Whether you’re visiting Hong Kong or deciding on a place to live for a short or extended period of time, one thing that pretty much everyone deliberates on is…
Do I stay in Kowloon or Hong Kong?
Now, vacation needs and full-time living needs bring up very difference necessities, but one thing that will put you in a stronger position – whatever your circumstances – is to gather together as much knowledge as possible before making a choice.
So with that in mind, let’s compare the two…
So, where is Kowloon?
Okay, so by “Hong Kong,” in general people are talking about Hong Kong Island. If you think of it in terms of other famous places, it’s a little like talking about Manhattan, when referring to New York – it’s the central hub.
HK island is the central business district, and the region that was first colonised by the British. This is home to the highest of the skyscrapers, Victoria Harbour and its iconic skyline, Soho, The Peak, and Stanley Market.
The area of Kowloon covers the peninsula that runs from the other side of Victoria Harbour. This is where you’ll find some of the best shopping and entertainment areas, although it’s not short of it’s own skyscrapers too.
Kowloon used to be referred to in a slightly derogatory fashion, perhaps known for being slightly more down-market than HK Island.
This certainly isn’t the case now, as there are some pretty swanky restaurants and hotels in this area too, as well as apartments to rent in the most luxurious of complexes (although the prices haven’t yet reached those you’ll pay to live at The Peak).
So, where should I stay?
Of course, this is something of an individual choice, but if you’re on vacation and looking for a slightly (and we do only mean slightly – this is Hong Kong, after all) less crammed experience when walking out of your hotel, then Central, HK Island could be a good call.
You can walk out of any accommodation here and walk to Soho and Lan Kwai Fong.
However, for value, a Kowloon hotel will be kinder on your pocket. And with the excellent public transport system, the MTR, it’s no effort to get pretty much anywhere in Hong Kong, wherever it is that you stay.
If you’re staying on business, then you’ll probably be looking for accommodation on HK Island, so you can mix both work and pleasure (lucky you).
If you’re a foodie or clubber, and want to experience the newest of restaurants and/or nightclubs, the trendiest of these have always tended to open up on The Island.
However, times are changing, and Kowloon now offers its own brand of super-charged new offerings. It’s certainly the place to be staying if shopping is your thing – it outshines its Island neighbour in this aspect, for sure.
However, The Landmark Mall in Central, Hong Kong Island is probably one of the most luxurious in the area, so serious shoppers should be sure to check this one out.
What about getting there from the airport?
It doesn’t really matter which area you stay in – both are easy to get to on arrival. Simply take the Airport Express from the airport. Hong Kong Island is around a 24-minute journey, and Kowloon about 28 minutes.
Where will I get the most authentic “Hong Kong” experience?
Those “in the know” will tell you that Kowloon is the more authentic area. A little grittier, more locals, perhaps a little less polished…
This is the place for food markets and less international food – there are many more Chinese restaurants here. Kowloon has a reputation for having the most crowded streets in the world – so that may well influence your choice of location.
I want to be in the best place to visit everything, so which location would be preferable?
To be honest, whether you stay in Kowloon or Hong Kong Island, you’re not going to have any problem getting around. Not only does public transport whisk you to everywhere, you can also travel on the iconic Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour.
In fact, it’s almost an essential “to do” for every first time visitor to Hong Kong. The only issue you might have if staying in Kowloon is travelling around at night.
During this time you’ll have to rely on night buses or taxis, but using the easily found taxis is no big deal – there are literally thousands on the roads at any one time – simply flag them as they go past. And they’re also inexpensive to use.
I’m only making a flying visit. Where should I stay if I’m short on time?
Hong Kong Island will probably be preferable in such a situation. For a taste of the area, staying here is a great choice simply because some of the most popular tourist attractions are here (Aberdeen Fishing Village, the chic art galleries that line Hollywood Road, upmarket antique shops, etc.).
In addition to this, The Island offers a wonderful selection of some of the hippest bars and restaurants (great places to see and to be seen in), and fabulous nightlife.
So give me the lowdown on the pros and cons of each region.
So, the good points about HK Island include:
- Many of the major tourist attractions are located here
- A great area for exploring on foot, thanks to the many central walkways.
- Good for shopping
- Great mix of old British Colonial, Chinese, high-rise buildings, and open park areas.
And the bad:
- Accommodation is more expensive here
- You’ll need to cross Victoria Harbour by ferry to visit the other parts of the area.
Good points about staying in Kowloon:
- Best views of the Hong Kong skyline and the Symphony of Lights
- More budget accommodating options
- Tourist friendly shopping
- Most museums are located here
And the cons:
- More crowded than The Island
- Tourist traps abound – lots of touts and people selling “reproductions” (AKA fakes!)
- You’ll need to utilise the public transport system to get across to the major tourist attractions, most of which are located on Hong Kong Island.