Don't freak out about the (lack of) passport stamp
Beginning March 19th of this year, visitors won't receive a passport stamp when coming through immigration. Instead of stamps, US (and other passports) see a printed piece of paper stapled onto a page in your book with all the details of your length of stay and privileges.
Pass on the taxi or special car to and from the airport
Even though the airport is really far from the city, and probably your hotel, just take public transport. The Airport Express station is right at the airport, the train stops half-way to city-center and then in the popular Kowloon and Central areas. For a cost of $90 HKD and a 25 minute trip, you can't really go wrong.
Get an Octopus Card
No, this isn't the best way to grab all the yum cha you can, but it's the city's public transportation fare card. For a $50 HKD deposit and an initial $100 HKD load, you are all set to ride the rails on a comprehensive public transport system that includes ferries, buses and trains. At the end of your trip, you return the card and get back the $50 HKD deposit and any unused money loaded on the card. There's even an Octopus card return desk right after you step off the Airport Express at HKG.
Follow the rules of the taxis
If you must hop in a cab, you'll find they're really cheap. And while they're not super easy to hail, once you get one you won't go broke. Still, there are rules to follow that are posted on the door; the most important rule is to wear your seatbelt. Duh!
Don't expect many businesses to open early
It seems like the city doesn't really wake up before mid-morning. We've found some coffee shops not even open for business until 10am and had to resort to the hotel Starbucks.
Get adventurous with food
Hong Kong is known for delicious local cuisine and its fare shouldn't really be missed. Even local restaurants have menus in English or at least photos of the food so ordering is easy. Being a bit more daring when it comes to culinary delights will pay off in stories for friends once you get home. Need a hint? Check out our guide to the 21 foods you have to try in HK.
Get out of town!
Although the city really has everything that you might ever want, a well-rounded trip to Hong Kong means you've got to leave. Head to the Big Buddha or even on the south end of the island to nab some quiet time and listen to lapping waves. Hong Kong has more to offer than a concrete jungle and escaping the city can do your trip some good. The peaceful marina at Aberdeen and the boardwalk and small market at Stanley are our top picks.
Stick to the water at sundown
A must-do for a first trip to HK is checking out their nighttime lights show on the waterfront. Located on Victoria Harbour at 8pm nightly, this spectacle makes the city come alive with lasers and well-lit buildings across the water, synced to music.
Do in-town airport check-in
At Kowloon and Central stations on the MRT, you can check in for your flight, get your boarding pass and check your luggage through, all before heading out from downtown. You don't see you luggage again until your destination and there's no jockeying for suitcase space on the train. It's seamless and it works! (See above on how awesome the MTA is).
Hong Kong is really a great city and if there's any way we can make your visit just exponentially better, then we are happy to help. Rookie travelers, this is a good start; almost-expats, feel free to add you own tips below!
[Photos: Rayme Gorniak/Jaunted]