10 Hong Kong Disneyland Tips For First Timers

The smallest Disney resort in the world, Hong Kong Disneyland (HKD) doesn't let its petite size get in the way of a full day of fun. Although you could easily do this entire park in a day and not miss anything, we highly recommend devoting a little more time to the resort. There's no such thing as too much Disney fun, right? Influenced by the Chinese art of feng shui, the park is also laid out beautifully and easily accessible from Hong Kong proper.

The layout and relatively small size make HKD arguably the most straightforward Disney Park to navigate. Even on busy days, it has a better flow than the elbow-to-elbow traffic around some other parks worldwide. An adorable park, HKD will charm you with its simple beauty and difficult-to-resist merchandise. As with any new place, even one as little as HKD, there are a few things you should know before heading out to Lantau Island, where the park is located.

Get the PhotoPass

Even if you aren't typically a character-meeting kind of Disney guest, investing in the PhotoPass option at HKD is a good idea. This park is so easy to manage that you'll have a ton of time free for finding characters and saying hello. Plus, the PhotoPass program means you don't have to worry as much about having a fully charged phone at all times.

PhotoPass+ at HKD is about half the price it is at Walt Disney World. Granted, HKD is significantly smaller, but it's worth noting that the price difference is significant. Of course, the cast members will also take photos with your phone or camera if you prefer, though you'll miss out on some of the magical moments that are only available through the PhotoPass program. Plus, the cameras cast members use are frequently better than what guests may bring, even when compared to advanced smartphone cameras.

Queue early for the big rides

Each Disney park worldwide has unique elements that inspire visitors from all over the world. Since these attractions are often one-of-a-kind, they can attract huge lines throughout the day. So, your best bet (unless you purchase skip-the-line passes) is to head to these most popular rides immediately.

For HKD, that means ultra-creative rides like Mystic Manor. Ghosts and spirits play a different role in Chinese culture than how they are depicted in the Western world. According to PEN America, China does not embrace ghost movies, making ghost stories more complicated for places like Disney Parks to represent in a ride. HKD's Mystic Manor is a different take on the original Haunted Mansion ride. Instead of being accompanied by hitchhiking ghosts, the ride takes visitors on a tour of an explorer's mansion whose objects come to life, almost like magic.

You may be surprised that the wait times for rides often don't get as excessive as they do at Walt Disney World. Even on the busiest days, you may not have to wait an hour for even the most popular ride at HKD. Some of the other unique rides you'll find here include Hyperspace Mountain, Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway, Toy Soldier Parachute Drop, and RC Racer. Still, you want to avoid spending your day in line, so it's best to queue early if possible. Plus, you could always ride things twice!

Be aware of public holidays

Given its petite size and scenic location on Lantau Island, a busy day at HKD may seem even busier than other parks you may have visited worldwide. So, avoiding public holidays and school vacation periods is best to enjoy your time at HKD more fully. Golden Week is one example, a week-long holiday that takes place from late April to early May and is one of the busiest times at HKD.

School schedules also predict the crowds at the park. If you want the absolute lowest crowds at the park, plan your visit between October and April. These are the most temperate months of the year, and HKD is dressed up in decorations for holidays like Halloween and Christmas. Visiting during these periods means you can enjoy the visuals of those thematic holidays, although you might want to avoid visiting the parks on October 31 or December 25 themselves, as they can be extremely busy.

Weekends are also among the busier times at the park. Should your visit allow it, try to organize your park days for weekdays and save the weekends for other activities around Hong Kong.

Don't miss the fireworks

It can be exhausting to explore a park from the moment the doors open until the close of the day, even at a resort as small as HKD. Even so, you don't want to miss the celebratory fireworks at the end of the day. As with the rides, shows, and food, each international park has unique nighttime spectaculars. Collecting memories of these shows at each park is one of the best parts of visiting all of them. These also change periodically, so if you haven't been to HKD in a while, you may have a brand-new spectacular to see!

For example, the nighttime spectacular "Momentous" uses water effects, projections, and fireworks to tell various Disney stories. Like all Disney Park fireworks shows, HKD also has its own unique soundtrack. The momentous display (get it?) is highlighted by a song called "Love the Memory," a tune that encourages every guest to embrace living in the moment.

Be prepared for subtropical weather

One may not think of subtropics when considering China, but Hong Kong is technically a subtropical island. That means relatively lovely weather year-round, with a ton of humidity in the summer. Prepare for HKD the way you would for a sweltering visit to Walt Disney World in Florida if you visit during the high tourist season. Bring your handheld fans, cooling towels, or whatever else keeps you cool when traveling in hot weather.

