I admit, I didn’t do much preparing before going to Hong Kong, but I believe that most of these aren’t usually what people would think of until they get to Hong Kong. Hopefully this is of value for those who plan on going to Hong Kong.
1. Use local money changers
When travelling, you will inevitably need to exchange your money to the local currency. There is a reason why you can find international companies like Travelex and Western Union everywhere. They provide a sense of security knowing that you will be getting real money in return and not counterfeit. However, in return, these guys charge quite a spread (the difference between what you’re getting and the actual amount it’s worth in the open market). For example, when I was in Hong Kong, assuming the CAD is on par with the USD, I should get approximately 7.75 HKD for 1 CAD. However, these big companies would instead be offering HKD at 7.25 / 1CAD.
Being a student, losing 2 amazing desserts per $100 exchanged was not something I could do and so I decided to keep my eyes open for better rates. Luckily for me, I found a place where the spread was usually .05HKD off what google would be quoting. For example, if google quoted 7.75, I would be able to exchange for 7.70. Located at Sheung Wan Station (the island (blue) line) and taking a left after exiting through exit C, you will walk to a street full of money exchangers at the first intersection. This shop is 3 shops off the intersection and has a tv that is constantly going through the rates that they offer, and from what I’ve experienced, have always had the best rates for CAD exchange. I would assume that it would be the same for all other currencies. I’m sure this shop has saved me over $100CAD in exchange commissions.
2. Try to have USD if you can
I found it weird that even when the CAD was worth more than USD, there were many shops that were offering to buy CAD at a lower rate. However, after thinking about it, there was sense in that. As the HKD is pegged to the USD (meaning that exchanging HKD for USD is always the same regardless of value of USD), many of these shops probably have a locked price for USD which is why they can offer the customers better deals. That being said, if you’re able to get USD without having to pay more than .5% in commissions, it might be more valuable having USD with you when exchanging money. This is especially true if your home currency tends to fluctuate a lot.
3. Transit – Learning How to use a Mini Bus
From what I know, the concept of mini buses only exists in Hong Kong and can save some serious time at a cheap rate. However, it isn’t the most friendly for travelers. I remember when I first tried to use it, I was totally confused. I thought they only stop at the stops mentioned on the bus route but that was not even close. So here’s a quick breakdown as to how they work:
4. Transit – Learning How to Read the Bus Stop
One of the awesome things about Hong Kong is that they have many buses that pass the same stations. However, that was also a problem for me who was used to the Toronto system. My biggest problem when I first started was not understanding how to read the bus stop. I’m used to having one stop dedicated to the station and the stop would be named that station. However, in Hong Kong, the way to find out whether the bus will go to the station is by looking at the red labels for the station that you’re looking for. After finding it, look for the MTR sign next to a stop and now you know that you would have to get off there to get to the station. For example, if I want to know if 1 goes to Central station, I’d look at the sign and search for Central. After finding that, I scan the stops under Central and see that the first stop there has the MTR sign. This means that I would get off at “The Landmark, Des Voeux Rd C.
What else would be of help? Leave a comment below!