parenting,  travel

A toddler in Hong Kong

Bringing Natalie to Hong Kong was an awesome experience. Not only did she get to meet a ton of relatives who just ooo’d and aaaah’d all over her, but she got to eat really great food (can we say fresh steamed fish everyday?). Her usual diet of chicken nuggets or fish sticks from home was no where to be found the whole time we were there.

I had only read a little bit about having a toddler in Hong Kong before visiting. It was overall a really pleasant experience and I think it’s a lot of fun to bring a toddler to Hong Kong. Here are some of my notes/tips/advice/observations:

1. It’s not as stroller friendly but it’s possible

Before going to Hong Kong, I perused a bunch of expat websites and tripadvisor about tips for bringing a toddler to Hong Kong…and there was one theme: use a baby carrier instead of a stroller.  Hong Kong is not stroller friendly.  Yikes – we LOVE our stroller.  We are fortunate enough to have a child that somehow gets all zen when in the stroller and naps easily in one.  I figured it was a sign when *gasp* on our way to the airport I realized we completely forgot our stroller and left it in our garage.  Argh!  It’s okay, I said, we have the Ergo.  The websites told me that that’s the way to go anyway!  On our first day, we strapped Natalie into the Ergo onto Matt’s back and, miraculously, she fell asleep in it (she’s fallen asleep in it before but not since, like, before she was 1…and certainly never on the back).  Success!  The Ergo will do! How wonderful and convenient it is as we manage the narrow crowded streets of Hong Kong.  However, at the end of the day, we were tired.  See, when we go to Hong Kong, we walk A LOT and we walk a lot of stairs and escalators and what not.  Sure, Natalie can walk on her own but it’s tough carrying a 27lb toddler on your back all day. 

The next morning, the buckle on the Ergo broke.  It was a sign.

We found ourselves at the Harbour City shopping mall on Canton Rd in the chidren’s section looking for a stroller (the same mall where Gucci Kids and Burberry Children was located, I kid you not).  After surviving the mad rush of Toys R Us, we walked into a pretty big chain in Hong Kong called Mothercare and came out with a nice Maclaren Volo.  We wanted a light umbrella stroller that we could probably resell easily in Seattle…and Maclarens are hugely popular in Seattle (we ended up reselling it for $80 when we got back, not bad!)

We loved the stroller.  Not only did Natalie nap in it every day but it held my hugely heavy diaper bag plus all the shopping bags we would acquire during the day.  It was so light and easy to fold and collapse, which proved very handy when jumping onto a bus and carrying her down stairs to the MTR station.

Now, it’s not easy but it’s do-able.  Hong Kong is full of escalators and stairs.  There are elevators but they’re either jam packed or out of the way typically.  We frequently pushed the stroller onto the escalator (*gasp*) out of convenience and usually had to lift her over the turnstile at the MTR station (if you’re lucky, you’ll come across a wider turnstile that accommodates strollers)….but it was all worth it.  If your child loves napping in strollers, stick with a stroller.

2. Most high chairs are just boosters

Surprisingly, most restaurants in Hong Kong have high chairs; however, their version of a high chair is what look like a booster seat that (sometimes) is strapped onto the chair.  More often than not, there are absolutely no straps to hold down the child…which, when you have a squirmy toddler, spells trouble.  Fortunately, I had read about this and got a Totseat in anticipation.  Thank goodness – that thing came in sooo handy.

3. It’s culturally normal for people to take photos of your child

I had also read about this ahead of time and mentally prepared for it.  We would often be taking a photo of Natalie and then some stranger would pass by, whip out their phone, snap a picture too and say “cute!” and carry on.  There wasn’t any “mind if I take a picture of your child?”.  It was just perfectly normal for them to take a picture!  Even stranger was that people would come up and want to hold her and take a picture with her.  When we were on Victoria’s Peak, a line even formed of others that wanted to also take a picture with her!  Odd.

4. Children’s menu? Hah

Restaurants don’t have children’s menus, unless it’s a really Westernized restaurant.  If you go there expecting mac’n’cheese and chicken nuggets as options next to your Beef and Broccoli, you’re out of luck.  Fortunately for us, Natalie LOVED eating steamed fish which we often ate.  Otherwise, I did keep a healthy supply of vegetable pouches in my diaper bag for the times that she refused any of the food.

