January 29th 2020 update: Coronavirus fears are sending Hong Kong tourism plunging, as airlines cut non essential flights to mainland China and cut back services between Hong Kong and China. Theme parks in Hong Kong are temporarily closed until the outbreak is contained. Other than that, much of the city is as normal. 

If you are considering travel to the city, stay clear of crowds and avoid MTR stations, since they have become flash points for violent clashes and be particularly mindful at night. If you no longer wish to travel to Hong Kong, many airlines are issuing refund waivers or the ability to change dates.

Hong Kong is in the midst of change, as China seeks to gain a stronger political grip on the special administrative region, which puts the SAR in Hong Kong’s official title. Recent government proposals and emergency powers to extend Beijing’s power in Hong Kong have caused outrage amongst locals. The outrage toward Beijing and new Hong Kong Police powers has lead to large scale protests around government buildings and an expanding range of the city, including the airport.

Naturally, all of the above has people wondering if it’s safe to visit Hong Kong right now. The short answer: mostly yes for tourists, but life in Hong Kong is no longer simple and care must be paid to avoid flash points of conflict.

After months of chaos, Hong Kong is beginning to ease tensions, at least in terms of things getting back to normal. MTR stations have reopened, bars and restaurants are back in business and in much of the city, you’d never know of any conflicts.

Hong Kong Peak

Hong Kong is facing an existential crisis, as nearly 1/10 businesses will be forced to close permanently due to the lull in visitors. If you are considering a visit, this is the safest it’s been in months and many top attractions, hotels and other things are cheaper than ever before. Support this city.

First, Let’s recap the last few weeks.

January: the outbreak of Coronavirus and reported cases in Hong Kong is crushing efforts to rebuild tourism after the protests. Airline waivers are in place and many theme parks and other activities are closed until the outbreak is contained.

December has seen the largest protest march, but also the least violence thus far. Tensions remain strong in offices and amongst those on either side of the equation, but for travellers visiting the city it’s most business as usual and transit links are once again functioning.

October – November: Clashes became violent between riot police and protestors after China Day demonstrations on October 1st, and things worsened in the aftermath, with at least one protestor being shot. Since then, the Hong Kong Government has expanded police powers, which has only worsened the tension.

In late October, things seemed to be calming down, but November has seen a raucous return to upsetting violence from both sides and severe disruption to every day life in key business centres and tourist areas, such as Tsim Sha Tsui, Central and Admiralty.

August – September: In August, hundreds of flights were cancelled as protests made their way from the city to the airport , but things have since dispersed and flights have resumed fully normal service. There are protestors who continue making it hard to get to and from the airport, but once airside it’s business as usual at Hong Kong International

Stuck In Political Gridlock

China has in no uncertain terms stated its opposition to the protests and has clamped down on any businesses which support the peoples right to protest, and in turn, protestors are now targeting any and all Chinese Government buildings or businesses for vandalism.

With all that said, there are many parts of the city which are still business as usual entirely, and once again you could potentially visit the city without a clue that there was a large gathering of people near a building somewhere in town. Unfortunately though, the chaos is affecting transit links, which means it may be hard to get around, and not entirely safe either.

Where Are The Hong Kong Protests?

The August 31st and September 1st protests were predominantly in Admiralty, Causeway Bay, Mongkok and Tsim Sha Tsui, but knock on effects have caused transit delays and links to the airport and crucial city transit routes in the months following.

October’s protests, which started on the 1st and continued to gain violent traction had focused on Causeway Bay, Central and Victoria Park and many metro stations and  businesses in the area have now closed. Nathan Road and areas of Tsim Sha Tsui have sadly also become key flash points with violence over the weekend found predominantly in TST.

November has seen things spread even further, with disruption not only along Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Mongkok and Central, but also Tuen Mun, Hung Hom and Sha Tin. Fortunately, December has brought at least a temporary end to the most violent clashes and much of the city is returning to former glory.

Protests spreading to these popular areas means you could see these pro-democracy, anti Hong Kong extradition protests near popular hotels and shopping areas, so stay away from large groups at any cost and avoid wearing white or black, or anything that looks like a mask.

Getting anywhere near one of these crowds is now incredibly dangerous.

