The 10 Things You Should Know Before Joining A Gym In Hong Kong 

Given that living in Hong Kong as an expat isn’t that difficult to adapt to thanks to the city’s magical convenience and western influence, one would think that getting a gym membership and going to the gym wouldn’t be such a struggle.. Wrong. If you have ever frequented the popular gym chains throughout the city, this list will be all too familiar (and just might bring back some haunting memories). For those that have yet to experience the frustrating and downright bizarre antics that occur at one of these gyms, here’s a peek into what you can expect before joining a gym in Hong Kong.

10. A Painful First Step Into The Gym

So, you want to join a gym and figure you’ll walk into the closest one you can find to your flat or work, have a look around, and then decide for certain whether you want to sign up later. Unfortunately, that’s not quite how things work here. Once you inquire about a membership at a gym, so begins a painful process; they take your contact information (I suggest giving a false number/name because sometimes they only offer “special rates” if you’ve never been to any other locations previously or they’ll repeatedly message and call you) and then someone hastily shows you around. You’re then prompted to sit down and listen to a drawn-out spiel while they pressure you into signing up right then and there.. because the deal they’re giving you expires today (see #9).


9. This Is A Special Price For Today Only

As soon as you sit down to speak with them about membership fees, they’ll tell you they’ve got a great deal for you as they scribble everything out on a piece of paper while you try to make sense of the numbers. They’ll tell you that the rate they’re offering you at that moment is only valid for today, so you must sign up now unless you want to pay more tomorrow. The frustrating thing that I came to realize is that their promotions throughout the year are totally random and, while they don’t last for only a day, you can’t predict when they will happen and what the promotion will be. You could walk into a gym on Monday and sign up for $700/month and the next week your friend might come in and get the promotion rate of only $500/month.


8. Personal Trainers Will Hover Around You

Thankfully this hasn’t happened to me, but I’ve seen it happen to many gym-goers and have heard stories from friends. If you’re working out, whether it’s cardio or weights, it’s likely at some point you’ll have one or two trainers watching you for a moment. They will then approach you and attempt to persuade you to buy personal training by making remarks similar in tune to, “you shouldn’t just focus on cardio – you need to lift weights”, or “it looks like ___ is a trouble area for you, we can fix that with personal training”, as though you are completely incompetent at the gym (which, I admit, some of the people are; see #2).


7. Interesting Choice Of Workout Attire

I thought that most people understood the concept of gym clothes, but it seems as though some are completely aloof here. I’ve seen people wearing work clothes (think dress pants, flats for women and dress shoes for men, and a button down shirt) and most local men wear shorts that are the same length, if not shorter, than women’s. On the other extreme, you’ll sometimes see an older lady or man decked out in excessive gym attire; sweat bands for their wrists and foreheads, knee-high socks, neon running jackets, and all. One of my all-time favourites is this man who wears loose cotton shorts and would tuck them up into the elastic part of his underwear so it literally looked like he was wearing a diaper.


6. Joining A Gym Just To Use The Changeroom

As a regular Friday morning gym enthusiast, over time I’ve taken notice to the other gym goers who wake up at an ungodly hour to get a session in before heading off to work. These people belong in one of two groups: those that actually workout and those that just come to the gym to shower and get ready for the day. This is something I can’t quite wrap my head around; why would you willingly wake up at around 5:00 am to go to the gym and not even work out?! Can’t you get ready at home? If anyone has a logical explanation for this, do let me know!


5. So Much Nakedness In The Changeroom

I’m all about loving and embracing your body, but the sheer amount of naked women in the changeroom at any given moment can be a tad much. These women aren’t just naked while they’re changing, either. They’re naked while sitting on the bench and talking on their phones, while at the mirrors doing their make-up or blow drying their hair (in both places, might I add; see #4), and while having a loud conversation with another naked woman in the middle of the changeroom. This may not bother some, but it is quite different to what most North American expats are used to back home.

Woman opening towel

4. Zero Shame

In the gym I’ve seen patrons horking, excessively clearing their throat, and making some of the most intensely bizarre grunting noises I’ve ever heard. In the changeroom, women here (and I can only assume it’s somewhat similar in the male changeroom as well) have no qualms with clipping their toes on the bench, changing their pads in the open instead of using the washrooms, using the hair dryers to dry their private parts, and lying soaking wet and naked on the bench in front of your locker with only a little towel covering them (yes, this happened to me!). Another strange thing I saw the other day was a lady who lined her locker with newspaper because, I assume, she didn’t want to put her gym bag in the “dirty” locker. I literally think I could write a book with all the weird and gross stuff I’ve seen happen in these changerooms.


