Your Cultural Guide to Hong Kong

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There are many reasons you might be asking yourself how many days in Hong Kong you should spend. The most topical one, at least if you’re reading this article around the time of its publication, is the nascent Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble.

As of late November 2020, travelers who have spent at least the last 14 days in Singapore are able, upon submitting to (and receiving a negative result from) a rapid Covid-19, enter Hong Kong without the requirement to quarantine. The arrangement will also work in reverse: Hong Kong travelers can visit Singapore as they would’ve done before, more or less.

Of course, even if you’re reading this post in 2022 and the coronavirus pandemic is a distant nightmare, I imagine—I hope—you’ll find its contents of use.

How many days in Hong Kong

Where to Stay in Hong Kong

Irrespective of how many days in Hong Kong you end up spending, finding a happy “home” is essential. For shorter Hong Kong trips—say, a weekend or three days in Hong Kong—I prefer to stay in hotels. If you think you’ll prefer a base in raucous Kowloon, with its neon lights and crowded crosswalks, I encourage you to check out Stanford Hillview Hotel. On Hong Kong Island, meanwhile, I like properties such as Akvo Hotel, which is chic and convenient, in spite of its relatively low price.

For longer stays, you’ll get more bang for your buck when you rent an apartment, whether via Airbnb or one of the many “condo hotel” properties on Airbnb. I won’t recommend specific properties here—availability can be scattered, and I don’t want to leave you disappointed—but any apartment near MTR stations like Central, Sheung Wan, Sai Ying Pun and Wan Chai (on Hong Kong Island) and Tsim Sha Tsui, Jordan, Austin and Mong Kok (in Kowloon) should be more than up to par.

Suggested Hong Kong Itineraries

A weekend in Hong Kong

I’ve written an entire post about how to spend a weekend in Hong Kong, but if you don’t read it, I’ll summarize it here. Essentially, you’ll evenly divide your time between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. You might spend Saturday chilling at Chi Lin Nunnery and eating your way through Mong Kok Night Market, before riding the Star Ferry over Victoria Harbor on Sunday, and exploring Hong Kong Island landmarks such as Man Mo Temple and the Victoria Peak viewpoint before dinner and drinks along lively Hollywood Road.

3 days in Hong Kong

For most people, the answer to the question of how many days in Hong Kong they should spend is simple—and round. To be sure, three days in Hong Kong is almost a perfect trip length. This gives you a day each in Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, and a third either to take day trips (such as to the Big Buddha or Po Lin Monastery on Lantau island), or to treasures within or not far outside the city limits. In particular, I love visiting 10,000 Buddhas Monastery in Sha Tin, which is just a few stops from Tsim Sha Tsui but feels much farther away.

5 days in Hong Kong

Five days, when it comes to Hong Kong anyway, is sort of a “Goldilocks” trip. This affords you plentiful time to explore central areas of the city broadly and deeply, as well as to spend as much time as you want outside the city, be at exploring nature like Shek O Beach, or on a more civilized excursion to Hong Kong Disneyland. Staying in Hong Kong for five days also allows you to spread your culinary wings, juxtaposing local meals of roast duck with fancy, rooftop drinks at one of the many sky bars in Soho.

A week in Hong Kong

If you’re really into on exploring Hong Kong broadly and/or deeply, a week is definitely not too long, even if it isn’t an extremely common answer when it comes to how many days in Hong Kong you should spend. Some people, with a week at their disposal, will dive deep, whether that’s becoming a restaurant connoisseur in Sai Ying Pun, or scaling all the many hills near Jordan station. Others will want to explore broadly, whether that’s with day trips to cultural attractions to Tai O fisherman’s village, or to natural wonders such as the Lion’s Head hiking trail.

“Living” in Hong Kong

This is especially easy if you choose to rent a Hong Kong apartment, but is possible even if you stay in a hotel (assuming money is no issue for you). However, part of the reason I think an apartment suits this better is that “living” in Hong Kong (at least up to the validity of your visa) is all about immersion. How can you practice your Cantonese with staff at the local dim sum shop or discover hidden gems in forlorn alleys if you’re not living among it all? Note that if you’ve spent time in central Hong Kong on previous trips, this might be a great opportunity to discover the vast New Territories.

Visiting Hong Kong After Covid-19

One of my favorite things about Hong Kong is its proximity to other destinations. Most immediately, this includes the also-autonomous territory of Macau just across the water but, if you have a China visa, also extends to mainland cities such as Guangzhou and Shenzhen and, indeed, the greater Pearl River Delta region. Unfortunately, until a Covid vaccine is globally ubiquitous enough to see travel restrictions lowered in a major way, cross-border excursions from Hong Kong are impossible.

Obviously, as the health situation improves around the world and the Wuhan coronavirus fades into memory, new travel bubbles will be established; eventually (something in late 2021 or early 2022, I guess), Hong Kong’s borders will fully re-open to their pre-pandemic porousness. When that blessed day finally comes, my discussion of how many days in Hong Kong you should spend will assume you will leave Hong Kong’s territory behind at least once during your trip, assuming you stay 3 days or longer.

FAQ’s on Hong Kong

Is 3 days enough in Hong Kong?

With 3 days in Hong Kong, you can explore the night markets and street eateries of Kowloon, enjoy the luxury shopping and panoramic viewpoints of Hong Kong island, and take a day trip within the territory, such as to the famous “Big Buddha” of Lantau Island. 3 days is definitely enough to fully enjoy Hong Kong!

Is it OK to visit Hong Kong right now?

Assuming you can legally enter Hong Kong, whether under the Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble or by another means, Covid-19 conditions in Hong Kong are safe for visitors. On the other hand, many people fear for their safety due to ongoing political protests. Others feel it’s irresponsible to visit Hong Kong, whose sovereignty the Chinese Community Party continues to undermine, at this time.

Is Hong Kong expensive for tourists?

Hong Kong is one of the most expensive cities in the world, whether you’re a tourist or a resident. At a bare minimum, you can expect to spend 150 USD per person per day; most travelers from Singapore will need a minimum of 1,000 SGD for a long weekend, including economy-class return airfare.

The Bottom Line

How many days in Hong Kong you decide to spend is ultimately less important than how you spend them. This is true whether you’re visiting as part of a Covid-era “travel bubble” arrangement and want to savor the city longer, or if you come for a long weekend after the virus’ worst ravages have passed. Hong Kong is at once a manageable and relatively small destination, and a hidden behemoth whose delightful unruliness belies its miniature size.

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