Thursday, April 9, 2009

Living in Hong Kong

If you intend to live in Hong Kong even for a week, here are some things to make life easier.

1) Get maps: Buy a street directory, or use an online map service like Centamap to show you the way around Hong Kong.

2) Get a prepaid phone card: If you need to call back to your home country, consider the People's IDD Talk Prepaid card. Phone charges are cheap in Hong Kong.

3) Get a Octopus card: This is very useful for travel on the MTR and public transport. You can keep it for your next visit to Hong Kong or refund it 3 months later at no charge.

4) Open a bank account: Open a HSBC Hong Kong dollar savings account and select the "Easy Savers" option. This will exempt the account from minimum account charges. However, you will be charged a fee if you withdraw money from the bank counter.

To open the account, you must bring identification that shows your home address or have a friend who is an existing customer of the bank to vouch for you.

Ensure that you also apply for Internet Banking, since you may need to access your account from your home country.

5) Apply for PPS: With your HSBC bank account, you can top up your phone card every 6 months indefinitely to retain its number over the Internet.

6) Find cheap accomodation: This is a major challenge as even the cheapest hostels charge HK$400 per night. It is best to find a friend who could lend you his or her sofa.

7) Find cheap food: Food prices go for HK$30+ or above for a full meal. To find reasonably priced food, you must walk around and visit the small stalls in hidden in the minor streets. The ability to read handwritten traditional chinese characters is essential since the storeowners usually cater only to locals.

I ordered rice and 2 vegetable within 5 minutes walk from Chueng Sha Wan MTR for HK$17. It was sited next to a noodle stall. [Should be located at the middle of Cheung Fat Street.] To my relief, the stall owner could speak a little Mandarin. The meal was relatively filling for me. I ordered a take-away packet so that I do not have to subsist on bread the next morning.

I also ordered HK$24 fried rice from a small stall hidden in the corner of Landale Street within 10 minutes walk from Wan Chai MTR. The shopkeeper was very friendly and conversed with me in Mandarin. The fried rice was so delicious and the shopkeeper generous with extra servings that I ordered a take-away. The only issue I have are the numerous cockroaches crawling openly around the stall.

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