Archive for the ‘Living in HK’ Category
Transferring money from Hong Kong back to your home country is cumbersome and expensive. Exchange bureaus are a rip-off and banks offer poor rates, even before charges are imposed on sender and recipient accounts. There are two banking options which offer free international transfers of sorts…
…HSBC Premier offer free worldwide transfers for eligible elite customers, whilst Citibank has free transfers between Citibank accounts globally. If you’re not with Shittybank or HK’s Bullshit Corporation, you could convert your wealth to Bitcoins or withdraw hoards of cash to get your money home…
…Peer-to-Peer currency exchange is the next best option for the rest of us. Xoom and Transferwise are big players but neither deal in HKD, leaving Currencyfair. You can check the day’s rates on their website and calculate the savings involved – most of the savings come from fees.
Updated: Oct 2013 – this is a non-biased, no bullshit independent guide…
Tips for finding cheap flights out of Hong Kong…
- For traditional airlines, use Google’s Matrix software to find out the base prices of your flight – all agencies use this booking engine and the database is for reference only (you cannot book though it). Results include tax. Once you have identified a flight you wish to buy, search for it on the airline’s own website and reserve a seat – usually the price is the same as quoted on the Matrix and you will be better placed to make adjustments, cancel or select seats by booking directly.
- Also check with local comparison engines Zuji, Webjet and Priceline (beware results rarely include tax). Skyscanner is also a good option – state your destination as ‘everywhere’ or use the map tool if you are unfussed about where you want to go but want to check prices. Blog readers also suggested Kayak, which is particularly good for multi-stop flights.
- Some discount low-cost airlines will not be listed on the search engines. Depending on your destination, consider Cebu Pacific (Philippines) Peach (Japan), Dragon Air, Hong Kong Airlines, Jetstar (launching soon), and, in particular, Air Asia. Air Asia have hubs in Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok which may offer cheaper onward flights than heading from HK.
Sick of HSBC? Spent the summer navigating their ATM Card farce? Whilst the bank has promised to rectify their ATM omnishambles, it may be time to break free. Whist HK has yet to catch up with ethical banking trends seen abroad, below is an up-to-date, no-bullshit, unbiased guide to the two least-worst alternatives. There are over 150 banks operating in the territory – however, Hang Seng is a write-off (as it is owned by HSBC), and the remainder either offer a worse level of service than HSBC, are ‘built-on-quicksand‘ China-owned banks or do not provide an internationally recognised ATM card.
Best Banks for Foreigners in HK:
This leaves Citibank or Standard Chartered – neither current account is perfect, but both beat HSBC in terms of features. Standard Chartered is great in that all bank transfers within HK are free, no matter who the recipient banks. Also, like with HSBC, you can buy currency via internet banking. However, there is a HK$28 charge for using non-JETCO local ATMs or any overseas ATMs.
Citibank only offers currency transfer at branches and does charge a fee for transferring cash to a competing bank in HK. However, they open late (till 7pm) and you will get a Visa Debit ATM card with free ATM withdrawals at any bank, local or overseas. They also offer free international transfers to Citibanks abroad.
Bizarrely, despite bearing the appropriate logo, the Citibank Visa Debit ATM card cannot be used for online transaction (or to pay by mail/phone) – it may only be used in-person. This anomaly has been confirmed in the small print and by existing customers – it means that there is still no ‘true’ Visa Debit card on offer in HK.
Standard Chartered Basic ‘Easy Banking’ Account:
Travelling this summer? Expect a financial farce courtesy of HK’s banks if you’ve any intention to access your cash…
Why is my ATM card a piece of crap now?
Several major banks forced customers onto the UnionPay ATM network this year, instead of the internationally recognised, VISA-backed ‘Plus’ system. The mainland government-backed UnionPay network is operated under the People’s Bank of China, leading some conspiratorial HK Netizens to become suspicious of the changeover, as documented over on BadCanto Blog.
My card doesn’t work in foreign ATMS!
There are not many UnionPay-friendly terminals outside of Asia. Even if you find one, it may not have been updated to cope with new chipped cards. You can check on the Union Pay ‘globalisation’ pages to see if the card is accepted anywhere in your destination country (the site is reassuringly riddled with grammar and spelling errors).
