Popular Expat Residential Areas in Hong Kong
Situated in the hills above Central and Wan Chai, the Mid Levels are a very popular area for expatriates, mostly because of their proximity to the business districts and the exciting expat lifestyle that offers. Add to that the Mid-Levels Escalator system, Hong Kong Park, the array of shopping centres, a wide range of accommodation types, a multitude of international schools, not to mention the spectacular views, you get a winning combination. Another advantage of living in mid-levels is the availability of very good hospitals nearby which is really comforting to know for younger expatriate couples, expecting a child.
This part of the Mid Levels is considered particularly pleasant, with its tree lined, hilly winding roads (you may hear this area referred to as the Lower Peak). Apartments on upper floors may have views of Victoria Harbour or failing that, views of greenery.
Younger couples will appreciate the short walk to the nightlife of Soho and Lan Kwai Fong. You really are in the heart of Hong Kong if you can afford to live here.
For those who like to keep fit, The Bowen Road jogging path will please you, not to mention the walks around Victoria Peak which are within easy reach of this area. Many apartment complexes also have good fitness facilities within them. A pleasant few hours can be spent in the Zoological and Botanical gardens nearby.
This area is also best for the Mid-Levels Escalator, the longest outdoor escalator in the World, taking you right into the Heart of the city.
This area of the Mid-Levels is to the East of Hong Kong Park and has a low population density (in Hong Kong terms) and has some colonial medium rise apartments dating back to the 50's as well as more up to date buildings.
Apartments in the low rental range as well as middle range prices can be found on Kennedy Road and are probably best suited to singles or younger couples although large 4 bedroom properties are to be found on Stubbs Road, for example. More recently, large and luxurious apartments have been developed that offer great views of the city.
Pacific Place (top notch shopping complex) and Hong Kong Park are within easy walking distance, as is Wan Chai.
Due to the number of expats in the area, it is very well served by suitable schools and also has good medical centres.
As the name would suggest, it is to the West of Central and half way up the mountain and has lovely sea views. Its description is much the same as the rest of the district.
Wan Chai is famous for its association with the classic Suzy Wong movie of 1957 and like then, it is still a much loved expat entertainment district. It is also a major commercial district with classy hotels and office buildings with an entertainment area that at night is still preferred by many expats and soldiers on shore leave.
In more recent years, old Wan Chai is in the process of disappearing due to efforts to reverse urban decay and bring safety standards into line with this modern commercial district.
Although not as famous for shopping as it neighbour, Causeway bay, Wan Chai has an abundance of cheap clothing stores and food shopping areas (The outdoor wet market in Wan Chai is particularly big). As with all areas of Hong Kong, there are plenty of supermarkets to choose from. Wan Chai is a unique and vibrant area to live, culturally rich with daily events at the Arts Centre.
A short walk will get you to the Hong Kong Exhibition Centre, a huge construction that extends into Victoria Harbour that has firmly placed itself in the Hong Kong identity and the Expo Promenade outside this building marked the most significant event in Hong Kong history, the handover of the colony from the British to the People's Republic of China.
Wan Chai has its own ferry pier near the Exhibition Centre and the Star Ferry will take you to Kowloon side in just a few minutes, giving you a stunning view of the Island in the process. It is also well served by the MTR rail system, the Hong Kong tram network and buses.
A full range of accommodation is to be found in Wan Chai, including serviced apartments, from budget digs to more luxurious complexes and is a choice for many expatriates thanks to its location and outstanding transport links. Central district is just minutes away.
The Peak is the highest area on Hong Kong Island, considered exclusive and regarded as the most prestigious housing location to live for expats. It is where the tai-pans chose to live due to the cool evening breezes. All buildings are low rise due to height restrictions. Many buildings have communal swimming pools, tennis courts and gymnasiums. The area is very green and has many pleasant walks.
Stunning views of the harbour or the south side of the island are everywhere.
For the very well healed, exclusive detached housing is also available.
One of the drawbacks of living in this area, occurring particularly in the spring is the mist and very high humidity. Adequate dehumidifying systems are essential to prevent damage to your house interior and furnishings.
The Peak is very well served by public transport and taxis.
It's difficult to imagine you're so close to one of the most densely populated places on Earth. It feels much more like a seaside resort with a lovely crescent shaped beach dotted with palm trees and looking out to the South China Sea. It's a very popular choice for expatriate families with children. Repulse Bay has banking facilities, shopping, medical services, laundries and all the usual services one could expect in such a town. Best of all is the fact that it's just 15 or 20 minutes to Central and is very well served by Hong Kong Island public transport
It is also a popular spot for city folk looking for a weekend break and attracts many wealthy Hong Kong locals. High rise accommodation as well as town houses is available, there is plenty of open space and International Schools are close by.