Use Twitter to keep an eye out for where any actions are taking place, and if you see a crowd, go the other way. These instance are rare, and isolated but are important to bear in mind, should you find yourself near a crowd. Side note: try to avoid wearing black or white.

The US State Department has issued a “Level 2” travel advisory for Hong Kong, up from standard Level 1. Before that alarms you, a Level 2 warning is the same level as the UK, Spain, Barbados, Italy and many more, and 1 is the lowest of 4 possible ratings.

What about violence? Some protests have became physically violent, with flames being thrown at police, and violent responses from police in return, including live bullets. This has remains an issue, with police using tear gas on large groups over the weekend. A protestor was shot in the torso over the weekend, and someone confronting the protestors was lit on fire.

Avoid standing outside Chinese Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) buildings, or outside Mainland Chinese owned businesses, in addition to the residence of embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam. There have also been violent clashes in metro stations: Prince Edward, Mongkok and Kowloon Bay, as well as Tsim Sha Tsui, even near famed hotels along the commercial area.

Protests crowds are generally isolated and to reiterate, you may be able to visit the city without knowing that they’ve happened – but you also may not. Unfortunately, that’s becoming increasingly difficult.

Keep in mind, tear gas and rubber bullets have been deployed on large groups, so stay as far away from any demonstrations as possible. Basically – if you see a crowd, go the other way at any cost, or go into a hotel. But again – you may legitimately travel without ever knowing any of the clashes or protests had happened at all.

Sharpening Rhetoric From China, USA, Hong Kong

Beijing has sharpened rhetoric against these pro democracy protests and is threatening to bring heightened action if they do not cease, or return to a peaceful nature – which they have. At the same time, the US has decreed that any violence or action from China toward protestors will cross a red line.

This is effectively becoming a struggle to maintain the previously clear “one country two systems” independence for Hong Kong, supported by the West versus a newly sparked desire by Beijing in the East to control the region. China’s Aviation Authority (CAAC) has sought new measures to keep all protestors out of China, which lead to the departure of Cathay Pacific CEO Rupert Hogg.

At level 2, the US State Department is not saying to cancel a trip, it’s noting to avoid crowds and places where you could be caught up in civil action. It’s just a common sense look at keeping your eyes open.

What Are The Protests About?

The Hong Kong Protests are centred around a government bill which would comply with a Chinese Government request to extradite citizens from Hong Kong to the Peoples Republic of China. China is looking to increase power and influence in the region, which is a wildly unpopular move amongst HK citizens. With the wavering commitment China has shown to basic human rights, transparency, freedom of speech and fair trials, the move is widely objected by youth in Hong Kong and

To avoid being accidentally caught up in the fracas, avoid avoid wearing white or black outfits and be sure to monitor social media and articles like this one to keep up to date on protest locations.

So Is It Really Safe To Visit Hong Kong?

Hong Kong is one of the safer cities in the world, with low crime rates and excellent standards of medicine and healthcare, even with current unrest. Hotels and businesses in Hong Kong desperately need the visitors, so it’s a great time to go.

Unless you’re planning to join the protests, Hong Kong should still be safe for visitors.

A Level 2 warning from the United States State Department means they equivocate all the action in Hong Kong to be of a similar level of caution as daily life in London, or Rome. If you don’t wish to travel, some airlines are issuing travel waivers which allow you to change for free.

Basically, be on alert, but no one is saying not to go. That’s up to you.

Will There Be More Hong Kong Protests?

More protests are expected and are generally targeted toward Chinese Government buildings and Hong Hong Central Government offices, but the situation is changing constantly. Keep abreast of the situation using BBC News, and by following local media on Twitter.

Here’s an essential guide to Hong Kong, in case you need one.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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53 Comments

  1. Good to know. To be honest, the Chinese government has never had any realistic commitment, wavering or otherwise, to any of the admirable ideals you mention. Instead, there are differing degrees of threats, and the threats are becoming a lot less subtle.

  2. The situation has changed rapidly since this article was published. Carrie Lam just said in a news conference an hour ago that Hong Kong is on the verge of a “very dangerous situation.” You should consider updating this article.

