Hong Kong – Health & Safety
Generally Hong Kong is a safe place to visit from health perspective. It is wise to be up to date on routine vaccinations (measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.
Also, the CDC recommends Hepatitis A & B as well as typhoid. The link below goes to the relevant page of the CDC website.
If you do get sick the healthcare system in Hong Kong is excellent! Visitors without a Hong Kong identity card can use public hospitals by paying private market rates, which are multiple times the normal rate. Check the Hospital Authority website (www.ha.org.hk) for exact fees. However, if you have the appropriate supporting documents, many private health insurances reimburse these fees.
Mosquitoes: These are prevalent in Hong Kong. You should always use insect repellent during warm and hot weather, and if you’re bitten and have a bad reaction, consider using antihistamines.
Centipedes: Lamma is home to large red centipedes, which have a poisonous bite that causes swelling and discomfort in most cases, but can be more dangerous (and supposedly in very rare cases deadly) for young children.
Wild boars & dogs: Wild boars and aggressive dogs are a minor hazard in some of the more remote parts of the New Territories. Wild boars are shy and retiring most of the time, but are dangerous when they feel threatened, so give them a wide berth and avoid disturbing thick areas of undergrowth.
Snakes: There are many snakes in Hong Kong, and some are deadly, but you are unlikely to encounter any. Still, always take care when bushwalking, particularly on Lamma and Lantau islands. Go straight to a public hospital if bitten; private doctors do not stock antivenene.
According to the Water Supplies Department, Hong Kong enjoys one of the safest water supplies in the world. However, even though the water itself might be free of contaminants, the plumbing in some parts of the city and buildings is old with unlined galvanised steel pipes that are prone to rusting. These pipes have been banned in new constructions since 1995, but some of the old plumbing is still present, and in these cases, the perfectly safe water running through the rusted pipes might not be that safe after all, not for drinking or even brushing your teeth.
First clue that you should stay away from the tap water at your hotel, will be a little sign by the sink or faucet indicating that the water is not safe.
Many locals will tell you it is perfectly ok to drink the water, but like mentioned before, it really depends on the pipes the water ran through, we personally prefer to err on the side of caution:
- Most hotels provide bottled water or a kettle to boil the water, it is there for a reason, use it!
- Fruits washed with tap water should be peeled just to be on the safe side.
- We normally stay away from ice cubes and stick with chilled bottled/canned drinks.
- Bottled water is available everywhere, make sure the water bottles are sealed.
- Also remind kids not to fill their water bottles with tap water, since they might be used to doing that at home.
FOOD SAFETY IN HONG KONG?
Is Street Food in Hong Kong SafeAll travel involves some risk of getting some sort of stomach ailment, and in fact this is the most common complaint of the tourist and can happen anywhere in the world even in the most plush of restaurants/hotels, so eating in the “sanitized” tourist places might not necessarily save you from this common malady.
Being cautious should not prevent you from trying some of Hong Kong’s best food experiences in the Dai Pai Dongs and street food hawkers. Their sizzling dishes, clatter, aromas and fresh offerings at any time of the day or night are certainly one of the things you ought to try at least once during your stay.
Here are some precautions to follow when it comes to food safety, whether on the streets or some five-star hotel buffett:
Try eating at places that are well-frequented, chances are, the food is fresh if the turnover is high
As a general rule piping hot and steaming food is safe
- Fruits should be peeled right before eating
- Avoid food from buffets that has been sitting for too long and is only luke warm
- Rice and noodles are safe if cooked and steaming hot
- Avoid raw or undercooked seafood
- Fresh salads and uncooked vegetables migh not be safe.
- And as previously mentioned, water, sodas, beer, etc, are safe from sealed containers
Hong Kong has one of the lowest crime rates in the world and assaults on foreigners are almost unheard of. That being said, the usual precautions should be taken against pickpockets in tourist areas and on public transportation. If you end up in a dangerous situation or as a victim of a crime, Hong Kong police are typically helpful and speak English.
Below is a link the Lonely Planet pages on health and safety in Hong Kong, which provides some general thoughts.
Essential Numbers in Hong Kong
Local calls within Hong Kong from landlines are free, and you can freely use phones in shops, bars and restaurants for local calls. Here is some helpful information on making a call in Hong Kong. If you travel with your cell phone, make sure you ask your service provider what is included in your bill.
International Dialing Codes
- Hong Kong: 852
- China: 86
- Macau; 853
Local Numbers to Know
- Directory assistance in English: 1081
- Police, fire, ambulance: 999