Repulse Bay is a very popular choice with Expats of all nationalities.
Jardine's Lookout is a mountain close to Happy Valley named after William Jardine, whose residents, numbering over 10,000, are considered to be very wealthy. Well known residents include shipping tycoon Kong Chung and Stanley Ho.
Partly surrounded by wooded hills and with views overlooking Victoria Harbour, this elite and largely gated community of large detached and medium sized private houses and apartments is just above the Happy Valley area
Jardine's Lookout is very well served by public transport and has many facilities. The premium you pay for living here is also reflected in the short 10 minute drive to Central and the 5 minute drive to the Shopping overkill of Causeway Bay (from Causeway Bay, the cross harbour tunnel can be used to reach Kowloon side in just minutes).
This residential district has its own supermarket, florists, a post office and a host of other useful stores. International schools are very close by, including the Canadian International School, the French International School and the Japanese International School
If you're up for a hike, some stunning views and sunsets can be enjoyed from Jardine's Lookout, including a wonderful view of the city. The climb is quite steep, rising to over 400 metres. Wear some good boots as the heavy rains of Hong Kong damage the paths. In the summer months, take plenty of water as the humidity and temperatures are high and sun screen would also be wise.
Jardine's Lookout is part of the Wilson Trail (section 2). Buses are available from Central (take the bus to 'Wong Nai Chung Gap' where you will see some stairs that go past Tai Tam Resevoir. At the top of the road you will find the entrance to the Wilson Trail and a good sized picnic area.
Roughly speaking, North Point is the area of housing from Tin Hau to North point and includes the hillside part known as the North Point Mid-Levels. It lacks any large scale fancy shopping malls like the ones found in Causeway Bay and this is reflected in the more reasonable accommodation prices. There is also a more down to Earth range of good apartments available. However, you will still be paying Hong Kong Island prices and Central is still a quick and easy MTR journey away.
Just a little uphill from the very long Kings Road is the tranquil North Point Mid-levels where apartments may have nice views of the harbour and surrounding mountains. This part of Hong Kong Island is sometimes referred to as the so called 'elite school networks' with the Hong Kong Japanese School and the Chinese International School nearby, both situated at the ends of quiet roads.
North Point, just like everywhere in Hong Kong, has superb transport links around the clock. It has many traditional wet markets, restaurants, supermarkets and old fashioned 'mum and dad' owned shops that are popular with the local Chinese. In fact, living in North Point will make you feel much more like you are part of the local community compared to other expat areas.
You will also find some good mid-range hotels in this area with more reasonable pricing structures compared to those in Central.
This part of town is famous for the Happy Valley Racetrack and indeed, many properties have splendid views of the racecourse. It's a mixed bag of older style low rise buildings and modern high rise residences and short term serviced apartments and is mostly a residential area.
Causeway Bay is very near indeed, with its myriad of shopping malls and night time entertainment areas. Members of the Hong Kong Jockey Clubhouse can enjoy its exclusive facilities nearby.
More recently, Happy Valley has become much more upmarket with a good number of expatriates present. You may also see the occasional television crew, as many Hong Kong television programmes are filmed here.
The real estate prices in Happy Valley tend to influence the housing market in the rest of the city.
Clearwater Bay is in the New Territories on the eastern shore of the Clearwater Bay Peninsula and it sports two beaches. The open spaces make the area a popular choice for expats with children or pets.
There are actually very few facilities or amenities and Sai Kung becomes more of a focal point for shopping, banking, dining, hardware, convenience stores etc. Clearwater Bay is little more than apartments and villas, a fact which will suit many. There are no high rises, few apartment blocks, plenty of villas and complexes, which may include your own parking space and shared pool.
There are trade offs to this 'country living'. If you work on Kong Kong Island, or have friends there, commutes will be longer. Public transport is available but you're more likely to opt for your own vehicle here. If you choose to rely on public transport (easily done), the following services operate...
- Bus number 91 connects you to Diamond Hill
- 16 - Po Lam to Po Toi O
- 103 - Kwun Tong Ferry Pier to CWB 2nd beach
- 103M - Tseung Kwan O MTR Station to 2nd beach
- Red minibus - Ngau Chi Wan minibus terminus
- Taxis are cheap and plentiful in Hong Kong, although you'll most likely need to call for one to get out of CWB
On weekends, the beaches can be crowded. Facilities include changing rooms and showers, toilets, free parking and a BBQ area. Life guards are on duty during the swimming season. Note that there are also shark nets due to well publicised and fatal shark attacks in 1995. You'll also find the Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club here. Families will be pleased with the kindergartens and schools.
To summarize, you get cleaner air and a solid expat community.