Hong Kong (CNN) — Hong Kongers have been protesting for more than four months and demonstrations are becoming more violent and disruptive. The city’s leaders have maintained Hong Kong is still open for business, but is it still safe to visit?
The situation has changed significantly since June 9, when protest organizers estimated more than a million people took part in a peaceful march to oppose a bill that would have allowed Hong Kong to extradite suspected criminals to mainland China.
Recent protests have become less predictable and increasingly dangerous, fanning out around the city and springing up in places with little warning.The recent decision by Hong Kong’s leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, to use her emergency powers to ban face masks at public gatherings sparked the most violent and destructive gatherings to date.
If you’re coming to the city, here’s what you need to know.
Hong Kong is usually an incredibly easy place to get around. Very few people own cars because public transport is cheap and extremely efficient. The system consists of a sleek, modern subway, plenty of bus coverage, light rail in the suburbs, ferries to outlying islands and a charming tram (aka the “ding ding,” for the sound it makes) that runs along the northern edge of Hong Kong Island.
The Airport Express gets you from the airport to the city center in fewer than 30 minutes for about $14. Uber is available, but it’s not as popular as it is in the US because Hong Kong taxis are easy to find and are relatively inexpensive.
But the protests, especially ones not sanctioned by police, can make it extremely difficult to get to your destination no matter how well you plan.
Authorities shut the entire Mass Transit Railway or MTR system in early October due to vandalism and “illegal acts,” making it very difficult, if not impossible, to get around.
Disruptions are incredibly rare, however, and usually only take place due to typhoons.
One traveler’s experience
So, what is it like to visit Hong Kong right now?
Melanie Sanders, a publishing industry professional from Brooklyn, New York, found the MTR closed when she arrived for a vacation in Hong Kong with her boyfriend on October 5.
It was the couple’s first visit to Asia, and the low price of airfare and hotels made it feasible for them to afford the trip.
“In the immediate lead-up to the trip I admit I got pretty anxious, especially about the logistics of getting around in the face of MTR closures,” Sanders told CNN Travel.
“Frankly, the airfare was nonrefundable, so that was a pretty good incentive to figure it out,” she said.
She and her boyfriend were able to board the Airport Express, something not all travelers have been able to do. The train has been closed several times this summer and spent several days only shuttling between the airport and Hong Kong Station, skipping three stops in between.
Once visitors arrive at Hong Kong Station, they still have to figure out how to get to their hotels or rental apartments, and some of the intense clashes between riot police and protesters have taken place in popular tourist neighborhoods like Central and Wan Chai on Hong Kong Island and Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon.
With the MTR down, du lich phong nha Sanders and her boyfriend took a taxi from Hong Kong Station to their hotel in Causeway Bay. Luckily, as most Hong Kong taxis do not accept credit cards, they had gotten cash from an ATM at the airport.
They were unsure which tourist attractions would be open and accessible. On Sunday, the second day of their visit, they decided to take in the iconic views at the top of Victoria Peak, Hong Kong island’s highest point.