Here I go again, doubling up on my duties at work with my blog by posting some info I learned about phones in Hong Kong. “Phones?!” you exclaim — well, yes, I know it seems that we might all have a handle on this basic communications tool, but indeed, even I learned a few things for the first time I just never had to think about before, so once again, I share my memo:
Calling Hong Kong
The international country code for Hong Kong is 852. Therefore, to call Hong Kong from another country, you first dial the international access code (e.g., 011 from the U.S.; 00 from the U.K., Ireland, or New Zealand; or 0011 from Australia), followed by Hong Kong’s country code, 852, and then the number you are trying to reach in Hong Kong (there is no city code for Hong Kong).
Domestic Calls in Hong Kong
In Hong Kong local landline calls (landline to landline only) are free. Hong Kong Airport has a number of complimentary phones; ask at information for the nearest handset.
Many public offices, such as libraries and museums, will have a complimentary phone for visitors. Almost all shopping malls and large skyscraper office buildings also have a complimentary phone either in front of reception or at reception. In addition, some major shops will have phones for use by customers, including many 7-Elevens. Don’t be shy about asking to use such phones; locals freely use the phones for short local landline calls.
Though limited, there are also public payphones that accept HK$1, HK$2, HK$5, and HK$10 coins. Charges are posted on the phones.
International Calls in Hong Kong
To make international calls from Hong Kong, first dial 00 and then the country code (U.S. or Canada 1, U.K. 44, Ireland 353, Australia 61, New Zealand 64). Next dial the area code and number.
Long distance calls can be made from specially marked International Dialing Direct (IDD) public phones. The most convenient method of making international calls is to use an Octopus card. Alternatively, a PCCW Hello PhoneCard, which comes in denominations ranging from HK$50 to HK$500, is available at PCCW shops, 7-Eleven and Circle K convenience stores, machines located beside telephones, and other locations around Hong Kong. To use it, you have to key in an access number and then the PhoneCard number. You can also charge your telephone call to a major credit card by using one of about 100 credit card phones in major shopping locations.
For numbers in Hong Kong, dial 1081; 10013 for numbers to all other countries. Directory assistance in Cantonese is also available at 1983.
The weather forecast is also available in English at 18501 (18503 in Cantonese). This is particularly useful since weather signals (typhoon and rain storm) may impact availability of services and transportation.
To make a collect call from any public or private phone in Hong Kong, dial 10010.
To make a collect call to Hong Kong from abroad, the caller may need to seek assistance from his local operator to place the call.
Numbers beginning with 800 within Hong Kong are toll-free. However, calling a toll-free number in a foreign country from Hong Kong is not free but rather costs the same as an overseas call.
It may be possible to set up a toll-free line with our telephone provider (e.g., HSBC Premier offers a collect number with an 852 area code).
GSM (Global System for Mobiles), a big seamless network that makes for easy cross-border cellphone use throughout Europe and dozens of other countries worldwide, is available for usage in Hong Kong. In the U.S., T-Mobile, AT&T Wireless, and Cingular use this quasi-universal system; in Canada, Microcell and some Rogers customers are GSM, and all Europeans and most Australians use GSM.
Using your own mobile phone in Hong Kong is easy, as most of the telephone systems used around the world (such as GSM 900, PCS 1800, and CDMA) are operational in Hong Kong. If your cellphone is on a GSM system, and you have a world-capable multiband phone, you can make and receive calls in Hong Kong. Mobile operators in Hong Kong have roaming agreements with most overseas operators, enabling visitors to use their own phones in Hong Kong. Just call your wireless operator and ask for “international roaming” to be activated on your account. Unfortunately, per-minute charges can be high, so be sure to ask about pricing before you leave.
It is more economical to buy a removable computer memory phone chip (called a SIM card), which allows you to make calls at local rates. Cheap, pre-paid SIM cards are sold at retailers throughout Hong Kong. CSL is a well-known local company (also the network our Blackberries are on) that offers a variety of phone services, including a pre-paid SIM card (tel. 852/275 10000; http://prepaid.hkcsl.com) that costs as low as HK$88 (US$11/£5.50), with local calls costing HK9¢ (US1¢/5p) a minute and international calls to 30 destinations (including the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, and New Zealand) costing HK16¢ (US2¢/1p) a minute. It is sold at 1010 Centres throughout Hong Kong, including Century Square, 1-13 D’Aguilar St., Central (tel. 852/2918 1010), and Hong Kong Centre, 122-126 Canton Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui (tel. 852/2910 1010), as well as 7-Eleven convenience stores. Other brands are 3, PCCW, Peoples, and Vodafone/SmarTone).
Alternatively, if your phone allows, upon arrival in Hong Kong you can also select the CSL network manually from your handset menu, which will be displayed as HKCSL, CSL, or C&W HKT depending on your handset model. From there you can follow instructions for connection.
Renting a mobile phone is also an option. Most upper- and medium-range hotels offer rental phones at their business centers, though it is an expensive convenience (the more expensive the hotel, the more expensive the rental). A better option is to rent from a local company. CSL (tel. 852/2883 3938; http://roam.hkcsl.com/eng/rent/rent.htm) offers phones for HK$35 (US$4.55/£2.30) a day, plus a refundable deposit of HK$200 to HK$500 (US$26-US$65/£13-£32), depending on the model. In addition, you must still buy a SIM card as outlined above.
Buying a mobile phone locally is also not difficult, and there are many choices starting at about HK$ 380 at Fortress and Broadway, which are large electronics chain stores in Hong Kong.
999 is the emergency dial for Police, Fire, and Ambulance.