Hong Kong – Essential Guide for International Students

Hong Kong is becoming an increasingly popular destination for International Students, and it is easy to see why. Great food, easy access to other countries, and beautiful landscape – what more could you ask for?

We thought we would assemble an essential guide to Hong Kong for those thinking of studying there to give you an idea of the lifestyle you’d be living.

General Information

Currency: Hong Kong Dollar (HKD) – this is approx. 7.84HKD to every 1USD

Languages: English, Cantonese

Geography: Just south of China, and is made up of more than 200 small islands

Local Time: UTC (+8 hours)

Climate: Tropical. Either super hot and humid, or its Tsunami season. No in between.

Population: 7.4 million (95% Chinese). As you can guess, 7.4 million people crammed onto these small islands means that a great deal of Hong Kong is very built up and busy.

Transport: main transport is the Underground, ferries, and taxis. In Hong Kong, they have Octopus cards which you can use on all modes of transport, and even at some local shops! You can top them up at pretty much any station.

For more information about Octopus cards and how to get one, click here.

Annual Costs (approx.):

University Cost (USD): $13,444

Living Cost (USD): $18,696

Total Cost (USD): $32,140

Most students who decide to study in Hong Kong tend to stay on campus, as regular accommodation in Hong Kong is very expensive and typically quite small. However, food and transport are very cheap out there, and so your day-to-day expenses will not be so high.

Top Universities:

Click on the name of the University to visit their site.

All students require an IELTS 6.0 or equivalent. iGCSE/GCSE English grade C is also accepted. Students are required to have completed 3 HKALEs or equivalent. All Universities in Hong Kong use English as the primary medium of instruction, and English is an official language of Hong Kong (alongside Cantonese).

Individual University and course requirements can be found through their websites.

“There are a lot of people from different backgrounds and many of them speak English. That’s why it is easier for foreigners to live here” – Anastasia, an Indonesian student at HKU.


You will have to apply for a student Visa, the information for which can be found here.

With a student Visa you are eligible to work for up to 20 hours per week during term time, and for any amount of time between 1st June to 31st August (both dates inclusive).

The unemployment rate in Hong Kong is only 2.8% which is one of the lowest in the world, which suggests that you will not have trouble finding a job.

Things you HAVE to do:

  • Victoria Peak: See some iconic views across Hong Kong and the harbour. I recommend getting the tram up, and walking the winding path back down. There is a shopping centre at the top and plenty of photo spots! Very instagrammable.
  • Tian Tian Buddha (aka the Big Buddha): On Lantau Island, there is an enormous Buddha at the top of the mountain. Catch a ride on a glass bubble lift all the way to the top! There is also a temple at the top (called the Temple of a Thousand Buddhas, see if you can count them all!)
  • Ladies Market: You can genuinely spend hours here. Fake Gucci bag? They got it. Silk pyjamas? You betcha. Lucky Jade necklaces? Do you even have to ask? The ladies market is the place to be for bargains and cheap tat.
  • Light Show: Every single night at 8pm, the buildings along Victoria Harbour have a free light show. It is set to music, and is honestly such a sight to see. I recommend hopping on a Ferry during this time to see the display up close! The way the lights reflect on the water in the harbour is just mesmerising.
  • Hong Kong Disneyland: For all you adults with an inner child, I recommend Disneyland. It has fantastic rides and sights to see, as well as being reasonably priced! Space Mountain AND dim sum? Sign me up.
  • Tai O Fishing Village: this entire village is built on stilts on the sea, there is no land at all! For the cost of 10HKD (around £1 or $1.28 USD) you can get tour guide to take you whizzing off on a super fast boat, and see if you can spot a rare pink dolphin!

Food, Glorious Food

Hong Kong is world renown for its incredible food. Here is a quick list of dishes you MUST try when visiting:

  • Beef Brisket Ramen – An absolute classic, so hearty and warming. I recommend going to Sister Wah for it (although there is always a queue!)
  • Dim Sum – a traditional kind of cuisine made up of lots of little dishes. Think tapas, but more dumplings!
  • Egg waffles – these bizarre alien-looking snacks sold on almost every street corner in Hong Kong. You often get them drizzled in melted chocolate and covered in sprinkles – yum yum!
  • Pineapple Pork buns – known to the locals as Bolo Bao, these little fluffy buns of yumminess are filled with the sweet taste of pineapple, and the saltiness of pork. These are a staple in any Hong Kong diet, and I guarantee you will love them!
  • Instant noodles – a staple meal in any student diet, but in Hong Kong these are on a whole other level than Pot Noodles. These cheapy packets of noodles are packed full of flavour, and are often served in restaurants as they are so popular!

It is the culture to eat out more than to cook at home in Hong Kong (a lot of flats will not even come with an oven) so food markets are where you’ll find all of your meals. They tend to be cheap and have so much range, so go and enjoy!

Easy (and cheap) flights to other countries!

These are all approximate:

  • Philipines – 951 HKD
  • Malaysia – 799 HKD
  • Tai Wan – 949 HKD
  • Vietnam – 820 HKD
  • Thailand – 975 HKD
  • Singapore – 839 HKD
  • Indonesia – 1278 HKD
  • Japan – 1342 HKD
  • South Korea – 1058 HKD

All in all, Hong Kong is a spectacular place to visit, and to study there would be a dream. I have only shared a fraction of what there is to explore there! Below I will link a few useful links if you need more information.

Discover Hong Kong

Student Visa Application

Universities in Hong Kong

Undergraduate Study Abroad Programmes

Octopus Cards and General Travel Information