  3. We plan yo visit this island by end of this month with little kid ,and feel relief to read this article about city situation,so we will never cancel our trips.thanks

  4. Hong Kong is not safe due to flash mob protest and unannounced or unplanned protest. The biggest risk of meeting the protester is to absorb tear smoke. The protester will block the road and the police will clearance by letting tear smoke. Honestly I am not a protester and avoid any protest, but absorb tear smoke due to flash mob protest in 10 Aug at Tai Wai Station.

  5. Hong Kong police is uncontrolled. They overuse their power over the protesters. Shoot the press. (They are low-educated so don’t the meaning of press, but protester mostly are university students. )Never show their police identity card. (Laws state that they must show) Even passerby or residents will be caught and may in danger of being violently treated. Recently, they throw tear gas inside Kwai Fong MTR station and refuse to confess. Police refuse to let lawyers to meet some protester. One girl was being shoot and become blindness for her right eye. Please be minded that police are using tear gas which is EXPIRED! There are lots of cases and evidence showing how ridiculous of HK government and police which cannot be mentioned in few words.

  6. Protestors in HK are very violent and are brainwashed. All they want is to mess up and destroy HK, given the trust that most protestors are poor younger people who cannot afford to live in such a city, so they are protesting for the sake of protesting with no real purpose.

  7. My wife and chose to cancel (ok hopefully postpone) our 30th anniversary trip to Hong Kong….the city we honeymooned in. MAY be safe, but we were looking forward to freedom of movement throughout the city…visiting the places young/poor us could afford way back then…not just the main tourist spots. Can’t spend the time and money to feel like we needed to stay in our (this time much fancier) hotel…. IF travel from the airport isn’t disrupted. So sad what is happening at one of our favorite cities in the world. And, politics aside, interesting that the folks striving for freedom and democracy are waiving American flags while so many Americans are foolishly hoping for socialism.

  8. My girlfriend and I will travel to Hong Kong in 1 week, we are aware of the situation and at this point we will not cancel our trip. We think is an interesting time to go and listen to the people, their ideas and their way of reshaping their own future.

  9. I am from HK. Avoid visiting HK if you can is my advice. The police can act rather irrationally and they harass passers-by indiscriminately. The protestors are getting more violent in response. The MTR (mass transit system) shuts down services at short notice making traveling around the city extremely inconvenient. For example, they shut the station to Disney Park even it was all calm there. You may also be caught in road blocks, protests or even fights spoiling your trip even if you don’t get hurt.

    1. I am from Hong Kong and it is really disappointing that too many people are involved politically, many I believe are for the wrong reasons. There are the leftists and the rightists. Then there are the combination of both. I am not politically motivated nor do I care about what they represent, but I do say this. Violence does not bestow violence, and the only ones that benefit from this are the radicals. The problem with Hong Kong people is very simple. They seem to forget that 1997 has passed, and that in a nut shell “you had your chance” to leave prior that time, and up until the recent activities that has plagued Hong Kong Politically & emotionally. It is now 2019 and definitely times have changed. I have friends that have just returned from Holidays in Hong Kong and their advice is simple:
      1. If you can change your destination until things cool down in Hong Kong do so, and if you cannot then its still ok to continue with the holiday to Hong Kong with a few minor adjustments to the “getting around bit”.
      2. There are other places in Hong Kong that are not yet “politically charged” so stay in those undisturbed areas. Remember , if you get caught with the masses, you get burned with the masses so be vigilant.
      3. Do yourself a favour and DO NOT WEAR BLACK OR WHITE CLOTHING.
      4. Keep up to date with your mobile phone on movements of the protest and where the hot spots are.

  10. If you have planned a trip some time ago and you don’t want to cancel (like I did) there are tons of channels where people are writing which streets you should not go, what is happening etc. Also, HK government might start to censer even more content online, or even restrict access to the news sources. What I would suggest getting a VPN, it will help you to access facebook whats-app and some other communication channels. You always need to be reachable during these times. There are great articles explaining how a vpn works here https://vpnpro.com/vpn-basics/what-is-a-vpn/ Also there are a TON of vpns’ and vpns’ reviews that you can find online. Better be safe travelling

  11. If you are looking for a relaxing holiday, Hong Kong is not a right choice atm. MTR ( subway network) highly and likely shut down during weekend , or terminate service after 8pm weekday. Lots of Shopping malls closed during weekend . I cut short my trip there last week and spent the rest of my holiday in Seoul instead. But I had to go to Hong Kong airport 8 hours before my flight because airport line is closed after 1pm last Sunday .lol TBF l didn’t see any violence rioters in street during my 6 days break there, only came across a small group of teens holding hands and marching peacefully on one side of main road in Kowloon area. Well, several times l saw police van booed by citizen and l guess something had happened in the past protests. That’s why there’s tension between police and citizens.

