Living in Hong Kong

Living Conditions

Hong Kong Island is an island of only 76 sq. km. with much of that being mountainous rock. Land for development here is at an absolute premium and must be utilized to its fullest advantage. For this reason, in order to maximise the use of the limited land area suitable for building, high-rise apartment blocks, some over 40 storeys, are normal and low-rise developments or townhouses are only built in areas which have height or zoning restrictions. Restricted areas include Victoria Peak and land on the coastal side of the main south island roads. The areas nearer to the main business district, including Mid-levels and Happy Valley, are almost exclusive high-rise apartment living.

Kowloon and the New Territories are likewise divided into high-rise and low-rise areas.

Typical Homes

1. Apartments

Hong Kong apartment will be on one level with a combined living-dining room, kitchen, maid's room and toilet, utility/laundry area, two/three/four bedrooms and one/two/three bathrooms. Some have balconies (usually the older blocks) and others on the top floor may have exclusive use of the flat roof area above. Separate dining rooms are rare.

Properties built in the last ten years are equipped with modern, fitted kitchens and bathrooms, while many older units have been renovated, some to quite modern standard. A few "luxury" premises offer high standard kitchens and bathrooms at matching "luxury" prices. Appliances are sometimes, but not always, provided.

Modern developments also often provide communal recreational facilities which may include swimming pool(s), tennis, squash, clubhouse and gymnasium, billiards, badminton and playgrounds.

Air conditioning is essential in Hong Kong and while the better buildings are equipped with central or individual systems, it is sometimes necessary to install your own and this should be checked while viewing properties.

Floor Plan

2. Townhouses

Townhouses are usually built in developments of from around seven to 20 or 30 houses. Due to land space restrictions, these are often on four or five levels, sometimes with a small private garden and/or a usable flat roof. They vary greatly in size from around 2,000 sq.ft. to over 5,000 sq.ft. The larger ones usually have a separate dining or family room or study, with three or four bedrooms and bathrooms.

A number of developments share communal pool facilities, and the larger or more expensive ones may also have tennis, squash courts or a clubhouse.

A private detached house and garden is a real luxury in Hong Kong and there are only a very few available at the top end of the market or in outlying areas.

Most accommodation is leased out in good condition with walls and ceilings all repainted, parquet flooring (common to most properties) polyurethaned and minor repairs made to fixtures and fittings.

Depending on the age of the property and the rental, kitchens can be fully equipped with cooker, refrigerator, dishwasher, washing and drying machine or not be equipped at all. In the latter case, the bare essentials of fitted cupboards and sinks only may be provided.

Where central air-conditioning is provided, there may be an extra cost for its maintenance or else the tenant may be responsible for maintenance during the term of the tenancy. If no central system exists, individual room units are necessary.

Except for the smaller sized or serviced apartments, most properties are leased unfurnished, there is a wide choice of household furnishings and fittings available in Hong Kong.

Floor Plan

3. Serviced Apartments

A fairly wide choice of serviced apartments is available in Hong Kong, at sizes from around 600 sq.ft. up to 3,300 sq.ft., but with the vast majority being under 2,000 sq.ft. These can be studios, one bedroom with sitting room, bathroom and open kitchen, or with two bedrooms. Very few serviced units have 3 bedrooms.

Leasing is often for a minimum term of 3 months although, when vacancy rates are higher, it is easier to obtain a 1 month lease. Most units range from good standard up to international hotel-suite standard and are well provided with linen, cutlery, crockery and cooking utensils.

The costs are a fairly good indication of standard, with good quality starting around $32 per sq.ft. up to as high as $78 per sq.ft. for luxury standard.

Floor Plan

Buy or Rent

A Lifestyle Decision

Are you considering the consequences of buy or rent? Are you wondering whether it would be beneficial to buy property rather than continue to rent? While each individual's needs are unique there are some significant and key factors that should be taken into consideration when evaluating whether to buy or rent. Outlined below are some pros and cons of buying property as compared to continuing to rent space.

A Qualitative Decision

The buy vs rent decision is more than a simple financial one. Most rent vs buy calculators help you make a quantitative decision; i.e. they work out whether it will cost you less to rent or to buy. However, such calculators constitute only a minor part of the decision, because:

  • There are often many hidden costs - such as repairs and maintenance, the cost of moving, etc. that are not included in many "rent vs buy" equations; and
  • The rent vs buy decision is often not a quantitative one, but a qualitative one

Some common qualitative considerations include:

  • Whether you need a better credit reference for future borrowing
  • How much stress you are prepared to deal with if and when you move into your new home
  • Whether your sense of independence or freedom is more important. Being an owner can give you a sense of financial independence, but being a tenant frees you from responsibilities that inhibit your freedom
  • Whether you would rather spend or save
  • Your retirement / pension strategy
  • Desire for a ‘home ownership culture’ – seen as a sign of ‘social status’ to own property
  • Investment planning for the future
  • A legacy for the children
Pros and Cons of Buy vs Rent

Buying: advantages

  • Owning property can be a good investment and builds equity: this yields far greater financial potential than leasing
  • Any gain in value of the property will increase your capital
  • Your mortgage repayment is likely to be similar to a rental payment on the same property on a long term basis
  • Cultivates a sense of security and stability
  • More flexibility: not dependent on landlord to maintain property

Disadvantages

  • Owning property will initially cost far more upfront. There are property, appraisal, maintenance costs and responsibilities along with a large down payment and possible property improvement costs to factor into consideration
  • Greater financial risk, risk of foreclosure and loss of equity governed by market conditions
  • Any loss on the value of the property will decrease your capital
  • If you own property you are less mobile than if you were to rent

Rent: advantages

  • Less financial burden compared to an outright purchase
  • Responsibility to refurbish and maintain property carried out by the landlord
  • Flexible: more mobility
  • Free-up working capital: with your money not tied up in real estate your ability to borrow funds will not be as limited as with buying property
  • Exempt from rental overheads
  • Smaller down payments rather than a large deposit and lower monthly payments but no resale value when contract expires
  • There is no "resale" problem at the end of the lease period

Disadvantages

  • No asset-value in the property - the landlord profits
  • Variable costs: you may be subject to upward rental increments and higher costs at the time when your contract expires
  • No equity: while renting you will be funding someone else's retirement
  • All or most tenants will inevitably have contractual obligations towards their landlord

Conclusion: Landlord and Tenant

Property typically appreciates in value and can be a great investment over time, but ownership carries greater financial risk, financial challenges and management responsibilities that one can avoid by renting. Real estate is a relatively illiquid asset and is subject to market fluctuations; therefore, should the need arise to sell in a soft market that could also be a costly consideration.

By and large, personal and professional circumstances as well as lifestyle factors typically dictate the best way forward when deciding whether to buy or rent property. This is a complex issue, and involves a detailed assessment of your circumstances and requirements, the property you wish to acquire, and the offers that are available. Many of the buy vs rent factors can only be assessed by you, but having a helping hand from a real estate professional will assure you of making the best possible decision.

For further information, please contact The KeyPersons.

