Situated in the heart of Asia at the southern tip of China, Hong Kong is a unique place where you will find a fast-paced, 21st-century lifestyle interwoven with local traditions and countryside charms. Here, you can be a part of the city’s hustle and bustle in the morning, unplug with a stroll or hike along a picturesque beach or peak in the afternoon, and come evening, choose from an array of entertainment options. Hong Kong’s first-rate public transport system puts every corner within easy reach. And while you can go off to explore a nearby nature reserve or a sleepy fishing village, rest assured that Hong Kong offers all the conveniences of a world-class city.
From a small trading port to a strategic foothold in World War II, to British rule and the return of sovereignty to China, many events and different communities have left their mark on Hong Kong. It is indeed a blend of cultures, although it is also much more than simply a place where “East meets West”. For example, did you know it was while defending Hong Kong that Canadian forces first engaged in battle during World War II, and a memorial still takes place every year for those Canadian soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the territory? And did you know that the Parsees – descendants from Iran (Persia) of the Zoroastrian faith – who arrived in Hong Kong in the 19th century played a prominent role in establishing many important institutions, including a popular local ferry service, a large university and an international bank? You will be amazed to find out how rich Hong Kong’s heritage and diversity is.
As a leading international center of trade and finance, Hong Kong is the ideal place to learn about business in Asia. Home to nearly 1,400 regional headquarters of foreign companies, Hong Kong offers an attractive business environment, based on the rule of law, an independent judiciary, free market principles, the free flow of information, effective anti-corruption measures and the use of English as the language of government and business. And you will be glad to know that with consistently low crime rates, Hong Kong is a remarkably safe place, by day and by night.
On Hong Kong’s doorstep are the many fascinating sights and cities of Asia. The Hong Kong International Airport is a hub for regional and international travel. You can easily board a direct flight that will take you anywhere in Asia within four hours, and a train from the city can whisk you across the border to Mainland China in just 40 minutes.
- 88.9% Cantonese speakers (2016)
- Chinese and English are the official languages
- English is widely used in the government, legal, professional and business sectors
- Population: 7.39 million (2017)
- Area: 1,106.66 sq km (less than 25% developed; over 75% open space with 40% country parks and nature reserves)
- Population density: 6,830 people/sq km (2017)
- Sub-tropical with high humidity
- June to August: 26° – 33° Celsius (can rise above 33°C)
- Typhoon season during May to November
Hong Kong being an international harbour for the rich blend of cultures, has its unique character. Locals speak mainly Cantonese while English and Mandarin are widely spoken. All official signs, most commercial materials and menus are bilingual, while public transport announcements are in Cantonese, English and Mandarin.
English is the language of instruction at HKUST, and you can expect to encounter minimal problems communicating in English on campus. With our experiences, it is worthwhile to learn some Cantonese upon arrival or ideally in advance before travelling to Hong Kong if you really want to understand and live in the culture, interact with the locals and to get the most out while you are here. You will also find yourselves adapting to the environment much easier and happier.
The basic unit of currency is the Hong Kong dollar which is pegged at about HKD7.80 to USD1.00, and consequent rates of exchange to other currencies. The Hong Kong dollar is divided into 100 cents and notes in denominations of $10, $20, $50, $100, $500 and $1,000 are issued by HSBC, the Bank of China and the Standard Chartered Bank. The government also issues $10 notes. The colors of $10, $20 and $50 notes have changed in recent years, but all remain legal tender. Please be aware that there are different designs for notes of the same denomination.
- Campus Banks: Most international banks have branches in Hong Kong. On campus, there are three banks: Hang Seng Bank, Bank of China, and the Bank of East Asia.
- Electronic Payment: ATMs are widespread in Hong Kong. Most terminals are linked to international money systems, including Cirrus, Maestro, Plus, Visa Electron, UnionPay, as well as the Visa and MasterCard credit systems. However, you should note that there are ATM systems in Hong Kong; one is linked to the Bank of China and its partners, and the other used by HSBC and other international banks. You may be charged a fee if you use an ATM machine operating on a system not linked to your bank.
- Credit Cards: Most major banks offer credit cards to students. Please be aware of payment due dates, annual fees and interest charges to protect your credit rating. Always check the credit card slip and receipt before signing and keep all copies of receipts as proof of purchase.
- Money Exchange: Banks usually have the best foreign exchange rates, although some are better than others. Often, the rate depends on the amount you are changing, and whether you hold an account with the bank. Commissions and service charges may apply in some cases, so you may wish to shop around before exchanging money.
Hong Kong has 17 statutory public holidays a year. Most shops and restaurants, major attractions, theme parks and public transport will operate as usual on most of these days, but banks and offices will be closed. For the Lunar New Year, commercial outlets will usually be closed for a couple of days and some traditional or family-run businesses may stay closed for up to 2 weeks.
Hong Kong’s official public holidays can be found here.
The water supply in Hong Kong is amongst the safest in the world. But as the quality and maintenance of water pipes varies from building to building, it is suggested that you consume boiled or bottled water.
Information on the drinking water quality in Hong Kong can be found here.
Most of the world’s mobile telecommunications systems operate in Hong Kong, including GSM 900, PCS 1800, CDMA and WCDMA.
If you wish to stay connected immediately upon arrival in Hong Kong, you can purchase a Discover Hong Kong Tourist SIM card or a prepaid SIM card from recognized mobile phone network provider which offers free local calls, free WiFi, bundles of mobile data, as well as affordable international calls and SMS messages. Before purchasing one, you should check carefully the validity of the prepaid cards as it varies from days to months. They are available at the airport as well as at major convenience stores.
Information on the choice of service providers can be found here.
The Hong Kong Post provides fast and reliable local and international global service. Local regular mail costs HK$2.0 for a standard letter article. For courier service, in addition to the Hong Kong Post, international services including FedEx, UPS, DHL, and SF Express are also available in Hong Kong.
On campus, post boxes are located outside the lift lobby of Lifts 31-32 on 2/F and the driveway outside LT-F and LT-L. Mailing counter service is available at Room 2615 (Lifts 31-32). Details can be found here.