A guide to living in Hong Kong as a student

Discover how to make the most of your time while studying in Hong Kong

Kevin Crain

By Kevin Crain

Skyscrapers in Hong Kong

Hong Kong, with its dynamic blend of East-meets-West culture, towering skyscrapers, and renowned educational institutions, is an enticing destination for students from around the globe. This comprehensive guide aims to illuminate the various facets of student life in Hong Kong, offering valuable insights and practical tips for those embarking on their educational journey in this vibrant city.

Education excellence in the heart of Asia

Facade of University of Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s higher education system stands tall globally, with several universities consistently ranked among the best. The University of Hong Kong (HKU), Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) are just a few of the institutions known for their academic excellence and diverse program offerings. The educational landscape in Hong Kong is characterized by a fusion of British and Chinese influences. Students can expect a curriculum that encourages critical thinking, independent learning, and a holistic approach to education. Understanding the academic expectations and grading systems is essential for a successful academic journey.

Moving to Hong Kong and understanding the visa process as a student

The Visa Process as a Student in Hong Kong is a crucial and intricate procedure that demands careful attention and adherence to the guidelines set by the Immigration Department of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. As an international student, obtaining the appropriate visa is a prerequisite for embarking on an academic journey in this bustling city. The process involves a thorough understanding of the specific visa requirements, application procedures, and the submission of necessary supporting documents.

Depending on the program duration and whether it is a full-time or part-time course, students may apply for different types of visas. Timely and accurate completion of the visa application is essential to ensure a seamless transition and a legal stay throughout the course of study. The Immigration Department provides comprehensive information and resources to assist students in navigating this maze, offering clear insights into the necessary documentation, financial requirements, and any additional prerequisites. Students must familiarize themselves with these regulations, seek guidance if needed, and proactively address any queries to guarantee a smooth and hassle-free visa application process.

Navigate the education system the right way

Choosing the right institution is a pivotal decision that influences your entire academic experience. Factors such as academic reputation, program offerings, campus facilities, and the overall campus environment should guide your decision-making process. Delve into the unique characteristics of each university and find the one that aligns with your academic and personal goals. The Hong Kong education system, blending elements of both British and Chinese education, may pose challenges for newcomers. Familiarize yourself with the grading system, assessment methods, and academic expectations to ensure a smooth transition into the local academic culture.

Browse through Hong Kong’s best accommodation options

Securing suitable accommodation is essential for a successful student life. Hong Kong offers a diverse range of options, from university dormitories to private apartments. Many universities provide on-campus housing, promoting a tight-knit community and easy access to academic facilities. Also, students can explore Hong Kong’s best neighborhoods, like Mong Kok, Causeway Bay, and Kowloon Tong, for private accommodation. Each delivers a unique flavor of Hong Kong’s urban fabric.

Blueground’s student housing program in Hong Kong — Studentground — offers students flexible, easy, and discounted access to all of Blueground’s 15,000+ premium, furnished apartments around the world. Each housing option has benefits and things to think about, like cost, location, amenities, and community. It’s important to weigh these factors to find the perfect student housing Hong Kong has in store for you. 

Cost of living in Hong Kong as a student

Understanding the cost of living is a significant aspect that demands meticulous financial planning for students aspiring to pursue their academic endeavors in this vibrant city. Hong Kong, known for its dynamic economy and global financial hub status, is accompanied by a relatively high cost of living. Therefore, it becomes imperative for students to develop a strategic financial plan to manage their expenses effectively. The plan should encompass key elements such as accommodation, meals, transportation, academic materials, and personal expenses. Exploring affordable dining options, which may include local street markets and student-friendly eateries, can contribute significantly to cost savings. Additionally, taking advantage of student discounts on public transportation, as well as considering walking or cycling for short distances, helps optimize transportation costs. While pursuing part-time work opportunities is a viable option, it’s crucial to strike a balance between work and academic commitments to ensure success in both areas.

Creating a monthly budget, monitoring expenditures, and prioritizing essential expenses can further aid in managing costs. Moreover, students should be proactive in seeking out potential scholarships, grants, or financial aid opportunities offered by universities or external organizations to alleviate financial burdens. By adopting a comprehensive financial strategy that combines budgeting, prudent spending, and exploring available financial assistance, students can navigate the cost of living in Hong Kong and enjoy a fulfilling academic experience without compromising their financial well-being.

