Tag: atm machines

Currency Exchange Tips for Hong Kong

1000 hong kong dollars

One thing that happens on every trip is the issue of exchanging currency into the local money. Hong Kong uses the “Hong Kong Dollar”, often indicated as an example as $1000HK or $1000HKD. Thankfully, for the moment at least, the currency of Hong Kong is “pegged” to the US dollar with a pretty solid rate, 0.13 or 7.76 Hong Kong dollars for 1 US dollar. Because of this official peg, your exchange rate to Hong Kong dollars is essentially based on whatever your exchange rate may be to US dollars. For Americans travelling to Hong Kong, let’s just say it makes it very simple.

There are tons of ways to exchange money in Hong Kong. First off, there are the exchange places at the airport. A recent survey showed them offering something near to 7 even, which is pretty poor rate. I never want to put down anyone’s business, but honestly, that exchange rate borders on criminal – 10% is a huge drop. The airport also has some currency exchange ATMs (Citibank, example) but I have never personally tried them, I don’t know what rate they give.

The best bet generally is to use your ATM card to make withdrawals directly from your home bank account, providing you take a reasonable amount of money. Most machines will limit you to $2500HK per transaction, which should be around $320 or so US at a time. Add to that a transaction fee, and whatever the banks take in the conversion, and you are still okay. At the official rate you are looking at $322, and one recent transaction I did (against a debit mastercard) was $333, or about 3%. That makes for a pretty big difference.

In town, there are currency exchange places just about everywhere, hanging out of every possibly nook and cranny and crevice in most areas. Keep an eye on both the rate and any fees they will charge you beyond the exchange, some have “no fees” beyond the displayed rates, while others will charge you for the service directly. Either way, check out what your net money would be and go with what works. If you get a street exchance over 7.5 these days you are doing pretty good. Some hotels also offer exchange services, but watch the rates, some of them are trying to profit from your ignorance about the exchange rates.

More than anything, avoid anyone who is offering to do money exchange on the street or “down an alley” to a side office or location. While Hong Kong is generally not dangerous this way, there are always some who will try to rip you off. Stay with actual exchange shops and you will do fine.

Finally, my basic rule for shopping. If you are any good at doing basic math in your head, when you are a hong kong store, just take the price you see and divide it by 7 to get the price in US dollars. You will give you a slightly inflated US price, but will also give you a pretty solid comparison after exchange and all that. In those terms, your Big Mac combo meal at McDonalds here costs under $4 US… nice!

Before You Leave Hong Kong Airport For Your Hotel

Before you leave Hong Kong airport for your hotel (or other final destination in town) there are a couple of things you should do. These two important steps will turn you into a real Hong Kong person and make your trip very much more interesting.

Before you can do either of these things, you will need some cash. Hopefully you followed my advice and didn’t do any money exchange in the arrivals area of the airport, their rates are generally terrible. The best way to get cash in Hong Kong is to pull out your trust ATM / cash card and make a withdrawl. At current rates, a $1000HK dollar withdrawl is about $130 or so US dollars. Thankfully, there are a number of ATM machines right in the airport, which makes things a little easier.

citibank atm hong kong airportThe cash machines are generally located in the area between the A and B exits, near the central elevator / escalator complex. If you came out of the A gate, that will be to your right down the concourse, and if you came out of B, it’s to the left. All of the stores and services are located along the wall between the A and B gate exits, so as you walk along from the A gate you will have shops and banks on your right, and restaurants on your left (congrats, you just saw your first Hong Kong McDonalds!). There are a couple of sets of ATM machines along the right side near the elevators. I think they are a Citibank and an HSBC, but not to worry, they have global access to most other banks. Withdrawing cash here will likely get you a much better rate than trying to exchange cash at the airport. You should probably withdraw a couple of thousand HK (which is only $250 US dollars) as you will need to spend a bit in the next few minutes to get yourself organized.

octopus card hong kongNow, for Hong Kong step 1: You need an Octopus card. Why would you want an octopus on a card? Well, actually, in Hong Kong the Octopus card is possibly one of the single most useful things you can have. It’s you method for paying for trains, buses, subways, and even the airport express train. So in that regard, it’s sort of a transit pass. But it is much more, because pretty much every small convenience store (7-eleven, Circle K, Vingo, and others) will have a machine that lets you pay for your purchases by deducting right off the Octopus card. No more fighting for change! You will actually be very surprised all of the places you can use it instead of cash, from McDonalds and KFC to local restaurant chains like Fairwood or Cafe Coral. You can use it to access the cross harbor ferries, you can even use it in some places in Shenzhen in mainland China. It’s a value added storage device that will keep you from ending up with a pocket full of change, and also help you to not slow down lines in convenience stores!