popular religions among the rest of the city-state.

Main languages: Chinese and English

Money: The Hong Kong dollar (HKD) is divided into 100 cents. Hong Kong's sophisticated and well-developed financial services sector makes it easy for expats to open a local bank account. ATMs are widely available.

Tipping: A service charge of 10 percent is sometimes added to restaurant bills, but no additional tip is necessary.

Time: GMT+8

Electricity: 220V, 50Hz. Plugs are UK-style with three flat blades.

Internet domain: .hk

International dialling code: +852

Emergency contact: 999

Transport and driving: Cars drive on the left-hand side of the road. There is a comprehensive public transport system, including the MTR subway, buses and taxis.

A Brief History of Hong Kong

Early history

  • 618–907: Archaeological evidence suggests that Hong Kong has been inhabited since the Neolithic period. During the Tang dynasty, the territory was a fishing village.
  • 16th–18th century: The Portuguese are the first Europeans to visit Hong Kong in the 16th century, but it is the British who establish a permanent presence in the area in the late 18th century.

Opium Wars 

  • Early 19th century: The British begin importing opium into China to counterbalance their dependence on tea, silk and porcelain exported by China. This leads to two wars between the two nations, known as the Opium Wars.
  • 1842: The Treaty of Nanjing is signed in 1842, which cedes Hong Kong Island to the British as a colony. It is established as a free port, attracting merchants and immigrants from around the world.
  • 1860: Britain also wins the Second Opium War, forcing the Qing Empire to cede Kowloon in 1860, while leasing the New Territories for 99 years from 1898. 

British rule

  • 1842: The Union Flag is raised for the first time. The population of Hong Kong island is between 6,000 and 7,450, mainly consisting of Tanka fishermen and Hakka charcoal burners living in several coastal villages.
  • 1850s: Many Chinese people emigrate from China to Hong Kong due to the Taiping Rebellion. Other events, such as floods, typhoons and famine in mainland China also play a role in establishing Hong Kong as a place to seek refuge.
  • 1941–1945: Hong Kong is occupied by Japan during World War II and suffers significant damage.
  • 1946: After the war, the British resume control and work to rebuild the city.
  • 1949: The Communist Party of China takes power in mainland China, leading to a wave of refugees fleeing to Hong Kong.
  • 1950s to 1970s: Hong Kong experiences rapid economic growth, becoming a major port, a manufacturing hub and an important financial centre. High life expectancy, literacy, per–capita income and other socio-economic measures attest to Hong Kong's achievements leading to a population boom.
  • 1980s: Talks between China and Britain begin over the future of Hong Kong, leading to the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984, which outlines the terms of the handover of Hong Kong to China.

Handover to China

  • 1997: The British hands over control of Hong Kong to China under the principle of "one country, two systems," which allows for a high degree of autonomy in the city.
  • 2003: Protests erupt against proposed national security legislation, which is later withdrawn.
  • 2014: The "Umbrella Movement" protests for universal suffrage, lasting for 79 days, result in no significant political change.
  • 2019: Widespread pro-democracy protests erupt in response to a proposed extradition bill, which would have allowed suspects to be transferred to mainland China for trial. The protests trigger widespread violence, with police using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds.
  • 2020: The Chinese government imposes a national security law in Hong Kong, criminalising secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. This law is widely criticised as an infringement on the city's autonomy and has led to the arrests of several pro-democracy activists.
  • 2022: Hong Kong is one of the few countries and territories to pursue a "zero-Covid" policy by closing all its borders soon after the emergence of the virus in Wuhan, China. Until December 2022, even people with mild and asymptomatic cases were subjected to hospitalisation and sometimes isolation extending over several weeks.

Frequently Asked Questions about Hong Kong

While Hong Kong is no doubt an exciting destination, it's natural for expats to have a few queries and concerns about their soon-to-be home. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about life in Hong Kong.

What language do people speak in Hong Kong?

The official languages of Hong Kong are Chinese and English. While Mandarin is becoming popular for business purposes, the majority of people in Hong Kong speak Cantonese.

Is it worth learning Cantonese?

Learning a few key phrases might be helpful, but unless wanting to learn it on a more fluent level for personal reasons, it's easy to get by without it as English is widely spoken in Hong Kong. On the other hand, expats looking for work in Hong Kong will find that speaking Cantonese will put them above other applicants.

Can I find work in Hong Kong once I arrive?

Due to the visa system in Hong Kong, expats will need to secure a job before they arrive. Unless an applicant can speak Cantonese or Mandarin, jobs in Hong Kong are limited. Most expats are relocated from their position back home to middle or upper-management positions in large international companies. Otherwise, English-speaking expats will likely be limited to teaching or low-paying hospitality positions. 

Can I hire domestic help? 

Domestic services are common in Hong Kong, and many households hire a live-in domestic helper. It is quite commonplace to hire a domestic helper from a foreign country, but there are numerous labour laws to abide by when doing so.

Do I need a car in Hong Kong?

Although many people own cars in Hong Kong, it is considered a luxury due to the price of petrol, storage and upkeep. Hong Kong has a reliable public transportation system with trains, buses and ferries that can get residents anywhere they need to go quickly. Taxis are metered and surprisingly affordable.

What's the best way to buy property or rent in Hong Kong?

With the region being so small and dense, property in Hong Kong is a hot commodity. Most expats will go through an agent to find a place, but do be aware that there are agency fees associated with doing so.

How good are doctors in Hong Kong? Is healthcare affordable?

Public hospitals and clinics are very affordable for those who possess a valid Hong Kong ID card. Many of the region's local doctors have studied overseas. Treatment is of a high quality, but expats should check to see the languages spoken before they book an appointment. Expats may prefer to use the private sector, not because the treatment is of a higher quality, but for its reduced waiting times.

Where can I meet other expats?

Hong Kong's allure as an international destination has cultivated a substantial expat population. Different sport and social clubs host all sorts of events, meetings and nights out. The best way to find these is through the consulate of one's home country, or on social media sites.

Banking, Money and Taxes in Hong Kong

Given that Hong Kong is one of the world's most prominent financial centres, expats are unlikely to have trouble managing their finances in the wealth-driven Pearl of the Orient.

Basic banking in Hong Kong is safe, secure and straightforward. The region is also highly popular owing to its low taxes, making it easier for expats to save the dollars they work such long hours for.

Money in Hong Kong

The currency in Hong Kong is the Hong Kong Dollar, which is subdivided into 100 cents. It is abbreviated as HKD or HK$.

The Hong Kong dollar is available in the following denominations:

  • Notes: 10 HKD, 20 HKD, 50 HKD, 100 HKD, 500 HKD, and 1,000 HKD

  • Coins: 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, 1 HKD, 2 HKD, 5 HKD, and 10 HKD

Banking in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is home to many major international banks as well as numerous local institutions. Whether it is better for an expat to bank with an international bank or a local bank depends largely on individual circumstances, since both options have their pros and cons.

Nearly all banks have internet banking facilities and offer credit cards. Most bank branches have employees who can communicate in English, although language proficiency improves in areas with large expat populations.

Opening a bank account in Hong Kong

It's easy to open a bank account in Hong Kong. The minimum amount necessary to open an account varies depending on the service provider and type of account being opened.

Those who already have an account with an international bank, such as Citibank or HSBC, often find it convenient to open a local version of their account once they arrive in Hong Kong. Among other things, transferring money becomes less of a hassle and more economical.

Other expats, especially those who don't have a bank from their home country represented in Hong Kong, may prefer to explore local options.

New arrivals looking to open an account should consult the institution of their choosing in order to determine what documentation will be needed to facilitate the process.


