Choosing a place to live in Hong Kong, a city with the highest property prices in the world, can be a truly daunting affair. Your choice of where to live is dominated by several factors, namely your budget, the living space you need to have, the school district (especially if you are going to elect a school that belongs to the English School Foundation’s network of schools) and the time to commute to work for you or your spouse.
The majority of expatriates choose to live on Hong Kong Island rather than in Kowloon simply because it is the business and entertainment hub of the city and they like to be within close proximity of “where all the action is,” so to speak. Moreover, there is also a certain prestige value attached to living on Hong Kong Island. In fact, some expatriates who live on the Island don’t even like to venture out to areas in Kowloon or the New Territories (which many seasoned expats refer to as “The Dark Side”). These expatriates generally tend to choose the many high-rises of the Mid-Levels for their homes in Hong Kong. The more affluent amongst them tend to migrate to the hallowed environs of “The Peak,” as the residential area of Victoria Peak is commonly known.
Other expatriates who want to avoid the pollution in the city center and who genuinely enjoy being around nature and the outdoors have a wide choice of options. Many choose to live in more verdant and scenic areas of Hong Kong like Pok Fu Lam, Sai Kung, Clear Water Bay, Discovery Bay, the Tai Tam Reservoir area and other areas on the south side of the island like Stanley, Repulse Bay and Deep Water Bay. Many of these areas lack the easy transport links that the city center has, but they offer other advantages like larger living spaces and an enhanced quality of life. As far as price differentials are concerned, some of the homes on the south side of the island are as, if not more, expensive than those in the Mid-Levels.
Since rental leases in Hong Kong are generally signed for two-year periods, your choice of an area should be given careful consideration. Once you sign on the dotted line, you are stuck in that dwelling for at least a year, as a lease agreement in Hong Kong can only be broken after the first 12 or 14 months have been completed.
The “Areas to Live in” section of this guide carries a detailed profile of the various neighborhoods of Hong Kong which are normally favored by expatriates who are posted to Hong Kong.