Retire in Hong Kong

admin August 19, 2012 0

As one of Asia’s most vibrant and exciting cities, Hong Kong has been attracting travelers and expatriates for decades. A significant global financial center and one of the world’s top cities for entertainment and culture, Hong Kong offers a unique mix of urban development and beautiful nature that makes it one of the world’s most varied and interesting cities.

Formerly managed by the United Kingdom and now a special territory off of China’s eastern coast, Hong Kong is a developed first-world city offering a wide range of different benefits. From its ‘big business’ reputation to its fantastic food and entertainment options, Hong Kong is a popular city for retirees largely due to the lifestyle that its residents can enjoy.

Despite this, retiring to Hong Kong can be a complex and potentially expensive process. With one of the world’s most expensive housing markets, a distinct lack of space in its urban centers, and an eclectic, fast-paced lifestyle, Hong Kong can be both a great place for certain people to retire to, or a stressful disaster for those unaccustomed to the local lifestyle and financial requirements.

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Hong Kong is one of the world’s financial centers, and as such is a fantastic place for retirees that need strong financial security and a wide range of banking options. With Bank of China and HSBC found on virtually every street corner, carrying out personal and business banking in Hong Kong is a remarkably simple process.

Likewise, Hong Kong’s business friendly environment and lack of taxation makes it one of the easiest places in the world to bank as an expatriate. International bank accounts are available to Hong Kong residents and non-residents alike, allowing for retirees to quickly and easily transfer their savings to and from Hong Kong without bureaucratic issues or costly exit taxes.

Hong Kong’s status as a major international business center also gives it financial credibility that goes beyond that of Mainland China or other nearby countries, particularly for those engaged in business overseas. A Hong Kong bank account or Hong Kong address provides prestige and an image of reliability, leading to fewer tax-related issues, particularly for United States citizens.

Medical care is widely available in Hong Kong and is relatively inexpensive, particularly for those used to the expensive care of the United States or much of Western Europe. Insurance policies can be purchased from both domestic insurers and international companies, giving expatriates the peace of mind that’s essential for covering themselves from the cost of private medical care.

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Hong Kong’s food and entertainment scene is legendary, attracting a great deal of praise from the city’s many tourists and expatriates, as well as passionate discussion from locals. Chinese food is inexpensive and readily available, often from small roadside hawkers and tiny family-owned food outlets. Likewise, food from other Asian countries is available throughout most of the city.

Due to the city’s large international community, with expatriates from North America, Europe, Oceania, and even North Africa residing in Hong Kong, international food is widely available, cheap, and delicious. From the authentic curry houses of Tsim Sha Tsui to the costly fine dining restaurants in Central, Hong Kong offers a wide variety of bars, restaurants, and cafes.

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One of the biggest issues for Hong Kong residents – both expatriates and locals alike – is housing, and finding reliable and affordable accommodation. Hong Kong is home to some of the world’s most expensive real estate, with a small studio apartment often selling for more than a large estate in the Chinese mainland. As such, finding housing can be a stressful and difficult experience.

Housing in Hong Kong can be found in one of three places: Hong Kong Island itself, the peninsula area of Kowloon, and the further afield neighborhoods in the New Territories. The further you stay from Hong Kong Island, the lower prices tend to be. Much of Kowloon is affordable and connected to public transportation, making it a good option for non-working retirees in Hong Kong.

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The New Territories, on the other hand, is located further from the city center than most of the inner neighborhoods of Kowloon, making it a preferable housing area for those seeking peace and quiet – in Hong Kong terms, of course. Housing prices here are low and residences are roomier than those found on the island, making it the city’s most affordable central housing area.

As a general guideline, a small apartment – typically a studio or one-bedroom residence – will rarely cost less than $10,000HKD per month, especially in Hong Kong Island or the areas of Kowloon close to the harbour. Higher-end accommodation, particularly in areas like Central or Causeway Bay, can cost upwards of $20,000HKD per month for a simple two-bedroom apartment.

Public transportation in Hong Kong is extremely reliable and surprisingly inexpensive, with short trips on the MTR network rarely costing more than a few dollars. Several train lines connect all of Hong Kong’s major neighborhoods, making housing outside the central areas of Kowloon or Hong Kong Island surprisingly convenient and rarely more than a thirty-minute ride from anywhere.

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Numerous ferries also service Hong Kong’s seafront neighborhoods, crossing over the Victoria Harbour between Tsim Sha Tsui and Hong Kong Island. Other ferries, most of which are aimed towards remote neighborhoods and many of Hong Kong’s smaller islands, make getting around Hong Kong’s ‘outer areas’ simple, quick, and inexpensive.

Despite its reputation as an urban jungle, Hong Kong is a surprisingly undeveloped area. While the skyscrapers of Wan Chai and frantic urban pace of Tsim Sha Tsui make the city seem like a stressful and overly developed destination, Hong Kong is actually home to hundreds of small beaches, bays, and mountains, each offering a look at some of China’s most impressive natural surroundings.

As such, the city is a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts and sports fans, particularly those that require immediate access to beautiful nature. From the central areas of Hong Kong, getting to some of China’s most impressive beaches is rarely more than a two-hour process. For those that live out of the city itself, getting to beaches and mountains can take as little as five or ten minutes.

Due to its relatively central location in Asia, Hong Kong is also a major air hub, particularly for any flights destined for Southeast Asia, North America, and even much of Europe. Flights to and from the city are inexpensive and frequently available, making it one of the world’s easiest cities to get to, and one of the world’s easiest destinations to fly out of.

As such, Hong Kong expatriates will find themselves with a great deal of freedom when it comes to exploring nearby countries, particularly those in East Asia. Connections with tourist hotspots such as Macau are available by private boat and helicopter, while inexpensive and frequent flights make destinations like Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan easily accessible and affordable.

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