There are plenty of ATMs throughout Hong Kong, most of which accept international cards. ATM fees at local banks tend to cost less than their international counterparts.

Credit cards

Credit cards are widely accepted throughout Hong Kong, although cash remains the more common means of payment for smaller purchases in local shops. 

Taxes in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is well known for having extremely low income-tax rates. It has completely done away with sales tax, capital gains tax and VAT. Families with children are entitled to special allowances, and even wealthy single foreigners won't pay more than 17 percent in taxes. This is an important point to factor in when evaluating one's remuneration package.

Taxes in Hong Kong work differently for expats than in most other countries. In general, citizenship or residency doesn't influence the amount of tax that has to be paid. An added advantage is that salary taxes are only focused on income derived from business within Hong Kong, whereas income and assets from overseas are not liable to be taxed.

Expats should also investigate if their home country has a double-taxation agreement with Hong Kong. If so, they are not liable to pay tax in both Hong Kong and their home country.

If at all uncertain, it's best to confirm these details with an authorised tax advisor, preferably one that knows the ins and outs of expat tax issues.

See and Do in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a vibrant and complicated city with an energy like no other place in the world. It is constantly changing, and the growing influence of mainland China on this former British colony makes it a particularly fascinating place to live. New restaurants, bars and shops are almost constantly added to a long list of already-established attractions. 

There are also plenty of things to see and do in Hong Kong, and it's easy for exploring expats to find English speakers who can help them on their way. 

Recommended attractions in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Disneyland

Attracting millions of visitors a year, Hong Kong Disneyland is a not-to-be-missed attraction perfect for the whole family. Whether one is young in years or simply young at heart, there's plenty to entertain, from themed rides and restaurants to parades and photo ops with beloved Disney characters.

Hong Kong Museum of History

The Hong Kong Museum of History showcases the city’s natural, cultural and archaeological history. Expats can easily while away an afternoon here browsing the exhibitions of photographs, artefacts, traditional dress and objects that will teach them more about their new home.

Aberdeen Harbour

Located on the southern shore of Hong Kong, Aberdeen seduces expats and locals alike with its culture of traditional boat dwellers. Take in the unusual sight of the harbour's traditional 'floating village' and pop into one of its floating restaurants for a freshly-caught seafood lunch.

Victoria Peak

Expats taking a trip on the Peak Tram to the summit of Victoria Peak will see breathtaking views of the cityscape and Kowloon Bay unfold before their eyes – the ideal way to discover their new home and take in the chaotic beauty of it all. While up there, browse in some of the summit shops housed in the Peak Tower, or enjoy a bite to eat at one of the restaurants overlooking the city.

Wong Tai Sin Temple

This Taoist Temple is one of Hong Kong’s most frequented temples and is dedicated to Wong Tai Sin, a legendary hermit who supposedly possessed healing powers and was a soothsayer of some renown. This temple usually sees people making elaborate offerings or coming to see the local fortune tellers.

Working in Hong Kong

Expats working in Hong Kong have long found themselves in one of the more attractive destinations for moving abroad, at least as far as employment is concerned. Multinational companies abound, and the city-state's capitalist economy still opens up opportunities for ambitious foreign nationals.

However, job openings in Hong Kong are not as plentiful as they once were, and expats keen on working in the Fragrant Harbour will have to face tough competition from locals and fellow expats alike.

Those who manage to land a job in Hong Kong are usually highly skilled workers in the fields of banking and finance. There are also some opportunities for teaching English and volunteer work. Degrees from American and British universities are highly respected by the local population, and working in Hong Kong is generally thought to be a positive career move.

That said, immigration procedures can be fairly tedious. To get a work permit, expats will need to find an employer sponsor, meaning that they'll need a solid job offer beforehand. The Immigration Department also needs proof that the applicant will contribute to the Hong Kong economy in a way that a local could not.

Expats accepting a job in Hong Kong should do their research before negotiating a contract and be sure to secure a high enough salary to support themselves and their family. 

Job market in Hong Kong

While most expats still work in the financial sector, more are being employed in other developing areas of business such as management and IT.  There are opportunities for expats with experience in digital advertising, HR and the legal sphere, while investment banks, in particular, continue to entice many abroad, although lucrative expat packages are becoming increasingly rare aside from those employed in senior positions. 

Having some knowledge of Cantonese or Mandarin will help expat job applicants, but there are some industries that don’t require a Chinese language. This is especially true for international corporations.

Finding a job in Hong Kong

Many expats move to Hong Kong with a job contract already in place. The largest and most reputable companies tend to headhunt employees and lure them abroad with high salaries and the promise of luxury living.

That said, even for those who aren't one of the lucky international candidates to be recruited in advance, there is an assortment of avenues that can lead to a good job. There are many recruitment companies, and online job portals are also in no short supply. Companies also tend to advertise positions directly on their websites. By consulting a few targeted organisations regularly, opportunities for application can be found.

Work culture in Hong Kong

Westerners working in Hong Kong will probably experience some degree of culture shock. For starters, the working week is much longer than they may be used to – it isn't unusual for this to run around or even above 50 hours. The “work hard, play hard” ethos is a hallmark of Hong Kong.

It is also important to be aware of the finer intricacies of doing business in Hong Kong. For example, giving and receiving business cards with both hands is important, and bosses should always foot the bill for their staff during social occasions.

Lifestyle in Hong Kong

The expat lifestyle in Hong Kong really can be summed up in a phrase that's often used when speaking about the world’s biggest cities: "work hard, play hard." Nearly everybody does and, in a place that thrives on perpetuating and amplifying its bustling urban energy, there are always restaurants to dine at, bars to enjoy a drink at, clubs to dance in and attractions to enjoy.

People working in Hong Kong often live their social lives at the same pace and efficiency expected of them in the business world. After long, demanding days at the office, locals and foreigners alike have a bewildering array of opportunities to enjoy ostentatious luxury or to absorb the city’s natural splendour and cultural allure.

With the Asian financial capital's reputation for attracting wealthy foreigners who enjoy the perks of lucrative salaries, country clubs and glamorous homes, there are many options for expats lucky enough to live a life of luxury. That said, with high-paying packages becoming less common, expats with more realistic payslips will still have access to a lifestyle that can leave them fit, entertained and culturally stimulated.

It isn't always necessary to pay top dollar. Although the nightlife and shopping options aimed at expats will be more expensive, there’s also an endless supply of reasonably priced local equivalents. The subtropical city also offers a range of outdoor activities to people with a sense of adventure, from hiking trails and beaches to barbecue areas.

Shopping in Hong Kong

The shopping in Hong Kong is legendary, and it’s easy for high-income earning expats to quickly become aisle-cruising addicts in an Asian hub with no sales tax and an impressive inventory of designer boutiques. 

Flashy designer labels are extremely popular, especially with Hong Kong locals and mainland Chinese. In accommodating this, the city can sometimes feel like one endless chain of shopping centres.

The Landmark, the IFC Mall, Harbour City, Pacific Place, Elements and Times Square are just a few of them. Big names such as Prada, Chanel and Louis Vuitton are everywhere and high-street brands such as Zara and American Eagle can be found as well. 

Markets are popular with locals, expats and tourists alike. Ladies' Market, Jardine’s Crescent Market, Temple Street Night Market and Stanley Market are among the most popular. Be aware that not all markets haggle in Hong Kong – observe other shoppers to see if this is the case before trying to wrangle a cheaper price.

Sports and outdoor activities in Hong Kong

Hong Kong offers a tremendous number of opportunities for those wanting to exercise and socialise. 

