The Hong Kong Sevens (AKA Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens) is one of the most popular sporting events in Asia, attracting some of the world’s greatest rugby players and tens of thousands of people who gather to watch fast-paced sevens matches. The Hong Kong 7s has been around since the mid-1970s and is one of the most crucial tournaments in the World Rugby Sevens Series. It’s not just an event for die-hard rugby fans, but also families and fun-seeking revellers who want to bask in the crazy atmosphere at Hong Kong Stadium.
Unlike a traditional rugby match where 15 players on each side play 40 minute halves, a sevens match lasts only 7 minutes per half with 7 players on each side. During the 7s, Hong Kong becomes even busier than usual when as many as 40,000 people pour in to get their fill of rugby (and beer) at Hong Kong Stadium in Causeway Bay. If you’re thinking about visiting Hong Kong and attending the Hong Kong Sevens, read on for everything you need to know to plan your weekend of debauchery and sports!
When is the Hong Kong Sevens?
The Hong Kong Sevens Tournament takes place around March/April every year over 3 days – Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The dates change and are usually announced a few months in advance. The Hong Kong 7s 2019 is taking place from April 5th to 7th.
How to get to the Hong Kong Sevens stadium
The Hong Kong Sevens is held at Hong Kong Stadium in Causeway Bay. If you are headed to the stadium, your best bet is to take public transportation to Causeway Bay via the MTR (subway – take exit F), or by bus. Many buses pass through Causeway Bay, so take a look at the route maps and hop on any one that takes you in that direction. If you are taking a taxi, ask the driver to take you to “Dai Kau Cheung, Tung Lo Wan”, though you should expect lots of traffic in the final stretch towards the stadium.
Where to stay for the Hong Kong Sevens
Most visitors opt to book hotels on Hong Kong Island or on Kowloon side. If you don’t have a lot of time in the city, look into hotels in Wan Chai, Central, Soho, Sheung Wan and Causeway Bay for maximum convenience! Click here to check current rates and availability for hotels in Hong Kong.
Whatever you do, book early! Hotels in Hong Kong are always fully booked for the 7s weekend and the room rates are often double during that time. If you book using Booking.com, you can always cancel if your travel plans change.
How to get Rugby Sevens tickets
*Dogs not included with ticket
Over the years, 7s tickets have gotten harder and harder to get your hands on, and ticket prices go up every year. The good news is that when there’s a will, there’s a way. In 2019, the 3-day pass will cost HKD$1950 (approx US$250). If you buy them separately from resellers, the face value of the Friday ticket is HKD$350, and Saturday/Sunday tickets go for HKS$800. Prices are the same as in 2018.
Public ballot: A few (4-5) months ahead of the 7s, the Hong Kong Rugby Union will open registration for a public ballot via their website, hksevens.com. This mechanism is mostly for Hong Kong Residents holding Hong Kong Identity Cards who want to attend the tournament. The draw takes places 2-3 months before the event, and you may win tickets to none, some, or all of your chosen days. The 2019 Hong Kong Sevens ballot will be open until 23:59 on Saturday, 9th of February, 2019.
Cathay Pacific Fly & See Packages: Cathay Pacific Airline is the title sponsor for the event, and offers special packages that include airfare, hotel and a 3-day event ticket. More details on Hong Kong Sevens Fly & See packages for flights departing from Australia here, packages if you’re departing from the UK here, packages if you’re departing from the US here and packages if you’re departing from South Africa here. Keep an eye on the official Hong Kong 7s website for other offers.
Viagogo: Honestly, I’m not a massive fan of this sales channel because it’s a bit of a rip off, with many people marking up ticket prices by several hundred Hong Kong dollars. However, the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union has partnered with ViaGogo and it is the authorized platform for buying and selling unwanted tickets. If you’re desperate, have a look and see if you can find tickets for a reasonable price.
Facebook Groups: Many people sell their tickets via Facebook, but this comes with a certain amount of risk. You should meet in person for a face-to-face exchange. Look up “Hong Kong Sevens Buy and Sell” to find available groups.
Apart from these main channels for getting tickets, you’ll have to rely on friends, colleagues or other people you know to get tickets. Rugby clubs in Hong Kong often receive an allocation of tickets for their members, and corporate sponsors like HSBC and Cathay Pacific give some of their employees box passes – if you know the right people then you might get lucky and score a ticket!
And if you’re desperate…scalpers: Like every other big sporting event, there are always scalpers outside the stadium trying to sell off tickets last-minute on the day. If you are super desperate, head straight to the stadium and you’ll find a dozen or so of them hanging around by the entrance. Just be aware that Hong Kong police have been cracking down on scalping.
What to wear to the Rugby Sevens
The weather in Hong Kong in March/April tends to be warm (between 20-30 degrees Celsius / 70-86 degrees Fahrenheit) and not too humid yet, though it does vary year-to-year. If you’re lucky, it won’t rain all weekend, but I have been at the Sevens during torrential downpour – the stadium is not covered, so getting soaked is a real possibility!
Depending on which stand you go to (and what you’re at the Sevens for), you’ll want to wear comfortable and breathable clothes, preferably nothing long that drags on the floor (skip the maxi-dress, you’ll thank me later). Closed toe shoes are your best bet as the floor can be pretty filthy with spilled beer, trash and god knows what else.
Photo credit: TOP RIGHT – Hong Kong Rugby Union; BOTTOM RIGHT – Ike Li / Shutterstock
One of the best traditions at the Hong Kong Sevens is fancy dress – it’s like Halloween on steroids! Most people dress up on Saturday and wear “regular” clothes on Friday and Sunday. You can find last-minute costumes at Pottinger Street in Central or Wan Chai Market, and if you’re ambitious you can order costumes ahead of time from Matteo Party or Taobao (Chinese only), or DIY!