Leasing Conditions

Most properties are leased out in good decorative condition, unfurnished, and often but not always provided with appliances which may include cookers, refrigerators, washing and drying machines, dishwashers and airconditioners, but excluding soft furnishings such as carpets and curtains. Except for serviced apartments, there are far fewer furnished apartments available, and these few are usually smaller units with only one or two bedrooms.

Airconditioners are essential for comfortable living during the summer months and, if not provided by the Landlord, will need to be installed by the tenant. There are also serviced apartments available offering good to excellent facilities for short lease periods of three months or longer. The rentals for these units are comparatively higher. Most have one or two bedrooms although some three bedroom units are available.

Tenancy Agreements

Most tenancy agreements in Hong Kong are for a two year period, although it is often possible to have an escape clause that gives the tenant the right to break the tenancy on giving 2 or 3 months' notice to the landlord after a minimum occupation period of 12 to 15 months. By law, the tenant has the right of first option to renew the tenancy after each two-year period, at the current market price.

Rentals

Rentals are in Hong Kong dollars payable monthly in advance and, except for serviced apartments, are usually exclusive of monthly management fees and Government rates, for which an additional 12% to 15% of the rent.

Management Fees

These fees, payable by all occupants, provide for communal services such as security guards, cleaning and maintenance of common areas and amenities. The amount varies according to the age and number of units in a building and the type of amenities or quality of services provided.

Rates and Government Rent

Rates are a form of property tax on all private accommodation, assessed by and payable to Government at approximately 5.0% of the approximate annual rental value. In addition, properties in some districts (part of the New Territories and outlying islands) are subject to Government land rent, which is calculated at 3% of the rateable value. These charges are usually payable quarterly in advance by the landlord.

Available Funds Required

The tenant will need to be prepared to pay a number of costs applicable to finding a home in Hong Kong and these are detailed below. Most are payable in advance or quite quickly after choosing where you will live. As a rule of thumb, it is recommended that you arrange to have funds available in advance in Hong Kong for this purpose equivalent to at least four times your budgeted monthly rental, preferably five.

Deposit

These are usually equivalent to two, occasionally three, months' rental and are payable to the landlord when an offer to lease is accepted. They are mostly refundable in full should the Tenancy Agreement not be signed. Once the Tenancy Agreement is signed, the deposit is held by the Landlord without interest, and refunded to the tenant upon expiration of the lease. The cost of any damage or reinstatement work necessary to the apartment, other than fair wear and tear, will be deducted from the deposit before repayment.

Government Stamp Duty

A form of Government tax payable on all Tenancy Agreements and usually payable by the tenant and Landlord in equal shares. The total amount payable on a two-year lease is 0.5% of the annual rent plus $5, or 0.25% of the annual rent plus $5 for a one-year lease (uncommon except for serviced apartments).

Agency Fees

An introductory fee of half of one month's rental is payable by the tenant. In accordance with local practice, the agent may also accept a fee from a third party such as the Landlord or Landlord's agent. Package details available to corporations on request.

Utilities

Except for serviced apartments, it is the tenant's obligation to arrange for connection of utilities such as gas, electricity and telephone/fax lines. A deposit or connection fee is payable to each provider, roughly equivalent to two months' estimated usage, refundable upon termination of the service.

Tax Issues

As a general rule, taxation is only levied on income or transactions having a direct connection with Hong Kong. The concepts of residence, domicile or citizenship have little, if any, relevance. Taxation is based on the 'territorial' concept.

There are three distinct taxes designed to tax income derived from Hong Kong, namely Profits Tax, Salaries Tax and Property Tax.

Profits Tax

Profits Tax is levied at the rate of 17.5% on corporations, and 16% on unincorporated entities on business profits which satisfy both of the following criteria:

  • The company must be carrying on business in Hong Kong.
  • The relevant profits must be earned in or derived from Hong Kong.

Hong Kong adopts a territorial basis for taxing profits derived from a trade, profession, or business carried on in Hong Kong. Profits Tax is only charged on profits which arise in or are derived from Hong Kong. That means, a person who carries on a business in Hong Kong but derives profits from another place is not required to pay tax in Hong Kong on those profits. The source of income is generally regarded as a 'practical hard matter of fact'. In the context of international operations, this typically means that the person ultimately deriving the income may have some tax planning opportunities. Rates of Hong Kong taxation are low and with care effective rates can be made even lower. Hong Kong does not have any form of dividend taxation or withholding taxes and hence profits accumulated in a Hong Kong company can be distributed without tax deduction in Hong Kong.

Capital Gains

There is no taxation of capital gains in Hong Kong. Any profits arising from the sale of capital assets are not subject to Profits Tax. The question of whether an asset is capital or revenue depends upon the circumstances of each case. Although there is extreme difficulty in distinguishing between the two, the principles applied by the Hong Kong courts and the Board of Review in similar cases in determining whether the asset is acquired as capital asset or trading asset include:

  • the intention of the taxpayer at the time of acquisition of the property is crucial
  • the intention to hold property as a capital investment must be definite and can only be determined objectively
  • length of period of ownership
  • frequency or number of similar transactions
  • circumstances responsible for the disposal
  • accounting treatment

Thus, if a company is engaged in the business of property trading in Hong Kong, the company is subject to Profits Tax on the trading profits.

Tax Returns

Any company potentially liable to Profits Tax will be issued with a tax return for completion at the end of each tax year. This should be submitted within one month of issue (although in practice longer periods may be granted upon application) together with audited financial statements covering the company's accounting year ending in the relevant tax year.

This return forms the basis for a final tax assessment on respect of the relevant tax year payable for the current years. For example, a company with a 31 December year-end would report its results for that year-end in its return for the tax year ending the following 31 March.

Salaries Tax

Although many salary and wage earners pay no tax due to levels of income below the threshold, employment income with a Hong Kong source is strictly subject to Salaries Tax. In most circumstances where tax is payable a flat rate of tax at (2010/11 onwards: 15%) applies, but in the case of annual income levels below HK$ HK$1,722,000 for a single person (2016/2017) or HK$$2,844,000 for a married couple (2016/2017) lower effective rates can apply. These lower rates are applicable irrespective of whether or not the salary earner is a resident of Hong Kong

Housing Benefits and Other Benefits in Kind

Generous tax treatment of company supplied housing and other 'benefits in kind' makes Hong Kong a competitive location for senior executives of international groups responsible for the Asian region. For example, the provision of accommodation, a company car, domestic furniture etc. should, under suitable arrangements, attract no tax to the employee (whilst the cost should be fully deductible to his employer). Housing provided to an employee is taxed by way of increasing his taxable income by 10 percent. Only in exceptional circumstances does this have any direct relationship to the actual cost of the housing to the employer; the actual cost is usually significantly higher.

Property Tax

Property tax is imposed on owners of rented land and/or buildings situated in Hong Kong. It is computed at the standard tax rate (16% in the year 2006/07) on the net assessable value of a rental property. The “net assessable value” is 80% of the rental income after deduction of any rates paid.

