Saunders 1865 | Moving to Hong Kong

Moving to Hong Kong

Are you moving to Hong Kong? With a name that actually translates as ‘fragrant harbour’, Hong Kong is one of the world’s most iconic cities—a natural deep-water harbour that is as well known for its clamouring skyline as it is for its extreme population density. As a Special Administrative Region of China it enjoys a degree of autonomy, and throughout the city there is still plenty of evidence of its time as a British colony.

Today, it’s home to approximately seven million people, crammed onto just 1,100 square kilometres of land. The population has, by necessity, spread upwards, and the city has some of the most exciting modern architecture in the world. It’s a major trade hub and financial centre—the lynch pin between China and the developed world—and the Hong Kong dollar is the 13th most traded currency in the world.

Our free, in-depth Moving to Hong Kong report includes info on:

• The best areas to live
• The good schools
• The average monthly rental prices
• The excellent public transport system in the city

Putting Hong Kong on the map

Hong Kong sits on the south coast of China, just to the east of the estuary of the Zhujiang River Delta. The territory comprises Hong Kong Island, the Kowloon Peninsula, the New Territories and some 200 or so smaller islands. Much of the land is steep and hilly, so only 25% has been developed, further increasing the population pressure, and building is concentrated at the southern tip of the Peninsula and along the northern edge of Hong Kong Island. The built up areas are immensely crowded but there are also large country parks and nature reserves, including the Hong Kong National Geopark, which form a welcome escape from the frenzy of the city. Pollution can be a problem here, although 80% of it originates from Chinese cities north of the border.

Because of the issues of space, it’s generally not practical to own a car in Hong Kong—and for this reason the public transport system has been highly developed.
More than 90% of journeys made within Hong Kong are on public transport
• The MTR rapid transport system has 152 stations, and there are also buses, trams and ferries
• The Star Ferry service between Hong Kong Island and the Peninsula has achieved iconic status and is easily the best way of appreciating the view of the Hong Kong skyline
• Because of the steep hills, there are also a number of escalators and moving pavements for pedestrians
Hong Kong International Airport is one of the world’s busiest, serving nearly 50 million passengers a year

The areas

There’s no doubt Hong Kong‘s an exciting place to live, but it’s also expensive—rents here are among the highest in the world. Luxury developments and serviced apartments are in high demand, pushing rents up, though better value properties can be found in the suburbs. You’ll also need to bear in mind that over and above the rent you’ll be charged, you’ll have to pay additional taxes, including rates, land rent, stamp duty and management fees, that may add a further 15 per cent to your monthly outlay.

Below we look at the most popular residential areas on Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon. If you’re bringing your family, the southern part of Hong Kong Island is a little quieter, while the Mid-Levels tend to appeal to singles and young couples.

Wan Chai

On the north coast of Hong Kong Island, Wan Chai combines a busy CBD with a popular residential area. There are plenty of shops, bars and restaurants, cheek by jowl with offices and apartment complexes. Prices reflect its central location but there’s a wide range of accommodation types.

The Mid-Levels

Set back from the coast on Hong Kong Island, the Mid-Levels offers varied accommodation and is convenient for the city centre and many international schools. It also boasts the longest escalator on earth, carrying pedestrians to and from the city centre.

North Point

A little cheaper and a little less international, this is the place for well-priced, well-maintained apartments.

Repulse Bay

A wealthy seaside enclave on the south west of the island, Repulse Bay is popular with families due to its beach and international schools. However, it’s not served by the MTR transit system, so a car is a necessity here.


Further down the coast from Repulse Bay, Stanley is slightly cheaper. It’s popular with expats but can be touristy in summer.

The Peak

The highest part of the island is where the wealthiest inhabitants live. Expensive housing developments offer pools, gyms and tennis courts—and there are more townhouses and single-family homes here.

Happy Valley

In the centre of the island, Happy Valley is more affordable and popular with expats due to its convenience. There’s a wide range of accommodation on offer, from low-rise developments to high-rise apartments.

Jardine’s Lookout

Above Happy Valley, this is a rather more exclusive area of large detached houses and luxury apartments. It’s well-served by international schools.

West Kowloon

Across on the mainland, West Kowloon has some excellent new apartment complexes with great facilities. There are good commuter links here, amazing shopping centres and plenty of restaurants.

Kowloon Tong

Good international schools are drawing expat families to this quiet neighbourhood—as well as spacious colonial houses, low-rise apartments and a number of gated communities. The MTR makes the commute to the city centre in 20 minutes.

