The three letters that define much of the world's wireless capabilities are GSM (Global System for Mobiles), a big, seamless network that makes for easy cross-border cellphone use throughout dozens of other countries worldwide.
Using your own mobile phone in Hong Kong is easy, as most of the telephone systems used around the world (such as GSM 900/1800/2100, PCS 1800, CDMA, and WCDMA) are operational in Hong Kong. If your cellphone is on a GSM system, and you have a world-capable multiband phone, you can make and receive calls in Hong Kong. Mobile operators in Hong Kong, such as CSL (tel. 852/2751 0000 or *CSL from a mobile phone logged on to the CSL network; www.hkcsl.com), have roaming agreements with most overseas operators, enabling visitors to use their own phones in Hong Kong. Just call your wireless operator and ask for "international roaming" to be activated on your account. Be sure to cancel any call-forwarding options to avoid extra roaming charges. Unfortunately, per-minute charges can be high, so ask about pricing before you leave.
It is more economical to buy a removable computer memory phone chip (called a SIM card), which allows you to make calls at local rates. Cheap, prepaid SIM cards are sold at retailers throughout Hong Kong, including 7-Eleven convenience stores. CSL (tel. 852/179 179; http://one2free.hkcsl.com) offers the Power Prepaid SIM Card for HK$88, with local calls costing HK10¢ a minute and international calls to 30 destinations (including the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, and New Zealand) costing HK18¢ a minute to land lines (calls to cellphones cost more). It's sold at 1010 Centres throughout Hong Kong, including Century Square, 1-13 D'Aguilar St., Central (tel. 852/2918 1010), and China Hong Kong Centre, 122-126 Canton Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui (tel. 852/2910 1010), as well as 7-Eleven and Circle K convenience stores.
Similarly, PCCW (tel. 852/1000; www2.pccwmobile.com), another local company, offers a variety of prepaid, rechargeable SIM cards, including cards for HK$48 and HK$78, with local calls costing HK12¢ during peak hours from noon to 9pm and HK6¢ at other times; calls to North America cost HK$1.60 per minute. PCCW's "All-in-1" Communications SIM Card, costing HK$98 but with HK$150 worth of stored value, enables tourists to make local calls for HK30¢ per minute and also provides access to PCCW's Wi-Fi hot spots throughout Hong Kong. A convenient shop is located at 118 Queen's Road Central, Central (tel. 852/2888 3326).
Renting a mobile phone is another option. Many upper- and medium-range hotels offer rental phones at their business centers, though it's an expensive convenience (the more expensive the hotel, the more expensive the rental). It's better to rent from a local company. CSL (tel. 852/2883 3938; http://roam.hkcsl.com/eng/rent/rent.htm) offers phones for HK$35 a day, plus a refundable deposit of up to HK$500. But you must still buy a SIM card as outlined above.
Newspapers & Magazines
The South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com) and the Standard (www.thestandard.com.hk) are the two local English-language daily newspapers. The South China Morning Post is often delivered to guest rooms free or available for purchase at the front desk or hotel kiosk, at newsstands, and bookstores. The Standard is free. For a different perspective, you might also want to pick up the China Daily, from Beijing (www.chinadaily.com.cn). The Asian Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, International Herald Tribune, and USA Today International are also available, as are news magazines like Time and Newsweek.
To call Hong Kong: The international country code for Hong Kong is 852. Therefore, to call Hong Kong:
1. Dial the international access code: 011 from the U.S.; 00 from the U.K., Ireland, or New Zealand; or 0011 from Australia.
2. Dial the country code: 852.
3. Then dial the number (there is no city code for Hong Kong). So, the whole number you'd dial from the U.S. would be 011-852-0000 0000.
Domestic Calls: In Hong Kong, local calls made from homes, offices, shops, restaurants, and some hotel lobbies are free, so don't feel shy about asking to use the phone. Otherwise, local calls from public phones, which accept HK$1, HK$2, HK$5, and HK$10 coins, cost HK$1 for each 5 minutes; from hotel rooms, it's about HK$4 to HK$5.
To Make International Calls: To make international calls from Hong Kong, first dial tel. 001 (or 0080 or 009, depending on which competing telephone services you wish to use) and then the country code (U.S. or Canada 1, U.K. 44, Ireland 353, Australia 61, New Zealand 64). Next dial the area code and number.
For Directory Assistance in English: Dial tel. 1081 if you're looking for a number inside Hong Kong, or tel. 10013 for numbers to all other countries.
For Collect Calls: To make a collect call from any public or private phone in Hong Kong, dial tel. 10010.