Companies are exempt from the tax, being liable to pay Profits Tax on any such income.

Stamp Duty

The transfer of shares in a Hong Kong company (whether private or publicly quoted) must be stamped. The rate of duty is 0.1% payable by each of the purchaser and seller involved in a transaction, giving an effective rate of 0.2%. Duty is charged on the sales consideration or the fair market value, whichever is the higher. In evaluating the fair market value, the Stamp Duty Office will normally accept the net asset value shown by the company's audited accounts, subject to an upward adjustment to reflect a higher value for land and buildings than that shown in the accounts, where appropriate. No Stamp Duty is charged in the case of transfers of shares within a group of companies, where both parties are under 90% common ownership.

Duty at the maximum rate of 3.75% is payable on the transfer of land and buildings located in Hong Kong and on agreements for sale. In order to dampen land speculation the government introduced Stamp Duty chargeable on agreements to purchase property. However, as a relief to a buyer of residential property, payment of Stamp Duty may be deferred until the assignment is executed according to the agreement on the date of re-sale of the property. The maximum period of deferral is three years after the execution of the agreement.

Stamp duty is also chargeable in relation to leases of land and buildings located in Hong Kong. The rate of stamp duty on an agreement for lease ranges from 0.25% to 1% of the rentals depending on the lease period.

All parties executing the transaction for (a) conveyance on sale (b) agreement for sale of residential property or (iii) lease agreements are liable to stamp duty. Although there is no stipulation in the relevant laws who should be responsible for the stamp duty, it is customary for the purchaser to bear this tax in a sale and purchase transaction. In the case of leasing transaction, it is usually shared equally by the landlord and the tenant.

The rates of stamp duty are as follows:

On Sale or Transfer of Immovable Property in Hong Kong

With effect from 1 April 1999, stamp duty on sale of immovable property in Hong Kong is charged at rates which vary with the amount or value of the consideration as follows:

Amount or value of the consideration (in HKD)
Exceeds Does not exceed Rate
. $2,000,000 $100
$2,000,000 $2,351,760 $100 + 10% of excess over $2,000,000
$2,351,760 $3,000,000 1.5%
$3,000,000 $3,290,320 $45,000 + 10% of excess over $3,000,000
$3,290,320 $4,000,000 2.25%
$4,000,000 $4,428,570 $90,000 + 10% of excess over $4,000,000
$4,428,570 $6,000,000 3%
$6,000,000 $6,720,000 $180,000 + 10% of excess over $6,000,000
$6,720,000 $20,000,000 3.75%
$20,000,000 $21,739,120 $750,000 + 10% of excess over $20,000,000
$21,739,120 . 4.25%
Ad Valorem Stamp Duty (AVD)

With effect from 23 February 2013, unless specifically exempted or otherwise provided, stamp duty on sale or transfer of immovable property in Hong Kong is chargeable with ad valorem stamp duty (AVD) at higher rates as follows:

Amount or value of the consideration (in HKD) Fee
Exceeds Does not exceed Rate
. $2,000,000 1.5%
$2,000,000 $2,351,760 $30,000 + 20% of excess over $2,000,000
$2,351,760 $3,000,000 3%
$3,000,000 $3,290,320 $90,000 + 20% of excess over $3,000,000
$3,290,320 $4,000,000 4.5%
$4,000,000 $4,428,570 $180,000 + 20% of excess over $4,000,000
$4,428,570 $6,000,000 6%
$6,000,000 $6,720,000 $360,000 + 20% of excess over $6,000,000
$6,720,000 $20,000,000 7.5%
$20,000,000 $21,739,120 $1,500,000 + 20% of excess over $20,000,000
$21,739,120 . 8.5%
Special Stamp Duty (SSD)

With effect from 20 November 2010, any residential property acquired on or after 20 November 2010, either by an individual or a company (regardless of where it is incorporated), and resold within 24 months (the property was acquired on or after 20 November 2010 and before 27 October 2012) or 36 months (the property was acquired on or after 27 October 2012), will be subject to a Special Stamp Duty (SSD).

SSD is calculated by reference to the stated consideration or the market value of the property (whichever is the higher), at the following rates for different holding periods of the property by the seller or transferor before disposal -

Holding period The property was acquired on or after 20 November 2010 and before 27 October 2012 The property was acquired on or after 27 October 2012
6 months or less 15% 20%
More than 6 months but for 12 months or less 10% 15%
More than 12 months but for 24 months or less 5% 10%
More than 24 months but for 36 months or less . 10%
Estate Duty

Estate Duty is abolished for estates of the deceased on or after February 11, 2006. No estate duty affidavits and accounts need to be filed and no estate duty clearance papers are needed for the application for a grant of representation in respect of deaths occurring on or after that date. By abolishing Estate Duty, it is hoped that Hong Kong could attract more local and overseas investors to hold assets in Hong Kong and promote the development of Hong Kong as a trust and an asset management centre.

Glossary of Terms

Glossary of Common Terms found in Residential Leasing in Hong Kong

Please note that in this glossary, the terms "lease" and "tenancy" are used interchangeably.

Agency Fees

Often referred to as "commission", this is the fee charged by all agencies for the services of their consultants. The fee is payable on any premises leased, purchased or introduced to you by your agent. Agents reserve the right to charge the landlord or vendor on the same fee structure. For rental the standard agency fee is one half of one month's rental and is payable upon signing the Formal Tenancy Agreement. For sale and purchase the standard fee is 1% of the purchase price and is payable upon signing the Formal Agreement for Sale and Purchase.

Airconditioning

An essential in Hong Kong's hot and humid climate, air-conditioning units are usually installed in the property by the Landlord. Air-conditioning can be centrally installed and controllable in each room (known as "Central Air-Conditioning"), or provided by individual units. Individual units may be "window-type" (usually manually controlled) or "split-type" (usually remote controlled).

Break Clause

Sometimes the landlord will grant a clause in the Formal Tenancy Agreement allowing the tenant to give early notice after a specified period of occupation of the premises. The standard arrangement is for a two-year lease with a two (or three) month "break clause" after twelve (or fifteen) months. This means that, after twelve months of the lease, the tenant can give the landlord not less than two months' written notice of his intention to leave the premises. The advantage to the tenant is that the amount of the rent is guaranteed for two years although he may leave the premises after fourteen months.

Break Lease

If the tenant needs to leave the premises earlier than allowed for in the tenancy agreement, he will try to find a "replacement" tenant to take over the lease. This can be done in one or two ways:

  1. The new or replacement tenant takes over the property until the expiry of the existing lease.
  2. The new or replacement tenant has a new two-year lease granted by the landlord. In either case, the outgoing tenant will need the permission and co-operation of the landlord and should expect to pay the landlord's share of the agency fee and stamp duty payable.

Commencement Date

The date that the tenancy starts and from which rent is payable. The tenant may move in before the commencement date if he has a rent-free period or later if he carries out his own renovation or decoration works.