Many expats use the facilities of the membership clubs, which offer pools, gyms and tennis courts. Alternatively, one can sign up for a gym membership or other specialist clubs. From yoga classes to boxing lessons, there is something for everyone.

Despite its limited land space, hiking is popular in Hong Kong, and the contrast between the lush mountains and the towering glass and steel buildings is spectacular. The Hong Kong Trail is a 31-mile (50km) trail that meanders around the forests and ridges of the city. It starts at Victoria Peak, ends at Big Wave Bay, and passes through a number of country parks along the way. Another popular option is the Morning Trail, a well-trodden route that takes one up Victoria Peak. 

For those keen to get out on the water, windsurfing, waterskiing, wakeboarding and sailing are all doable in Hong Kong. Windsurfing can be done at Stanley Beach, Sai Kung and Cheung Chau, while waterskiing and wakeboarding lessons are on offer in Tai Tam and Sai Kung. There are also a number of government-run watersport centres in Hong Kong that rent equipment and offer training courses.  

Healthcare in Hong Kong

Healthcare in Hong Kong is world-class. Both public and private hospitals are equipped with the latest medical technology operated by highly trained medical staff, many of whom speak good English.

However, the region also carries some of the world’s highest healthcare costs – so expats should ensure that they have adequate insurance coverage. 

Public healthcare in Hong Kong

Generally, the standard found in public hospitals is high, but service levels can be lacking and efficiency can suffer. Most expats therefore opt for private healthcare. 

Private healthcare in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has around a dozen private hospitals with international accreditation. Private healthcare services are popular with expats because they come with the benefits of shorter waiting times, privacy and other comforts. 

Fees range from slightly higher than in the public sector to extremely pricey if one decides to make use of luxury services. Either way, expats should organise some form of health insurance to cover costs.

Health insurance in Hong Kong

Anyone with a Hong Kong Identity Card is entitled to subsidised medical services, but foreigners without permanent residency must shoulder costs that are similar to fees incurred by private entities as services are charged at market rates.

Health coverage is often included in employment contracts, but expats who don't have such perks can choose from a wide variety of service providers offering various programmes and packages. We do recommend negotiating with employers for healthcare subsidies, though.

Healthcare schemes vary widely, so finding out what is included in an employer-sponsored scheme is important and, for those securing a plan themselves, we recommend comparing quotes before settling on a service provider. 
healthcare in hong kong

Private hospitals in Hong Kong

Canossa Hospital

Address: 1 Old Peak Road, Hong Kong

Matilda International Hospital

Address: 41 Mount Kellett Road, The Peak, Hong Kong

Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital

Address: 2 Village Road, Happy Valley, Hong Kong

Pharmacies in Hong Kong

There are plenty of well-stocked pharmacies in Hong Kong. Most are open seven days a week, with some operating 24/7.

Health hazards in Hong Kong

Air pollution in Hong Kong is arguably the region's biggest health concern and, despite the government's best efforts, continues to fall short of international benchmarks. As a result, expats with asthma and chronic respiratory diseases often have aggravated symptoms. Children, the elderly, and those with vulnerable immune systems are most commonly affected, while even healthy foreigners may suffer from nose, throat and chest irritation. That said, most healthy people exposed to air pollution for a short time experience no lasting negative effects. 

Emergency services in Hong Kong

Emergency services in Hong Kong are generally reliable. For ambulances, police and fire services, 999 can be dialled.

What's On in Hong Kong

There is always something going on in Hong Kong and expats who move to the Fragrant Harbour will be able to join in on a host of festivities throughout the year.

From traditional Chinese festivals to Western holidays such as Halloween, East and West live side by side in Hong Kong. It is worth noting that most traditional cultural events take place according to the Chinese lunar calendar, but equivalent dates on the Gregorian calendar can be easily found online.

Hong Kong prides itself on blending cultures and bringing traditions into the future, and there's no better way to see this in action than watching a magnificent display of fireworks explode and shower down on Hong Kong's glistening skyscrapers.

Annual events in Hong Kong

Chinese New Year (January/February)

Hong Kong certainly knows how to usher in the Chinese New Year with a bang. Expats can join in the revelry by hanging decorations on their front doors, and enjoying the street parades and lavish parties. The glittering night parade and the fireworks display finale are not to be missed.

Hong Kong Sevens (March/April)

A must for any expat who comes from a rugby-playing nation, the Hong Kong Sevens is one of the world's premier rugby tournaments. Rugby fanatics are sure to enjoy the vibey atmosphere in the stands where the music and beer keep the energy in the crowd alive.

Tin Hau Festival (April/May)

In a celebration of Hong Kong's rich maritime history, crowds of locals flock to temples across the islands to ask the Goddess of the Sea, Tin Hau, for plentiful catches, safety and good weather. The festival is perhaps best witnessed in the region's coastal villages, where attendees can enjoy colourful boat processions and feast on some delicious traditional fare.

Cheung Chau Bun Festival (April/May)

The Cheung Chau Bun festival celebrates Pak Tai, a sea god who keeps natural disasters and pirates at bay. Locals celebrate by parading and burning papier-mâché effigies. At the centre of the festivities is the traditional bun-snatching competition, where competitors scramble up bamboo-scaffolded towers to retrieve steamed buns.

Dragon Boat Festival (May/June)

One of the most vibrant occasions in the cultural calendar, the Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the death of Qu Yuan, a national hero who drowned himself to protest against the region's corrupt rulers. To keep fish and evil spirits away from his body, villagers beat drums, used their paddles to splash the water and threw sticky rice into the river. Today, his memory is celebrated by the famous dragon boat race, which symbolises the search for his body, and eating zongzi – sticky rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves.

Mid-Autumn Festival (September/October)

A harvest festival celebrated across China and Vietnam, the Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the most important celebrations of Chinese cultural heritage. Over the course of a week, people give delicious mooncakes as gifts to friends, watch the moon amid hundreds of glowing lanterns, and take part in extravagant dragon and lion dances.

Chung Yeung Festival (October)

During this festival, families in Hong Kong go to clean their ancestral graves and give offerings of food to the spirits of their ancestors. This is often followed by family picnics in the outdoors, while many people hike to the highest points around the city or fly kites for good luck.

Shipping and Removals in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a major port destination, making shipping and removal services abundant and delivery efficient. No duty or tax is levied on imported personal household items, and there is no limit on when goods can be imported or how much can be imported.

The cost of shipping is directly related to volume, method of delivery and the distance the cargo travels.

People moving to Hong Kong on an expat employment package should try to negotiate a shipping allowance in their contract. Typical offers include an air-freight and sea-freight allowance, both for shipping to Hong Kong and then back to one's home country upon the contract's completion.

Air-freight services are faster, but much more expensive than sending items by sea freight. The best way to reduce the cost is to split the shipment, and to send the things that will be needed right away by air and to have the remainder sent by sea. Anything that's going to be needed soon after arrival should be included in the air shipment, or even in one's flight luggage.

Furniture in Hong Kong

Those looking for cost-effective solutions should carefully consider what they need to take with them and what can be replaced when they arrive in Hong Kong. Furniture purchased for another city may not fit into a Hong Kong apartment (which will likely be small), and precious family heirlooms may be safer at a family member’s home or in a storage unit than on a long voyage across the sea.

Furthermore, IKEA has a number of stores in Hong Kong where good quality furniture can be picked up, and it even offers a delivery and installation service if an expat's toolkit hasn’t made the journey with them. It’s also good to keep an eye on expat websites for people leaving Hong Kong who are looking to get rid of their furniture. Some excellent quality items can be picked up for a small fee or sometimes just a delivery cost.

