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Moving to Hong Kong


    Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, is a bustling metropolitan region that brings together people of all ethnic backgrounds. Hong Kong is also a hub for business, bringing together the Western and Eastern ways of life in one exciting city.

    Signs are printed in both Chinese and English to accommodate the large British and American populations, as many British nationals move to Hong Kong from the UK for work.

    For anyone moving to Hong Kong, whether for work or to enjoy the dazzling culture, it’s always helpful to know how to prepare. Read on for our in-depth guide on moving to Hong Kong so that when you’re all packed and ready to go, you can settle into your new hometown nicely.

    About Hong Kong

    Population: 7.4 million

    Official Languages: Chinese, English (Cantonese a regional language)

    International Dialling Code: +852

    Currency: Hong Kong Dollar (HK$)

    Emergency Number: 999

    Time Zone: GMT +8 / EST + 13

    Hong Kong skyline at sunset

    Learning the Language

    The two main languages in Hong Kong are Cantonese and English. Foreigners are generally welcomed with open arms, as foreigners make up a substantial part of the population to begin with. You can find online courses to learn Cantonese before your removal to Hong Kong or enrol in a class when you arrive for face-to-face instruction.

    However, most people you meet will likely have a strong grasp of the English language, so you’ll likely be able to communicate without much of a struggle. This is particularly true in the world of business and government, but people you interact with on a day-to-day basis such as taxi drivers, waiters and other service individuals can be unpredictable in how well they speak English. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to know and understand common phrases just in case.

    Passports, Visas and Permits

    When moving to Hong Kong, whatever the reason, you’ll need to ensure you have the proper documentation to allow you to live and work there.

    Most people who are moving to Hong Kong for work purposes are likely to be sponsored by their employer. It’s always suggested that if this is a possible route it should be taken advantage of, as this way both you and your employer can ensure that you are in compliance with all immigration-related matters.

    If you’re not moving to Hong Kong on a work permit through your employer, these are the best resources to consult to find general information about the types of visas you can apply for:

    Can I Move to Hong Kong for Work?

    Hong Kong continues to be a booming destination for corporate relocation from the UK. You must have a work visa if you are planning on living in Hong Kong for more than 6 months unless you have a right of abode or land in Hong Kong. If you are moving to Hong Kong with your family then make sure your spouse also has a Dependent visa if they are not working. You must make sure your spouse and any children under 18 are covered by this visa.

    Hong Kong Customs Requirements

    The customs requirements for Hong Kong are comparable to most developed countries, with a number of inspections required to take place upon entry to the country, and a range of items being prohibited.

    For instance, importing items such as drugs, antibiotics (beyond the amount used for personal consumption), certain controlled chemicals, animals, plants, firearms or ammunition, fireworks, poultry, game and meat are all items that you would need a licence to import into Hong Kong.

    Busy street in Hong Kong

    How Can I Move to Hong Kong With My Pet?

    First, to move your pets abroad, you must secure a permit through the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. A pet import permit is valid for up to 90 days and you’ll want to allow up to 3 weeks for your application to be processed and approved.

    It’s difficult to say what the exact process will be after obtaining your permit, as import restrictions and quarantine requirements differ greatly depending on your country of origin. It’s always best to research this thoroughly and consult the AGCD website for specific information.

    No matter your country of origin, your pet must be up to date on all vaccinations and all of these must have been administered no fewer than 14 days prior to entering the country on your arrival to Hong Kong.

    Pets in Hong Kong

    There are certain protocols in place that you will need to adhere to upon arrival of your pet in Hong Kong. For example, there are strict lead laws in Hong Kong which mean that dogs are only allowed to run free in designated parks. There are also fines for those who don’t pick up after their animals, so make sure to use the bins provided when out and about.

    Exchanging Money When Moving to Hong Kong

    In Hong Kong, the currency used is called the Hong Kong Dollar (HKD) and is the same as the US Dollar. Each dollar is made up of 100 cents, and bills are available in the same denomination as the USD. The RMB or yuan is the official currency of mainland China but is not considered legal tender in Hong Kong and will not be accepted.

    It is easy to exchange currency into HKD, visit our Gerson FX currency services page where you can get a free currency exchange quotation.

    Housing in Hong Kong

    Purchase prices for housing in Hong Kong constantly amazes expats due to the high prices. For most, it is not affordable to purchase a home within the city, so renting is the most popular and sustainable option.

    All types of rental properties are available in Hong Kong, and expats will have the option of seeking out furnished or unfurnished properties depending on their needs. As is typical when renting in most countries, one month upfront is required, as are a variety of deposit costs. You’ll also need to split the cost of stamp duty with your landlord, even when renting.

    For the most part, residents of Hong Kong live in flats or apartments, though some townhouses and small houses can be found. Housing within Hong Kong is often much smaller than expected but is comparable to other large metropolitan areas where space is at a premium.

    Getting Around Hong Kong

    Many people moving to Hong Kong want to know about the best modes of transportation. Driving within the region is popular, and for this reason, Hong Kong has the highest density of vehicles per capita globally. The roads are in fair condition but typically very congested, and fuel can be very expensive due to the inefficient way of driving through traffic.

    If you have a young family or need to travel throughout the territory, you may choose to rely on a vehicle. While this can be convenient, many people go without and choose to use the reliable public transport system in place. Public transport in Hong Kong includes taxis, trains, ferries and so on. Public transport tends to be in good operational condition, usually clean and typically very safe, though it can get rather crowded.

    The Octopus Card, similar to London’s Oyster Card, makes public transportation all the easier, enabling travellers to tap their card on their preferred mode of transport.

    Ship with colourful sails in Hong Kong waters

    Social Environment in Hong Kong

    Most people who move to Hong Kong will enjoy a dynamic social life. There is a thriving expat community in the region, meaning there are plenty of social circles to enjoy,where you’re sure to make new friends. Meeting other expats in Hong Kong is easy – you’re likely to meet them through work, through colleagues, or through school if you have children who attend an international school.

    There are any number of social activities to take part in, from sports and health club activities like tennis, swimming, cricket, martial arts and plenty more. The nightlife is also fantastic in Hong Kong, with plenty of exciting clubs, amazing restaurants and mellow bars or pubs where you can get to know your new friends.

    Religious Worship in Hong Kong

    There are many different religions that are observed in Hong Kong. The official religions are Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism, however, there are very large Christian communities as well as Jewish and Muslim. Anyone looking to establish themselves as part of a religious community in Hong Kong will not struggle to find a place of worship or a group of like-minded people to socialise, pray and learn with.

    Interested in information on another country? Take a look at our other International Relocation guides.

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