Company Lease

Where the employee's company signs the lease and is named as the Tenant. The employee is then known as the Occupant. The company usually requires the permission of the landlord before substituting another occupant, even another company employee, although this is rarely opposed by the landlord. The company is responsible for the payment of rent and associated costs. (See also Personal Lease)

Communal Facility

A facility, such as a swimming pool or garden, shared by some or all of the occupants in the building or development.

Decoration

The state of internal decoration of the premises. Not to be confused with renovation. Most rental premises will have basic decoration of walls and ceilings painted in white and polished wooden floors. Carpet is rarely fitted due to the high humidity levels although many tenants introduce rugs as part of their own decoration.

Duplex

A two-storey apartment.

Electrical Appliances

Unless otherwise stated, you can assume that all properties have air-conditioning units installed. Other appliances often supplied/requested would be a fridge/freezer, washer/dryer, and a cooker. Note that unless you specifically ask for a "Western-style cooker" you will usually be supplied with a Chinese-style two-ring gas burner. Smaller appliances such as TV, hi-fi, or small kitchen appliances such as a kettle are rarely supplied by the landlord (except in Serviced Apartments). Note that even if the electrical appliances are provided by the landlord, it is still the tenant's responsibility to maintain, repair and replace the units. Appliances run on 220 or 240-volts and North Americans are recommended to purchase new appliances upon arrival in Hong Kong.

Estate Agency Agreement - Forms 1 to 6

Estate agents in Hong Kong have been licensed since January 1999, regulated by a governing ordinance (the Estate Agents Ordinance) and monitored by a body known as the Estate Agents Authority or EAA. The EAA have introduced several prescribed documents regulating the relationship between the estate agent and the client.

  • Form 1 - The Property Information Form detailing information of a property for sale
  • Form 2 - The Leasing Information Form detailing information of a property for lease
  • Form 3 - The Estate Agency Agreement for sale of residential properties in Hong Kong for use between an Estate Agent and a Vendor
  • Form 4 - The Estate Agency Agreement for purchase of residential properties in Hong Kong for use between an Estate Agent and a Purchaser
  • Form 5 - The Estate Agency Agreement for leasing of residential properties in Hong Kong for use between an Estate Agent and a Landlord
  • Form 6 - The Estate Agency Agreement for leasing of residential properties in Hong Kong for use between an Estate Agent and a Tenant

For the tenant, the relevant forms are Form 2 and Form 6:

Form 6 includes details of the appointment of the Agent by the client, the validity period of the agreement, the agency relationship and duties of the Agent, agency fees, property information, disclosure of pecuniary or beneficial interest by the Agent, and details of properties introduced to the client by the Agent (including the amount of commission payable by the property owner).

An Estate Agent must also provide more specific information for each property introduced on the Form 2 or Leasing Information Form, including details of the correct address, the registered owner, subsisting encumbrances, floor area, year of completion, user restrictions, and any restrictions on leasing. The client may waive his right to receive this information.

Please note that it is a legal requirement that the Form 6 should be signed by both the Estate Agent and the Tenant and the Tenant must be given a copy for his or her information.

Estate Agent

An individual or a company that carries out the business of estate agency. In Hong Kong, all estate agents (individual and company) must be licensed and clearly display their licence number on all documentation including advertising. Complaints about an Estate Agent may be made to the Estate Agents Authority.

Estate Agents Authority (EAA)

The body set up to regulate the Estate Agency industry in accordance with the Estate Agents Ordinance. The body acts as an educator and regulator.

Exclusive Rental

This is the usual arrangement in Hong Kong and denotes that the Management Fees and Government Rates are payable by the tenant. (See also Inclusive Rental).

Facilities

Used to denote recreational facilities such as swimming pool, tennis or squash courts, gym, children's play area, residents' shuttle bus service, etc. Facilities are common in larger developments and usually entail a higher management fee. The use of facilities is usually included in the rent although additional charges may be made for tennis or squash courts.

Formal Tenancy Agreement

See Tenancy Agreement.

Fully Furnished

A property which is furnished in full. Most properties in Hong Kong are supplied on an unfurnished basis. A fully furnished property will usually include basic furniture such as sofa and easy chairs, TV unit, dining table and chairs, beds and wardrobes. Soft furnishings will include curtains or blinds for the windows, and may include lamps and pictures. Items such as bed linen, crockery, cutlery and utensils are rarely provided by landlords except in serviced apartments.

Government Rates

A property tax levied quarterly by the Hong Kong government, rates are a tax on occupation and are paid as 5% of the "rateable value" of the property, which is approximately equivalent to the annual rent. Unless specified otherwise, Government Rates are payable by the Tenant.

Government Rent

Formerly "Crown Rent," this is a tax levied by the government on some, but not all, properties depending on the term of the Crown Lease of the property. Generally, all properties in Kowloon and the New Territories are liable to pay Government Rent whilst those on Hong Kong Island are less likely to be liable at this moment. The owner of the property should know at which point it will become liable for the tax. If applicable, Government Rent is calculated at 3% of the rateable value of the property and is charged quarterly together with Government Rates. Unless specified otherwise, Government Rent is payable by the landlord.

Hand over

This is the procedure of handing the property from the landlord to the tenant. At this stage, your estate agent will assist you to check the internal and external condition of the property, check the inventory, take details of meter readings, etc. A detailed hand over report will be prepared and a copy given to both the landlord and the tenant. At the end of the tenancy, a similar procedure is carried out, known as a "hand back".

Holding Deposit

Usually equivalent to one month's rent and generally paid subject to contract (to the landlord's solicitor) when an offer is made on a property and prior to receiving a draft Tenancy Agreement. This deposit becomes the first month's rent when the Tenancy Agreement is signed or is usually fully refundable in the event that the Tenancy Agreement is not signed by both parties.

House

Houses are rare in Hong Kong due to the high price of land. Most houses will actually be "townhouses" meaning that they are attached on one or both sides to another house within a development. In this instance, each house will have its own garden or terrace and often a roof terrace. Detached houses are usually found on The Peak and in certain areas of the South Side, Kowloon, and New Territories; they are extremely rare and accordingly very expensive!

Inclusive Rental

This denotes that the Management Fees and Government Rates are payable by the landlord. Unless otherwise negotiated or specified, an Exclusive Rental is the usual arrangement in Hong Kong.

Inventory

An itemised list attached to the Tenancy Agreement detailing furniture and fittings supplied with the property. Unless otherwise negotiated or specified, all items provided with the premises are to be left in the property at the end of the tenancy term.

Landlord

This may be a single individual who owns one property in a block, or a company which owns several units in various buildings, or a major developer who owns the entire development.

Landlord and Tenant (Consolidation) Ordinance

This is the government ordinance that regulates the relationship between the landlord and the tenant, and enforces certain rights and obligations on both parties.

Lease

See Tenancy Agreement.

The Tenancy Agreement is usually prepared by the landlord's solicitor and each party pays its own solicitor's fee. However, some landlords insist that the tenant bear half of the landlord's solicitor's fee. Any expenses resulting from the tenant consulting his own legal advisors will be his own responsibility.

