Hong Kong’s reputation as a busy, vibrant city packed with skyscrapers and people is…completely true. It’s one of the most densely populated areas in the world and has grown massively over the past few decades. But what’s it like with kids? We spent three days in Hong Kong with two children, a four year old and ten month old. How did we get on? Here’s our experience and some key details on visiting Hong Kong with kids.
There’s no shortage of activities aimed at children in Hong Kong. The theme parks of Disneyland, Ocean Park and the new Noah’s Ark are sure to thrill while the Wetland centre and Zoological and Botanical Gardens bring nature into the tightly-packed city. There are also educational spaces such as Hong Kong Science Museum and Heritage Museum.
As neither my husband or I had visited the city before, we wanted to explore Hong Kong as a whole rather than tailor it specifically for the children. Most of the main sights are family-friendly though and we had no complaints about our itinerary aside from the odd “I’m tired” or “my legs hurt”. These were easily fixed by getting a ride on daddy’s shoulders or falling asleep in the buggy as jet lag caught up. At 10 month’s old and not yet mobile, Cheeky went along with our plans and seemed happy.
Mrs T’s one request was to go on the Hong Kong Observation Wheel. We obliged and saw some wonderful views of the city.
Other activities included taking the tram to Victoria Peak, visiting Man Mo temple, the Tsim Sha Tsui East Promenade, Star Ferry, exploring the night markets of Mong Kok and visiting Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens. More on our trip itinerary to come in another post. You can watch our highlights in the short film below.
It can take time to navigate Hong Kong. It is large and spread across a few islands. We alternated between the two main areas, Hong Kong Island and Kowloon on the peninsula which is where we were staying (at the Royal Plaza hotel). In terms of gradient, Kowloon is fairly flat although you may have to walk across elevated walkways which can be a tricky to work out. In Hong Kong Island we kept finding ourselves being directed through a mall. Finding our way out through the right exit wasn’t always a smooth experience.
Some places on hilly Hong Kong island can be tough to navigate with a buggy, the Soho area in particular. We somehow made it Man Mo temple but there were a lot of stairs in the streets leading up to it and at times we had to go on the road.
Although the Zoological Park is great for children, it’s not so great to get to on foot with kids. There’s a hilly and sweaty walk up then a few gradients to tackle when there. It was doable with one in a baby carrier and the other in the pushchair. Taking an umbrella buggy which both girls could use was really helpful especially with the jet lag. The baby carrier got a lot of use too.
Hong Kong has a good public transport network with an underground (MTR), tram, bus and ferry. We gave the buses and trams a miss as we had a buggy so the MTR was our main transportation.
MTR (Hong Kong Underground)
To be honest, it felt a little slow with children. From buying the ticket, to locating the lift and walking through the barriers down to the track, it seemed to take a while. The stations are big and can be time-consuming (and tiring) to walk inbetween the different lines. Not something we would have noticed so much without children. Some of the trains seemed a little infrequent too compared to the London Underground when waiting as long as ten minutes for a tube is rare. However, most of them did have lifts (unlike the majority of London stations).
Tickets are cheap, around 50p – £1 in central areas, one way. You have to pay if your child is over 100cm tall (although they weren’t exactly checking). Day tickets are also available. Hong Kong has an Octopus card which comes preloaded and can be used on most public transport. We didn’t purchase one as didn’t think it would be worth it for all of us for our short time.
Taxis are very reasonable. When we had two tired children on our hands after a day sightseeing, we simply grabbed a cab back to the hotel. From Hong Kong island to our hotel in Kowloon it was less than £10. Taxis run on a meter but beware, some will not go under the tunnel to the other islands. After loading up the buggy and ourselves into a taxi outside Man Mo temple, we had to decamp after a shaking of the head from the driver when we told him our hotel. There are plenty around though so it didn’t take long to flag one down. There are also designated taxi ranks in some areas.
The Star Ferry was absolutely fine with a buggy while the Peak Tram can be done with a foldable umbrella buggy. The near vertical ride is quite an experience for them and the views from the top will surely impress. There are long queues for the Peak Tram so get there early. Alternatively consider getting a combined hop-on hop off bus ticket or one for Madame Tussards (which we did) which enables you to skip the queue.
Despite queue-jumping on the way up, you can’t do the same to get back down (and believe me, my husband tried!). If the children (or adults) are fed up and can’t wait, hop in a taxi. The number 15 bus also goes to and from Victoria Peak. If you have older children and are feeling energetic, you could consider hiking up and down the peak.
We stayed in Kowloon at the Royal Plaza which offered a decent sized room at a fraction of the price compared Hong Kong Island (we paid £500 for four nights). It had a swimming pool and a gym (which we didn’t end up using). Most of the main sights are on Hong Kong Island so we did a bit of travel within the city. Although it would have been more convenient to stay on Hong Kong Island, it was eye-opening to experience the night markets and shops of Mong Kok. I am not sure we would have done so if we hadn’t stayed on the Kowloon side. Tsim Sha Tsui also offers good midrange prices.
We went at the beginning of April and got a good spell of sunny weather with temperatures of 22-25 degrees celsius most days. It does get humid and sweaty but got cooler in the evenings (so take a cardigan). June to August are the hottest months and can reach up to 40 degrees celsius.
Hong Kong is well known for its food and there’s plenty of different cuisines on offer. Most places welcome children and many restaurants serve food all day. Most are reasonably priced. There appeared to be a good level of sanitation (and none of us got ill). We didn’t brave the street food though, just in case. High chairs or booster seats are available although some weren’t ideal for very small children without safety straps. Some restaurants have children’s meals and a mix of western and Asian food. We mainly ate Asian food. Our children enjoy noodles and rice while soup went down well too.
We managed to have some early evening drinks with the girls at a roof top bar in Wan Chai called Wooloomooloo. It had amazing views.
The staff were accommodating and I sipped a cocktail without it being split on me by a little person…surely a success?
You’ll find nappy change toilets in the modern malls but individual restaurants can be hit and miss. Some will have a table you can use. I had to improvise on occasions. Nursing rooms are available in large malls and museums.
Hong Kong can be intense and with so many people around, keep your children close. I never felt unsafe but be cautious. Western children will get a lot of attention. Many people wanted photos with the girls and some took them without asking. Streets and parks can get busy and hectic. We had one heart-stopping moment when Mrs T ran out of sight in a playground at the Zoological Park. She was absolutely fine but aged my husband by about ten years. Don’t take your eyes off them.
Hong Kong with kids can be a lot of fun and we really enjoyed our trip. At times it was a little challenging but travel with children can anyway, right? Hong Kong was a cultural experience we won’t forget in a hurry and both our daughters soaked up the atmosphere and sights. Some areas are hilly and are probably better suited to older children without a buggy but there’s plenty for all ages to enjoy. I loved wandering the hectic night markets in Mong Kok and seeing the views from Victoria Peak. Mrs T told me her Hong Kong highlights were the Observation Wheel and seeing the monkeys at the Zoological Park.
Don’t drink the tap water. Bottled water is reasonably priced and we had plenty provided by our hotel. Hong Kong has a time difference of seven hours ahead of GMT. US and EU residents staying under 30 days do not need a visa. Hong Kong using a three pronged plug, same as the UK. As a former British colony, English is widely spoken and signs and public notices have english translations.
For further information on visiting, go to the Discover Hong Kong website.
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