3. Eating Food In The Changeroom

Okay, okay – I get it. Maybe you’ve just come from work and need a quick bite to eat, but a) it’s super awkward in general to be sitting on a bench in the changeroom eating while everyone around you is getting changed, and b) the only thing I’ve seen people eat are McDonald’s or some type of a bread bun/pastry out of a bag. I find it perplexing and ironic that these people who are at a gym have made the conscientious decision to eat something so unhealthy AT the gym. At least wait until you get home to gorge yourself.

dicker mann

2. Abusing The Gym Equipment

If you’ve ever been to a gym, you’ve likely seen someone making a futile effort at using the equipment. I’m no trainer, but I’m pretty sure when you’re using a seated calf raise machine like a leg press, you have no clue what you’re doing (not to mention you look like an idiot). It’s baffled my mind on numerous occasions how people think they are using the equipment correctly, as they confidently jump up and down while thrusting a 20 lb barbell in the air. Also, you’ll get plenty of people just sitting on the equipment and talking on their phones or playing Candy Crush, seemingly unable to notice that they are actually in a gym and people actually want to USE the equipment instead of just taking up space.


1. No Flexibility With Contracts

If you do end up signing a contract at one of the chain gyms here in Hong Kong, be sure you read through it very carefully beforehand. Most of the people who work at these gyms need to meet a certain membership quota (as do the personal trainers), and will say just about anything or omit important information to get you to sign up. An example of this was when I had three months left on my 18 month contract, the membership consultant who had initially signed me up told me that in order to renew I would have to pay an additional $200 per month. No thanks. After about 2 months of not extending my membership, he offered it to me for the same price I had been paying all along. Now, I thought I was just signing the exact same contract as my old one, but he actually ended up changing a clause in my contract which stipulated I couldn’t use any other facility except for that specific location. I was not made aware of this and when I moved to another part of the city, they would not let me change locations (even after I spoke with head office). These people can be very shady, conniving, and sneaky, so be aware.



Note: The above information is based solely on my experience at the California Fitness gyms in Hong Kong (which have now all gone bankrupt [surprise, surprise] and shut down). I’m now happily at Pure Fitness. 


35 thoughts on “The 10 Things You Should Know Before Joining A Gym In Hong Kong ”

  1. Uhm, sounds very similar to China, haha. Especially the naked women in the changing room. The other day I reached the conclusion that they enjoy seeing their own bodies in the mirror while they apply their make up or blow their hair completely naked.

    1. Haha, you’re probably right – I just wonder what it is that actually makes them so damn comfortable with nakedness. Perhaps North America needs a bit more of that 😛 lol

  2. Every single word of this post is true. I go to one of the major chains and am glad to see I am not the only one who noticed!

    I would add one point: people who sit on equipment just to chat on the phone!

  3. Very interesting article. I’m travelling to Hong Kong in Autumn and as an avid gym-goer I’m looking to carry out working out whilst over there. I’ll only be there for 3 weeks but still want to find a gym. Are there any gyms that offer short term contracts and pay one-off rather than monthly?

    1. Hey Matt,

      I haven’t heard of any gyms that would let you sign up for only a month or less. I know that California Fitness has a day pass for $250 per visit, which is quite expensive considering the facilities are nothing special. Your best bet might be to do classes at a proper fitness studio or at various CrossFit gyms (if you’re into that).. will be a similar price per class, but at least you know you’re getting a quality workout.

  4. Oh God! I remember those times going to the gym in HK… it actually made me dislike the gym for a long long while. You hit the nail on the head with all the points you listed.

    The good old “Today Only” deals, them 18 month contracts, the list could on, honestly.

    Totally brings me back to my time in HK.

  5. Hi! Just wanted to share my experience with Fitness First. I signed up to a contract about 5 days ago and went in today to cancel using the “7 day comfort” clause (I remembered why I hate traditional gyms).

    So I spoke to the guy who signed me up, explained the situation and he told me I couldn’t cancel unless I got a doctors note. Now there was nothing about this in the contract at all, but he was insistent. So I left feeling really annoyed! Googled fitness first’s cancellation policy and lo and behold nothing about doctors notes!

    I went back into the gym, argues with about 4 different people about their cancellation policy and finally got my contract cancelled. I’m shocked at how underhand they could be, denying the information that was in front of them!

    1. Hi Charlotte,
      Thanks for sharing your experience! I would have thought that Fitness First would have better customer service than that! It seems as though all chain gyms in HK are awful.
      Glad you were able to cancel your membership and get a refund in the end!

  6. Not much different then here at Middle Kingdom, where we have lately even encountered an intoxicated individual trying to work out, in flip-flop’s!
    Yet anything that opens earlier then 8.00am is already a BIG +

  7. I’m currently in the process of looking at gyms, signed up to PF for a weeks free pass and today I must have had about 8 phone calls from them trying to get me to sign up to day as it was the last day of the promotion. Also is it normal to pay a joining fee + 2 months fee up front? Yikes

    1. Hi Katie!
      Ah, yes – the endless phone calls. I’m surprised Pure hassled you that much, as I’ve heard they’re meant to be better than California. If you haggle a bit, you should definitely be able to get the joining fee waived. I paid everything up front to avoid a monthly interest charge, so I’m honestly not sure about the “2 months up front” bit. Hope you’re able to sort things out!

