The Differences Between Hong Kong and Mainland China

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The Differences Between Hong Kong and Mainland China

Hong Kong is one of China’s Special Administrative Regions, with significant cultural and social differences from the mainland that visitors should be aware of before arriving.

Cantonese and Mandarin

Standard Chinese is Mandarin, based on the Beijing dialect. It became the national language in 1955 and is used throughout schools on the mainland. In contrast, Hong Kong’s official languages include English and Cantonese. Although using the same script, Cantonese speakers and Mandarin speakers do not understand each other.

Writing System

Mainland Chinese use Simplified Chinese characters, while Hong Kong uses Traditional Chinese characters. Simplified Chinese, an innovation from the 1950s aimed at eradicating illiteracy, is based on Traditional Chinese but simplifies many characters to facilitate learning.

For travelers using translation apps like Google Translate during their visit to China, it’s important to select the appropriate script, Simplified or Traditional, according to the destination.

English Usage

English-speaking visitors will find it easy to navigate Hong Kong. Directional signs, official documents, administrative services, and most restaurant menus and websites are bilingual. Local schools also maintain an English-based instruction system. Conversely, it can be challenging to find fluent English speakers in mainland China for daily communication. Long-term foreign residents should consider learning some basic Mandarin.

Internet Access

Weibo and WeChat are indispensable social networks in China, operating under a unique internet system. The “Great Firewall” completely blocks access to Google and Facebook, so visitors need to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to access these platforms, although VPNs are also being restricted.

In Hong Kong, internet access is straightforward without the need for a VPN. Platforms like Facebook, Gmail, Instagram, and Snapchat are widely used.


Hong Kong drives on the left, inheriting this traffic system from Britain, whereas mainland China drives on the right. However, visitors are advised not to attempt driving in China due to differing traffic rules.

Visa Requirements

To visit Hong Kong, you need a Hong Kong visa, not a Chinese one, although applications are still processed at Chinese embassies or consulates. The visa fee for Hong Kong is 55 USD per person, valid for 30 days from the date of issue, with a maximum stay of 7 days.

For Vietnamese citizens, a single-entry visa to China costs 60 USD; a double-entry visa costs 90 USD; a multiple-entry visa for six months costs 120 USD; and for twelve months, 180 USD.


The currency in Hong Kong is the Hong Kong Dollar (HKD), while the Renminbi (CNY) is used in mainland China. The HKD is pegged to the US Dollar (USD), unlike the Renminbi. Therefore, travelers moving between these two destinations should prepare separate cash currencies.

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