Travel tips: Hong Kong and Tokyo by Jessie Crichton

These cities are both charming and otherworldly. Adapting will take some time, whilst leaving feels near impossible! You’re sure to fall in love. So, keep reading for a quick guide from myself, Jessie Crichton on the ins and outs of each one.

Hong Kong

Before you go: Understand that the city gets majorly crowded on weekends; particularly in shopping districts and touristy areas like Mong Kok, Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay. If possible, plan your activities for during the week.

Castings: Models attend castings by themselves as they would in any European country. The only difference is that female models are expected to wear a full face of make-up and dress to the nines!

Cellular connection: SIM cards and top-up data can be purchased at any 7-ELEVEN; they come with a Hong Kong number that is serviceable until you leave.

Eats & Drinks: The cost of living is fairly expensive and this extends to consumables. The best place to buy fresh fruit and vegetables are at “wet markets.” If you want to save a buck on other perishable goods, check out stores like DS Groceries and PrizeMart.

Good to know: Eating out can be expensive, so preparing food helps to cut costs.

Language: Cantonese and English are both spoken, however, some locals are not fluent in the latter. This isn’t problematic though, as one often resorts to communication via other means. Calculators, for example, are often used to show the price of goods.

Navigation: Google Maps provides various route options, including the choice of various modes of transport. There are also signs throughout the city directing you to the nearest subway station.

Safety: The city is incredibly safe, as is walking around at night.

Stay away from: Meat at the “wet markets;” they’re not often stored or transported in the most hygienic manner.

Transport: This includes the bus, train, tram and ferry between Hong Kong island and Kowloon. The MTR is most reliable, whilst trams and ferry rides are cheap and boast better views of the city. Purchase an Octopus card to make travels easier – it can be used to purchase goods at several grocery and convenience stores too!

Water: It’s considered safe to drink, but usually boiled first. Most people prefer bottled water though.

Quirks: Hard mattresses are common and air-conditioning is everywhere. It’s super humid most days, so the A/C comes as sweet relief when you’ve been out and about.

Remember: Pepper spray is illegal here, even if the city is merely a stop-over between flights. Best to leave it at home!

Tokyo

Before you go: Research Japanese etiquette for a better understanding of the culture! For instance, money is rarely passed from hand to hand – instead, it is placed in a tray when making payments or receiving change.

Castings: Several castings happen daily, with the occasional day off. An agency shuttle will drive you and other models (from your agency) to every casting. Due to the language barrier, a booker will always be present.

Cellular connection: SIM cards can be purchased at BIC Camera; they do not come with a Japanese phone number and are serviceable for the time allocated on your card – they can function from anywhere between one week and three months.

Eats & Drink: Convenience stores (konbinis) and vending machines are everywhere! Konbinis have a wide variety of snacks and ‘ready-meals’ that include healthy options. 7-ELEVEN and FamilyMart offer affordable coffee too.

Good to know: Some stores offer tax-free purchases when spending over ¥5000, so be sure to bring your Passport along! Also carry money as many shops don’t have card services.

Language: Whilst some people speak fluent English, it isn’t common. Google Translate is super helpful, but best to learn a simple few phrases. The use of Japanese is highly appreciated and will only make your trip easier.

Navigation: Getting around is super easy! Google Maps can provide a route to any destination that includes information such as when to transfer and predicted cost.

Safety: Whilst Japan is ranked the 3rd safest country in the world, it’s still wise to be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Stay away from: Kabukicho and Roppongi at night, these areas are considered more dangerous after sun-down.

Transport: Reliable and punctual, to the second.The two main methods of travel include the bus and train. Pasmo or Suica cards are great and save cash [over single tickets]; they can also be used to make purchases at other stores. Avoid Uber and taxis in general, they’re quite costly.

Water: It’s purified and safe to drink straight from the tap!

Quirks: Amusing advertising, electronic toilets and no talking on the train.Oh, and slurping noodles is considered a good thing! Bare this is mind when grabbing a bowl of ramen.

Remember: to take your shoes off at the front door, or just inside the entrance (called a genkan). This keeps the dirt and germs on your shoes outside! Sometimes there will also be a separate pair of shoes for the bathroom. When in doubt, just ask.