  8. Hi! I just read this in the wake of the California Fitness shutdown. I’m pretty upset as I just renewed my contract a couple of months ago…who knows what will happen.

    But my experience was so similar to yours and now that I’m looking for a new gym, I’m so shell-shocked by the whole experience that I’m just planning on never working out and getting fat again!

    Kidding…but kinda not really.

    1. Hi Jon,
      Ugh. Tell me about it. I’m beyond infuriated – both at the loss of a significant amount of money and because I’ll likely also get fat until I can find a worthwhile gym to sign up to! 😛
      Check out Physical – by no means a good gym, but they are giving out a free trial pass which can carry you through until you find a new gym.
      Let me know where you end up joining, that is, if you do join anywhere at all lol
      Good luck!

  9. Hi, interesting article and form what I’ve seen in HK i can really believe all this takes place in the gyms, the tough part is i miss the gym and i really wanna start again so i am basically left with fitness first hopewell centre.. could anybody please enlighten me on the price of a year contract there. I’ve been given a quote but having visited a few places to get a fee price i really feel disbelieved that I’m getting a fare deal… it just reeks of dodgieness… and i can’t stand it.

    but i am caught between a hard place a dan stone and will end up there, id just like to know a good rough monthly fee and the one off admin fee they get you to pay, then i will join decline there free training keep ear phones and blinkers on the hole time and ignore anymore BS hard sell…

    and your post about the hard sell,,, omg been there 4 times this month with different reps in deferent locations… wtf your so right!

    1. Hi Stephen,
      Yeah, it’s certainly very frustrating trying to sort a gym membership here.
      A friend is at Fitness First and pays about HK$800/month for a 6-month membership. If you sign up for a year, you could likely get it around $600-650.
      Hope that helps!

  10. Haha……Changing their pad in public….I nearly fell over when I saw a lady do this in the changing room! Then there is the bending over in front of you while they are naked!! I almost screamed when this happened in front of me and I had a view of a too close lady’s butt hole!!

    My other gripe is so much black hair……everywhere!

    I’m a bit pissed off that Pure who raised their prices about a year out so ago are again raising their price by about $100 a month. I have been with them for about 4 years and pay a high end fee as I’m with IFC and can use any gym, but this is taking the piss now. Feel like they are getting their customers to pay for their gym expansion across Hong Kong! I don’t think the instructors there are as good as they used to be either.

    But this now means I am having to look again at alternatives while I decide if I jump ship!? nightmare!

  11. This was SUCH a good read! I’ve just moved to HK and in the process of looking for a gym membership. Fitness First have a 3 day trial period so I thought it might be worth a shot, I have my induction at 7.30pm. Reading this post I now feel a lot more prepared for any sale tactics haha! Thanks!

    1. Hi Elliss,
      Thanks so much for your comment – I’m glad this article helped! Eek! Best of luck tonight; hopefully it goes quite smoothly. Also, welcome to Hong Kong! Hope you’re enjoying your time here so far. 🙂

  12. There are some local gyms which you can sign up for a month or even a week but I really doubt they really have a website.

    umm as I remember, one is in Jordan at new lucky house and also one in to kwa wan, Ffs I am so bad at spelling these names. The first one is a bit antique, the latter one is in a factory building. Both of them get all the basic equipments you need, barbell, smith machine , lat pulldown machine…you pay around 280-4xx per month depending how long the contract you signed

    Oh yea the one in Jordon you can get even one week membership but it’s kinda funny there, like a community, the owner sometimes would just go downstairs and other members would take care the gym

  13. Hey! this is really helpful tips. I am moving to HK next month and will definitely need a gym to keep myself in shape. Pure fitness seems like to one to go to.

  14. Wow, I am worry. I am Chinese born but live in U.S. and have a business trip coming up for almost a month in Hong Kong. I am a hard core lifter and have been working out for almost 50 years. Where would I train with enough weight (275+ barbell bench and 80+ dumbbell, 300+ squat, 800+ leg press)? Price not a problem.

  15. About people using the gyms as a morning shower spot only. Get 10 people living in a small HK flat with a bathroom the size of a cubicle, and doing your morning routine can be near impossible. It’s one of the most popular uses of gyms here!

  16. And yes, the men’s changing rooms are the same. If not worse. Lots of dangling and naked conversations, naked hair combing, naked nail clipping, once saw a dude slapping the salami… Anytime Fitness has private unisex change rooms with toilet/shower/etc. Big plus.

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