Hiring an international shipping and removals company

If an expat employee manages to secure a shipping allowance through their work contract, or even if they are just looking for the most hassle-free option to send their belongings to Hong Kong, we recommend that they hire an international removal company. These companies come to a person's home, survey everything they want to take with and make a quote based on the size of the shipment crate that will be required.

It's important to obtain a few different quotes – usually provided free of charge – and then to make sure the company that's been selected has reliable ground services in Hong Kong. This door-to-door pick-up and delivery comes at a cost, so the best idea for those looking for money-saving options would be to shop around for the best deals with international shipping companies online.

Common services to look for in a shipping company 

  • Picking up goods at the customer's location
  • Basic disassemble and reassemble of furniture
  • Border clearance and customs formalities at the destination
  • Professional wrapping of furniture
  • Preparing inventory list
  • Unloading all items to destination residence, and setting all items per the customer's request
  • Removing packing debris from destination residence

Expats should be aware that shippers often tack on additional expenses for certain packing materials, handling and hoisting of excessively large items and certain processing requirements.

Once a service provider has been chosen, they will come on moving day, pack everything and deal with all insurance and customs formalities for the moving expat. Their quote should also include delivery and unpacking services at the Hong Kong end. Hong Kong apartments are usually high up and small, so professional help when moving in is certainly something new arrivals will be glad to have.

Shipping pets to Hong Kong

Many Hong Kongers have a dog or cat, and once they've arrived, expats will find that it’s common to see small dogs accompanying their 'best friends' to Sunday brunch. There’s a thriving culture of 'Fidos', 'Rexes' and 'Bellas' in Hong Kong, and expat pets can certainly make some new friends, but it’s best to think long and hard about whether relocation really is the best thing for a pet.

Apartments in Hong Kong are small, and depending on where one lives, green space may be limited; furthermore, many city parks do not allow dogs. That said, there are definitely some ideal areas for animals.

Apart from the pet’s new home, expat owners will also need to investigate costs and legalities. A quarantine stay in Hong Kong and back in one's home country could be costly for the expat and stressful for the animal.

Pets from some countries don't need quarantine, and pets from certain other countries may be exempt from quarantine if they comply with permit terms. Expats should consult the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department of Hong Kong to see if their country requires quarantine, and to see what other formalities are required.

There are a number of dedicated companies in Hong Kong that can help expats with importing pets.

Kids and Family in Hong Kong

Moving to Hong Kong with children can certainly seem like a daunting enterprise. The city brings to mind images of hurried businesspeople, crowded subways and tall buildings, and it may initially seem like a nightmare to bring little ones to such a hectic place.

That said, Hong Kong can be an extremely friendly and safe place to raise a family. While expat life in Hong Kong can be frenzied, foreigners will be pleasantly surprised by how kindly their children are treated. Strangers always seem to have a minute to help a child tie a shoelace, find a misplaced umbrella, or reach a snack. 

Add this friendly attitude to the many opportunities the city offers, and it’s hard to deny that Hong Kong is very much a child-friendly city. 

Health and safety for expats with kids in Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s notable safety record is one of its most attractive features for those with kids. Violent crime is rare, and parents can feel fairly relaxed about letting their children out to play. Older children who are able to navigate the public transport system independently can do so without excessive safety concerns on the part of parents.

Hong Kong is one of the healthiest places in the world in terms of life expectancy and infant mortality rates. Public and private hospitals enjoy low waiting times for emergencies, and patients can expect a level of healthcare similar to that of Europe.

That said, air pollution, particularly that coming from mainland China, can affect visibility, mood and health. Skies can often be clouded for days or weeks at a time. Parents of children with asthma or other similar conditions will want to speak to their doctor about how to best manage their child’s illness while in Hong Kong. 

Family-friendly housing in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is densely populated, and many families live in high-rise apartments that are significantly smaller than the houses they might have been used to back home. As a result, expats may find that cramped living quarters affect the quality of their daily lives; a rainy day and a small house is not the best combination.

On the island, it is fairly uncommon for families to have a garden as most living is done vertically, and personal space comes at a premium.  

In the New Territories and outlying islands, there is a bit more flexibility in terms of living space. Here there are options to buy or rent homes with large gardens and beautiful views of the sea. The New Territories is much more rural than Hong Kong Island, and some expats choose to settle in this area as an escape from the busy city life. 

Education in Hong Kong

There is no shortage of good schools in Hong Kong, although many reach enrolment capacity early in the year. Expat parents should begin to research their education options as soon as they know where they’ll be living. 

Entertainment for kids in Hong Kong

From rural nature hikes to delicious street food, ferry rides, museums and picnicking and camping in the New Territories, Hong Kong boasts countless fun and educational activities for kids, both on and off the island. Add to this Hong Kong’s ever-popular amusement parks such as Disneyland and Ocean Park, and expat parents won't ever run out of things to see and do with their children.

Once they've conquered all the most commercial attractions, there are still tons of options for expat kids in Hong Kong – most parts of the city have youth sports leagues, public swimming pools, playgrounds and mother’s groups.

Education and Schools in Hong Kong

Schools in Hong Kong are well regarded academically. While public schools uphold a high standard of learning, the curriculum is mostly taught in Cantonese. This can be a deal breaker for some families, especially those only staying in the city-state for a short time or those whose children aren't young enough to be able to pick the language up quickly.

Another concern parents may have about public schooling in Hong Kong is the reputation of the country's curriculum as being centred on rote learning. However, significant reforms to the curriculum have taken place in recent years, resulting in a more modern and well-rounded revamped curriculum.

Still, for the sake of easing the transition in Hong Kong, most expat families opt to enrol their children in private international schools. Fortunately, the diverse nature of Hong Kong ensures that there are many international teachers and school options for expat children.

Public schools in Hong Kong 

Public schools in Hong Kong are fully funded by the government and offer free education to all children. The government has implemented language- and cultural-support programmes for non-Chinese-speaking children, which can be a great help to those young enough to pick up the language quickly. However, for older children, this can still be a difficult path.

Families in Hong Kong for the long haul may benefit from the cultural integration local schools offer – however, most expats opt for international schools instead, particularly those on a limited-term assignment.

International schools in Hong Kong

There is a large number of international schools in Hong Kong which teach the curriculum of their founding country or other internationally recognised programmes such as the International Baccalaureate. The American and British curricula are taught by many international schools, but other countries are also represented, such as Canada, France and Germany.

Fees for international schools are typically high, and families with an expat package that does not include a school subsidy may find the cost of international schools in Hong Kong to be prohibitively expensive. In addition, demand is high and securing a spot is tricky.

English Schools Foundation

Some expat families enrol in schools run by the English Schools Foundation (ESF). ESF schools are subsidised by the government. The organisation runs more than 20 international schools across the city-state, all of which teach the International Baccalaureate programme. 

Compared to non-ESF international schools, fees are cheaper. In addition, ESF schools are not academically selective, making it easier to gain entry, although waiting lists can still be long.

One caveat to bear in mind is that student admittance to primary and secondary EFS schools is bound by zoning, so parents looking to go this route should take this into consideration when looking for accommodation

Homeschooling in Hong Kong

The laws around homeschooling in Hong Kong are vague, but it is generally agreed that families intending to homeschool should inform the Hong Kong Education Bureau of their intention to do so. There are a number of local homeschooling organisations in Hong Kong that expats can seek guidance from.

