You won’t forget the day you arrive in Hong Kong – the first encounter with the Fragent Harbour’s skyscrapers, wet markets, it’s smells and tiny serviced apartments, will make you feel excited and scared at the same time. How to get up to speed in this city? Here are some tips:
Essential: Get your HK ID card. Every citizen of Hong Kong (aged 11 or above ) needs to apply for the HK ID. The application process is fairly simple, but you better start it immediately when you arrive, since most landlords/agents/telco companies etc. will only sign you a contract once you can show the HK ID card (or at least the application form). It takes ca 10 working days for your card to be ready. You can book an appointment online and fill in the application form upfront. But be prepared to wait some time and experience a bit of Hong Kong’s red tape. Pick-up needs to be done in person (or someone you authorize) and no appointment can be made, just walk in.
Make sure they can call you: Get a HK SIM card. As you’ll need to arrange many things and will receive many business cards and calls (that’s how people vent their business to you), you’ll definitely need a HK SIM card right away. I suggest you first buy a prepaid card and later on get yourself a plan. SIM cards can be bought at any convenience shop (CircleK, 7/11) or at the telecom company offices (CSL, PCCW, SmarTone, Three etc.). It’s not expensive and calls within HK are free of charge. Read more about the best 2017 simcards and other useful tips at HKTravelBlog.
Explore residential areas – decide where to live. Now the fun part starts. Explore the city and determine in which area you want to live. Not an easy task, and therefore take your time for this important step. I have set out some tips in another blog about deciding where to live. Although you can get a good idea while reading on the internet about the different areas, don’t rush, explore your area of choice thoroughly. Soak up the atmosphere and be honest; is this the place where I will be happy and have my new home? We were determined to live on HK island from what we knew about HK, but ended up in Lantau. A pre-visit can safe you much time. If you know where you want to live, you can start house hunting much sooner. Or ask the help of a relocation partner to help narrow down your short-list.
Find an agent to help you find the right house. Since the housing market moves very quickly, it doesn’t make sense to look for houses already months in advance. They will be picked up quickly. The advantage is that you will be able to find an apartment within a few days. An estate agents will help you searching for the right property. In your area there are probably some buildings/estates which have your interest and your agent can tell you more about the pro’s and con’s of each. It’s best to go to your area of choice and contact one or two of the many real estate agent companies which are often cluttered together and easy to recognise. The ” big names” with branches all over Hong Kong include Midland Realty and Centaline and Ricacorp. Just shop around and let them show what they have in stock. If you see the house you like, make an offer (your agents will help you in the negotiations) and the house can be yours the next day. Note that your agent is working for you and the landlord and in most cases you pay both half a month rent. The agent will help you, but always be careful when signing any contract. Read more about what to look for when signing rental agreements in Hong Kong. If you have the contract, get it stamped by HK government (your agents will arrange this) because then it can serve as proof of address, which you’ll need for many contracts, like a opening a bank account, telephone and internet plan, utilities connections, etc.
Get connected! Hong Kong expats love Social Media and Facebook and it can be a great source of information for you, as well you can meet new people by simply joining some groups. There are groups for almost anything. So in preparing your move, but also when you just arrived, don’t hesitate to call on the power of social media for any help. See the blog I wrote about useful Facebook groups and Apps to make life easier when you just landed in Hong Kong.