  12. Is it still safe to transit via Hong Kong next month? Would it be likely that there could be disruption at the international airport again?

  13. No, Hong Kong is obviously not safe? I live here. At any time in the most tourist areas there’s nightly clashes between police and people. Tear gas and rubber bullets are both used? You make up your minds, but don’t do it from a safe distance according to what you read.

  14. No offence, but pls tell me, do protesters biting off someone’s ear, setting fire to public facilities and lobbing oil bombs towards the police considered non-violent behaviour? I for a fact am not going to take sides so I have my pros and cons of the police and protestors.

  15. I will be transiting through Hong Kong Airport early December. I will be staying a night at the hotel in airport to catch my flight next day. What is the status of the airport? is it different from the city area that we see on the news?

  16. Me and my friends will be travelling to Hong-Kong on the 28th of November. We’re all set with the hotel and itinerary so its kind of an inconvenience to do all the re-booking stuffs (tho we are down to do so if it means risking our lives). We’re having second thoughts if should we go or not. Any advise that you can give us to make up our decision? Btw, what happened to HK really saddened me as it is indeed a beautiful country.

    Thanks in advance for your reply!

      1. Hi Benjamin. I saw your reply that your going to HK on 16th-24th. My family and I are travelling in HK on 22nd.

        Please give us an update on how HK is. Hopefully you can see this message. Thank you.

        Btw, when we get there we’re planning to go to Disneyland. Will it be ok? Hehe

        God bless your trip!

    1. I just came back from HK, I’ve been there from 6 to 16 Nov 2019. For the previous 5 days, HK it’s super safe despite there are several protests near the mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei area. But start from 11 Nov when the protests are getting worse, it becomes so inconvenience in HK, so many shops that closed, even if they open, they only open until 6.30 PM, the other problems are the Tsuen Wan Line MTR (the Red Line) are totally close and following by many vital MTR stations and bus routes that closed as well. If your trip depends on MTR or Bus Service like us, I suggest you prepare your legs for a long long walk:) or you could take a taxi which is expensive in HK. The protest mostly held on Central and Mong Kok Area, so just avoid those two areas, sometimes those areas are like war zone. Just have extra caution during your trip and avoiding the crowd. I hope HK will get the resolve soon and back to their prosperity and peaceful way like before.

  17. I’m going to HK to attend the cosmoprof Asia 2019 exhibition on Thursday and Friday, what do you recommend please, is it hard to reach the area where the exhibition is located? or shall i cancel the flight to HK?

  18. I went to Hong Kong in September 2019. At that time there were no major disruptions and the protest was isolated. I just avoided going to those popular areas like Mongkok. Still managed to board ferry to Macau and took a train to Guangzhou. Then at the airport security were tight and only passengers with valid boarding pass are allowed in the airport. I personally do not think it is safe to visit Hong Kong now as the situation has escalated and became widespread. With the ongoing disruptions of the MTR stations best not to travel there. Thank you.

  19. Which part of the area will be the Cosmoprof Asia exhibition? Depends on the location it might not be easy to get around with closures of the MTR stations from time to time. Personally, for your own safety you may consider cancelling the trip. It is very scary as I just missed the protest at the mall near Kwai Fung MTR station. Something told me not to go to the mall. I stayed at Tsuen Wan hotel at Kwai Fung industrial area so Kwai Hing MTR station is nearby. If you have to go, get an Octopus card for travel. Please reconsider your trip due to the current crises. Thank you.

  20. I am a Chinese working in the US right now. Planned a trip to China mainland and have this flight arrival in HK on a Sunday morning, do you guys think it is safe ? and I can only speak mandarin.

