25/04/2024

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Where to Stay in HONG KONG • Top 6 Best Areas: Tsim Sha Tsui vs Central vs Near Airport

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Where to Stay in HONG KONG • Top 6 Best Areas: Tsim Sha Tsui vs Central vs Near Airport
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Can’t decide where to stay for your next Hong Kong trip? Is Tsim Sha Tsui a good area for tourists? Is Central better than Mong Kok? When is it ideal to stay in Lantau island? In this article, we’ll break it down to help you pick the best neighborhood for you.

Hong Kong is one of our most visited destinations. Over the past 13 years, we have stayed at various areas within the territory. And yes, some areas are better than others. But to properly determine the best, we need to understand Hong Kong’s geography.

Hong Kong may be small, but it is a bit complicated. It is set mainly on a peninsula, but it also covers various nearby islands. To its north is Shenzhen and to its west, now connected by a bridge, is Macau. And like Macau, Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of China. It is a part of China, but it has its own economy, currency, and immigration laws. That’s why even Chinese mainlanders still need to go through immigration checks when entering Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is composed of 3 main regions:

Hong Kong Tourism Map

  • Kowloon, on the peninsula, where Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok are located. Hong Kong’s city center has two faces. One of them is Kowloon, which covers most of the developed area on the mainland. This is the older and more traditional side of the city. It’s what many consider quintessential Hong Kong. It’s highly developed, yes, but you’ll easily notice that many of the buildings are not very modern. It is dense, busy, and incredibly textured. This side is often used as a setting in Hollywood movies.
  • Hong Kong Island, where you’ll find the Central Business District. If Kowloon is gritty and traditional, Hong Kong Island is polished and aesthetically more colonial, blending Chinese culture with British influences well. But it is divided into smaller neighborhoods including Central, Admiralty, Wan Chai, Sheung Wan, and Causeway Bay.
  • New Territories, which covers the area north of Kowloon and 200 outlying islands including Lantau Island, where you’ll find Hong Kong Disneyland, Ngong Ping 360, and Tai-O Village. The Hong Kong International Airport is also within the New Territories.

The truth is, Hong Kong is further divided into 18 smaller districts. But for tourists, especially first-timers, only a few of these will probably matter.

So which is the best area to stay? Objectively, I’d say it depends on your specific itinerary. But if you ask me for my personal preference, here’s how I would rank these areas.

(By the way, you’ll also find a list of top hotels in the area, categorized by budget. When we say “affordable”, we mean that relatively. Accommodations are generally expensive in Hong Kong. Hotel prices have skyrocketed over the past years. The properties we listed under affordable may still be considered costly by other standards.)


WHAT’S COVERED IN THIS GUIDE?

1. CENTRAL

Strictly speaking, Central often refers to a specific area surrounding the Central Station. But for tourism purposes, the term is sometimes used loosely to include the whole Central and Western District, encompassing Admiralty and Sheung Wan.

Hong Kong Central Map

Central Hong Kong Skyline

The heart of Hong Kong’s Central Business District, it is bustling especially at rush hours. But it gets less busy as you move away from it. On our most recent trip, we stayed in Sheung Wan which is very quiet.

Central is very accessible, more accessible than Tsim Sha Tsui or Mong Kok in Kowloon. There is a direct bus from the airport (A11 bus). But most importantly, there is a direct train – the Airport Express, which is the fastest way to get to the city center. You can reach Central in roughly 30 minutes, significantly quicker than taking the bus or multiple regular train rides. (By the way, if you want to book a seat on the Airport Express train, you can reserve in advance on Klook.)

Central Hong Kong

Central is your jump off point to two popular attractions: Victoria Peak and Ocean Park. So if your itinerary has these two sites on two separate days, this may be a good base.

Another big pro for Central is that its dotted with countless iconic foodie spots, and many of them are affordable. Some are even awarded with Michelin Bib Gourmand or Michelin stars. I’ve stayed at the Central area a number of times, and I loved it each time because of these restaurants! Several food tours also scribble across the area.

Central Hong Kong Restaurants

While many hotels in Central-Central district are upscale, it is not impossible to find relatively inexpensive places to stay especially in the Sheung Wan area.

But as much as I adore Central, it’s not for everyone. It is hilly. The ground is so uneven, walking around can be so exhausting if you’re not used to it, and can be very challenging for those with mobility issues.

Central Hong Kong Stairs

And although not as bad as Kowloon hotels, space here is also expensive, so expect tiny, cozy rooms!

PROS

  • Central location
  • Accessible from the airport
  • Close to key attractions
  • Fantastic restaurants
  • Affordable lodging options
  • Vibrant nightlife

CONS

  • Also crowded
  • Hilly and lots of stairs
  • Cozy rooms
iClub Sheung Wan Hotel
iClub Sheung Wan Hotel

Top Affordable Hotels in Central & Sheung Wan

Here are some of the top-reviewed Central and Sheung Wan hotels and hostels on Agoda that are relatively affordable.