Management Fees

Paid in addition to rent, these cover the cost of staffing, security, cleaning, and lighting of public areas and are generally paid monthly direct to the appointed management company of the building. Unless specified otherwise, the management fees are payable by the tenant.

Occupant

Where the tenancy is held under a company lease, the company is the tenant and the employee is the occupant. The landlord's permission is required to change the occupant.

Offer Letter

Once a property has been found and negotiations have begun between the tenant and the landlord, the estate agent will prepare an offer letter. The letter should be signed by both parties, is subject to contract and details all the main terms and conditions of the tenancy including rent, term, commencement date and any decoration or renovation works necessary.

Personal Lease

Where the individual signs the lease in his own name and is responsible for paying the rent and associated costs. See also Company Lease.

Purchaser

The buyer of a property for sale.

Relocation Allowance

Executives newly arrived from overseas will sometimes be given a relocation allowance by their company. This is to assist in the purchase of furniture, soft furnishings, electrical appliances and other necessary equipment but may also be used to assist with decoration and renovation costs.

Renovation

Usually denotes the state of internal repair of a property. To be fully renovated, a property should have new bathrooms and kitchen, electrical wiring and plumbing, and often new windows and doors. This should not be confused with decoration which is usually basic.

Rent

This is the agreed monthly amount which remains constant for the term of the lease. Rent is normally payable monthly and in advance by the tenant to the landlord. Normally it excludes the monthly management fees and the government rates (payable quarterly).

Rent-Free Period

As part of the negotiations, a landlord may offer a rent-free period ranging from a couple of days to one or two months. This is much more commonly found in a slow-moving market.

Roof

Used to refer to a terrace on the roof of a building rather than the ceiling of a unit. A roof terrace can be private (and therefore highly sought-after) or communal and shared by either all the occupants of the building or just those units on the top floor.

Sale and Purchase Agreement

This is the legal agreement drawn up between the vendor and the purchaser of a property and is signed in two stages:

1. Provisional Agreement for Sale and Purchase

Once the vendor and the purchaser have agreed on all of the terms, the Provisional Agreement is signed. This identifies both parties and the property, states the sale price and the amounts to be paid at various stages, and stipulates the commission to be paid by both parties to the estate agent. Upon signing the Agreement, the purchaser must pay an initial deposit (usually equivalent to 3% of the purchase price) to the vendor. Once this Agreement is signed, neither party can back out of the sale and purchase except by forfeiting the amount of the initial deposit and agency fees, plus the total amount of the stamp duty due.

2. Formal Agreement for Sale and Purchase

A detailed agreement stipulating all of the terms and conditions of the sale and purchase. This is always drawn up and handled by lawyers as part of the conveyancing procedure.

Security Deposit

This is usually equivalent to two months' rent (sometimes plus, two months' management fees and government rates) and is payable by the tenant to the landlord upon signing the Formal Tenancy Agreement. The security deposit is held by the landlord for the period of the tenancy and, provided that the tenant has upheld all conditions of the tenancy (such as paying the rent and bills, and maintaining the property in good condition), is refundable after the tenancy period. Terms on which the deposit is refunded should be stated in the Formal Tenancy Agreement; most tenancy agreements stipulate that the security deposit will be returned within seven to fourteen days after the tenant moves out to give the landlord time to check the condition of the property and see that all bills have been settled. Unlike many other countries, in Hong Kong the security deposit is repaid without interest.

Security of Tenure or Right to Renew

The existing tenant will usually have the right to renew the tenancy for a further term, provided that he has fulfilled the tenant's obligations as stated in the tenancy agreement, and that he is willing to pay the market rent. The landlord may take back the property if he needs it for his own personal use or intends to redevelop. Security of tenure is strictly controlled by the Landlord and Tenant (Consolidation) Ordinance and is almost always in favour of the tenant. Disputes are taken to the Lands Tribunal for settlement.

Serviced Apartments

These apartments are fully furnished and fully equipped with items such as bedlinen, towels, crockery, cutlery and kitchen appliances. Maid service is usually provided on a daily basis (with the exception of Sundays and Public Holidays) and includes general cleaning and changing of linen and towels. Rents at serviced apartments range from HK$15,000 per month for a small unit to over HK$120,000 for a luxury suite, and terms range from one month to two years although many developments have a minimum term of three months. Many developments have a wide range of recreational facilities.

Stamp Duty

A duty payable to the government on the signing of a lease and generally calculated as 0.5% of the annual rent, this charge is usually shared equally by the landlord and the tenant. A tenancy agreement that is not stamped cannot be produced as evidence in a court of law, nor does it protect the landlord or the tenant under the Landlord and Tenant (Consolidation) Ordinance and is therefore virtually useless. For a sale, the amount of stamp duty varies from HK$100 to 3.75% of the purchase price and is paid totally by the purchaser.

Tenancy

A tenancy or lease is a legal contract between the landlord and the tenant. Normally it lasts for two years.

Tenancy Agreement

This is the formal agreement stipulating all the terms and conditions of the tenancy. Agreements are usually prepared by the landlord's solicitor and run to several pages. It is often advisable for the tenant to have his own solicitor to review the Agreement and in this case the tenant would bear his own legal fees. Upon signing the Tenancy Agreement, the tenant must pay the security deposit to the landlord. The Tenancy Agreement is signed by both parties, in duplicate, and must have the stamp duty paid.

Tenant

Under a company lease, the company is usually termed the "Tenant" whilst the employee is the "Occupant". Occasionally, Landlords may grant a personal lease which allows the individual to sign the Tenancy Agreement.

Term

Tenancies in Hong Kong normally last for two years. Sometimes, landlords will agree to a break clause which means that the tenant can give early notice of termination, usually with 2 or 3 months' written notice to be given to the landlord after twelve or fifteen months' occupancy.

Triplex

A three-storey apartment.

Utilities

The term used to cover the supply of electricity, gas, water and telephone to a property. Sometimes the landlord will leave the utilities in his name (except the telephone account); in this case the bills will arrive in the landlord's name but must be paid by the tenant. Usually however, the tenant should have the utility accounts in their own name. To change the accounts to the tenant's name, the utility companies will ask for a deposit which is usually charged to the first bill and is refundable when the account is closed. All utility companies will ask for a copy of the individual's Hong Kong Identity card or the company's business registration certificate.

Vendor

The owner of a property for sale.

The Basics

Life in Hong Kong is many things, but boring is definitely not one of them. While it is a vibrant place to live, it is also crowded, dirty and sometimes overwhelming. No matter how prepared you are to live here there will be times when you wonder why you ever left home. But there will also be moments of delight and wonder as you discover all the this city has to offer.

The settling-in period is the most difficult. We know how frustrating it is if you have no idea where to find basic groceries, how to locate a physician, or how to choose the best school for the kids.

Whether you are at work from nine to six (or seven, if you are like most office workers), or you stay at home to look after the kids and home, you will most likely find yourself very busy.

The frenetic pace means that being organised is essential. You don't have time to waste searching for things you need, and that's why we've provided the information in this section. They will lead you to more information about how to make the most of your time in Hong Kong. We cover THE BASICS, EDUCATION, MEDICAL CARE, HOUSEHOLD HELP, and SHOPPING.