Hong Kong is arguably the cheapest place in the world for new and used cell phones. Below is an unbiased guide to the four main options for bagging an affordable device in HK…
AST Global - Although they have a limited range, the cheapest deals for new, unlocked phones (and lots of other tech) is AST Global. They are online only and can deliver to your nearest MTR station. Customers can pay online or in cash and still receive the usual year-long manufacturer’s warranty. Their website isn’t the slickest, and be sure to inspect your goods before handing over cash, but all products include a 3-day money-back guarantee if you keep the packaging. This store is unbeatable on cameras too – cheaper than any of the arcades in Mongkok or Sham Shui Po…
Sin Tat Plaza – Many Hong Kongers head straight to Sin Yat Plaza on Argyle Street in Mongkok. Walk straight along the road out of MTR exit D2 – it will appear on your left (no English signage). Once it was notorious for rip-offs and fake models, but things have been cleaned up in recent years, and – along with Sham Shui Po – it is a great place for second hand mobiles too.
Best viewed over at Google Maps, this map shows some of HK’s popular and lesser-known markets and malls. Blue represents general shopping, pink is electronics, orange is living things, and green is food/medicine…
Posted with permission from Reddit-user Jort, the map will slowly expand to include more shopping hotspots and wet markets. Many of the electronics arcades may not be news to locals, but – for humble foreigners – these malls can be hard-to-find and often lack English signs.
Traditionally, the new South China Morning Mouthpiece‘s semi-porous paywall allows non-subscribers 4 free articles before locking them out…
To bypass this limit, simply open SCMP.com in an ‘incognito window’ in Google’s Chrome browser. Again, you will be limited to just four articles, but you can reset this by closing the window and re-opening another incognito window…
Since last year, I’ve been testing a free VPN called ‘Expat Shield’ with some scepticism. It has, however, worked perfectly from the outset for unlimited iPlayer viewing, though occasionally it is necessary to pause the video for buffering (just for a minute or two). Otherwise the speed is superb, it’s free, legal and easy to use.
- Download the Expat Shield software. It may insist you run a ‘download manager’ beforehand.
- Run the installer, select ‘English’ and click through the next pages until you are offered some additional, bundled software. Untick and reject the ‘community toolbar’, and click next to install.
- When installed and running, you will see a shield in the bottom-right hand corner of the screen. When the UK connection is live, it will be green – when it’s red, you just have your regular, direct connection. Right-click on the shield and ensure ‘show on restart’ is unticked - we needn’t have the programme permanently running and slowing down your computer.
As land is scarce, HK is home to the world’s most expensive property rental market. Whilst most ex-pats opt for the traditional HK Island-side haunts around the central business district, those on more modest budgets will find better value and larger options on Kowloon-side and in the New Territories. Liveable shoebox apartments will start at around HK$5,000pm, though – for a decent area and a more civilised measure of floor space – it’s best to aim more towards HK$10-15,000pm. A good starting point for gauging what your money gets you is gohome.com.hk which details rents, floor space and photographs posted by local property agents. [Those on more generous ex-pat packages may prefer the options listed at the bottom of the page, where rents begin more around the HK$50,000pm mark.]
- For visas to China, you can apply directly at the Commissioner’s Office in Wan Chai, which also lists the fees for each nationality.
- It opens Monday to Friday: 9:00-12:00 and 14:00-17:00. Address: 7th Floor, Lower Block, China Resources Building, No.26, Harbour Road, Wanchai. You’ll need your passport, the application form and a recent colour photo. Follow the MTR signs to ‘Immigration Tower’, turn right at the end of the bridge and look for the Chinese government emblem.
- Alternatively, China Travel Service will help you with a visa for a fee.
- Architecture & Infrastructure
- Art & Music
- History & Abandoned HK
- HK Helpers Campaign
- Living in HK
- Man of Letters
- Photography & Wallpapers
- Places & Attractions
- Politics: Activism
- Politics: All Posts
- Politics: Full Lowdown
- Politics: Interests of Conflict
- Possibly Racist
- Shut Up and Take My Money
- The Sub-Standard
- WTF Licence Plates
- POLITICS – Offensive or Hilarious? Hong Kong’s Most Confusing Anti-Mainlander Protest
- PHOTOGRAPHY – The Half-Submerged Cargo Ship Currently Abandoned off Cheung Chau
- ART – Akin Jeje’s Hong Kong Political Poetry
- EVENT – 4th Hong Kong International Pillow Fight Day, April 4th (a Public Hol!)
- PHOTOGRAPHY – ‘Legography’: Ric Tse’s Lego Hong Kong Scenes
- March 2014
- February 2014
- January 2014
- December 2013
- November 2013
- October 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- July 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- January 2010
- December 2009
- November 2009
- October 2009
- September 2009
- August 2009
- July 2009
- June 2009
- May 2009
- April 2009
- March 2009
- January 2009
- November 2008
- July 2008
- June 2008
- May 2008
- April 2008
- May 2006
- January 2006