Tutors in Hong Kong

Due the competitive nature of schooling in Hong Kong, hiring a tutor is common practice. For expats, tutors can be especially useful in smoothing the transition of an expat child into a new environment. Tutors can be hired for anything from general assistance with school subjects to helping maintain a child's mother tongue or tutoring them on Mandarin. Differences in education systems may result in expat children being behind in some areas of their new curriculum, and tutors are an excellent way to catch up.

Tutoring in Hong Kong is big business, so expats will have plenty of choices. It's always best to thoroughly research all options before deciding on any particular tutor. Schools will often be able to recommend a tutor. Some of the larger tutoring groups include the i-Seven Education Center and British Tutors. 

Special-needs education in Hong Kong

Most international schools in Hong Kong offer special-needs facilities, but the extent of support available varies widely from school to school. Some schools offer assistance with only mild learning difficulties, while others will have more extensive support systems designed to deal with a range of needs. Some endeavour to keep special needs children in mainstream classes as far as possible, while other schools admit only those with special educational needs.

For this reason, expat parents looking for good-quality special needs education should be thorough in their research. The ideal is to find the best fit between the school and the child – one that can meet their particular needs and that has the right experience and resources. Local special-needs associations are a good place to find recommendations and learn more about the system.

Some specialist providers include the Jockey Club Sarah Roe School, which offers special needs education for children of all ages with severe learning difficulties, and the Child Development Centre, a charity offering a full range of early educational programmes, assessments and therapies for children with special needs. 

Public Holidays in Hong Kong




New Year's Day

1 January

1 January

Chinese New Year

23–25 January

10–13 February

Ching Ming Festival

5 April

4 April 

Good Friday

7 April

29 March 

Holy Saturday

8 April

30 March

Easter Monday

10 April

1 April

Labour Day

1 May

1 May

Birthday of Buddha

26 May

15 May

Dragon Boat Festival

22 June

10 June

Special Administrative Region Establishment Day

1 July

1 July

Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival

30 September

18 September

National Day

1 October

1 October

Chung Yeung Festival

23 October

11 October

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

Boxing Day

26 December

26 December

*If a public holiday falls on a Sunday, the following Monday becomes a holiday.

Culture Shock in Hong Kong

Expats' experiences of culture shock in Hong Kong may not be as dramatic as they would expect, especially if they’re from an English-speaking country. As Hong Kong is a former colony of Britain, the locals’ English proficiency is high. Moreover, the religious and cultural tolerance of those living here is quite high.

Hong Kong has a population of more than 7 million people, so the crush of the populace can be daunting, especially for those who relocate from small or medium-sized cities. Then there are certain things in Hong Kong that are just plain different, and even the most well-travelled expat will need some time to adjust. 

Language barrier in Hong Kong

Hong Kongers are usually Cantonese- and English-speaking, with some degree of fluency in Mandarin. This bilingual nature actually makes it rather difficult for expats to pick up any Cantonese; people will insist on speaking English just because somebody looks like a foreigner. 

Cultural differences in Hong Kong

There are many unspoken rules in Hong Kong, and it helps to recognise that new arrivals need to give themselves time to learn these things as they go. In particular, the way in which people manage the space around them is something that takes some getting used to. For example, Hong Kong locals may stand closer when in conversation than expats might expect. That said, they are generally a reserved people and this is not an invitation for bodily contact. 

Socialising in Hong Kong

When interacting with locals, expats in Hong Kong should be aware of the concept of 'face'. Face is an intangible quality that represents a person's dignity and reputation. One can save face, give face, or lose face.

Expats should never embarrass, insult or contradict someone in public as this would cause them to lose face. Face can be given by complimenting and showing respect to locals in a sincere manner.

Tea is an important part of life in Hong Kong and expats will find that it is a constant at social gatherings big and small. An empty or partially empty teacup is sure to be refilled almost immediately, and when pouring their own tea, expats should fill up the cups of their fellow tea drinkers, too. 

Eating in Hong Kong

Food in Hong Kong is often served in a communal style, with several different dishes placed in the middle of the table. There is some ritual surrounding dining practices in Hong Kong, although expats will most likely encounter them only in very formal dining situations. Some general courtesies include letting the host be the first to begin eating and always leaving something behind on plates and platters. It is considered rude to take the last piece of food and would imply that the host has underfed the guests.

All but the smallest of restaurants in Hong Kong should have knives and forks available as a substitute for chopsticks, but learning to use chopsticks properly is still a good idea while living in Hong Kong. Some basic chopstick etiquette: diners should not fiddle with chopsticks and, if not currently using them, should lay them down evenly on the chopstick holders provided. It is also important to never stick chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice, as in Chinese culture this has the connotation of inviting death to the table. It is also impolite to point or gesture with chopsticks. 

Weather in Hong Kong

Many people find Hong Kong’s humidity unbearable. The city’s 'wet blanket' is most prominent in springtime, and is followed by the extreme heat of summer. Many expats have trouble adapting to the stifling outdoor temperatures, and those who can cope with the rising mercury may nonetheless have problems with the constant indoor flow of air conditioning. All the malls and office buildings blast cool air, so it’s necessary to carry a cardigan everywhere, and those who wear glasses can be sure they will be wiping the fog off their lenses several times a day.

Pros and Cons of Moving to Hong Kong

Relocating to any destination has its advantages and disadvantages, and expats will find that Hong Kong is no different. The better prepared expats-to-be are for the less appealing aspects of life abroad, the more successfully they’ll be able to adapt. The good news is that Hong Kong is one expat destination where the good generally outweighs the bad.

Here is a list of our pros and cons of living in Hong Kong. 

Accommodation in Hong Kong

+ PRO: Lots of options

There’s always something new being built in Hong Kong, and although that means being treated to the melodious sounds of drills and jackhammers when walking down the street, it also means it’s easy to find new apartments. So, while there is a ceaseless demand for accommodation, there is also a high supply.

When searching for accommodation, there won’t be a shortage of places to view. In fact, apartment hunting in Hong Kong is very much a numbers game; it’s all about viewing as many places as possible until finding something that's the best fit for an expat's requirements.

- CON: Lack of space and high rent

The rent in Hong Kong is eye-wateringly high, and the spaces often frustratingly small. However, since taxes are so low, expats should just placate themselves by the fact that the two balance each other out.

There is also a tendency to cram in as many rooms as possible when apartments are being built, especially in the newer buildings. Buildings from the 80s and 90s afford tenants more space for their money, and the rooms are larger, but the apartments might be quite tired and old. Additionally, there won’t be much in the way of facilities in the building, such as a gym or pool. Opting for a newer building means that house hunters will likely have a brand new apartment with great clubhouse facilities, but it will probably be quite small with lots of cramped rooms.

Furnishing a home in Hong Kong

+ PRO: Custom-made furniture

Pretty much anything can be custom-made in Hong Kong. Most shops will customise their sofas, beds, dining tables and so on, so buyers can have the exact style, colour, fabric, shape and size they want. Depending on the supplier, it can take somewhere between one and two months for specially made items to be completed.

- CON: Very little middle ground

There are few mid-range options in Hong Kong. Furnishings are either stylish but pricey, or cheap both in look and price. Either a fortune will be spent on bedding and towels, for instance, to get something decent, or one can opt for something dirt cheap and of poor quality. Things such as bedding and towels are therefore worth bringing.

The only real middle-ground option is IKEA. The stores are in central locations that are easy to get to, they deliver on time, and they even assemble the furniture on arrival.

Raising children in Hong Kong

+ PRO: Wide variety of high-quality international schools

Parents looking to send their child to one of the many international schools in Hong Kong will be spoilt for choice. Expat families in Hong Kong are often able to to find a school that offers a familiar curriculum or at least an internationally recognised one. Various national curricula are available, including those from the UK, the US, Australia, Canada, France and Germany. Another common curriculum is the globally renowned International Baccalaureate.