5. They love kids, whether they’re happy or having a tantrum

This one is hard to describe—it’s not like Americans don’t love kids…but there’s this unspoken “your kids are really cute until they start crying in which case they are invading my personal space so please remove your chid until they are a cute, smiling kid again”.  As a result, when your child is having a tantrum, you just get these “poor you” looks from others.  In Hong Kong, it’s the opposite – when Natalie would cry, the waitress, people at the table next to us would jump at the chance to talk to her and help calm her down.  It was really reassuring feeling like it was okay if she cried in a public spot.

6. Babycare centers — a palace for diaper changes

It’s pretty standard in the US to walk into the ladies restroom and find the Koala changing table attached to the wall somewhere to change your baby’s diaper.  Well, in Hong Kong, they sometimes have those…but more often than not, they have “babycare centers”.  This is usually in a mall (and malls are everywhere in Hong Kong)…and range from being a small room for one family to a large facility designed for several families.  What’s inside is usually a soft, rubberized changing table, a separate small room with a comfy chair for mom to nurse or pump and a bottle warmer.  In some, there would be a small potty for the newly potty trained. It’s really amazing.  The one in the Harbour City mall is ridiculous and contains like 8 changing stations.  It really is a palace for diaper changes.

7. Need milk?  Go to 7 Eleven

Milk is not a normal drink for most Chinese in Hong Kong…as a result, it’s usually not anywhere on the menu in any restaurant (again, unless it’s a more westernized restaurant).  So what do you do?  Pick up milk at the 7 Eleven.  They sell them in small containers that are just the right size for a sippy cup…and don’t worry, there’s a 7 Eleven every few blocks and in every MTR station.

13 Comments

  • Newbie to HK

    Very useful article. Thanks. I will be traveling from India to HK this year and plan on taking my toddler’s stroller along. I hope it is convenient because we cannot carry him the whole day and he will not walk it all for sure.

  • Emily, Malaysia

    You are a life saver for many mommies like me. I am from Malaysia and i am a bit worried travelling with my 18 months toddler next month. Thanks a lot for all the tips you share on travelling around HK with a toddler. Oh yeah… You do have a cute toddler…

  • Shelley

    travel plans to HK with DD in November (she will be 2.75 yrs). 3 hr car trips are a challenge so **REALLY** looking forward to the flight. thanks for thei info, it gives me hope!

  • Ingrid, Sydney

    You are a lifesaver!! we are taking our 18month son to HK in a couple of months and you are answered so many of my questions / wonderings… BRILLIANT tips and advice, thanks SO much for taking the time to post this. :o))))

  • ALee

    LOVE this post, this is very helpful for our trip to HK next week, thank you!

    May I get your opinion on something else kid-related – we have a 4 year old and 7 month old, and the only time we are planning to be in a car is on the ride from/to the airport. I know that HK law doesn’t require car seats for kids, but we’re from the US and I’m hesitant to have them in a car without protective seats. For safety reasons, I’m planning to bring an infant car seat and light booster seat for these rides. I’m planning to check them in at the airport and we wouldn’t need them on the trip otherwise. Any thoughts about this?

  • Audrey

    ALee — thank you! I don’t see any issue with you bringing car seats…it’s really up to you, your comfort level and convenience level. We chose to risk it and not bring one…our daughter had outgrown an infant seat at the time and dragging a huge convertible seat was the last thing we wanted to do. We wanted to take the bus or subway as much as possible….but on occasion we’d be in a taxi. I think my only word of caution is that I have heard the checking car seats into a plane can potentially damage them because of being tossed around, so that’s a risk if you’re not using them in flight. Best of luck with your trip!

  • Marie

    Thanks for all of the tips. I’m travelling with a toddler and 8 month old soon and dreading the 19 hours of travel. Any tips on fun places to take toddlers?

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  • Rachel

    Thanks for sharing your tips, I am actually from Hong Kong but I haven’t been back for a visit since I have my 2 children, you have shared some very useful information for us to get prepare for our trip. ohh and your daughter is very cute!

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