Is It Safe To Travel to Hong Kong with Kids?
Hong Kong has always been a favorite destination for families, but is it still safe to go? The protests in Hong Kong have been going for almost 6 months (half a year!) with no signs of letting up.
We went to Hong Kong for a short vacation with the kids last month, and it was an enjoyable and safe experience for us. Throughout our 4-day visit, we only had one instance of seeing protestors assemble, and and no encounters with the Hong Kong riot police.
You can never be sure of what’s going to happen, but here are some safety precautions we took to manage the known risks:
Safety Tip #1 Always be informed.
In a very volatile socio-political environment, things can change quickly.
Download the South China Morning Post app for real-time updates of any protest activities. It also has an extensive list of articles and reports detailing the history of the HK protests, if you want to get more familiar.
Be on the lookout also for fake news. Verify with credible news sources, since there are also a lot of clickbait, panic-mongering headlines in social media. Give your kids a brief backgrounder of what is happening. In our case, Mati asked we walked quickly away when we saw some protesters assembling. I said that we don’t know what they (the protesters) are planning, and it’s safe to keep our distance.
For transport, download the MTR app for up-to-date information on the status of MTR transportation lines. This is useful if you plan to use the local railway system, especially if you’re planning to go to multiple destinations. If a rail line or station closes, you can plan an alternative route using the system map, or take mini-buses or city buses as the next option.
Safety Tip #2 Plan Your Itinerary Well.
Since we were traveling with two toddlers, our itinerary mostly revolved around Disneyland (days 2 and 3).
During our first day, Albert had to go to Tsim Sha Tsui for an afternoon business meeting. It was about a 40-minute MTR ride, so I just stayed with the kids so they could nap and explore the hotel.
Our rationale was that should the MTR lines close, it would be quicker for Albert to adjust his plans and get back to the hotel by himself than if we were with two kids. We also downloaded Uber on our phones as a transportation backup.
After Albert’s meeting, we met back at the hotel and went to Citygate mall for dinner, groceries and some shopping. We took the MTR going and coming back with no trouble.
We just saw a lot of vandalized MTR ticketing machines and turnstiles, and some protesters assembling near Citygate mall (where we just walked away quickly).
Also note, that we didn’t see as much taxis as before, so be ready with multiple transport options in case your first choice doesn’t pan out.
Safety Tip #3 For those with young kids, consider sticking to Lantau Island.
Lantau Island is your best bet if you want to manage your risk while still have a good time.
The airport is near Lantau, and home to Disneyland, and the NgongPing 360 cable cars (we went last year). That’s already enough to do without visiting the usual protest hotspots like Central, Causeway Bay, TST and Mongkok.
Safety Tip #4 Have backups planned
We got open-dated Hong Kong Disneyland park tickets from KKDay. Meaning, we can go any day until the cut-off date written on the ticket (April 2020).
The night before our flight home, we stayed ath the Regal Airport hotel as it had direct access to the airport.
A few weeks ago, protestors closed off tunnels and blocked major roads, so even taking a taxi could be risky, and we didn’t want to miss our flight home. I wrote an article about how much we saved during our HK trip, but the airport hotel was the most expensive expense during our trip. For the quality of room we got (very poor), we had to pay a premium price (around 300 usd, no breakfast). But it was worth the piece of mind that we were just steps away from the airport and we wouldn’t miss our flight home.
If you don’t plan on staying at an airport hotel, be sure to allot extra time going to the airport. They also have security checks now, and you can’t enter the airport if you don’t have a flight out within the next 24 hours.
Additionally, we also purchased travel insurance to cover for the possiblity of cancelled or delayed flights.
Safety Tip #5 Stay Connected
Albert and I had to separate a bunch of times (going to his business meeting, splitting up at the mall to do some groceries and shopping.) We made sure we both had a stable internet connection just in case something happened. We rented 4G wifi from KKDay, which was cheap and had reliable signal althroughout our trip. The KKDay wifi redemption and return booth is at the airport so it was conveninet to pick up and drop off.
You Can Never Be Sure
Despite what you read and what’s happening now, you’ll never really know until you’re there. We’ve asked friends who are Hong Kong locals and they assured us it was ok to go, and we were at peace with our decision. Everyone has a tolerance for risk, and it’s always best to listen to your gut and pray.