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Hong Kong

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Summary

  • Exercise normal safety precautions in Hong Kong. Use common sense. Look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia. Monitor the media and other sources for changes to local conditions.
  • You could encounter demonstrations or protests. Avoid large public gatherings as they may turn violent. Follow the instructions of local authorities. See Safety and security.
  • Be alert to scams: some Australians have been duped by criminals who tricked them into giving the scammers money or carrying their belongings, including on international flights. See Safety and security.
  • Penalties for serious drug offences in Hong Kong are severe. Each year foreigners are arrested for trafficking drugs, mainly when attempting to exit the airport in Hong Kong. See Laws.
  • If you arrive in Hong Kong from a country affected by Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) authorities will screen you for diseases on arrival. See Health.
  • Typhoon season is May to October. Businesses and transport services close during severe typhoons. Monitor weather forecasts and local media. Plan accordingly and follow the instructions of local emergency officials. See Natural disasters.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

Visas

Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) and has separate immigration regulations from those of the People's Republic of China.

If you're visiting Hong Kong for tourism for less than 90 days, you generally won't need to organise a visa in advance.

In all other cases, you'll need a visa. It is illegal to work (paid or unpaid), join in any business, or study at a school, university or other educational institution without the appropriate visa. 

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Sydney or the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Immigration Department well in advance of travel for up-to-date information.  

Travel between Hong Kong and mainland China

If you plan to travel between Hong Kong and mainland China, you'll need a visa. If you plan to return to mainland China after visiting Hong Kong, make sure you get a multiple-entry visa for China. If not, you'll need to get a new visa to re-enter China. Get your visa for China before leaving Australia.

If you intend to apply for a visa at the border of Shenzhen and Hong Kong, and you held a Chinese visa in a recently replaced passport, you may be asked to present your previous passport and Chinese visa.  If you have visited China previously, you may be denied a visa on arrival if you are unable to produce your previous China visa.

More information: Mainland China travel advice

Passport

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months after the date you intend to return to Australia.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to obtain access to your passport by deception.  If you are forced to hand over your passport, contact the Consulate-General for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Money

The currency in Hong Kong is the Hong Kong Dollar (HKD). There are no restrictions on entering or departing Hong Kong with local or foreign currency.

You can readily exchange Australian dollars for HKD at local currency exchangers and banks.

Credit cards are widely accepted in Hong Kong. Take care when using ATMs as petty crime occurs. See Safety and security.

More information: Hong Kong Customs list of prohibited/controlled items

Safety and security

Civil unrest and political tension

The risk of demonstrations and protests remains high. Monitor local media, exercise vigilance and avoid protests and large public gatherings as they may turn violent.

  • Monitor local media for advice of planned or possible protests or other civil unrest.
  • Avoid protests, large public gatherings and other sites of possible civil unrest.
  • Follow all instructions issued by local authorities.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world.  

More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Crime

There is little violent crime in Hong Kong but you could encounter pick-pocketing and street theft. Thieves target tourist destinations and crowded locations such as markets and trains.

Criminal syndicates hire females to approach unaccompanied western male tourists in bars and nightclubs to spike their drinks and steal their valuables. The criminals then use the victim's card to withdraw money from their account at ATMs.

  • Take care of your belongings, especially in crowded places.
  • Use common sense.
  • Keep an eye out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia.
  • Use ATMs in controlled areas such as inside banks, shops or shopping centres.
  • Take precautions when using ATMs or direct debit machines.
  • If approached while using an ATM, cancel the transaction before speaking to anyone.
  • Be wary of strangers who approach you in bars and night clubs.
  • Don't accept drinks, food, gum or cigarettes from strangers or new acquaintances.
  • Don't leave food or drinks unattended.

More information:

Scams

Scams against Australian travellers are increasing. Scammers present themselves to Australian travellers as individuals in need and ask for assistance to carry another person's luggage on an international flight. The scam is usually initiated via the internet and financial rewards are often offered as an enticement. Scammers may also request your money, credit card or online bank account details.

Scams involving fake arrests, bogus property, holiday club or time-share schemes, scratch lottery tickets and foreign lottery schemes have been reported in Hong Kong. Relationship scams have also been reported. Be wary of strangers asking for your assistance.