Embracing cultural diversity

Shoppers in Tsim Sha Tsui busy street

Hong Kong’s culture is a captivating blend of Eastern and Western influences. This creates an atmosphere that’s both familiar and distinct. There’s so many things to see and do in Hong Kong! To truly immerse yourself, explore the bustling markets of Temple Street Night Market and Ladies’ Market, where aromatic street food mingles with the fun of haggling. Engage in the city’s vibrant festivals, from the awe-inspiring Dragon Boat Festival to the colorful Mid-Autumn Festival. You’ll see how traditional customs come alive in a modern setting.

Embracing diversity is not only enriching but also essential for a well-rounded student experience. Engage in cultural exchange events, join student organizations, and explore local traditions to enhance your understanding of the vibrant tapestry that is Hong Kong.

Have a Taste of the Culinary Landscape

Prepare your taste buds for an adventure! Hong Kong’s culinary scene is a treasure trove of flavors. From Michelin-starred restaurants to humble street stalls, the city offers a spectrum of culinary experiences. Savor dim sum, a cherished tradition of bite-sized delights, at the world-famous Tim Ho Wan. For a taste of local authenticity, venture into dai pai dongs—open-air food stalls—for a steaming plate of wok-fried noodles or succulent barbecued meats.

Here is a list of the 10 best restaurants you should consider dining at:

1. Tim Ho Wan: The Dim-Sum Specialists

Description: Renowned for its Michelin-starred dim sum, Tim Ho Wan is a must-visit for those craving authentic, mouth-watering dumplings and other traditional Chinese delicacies. Despite its humble beginnings, this restaurant has become an international culinary sensation, offering a delightful blend of quality and affordability.

2. Din Tai Fung

Originating from Taiwan, Din Tai Fung has established itself as a global dim sum powerhouse. Famous for its meticulously crafted xiao long bao (soup dumplings), the restaurant offers a menu featuring a variety of delectable dumplings, noodles, and other Taiwanese specialties.

3. Lung King Heen at Four Seasons Hotel

As the first Chinese restaurant to receive three Michelin stars, Lung King Heen at the Four Seasons Hotel is a symbol of luxury and culinary excellence. With a menu curated by Chef Chan Yan Tak, the restaurant serves exquisite Cantonese cuisine against a backdrop of stunning Victoria Harbour views.

4. Bo Innovation

Combining traditional Cantonese flavors with avant-garde techniques, Bo Innovation, led by Chef Alvin Leung, offers a unique dining experience. The Michelin-starred restaurant showcases innovative dishes, pushing the boundaries of contemporary Chinese cuisine.

5. Amber at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental

A two-Michelin-starred gem, Amber is celebrated for its French cuisine with an Asian twist. Chef Richard Ekkebus crafts a seasonal menu using the finest ingredients, providing an elegant and sophisticated dining experience in the heart of Central.

6. Mott 32

Nestled in the basement of the Standard Chartered Building, Mott 32 is a stylish and modern Chinese restaurant known for its opulent design and innovative dishes. The menu reflects a blend of Cantonese, Szechuan, and Beijing cultures, offering a contemporary take on traditional Chinese flavors.

7. Ho Lee Fook

With a name that playfully translates to “good fortune for your mouth,” Ho Lee Fook is a trendy restaurant that fuses modern Chinese cuisine with a Western twist. The menu, created by Chef Jowett Yu, features inventive dishes in a lively and casual setting.

8. Yardbird

A favorite among locals and expats alike, Yardbird is an izakaya-style restaurant specializing in yakitori – skewers of grilled chicken. With a laid-back atmosphere and a focus on quality ingredients, Yardbird has become a go-to spot for those seeking a casual yet exceptional dining experience.

9. Caprice at Four Seasons Hotel

Boasting three Michelin stars, Caprice is a French restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel helmed by Chef Guillaume Galliot. The menu showcases the finest French ingredients, and the restaurant’s elegant ambiance makes it a top choice for those seeking a luxurious dining experience.

10. Spring Deer

Located in the heart of Tsim Sha Tsui, Spring Deer is a classic Cantonese restaurant renowned for its Peking duck. With a history dating back to the 1970s, this establishment has maintained its reputation for serving delicious and authentic Chinese cuisine in a welcoming setting.

Efficient transport and connectivity

Passengers waiting to board on the train in MRT station in Hong Kong

Hong Kong boasts a highly efficient and comprehensive public transportation system that stands as a model for urban mobility worldwide. At the heart of this network is the Mass Transit Railway (MTR), an extensive subway system that seamlessly connects the city’s diverse neighborhoods. The MTR is renowned for its punctuality, cleanliness, and user-friendly design, making it the backbone of Hong Kong’s transit infrastructure. Complementing the MTR are an extensive network of buses, trams, and ferries that serve both urban and suburban areas. Buses navigate the city’s winding roads, providing a flexible and accessible mode of transportation. The iconic double-decker trams, with their nostalgic charm, offer a leisurely journey through the bustling streets of Hong Kong Island.

