Safety and security
Hong Kong is generally a stable society underpinned by the rule of law. However, in recent months large-scale political demonstrations have taken place throughout Hong Kong. Protests have affected many areas, including those popular with tourists. While a number of peaceful activities have taken place, many other protests have led to clashes between police and protesters involving significant violence. Protests are likely to continue.
The situation around protests and public gatherings can change quickly, with the potential for violence, especially during unauthorised protests. Unauthorised protests have been met by a more rapid and severe police response, including heavy use of tear gas, bean bag rounds and “sponge grenades”, and rubber bullets. Police have also deployed water cannon and, very occasionally, live rounds have also been deployed, predominantly as a warning. Protests can deviate from planned routes or rally locations and spill over into nearby public spaces, such as shopping centres, housing estates and public transport hubs. If you are in and around areas where demonstrations are, you should remain vigilant, follow the advice of local authorities and move away quickly to a safe place if there are signs of disorder.
Demonstrations may lead to sections of the city being closed off and road blocks being set up. During recent protests, local buses, metro (MTR), Airport Express services and the Hong Kong Macao Ferry Terminal have temporarily suspended operations without warning. Violent protests have also taken place inside or near MTR stations. You should remain vigilant at all times and check live service updates on the MTR website.
Protests and violent clashes at Hong Kong International Airport have previously resulted in mass cancellations of flights in and out of Hong Kong. Further disruption is possible if protests return to the airport or its transport links. If you’re due to travel, check your flight status regularly, keep up to date with the latest developments via local media and consider allowing extra time to travel to the airport and complete check-in procedures.
The level of violent crime is very low but pick pocketing and other street crime can occur. You should take extra care of passports, credit cards and money in crowded areas and when checking in and out of hotels. There have been some isolated incidents of robberies in Hong Kong’s Country Parks; these incidents have been reduced following a crime prevention operation by the Hong Kong Police. Nevertheless, if you intend to hike in Hong Kong’s Country Parks you should stick to marked trails and avoid carrying valuables.
Personal attacks, including sexual assaults, are rare but they do occur, including through drinks being spiked. You should take reasonable precautions - don’t leave drinks unattended and avoid accepting drinks from strangers. Women, travelling alone or with female friends, could be at greater risk - see our advice for women travelling abroad.
On 20 July, Hong Kong police announced that they had seized a quantity of explosives and offensive weapons in the New Territories and that they were still investigating the motive.
If you’re a visitor to Hong Kong, and not taking up residence, you can drive in Hong Kong with a valid UK driving licence for up to 12 months.
If you’re planning on taking up residence in Hong Kong, please visit the Hong Kong SAR Transport Department website for more information on applying for a full or temporary driving licence.
If you’re planning to hire a car, check with your car hire company for information on their requirements before you travel. Ongoing protest activity could affect certain road routes across Hong Kong, including the cross-harbour tunnel and other major bridges and toll plazas. In recent months, protesters have erected blockades throughout the city in areas where protests are taking place.