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Hong Kong Travel Information

The Basics

Time

Local time is GMT +8.

Electricity

Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. The UK-style three-pin plugs are standard.

Language

The official languages in Hong Kong are English and Cantonese. The other main language is Mandarin.

Travel Health

There are no specific health risks associated with travel to Hong Kong. Food and water are generally safe, although visitors should consider only drinking bottled water for the first few days of their stay. The hepatitis E virus is transmitted through contaminated food and water and precautions should be taken with food and drink. Take precautions against mosquito bites, as there is a risk of Dengue fever. Outbreaks of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease are reported annually. Hong Kong's health facilities are first class, but expect to pay cash. High quality medical care is widely available but medical insurance is recommended to cover expenses.

Tipping

A 10 percent service charge is usually added to restaurant bills in Hong Kong, but waiters will still expect some loose change in addition to this. If no service charge is included, a 10 percent tip is expected. Taxi fares are rounded up to the nearest dollar (usually automatically by the driver).

Safety Information

Hong Kong is considered a safe travel destination, although caution should always be exercised when travelling. Pickpockets are likely to target unsuspecting tourists so one should minimise this risk through vigilance and by leaving valuables locked up in hotel safes when possible. Be wary of accepting drinks from strangers, as reports of spiked drinks are on the increase. Robbers have recently targeted walkers in Hong Kong's Country Parks so it is advisable to stay on marked trails and not to carry large amounts of cash or credit cards.

The typhoon season is usually between April and October, and the heavy rains may cause flooding and landslides.

Local Customs

Littering and spitting are illegal in Hong Kong and will incur on the spot fines. In Hong Kong the concept of 'face' is very important; avoid causing someone to 'lose face' by publicly insulting them or contradicting them in front of others as this is a general 'no no'. The Chinese have great respect for hierarchical relationships.

Business

Despite its close proximity to China, Hong Kong's business culture is worlds apart. There tends to be a heavy British influence on business culture in Hong Kong. However, one typically Asian aspect is the concept of saving face. Saving face represents an awareness of positive appearances and perceptions of other people or companies. Bad news should never be presented in front of others and keeping ones cool is vital. Open displays of emotion, such as anger and irritation, are frowned upon, as is causing embarrassment to another person.

Business culture in Hong Kong is quite conservative. Dress styles are formal and deference to senior members of companies is vital. Business suits are usually in dark colours. Avoid wearing bright ties, or blue or white coloured clothes, as these colours are associated with mourning. When greeting business associates, either shake hands or, if no handshake is offered, bowing is appropriate. Respect for personal space is important and physical contact should be avoided. Gifts are given during introductions, but never opened in front of the giver. Timepieces as gifts are inappropriate as they are associated with death. The business languages in Hong Kong are both Mandarin and English. Tone should always be even and measured and cultural sensitivity and etiquette are vital.

When tea is served at a business meeting never sip from your cup until your host has taken his first sip. Business in Hong Kong is conducted efficiently and formally and punctuality is vital. It is advised to allow for sufficient travel time before meetings considering the high traffic congestion. If you are tardy, effusive and repeated apologies are in order, regardless of whether you caused the delay. It is customary to exchange business cards (printed in English on one side and Cantonese on the other) at the start of a meeting, along with a handshake. Business cards should be given and received using both hands, with the Cantonese side facing the recipient, and should be treated with respect. It is common to greet the more senior or elder person first. Business entertainment is usually in the form of a lunch or dinner that is organised by the hosting partner. Food is also usually ordered and paid for by the host. Finally, the phrase 'have you eaten,' is a subtle form of greeting which generally means 'are you well.' Business hours run from 9am to 5pm during the week and 9am to 1pm on Saturdays.

Communications

The international access code for Hong Kong is +852. The outgoing code depends on what network is used: 001 for PCCW, 0080 for Hutchinson and 009 for New World. City codes within Hong Kong are not required. The local mobile phone operators use GSM networks and have roaming agreements with most international operators. Mobile phones can also be rented on arrival at the international airport. Internet cafes are widely available, and access is free at many coffee shops, shopping malls, MRT stations and public libraries in town.

Duty Free

Travellers to Hong Kong over the age of 18 years do not have to pay duty on 1 litre of spirits or wine, 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco. A reasonable amount of items for personal use is also permitted. Prohibited items include narcotics, psychotropic drugs, firearms and ammunition; counterfeit items, endangered species (alive or stuffed), and copyright infringed products.

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