Overview

Hong Kong is in every aspect a modern city. After the return to China in 1997, there is little to suggest that Hong Kong is going anywhere but forward in terms of the services and amenities available to its residents.

The banking system bears the imprint of its British colonial heritage, with a little more bureaucracy than North Americans are accustomed to, but is nonetheless very efficient and easy to use. Most monthly utility and service bills can be settled by phone, through an automated teller machine or by cheque. Many companies also have an auto-pay facility which allows them to debit your account each month.

There are many Internet service providers to choose from, and the prices for a monthly connection are reasonable. One of Hong Kong's few consumer taxes is the PNETS charge levied on your Internet usage, but it was recently lowered.

Utilities are reliable, and it is a simple matter to arrange connections and disconnections. The telephone service provided by Cable and Wireless HKT is excellent, with many options for home services. Hong Kong has a very high penetration of cellular users, and the service is even available in the underground Mass Transit Railway.

There are several channels of locally produced television, as well as cable and satellite service. There are English and bilingual radio stations which offer news, music and talk. Hong Kong has two local daily newspapers, the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Standard. Hong Kong has mail delivery twice a day, including Saturdays. It takes only 24 hours for a letter to reach any other part of the territory, and international mail is also very efficient.

Education

Education is taken very seriously in Hong Kong, and students are expected to work long and hard from the age of three. There is strong competition for places in the best schools and kids are often coached for hours every evening by their parents in order to do well on the entrance exams.

Expatriates with children in Hong Kong have plenty of choice in the education field. For a UK-style curriculum the English Schools Foundation (ESF) has 15 schools from primary to secondary level. The Hong Kong International School (HKIS) offers an American educational system. Fees range from about HK$45,000 per year for primary education at the (ESF), to HK$118,000 per year for a secondary student attending the HKIS. Students at the HKIS also pay a one-time entry fee of HK$15,000.

There are also schools for students who wish to follow a national curriculum from Canada, France, Germany/Switzerland, Japan and Korea. Expatriate students may also attend schools which offer the local curriculum, and several offer immersion Cantonese programs. The majority of good schools have a waiting list, so it is a good idea to make educational choices a first priority. Your choice of school may also affect your decision about where to live.

Contact Information
(all numbers are in Hong Kong, country code 852)

Household Help

In Hong Kong, the majority of expatriate households and very many local families employ domestic help.

This traditional Chinese custom has survived the centuries due to many factors, including the ready availability of staff, the relative low-cost factor, weather conditions, convenience and lifestyle.

Hong Kong is a very social community and the pace of life is very fast. Quite a lot of entertaining takes place in the home and can be on the formal side. Most homes are built with servant's quarters that usually comprise one small room and bathroom.

The older buildings provide larger rooms, often two, as family custom used to be for one maid (amah) for each family member, plus cook, cleaning and laundry amahs.

These days, most families content themselves with one domestic helper, although some executives employ two, or even a couple: the husband may be the cook or driver or attend to any gardening or outside work. The servant's rooms are often surprisingly small, but are generally quite acceptable to the domestic helpers who spend most of their time in the family living quarters.

When employing domestic helpers other than Hong Kong Chinese, strict Immigration procedures apply and it is necessary to arrange a formal contract which is provided by and registered with the Immigration Department. These are for a standard two years and the salary scale is fixed by legislation.

Medical Care

Hong Kong has advanced medical care, through both public and private hospitals. Most expatriates prefer to use the private hospitals with their higher standards of care, more personal attention and English-speaking staff. However, the standards at public hospitals are good, and it is easy to see a doctor without an appointment. It can be important to have quick access to a physician, as many Hong Kong employers require a doctor's note for even one day off sick.

Medical insurance is crucial as hospital fees are high. When accepting a posting to Hong Kong it is important to ensure that the company offers an adequate insurance plan. Private insurance can be easily obtained.

The private hospitals most used by expatriates are: Adventist (40 Stubbs Road, Mid-levels, 2574-6211), Canossa (1 Old Peak Road, Mid-levels, 2522-2181) or Matilda (41 Mt. Kellett Road, the Peak, 2849-6301).

All hospitals have 24-hour emergency treatment. Ambulance drivers automatically take a patient to the nearest public hospital unless otherwise instructed. St. John's Ambulance can be reached at 2578-1112 in Hong Kong, and at 2713-5555 in Kowloon. Dial 999 for emergencies.

Specialist treatment is best obtained by referral from a family physician. The best way to locate a good family doctor is through word of mouth, but the Community Advice Bureau can also help (2815 5444).

Shopping

Hong Kong used to be known as a shopping heaven. While this is no longer as true as it once was, it is still possible to find anything your heart desires here. However, the catch is that the hunt can be quite time-consuming. If you enjoy searching then Hong Kong is your town.

There are many food shops which cater for Western tastes. The two big supermarket chains in Hong Kong, Park'N Shop and Wellcome, have both recently developed "superstores".

These are scattered throughout the city and are stocked with foods that are culturally appropriate for the majority of the neighbourhood's residents. Independent stores and chains such as Olivers, Great and CitySuper also have a wide selection of Western and non-Chinese foods for the expatriate. Grocery delivery is available and the two big chains have extensive Internet ordering facilities.

For other essentials such as clothing and household goods Hong Kong still lives up to its reputation. From the ultra chic designer shops in the shiny malls of Central to markets such as Stanley, there is something for everyone's taste in clothes. Likewise, household furnishings from all over the world can be found in Hong Kong, and custom-made furniture is relatively inexpensive and beautiful.

Transportation

Transportation in Hong Kong is a breeze.

Public transportation will get you anywhere you want to go. If you are fortunate enough to have access to a private car, so much the better, but beware of traffic and labyrinth-like streets in some parts of town.

Modes of transportation are legion. Surface transit includes taxis, buses, trains, trams and ferries, while underground you will find the efficient Mass Transit Railway, known as the MTR. There is also a dedicated train line that runs to the Hong Kong International Airport, the Airport Express.

With so many options available it can be difficult to choose the best way to get to where you need to go. That's why we've prepared this handy guide to all the modes and their ins and outs.

Taxis

Hong Kong taxis are many things, but scarce is not one of them. It is most unusual to wait more than a couple minutes for a taxi to pass by and pick you up, no matter where you are. The exceptions to this ready access are during heavy rains, typhoons and very late at night.

Cabs are colour-coded depending on where they operate. On Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon they are red, on Lantau they are blue and in the New Territories they are green. The flagfall rate is HK$18.00 for the first two kilometres and HK $1.50 for every 200 meters afterwards. You must also pay all tunnel fees and $5.00 per each piece of luggage put in the trunk or oversized baggage in the taxi. Animals, caged or not, also cost $5.00. Tipping is not necessary, but most cabbies will round the fare up to the nearest dollar.

