Purchasing a Car
Although the costs of owning and operating a car in Hong Kong are very high, the number of private cars keeps increasing.
Driving is on the left side of the road, so if you bring your car to Hong Kong, make sure it has been converted to right-hand drive. Visitors in possession of a valid driver’s license from the US or an international driver’s license may drive in Hong Kong for up to one year. The same holds true for British citizens. If you plan to stay in Hong Kong for more than one year, you must obtain a Hong Kong license at the outset.
If you decide to purchase a car after arriving in Hong Kong, prepare to be spoiled for choice. Well-known car makers such as Mercedes-Benz, Tesla and Toyota have their own dealerships in prime locations around the city, but for a more comprehensive (and slightly cheaper) browsing experience it is better to head to a general dealership or “auto mall.”
Fees, Taxes and Insurance
Upon purchase of a car in Hong Kong you will be charged a First Registration Tax (FRT) based on the taxable value of the car. Those bringing cars in from overseas are also subject to this tax. In order to promote electric vehicles in Hong Kong, the government offers an FRT waiver to owners of electric vehicles.
An annual license fee is charged based on engine size, and whether it is gasoline or diesel powered. For gasoline-operated private cars this fee also includes a Traffic Accident Victims Assistance Scheme (TAVAS) tariff. More information is available on the Hong Kong Transport Department website.
Car owners in Hong Kong are required to carry third-party risk insurance.
For the car owner who values individuality, the Hong Kong government auctions special number plates. You can search online for the availability of a personalized vehicle registration mark (PVRM) and submit an application to bid for it via auction.
Car parking facilities in Hong Kong are expensive and limited.
A parking space isn’t guaranteed to be included in an apartment lease, so ask this question in advance if you plan to keep a car. Due to their scarcity, renting a car park space can be very expensive. Some spaces are available for purchase at prices equivalent to that of a small apartment.
Parking is available at all major malls, and often the mall management or individual merchants will offer a few hours of free parking with purchases at their stores or for dining at their restaurants.
There are Transport Department multistory car parks, managed by private contractors throughout Hong Kong. The addresses of all public-use car parks in Hong Kong are provided on the Transport Department website. The HK Parking (HKMeter) app, which shows all the street parking meters in Hong Kong, can also be useful for drivers.
Wilson Parking operates and manages many stand-alone parking spaces in buildings and lots all over Hong Kong.
Ban Against Idling of Motor Vehicle Engines
A law is in effect making failure to turn off an engine after three minutes at a standstill an offense. Violators face a penalty of HK$320.
It is a criminal offense to drive under the influence of alcohol in Hong Kong.
The police have the authority to ask a driver to take a screening breath test if he or she is involved in an accident, has committed a moving-traffic offense or is suspected to be drink-driving. The current alcohol limits are set as follows:
- 22 micrograms of alcohol per 100ml of breath; or
- 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100ml of blood; or
- 67 milligrams of alcohol per 100ml of urine.
Upon conviction, the offender is liable for the following penalties:
- Maximum fine of HK$25,000 and imprisonment for three years
- Disqualification from driving for not less than six months on first conviction and not less than two years on second or subsequent conviction
- 10 driving offense points incurred
- The driver will also have to attend a mandatory driving improvement course.
The same penalty applies for failing to provide specimens for breath, blood or urine without reasonable excuse.
Road and Cross-Harbor Tunnels
There are user fees for various road and cross-harbor tunnels in Hong Kong; amounts vary depending on vehicle type.
Of the three cross-harbor tunnels, the Cross-Harbour Tunnel is the cheapest but also the most congested at all times of the day. If you’re in a hurry, it is usually best to take the newer and less busy Western Harbour Tunnel, but be prepared to pay a much higher fee for the convenience. Toll rates of all the tunnels are provided on the Transport Department website.
Hong Kong seems like an unlikely place to get around on two wheels, but avid bikers enjoy the benefits of environmental friendliness while staying fit and healthy.
Though not legally enforced, it is recommended that cyclists wear a helmet, especially in areas with high traffic. Parking sites and recreational cycling tracks can be found all over the New Territories, Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Bikes are available for hire all over the SAR, although there is no city-wide bike sharing system analogous to New York’s Citi Bike or Paris’s Vélib’.
Visit Explore > Sports and Recreation > Sports in Hong Kong > Cycling for information about the sport of cycling.