Hong Kong is officially part of China, but its long history under British rule has given it a totally different vibe than you’d find on the mainland. Hong Kong and China have different travel requirements, different politics and present two different travel experiences – although you could technically say you went to China if you did indeed visit Hong Kong.
Hong Kong vs China: Travel Requirements
China requires a visa for both business and tourist travel, while Hong Kong lets travelers stay for up to 90 days without one. You need passports for both locations, of course. And even though you could technically say you visited China with your trip to Hong Kong, CNN notes your passport will not receive the official full-page China stamp.
Hong Kong vs China: Basics
Visit Hong Kong and you’ll have about 426 miles of land to explore and about 6.9 million people to meet. Head to China and your landmass expands to 3.7 million square miles, packed with 1.37 billion residents as of 2014.
As a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong is governed by a constitutional document known as the Basic Law, which will remain in effect for the next 50 years. China’s form of government is a system of National People’s Congress.
Nearly all Hong Kong residents are Chinese, speaking Cantonese as well as English. The two most common religions are Buddhism and Christianity. China’s official language is Mandarin, and a good number of residents know basic English, particularly in larger cities and the hospitality industry. Religious beliefs are a mix of atheism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism.
Hong Kong vs China: Food and Drink
Hong Kong serves up safe and tasty eats from the tips of the mountains to the crowded streets, focusing mainly on Cantonese fare. Mainland China has its health issues when it comes to food, but it also serves up a phenomenal variety of just about anything. Deep-fried rabbit’s head, anyone?
As for drinks, you can get a bottle of beer for as low as 30 cents in mainland China, beating out Hong Kong prices for a night on the town. Both places offer plenty of nightlife and party options, with a hangover or karaoke embarrassment generally as the only safety risks.
Hong Kong vs China: Culture and Locals
Culture shock isn’t much of a concern in Hong Kong, where the most unusual things tourists run across include things like locals wearing surgical masks and eating chicken feet. China, on the other hand, graces foreigners with sights such as whole-head covers known as “facekinis” worn on the beach and open-seat pants for toddlers to eliminate the need for changing diapers.
Locals in both places are generally welcoming to and curious about tourists, although the command of the English language is much greater in Hong Kong. The two destinations are similar when it comes to tourist-friendly services, like helpful police officers, doting restaurant staff and welcoming hotel chains – as long as you stay in the larger cities.
Venture off into the more remote and rural areas of China, and you’ll find yet another wholly different experience where you may be pretty much on your own.
Laurie Lee is co-founder and CEO of Swift Passport and Visa Services. A Chicago native, Laurie loves adventure travel, especially to the Caribbean. She enjoys writing for the Swift Post, as well as for her personal blog, Spare Parts- www.sparebodyparts.com.