Meanwhile, the Star Ferry, connecting Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, provides a picturesque and affordable harbor crossing. Adding to the convenience is the ubiquitous Octopus card, a contactless smart card that simplifies fare payment across all modes of public transport. The integration of these diverse transportation options ensures that residents and visitors alike can travel seamlessly, exploring the city’s vibrant neighborhoods, cultural hotspots, and natural wonders with unparalleled ease. The commitment to sustainability is evident, with a continuous emphasis on green initiatives and the promotion of public transport as the preferred mode of commuting.

Overall, Hong Kong’s public transportation system not only reflects the city’s dedication to efficiency but also enhances the daily lives of its inhabitants, offering a world-class model for accessible and sustainable urban mobility.

Balancing academics and extracurriculars: Connecting beyond the classroom

While academic pursuits are a priority, students should also engage in extracurricular activities. Hong Kong’s universities offer a plethora of clubs, sports teams, and cultural organizations. Participating in these activities not only enriches the overall experience but also provides opportunities to make friends, develop leadership skills, and create a well-rounded academic profile.

Creating a social network is crucial for a fulfilling student life. Joining student clubs, attending social events, and connecting with fellow students foster a sense of belonging. Building meaningful relationships not only enhances the overall experience but also provides a support system throughout your academic journey.

Exploring natural wonders

Beyond the city’s urban pulse lies a realm of natural beauty waiting to be discovered. Escape to Lantau Island, home to the iconic Tian Tan Buddha and serene beaches. Hike up Dragon’s Back for panoramic views of lush landscapes meeting azure waters. And don’t miss Victoria Peak, offering amazing skyline views. A perfect spot as the sun sets over the harbor! From hiking trails to beautiful beaches, students can escape the hustle and bustle of city life and connect with nature. Exploring these outdoor gems provides a refreshing break and a unique perspective on Hong Kong.

Healthcare and wellness

A doctor checking their mobile phone

Hong Kong’s healthcare system is highly regarded, so every students’ well-being is well taken care of. With a mix of public and private healthcare facilities, access to medical services is both convenient and comprehensive. International students are typically required to have medical insurance coverage, providing peace of mind and prompt care when needed. Here are some helpful resources on Hong Kong’s healthcare system that you should probably bookmark:

  • https://www.internations.org/hong-kong-expats/guide/healthcare
  • https://www.gov.hk/en/residents/health/hosp/overview.htm
  • https://www.studenthealth.gov.hk/english/resources/resources_forms/appendixs.html
  • https://www.studyinhongkong.edu.hk/en/live-in-hong-kong/insurance.php
  • https://www.dh.gov.hk/english/main/main_shs/main_shs.html

Exploring the Natural Wonders

While Hong Kong is known for its urban landscape, the city also offers stunning natural wonders. From hiking trails to beautiful beaches, students can escape the hustle and bustle of city life and connect with nature. Exploring these outdoor gems provides a refreshing break and a unique perspective on Hong Kong.

Graduate to a new home experience

furnished rental apartment with a balcony in hong kong

Your student life in Hong Kong promises a mix of experiences that intertwine academia, culture, and adventure. The city’s dynamism, coupled with its reverence for tradition, creates an environment that inspires growth and exploration. As you begin this new chapter, remember to embrace every moment, savor every flavor, and relish in the diversity that Hong Kong graciously offers.

Want to make it simple to feel at home and free to roam? You can stay in a fully furnished Blueground apartment for a month, a year, or longer. It’s the ideal housing solution for students in Hong Kong! 

Living in Hong Kong as a student is a transformative experience that goes beyond textbooks and classrooms. By making informed decisions about education, accommodation, finances, and cultural engagement, students can navigate the challenges and savor the rich tapestry of opportunities that Hong Kong offers. This comprehensive guide serves as a roadmap for students to thrive academically, culturally, and personally during their educational sojourn in the heart of Asia.

Kevin Crain

Kevin Crain

Kevin Crain is a writer from Dallas, Texas. He’s dedicated to helping every Blueground guest live like a local and make their apartment feel like home. His favorite topics include active experiences, bucket list essentials, and hidden gems in cities around the world.