Hong Kong Stopover Guide: 48 Hours in the Pearl of the Orient

See Hong Kong's best highlights while whiling away your stopover

Credit: Curt Woodhall

An ornate dragon sculpture decorates a Hong Kong building

British Columbians often stop over in Hong Kong en route to other exotic destinations

And although you could easily spend a week (or two) in this ever-changing metropolis, seeing the area’s highlights is definitely possible in 48 hours.

Here’s the best way to fill two days in the Pearl of the Orient.

Hong Kong – Day 1

First, familiarize yourself with Hong Kong’s famed attractions on a morning Island Orientation tour with Splendid Tours. Highlights of this four-hour trip include a tram ride up Victoria Peak for panoramic views of the harbour, bargain shopping at the lively open-air Stanley Market and helpful tips and tricks for navigating Hong Kong’s streets and sites.  

If you’re a serious shopper, you already know that Hong Kong is like a combination of New York, London and Tokyo. In other words, pure nirvana. You can find every imaginable brand of clothing, beauty product and gadget in this tax-free commercial paradise. And with only 48 hours, it’s important to prioritize your spending, so stick to the buys that offer the greatest savings.

Brand name sunglasses and fragrances, as well as tech toys are good bets. If you can’t justify taking out a second mortgage for Prada glasses, purchase them in Hong Kong and save 40% on sunglasses and up to 60% on prescription eyewear. Look for the smaller optical stores with a professional designation sticker in the window to ensure quality.

Smelling good also costs less in Hong Kong. Fragrances and beauty products can be discounted by up to 25% and there is a much wider array of products and brands available. Techies will find their own bit of heaven in the Little Tokyo district where lower prices, international warranties and cutting-edge technology are a geek’s dream.

After a packed day of sites and spending, board the Star Ferry to Victoria Harbour for the famed Symphony of Lights, a spectacular outdoor multimedia show featuring more than 40 Hong Kong skyscrapers.

End your day in the harbour at Peking Garden with its world-famous Peking Duck and incredible noodle show, in which a chef armed with a knife and massive ball of dough creates hundreds of delicate noodle strands within the blink of an eye. 

Hong Kong – Day 2

It’s always best to start a busy day by filling your belly. A Hong Kong must is Dim Sum aboard the Jumbo Floating Restaurant, a landmark attraction for visitors, dignitaries and celebrities since 1976. The pork dumplings, which have been enjoyed by the likes of the Queen and Tom Cruise, are definitely worth sampling.
After brunch, take a self-directed Ding Ding tram tour to check out some of Hong Kong’s most popular sites. Start in the historical district of Sheung Wan and tour the street markets filled with traditional Chinese herbs and medicine shops. From there you’ll travel through the buzzing financial district of Central, the infamous Wan Chai nightlife district and the Causeway Bay shopping district.

For dinner, cruise to Rainbow Seafood Restaurant on Lamma Island aboard the complimentary ferry shuttle and feast on fresh seafood. The award-winning restaurant prepares sumptuous dishes, including lobster, crab, squid and a wide variety of fish, from the live seafood you select.

Complete your whirlwind adventure with a night out in Hong Kong’s hottest nightlife district.  Wan Chai’s countless jazz clubs, pubs, wine bars and nightclubs are sure to satisfy any mood and end your trip on a festive note. Most Happy Hour specials run from 6 pm – 9 pm, while bars and nightclubs begin to get busy around 11 pm and close at sunrise.

Hong Kong Travel and Accommodation Tips

Like everything else in Hong Kong, accommodation is vast and varied. The Harbour Grand hotel offers incredible value (starting from $150 CAD per night) for a room with unobstructed views of Victoria Harbour. This luxury hotel, which is walking distance from the mass transit railway (MTR), features exquisite décor and five amazing restaurants offering Western, Japanese and Cantonese cuisine.

Of course, there are hotels to meet absolutely any budget in Hong Kong, and the Tourism Board is a very useful resource for researching and booking accommodations.

The coolest and driest time to visit Hong Kong is between November and March, while spring and summer can be very humid with temperatures reaching the low 30s (Celsius).

When exchanging currency to Hong Kong dollars, it’s best to do so through a hotel or a money exchange, as the airport is privately run and charges higher fees.  

The Hong Kong public transit system is recognized as one of the world’s most efficient, frequent, safe and affordable. The easiest way to pay transit fares is by purchasing a pre-paid Octopus Card, valid for all public transport fares including the Ding Ding tram, Star Ferry and the MTR rail system.

IMAGES: Curt Woodhall, Hong Kong Tourism

Mhairri Cuthbert is a travel writer at Arrivals. Visit their blog for additional links, information and photos on this destination.