Embracing the Dragon City: Your Ultimate Guide to Moving to Hong Kong

Hong Kong, a vibrant and bustling metropolis, has long been a sought-after destination for expatriates from around the globe. With its iconic skyline, diverse culture, and strategic location as a gateway to the East, Hong Kong offers a unique and exciting lifestyle for those who choose to call it home. This comprehensive guide aims to provide you with all the essential information and insights needed to make your move to Hong Kong as smooth as possible.

Key Facts

CategoryKey Facts
Official NameHong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China
LocationSoutheastern China, at the mouth of the Pearl River Delta
Area1,104 square kilometers (426 square miles)
PopulationApprox. 7.5 million (as of 2021)
Official LanguagesChinese (Cantonese) and English
CurrencyHong Kong Dollar (HKD)
Time ZoneHong Kong Time (HKT), UTC+8
ClimateSubtropical, with hot and humid summers and cool, dry winters
GDP per capita (PPP)Approx. $66,000 (as of 2021)
Main IndustriesFinancial services, trade, tourism, professional services, retail, real estate, manufacturing, and technology
Political SystemOne country, two systems (under Chinese sovereignty with a separate legal and economic system)
DrivingLeft-hand side of the road
Electricity220 volts, 50 Hz, British-style three-pin plugs (Type G)
Emergency ServicesDial 999 for police, fire, or ambulance services
International Dialing Code+852

Visa and Immigration

When it comes to moving to Hong Kong, obtaining the appropriate visa is of paramount importance. There are several types of visas available, each catering to different needs and circumstances:

  1. Employment Visa: For individuals with a confirmed job offer from a Hong Kong employer. The applicant must possess relevant qualifications and experience, and the employer must prove they could not find a local candidate for the position.
  2. Investment Visa: For entrepreneurs wishing to establish or join a business in Hong Kong. Applicants must demonstrate a substantial contribution to the local economy and provide a detailed business plan.
  3. Dependent Visa: For spouses and children under 18 of individuals holding a valid Hong Kong visa.
  4. Student Visa: For those enrolled in a full-time, accredited course of study in Hong Kong.
  5. Training Visa: For individuals participating in a structured training program aimed at acquiring specialized skills not available in their home country.

The visa application process typically involves submitting the relevant forms, along with supporting documents, to the Hong Kong Immigration Department, either in person or by mail. Processing times vary, but applicants can generally expect a decision within four to eight weeks.

Immigration laws and regulations in Hong Kong are strict, and it’s crucial to adhere to the conditions of your visa. Violating these conditions could result in penalties or even deportation. Be sure to stay informed about any changes to immigration policies that may affect your status.

Cost of Living

Understanding the cost of living in Hong Kong is essential for planning a successful move. Here are some key factors to consider:

  • Currency and exchange rates: The official currency is the Hong Kong Dollar (HKD). Be mindful of exchange rates when converting your home currency and managing your finances. We recommend using a specialist international remittance provider.
  • Housing costs: Hong Kong is notorious for its high property prices. Renting is common among expats, and costs vary significantly depending on location, size, and amenities. In more popular expat areas, expect to pay a premium. Buying property can be a complex process, and it’s essential to research the market and engage a reputable agent.
  • Utilities and other household expenses: Utilities such as electricity, water, and gas are generally not included in rental agreements. The cost of these services will depend on your usage and the size of your property. Additionally, you should budget for expenses like internet, phone plans, and television subscriptions.
  • Food and dining expenses: While groceries in Hong Kong can be pricey, there are more affordable options at local markets. Dining out varies in cost, with options ranging from budget street food to high-end restaurants. To save money, consider embracing the local cuisine and cooking at home.
  • Transportation costs: Public transportation in Hong Kong is efficient and affordable, including the MTR, buses, trams, and ferries. Taxis and ride-sharing services are also available but can be more expensive.
  • Entertainment and leisure expenses: Hong Kong offers a wide range of entertainment options. Cinema tickets, fitness memberships, and tickets to events can vary in price. Outdoor activities, such as hiking and visiting beaches, are generally free or low-cost.
Expense CategoryAverage Cost in Hong Kong (HKD)Average Cost in Hong Kong (USD)
Rent (1-bedroom apartment in city center)16,000 – 25,000/month2,050 – 3,200/month
Rent (1-bedroom apartment outside city center)10,000 – 15,000/month1,280 – 1,930/month
Utilities (electricity, water, heating, cooling)800 – 1,500/month100 – 190/month
Internet (60 Mbps or more, unlimited data)200 – 350/month25 – 45/month
Transportation (Monthly public transport pass)500 – 700/month65 – 90/month
Groceries (for one person)2,500 – 4,000/month320 – 510/month
Meal at an inexpensive restaurant50 – 1006 – 13
Meal at a mid-range restaurant (3-course, for one)200 – 40025 – 50
Cappuccino at a café30 – 504 – 6
Domestic Beer (0.5-liter draught)40 – 805 – 10
Imported Beer (0.33-liter bottle)40 – 705 – 9
Gasoline (1 liter)12 – 201.50 – 2.50
Movie ticket (standard screening)80 – 12010 – 15
Gym membership (monthly fee)300 – 800/month40 – 100/month
Please note that these average costs are approximate as of 12 April 2023. Additionally, costs can vary widely depending on personal preferences, lifestyle, and location within Hong Kong. The exchange rate used for converting HKD to USD is approximately 1 HKD = 0.128 USD, but it may also change over time.

Housing and Neighborhoods

Finding the right neighborhood and housing in Hong Kong is crucial to your overall experience. Some popular expat neighborhoods include:

  1. Central and Western District: A bustling area on Hong Kong Island, known for its financial hub, luxury shopping, and vibrant dining scene. Ideal for those who prefer being at the heart of the city.
  2. Mid-Levels: An upscale residential area located just above Central, offering stunning views and easy access to amenities. Popular among expats for its prestigious schools and proximity to the business district.
  3. Repulse Bay and Stanley: These picturesque seaside neighborhoods on the south side of Hong Kong Island offer a more relaxed lifestyle, with beautiful beaches and a family-friendly atmosphere.
  4. Discovery Bay: A predominantly expat community on Lantau Island, featuring spacious apartments, lush greenery, and a slower pace of life. Excellent for families and those seeking a quieter environment.
  5. Kowloon: A more affordable option compared to Hong Kong Island, Kowloon offers a mix of residential and commercial areas, local markets, and a diverse food scene.

When searching for housing, online resources, local agents, and recommendations from friends or colleagues can be invaluable. Be prepared to act quickly, as the rental market can be competitive.

Lease agreements in Hong Kong typically last for one or two years, with a break clause after the first year. Deposits are usually equivalent to two or three months’ rent, and tenants are responsible for paying a stamp duty. Ensure you fully understand your rights and responsibilities as a tenant before signing any lease agreements.

Hong Kong

Employment and Business

Hong Kong’s dynamic job market offers diverse opportunities for expats across various industries. Finance, trade, and professional services are particularly strong sectors, with additional opportunities in technology, education, and creative fields.

To increase your chances of securing a job in Hong Kong, networking is essential. Attend industry events, join local organizations, and leverage social media platforms like LinkedIn to make connections.

For entrepreneurs looking to set up a business in Hong Kong, the process is relatively straightforward, with minimal bureaucracy and a favorable tax environment. However, competition can be fierce, so thorough research and planning are critical to success.

Education and Schools

Hong Kong offers a variety of educational options for expat families:

  • Public vs. private schools: Public schools in Hong Kong follow the local curriculum and are primarily taught in Cantonese. While tuition is free, these schools may not be the best fit for non-Cantonese speaking children. Private schools offer an alternative, often following international curriculums and offering instruction in English.
  • International schools: These schools cater specifically to the expat community, offering globally recognized curriculums such as the International Baccalaureate or the British National Curriculum. They typically have excellent facilities and resources but can be costly and competitive.
  • Language courses: Language schools and private tutors offer Cantonese and Mandarin courses, which can be valuable for both personal and professional development.
  • Higher education options: Hong Kong is home to several prestigious universities, including the University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. These institutions offer a range of undergraduate and postgraduate programs, attracting students from around the world.