+ PRO: Plenty of fun things to see and do

Kid-friendly attractions can be found just about everywhere in Hong Kong, ranging from bustling theme parks such as Disneyland, to calm outdoor activities such as picnicking in one of Hong Kong's many green spaces.

Lifestyle in Hong Kong

+ PRO: A friendly expat community

The expat community in Hong Kong is incredibly friendly. Home to hundreds of thousands of expats, Hong Kong is exceptionally welcoming as most people know what it’s like to be new and are happy to help and befriend newly arrived expats. Unlike most cities where people have established circles of friends, in Hong Kong, people come and go so often that there is a distinct lack of cliques, which is refreshing.

- CON: A transient place that people leave

On the flip side, often some of the friends one makes leave to go back home, which can become frustrating after a while.

+ PRO: Varied nightlife

The lifestyle offered by Hong Kong is enviable. With a huge variety of restaurants and bars; there’s always something new to try. It also caters for all types of social preferences; expats can go for a night out on the town, enjoy a relaxed evening or indulge in a simple dinner party.

+ PRO: Outdoor pursuits

There is a lot to do in Hong Kong, especially when it comes to outdoor activities. Lovely hiking trails abound, and many expats decide to take up a sport and join a club and league, including various watersports. And, although Hong Kong is famous for being a concrete jungle, there are a lot of green spaces.

- CON: Humid summers

When summer approaches, the pollution and humidity in Hong Kong make it uncomfortable to do much outdoors. For most of the year though, the weather is pleasant and allows a lot of time to be spent outside.

Summer is also the season for typhoons. This may sound frightening, but Hong Kong is incredibly well-equipped to deal with the extreme weather. Should a typhoon be approaching, cautionary signs will be displayed everywhere indicating the level of the typhoon, so residents know whether they should batten the hatches at home, or continue their day normally.

Food in Hong Kong

+ PRO: Great selection of restaurants

In Hong Kong, every cuisine under the sun can be found, and restaurants range from the cheap and cheerful to the Michelin-starred and extravagant.

- CON: Supermarkets

Supermarkets are overpriced and lacking in variety. The price for certain Western foods can come as a shock, and even foods with Australian brand names will be much more expensive than their Chinese counterparts.

For expats wondering if the price difference is justified, it’s worth keeping in mind that the food standards in China are not the same as they may be used to. Hormones, pesticides and MSG are still used widely.

Supermarkets in Hong Kong also seem to have a distinct lack of selection and an inconsistency of stock (one week a certain product is sold, the next it is no longer there), which makes supermarket food shopping rather frustrating. Like everything else, it requires some adjustment, and the plethora of cheap eating options also means that eating out can just be the easier option. 

Travelling in Hong Kong

+ PRO: Fantastic public transport

Hong Kong’s public transport is modern, clean and, most importantly, reliable. The MTR runs at regular intervals, and delays are a rarity. Best of all, public transport in Hong Kong is incredibly cheap, especially considering how effective it is.

+ PRO: Cheap and abundant taxis

There are taxis everywhere in Hong Kong. They are cheap by Western standards but still more expensive than public transport. Because Hong Kong is small, travelling by taxi is quick and it's easy to find one – unless of course, it is raining, in which case all of them will suddenly seem to be occupied.

Working in Hong Kong

+ PRO: Easy to network

Networking in Hong Kong is exceedingly easy. The expat community is small, and no matter one's industry, meeting someone who will know someone that can make introductions to the right people is fairly easy. A lot of people, when searching for work, get business cards made up with their name and contact details to hand out when they meet people of interest, which tends to be more often than not in social contexts.

- CON: Limitations for English-only speakers    

Expats tend to work in finance, property and law. As a result, these are the areas that are easiest to get into for those who don’t speak Mandarin or Cantonese. It is, of course, possible to get into other lines of work in Hong Kong but, overall, there is a lack of opportunity for non-Mandarin or non-Cantonese speakers outside these three industries.

Cost of Living in Hong Kong

The cost of living in Hong Kong is undeniably high, with some reports putting the city's cost of living as the highest in the world.

For a number of years, Hong Kong has topped Mercer's Cost of Living Survey and remains the most expensive city for expats in the world in 2023. In part, this is thanks to the region's extremely overinflated property market, which makes finding accommodation an expensive endeavour. Add to that the fact that most produce and commodities are imported, and one tends to find that the necessities of life are generally more expensive in Hong Kong than in other cities.

Nevertheless, the typically high salaries earned by expats tend to offset these costs, and many find their quality of life is higher than it was back home.

Cost of accommodation in Hong Kong

Housing in Hong Kong is notoriously expensive and, depending on their needs, expats can expect a high percentage of their salary to be spent on an (often tiny) apartment. The older Chinese-style apartments, in particular, may be more reasonably priced, but don't afford the space that Western expats may be used to.

Cost of public transport in Hong Kong

Public transport is cheap, clean and reliable. By contrast, owning and maintaining a car in Hong Kong is very expensive. Most people find that they don’t need one if they live centrally; plus the cost – and risk of bumping into erratic taxi drivers – is generally not worth it. 

Cost of education in Hong Kong 

Education is free in Hong Kong's state-run schools, but the majority of expats who arrive with kids prefer to send them to one of the region's private international schools that follow a foreign curriculum, such as that of the US and UK. These can be incredibly expensive and expats should make sure their salaries or package will cover school costs before signing a permanent contract. 

Cost of healthcare in Hong Kong

Healthcare is free for expats using the public system, which is very good but heavily oversubscribed. Most organise a private insurance plan through their employer. 

Cost of groceries and shopping in Hong Kong

Thanks to its proximity to China, there are many things that can be picked up cheaply in Hong Kong. Household supplies, clothes and other bits and pieces are made just across the border and transported freely into Hong Kong, and are thus very affordable. China also provides a lot of Hong Kong’s fresh food and grocery items, and if expats are happy to go local in terms of produce origin, the weekly shop can be easy on the wallet.

That said, most Westerners prefer not to buy local produce, especially with stories of questionable farming practices and food additive scandals hitting the papers regularly. Expats buying imported goods can expect to pay double for many food and produce items (especially meat), with the result that grocery shopping costs will quickly add up.

There is no shortage of Western items on international supermarket shelves: Tim Tams and Vegemite for the Australian market, graham crackers and ranch dressing for US expats, and Tiptree Jam and Marmite for the Brits. Not to mention the Japanese supermarkets, Thai food shops and Philippines speciality stores stocking their own culinary assets from home.

Cost of living in Hong Kong chart

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for November 2022.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

HKD 17,900

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

HKD 12,800

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

HKD 35,900

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

HKD 23,560


Eggs (dozen)

HKD 27

Milk (1 litre)

HKD 25

Rice (1kg)

HKD 16

Loaf of white bread

HKD 18

Chicken breasts (1kg)

HKD 73

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

HKD 62

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

HKD 40

Coca-Cola (330ml)

HKD 9.15


HKD 40

Bottle of local beer

HKD 50

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

HKD 500


Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

HKD 0.71

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

HKD 178

Basic utilities (per month for small apartment)

HKD 1,560


Taxi rate (per kilometre)

HKD 9.50

Bus/train fare in the city centre

HKD 12

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

HKD 21.56

Embassy Contacts for Hong Kong

Hong Kong embassies

  • Chinese Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 495 2266

  • Chinese Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7299 4049

  • Chinese Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 789 3434

  • Chinese Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6228 3999 

  • Chinese Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 431 6500

  • Chinese Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 219 6651

  • Chinese Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 473 3514

Foreign embassies in Hong Kong

  • United States Consulate-General, Hong Kong: +852 2523 9011

  • British Consulate-General, Hong Kong: +852 2901 3000

  • Canadian Consulate-General, Hong Kong: +852 3719 4700

  • Australian Consulate-General, Hong Kong: +852 2827 8881

  • South African Consulate-General, Hong Kong: +852 3926 4300

  • Irish Consulate-General, Hong Kong: +852 2535 0700

  • New Zealand Consulate-General, Hong Kong: +852 2525 5044

Weather in Hong Kong

The subtropical climate in Hong Kong means that expats living there will experience cold winters, hot, humid summers, and a rainy season that extends from spring through summer.

