Hong Kong Travel Guide

Health & Safety

Hong Kong is among the safest cities in Asia, if not the world.

Crime

With an effective police and legal system, Hong Kong is one of the safest cities in the world. However, pickpockets are not uncommon in Hong Kong, especially in crowded areas. Needless to say, common sense should be used as you do in other parts of the world. Although local people feel safe carrying a knapsack with a wallet inside, one should be wary in crowded areas where pickpockets are likely to strike, particularly at the main tourist attractions. Do not wave your wallet in public, show the cash inside, or let people know where you keep your wallet.

Although Hong Kong Island, parts of the New Territories and the Outlying Islands, including Lantau Island, are the relatively safe parts of Hong Kong, exercise caution when travelling to Kowloon. Even tourist attractions, such as Sham Shui Po and Mong Kok, have had a bad reputation for crime by Hong Kong standards. As they are relatively poorer areas, alike other parts of Kowloon, there is a higher crime rate, involving pickpockets, and infamously acid spills in Mong Kok. When travelling away from Hong Kong Island, avoid revealing items that would identify you as a tourist frequently, such as cameras, backpacks, electronics, flashy clothing, and avoid carrying large amounts of money.

Hong Kong films have often portrayed triads (三合會) as gun wielding gangsters who fear nobody, but that only happens in the movies. Even in their heyday, triads tended to engage only in prostitution (which is legal itself, but organised prostitution, i.e. pimping or brothels, is not), counterfeiting or loan-sharking and lived underground lives, and rarely targeted the average person on the street. Just stay away from the triads by avoiding loan sharks and illegal betting, and they will not bother you.

Call 999 when you urgently need help from the Police, Fire and Ambulance services. Hong Kong has a strict service control system, so once you call 999, the police should show up within 10 minutes in most cases, usually less. For non-emergency police assistance, call 2527-7177.

Tourist traps

It have become increasingly common for some random strangers or shop keepers to offer "discounts" on their products. The key to avoid tourist traps is "if it sounds too good to be true, it is".

There are some shops near hotel areas or tourist sites that are set up solely for tourists. These shops are rarely visited by locals and the products are usually low in quality with a high price. Examine the products carefully and look for any poorly printed labels and packages.

Legal matters

Most travellers who have got into trouble with the law are involved with illicit drugs. Drugs such as ecstasy (MDMA) and marijuana are subject to tight control and tourists risk immediate arrest if they are found in possession of even small amounts of banned substances. Most Hongkongers tend to have strong negative views against narcotics, including 'soft' drugs such as marijuana.

Under Hong Kong law, local residents are required to carry Identity Cards with them at all times, and the police frequently carry out spot checks when they have "reasonable grounds for suspicion". Tourists are advised by the government to carry their passports but unless you think you are highly likely to be stopped by the police there is no great need; most visitors choose to keep their passport in a safe place. People will not target you because you are dressed well. People in Hong Kong often dress up. Caucasians are rarely targeted by policemen for ID checks. South Asians, especially Pakistanis and Nepalis often get targeted by policemen. As long as you dress well (this does not mean formally), you are unlikely to be targeted

You are expected to cooperate with the police during their investigations, and understand that they may search your pockets and bags. By law, you can reject a request to search your bags and body in public. You also have the right to refuse to answer any questions, to contact your embassy and to apply for legal assistance. The police are obligated to comply with your request but they may detain you for up to 48 hours.

Discrimination is known to happen. People with a good educational background and reputable jobs are usually better treated by the police, while young people, those from developing countries and western countries with loose regulations on drugs may experience more frequent checks. The police and the government are exempt from the Race Discrimination Ordinance. However, there is a law to ban any form of police brutality, including verbal attacks and any use of foul language. Call 2866-7700 for the official Independent Police Complaints Council and report the officer's badge number displayed on his/her shoulder. The complaint will be taken seriously.

Traffic

Traffic rules are seriously enforced in Hong Kong. Penalties can be stringent, and road conditions are excellent, although road courtesy still has room for improvement. However, the driving speed can be so fast as to create higher death tolls when accidents happen.

Signage on the roads in Hong Kong is similar to British usage. Zebra lines (zebra crossings) indicate crossing areas for pedestrians and traffic comes from the right. To stay safe, visit the Transport Department's website for complete details.