Healthcare in Hong Kong is known for its high quality and efficiency. Both public and private systems are available:

  • Public healthcare: The public system offers affordable healthcare services to residents, including consultations, hospitalizations, and emergency care. However, wait times can be lengthy, particularly for non-urgent matters.
  • Private healthcare: Private facilities provide a higher level of personalized care, shorter wait times, and access to specialists. However, the costs can be significantly higher than the public system.
  • Health insurance: Expats should consider obtaining comprehensive health insurance to cover private healthcare costs. Many employers offer insurance as part of their benefits packages, but it’s essential to understand the coverage.
  • Finding a doctor or specialist: Recommendations from friends, colleagues, or online forums can help you find a suitable doctor or specialist. Many doctors in Hong Kong speak English, but it’s worth confirming this when making an appointment.
  • Pharmacies and medications: Pharmacies are abundant in Hong Kong, and many medications can be purchased over the counter. However, it’s essential to check the availability of any specific medications you require and consider obtaining a prescription from a local doctor if necessary.


Navigating Hong Kong’s transportation system is generally efficient and user-friendly:

  • Public transportation options: The MTR (Mass Transit Railway) is a popular and efficient way to travel across the city. Buses, trams, and ferries also offer convenient and affordable options for getting around.
  • Driving in Hong Kong: Although public transportation is extensive, some expats may choose to drive. It’s essential to familiarize yourself with local driving regulations, obtain a valid driving license, and consider the high costs of owning a car, including parking, insurance, and fuel.
  • Biking and walking paths: Hong Kong offers numerous biking and walking paths for leisure and commuting. While these options are more common in less urbanized areas, dedicated paths are also available in busier districts.
  • Taxis and ride-sharing services: Taxis are abundant and relatively affordable, with the option to use either traditional taxis or app-based services like Uber.

Culture and Lifestyle

Adapting to Hong Kong’s unique culture and lifestyle is essential for a smooth transition:

  • Language and communication: Although Cantonese is the primary language, English is widely spoken, particularly in business and tourist areas. Learning basic Cantonese phrases can be helpful for everyday interactions and can demonstrate respect for the local culture.
  • Local customs and etiquette: Hong Kong is a blend of East and West, with Chinese traditions coexisting with Western influences. Observing and respecting local customs, such as removing shoes before entering a home or presenting business cards with two hands, will help you integrate more easily.
  • Sports, hobbies, and leisure activities: From hiking and water sports to yoga and martial arts, Hong Kong offers a wide range of activities to suit different interests. Joining clubs or attending classes is a great way to meet new people and stay active.
  • Dining and nightlife options: The culinary scene in Hong Kong is diverse and exciting, with everything from Michelin-starred restaurants to local street food stalls. The nightlife is equally vibrant, with bars, clubs, and entertainment venues catering to various tastes and budgets.
  • Festivals and events: Hong Kong hosts numerous festivals and events throughout the year, including Chinese New Year, the Mid-Autumn Festival, and the Hong Kong Arts Festival. Participating in these events can deepen your appreciation for the local culture and provide memorable experiences.

Safety and Security

While Hong Kong is generally considered safe, it’s essential to be vigilant and take common-sense precautions:

  • General safety tips: Be aware of your surroundings, keep your belongings secure, and avoid walking alone in unfamiliar areas at night.
  • Common scams and precautions: Be cautious when approached by strangers offering unsolicited help or deals that seem too good to be true. Also, remain vigilant against pickpockets in crowded areas.
  • Emergency services and contact information: In case of an emergency, dial 999 for police, fire, or ambulance services. Save the contact information for your home country’s consulate or embassy in Hong Kong for assistance if needed.