Spring in Hong Kong lasts from March to May, and is marked by rising temperatures and increased humidity as summer approaches. The weather tends to be mild and pleasant during this period, but expats should note that the weather in Hong Kong can change quickly, so it's best to expect the unexpected.

The Hong Kong summer runs from May to September, bringing hot and humid weather with occasional thunderstorms, showers and typhoons. Temperatures can peak as high as 33°C (91°F), and humidity levels tend to make the heat even more uncomfortable.

Autumn lasts from October to early December and is arguably the best time of year in Hong Kong. Temperatures tend to be comfortable, and days are often sunny with a pleasant breeze. Humidity is low, rainfall is uncommon, skies are clear and blue, and temperatures are warm, but not stifling. 

Winter proceeds from December to February, with temperatures hovering around 15°C (59°F). Winter in Hong Kong tends to be cloudy and cold, but dry and free of snow and frost.

Typhoons may occur from May to November. Apart from gale force winds, the most notable consequences of typhoons are heavy rains that last for days at a time, causing flooding and potentially dangerous landslides. News and radio broadcasts will usually warn residents of approaching typhoons, which are ranked according to a scale.


Areas and Suburbs in Hong Kong

The best places to live in Hong Kong

There are a number of popular residential areas for expat accommodation in Hong Kong, each catering to distinct lifestyle preferences.

Families with young children tend to favour the southern part of Hong Kong Island, while single expats and young couples prefer the Mid-Levels area. More affluent expats often rent an expensive apartment or a townhouse in the Peak.

Here are our recommendations for expat-friendly areas and suburbs in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Island


Wan Chai

Wan Chai is a cross between a major commercial district and a trendy residential area. It boasts a great selection of lively bars and restaurants and is one of the best places to live in Hong Kong for those who want to be in the centre of the action. It has traditionally been one of cheaper places to live as an expat, but prices have risen recently as the area has become more fashionable. Rental options in Wan Chai range from budget digs to luxurious serviced apartments. There are many cheap clothing stores to browse in Wan Chai and tasty bargains to be found at the wet markets in the area.


Mid-Levels is an area just south of Central and Wan Chai, barely 10 minutes' drive from The Peak, and is one of the most popular places to live in Hong Kong for single expats and young couples.

This area is popular among young expats due to its close proximity to the city centre's vibrant nightlife. Mid-Levels is also a good area for expat families as there are good private schools nearby, as well as outdoor attractions such as the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens.

The extraordinary Central-Mid-Levels Escalator, the world's longest outdoor escalator, runs from here to the city centre. Historical apartments dating back to the colonial era can be found in this area alongside modern, newly built developments.

North Point

Expats looking for more reasonably priced accommodation and a sense of integration with the local population should consider renting in this area. Although this neighbourhood doesn’t have any large-scale shopping malls, it does have supermarkets, traditional wet markets and a few good restaurants for expats to enjoy. The apartments here are not only well priced, but generally in good condition too. There are good transport links, and there is easy access to Kowloon.

Repulse Bay

Contrary to its name, Repulse Bay is certainly an attractive area, although some may be put off by the high rental prices. The neighbourhood is inhabited by a number of wealthy Hong Kong businessmen and their families. It's an idyllic location for expat families who are attracted to its pleasant, palm-fringed beach and the close proximity to international schools. Those who live in Repulse Bay will need a car, though, as there is no MTR stop.

The Peak

Not only is the Peak the highest locale on Hong Kong Island, it is also its most affluent residential area. Height restrictions have ensured that the low-rise buildings don’t detract from the beautiful views, nor do they block any of the cool evening breezes that caress the neighbourhood.

Many housing complexes in the area offer communal swimming pools, tennis courts and gymnasiums, and there are also lovely walks to be had in the area. In contrast to Mid-Levels, where high-rise apartment living is the norm, the Peak boasts townhouses and single-family homes. The upper-primary and secondary campus of the highly rated German Swiss International School is located on the Peak.

Happy Valley

Happy Valley is an upmarket Hong Kong neighbourhood favoured by many expats, and is most renowned for the famous Happy Valley Racecourse, as well as its close proximity to the shopping and nightlife hub of Causeway Bay.

Happy Valley offers a range of accommodation for expats, from classic low-rise complexes to tall, modern apartment buildings. There are also a number of short-term serviced apartments available for expats to rent in Happy Valley. Those who prefer a quieter area with some green spaces, but who’d also like to be close to the energy of the city centre, would do well to find accommodation in this area.

French families are often drawn to Happy Valley for its easy access to French International School.

Jardine's Lookout

Jardine’s Lookout is an exclusive residential area located on the mountain above Happy Valley. This area is home to an elite community living in large detached houses and luxurious apartment complexes. Jardine’s Lookout has plenty of useful amenities, as well as a beautiful landscape of wooded hills and great views over Victoria Harbour. There are also international schools nearby for the children of expat families to attend.



West Kowloon

Though expats previously regarded the Kowloon Peninsula as an inconvenient and less developed place to live, perceptions have changed, and these days many expats are making one of the many high-rise apartments of West Kowloon home. Most of the newer complexes have superb facilities and fantastic communal amenities, but the older apartment blocks will not come so well serviced. Shopping centres abound and the MTR connects to the area, providing a quick commute into town.

Kowloon Tong

Many expat families have also begun to settle in Kowloon Tong as it now plays host to a handful of well-respected international schools. Accommodation here features a rarity in Hong Kong – space – as well as quieter neighbourhoods. Colonial-style houses, low-rise apartments and a smattering of gated communities make up this high-end residential area. Kowloon Tong is serviced by Festival Walk, a ritzy shopping centre, and is connected to the city centre by the MTR.

Parents have a wide variety of international schools to choose from in and around the area, including the American International School, Australian International School, Yew Chung International School and Beacon Hill School.

The New Territories


Sai Kung Town

Sai Kung, a small fishing village, is a popular place for expats and locals alike, and it’s easy to see why people love it. Seafood restaurants line the streets, and the area's many park benches allow viewers to gaze out over the ocean and admire the mountains while watching fishermen sell the day’s catch. Included in Sai Kung is the Sai Kung East Country Park, which is a haven for backpackers, parasailers, hikers, cyclists and campers.

The primary drawback to living in Sai Kung is trying to commute to Hong Kong Island. Sai Kung is not on the MTR line, so those expats making the daily mission for work will find themselves embroiled in a lengthy process.

Apart from that fact though, many expats choose to live in Sai Kung for its close proximity to good schools. Additionally, expats often find that the hassle of travelling to work is offset by the cheaper accommodation and greener scenery.

Lantau Island

Lantau Island, an enormous chunk of land, is nearly twice the size of Hong Kong Island and is home to Disneyland, the Hong Kong International Airport and the Lantau South Country Park, the largest country park in Hong Kong. There are also many residential spots on Lantau, including Discovery Bay, a popular place for expats to live.  

