Update for tourists: Is it safe to travel to Hong Kong?

By Maggie Hiufu Wong, CNNUpdated 6th October 2014
Vehicle access to protest areas is restricted. Some Hong Kongers have had to get to work on foot or via the train system.
In the midst of the ongoing Hong Kong pro-democracy protests, travelers in Hong Kong may find moving around slightly more difficult than usual despite the city's efficient and impressive public transport system.
The full impact of the protests on transport is likely to be felt more this week. Many people were away or on leave for a lot of last week due to two public holidays.
Since being occupied by demonstrators, access for vehicles is restricted in key areas of the city and many shops and restaurants in those areas have chosen to close. This means that it is hard to get to some hotels in these areas via taxi or buses.
Sections of major roads have been closed to vehicle traffic, though largely left open for pedestrians. In fact, walking around Hong Kong has been an extremely pleasant experience for a lot of visitors walking on roads that are normally jammed with cars.
Despite the clashes and tear gas attacks on protesters last Sunday night/Monday morning and later clashes between protesters and other groups in Mong Kok, the protests have been extremely peaceful and relatively festive.
However, the situation on the ground could change at any time and all visitors are advised to be appropriately cautious.
With the government deadline closing-in, Hong Kong protesters vow to remain in the streets until their demands are met.
As protesters face a deadline to disperse, one man sat on top of a bridge demanding crowds to leave.
Hong Kong politician Claudia Mo discusses how the protesters there are making sure their message is heard.
Several nations have posted travel warnings to Hong Kong with similar advisories.
Brief transport update:
  • Hong Kong International Airport is operating as per normal and has throughout the protests. The Airport Express train, stations and check-in services are also operating normally.
  • The MTR subway system is operating as normal and is the transport of choice at the moment as it serves all of the road closure areas.
  • Vehicular access is restricted or completely closed in parts of Wan Chai, Admiralty, Central, Mong Kong and Tsim Sha Tsui. Around 70 bus routes have been rerouted and around 30 services stopped. Check with hotel concierges and bus companies KMB, Citybus and NWFB for more details and advice on making your journey.
  • The Hong Kong tram track section between Western Market and Victoria Park (including the Happy Valley loop) has been suspended.
  • Visitors arriving at or leaving from hotels in affected areas should allow more time for their journey and be prepared to lug their baggage to MTR stations if buses, taxis and other road vehicle services cannot access the hotel.
In more detail:
Areas affected
In Hong Kong Island's Admiralty and Wanchai districts, Gloucester Road, Harcourt Road and Connaught Road Central have been closed to vehicle traffic, but remain open to pedestrians.
Yee Wo Street outside SOGO shopping mall in Causeway Bay and parts of Argyle Street and Nathan Road in Mong Kok remain closed.
Various streets in these above areas have also been closed to vehicle traffic, but remain open to pedestrians.
The protest tends to grow at night, as more residents join after school, work or other activities.
It is also possible the protest groups may move or extend to other areas without notice.
Safety concerns
Travel to and within protest areas is generally safe but visitors are advised to use caution around Mong Kok where there have been several physical and verbal clashes between protesting students and anti-protest groups despite a police presence there. Arrests have been made in the last few days from these clashes.
Public transportation has remained safe.
Getting around information
Though the MTR is currently operating as normal, updates on MTR station operations are available in English on the company's mobile app.
Bus updates in English can be found on websites operated by Hong Kong's public bus companies, KMB and Citybus/First Bus.
Tram updates are available at Hong Kong Tramways.
'Protest tourism'
The protests have proven to be an attraction for some visitors.
Many tourists have taken to walking to and through protest zones independently, though tourists on private tours around protest areas have been seen.
Locals, tourists and supporters of the protestors have taken to "sightseeing" and looking for photo ops on elevated pedestrian bridges over roads near the Central Government Offices in Admiralty, where the largest protest (in terms of number of people) is taking place.
The idea of Hong Kong protests as tourist attractions might seem surreal, but it isn't entirely new.
In 2012, Lonely Planet included Hong Kong in its list of top 10 cities to visit, recommending such exotic attractions as the Star Ferry, Chinese fortune-telling and local protest rallies.
The popular guidebook called Hong Kong "China's most liberated city" and predicted that 2012 would be an exciting year for the city, highlighting its "rallies infused with theatrics and eruptions of song, dance and poetry" as it continued its push for greater democracy.