The New Territories

More than 50% of Hong Kong residents live in the large area north of Kowloon. Property out here is substantially cheaper but the daily commute can be more complex as much of it is beyond the reach of the MTR.

Who lives in Hong Kong and why?

The population of Hong Kong is approximately 7.2 million, and around 93 per cent of these are of Chinese descent. As the third most important financial centre after New York and London, the territory attracts a wide range of expats who work in the commercial and financial sectors.

Some of the reasons expats are drawn to Hong Kong:
Low taxation and free trade keep the region attractive to corporate businesses—it is ranked the freest economy in the world by the Index of Economic Freedom
• It has one of the greatest concentrations of corporate headquarters in the Asia-Pacific region
• The Hong Kong stock exchange is the seventh largest in the world
High expat salaries here offset the high cost of living
• There are more skyscrapers here than anywhere else in the world and it’s an important centre for modern architecture
• There are 13 private hospitals as well as 40 public ones and the city has one of the highest life expectancies in the world
• It’s education system is ranked the second best in the world
• There are 33 international secondary schools and 43 international primary schools The official languages are Cantonese and English
• Hong Kong has a guarantee of religious freedom and there are communities of all the world’s major religions

The best bits

Hong Kong is one of the most vibrant and exciting cities not only in Asia, but in the world. It’s busy, noisy and breath-taking in equal measure—and it truly acts as the gateway between east and west. Ancient Chinese traditions rub shoulders with British colonial mores and high-tech modern conveniences — it’s a fascinating melting pot of different cultures, old and new.

• It has an excellent Heritage Museum, Museum of Art, an Academy for Performing Arts and a Philharmonic Orchestra
• There are plenty of sports facilities for both spectating and participation
• The territory’s sub-tropical climate is pleasant for most of the year, although the summer months can be hot and humid
Lantau Island is an idyllic getaway of beaches, fishing villages and monasteries — and a great place for camping and hiking
• Hong Kong is home to three theme parks
• There are a number of traditional Chinese festivals throughout the year, including the most spectacular of firework displays for the Chinese New Year
• Gambling is hugely popular, as is horse racing. Many people take the ferry to Macau to spend time in the casinos there
• There is fabulous shopping in Hong Kong, though it’s no longer the bargain hunter’s paradise it once was
• The people of Hong Kong love to eat out and the choice of restaurants — Chinese, Asian and western—is absolutely mind-boggling.
Cantonese is the local cuisine and dim sum is hugely popular

Bringing the kids

Although the cramped city centre won’t offer much space for children to run around in, if you live further out, things are better. The territory offers plenty of open space in the form of national parks, nature reserves and beaches, while ferry trips to outlying islands make wonderful adventures.

When it comes to schooling, with the second best education system in the world, you’ll be spoiled for choice:
• The state schools mainly teach in Cantonese, though there are some which teach in English
• There are eight public and one private universities in Hong Kong
State schools are free but most expats send their children to one of the many international schools
• These can be expensive, so factor in this cost when negotiating your package
• The 43 international primary schools and 33 international secondary schools include American, English, Canadian, Jewish, Chinese, Japanese, German, Swiss, French, Australian and Singaporean establishments

Relocating to Hong Kong

Hong Kong is spectacular and exciting, a melting pot between east and west, and if you get the opportunity to live and work here, it’s an experience you’ll never forget. However, it’s a crowded and expensive city with a premium on living space. This means that finding an apartment, let alone a house with a garden, can be difficult—and it pushes the cost of living here up to third place in the world. There’s a wide range of accommodation to choose from but rents vary massively depending upon the location and whether the property is old or new. Naturally, the further out from the city centre you choose to live, the more space you’ll be able to afford.

At Saunders 1865, our teams of experts combine local knowledge with first-hand experience to pinpoint the right area and the right property that will tick all your boxes.

Do you have children that need to be enrolled in school?

Are the transport links convenient for your needs?

Does this location fit with your expectations of expat life and is the space configured in a way that suits your requirements?

We can bring expertise to all these factors and help to arrange smooth, efficient and stress-free relocations – to Hong Kong, London and destinations across the world. Our services include home finding assistance, school finding, lease negotiations, temporary accommodation, move management and immigration assistance. Don’t hesitate to contact us to find out how we can help you.


Good Schools
Great Transport
Average Monthly Rent - Hong Kong
Apartment (1 bedroom) in city centre HK$ 18,947
Apartment (1 bedroom) outside of centre HK$ 12,264
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in city centre HK$ 37,416
Apartment (3 bedrooms) outside of centre HK$ 24,139
Contact us for a free initial consultation about your specific situation.
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