Remember to bring your refillable water bottle to stay hydrated during your visit to HKD. The tap water in Hong Kong is drinkable, meaning the water at HKD is also safe to drink. Filling stations for water bottles can be found outside most bathrooms around the park.

If you're sensitive to the taste of unfamiliar tap water, bring flavor packets along to mask the taste. Electrolyte packets are best for staying fully hydrated even at the height of Hong Kong's summer.

Stay on property

While you can easily access HKD via public transportation and save some money by staying somewhere else in the city, the three hotels at the resort itself are wildly different from one another. The Victorian Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel is stunning, Disney's Hollywood Hotel is reminiscent of the Golden Age of Hollywood, and the Disney Explorer's Lodge is good-hearted fun for all the family.

Each of the hotels can get you to the park in next to no time each day, though the accommodations themselves are an experience all in their own right. Explorer's Lodge, for example, is similar to the style of Animal Kingdom Lodge at Walt Disney World. Its position along the water makes for gorgeous views day and night, while the food service locations have all the adorable snacks you'd expect, with that unique Disney flair. Plus, the pool area offers relaxing fun after a long day.

If you're doing a full day, leave a tiny bit early

If you are spending a full day at HKD and aren't interested in the final shows of the night, try to leave the parks 20-30 minutes before closing. This is particularly important if you want to get off the property and back to the city or another hotel. 

The trip back to downtown Hong Kong takes about 30-40 minutes on public transportation. That isn't too terrible, though it will be much more comfortable if you aren't packed in a train like sardines. You can also get back to the main area of Hong Kong in about 15-20 minutes by car, too, if you'd rather avoid dealing with crowded public transportation. That is depending on traffic, of course.

If you aren't leaving early, consider staying near the back of the crowd as the park is closing. Take your time getting to the front to avoid the worst of the crowding. It will take a bit longer to catch a hotel shuttle or get out to the train stop, but it will be much less hectic.

Get discount tickets

It's not typical for international Disney Parks to have discount ticket options. However, there are often opportunities to save a little money on your time at HKD through reputable ticketing partners like Klook. Sometimes, the resort also offers discount tickets with hotel booking packages, so keep an eye out for those offers, which usually come up two to three months in advance.

Also, keep in mind that HKD tickets are less expensive than tickets for any of the United States-based parks. It isn't quite as reasonable as Tokyo Disney Resort, but it is still a tremendously affordable experience for all the family.

Besides the ticket discounts, you can sometimes find hotel and food vouchers and Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique discounts if you check around well in advance of your trip. Every park is going to have its own set of available deals. Even if you are a seasoned Disney Parks visitor, it's wise to look up these savings opportunities every time you go, especially to a park outside the United States.

The parks open a little later

This news may relieve rope droppers who are used to opening times at Disney Resorts in the U.S.; HKD opens a bit later. Generally, the park opens either at 10 a.m. or 10:30 a.m. So, while rope dropping is still the best way to get on the rides without a long wait, you won't have to wake up at the crack of dawn to make it happen. That gives you plenty of time to rest after a long day of park adventures or some morning time to enjoy your hotel.

Not having to wake up so early will also make public transportation more comfortable if you are staying off-property. You'll avoid the morning rush of folks heading to work, which is ideal when you're trying to relax on a much-needed vacation. Sometimes, holidays or special events will change the operating hours, so be sure to check your Hong Kong Disneyland app or the official website before making your plans for the day.

Learn from the culture around you

Despite being part of China, Hong Kong's culture differs signifcantly from its mainland counterpart. That can arguably be attributed to 156 years of British rule. Hong Kong is arguably more Westernized than much of mainland China, so visitors should feel very comfortable in this park, even if there are language barriers. Most signage, services, or written materials at HKD are in Cantonese, Mandarin, and English.

Addressing the cultural differences was pivotal when HKD was under construction. In 2004, Disney President and COO Robert Iger told the New York Times that Disney was working with experts to ensure that the park reflected local cuisine and music to ensure it would honor the place it called home. "We know if we're too U.S.-centric, the products won't be too relevant to those markets," Iger told the NYT. "That's particularly true as it relates to Hong Kong Disneyland." As a means to make HKD more relevant to local culture, you'll notice an incredible mingling of Eastern and Western cultures. From the feng shui of the park itself to the food, HKD is a fun-filled way to get introduced to the fascinating mixture of cultures in Hong Kong.