Flagging a cab is easy: just put your hand out into the roadway and flap up and down a little at waist height. If you find that cabs will not stop, look down. If there is a yellow line running along the curb you are standing in a no-stopping zone. Move to an area with no line and try again. Otherwise, look for a cardboard "out of service" sign in the cab front window. To signal your desire to go to Kowloon from HK or vice versa make a dipping motion with your hand to indicate going under the harbour.

Some places in Hong Kong usually outside major shopping centres and at tourist attractions have organised taxi queues. Some are more organised than others, however, and occasionally you may have to use your wits and elbows to get into a cab.

Language is usually not a problem as most Hong Kong cabbies are familiar with the city and environs. If you do have a communication problem the driver will usually get you to talk with the radio dispatcher to sort things out.

The MTR

The MTR or Mass Transit railway is a safe, clean, air-conditioned and efficient means of getting around on HK Island and Kowloon. It connects with the rail systems serving Lantau Island (Airport Express) and the New Territories at Central Station and at Kowloon Tong station respectively. The merged rail network comprises nine railway lines serving Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories. In addition, a Light Rail network serves the local communities of Tuen Mun and Yuen Long in the New Territories while a fleet of buses provide convenient feeder services.

Tickets for the MTR are relatively inexpensive with concessions for children and seniors. With a $50.00 deposit you can buy a refillable Octopus card which is read electronically by the turnstiles as you enter and exit the MTR. Cards can be replenished at automatic machines in most station lobbies using either cash or your bank debit card. You can also buy single journey tickets.

Buses

In some ways buses are Hong Kong's lifeblood. They rule the roads, that much is certain. From the giant, lumbering double-deckers to the green-topped and red-topped mini buses, there is a bus for every possible destination.

There are three main bus companies operating throughout the territory. The Kowloon Motor Bus company (KMB) serves Kowloon and the New Territories. New World First Bus has routes on Hong Kong only. Citybus has routes in Hong Kong, The New Territories and Kowloon. Most of these buses accept the Octopus card or exact change payment when you board. They stop only at designated zones.

The green mini-buses are privately operated, and carry 16-24 passengers on fixed routes. You may request stops anywhere on the route and can flag down a bus to board. Fares are posted and are paid as you board. Drivers sometimes make change. Routes are listed in the government publication, Hong Kong - A Guide to Public Services, available from the government publications centre in Central. Red mini-buses travel on varying routes to a specific destination. The fares are posted and you may get on or off where you wish. Pay your fare as you exit.

Trams

Hong Kong's two tram routes are both institutions. The Peak tram, while no longer used for transportation, was originally constructed before there was road access. It runs from the St. John's Building on Garden Road in Central to the Peak Tower. Now it used almost exclusively by tourists who take the ride for the novelty and the unique views it affords of Hong Kong. However, monthly commuter passes are still available for those who wish to make use of the tram. (Peak Tram phone: 2522 0922).

Hong Kong's other tramway is also an antique - the line opened in 1904 - but this one runs along what used to be the island's northern shoreline. Its double-decker, un-airconditioned cars are rickety and often crowded, but at $2.00, the flat fare for an adult makes it unbeatable in terms of price. Board the tram at the rear door, and exit from the front, paying your fare in exact change as you leave.

There are several different turn-around points on the tram's route, but the main line extends from Shau Kei Wan in the east to Kennedy Town in the west, with a branch line which loops around the Happy Valley race track. The trams runs from 6:00am until 12:00 midnight seven days a week. There is also a 'party tram' available for rent.

Ferries

Although Hong Kong is linked to the mainland by several tunnels, the territory's many outlying islands have only water access. Thus the many ferries which ply Hong Kong's waters are extremely important, and make it possible for the outer islands to sustain significant populations. And, although there are quicker ways across the harbour, Hong Kong's Star Ferry continues to be popular and convenient.

There are Star Ferries linking various spots on both sides of the harbour. Central to Tsim Sha Tsui is the busiest route, but you can also go from Wan Chai to Tsim Sha Tsui or Hung Hom. The ride takes about seven minutes and is very inexpensive. There are other cross harbour ferries which travel between North Point ferry pier and Kowloon City, and Hung Hom. Star ferries run from 6:30am to 11:30pm.

The outlying islands ferry pier is just to the west of the Star Ferry pier, behind the Exchange Square towers. Hong Kong & Yaumatei Ferry Company (2525-1108) operates triple-decker ferry services from Central to the outlying islands of Peng Chau, Cheung Chau, and Mui Wo (Silvermine Bay) on Lantau from Piers Six and Seven. Hong Kong & Kowloon Ferry Company (2815-6063) has services to Tsing Yi, Tsuen Wan and Lamma which leave from Pier Five. Shun Tak Ferries (2859-3333) run services from Pier Four to Tuen Mun, Sha Lo Wan and Tai O. Discovery Bay ferries run from Pier Three in Central at present.

Private Autos

While owning a car in Hong Kong is not essential, given the city's compact size and excellent transit, there are often good reasons to do so. Many people with cars opt to hire a professional driver who has to deal with the annoyances to traffic and finding a place to park. Also, since traffic moves on the left, driving in Hong Kong is an adjustment for many foreigners.

The costs of owning a car depend on the type and age of the vehicle. Registration fees are based on the taxable value of the car, while the annual license fee is based on engine size and type of fuel used. For a private car the registration fee is 40 to 60 per cent of the value. Fuel prices in Hong Kong are among the highest in the world. Parking is scarce, even in large apartment complexes, so it is a good idea to decide about car ownership before choosing a place to live. Otherwise you might find yourself with an auto and nowhere to put it.

Obtaining a Hong Kong driving license is relatively easy for expatriates with a license issued in one of a list of approved countries. For new learners, the driving age is 18. The Hong Kong driving test comes in three parts - a written exam, a practical test on a closed road and a road test.

Culture

There is no excuse for boredom in Hong Kong. The variety of choice, whether for culture, recreation or pure pleasure, is astounding. As a gateway where East meets West, Hong Kong has a unique blend of activities available from each culture. Whether you prefer European opera or canto-pop, Oriental ceramics or art from the fringe, you will find something to suit. And for a newcomer, witnessing one of the many Chinese festivals is always a memorable event.

If your interests lie in the great outdoors, Hong Kong will not disappoint. Hidden behind the facade of steel and glass towers, over 40 per cent of the territory is actually parkland. Walking trails criss-cross the main island, while the New Territories and outlying islands are heavens for the nature-lover. There are also myriad activities for the younger set. Hong Kong boasts great museums, extracurricular activities and sports opportunities for children and teens.

And when you are done being entertained, or finish a hike famished and in need of refreshment, Hong Kong comes into its own. With thousands of restaurants from the seaside seafood specialists on Lamma Island to the glitzy and glamorous hotel-top dining rooms, nobody need go hungry. Practically every international cuisine is represented here, from the local Cantonese and its Dim Sum specialities to American meat, European flair and Southeast Asian spices.

One of the most obvious signs of Chinese culture are the numerous temples scattered throughout the city. With their hanging coils of incense and often elaborate offerings, these are interesting places to visit, but do put a donation into the box before you leave.