Toll-Free Numbers: Numbers beginning with 800 within Hong Kong are toll-free. However, calling a toll-free number to a foreign country from Hong Kong is not free but rather costs the same as an overseas call.
Most hotels in Hong Kong offer direct dialing. Otherwise, long-distance calls can be made from specially marked International Dialing Direct (IDD) public phones. The most convenient method of making international calls is to use an Octopus card (see "Getting Around"). Alternatively, a PCCW Hello PhoneCard, which comes in denominations ranging from HK$50 to HK$500, is available at PCCW shops, and 7-Eleven and Circle K convenience stores. To use it, you have to key in an access number and then the PhoneCard number. You can also charge your telephone call to a major credit card by using one of about 100 credit card phones in major shopping locations.
Internet & E-Mail
Without Your Own Computer -- Most hotels have business centers with computers for Internet access, but they can be expensive (some may be free for hotel guests, however). Cybercafes, though still few and far between, are growing in number. In addition to the suggestions below, check www.cybercafe.com or contact the HKTB.
All Hong Kong libraries have computers with Internet access you can use for free. The Hong Kong Central Library, 66 Causeway Rd., Causeway Bay (tel. 852/3150 1234; www.hkpl.gov.hk), offers free Internet access from its many computers for a maximum of 2 hours. You'll find them on the ground and first floors. To avoid having to wait, you can make a reservation at tel. 852/2921 0348.
More convenient, perhaps, is Cyber Pro Internet Cafe, located in the Star House across from the Tsim Sha Tsui ferry terminal, next to McDonald's (no phone). Open daily from 10am to 2am, it requires a HK$40 deposit, plus a minimum charge of HK$20 for 1 hour. Four hours cost HK$60. In Yau Ma Tei, there's Main Street Cafe, 380 Nathan Rd. (tel. 852/2782 1818), with four computers customers can use for free with purchase of a drink. It's open daily 7am to 10pm.
Pacific Coffee (www.pacificcoffee.com) is Hong Kong's largest chain of coffee shops; most locations offer two or more computers that customers can access for free (you'll probably have to wait in line and use is restricted to 15 min. per visit). Locations include Shop 1022 in the ifc mall, above Hong Kong Station in Central (tel. 852/2868 5100), open Sunday through Thursday from 7am to 11pm and Friday and Saturday from 7am to midnight.
With Your Own Computer -- More and more hotels, cafes, and public areas are signing on as Wi-Fi "hot spots." In Hong Kong, accessibility begins at its airport, where passengers with laptops have free Wi-Fi access from virtually anywhere in the terminal.
All upper-range and medium-priced hotels in Hong Kong are equipped with either high-speed dataports or Wi-Fi connections that allow guests to use laptop computers. In some hotels, Internet access is available upon purchase of an Internet access card for about HK$100, valid for anywhere from 100 minutes to unlimited use for 5 days, depending on the hotel (in general, the more expensive the hotel, the more expensive its Internet rates). Other hotels charge a flat rate per day, with HK$120 for 24 hours the prevailing rate. Luckily, a growing percentage of hotels offer it for free (check individual hotel listings for Internet information or call your hotel in advance to see what your options are).
Hong Kong's electricity uses 220 volts and 50 cycles compared to the U.S. 110 volts and 60 cycles, but most laptop computers nowadays are equipped to deal with both. However, you'll need a prong adapter. Upper-end hotels have built-in adapters that accept foreign (including U.S.) prongs; otherwise, housekeeping can probably lend you one for free. For moderate and budget hotels, you might need a connection kit of the right power and -- for wired connections -- a spare phone cord and a spare Ethernet network cable -- or find out whether your hotel supplies them to guests.
Otherwise, there are lots of places outside your hotel where you can access Wi-Fi free of charge. In an impressive effort to make Hong Kong a wireless city, the government offers free wireless Internet access services at approximately 380 hot spots throughout the SAR, including public libraries, sports and recreational centers, major parks, some tourist attractions, and government buildings and offices, including Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, and the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront promenade and Kowloon Park in Tsim Sha Tsui. You can pick up a brochure outlining how to hook up at various places around town, including HKTB Visitor Centres and public museums like the Hong Kong Heritage Discovery Centre in Kowloon Park. For more information, call the GovWiFi help desk at tel. 852/186 111 or check the website www.gov.hk/wifi.
Finally, lots of cafes, bars, and restaurants offer wireless, including Starbucks, Pacific Coffee, Delifrance, and KFC, with locations throughout Hong Kong, though you may have to pay for the service. Ask your hotel concierge for the nearest location.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.