Moving and Shipping Your Personal Effects to Hong Kong

When relocating to Hong Kong, one of the crucial aspects to consider is how to move and ship your personal effects safely and efficiently. Organizing your belongings and choosing the right shipping method can save you time, money, and stress. Here are some tips to help you navigate this process:

  1. Declutter and prioritize: Before packing, assess which items you genuinely need or want to bring with you. Shipping costs can be high, so consider selling, donating, or disposing of unnecessary items. Focus on essentials and sentimental possessions that cannot be easily replaced.
  2. Choose a reputable shipping company: Research various international moving companies to find one that offers the services you need at a competitive price. Look for reviews or recommendations from fellow expats to ensure that the company has a proven track record of handling shipments to Hong Kong.
  3. Understand shipping options: Shipping methods include air freight, sea freight, and sometimes a combination of both. Air freight is faster but more expensive, while sea freight is more cost-effective but can take weeks or even months. Consider your budget, timeline, and the urgency of your items when choosing a shipping method.
  4. Insure your belongings: International shipping carries inherent risks, such as damage or loss. Make sure your chosen moving company offers insurance coverage for your possessions, and review the policy details to ensure it provides adequate protection.
  5. Prepare for customs clearance: Familiarize yourself with Hong Kong’s customs regulations to avoid issues when your shipment arrives. Some items may be subject to taxes or import duties, while others may be prohibited or restricted. Provide your moving company with accurate and detailed information about your belongings to streamline the customs clearance process.
  6. Consider storage options: If your new home in Hong Kong is not yet available or lacks sufficient space, you may need to arrange temporary storage for your belongings. Research local storage facilities and factor in the additional costs when planning your move.
  7. Organize documentation: Ensure you have all necessary paperwork for your move, including your passport, visa, shipping inventory, and any required customs forms. Keep digital copies of all documents for easy access and reference during the shipping process.
  8. Stay in communication: Maintain open lines of communication with your moving company throughout the process. Share your contact information, and ask for updates on the status of your shipment. Being proactive can help address any issues that may arise and provide peace of mind.

Moving and shipping your personal effects to Hong Kong can be a complex undertaking, but with careful planning and organization, you can ensure a smoother transition. By following these guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to starting your new life in Hong Kong with your cherished possessions in tow.


In conclusion, moving to Hong Kong can be a rewarding and enriching experience. With proper planning, research, and an open-minded attitude, you can create a fulfilling life in this vibrant metropolis. As you settle in, don’t hesitate to seek assistance from local resources, expat organizations, and online forums to help you navigate the ins and outs of Hong Kong living.

To further support your move, consider reaching out to the following resources:

  1. Expat organizations and clubs: Many expat organizations and clubs in Hong Kong can provide valuable support, information, and networking opportunities. These groups can offer insights into local life, assist with finding housing or employment, and facilitate connections with fellow expats.
  2. Online forums and social media: Online platforms such as Facebook groups and expat forums can be an invaluable source of information and advice from fellow expats who have already navigated the relocation process. These communities can provide practical tips, recommendations, and even emotional support during your transition.
  3. Consulates and embassies: Your home country’s consulate or embassy in Hong Kong can provide support and assistance in a variety of matters, from visa issues to emergencies. They can also offer guidance on local laws and regulations and provide updates on any significant developments that may affect your stay in Hong Kong.
  4. Local service providers: Building relationships with local service providers, such as real estate agents, healthcare professionals, and financial advisors, can be essential in ensuring a smooth and successful move. Seek out reputable providers with experience working with expats to ensure they understand your unique needs and requirements.
  5. Language courses and cultural events: Participating in language courses and cultural events can help you develop a deeper understanding of Hong Kong’s unique blend of East and West. These experiences can also provide opportunities to meet like-minded individuals and develop your social and professional networks.

With thorough preparation and a willingness to embrace new experiences, your move to Hong Kong can be the start of an incredible adventure. Best of luck as you embark on this exciting journey abroad, and may your time in Hong Kong be filled with unforgettable memories, personal growth, and lasting connections.

by Maiane Cassanego
Maiane is the Founder of Expat Frontier. She is fluent in English, Portuguese and Spanish. Maiane has an extensive background in international moving, freight forwarding and logistics.