Hong Kong

Traditionally, in much of China, people are more likely to drink tea, rather than alcoholic beverages. Many east Asian people are predisposed to alcohol intolerance, a condition that often manifests itself as the so-called 'Asian flush'. Nevertheless, many Chinese people do drink but don't expect the binge-drinking culture found in some western countries. There are many neighbourhoods in Hong Kong without much in the way of a bar or pub.

Drinking alcohol with food is acceptable, but there is no expectation to order alcohol with your meal in any restaurant. A number of popular eateries do not sell alcohol.

If drinking alcohol is not your thing, then Hong Kong might be described as a teetotaler's paradise. Many places offer a good range of non-alcoholic drinks, including extravagant mocktails that might seem more like a dessert. Such drinks are often consumed with a thick straw and may contain a variety of exotic sweet ingredients.

Lan Kwai Fong Central, Wanchai and Knutsford Terrace Kowloon are the three main drinking areas where locals, expats and tourists mingle together. Here you will certainly find a party atmosphere, but don't expect the drunken brawls and rowdiness that you might be used to back home. If you come to Hong Kong, and get drunk, you will certainly risk drawing considerable attention to yourself if you cannot hold your drink.

The minimum age for drinking in a bar is 18 years. There is usually a requirement for young adults to prove their age, especially when going to a nightclub. The accepted ID in clubs is either your passport or a Hong Kong ID card. Photocopies are rarely accepted due to minors using fake documents.

Drinking out in Hong Kong can be expensive, especially if you choose imported drinks in fashionable western-style bars. However, away from the tourist trail, some Chinese restaurants may have a beer promotion aimed at meeting the needs of groups of diners. In cooked food centres, usually found at the wet markets, young women are often employed to promote a particular brand of beer. Convenience stores such as Circle-K, and supermarkets all sell a reasonable range of drinks. In Lan Kwai Fong, the 7-Eleven there is a very popular 'bar' for party-animals on a budget.

During Wednesdays and Thursdays Ladies night applies in some bars in Wan Chai and Lan Kwai Fong, which in most cases means that women can enter bars and clubs for free, and in some rare cases also get their drinks paid for the night. At weekends, several bars and clubs in these areas also have an 'open bar' for some of the night, which means you can drink as much as you like.

Tsing Tao pronounced 'ching dow' is a famous pilsner beer that began life in 1903 in the former German colony of Qingdao. Here, German brewers began production to meet the needs and palates of European expats. Other brews that are widely available include, San Miguel, Carlsberg and Blue Girl. Beers and rice wines produced for the market in mainland China are popular and are sold at competitive prices in supermarkets. There is no longer any tax on wine or beer in Hong Kong.

Check the district pages of this travel guide for recommended bars.


Smoking Restrictions

A smoking-ban came into effect in 2007. The ban includes a number of outdoor locations such as university campuses, parks, gardens, bus stops, and beaches. As from 1 July 2009, the smoking ban has been extended to include places for adult entertainment such as bars, clubs and saunas. If you are undercover, you probably should not be smoking. Expect to pay a substantial fine of up to $5,000 if caught smoking in the wrong place. There is also a penalty of $1,500 for dropping cigarette butts.

In a move to discourage smoking, tourists are only allowed to carry no more than 19 duty-free cigarettes or 25g of tobacco products since August 2010. The government has also banned the sales of tobacco products in duty-free shops on arrival gates.

Offenders can be charged for cigarette smuggling and the penalty can be tough. According to one local account, a man was fined $2000 after being found guilty of carrying five packs of cigarettes. Illegal duty-free cigarettes can be seen for sale in several locations, such as in night markets, but both the buyer and seller may be charged for smuggling. Be aware that the police are known to launch frequent raids at any time. Once caught, ignorance is not an accepted defence.

Cigarettes in Hong Kong cost around $50 for a pack of 20. Most popular brands include Marlboro, Salem and Kent which are sold at $50 something, the second highest in Asia after Singapore. There are also some slightly cheaper brands catering for smokers on budget. Hand-rolling tobacco is not common and is only available in specialty shops.

gay and lesbian hong kong

Gay bars and clubs are concentrated in Central, Sheung Wan, Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui TST. The quality of these venues varies considerably and will perhaps disappoint those expecting something similar to London, Paris or New York. There is certainly no gay area as there are in Japanese and many Western cities, but a number of bars and cafes are popular among a section of the community. Dim Sum magazine, available for free in most cafes, eateries bars and clubs, is Hong Kong bilingual's GLBT magazine which gives a pretty good idea about gay and lesbian parties and events happening in Hong Kong. There's also a gay and lesbian section in HK Magazine free, only in English and TimeOut Hong Kong.

The GLBT community in Hong Kong is gaining ground now more than ever. 2009 was an active year for the community, which saw event after event being led by different people and groups, pushing forward its visibility and tolerance among the general public.

The Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival is one of the longest running GLBT events in Hong Kong, and indeed in Asia. Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2009, it brings to Hong Kong various international and regional GLBT films. The festival is usually held in November.

Hong Kong held its second Gay Pride ever on 1 Nov 2009, attracting over 1,800 people, gay and straight, to the event. There were participants coming in from mainland China, Taiwan, Malaysia and even Australia and the United States. It is held usually at the end of the year late November-early December.

For those who like to party in the sea in sexy speedos and bikinis, try to time your visit during Flotilla. Flotilla started almost as a gay pride in the sea in 2006, where junk boat party loving Hongkongers rent out junk boats in groups and throw themselves a fabulous party in the sea. 2008 saw over 20 boats anchored in the same bay, there were even boats targeted particularly for lesbians and bears. Both Flotilla 2006-2008 were held in May, while the one in 2009 was moved to October.

Hong Kong Disneyland also saw its first Gay Day in December 2009. Participants were asked to wear red and were given schedule on the particular showing for the event. This event, though, was not organised by Disneyland.