What to bring to the sevens
Bring as little as possible for the sake of convenience. Bags are searched at the entrance and many things like bottles (plastic or glass) are not allowed. See the prohibited items list here.
There are plenty of food and beverage stalls inside the stadium, but be prepared for marked up prices with one pint of beer costing upwards of US$10-15. Bring cash as there aren’t many ATMs within the stadium, or top up your Octopus (contactless stored value smart card that also works on public transportation) to pay for your food and drink. If you plan on drinking at the Rugby Sevens, bring your ID as it does get checked occasionally, especially if you are trying to get into the south stand.
One of the first things you have to do when you arrive in Hong Kong is get an Octopus card. It is a stored value card that works on all public transportation (but not in taxis). You can purchase your tourist Octopus card in advance here – pick it up from the airport when you arrive, and it comes with HK$50 already pre-loaded! If you’re planning on traveling to Hong Kong again at some point, just hang onto the card for your next trip.
Don’t forget your Rugby 7s tickets (duh), a pair of sunglasses so you can watch the matches without squinting, your phone so you can find your friends if you get separated, and a battery pack for when your phone runs out of juice.
Hong Kong Rugby Sevens Schedule
The 7s matches start in the morning and finish at around 8 PM each night. The full 2018 schedule can be found here. Stay tuned for the 2019 schedule.
There’s an art to attending the Hong Kong 7s and planning your strategy. In general, Friday tends to be less rambunctious and many people head there in the afternoon after work. Most people don’t dress up in costumes and the focus is more on the rugby itself.
Saturday at the Hong Kong Sevens is the biggest day of the tournament and this is when most people show up in costumes and let loose. Many people skip Friday and only go to the Sevens on Saturday, so this is the day where you’ll see people go all out and more often than not, get plastered.
Photo credit: Ike Li / Shutterstock
If you’ve made it to Sunday, congratulations! The rugby matches heat up and the competition is fierce, with teams battling it out for the cup, plate and bowl. If you’re a rugby fan, Sunday is a MUST because the matches are incredible!
Hong Kong Rugby Sevens Stadium
There are 4 stands in the stadium – north, south, east and west. In general, the east and west stands are where you’ll find the die-hard rugby fans, families and corporate boxes. For this reason, they tend to be quite civilized. The north stand is smaller and many players will watch the games from here along with some regular sevens-goers, but the real 7s action is in the notorious South Stand.
The South Stand is 18+ and pretty much anything goes – this is where you’ll find extreme debauchery, hilarious costumes (lots and lots of Minions), and plenty of drunk people. Players also often meet and greet rugby fans here after their match is complete.
The South Stand gets extremely busy on Saturday and Sunday, so if you want to get in without queuing for hours (yes, HOURS) you’ll have to plan to arrive early. Some people head to the stadium as early as 7 AM! Otherwise, brace yourself for long lines, though this is an experience in and of itself as vendors will approach you and serve beer and alcohol. In general, the entrance to the South Stand on the east side of the stadium tends to have shorter lines than the entrance on the west side.
Hong Kong 7s After Parties
Photo credit: Yiucheung / Shutterstock
As if drinking all day weren’t enough, you can go out for incredible after parties, often with rugby teams who have been knocked out of the tournament. The main parties will be in Lan Kwai Fong in Central, Lockhart Road in Wan Chai, or at the Sevens Village across from the stadium.
Booking tip: Hotels book up FAST during Sevens weekend – look into hotels in Wan Chai, Central, Soho, Sheung Wan and Causeway Bay for maximum convenience! Click here to check current rates and availability for hotels in Hong Kong.
Safety at the Hong Kong Sevens
As you can imagine, it can get seriously rowdy at the Hong Kong Sevens, especially in the South Stand. Though alcohol-related violence isn’t extremely common, fights can break out so you’ll want to steer clear of that. It’s also important to look after your belongings as theft happens more frequently than you’d think.
Unfortunately, sexual harassment is not unheard of and I was personally groped by some sleazeball a few years back. The good news is, police are on site and stationed all around the stadium, and when they realized what happened they tackled the guy to the ground. They are also your best point of contact to report any stolen belongings. Paramedics also staff the event in case of injuries and/or emergencies.
To get the most out of your Sevens experience, pace yourself so that you don’t suffer from alcohol poisoning or end up passed out somewhere. Make sure you eat food before you drink – if you don’t want to splurge on the mediocre food in the stadium, eat ahead in Causeway Bay.
Where to eat around Hong Kong Stadium
Food in Hong Kong stadium isn’t the best quality, and prices are fairly exorbitant. If you are heading to the stadium in the afternoon, grab some lunch first. Alternatively, you can leave for lunch and re-enter the stadium via the dedicated re-entry gate. Just make sure you don’t lose your ticket/wristband.
Din Tai Fung is one of my favorite restaurants in Hong Kong and is close to the stadium.
FRITES is just a few streets away from the stadium and serves up heart Belgian food that will keep you full (and your stomach lined).
There are also plenty of restaurants in Times Square including Vietnamese, Japanese, Shanghainese, Pizza Express, and much more.
Across the street from Times Square is Midtown Plaza where you will find Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant, Thai fusion and a number of Japanese restaurants.
And last but not least, there’s always good old Macca’s!
The Hong Kong Sevens is truly a memorable experience for any sports lover, even if you have no idea what the rules of rugby are because there’s always someone willing to explain the rules to you! Hong Kong is electric during the Hong Kong Sevens weekend with plenty of things to do and see if you’re not spending the entire weekend at the stadium. Click here for 8 essential things to do in Hong Kong if it’s your first time to the city, or click here for 10 things to do in Hong Kong that probably aren’t in your guidebook!
Have you ever been to the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens? Tell me all about it in the comments section below!
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