An expat guide to Hong Kong

November 14, 2016

Ranked 13th out of 45 countries by expats in the 2016 HSBC Expat Explorer Survey, but 1st for career progression, Hong Kong has much to offer expats.

A former British colony, China resumed sovereignty in 1997 and Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. Combining both cultures, Hong Kong is a dynamic city which manages to strike a balance between traditional Chinese and modern Western living.

With a large and diverse international community and fast paced business environment, most expats find Hong Kong to be an exciting and vibrant place to live. 

Main languages: Mandarin, Cantonese & English

Population: 7.23 million

Political system: Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China

Currency: Hong Kong Dollar (HKD)

Time: GMT +8

One of the worlds leading international financial centres, the Hong Kong business environment is fast paced and despite the recent economic downturn, Hong Kong remains a popular location for many expats.

71% of respondents to the Internations Expat Insider survey rated job satisfaction in Hong Kong favourably, however full-time employees work almost four more hours per week (48.5) than the global average (44.6).
Hong Kong has a prime location at the geographical and economic centre of Asia, offering expats easy access to all the major markets in the Asia Pacific region. Hong Kong International Airport is consistently rated as one of the best airports in the world. 

Taxis and buses operate 24/7 in the city, which also provides fast and reliable underground and overground railways.
The 2016 Mercer cost of living survey ranked Hong Kong as the most expensive city in the world for expats. Accommodation costs account for one of the greatest expenses for expats, with both a lack of affordable housing and high rental prices.
McDonalds meal HKD $34 (€4)
Litre milk HKD $24 (€2.80)
Pint of beer HKD $60 (€7)
Broadband HKD $202 per month (€24)
Studio apartment HKD $18000 per month (€2,115)
Petrol HKD $14 per litre (€1.65)
Public transport (monthly ticket) HKD $540 (€63)

In addition to the high cost of accommodation in Hong Kong, the other major expense which expats may face are education and healthcare.
Like most popular expat destinations, Hong Kong offers expat families a choice of public and private school alternatives, all of which meet a high standard academically.

Teaching in public schools is mainly through the local language, therefore many expat families opt to enrol their children in one of the many international schools. 

Hong Kong offers excellent international schools teaching various national curricula, as well as the International Baccalaureate programme. In the best schools, competition for places is high and spaces are limited. As these schools tend to be quite expensive, substantial financial pressure may be placed on expat families who do not have an education allowance built into their expat package.

Hong Kong has a world-class healthcare system. Both public and private hospitals are modern and employ highly trained English speaking doctors. 

The government operated hospital system is managed by Hong Kong's Health Authority. There are 164 public hospitals and clinics and 12 private hospitals all offering high quality healthcare.

Fees for public hospitals vary, based on an individuals eligible and non-eligible status. 

Eligible persons include:

  • holders of a Hong Kong Identity Card issued under the Registration of Persons Ordinance
  • children under 11 years of age with Hong Kong resident status
  • other persons approved by the Director of Health

For expats living in Hong Kong an international health insurance plan can ensure continued access to quality healthcare and avoid expensive medical fees. When assessing health insurance options, expats living in Hong Kong should consider including a repatriation plan.

For more information on the healthcare system in Hong Kong click here.

For anyone considering relocating to Hong Kong for work or study, advice and the most up date information on visa requirements and regulations can be obtained by visiting the Hong Kong Immigration Department here.
*Costs accurate at time of publishing