Those visiting or relocating to Hong Kong from the UK will have one big advantage when it comes to driving: as a former UK colony, Hong Kong drives on the left, and street signs are near-identical to those of the UK (and printed in both English and Chinese). What’s more, the roads are generally very well maintained and drivers in Hong Kong tend to err on the slow and cautious side – the precise opposite of driving habits in many other Asian countries – so driving there is something you needn’t worry about unnecessarily.
Your biggest worries, in fact, are likely to be traffic and the parking situation. Neither are actually as bad as you might expect given Hong Kong’s very dense population, but traffic jams do occur regularly and parking, though reasonably easy to find, can be expensive by European standards.
For this reason, many natives don’t drive at all if they can possibly avoid it. Hong Kong has an excellent, highly efficient public transport system, and between them buses, trains and the territory’s 18,000 licensed taxis account for 90% of all journeys. If you do want or need to drive yourself around, though, then here’s what you need to know.
You need to be 18 years old to drive in Hong Kong, and in possession of both a full UK driving licence and an International Driving Permit. After 12 months you will need to convert to a Hong Kong licence, which can be done without sitting another test. A list of which other nationalities’ licences are subject to a similar arrangement can be found here. You will need to keep both documents with you at all times when behind the wheel – and as anywhere, it’s a good idea to also carry your passport and insurance documents.
If you wish to hire a car, you will generally need to be at least 21, and under-25s may find they have to pay a surcharge or are restricted to certain types of vehicle.
Seatbelts and Speed Limits
Hong Kong law requires drivers and all passengers to wear seatbelts at all times. Children under the age of 15 must be given appropriate child or booster seats, and these must be rear-facing if the child is under two years old and travelling in a front seat.
The speed limit in the city is 50km/h (31mph approx). Outside of the city the speed limit is usually 70km/h (43mph approx), though it can be as low as 30km/h (18mph) on some mountain roads on Lantau Island, while on expressways the speed limit varies from 70-100km/h (43-68mph approx) depending largely on the age of the road, though 80km/h (50mph) is the most common.
Mobile Phones and Alcohol
Using a mobile phone without a hands-free kit is illegal and can land you with a fine of up to HK$2,000 (£195 approx). As for alcohol, the acceptable blood alcohol limit for drivers in Hong Kong is 0.05% – that’s in line with most countries worldwide and, it should be noted, considerably lower than the UK’s 0.08%, so driving after drinking even a small amount is not advised.
Crossing The Border
Since 1997, Hong Kong has been a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China – effectively a country within a country, with its own laws, immigration controls and so on. As a result, travel back-and-forth between Hong Kong and the rest of China isn’t straightforward – for instance, UK visitors don’t need a visa to enter Hong Kong, whereas for China they do.
If you have a visa and do wish to enter the rest of China, then you will need to have a Hong Kong-issued licence and be in a Hong Kong-registered vehicle (note that hire cars do not count!) and you will also need to apply for permission in advance. Specifically, you will need a Mainland Driving Licence, an Approval Notice from the Guangdong Public Security Bureau and a Closed Roads Permit. Information on how to apply for all of these different documents can be found here.
If you’re planning to ship a car to Hong Kong from the UK, get in touch or get a free quote with us today.