Lantau Island is significantly greener than Hong Kong Island, and strict ordinances help curb development and maintain the aesthetic appeal. Even though more commercial ventures and housing projects are present nowadays, the island is still relatively sparsely populated.

Most people living on Lantau Island have to travel off the island for work. Thankfully, it is well connected to the mainland via the MTR line and by frequent ferry services.

Clubs and Societies in Hong Kong

Hong Kong offers an array of social and sporting clubs and societies, which are extremely popular with expats. Many of these clubs are centuries-old institutions. For expats, these clubs and societies often become a home away from home, and boast bars, restaurants and social events, along with gyms, swimming pools and other sporting facilities. Joining a club is an excellent way to meet likeminded people and make new friends in Hong Kong.

Club membership in Hong Kong

Requirements for club membership vary from club to club. The most exclusive clubs operate on waiting lists with membership dependent on being nominated and seconded by existing members. The monthly or annual membership fee of these types of clubs can be pricey, and some operate a debenture system that can run into very high numbers. Membership can sometimes be passed on to friends or family. Some companies negotiate fast-track membership for their relocating staff as an added employment perk.

On the other hand, there are also a few less-exclusive sporting and social clubs that offer far more affordable packages, along with more relaxed membership policies. 

Clubs in Hong Kong

The Aberdeen Marina Club

This exclusive club offers a selection of restaurants, leisure facilities and member activities.

The American Club Hong Kong

Another prestigious club where members can meet other expats for social, business and recreational activities. The club has a distinctly American feel, but all nationalities are welcome.

The Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club

With a wide range of facilities, this club offers everything from golf, squash and swimming to restaurants and shopping. Expats who love sports will be spoilt for choice.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club

This club is popular with the diplomatic, media and business community. A good venue for meet-ups. 

Gold Coast Yacht & Country Club

Hosting an array of social programmes and dining facilities, the club boasts gorgeous architecture and stunning sea views. 

The Hong Kong Club

With an elite clientele, the club has extensive facilities to suit all needs.

The Hong Kong Cricket Club

Boasting a rich history, this club offers members numerous sporting facilities and activities, though the focus is naturally on cricket.

Hong Kong Football Club

The club, offering more than just football, allows members to access superb facilities for a number of competitive and recreational sports. 

Ladies' Recreation Club

Open to both women and men, this family-oriented club offers sporting, recreational and dining facilities. Rowing and sailing facilities are also on offer.

Doing Business in Hong Kong

Hong Kong's is a respected economy and, by some measures, one of the most open and transparent in the world, and expats find it easy and painless to business in the city.

Hong Kong's status as a Chinese Special Administrative Region operating on the principle of "one country, two systems" means that Hong Kong is a world apart from mainland China. This is seen in the local government's respect for private property and personal freedom, and its emphasis on non-intervention in the private sphere.

It is hardly surprising that the region is a key financial hub in Asia, acting as a point where Eastern and Western business interests intersect. It continues to be a key business destination and a magnet for global capital and multinational businesses. Although this Asian economic tiger may seem familiar in certain ways, expats should make themselves aware of the nuances of conducting business in Hong Kong if they want to be truly successful and respected in their new business environment.

Fast facts

Business hours 

Official hours are usually Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm, sometimes with a half-day on Saturdays from 9am to 1pm. However, workers may often be expected to work beyond these hours, especially those in senior positions.

Business language

Cantonese, Mandarin and English. The larger the company one deals with, the more likely that English is spoken. 


Conservative dark suits are the usual business attire.


Gifts are expected to be reciprocated and should be given and received with both hands. Gifts are not opened in the presence of the giver.

Gender equality

Women play a significant role in business, but expats may still notice that male colleagues are deferred to in business meetings.

Business culture in Hong Kong

The business culture in Hong Kong tends to be conservative. Business people are expected to dress in formal suits and their conduct should be professional at all times. Punctuality, mutual respect and deference to seniority are all valued principles that are widely practised. 

Saving face

The Asian concept of 'saving face' applies in Hong Kong, so expats should avoid embarrassing, confronting or contradicting business associates at all costs. Bad news should never be presented in the company of others. Containing emotions is also very important as anyone who openly displays anger or irritation is likely to make a bad impression, causing the person losing their temper and those around them to lose face as well.


Westerners aren't necessarily expected to bow when greeting local associates, although if no handshake is offered a bow is appropriate. It should be noted that handshakes in Hong Kong may not be as firm as expats might be used to. Associates may avert their eyes when greeting as a sign of respect and, while this won't necessarily be expected from an expat, it is a good idea not to hold another person's gaze too strongly. Similarly, a moderate amount of eye contact is suggested during conversations.


Expats should pay close attention to their choice of words and the way in which they are conveyed. Using confrontational or vulgar language, especially expletives, is a sure way to lose face. Poor choice of words, or even tone, can be enough to sever a relationship with a business. It may not be evident at the time, but the message will become clear as future efforts to meet or do business are continuously deflected.

On another note, while physical contact, especially between people of the same gender, may be fairly common in a social setting with friends, it should not extend beyond a handshake in the business setting – most locals dislike being touched by strangers. At the same time, people in Hong Kong might hold conversations at a much closer distance than some expats will be used to.


Expats in Hong Kong should expect small talk at the start of meetings before talk turns to business. Similarly, business negotiations will move at a slow pace, which should be respected.

That said, expats can expect to be invited to social occasions by their business associates. These should always be accepted as personal relationships are valued and these events, usually lunch or dinner, are a good way to build business connections.

Attitude towards foreigners

Hong Kong is one of the world’s most international cities and expats are integral to its economy. Foreigners are unlikely to experience prejudice or hostility, although observing cultural etiquette is vital in ensuring equitable treatment. 

Dos and don’ts of business in Hong Kong

  • Do make casual conversation, but not about personal, financial or political matters

  • Don't expect to get any business done over Chinese New Year

  • Do get a Chinese-language version of your business details printed on the reverse side of your card

  • Do have business documents printed in both English and Chinese

Work Permits for Hong Kong

Each year, large numbers of expats move to Hong Kong to pursue new career opportunities. Given its formidable international presence and its status as a former British colony, Hong Kong’s work-visa legislation is fairly liberal.

There are a number of visa options for Hong Kong which allow the holder to take up employment, the most common being the General Employment Policy and Working Holiday Scheme visas.

General Employment Policy visas

Well-qualified and experienced expats wanting to work in Hong Kong will likely apply for a General Employment Policy (GEP) visa. No quota restrictions are in place for general employment permits, and they are not sector-specific.

These work permits are relatively easy to come by if expats can prove that they have a high level of education or possess a specialised skill set that will be of value to society and isn't readily available locally.

However, expats will need to have a confirmed offer of employment and an employer sponsor before applying for this type of work permit.

Working Holiday Scheme visas

Working Holiday Scheme (WHS) visas allow expats from certain countries aged between 18 and 30 to work in Hong Kong for up to 12 months (six months for Austrian nationals). There are annual quotas of Working Holiday Scheme visas for each of the eligible countries. 

Participants of the Working Holiday Scheme are allowed to take up any kind of temporary employment, though they are obligated to change employers after three, six or 12 months depending on their nationality. Most nationalities are also permitted to study while in Hong Kong, though again, the number and length of courses that may be taken vary according to country of origin.

To be granted a WHS visa, expats are required to show that they have sufficient funds in their bank accounts to support themselves while in Hong Kong and show proof of valid medical insurance. They must also hold a return air ticket, or show that they have the financial means to purchase one.

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.