Frankly, you'd be mad to rent a car on Hong Kong Island or in Kowloon. Traffic jams, hard-to-navigate streets, and next to no parking make driving here severely stress inducing. What’s more, gasoline costs up to twice what it does in the United States. So why bother, when public transportation is excellent and taxis are inexpensive?
If you must have your own wheels, consider hiring a driver. Most top-end hotels can arrange this; the Peninsula in Kowloon and the Island Shangri-La even have their own fleets of chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royces and Mercedes available for hourly hire. Avis can also provide chauffeur services along with car rentals.
If you're determined to drive yourself, your driver's license must be valid in Hong Kong for up to a year if you're 18 to 70 years old (those over 70 must pass a physical examination before driving). You'll need an International Driver's Permit (HK$80) for stays up to 12 months. Check the AAA and Hong Kong Transport Department websites for more info.
The cheapest option for car rentals is Hawk Rent-a-Car, which has lots of models and prices; there are special rates for weekends and longer-term rentals. Rental rates begin at HK$480 per day and HK$2,550 per week for an economy car with air-conditioning, automatic transmission, and unlimited mileage. Parklane Limousine has a fleet of more than 100 Mercedes-Benzes with hourly rates for chauffeur services.
Hawk Rent-a-Car. 2516–9822; www.hawkrentacar.com.hk.
There's next to no on-street parking in Hong Kong, and the extremely vigilant traffic police hand out copious parking tickets. If you luck out and find a metered space, you'll have to use an Octopus Card to pay.
Most drivers take advantage of parking garages, which cost up to HK$22 per hour in prime locations. However, some mall garages will subsidize parking if you make purchases at their shops or eat in one of their restaurants. Be sure to have the receipt validated by the staff before leaving.
Rules of the Road
Driving is on the left-hand side of the road in Hong Kong. Wearing a seat belt is mandatory in the front and back of private cars, and the standard speed limit is 50 kph (30 mph) unless signs state otherwise. The police spend a lot of time setting up speed traps and giving out juicy fines. Using handheld cell phones while driving is forbidden. You can't make a right turn on a red light, and you should scrupulously obey lane markings regarding turns.
Drunk driving is taken very seriously: the legal limit is 50 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood (or 22 micrograms of alcohol per 100 ml of breath), and there are penalties of up to HK$25,000 and three years in prison for those who disobey. You can get highly detailed information on Hong Kong's road rules on the Transport Department's website.
Hong Kong Government Transport Department. 2804–2600; www.td.gov.hk.