No one area in this compact city is really a more convenient location than any other. Public transportation is efficient and easy to use, and the attractions are spread throughout the city. However, most visitors do stay in Tsim Sha Tsui, on the Kowloon side, simply because that's where you'll find the greatest concentration of hotels, as well as shops and restaurants. Business travelers often prefer the Central District, while those attending events at the convention center usually opt for hotels strung along the waterfront of Wan Chai and Causeway Bay. Yau Ma Tei and Mong Kok, situated on the Kowloon Peninsula north of Tsim Sha Tsui, are great places to stay if you want to be surrounded by Chinese stores and locals, with hardly a souvenir shop in sight.
The hotel prices listed in this guide are the rack rates, which you might end up paying if you come during peak season (Chinese New Year, Mar-May, Oct-Nov). Otherwise, you can probably get a room for much, much less. It's imperative, therefore, to shop around and ask about special packages, upgrades, or promotional fares when making reservations, particularly in the off season. Although I've included toll-free numbers for the United States and Canada for many of the listings later, I also recommend contacting the hotels directly to inquire about rates and special deals, and checking hotel websites for deals that might be offered only through the Internet.
Generally speaking, the price of a room in Hong Kong depends upon its view and height rather than upon its size. Not surprisingly, the best and most expensive rooms are those with a sweeping view of Victoria Harbour, as well as those on the higher floors. Is a harbor view worth it? Emphatically, yes. Hong Kong's harbor, with watercraft activity ranging from cruise ships and barges to fishing boats and the Star Ferry, is one of the most fascinating in the world; the city's high-rises and mountains are icing on the cake. Waking in the morning and opening your curtains to this famous scene is a thrill. Hotels know it, which is why they charge an arm and a leg for the privilege. A few moderately and inexpensively priced accommodations offer harbor views, though these, too, represent their most expensive rooms.
In any case, don't be shy about asking what price categories are available and what the differences are among them. Keep in mind that the difference in price between a room facing inland and a room facing the harbor can be staggering, with various price categories in between. For example "partial" or "side" harbor views means you can glimpse the harbor looking sideways from your window or between tall buildings. Double rooms that range from HK$2,000 to HK$3,000, for example, may include five different categories, beginning with a "standard" room on a lower floor facing inland and then increasing in cost to those on upper floors facing inland, those with side harbor views, those on lower floors facing the harbor, and, most expensive, "deluxe" rooms on higher floors with full harbor views. To save money, consider requesting the highest room available in the category you choose. If "standard" rooms, for example, run up to the eighth floor and deluxe rooms are on floors 9 to 20, ask for a standard room on floor 8, where you might just have a bit of a view. If you decide to spring for a full harbor view, be sure to ask for it when making your reservation, and request the highest floor available.
For moderately priced or inexpensive lodgings, few of which offer any kind of view at all, rates are usually based on height, decor, and sometimes size, and it's prudent to inquire whether there's a difference in price between twin and double rooms; some hotels charge more for two beds in a room (more sheets to wash, I guess).
You might also be able to save money by spending more -- that is, selecting a room on the executive floor. While the "hotel-within-a-hotel" concept usually costs more than a regular room (though note that deluxe harbor-view rooms may cost more than an executive room facing inland), it may more than make up for the price difference with a wide range of privileges and services, which might include express check-in and checkout; use of a private executive lounge serving complimentary breakfasts, snacks, and evening cocktails complete with an appetizer buffet (thereby saving on dinner); complimentary pressing service and/or discounted laundry service; free use of the business center or free in-room Internet connections; and an executive-floor concierge attendant who can take care of such details as restaurant reservations or transportation arrangements. Some hotels have dedicated executive-level floors, while others offer executive-level privileges from any room by paying a surcharge. Even some moderately priced hotels now offer executive-level rooms, though it goes without saying that service levels (or the quality of their free buffets) don't compare with those offered by deluxe hotels.
The wide range of prices listed for double/twin rooms in each of the listings reflects the various categories available. In moderately priced and inexpensive lodgings, single rates are also usually available, but more expensive hotels often charge the same for double or single occupancy.
