Hong Kong is one of the most unique cities in the world with the incredible, city metropolis meeting the jungle and mountains. The best way to see the contrast between the city and the jungle and to enjoy an epic fly-over view of the city is with a Hong Kong helicopter tour. I did the helicopter-tour and in this blog post, I will share with you my photos and also my tips for time of day to fly, how to shoot photos and give my review of the flight.
HOW TO BOOK THE HONG KONG HELICOPTER TOUR
In Hong Kong, there is just one main company flying the helicopter tours so it makes it an easy choice when deciding who to fly with. The company is called HeliServices and operates from the top-floor and helipad of the Peninsula Hotel, which is one of the fanciest hotels in Hong Kong.
You will need to book in advance, which you can do online through Klook, which is actually the cheapest way to book your helicopter flight. The price for one person on a group flight for 18-minutes is $2750 HDK ($350 USD). This isn’t the cheapest heli-flight price in the world but Hong Kong is an expensive city so it’s on par with the city prices. The private tour is ridiculously priced at more than $4000 USD.
The things to consider:
- You will be part of a group flight. The helicopter seats six people so there are 4 window seats and two middle seats. You can still see out of the windows but the view is much better from the window seat. Luckily for us, there were only four on our flight so everyone had a window.
- Because it is a group tour, you cannot pick the exact time you want to leave. I asked for a sunset flight but they told me the group tours leave at 2:30 pm and if I wanted the sunset time slot I would need to book the private tour. The lighting and views would be better at sunset probably but it was still great at 2:30 pm.
- The flight is 18-minutes. It’s quite short but because Hong Kong isn’t a large region, you can still see a lot in a short time. The longer private flights of up to 45-minutes are thousands of dollars to book.
- It is quite an expensive activity but for $350 per person to fly over Hong Kong, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity so it will be an experience you remember, rather than that night out on Hong Kong Island you will forget by the next day!
Click Here to book your Hong Kong helicopter tour
MY EXPERIENCE ON THE HONG KONG HELICOPTER TOUR
We arrived at the Peninsula Hotel and met the staff on the ground floor we waited for the others from our group tour to arrive. Off we went to the top floor in the elevator and into the waiting and briefing room that had epic views back out to Hong Kong Island. After a quick briefing, we headed out onto the helipad, which is on the roof of the Peninsula Hotel and strapped into our seats.
It wasn’t a doors-off helicopter flight, which is my favorite but it was going to be some epic cityscapes and landscapes so I was stoked. Our flight began by heading off from Tsim Sha Tsui and circling back around towards Tsuen Wan. On the way, we flew over all of the shipping yards, which was actually a really interesting part of the flight. We could see all of the multi-colored containers and one huge container ship being loaded up at the dock.
We then headed inland and found ourselves in the thick of the Hong Kong jungle after leaving the city behind. That’s why I love Hong Kong, it’s 85% natural parklands but most people don’t realize that and think it’s just shopping and business buildings. Flying over it all in a helicopter really shows you just how green Hong Kong is.
The pilot needs to do a refuel every few flights and luckily for us, it was our flight so we had a bit of an extended journey. We had to stop, get out and wait for 5-minutes at the refueling base but I think it extended our trip by 15-minutes so we had almost double the time of a normal flight!
After the refuel, we set off again and before too long, we found ourselves cruising over the iconic Lion Rock. It’s one of the most popular hikes in Hong Kong but on this day we didn’t have to put in too much effort to enjoy the view.
We were now on our way back to Tsim Sha Tsui but we still had to do a giant victory lap over Hong Kong Island, which is the iconic business district of Hong Kong. It can really only be described as a mini-New York with urban density on par to some of the busiest cities in the world. The birds of view over the financial district and the high-rises is such a unique perspective and one of the highlights of the Hong Kong helicopter tour.
That rounded out an epic Hong Kong helicopter tour. It was an expensive trip but as you can see from the photos you get to see quite a diverse range of landscapes in such a short amount of time. Comment below if you end up going on the trip and let me know how it was!
TIPS FOR SHOOTING PHOTOS ON A HELICOPTER FLIGHT
Shooting photos through glass in the middle of the day can be very difficult. Here are a few of my tips to make sure you have a good experience taking photos out on the helicopter flight around Hong Kong. If you aren’t into taking photos, skip the tips below.
- Remove any filters or polarizers from you camera as they may not work through the glass of the helicopter and distort your colors.
- Set your camera up with your preferred settings before you get on the flight as things happen quickly from the first minute.
- Rehearse taking photos and changing settings so you aren’t flustered in the heat of the moment.
- I shoot in aperture priority, wide focus, and multi-metering mode so that my settings are pretty automatic but I still have some control. I make sure my shutter is no slower than 1/1000 so that I don’t have to worry about motion blur.
- Try not to shoot directly into the sun as it can be difficult to capture all the highlights doing so.
- On this flight, I had to hold me camera high on the window to avoid the glare and reflection. Figure this out early rather than having reflections, glares and marks on your photos. You’ll still see some in my photos below but for the most part they turned out okay considering it was full sun and through the glass.
- Unless you are keen on a tighter lens for a specific purpose, I suggest a wide angle. I shot all of my photos on a Sony A7iii witha 16-35mm lens.
TOP 4 PLACES TO STAY IN HONG KONG
Best Value Hotel: Metropark Hotel Causeway Bay – This 4-star hotel in Hong Kong Central is just $73 and looks like a luxury resort worth 4-times that amount.
Best Hostel: Alohas Hostel – For less than $12 USD, you have a great location in a clean and simple hostel.