  • Never carry anything for anyone you do not know and trust, especially when crossing international borders – drugs or other contraband could be concealed inside.
  • Never send money or give credit card or bank account details to anyone you do not know and trust.
  • Thoroughly research any proposed scheme before entering into an agreement or committing your money.
  • Seek independent, qualified legal advice before signing any property contract.

More information:

Local travel

Accommodation

Unlicensed guesthouses providing low cost accommodation operate in Hong Kong. Unlicensed guest houses may not adhere to the safety standards set for licensed guesthouses, and can present serious safety and security risks.

If you choose to stay in a guesthouse, confirm it is licensed and inform your family and friends of the details of your stay.

More information: Home Affairs Department of Hong Kong

Road travel

Hong Kong has a well-developed road network of similar standard to a large Australian city.

  • Check you have adequate insurance cover before driving.
  • Familiarise yourself with local road rules and practices.
  • Drive defensively.
  • Don't drink and drive.

More information: Road safety and driving

Driver's licence

You can drive in Hong Kong with an International Driver Permit and a valid Australian driver's licence for periods of up to 12 months. After that you'll need to apply for a local licence. Ensure that you are covered for insurance purposes if driving in Hong Kong without a Hong Kong driver's licence.

More information: Hong Kong Transport Department

Motorcycles

Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when riding a motorcycle. Most travel insurance policies have exclusions for not complying with local laws or wearing a helmet. Wear, and ensure your passenger wears, a correctly fastened and approved helmet.

Taxis

Use only licensed taxis or reputable limousine services, preferably those arranged through your hotel. Always insist that the meter is used.

A small, but increasing number of foreigners in Hong Kong have been involved in disputes with taxi drivers over the taxi fare.  If you have an issue with a taxi driver, ask for a receipt, record the taxi driver's licence number and contact the police. 

Public transport

Hong Kong has an extensive public transport system, including the MTR, buses, ferries and trams. Take care of your possessions as petty crime occurs.

More information:

Sea travel

Ferries are a common mode of transport between Hong Kong, Macau and the Chinese mainland.

A number of cruise lines stop over in Hong Kong.

More information: 

Air travel

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Hong Kong.

More information: Air travel

Laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that may appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular services charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Drug laws

Penalties for possession of illegal drugs, including 'soft drugs', such as marijuana, include heavy fines and imprisonment. Each year, a number of foreigners are arrested for allegedly trafficking drugs, mainly when attempting to exit the airport in Hong Kong.

Penalties also exist for possession without a prescription of sleeping tablets or prescription medication used in treating conditions such as erectile dysfunction or anxiety. Travellers are able to enter and exit Hong Kong with most prescription medicine as long as it is in small quantities for personal use and accompanied by a prescription. Information on specific medication is available from Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department. See also Health.

More information: Carrying or using drugs

Other laws

Hong Kong has strict laws regarding the import and/or possession of any type of weapon and items that may resemble weapons, including replicas, antiques, toys and fashion accessories. Foreigners, including Australians, have been prosecuted for possession of stunning devices (taser gun), dart and spear guns, knuckledusters and slingshots. To import, possess or purchase such items legally (including from local Hong Kong markets), you need to get permits from local authorities in advance.

The laws apply to individuals in Hong Kong and those transiting Hong Kong airport and to their luggage, including checked luggage and luggage in transit. If you are found in possession of such items (including in your luggage), you'll be arrested, fined and/or imprisoned.

More information: List of restricted items (Civil Aviation Department, Hong Kong)

While legal in some countries, the following activities are illegal in Hong Kong:

  • public demonstrations without government approval
  • taking photographs of military installations

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you can be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

Under Chinese law, dual nationality is not recognised. However, Hong Kong's basic law allows dual nationals of Chinese descent to register their Australian nationality with the Hong Kong Immigration Department if they wish to be considered as a national of Australia. Doing so would ensure access to Australian consular services, if required. If you are an Australian/Hong Kong dual national, seek further information on completing a Declaration of Change of Nationality, and the consequences of this, from the Hong Kong Immigration Department.

If you plan to enter mainland China from Hong Kong, do so on your Australian passport. If you travel on other documents, we will not be able to provide you with consular assistance as China does not recognise dual nationality.