  21. My friend & I are travelling to HK on holiday this Saturday 16th nov, not much itinerary, free & easy. We dont want to cancel our trip. Is there anything we should take note of other than staying away from protest? Are the streets relatively empty?

  22. I’m flying to HK Dec 5th and planned to go for a concert happening in the Disney land. I’m wondering if that’d be safe or not. At this point I’m ready to give up that concert but it’s a bit too late to change flights. Is it safe to get from the airport to mainland? I’m wondering if they have direction transportation that I could avoid passing by the city

    1. Disneyland it’s still amazing as usual, don’t worry (actually this is the best time to visit Disneyland due to few people that visit Disneyland at these moments). You can take the bus from Airport to Sunny Bay MTR Station at taking those cute MTR to Hong Kong Disneyland Resort

  23. Hi travelling on Nov. 29 and our hotel is at Tsim sha tsui. Do you think it is safe? Just DIY activities all booked and not on a tour.

  24. we’re set to travel on 22- 26 Nov, we booked our hotel at Tsim Sha Tsui, with the escalating violent protests, is it still possible to board for Macau instead?

  25. how safe to travel in hk on dec 27 this year,?im travelling with my two kids and two friends and we are planning to stay in disneyland for two days ,how safe it is?..so with the airport

  26. My friends in i were travel in hongkong this nov 17 to 21 and our hotel is in nathan road. All booked, even disneyland. We cannot refund everything. Any advice or tips please.

  27. Planing to go mid January for a few days before flying to Vietna,. is it likely to be worse by then? i’m mainly concern with not being able to be a ‘tourist’ there…we’re travelling from London

  28. I am posting this from Hong Kong tonight. The violence has become a lot worse in last couple days. I got caught up in it last night on Nathan Rd, corner Jordan rd but you can move away fast into safety of next few streets, you just must be prepared to move fast. I am English & the Police have been helpful guiding people away from trouble into safety of back streets. They have megaphones & will shout evacuate evacuate NOW! They have started using high pitched sirens too. When you hear this you run to safety. Most areas are peaceful during daytime. It kicks off more at night. Just keep your wits about you & you will be ok. Lamma & Lantau are still peaceful but transport in Kowloon & Central a little tricky at times. Buses will stop & ding dings too plus MTRs at very short notice. But i still feel safe & locals are going about their business as usual, markets are still running etc. Hope this helps provide a bit of information.

    1. that’s very useful, many thanks. we’re unsure what to do! there’s a little while to go, nearly 2 months before we’ll go but we’re starting booking flights…we’ll be there only for a few nights anyway

  29. Guys, I am traveling to HK in Jan 2020,1st week. I will stay in Nathan Road. I know this place is surrounded by protestors and police. Pls tell me how to stay safe at this location ?

  30. I have been here since Saturday (Nov 23, 2019) and yesterday was the first time I actually saw some riot police deployed in Tsim Sha Tsui. It was around 8:30pm but we were already heading home so don’t know if there was any trouble after that or not.

    We have been roaming freely without any concern all over the place during the day and early evenings and by 9pm we are mostly back to the hotel a few blocks away from Mong Kok, (our hotel is next to the MOKO mall). (It is not because of any fear of riot but because we are just too exhausted by that time). So from our perspective there might be some rioting and crowd trouble going on but we haven’t encountered it.

    I can’t comment on whether Hong Kong’s night life has been affected or not as this is my first trip here but even if there were no riots we probably wouldn’t be able to comment as night life is not our thing. So if you are like us then things are pretty smooth, we only encountered bus route disruption (buses were not running) from Hong Kong island to Kowloon district so we had to take the ferry back to Tsim Sha Sui and then get on a bus to hotel from there.

    Overall, this has been an excellent trip for us and the kids have been begging us to give them some relief from all the roaming around. Maybe things might start to go bad starting tonight (Friday) and if that happens then I will report back.

  31. Hi
    Me and my husband er going to HK 28th of December and we are there for New Years Eve. Any ideas what this evening will look like? Anything to do at night? We are staying close to Sheung Wan. Is this area safe? We planned our trip long time before the political situation changed dramatically and now we are not sure anymore if we should go or not.

  32. hi. me and my wife will be going to hk on feb. 19-22, 2020. we will be staying in the cityview hotel in yau ma tei. is this area safe? thank you.

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