Get an Octopus at the earliest opportunity. It’ll pay itself off over and over, is supremely convenient (you can pay at McDonalds or 7-Eleven with it), and you get most of your deposit back, minus a HK$7 (AU$1) processing fee. Typical ride cost is in single figures, and while it’s not as extensive as London or New York, it is as efficient as the tube and as comfortable as the subway.
If you don’t have much luggage, take the Airport Express. Taking a taxi is only worth it if you’ve got a few people together.
Victoria Peak is probably where everyone heads first, and with reason. The mountain rises sharply and to height, giving spectacular views over the city and harbour, despite the efforts of developers to build apartments in improbable places. Take the Peak Tram for a good ride up.
Try to time it towards the late afternoon or day – you’ll get both the day views, and after taking a walk around the Peak – there’s an hour long walking trail – you’ll feel pretty refreshed and hardly feel like you’re in a metropolis at all. Which is good, because the rest of time in Hong Kong will be pretty much the opposite. As the day sinks into night, Hong Kong truly comes alive in the lights across the city, and hopefully the smog clears a little too.
Central is the business district – a little expensive, a little soulless and without any decent places to eat. It is where the designer shops are, though you’re paying for it.
Lan Kwai Fong is just south and east of Central, and it’s where all the city workers go for lunch, and after work for a drink. Good for a wander, with a warren of streets.
Wan Chai and Admiralty don’t have much of a rep, and perhaps deservedly. I’ve heard tell of little gems, but only go there with local guides so you avoid the crap.
Causeway Bay is an extensive shopping district that feels a lot like Tokyo’s Shibuya or Shinjuku. Great for a wander, and prices are decent too. The Food Forum at Times Square offers a variety of food, and if you’re hankering for some Japanese, especially sushi, you can’t go past Wasabisabi, on the 13th floor. So funky.
The ferries are cheap, but nothing special by any means. Take a ride at night to see the city lit up.
Across the harbour, Tsim Sha Tsui (a.k.a. TST) is the tourist draw, where many hotels are and where the hawkers are thicker than flies on a camel’s back. Learn some choice Cantonese swearwords to send them off.
TST’s most famous stretch of Nathan Road, the so-called “Golden Mile”, is rip-off central. In fact, there’s little redeeming features to TST other than perhaps the Avenue of the Stars, on the harbour, from which you can watch the ‘Symphony of Light’, a laser-and-dancing-building-lights show on every night from 8 to 8:15.
If you want the cheap shopping, follow the locals to Yau Ma Tei and Mong Kok. Still a little tourist oriented – they are after all just north of TST – but on the relative fringe and as such a little cheaper.
If your instinct says to buy, buy dammit. Don’t be like me and regret not buying that iPhone later.