Best Value Luxury Hotel: Hotel ICON – $140 for a 5-star hotel with an epic pool. Need I say more!
Best Hiking/Adventure Base: Hotel Stage – In Kowloon and right next to lots of epic hikes, a gateway to the hikes in the New Territories. 4-star ultra-modern and a great adventure base.
Want a more detailed breakdown? I wrote the biggest ever guide for where to stay (and why) in Hong Kong! You can check it out here: WHERE TO STAY IN HONG KONG: BEST AREAS & HOTELS
BEST TIME TO HIKE IN HONG KONG
The ‘best’ time to visit Hong Kong will depend on a few factors. The biggest factor will, of course, be the weather. All of these hikes I did were in my month-long stay during December 2019. The weather was quite chilly as it was winter but the sun was still out on at least 60% of the hikes. In the day it was warm most of the time but I always had a jacket for at the summit. The suggest months for hiking in Hong Kong are:
Winter: December to February – Mild weather and pretty comfortable for hiking. Minimal rainfall and still lots of sun during 2/3 of the days. I would suggest the winter after having experienced it myself.
Spring: March to May – Unpredictable weather with some sun and some clouds, Humidity is now rising quite high. Rainfall can happen regularly during the spring.
Summer: June to August – This is not an ideal time to hike in Hong Kong. The humidity is at it’s highest, temperatures can reach 30 degrees daily and rainstorms can be frequent. There are beaches in Hong Kong, more than you would imagine but they aren’t all necessarily close to where you will be based in Hong Kong Central or Kowloon.
Autumn/Fall: September to November – This is rated as the best time to visit Hong Kong. You have nice sunny weather but humidity is at it’s lowest for the year. Rainfall is also low during these months.
PRE-BOOK YOUR 4G SIMCARD FOR HONG KONG (AIRPORT PICKUP)
Before I arrived in Hong Kong, I pre-booked my 4G sim-card for pick-up at the airport. It gives you unlimited data for 5 days of traveling in Hong Kong at 4G speeds. As soon as I arrived at the airport, I walked to the stall, the guy put in my new sim-card and activated it and I was connected from the very first moment. You can Click Here to pre-book your 4G sim-card here and you’ll be surprised it’s actually cheaper to book it in advance.
Book yours now: Pre-Book 5-days Unlimited Data 4G Sim Card
PRE-BOOK YOUR 4G OCTOPUS CARD
You will need to purchase an ‘Octopus Card’ and then you reload it at the machine at the subway station. I pre-ordered my octopus card through Klook, which meant that when I arrived at the airport I simply picked the card up at the Klook counter and caught the train to my accommodation. It saved me from catching an expensive taxi and figuring out the Octopus card later.
You simply scan in at the station you enter and scan out where you exit and the fee is deducted from your card. On the bus, you will pay a fee depending on how much of the route is left and you only scan the card once for a fixed rate. I found moving around in Hong Kong very cheap, efficient and safe.
Click Here to pre-order your Octopus Card with 100 HKD credit loaded onto the card. Pick-up at the airport desk. 100HKD is good for 6-8 train rides and then you can top it up as you go.
Book yours now: HKD 50 Pre-loaded Octopus Card
CHEAPEST AIRPORT PRIVATE TRANSFER SERVICE
The airport in Hong Kong is on Lantau Island, which is about 40-minutes away from Hong Kong Central and 30-minutes away from Kowloon. If you don’t want to bother with public transport, you can book a private transfer that will pick you up at the airport and drop you to your hotel (or vice versa picking you up at your hotel and dropping you to the airport). It’s actually not that expensive and can save you valuable time. The cheapest option is actually the coolest and is in a Tesla car, which is pretty cool. I did this to and from the airport for less than $40.
Book yours now: Hong Kong Airport Transfer in Tesla
KEEP READING! CHECK OUT ALL THE BLOGS FROM MY HONG KONG SERIES
A complete guide to the best things to do: 27 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN HONG KONG
My favorite hikes in Hong Kong: 21 AWESOME HIKES IN HONG KONG
How to plan your Hong Kong trip: 3-DAY HONG KONG ITINERARY FOR ADVENTURE-LOVERS
The biggest ever guide for where to stay in Hong Kong: WHERE TO STAY IN HONG KONG: BEST AREAS & HOTELS
My favorite EASY hikes: 10 EASY HIKING TRAILS IN HONG KONG
The most luxurious places to stay: THE TOP 10 LUXURY HOTELS IN HONG KONG (5-STAR LIST)
The ultimate adventure: EPIC HONG KONG HELICOPTER TOUR FROM THE PENINSULA HOTEL
The toughest overall hike: WEST DOG’S TEETH HIKE ‘HARDEST HIKE IN HONG KONG’
Best waterfall hike: TAI MO SHAN HIKE: THE HIGHEST PEAK IN HONG KONG
ARE THERE HONG KONG HIKING AND TOUR GUIDES?
While I did all of my hikes independently, there are a number of affordable tours that will either take you on a private hike or add you to a group experience. I’m comfortable organizing the route, transport, and logistics for a hike in a new region because I’ve done it hundreds of times but if you prefer to have a local lead you then I can recommend checking out the links below, which offer guided tours of some of the hikes you will find on this list. The website to book through is Klook, which is a trusted platform for booking activities and employs local hiking guides who have tons of experience.
They range from $50-$100 and all the other details can be found by clicking on the links below.
Guided Hike: Lion Rock Hiking Tour
Guided Hike: Dragon’s Back Hiking Tour
Guided Hike: Lantau Peak Sunrise Hike
Guided Hike: Tai Mo Shan Waterfall Hiking Tour