All of Hong Kong's expensive hotels, most of the moderately priced hotels, and many of the inexpensive hotels are members of the Hong Kong Hotels Association (HKHA; tel. 852/2383 8380; www.hkha.com.hk), though not every hotel named in this guide is. The advantage of staying at a member hotel is that if you have a complaint, you can lodge it directly with the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB). Furthermore, the HKHA maintains a counter at Hong Kong International Airport where you can reserve a room at one of its member hotels at no extra charge. Our categories are based on rates for a double room (excluding service charge) as follows: Very Expensive, HK$4,000 and up; Expensive, HK$2,600 to HK$4,000; Moderate, HK$1,300 to HK$2,600; and Inexpensive, less than HK$1,300.
Keep in mind that prices given in this guide are for room rack rates only -- a 10% service charge will be added to your final bill. Because a 10% increase can really add up, be sure to take it into account when choosing your hotel.
Very Expensive -- Hong Kong's top hotels are among the best in the world, with unparalleled service, state-of-the-art business, health-club, and often spa facilities, beautifully appointed guest rooms equipped with just about everything you can imagine, some of the city's best restaurants, and usually views of famous Victoria Harbour from their most expensive rooms. They also offer the convenience of a concierge or guest-relations staff, on hand to help with everything from procuring theater tickets to making restaurant and tour reservations. Among other extras are turndown service, 24-hour room service, welcoming tea brought to your room shortly after your arrival, free bottled water, free fruit basket, free newspaper delivered to your room, and many in-room conveniences and amenities, including voice mail, wired and/or Wi-Fi Internet access, and bedside controls that regulate everything from do-not-disturb lights to the opening of the curtains (it's great to wake up in the morning and have the city appear before you with a mere push of a button). Large bathrooms are standard, all with separate shower and tub facilities (useful for couples trying to get ready at the same time), magnifying mirrors, and bathroom scales so you can monitor your weight gain as you eat your way through Hong Kong. Most also offer executive lounges, accessible by staying on designated executive-level floors or, at some hotels, by paying a surcharge (guests staying at any room in the InterContinental, for example, can use the private executive lounge and have special privileges by paying extra).
Expensive -- A few hotels in this category, including some of my favorites, offer almost as much as Hong Kong's very expensive hotels and some even have great views of Victoria Harbour. In this category you can expect a guest-relations/concierge desk, 24-hour room service, swimming pools and/or health clubs or exercise rooms, business centers, same-day laundry service, and comfortable rooms with hair dryers, satellite TVs with in-room movies, voicemail, Internet access, coffee/tea-making facilities, bathroom scales, and usually free bottled water and a welcome basket of fruit. Many also have executive floors for business travelers.
Moderate -- Tour groups have long been a mainstay of tourism in Hong Kong, and you're most likely to encounter them at the moderately priced hotels, which account for the majority of hotels in Hong Kong. (You'll also find groups at large, higher-quality inexpensive hotels.) With increased tourism from mainland China filling rooms in this category, it's imperative to book early. Guest rooms tend to be rather small compared to American hotel rooms, with generally unexciting views, but have such amenities as hair dryers, Internet access or Wi-Fi, minibars or empty fridges you can stock yourself, and instant coffee and sometimes free bottled water, plus room service, bellhops, nonsmoking floors, tour desks, and sometimes a swimming pool and/or fitness room. Because harbor views are usually not available except for some hotels on the Hong Kong Island side, rates are generally based on height/floor number and decor and sometimes on size, though cheapest rooms may face another building in this space-challenged city.
Inexpensive -- Unfortunately, Hong Kong has more expensive hotels than it does budget properties. Hotels in this category generally offer small, functional rooms with a bathroom and air-conditioning but usually have few services or facilities. Always inquire whether there's a difference in price between rooms with twin beds and those with double beds. If possible, try to see a room before committing yourself, since some may be better than others in terms of traffic noise, view, condition, and size. You shouldn't have any problems with the inexpensive hotels recommended here, though larger ones are often filled with tour groups.
Rock-Bottom Rates -- Budget travelers can find cheap accommodations in Hong Kong, but they generally come with a price. One way to save money is to stay outside the heavily touristed areas outlined earlier (Kowloon, Central, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay), though keep in mind you'll have a longer commute. Hong Kong also abounds in so-called "guesthouses", but you'll have few creature comforts other than a bed and small bathroom.