Top Premium Hotels in Central & Admiralty

Below are the top Central properties on Hotels.com, regardless of the price.

Search for more Central Hotels!


2. TSIM SHA TSUI

Region: Kowloon

Tsim Sha Tsui (often shortened to TST) is well-known among budget travelers because of three things.

First, accessibility. Unless you’re staying close to Airport Express’s Kowloon Station, there is no direct train line between Tsim Sha Tsui and the airport. But there are direct airport buses (Bus A21) that stop at multiple points across the district. In fact, TST’s main artery is Nathan Road, which runs parallel to the A21 Bus route and also to a section of the MTR or subway train’s Tsuen Wan Line. This subway line also connects TST to the Central district on the other side of the harbor. There are multiple MTR stations, ferry terminals, and bus stops! See? Very accessible.

Tsim Sha Tsui Mong Kok Map

The second reason is its proximity to some key Hong Kong attractions including the Avenue of Stars, the K11 Mall, and the shopping streets in Mong Kok and Jordan areas.

Tsim Sha Tsui

View of Central from Avenue of Stars
View of Central from Avenue of Stars
East Tsim Sha Tsui
East Tsim Sha Tsui

Lastly, there’s A LOT of budget-friendly accommodations in Tsim Sha Tsui. But beware, because space is such a scarce commodity in these parts of Hong Kong, most rooms in Kowloon are extremely small. There isn’t usually much space to move around, but you’ll find properties that are cleverly designed.

Most budget-friendly rooms are housed in either of the two famous (or infamous) buildings: the Chungking Mansions and Mirador Mansion. You may have heard a lot about these two properties before: some may be good, some may be bad. So what’s the truth?

Mirador Mansion Hong Kong

Well, these two are old residential buildings, but many owners have turned their units into guesthouses or mini-hotels for tourists. They look nice and shiny from afar, but up close, it can be a bit intimidating. Its crowded ground floor is a maze of various shops, and inside — er, let’s just say they’ve seen better days. But don’t write it off yet.

Actually, in our early years, we always stayed here. With the exception of long elevator queues occasionally, we never really had a bad experience. That’s not to invalidate other accounts I’ve seen online which mention bed bugs and all. I’m just saying we didn’t have that experience, even in our recent stay here just a few months ago.

But that’s the thing! While they look dated (or dare I say dilapidated, at least the hallways), some units are clean and well-kept. Just a few months ago, we booked a room at Victoria Inn at Mirador Mansion. It was cramped but neat and furnished with hotel essentials. Overall, we had a pleasant stay!

Victoria Inn Hong Kong
Victoria Inn at Mirador Mansion in Tsim Sha Tsui

It’s just a matter of booking a reputable establishment, so always check reviews.

By the way, Tsim Sha Tsui is mostly flat, which makes a walk across the area a walk in the park. The streets are busy and narrow, though, so don’t be too complacent.

PROS:

  • Diverse budget-friendly hotels
  • Accessible
  • Direct bus airport bus
  • Close to tourist attractions
  • Close to street markets

CONS:

  • No direct airport train
  • Small, cramped rooms
  • Crowded

Top Affordable Hotels in Tsim Sha Tsui

Interested in Tsim Sha Tsui? Below are some of the relatively inexpensive hotels with the best reviews on Agoda.

Top Premium Hotels in Tsim Sha Tsui

Below are the top Tsim Sha Tsui properties on Hotels.com, regardless of the price.

Search for more Tsim Sha Tsui Hotels!


3. MONG KOK & YAU MA TEI

Region: Kowloon

Also worth checking out in Kowloon are Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei. Both are parts of the Yau Tsim Mong District, the same administrative unit that Tsim Sha Tsui belongs to. And both have a lot of similarities to TST.

Tsim Sha Tsui Mong Kok Map

They are also accessible from the airport by the same direct bus – Bus A21. They’re also along the Tsuen Wan Line, which is connected to Central, and Nathan Road, which is punctuated by multiple bus stops.

But the vibe in Mong Kok, in particular, is significantly different. Its streets are lit by colorful neon signs, and the energy here is more buzzing, more frenetic. It’s a popular shopping area. Its map is scribbled with shopping streets and night market streets. It’s also here that you’ll find the legendary Sneaker Street.

mongkok

mong kok hong kong

When searching online, you’ll also come across several affordable accommodations, both old and new. And if you’re into street food, you’re gonna love Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei, too!

PROS

  • Central location
  • Accessible from the airport
  • Close to key attractions
  • Close to night markets and shopping streets

CONS

  • Also crowded
  • Cozy rooms
  • Busy and noisy

Top Budget Hotels in Mong Kok & Yau Ma Tei

Lovin’ the vibe of Mong Kok? Below are some hotels and inns in Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei areas that got great scores from Klook customers.