Crossing the road by foot should also be exercised with great care. Traffic in Hong Kong generally moves fast once the signal turns green. To help both the visually impaired and even people who are not, an audible aid is played at every intersection. Rapid bells indicate "Walk"; intermittent bells (10 sets of 3 bells) indicate "Do Not Start to Cross"; and slow bells indicate "Do Not Walk".

Jay-walking' is an offence and police officers may be out patrolling accident black-spots. It is not uncommon to see local people waiting to cross an empty road - when this happens, you should also wait because it may be that they have noticed that the police are patrolling the crossing.

Corruption

Hong Kong is ranked as the world's 13th "cleanest" region in the Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International which aims to put an end to corruption, above the U.S and most European countries such as Germany and France.

In Hong Kong, corruption is a serious offence. Unlike mainland China, money given for unfair competition is regarded as corruption, regardless of who the recipients are. Trying to offer a bribe to police officers or civil servants will almost certainly result in arrest and a prison sentence.

The territory has a powerful anti-corruption police force: the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), which has been taken as a role model by Interpol and the United Nations. A number of countries, such as Australia, have adopted the Hong Kong system to combat corruption.

Demonstrations

Although Hong Kong usually has at least one protest per year (particularly in late June/July in urban parts of Hong Kong Island, namely Central, Wan Chai or Causeway Bay), they usually do not heavily impact the average tourist in Hong Kong. Just stay away from large crowds of protesters and policemen, though it is safe to say that the demonstrations are rarely as violent as those in other countries.

Hiking

Several hikers have lost their lives in the wilderness in the past decade. Hikers should equip themselves with detailed hiking maps, a compass, mobile phones, snacks and adequate amounts of drinking water. Most areas of the countryside are covered by a mobile phone network but in some places you will only be able to pickup a mobile phone signal from mainland China. In this case, it is not possible to dial 999 for emergency assistance. A number of emergency telephones have been placed in Country Parks; their locations are clearly marked on all hiking maps.

Heat stroke is a major problem for hikers who lack experience of walking in a warm climate. If you plan to walk a dog during the hot summer months, remember that dogs are more vulnerable to heat stroke than humans and owners should ensure their pets get adequate rest and water.

The cooler hiking and camping season in October to February is also the time of the year when hill fires likely strike. At the entrances to country parks you will likely observe signs warning you of the current fire risk. With an average of 365 hill fires a year, you should take the risk of fire seriously and dispose of cigarettes and matches appropriately. According to some hikers' accounts, in places where fires and camping is not allowed, the Staff of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) will most likely fine an offender.

While it's generally very safe to hike, the countryside can provide shelter to illegal immigrants and a few cases of robbery have been known. However, the police do patrol hiking routes and most major paths do offer the security of fellow hikers.

Natural disasters

Natural disasters are not usually a major issue in Hong Kong. There are no nearby fault lines, so earthquakes are rare and relatively mild when they do happen. The main hazards that Hong Kong faces are typhoons and floods.

Typhoons normally occur during the months of May to November, and are particularly prevalent during September. Whenever a typhoon approaches within 800 km of Hong Kong, typhoon warning signal 1 is issued. Signal 3 is issued as the storm approaches. When winds reach speeds of 63–117 km/h, signal 8 is issued. At this point, most nonessential activities shut down, including shops, restaurants and the transport system, offices and schools. Ferry services will be suspended, so visitors should return to their accommodation as soon as possible if they are dependent on these boat services to reach a place of safety. Signal 9 and 10 will be issued depending on the proximity and intensity of the storm. Winds may gust at speeds exceeding 220 km/h causing masonry and other heavy objects to fall to the ground. During a typhoon, visitors should heed all warnings very seriously and stay indoors until the storm has passed. Remember that if the eye of the storm passes directly over there will be a temporary period of calm followed by a sudden resumption of strong winds from a different direction.

Some taxis are available during signal 8 or above, but they are under no obligation to serve passengers as their insurance is no longer effective under such circumstances. Taxi passengers are expected to pay up to 100% more when a typhoon strikes.

Rainstorms also have their own warning system. In increasing order of severity, the levels are amber, red and black. A red or black rainstorm is a serious event and visitors should take refuge inside buildings. A heavy rainstorm can turn a street into a river and cause serious landslides.

The Hong Kong Observatory is the best place to get detailed weather information when in Hong Kong. In summer a convectional rainstorm may affect only a small area and give you the false impression that all areas are wet.

source: Wikivoyage

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