More information:

Local customs

Homosexual activity is legal in Hong Kong. Most Hong Kongers are accepting or indifferent to LGBTI travellers but community attitudes towards LGBTI persons are generally more conservative than in Australia.

More information: LGBTI travellers

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation.

Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

If travelling on a cruise ship that stops in or passes near Hong Kong, ensure that your travel insurance covers you for any medical treatment in Hong Kong, including possible medical evacuation costs.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in Hong Kong and each destination you're travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel.

In Hong Kong, it is illegal to possess sleeping tablets or certain medications used in treating conditions such as erectile dysfunction or anxiety without a prescription.

Take legal prescription medicine with you so you remain in good health. Always carry a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you take and that it's for personal use only.

More information:

Health risks

Air pollution

The levels of air pollution in Hong Kong may aggravate bronchial, sinus or asthma conditions. If you have an existing heart or respiratory illness, reduce physical exertion and outdoor activities on days when very high pollution levels are recorded. The Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department provides up-to-date air quality reports and advice on its website.

Mosquito-borne diseases

Outbreaks of mosquito-borne illnesses, including dengue fever, occur from time to time. The Hong Kong SAR Government is currently at 'Alert' response level for the Zika virus. This is the lowest level in the three-tier alert system.

Protect yourself against mosquito-borne illnesses:

  • ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • if you are pregnant, consult your doctor about possible Zika virus risks before you travel.

Other infectious diseases

Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) is common in Hong Kong with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. Outbreaks usually start in March/April and peak in May but can continue until August to October each year. HFMD mostly affects children under the age of 10 years, but adult cases (particularly young adults) occur. The illness is characterised by fever as well as blisters and rashes on the hands, feet and buttocks. HFMD is spread by direct contact with nose and throat discharges and faeces of infected people.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including tuberculosis, hepatitis, scarlet fever) occur sporadically.

  • Use hygiene precautions, including careful and frequent hand washing.
  • In rural areas, boil all drinking water or drink bottled water.
  • Avoid ice cubes.
  • Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Influenza

The Hong Kong SAR Government is currently at 'Alert' response level for influenza, including avian influenza A(H7N9). This is the lowest level in the three-tier alert system. Human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9) have been reported in mainland China.

  • Use good hand hygiene and food safety practices.
  • Avoid contact with animals.

More information

MERS-CoV

The Hong Kong SAR Government is currently at 'Alert' response level for MERS-CoV. This is the lowest level in the three-tier alert system. Hong Kong's Department of Health applies special surveillance mechanisms at border control points. Travellers who arrive or transit in Hong Kong and have flu like symptoms may be sent to public hospitals for isolation and management until their specimens test negative for MERS-CoV.

More information: Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection.

Medical facilities

Hong Kong has a wide range of medical services and facilities that are of a high standard.

Costs can be considerably more expensive than in Australia. Private hospitals may require confirmation of insurance cover, guarantee of payment or an upfront deposit before admitting patients.

Natural disasters

Hong Kong experiences typhoons. Local safety procedures require businesses and transportation to close during typhoon level 8 and above. The Australian Consulate-General in Hong Kong closes when the "Typhoon 8" signal is given.

Flights and ferries into and out of Hong Kong may be delayed or suspended, including for weather-related reasons. Contact your travel operator or airline for the latest departure information.

  • Monitor regional weather forecasts and plan accordingly.
  • Familiarise yourself with your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans.
  • Secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag).
  • Take official warnings seriously.
  • Familiarise yourself with the advice of local authorities on preparing for a natural disaster.

If there is a natural disaster:

  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • closely monitor the media, other local information sources and the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts.

More information:

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergency phone numbers

  • Fire: 999
  • Ambulance: 999
  • Police: 999 or contact the local police at the nearest police station

Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular services charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas. For consular assistance, contact the Australian Consulate General in Hong Kong.

Australian Consulate General, Hong Kong

23/F Harbour Centre, 25 Harbour Road
Wanchai, Hong Kong
Telephone: (852) 2827 8881
Facsimile: (852) 2585 4457
Website: hongkong.china.embassy.gov.au
Facebook: Australia in Hong Kong and Macau

Check the Australian Consulate-General website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you are unable to contact the Consulate-General in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Additional resources