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Questions tourists have about Hong Kong but are too afraid to ask

Don't be frightened. Let's chat.
Hong Kong skyline
By Graham Turner |

Hong Kong's one of the friendliest cities in the world but if you're new in town or just visiting, it can be a bit embarrassing asking certain things in case you make yourself look like a prat. Not to worry, hopefully we can address some of the more esoteric idiosyncracies of our wonderful city and smooth things over for ya. You're welcome.

Want to get to know the city even more? Why not swot up on disappearing cultural experiences or dying trades?

Questions tourist have about Hong Kong

Hong Kong taxi
Wikipedia Commons

Why are people doing an Egyptian dance to taxis?

Ever wonder why so many taxis just nonchalantly breeze past you regardless of how frantic your hand-waving may be? Chances are, they've just finished their shift. However, there's also a chance that they're looking for a cross-harbour fare. This is where the hand dance comes into play – unlike the lazy stereotype we've used to describe it, the hand motion in fact represents waves. Cause you know, you're going under the water. Smart, eh? So, if you're looking to head to Kowloon or behind, try the sea wave dance and you might be on a winner.

dai pai dong

I want to eat, why is no one paying me attention? I'm hungry.

Local restaurants here share a number of traits – they're largely delicious, cheap and chaotically busy. As such, the servers don't have time for niceties. If you want food, you have to let them know as loudly as possible – it's not considered rude. A loud “m’ goi” should do the trick.

Red minibus

I've been on this minibus for four days. How do I get off?

We've exaggerated a wee bit there. But if you've been on a red minibus (and to a certain degree, the green ones) you'll know that for the former, bus stops don't really exist. You have to let the driver know you want to get off so you have be bold and loudly exclaim that you want to de-bus. Or, just be a chicken and follow people off if it's in the vicinity of where you want to be.

Lan Kwai Fong

Is it possible to have a cheap night out?

No doubt you would have read that Lan Kwai Fong is the place to be if you're visiting town. What you may not know is that having a big night there is tantamount to bank account pillaging. Want our advice? You can still enjoy the er, colourful, atmosphere of LKF without taking out a second mortgage. Grab a beer from 7-Eleven, be a street-crawler and pretend that you're totally taking a stand against corporations and hide the fact you're not just skint.

Chungking Mansions

Is there anywhere cheap to stay?

We know the prices of hotels can be formidable if you've not planned ahead (we're not here to judge). Cheap accomodation is possible if you're not overly precious about, well, a lot of things. Chungking Mansions has an overblown reputation of being Hong Kong's Mos Eisley Cantina. In reality, yes it's no Four Seasons but it's chock full of outrageously cheap guesthouses that can go as cheap as $150-a-night with the added bonus of great options for food. Perfect if you're on a budget. If Chungking sounds a bit earthy for your tastes, it's still possible to get a decent deal, check our guide to budget hotels for a head start.

Foot massage sign

Do smiley faces on signs really mean happy endings?

Rumour has it that any massage parlour that has a sign with a foot with a smiley face offers ‘happy endings’. There’s actually no basis for this theory, though, and it has been debunked by local media that there’s no strict rule to it. Sometimes a smiley face is just a smiley face.


Can I smoke in the pub?

Yes and no. No, in the sense that’s it's technically illegal and yes, as long as you're not going somewhere in the main drinking hubs like Lockhart Road or Lan Kwai Fong. The rule of thumb is the more local the place, the more likely they are to be pro-puff. Alternatively, any pub that has darts will likely let you smoke. Just keep it on the hush-hush (like us, obviously).

Want to know what to do in Hong Kong?

Things to do

51 things to do in Hong Kong

Whether you’re a first-time traveller looking for the best Hong Kong hotels or a seasoned vet of Lamma Island and LKF, these are the essential things to see, do, eat and drink while you’re in town. 

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