Top Premium Hotels in Mong Kok & Yau Ma Tei

If you have a bigger budget, here are some options on Agoda and Hotels.com with the best reviews from actual guests, not considering the rates.

Search for more Mong Kok Hotels!


4. TUNG CHUNG and HONG KONG SKYCITY (Near Airport)

Region: New Territories

Staying near the airport comes with a lot of perks. And the same is true for Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong International Airport is located on reclaimed land on Chek Lap Kok Island, just off Lantau Island. Beside the airport is a cluster of reputable hotels called SkyCity. Just across the channel, at the part of Lantau Island closest to the airport, you’ll spot another developed area called Tung Chung.

Tung Chung Hong Kong

Many of the lists of best places to stay that you’ll find online don’t even mention these two areas. But don’t dismiss them right away. I actually believe that in many cases, these are the most ideal.

Huh? You might be asking, “But it’s so detached from the city center! Why would you think it’s a good area to stay at all!”

Well, the airport isn’t the only key point of interest close to Tung Chung and SkyCity. This area is home to the following:

Lantau Island Map

  • Hong Kong International Airport
  • Hong Kong Disneyland
  • Ngong Ping 360 (Tian Tan Buddha)
  • CityGate Outlets Mall
  • Tai-O Village
  • Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB) Port, which is the gateway to Macau

So if your itinerary mainly consists of these attractions, it makes more sense to stay in either SkyCity or Tung Chung. If you stay in the city center like Tsim Sha Tsui or Central, you’ll have to travel back and forth, wasting a lot of time and money in the process.

Moreover, most of the big hotels in SkyCity and Tung Chung offer FREE bus transfer to and from the airport and Tung Chung MTR Station. Yep, completely FREE of charge. And there’s usually a bus every 30 minutes or so.

Free Hotel Airport Shuttle Bus

The catch is: most hotels here are a bit high-end – Marriott, Sheraton, and the like – but its prices are competitive, much lower than its counterparts in the city center, and sometimes, up to par with mid-range ones.

For example, last year, we visited in peak season. We booked two hotels: a supposedly budget hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui’s Mirador Mansion and this more upscale hotel in Tung Chung. For the “budget” TST hotel, we paid HKD 930 (PHP 6640) per night. Yes, I know it’s still steep, but this was really one of the cheapest we found for that period.

Within the same time frame, our room at Four Points by Sheraton in Tung Chung costs HKD 990 (PHP 7070) per night. That’s just a HKD 60 difference per night, but there’s a big difference in experience. Our room in Tung Chung was at a full-service hotel and was much, much more spacious and much cleaner, too.

Four Points by Sheraton Tung Chung Hong Kong Airport

Nevertheless, this area has its cons. Aside from it being far from the city center, there are also very limited affordable dining options. We had to make sure we had dinner elsewhere before coming back to the hotel or we’d be stuck with the expensive in-house restaurants at the hotel. That or the convenience store.

This area is not for everyone. If your itinerary calls for more time in the city center, then don’t book a hotel here. But if you have the Disneyland-Ngong Ping-and-Macau trifecta in your itinerary, consider it!

PROS:

  • Near the airport
  • Most accessible from Disneyland, Ngong Ping, and Macau
  • Often with free transfer to airport and MTR
  • More spacious hotel rooms at competitive

CONS:

  • Not diverse hotel options
  • Limited dining spots
  • Far from city center
Four Points by Sheraton Tung Chung Hong Kong
Four Points by Sheraton Tung Chung

Top Hotels in Tung Chung

Top Hotels in Hong Kong SkyCity

Search for more Hotels Near Hong Kong Airport!


What is the best area to stay in Hong Kong?

Again, I’d have to answer with “that depends on your itinerary.”

  • If you’re visiting HK Disneyland and Ngong Ping 360, and and you’re doing a day trip to Macau, I really think SkyCity and Tung Chung are your best bets.
  • If your itinerary involves multiple days in the city center, then stay in either Kowloon or Hong Kong Island.
  • If you’re after good food and nightlife, I recommend you stay in Central or surrounding areas like Sheung Wan and Admiralty.
  • If you like shopping and night markets, choose Mong Kok.
  • If you’re on a tight budget, stay in Tsim Sha Tsui or Mong Kok.

As for me, if you ask me to choose without any set itinerary, I’d pick Central/Sheung Wan. It has all the things I want in a neighborhood, easy access from the airport whether by bus or by Airport Express train, close to key attractions like Victoria Peak, and lots of delicious food spots!

But that’s just me. How about you? Have you tried staying at any of these districts? Which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments section below.

That’s all for now. Remember: plan smart, travel safe, and make every trip WORTH IT!


Find More HONG KONG HOTEL Deals!


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