Must-do things when you arrive in Hong Kong as a student

Get an Octopus card

The Octopus card system encompasses not only all of the public transport network (trains, buses, trams, and ferries) but can also be used at parking meters, vending machines, in supermarkets and in fast food chains. So, it is necessary to get one once you arrive in Hong Kong. You can only get an adult Octopus card before the start of the MTR Student Travel Scheme which would be notified by your relevant universities. You can get an Octopus Card from its stand in the Hong Kong Airport or within the city, and any customer service desk within any MTR station would do the job. No document should be needed for the adult Octopus card.

Sometime after the start of the school, you will get an email from your university about MTR Student Travel Scheme, so pay attention to your mailbox. Follow the procedure described in the email to get a student Octopus card.

Get a SIM card

One of the very firsts you need to do in a foreign country is to get a new SIM card, so that you would not waste time looking for free Wi-Fi or asking the people for places and directions while getting around the city, well unless you are a really social person.

Now, before you go on to purchasing the SIM card, you need to understand your needs for calls and mobile data in order to get the best deal for you. So, I suggest you to a little bit of research on the following mobile operators listed below to find the tariff or mobile plan that suits you most. Main mobile operators in Hong Kong are:

  • China Mobile (China Telecom)
  • CSL (Telstra)
  • New World Mobility (Telstra)
  • 3 (Hutchison Whampoa)
  • SmarTone-Vodafone (Vodafone)
  • PCCW Mobile (PCCW)

From what I have seen so far in my social circle, China Mobile and SmarTone are the most common ones. Mind you, there are several subsidiary mobile operators under these such as Birdie and whatnots. So, take your time and ask your friends for advice if you are not certain.

Prepaid cards

Prepaid SIM cards are available everywhere. You may find it easily in convenience stores such as 7-Eleven, Circle-K, and etc. These cards are not registered, so be aware that cards are normally only valid for 180 days after the last recharge. After this period the card expires with no refund available and you lose the number. But, as long as you keep recharging your card before the expiry date, you should be fine. But, if you want to get a mobile plan, then usually you would have to go to mobile operator branches and sign the contract.

Get a Hong Kong ID Card

“Anyone who is legally entitled to stay in Hong Kong for more than 180 days needs to apply for a Hong Kong Identity Card within 30 days of arrival – those not staying that long are ineligible, however. You need to carry this ID card with you at all times. If you lose it you pay a hefty replacement fee.” This is an excerpt from Immigration Department policy, so students who would definitely be staying for more than 180 days need to apply for a Hong Kong Identity Card and do so within a month of their arrivals. The “How to apply” procedure is described below and there should no problems given you follow it step-by-step. Be reminded to check with the Immigration Department’s website for there might be changes in the policy under different circumstances.

To register for a card, you can make an appointment by phone on 2598 0888 or via the website You can also go in person at one of the five ‘Registration of Persons’ offices and join the queue to wait for as long as it takes. If you decide to visit one of the offices without an appointment, make sure you arrive early. Each office has a daily quota of people they will see and they could reach this before you are seen. The whole process may take an hour; all you need to take is your passport with a valid visa. 

You do not have to pay a fee for your ID card (unless it is a replacement for a lost original). Once you have completed the forms, have been photographed and fingerprinted, you are issued a temporary identity receipt and a date on which the final card can be collected.

The Hong Kong ID card is valid for as long as you are a resident in Hong Kong, and you should carry it with you when you go out. If you lose your card or it gets damaged, the replacement fee is HK$395.

Written by: Myrat

A 3rd-year Computer Science student at The Chinese University of Hong Kong

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