For organised cultural activities there are numerous major venues which offer professional performances of Chinese opera, dance, Western opera, classical music, theatre and much more. Hong Kong has a Philharmonic Orchestra, ballet troupe and Opera Society, all of which perform to international standards. The city also hosts many touring productions and concerts. Major productions are well-advertised in the local media long before opening night. It is wise to book early as tickets can sell out quickly.

If you like the movies, then Hong Kong is your town. There are four competing chains offering theatres in every neighbourhood. Western films tend to run in English with Chinese subtitles, and although people are asked to shut off their cell phones inevitably your movie- going experience will be punctuated by a ringing phone followed by a loud conversation, heedless of the disruption it causes. Tickets can be booked ahead either by phone or through CityLine at their website. You pick them up from an automated dispenser at the door.

Festivals

Hong Kong's many Chinese festivals are one of its great attractions, and not simply because you get the day off work. Most festivals revolve around families getting together and spending time celebrating. They are noisy, exuberant and colourful. It is well worth the effort to get involved, even if only as a spectator, in at least one of the festivals listed below.

Lunar New Year: Around the beginning of February is Chinese, or lunar, New Year. It is an important festival, as it is the time to set yourself up properly for the coming year. Housecleaning, buying new clothes, getting a haircut, these are all done before the new year arrives. People buy flowers from vast, specially arranged flower markets in the city centre (usually Victoria Park, between Causeway Bay and North Point) and visit with their relatives. There are huge fireworks displays, and people give Lai See, or lucky money to children and employees.

Learn the expression "Kung Hei Fat Choi", for everyone will be saying it, and you should return the greeting.

Ching Ming: Ching Ming is the spring grave-sweeping festival in April, where families head to the cemeteries and spruce up their ancestors' grave-sites and make offerings that will ensure the dead have sufficient money and food in the afterlife.

Tuen Ng: Hong Kong celebrates this festival with Dragon Boat races. The tradition began in the third century BC, apparently after fishermen tried to rescue a despondent government official who had thrown himself in the river. Now this is an international event for Hong Kong, attended by thousands on the fifth day of the fifth month, on June 6th in 2000.

Mid-Autumn Festival: Falling in September, this festival celebrates the 14th Century uprising against the Mongols. Children are indulged in this festival, and choose lanterns and take them into the hills with their parents to watch the moon rise. Traditional moon cakes are eaten.

Chung Yeung: On the ninth day of the ninth lunar month (usually October) Hong Kong people climb to the highest point they can find. The festival had no great early significance until the British came to Hong Kong. Since then it has grown in popularity, so that now the hiking tails are crowded for Chung Yeung.

Recreation

Hong Kong's unique environment makes for many recreational opportunities. With 40 per cent of the land devoted to country parks, and the territory's many beaches and islands, it is ideal for sports enthusiasts. And the climate is generally pleasant enough that outdoors pursuits are enjoyed year-round.

Hiking is by far the easiest recreational activity to choose in Hong Kong. Trails range from very easy, paved roads to strenuous, steep and rocky scrambles to the tops of rugged mountain peaks. There are vast nature reserves in the New Territories. Maps are available from the Agriculture and Fisheries Department and from outdoor outfitters, and a new book, Exploring Hong Kong's Countryside, by Edward Stokes, is available from the Hong Kong Tourist Association.

A day at the beach is another favourite Hong Kong pastime. Nestled in lovely coves, the beaches offer warm water for swimming or water sports, and plenty of sand for the sun-worshipper to stretch out on. Water quality levels are posted at the beach and in the newspapers. It is best to avoid the beach just after a rain when contamination increases.

Boating is also extremely popular, whether the craft is a jet-ski, sailboat or private yacht. A very pleasant weekend jaunt is the junk trip for a picnic and a swim to an outlying island.

Children and Teens

While all of the above activities will appeal to many children, they also have the choice of tailor-made recreation. The city is full of playgrounds and public sports fields with all manner of equipment designed to keep kids busy. Older kids can join in the spontaneous basketball and soccer games which spring up every evening and weekend.

For a somewhat educational experience there are parks and museums like the Science Museum and Space Museum (which now has and Omnimax movie theatre), Ocean Park, and Kadoorie Farm. The latter has a huge variety of animals, wild and domestic. You must make reservations to visit (2488 1317).

There are numerous clubs and teams which kids can join. Scouting is very popular and provides an outlet on weekends. After-school activities are practically required, and include sports and cultural lessons, language instruction and charity work.

While school is out it is harder to keep older kids occupied, but there are programs like Outward Bound operating in Hong Kong, which give them a challenge and a chance to explore on their own. Younger kids can attend summer school classes, which are not as academically oriented as regular school.

Social Athletics Club

Hong Kong has many clubs for many purposes. Below is a partial listing of some of the larger organisations in the territory.

Aberdeen Boat Club
20 Shum Wan Road, Aberdeen, Hong Kong
Tel: 2552-8182

Aberdeen Marina Club
8 Shum Wan Road, Aberdeen, Hong Kong
Tel: 2552-8182

American ClubTown Club
47/F, Exchange Tower Two, Central, Hong Kong
Tel: 2842-7400

American Club Country Club
28 Tai Tam Road, Hong Kong
Tel: 2813-3200

China Club
13/F Old Bank of China Building Bank Street, Hong Kong
Tel: 2521-8888

Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club
Lot 227 241
Tel: 2335-3788

Craigengower Cricket Club
188 Wong Nai Chung Gap, Happy Valley, Hong Kong
Tel: 2577-8331

Discovery Bay Golf Club
Discovery Bay Lantau Island Hong Kong
Tel: 2987-7273

Dynasty Club
Southwest Tower, Convention Plaza1 Harbour Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Tel: 2824-1122

Foreign Correspondents' Club
2 Lower Albert Road Central, Hong Kong
Tel: 2521 1511

HK Football Club
Sports Road Happy Valley, Hong Kong
Tel: 2882-7470

Helena May
35 Garden Road Central Central, Hong Kong
Tel: 2522-6766

Hong Kong Club
1 Jackson Road, Central, Hong Kong
Tel: 2525-8251

HK Country Club
Deep Water Bay, Hong Kong
Tel: 2552-4488

Hong Kong Golf Club
19 Island Road Deep, Water Bay, Hong Kong
Tel: 2812-7070

Hong Kong Cricket Club
137 Wong Nai Chung Gap Road, Hong Kong
Tel: 2574-6266

Hong Kong Jockey Club
25 Shan Kwong Road
Happy Valley, Hong Kong
Tel: 2966-1333

Kowloon Cricket Club
10 Cox's Road, Kowloon
Tel: 2367-4141

Ladies Recreation Club
10 Old Peak Road Mid-levels, Hong Kong
Tel: 2522-0151

Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club
Kellett Island, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Tel: 2832-2817

South China Athletic Association
Caroline Hill Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Tel: 2577-4427

YMCA
4/F., Administration Building, 23 Waterloo Road, Kowloon
Tel: 2771-9111

YWCA
1 MacDonnell Road, Central, Hong Kong
Tel: 3476-1300