Over the last few months, I’ve found more tips that will make migrating to HK far easier and made plenty of mistakes that you guys can learn from.
For those of you who have decided to relocate to Hong Kong for whatever reasons, there are things one should research before coming here. When we decided to come to attend Paul Orlando’s boot camp, we sought to find housing right away. We tried to estimate cost and get ourselves acquainted as fast as possible. I’ve been to Hong Kong for vacation before so I tried to rely on past experience but it is nothing like actually living here.
Housing: My advice is to look for housing when in Hong Kong. In the beginning, the thought of coming to Hong Kong without securing a place to stay was hard. We booked a room in a shared apartment only to be shocked when we arrived. Book a place from Airbnb and go look at local places on your own while studying the layout of Hong Kong. Its so convenient living here that it wouldn’t make much of a difference to live further.
Housing is the single biggest expense you will have in Hong Kong. Find the best place takes time, searching, word of mouth and exploring. It also depends on your own personal taste and willingness to commute. Commuting is the norm here and the time when people use mobile devices the most.
Banking: You can use your usual credit cards and ATM cards here in Hong Kong. I’ve found that Amex gives the best rates (1%) as oppose to my Mastercard of (3%) transaction fees. Chase allows me to withdraw from my checking account at a $5 USD fee for each transaction. Be sure to check your daily withdrawal limit from your bank as I have needed to call and extend it to pay rent etc… And before leaving home, do not forget to set a travel notification and email alert with your cards for safety reasons.
Another useful method is to simply open a bank account here in Hong Kong. Now there is a heads up about this as well. It’s fairly easy to open a bank account here even if you do not have an HK ID; simply bring your passport and a proof of HK residency such as a bill (I had the coworking space I work at bill me at my HK residence)
The only thing I found hard understood the many accounts here and like most banks in the world, there are several levels with different benefits and fees. Having your own bank account in HK is beneficial for several reasons. You can collect money and spend it, say you got into an accelerator program here that funds you a seed amount, then having an account mean you could withdraw, transfer and use it as you need to without paying extra fees.
I went ahead and opened an account with HSBC who are in the same group as Hang Seng Bank (and thus transferring money to those with either those two accounts does not cost any fee) as they seem to be among the popular banks. Now the next step is where I made my mistake. I opened an HSBC Advantage Account and if you browse their site, you will notice that you have a monthly fee of 120HKD if your account falls below 200,000 HKD. I don’t have that much. I didn’t bother to ask and decided to change to their regular account, the Smartvantage that has a fee only if your balance falls below 10,000 HKD (about 1300 USD). What I didn’t realize is that you do not have to pay the monthly fee with the Advantage account for the first year and thus could avoid that all together (don’t forget to mention this promotion). I now have to wait 3 months before I can change back to Advantage. It also has a shorter queue and slightly better currency conversion rates. Either way, its not that big of a deal as most people do banking online (and you can wire money directly at the ATM machines)
Food and Drinks: At times, it is actually cheaper to go eat out then to cook a proper meal. You have eat hot pot at MX for 56 HKD or 7.23 USD in which you would need to spent at least 150 to cook it at home. Its no wonder that many expats prefer to eat out rather then cook at home.
Drinks however are not cheap. In fact they are about the same price if not more then Bay Area prices. One of our places to grab drinks is Club 71; a little bar hidden in the backside of Hollywood rd. Happy hour beer is about 33 bucks (4.50 USD), which is quite good. Other places like LKF are super expensive because they are popular and crowded.
The bar/night life is great in Hong Kong, probably one of the best in the world. People work so hard that in weekends, they need to unwind and thus head to the bars and clubs. Its pack, has decent amount of guy/girl ratio and if you have the money, you can have super fun.
Cell Phones: Getting a sim card is quite easy here. Its cheaper then our US counterpart and just as fast. Battery for mobile phones seem to deplete faster here though. Like I’ve mentioned, I was about to get an ipad Internet plan for my iphone and just added 300 minutes to that. So it’s a sort of prepaid plan that allows me to have decent Internet amount and still able to talk for about 170 a month. (22 usd, the cheapest you can get in US with AT&T is about 65 USD, which leads me to think of how they are ripping people off so much and complain they have network constrains and users hogging data. It can’t be worse then super dense metropolitan Hong Kong but this is for another blog.)
Work Place: There are many coworking space springing up in Hong Kong now. We work at CoCoon over Tin Hau, but there’s also The Hive and many more now in Hong Kong. Using transportation, you can get around pretty easily.
Now, a lot of people are wondering, how is it to bootstrap in Hong Kong? Well if you are willing to sacrifice social time and fun, then its quite manageable to stay out here. There are a lot of activities to do.
Startup weekend is happening all over the world this weekend and it so happens in Hong Kong too. I have the pleasure to be a coach this time and mentor new teams that will pop up. Check the event out at: http://hongkong.startupweekend.org/