Hong Kong can be a pretty expensive destination but don’t despair, whilst it will never be as cheap as the likes of Thailand, if you know what you are doing you can have a great time without breaking the bank. Having lived in Hong Kong for a year now, surviving off my student loan (whilst saving to travel), I’ve learnt a few tricks to getting by here on a budget. So fellow backpackers don’t strike Hong Kong of your bucket lists; it can be more affordable than you think!
Accommodation is what costs people visiting Hong Kong. The prices here can be outrageous, so its a sensible place to start looking to save money. Hotels are expensive. I’ve yet to find one remotely in my budget. Most backpackers end up paying more for a dorm room here than you would pay for a decent hotel room anywhere else in the world. Others brave the cheap accommodation around Chungking Mansions, risking dirty sheets and cockroaches, at the kind of places that will also let you pay by the hour.
So what is the answer? Be sure to check out Airbnb. Prices start from as low as $150 HKD per night for a dorm room and $250 HKD for a private room. I knew someone who rented a nice studio apartment for £150 (about $1800 HKD) for five nights. Airbnb is a particularly good money saving option if you happen to be visiting in a group.
All budget travellers know to eat local and Hong Kong is no exception. Although I like to treat myself to a Western meal every once in a while it’s best to avoid places like Soho which cater mainly to expats and tourists. Go for Dim Sum instead; it’s really cheap and the BBQ pork buns are absolute heaven! Custard buns, as pictured below, are also very yummy.
- Dim Sum Square, Jervois St, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong Island
- Fresco Dim Sum, 23-25 North Street, Kennedy Town, Hong Kong Island
Both of these restaurants possess the rare combination of English menus and cheap local prices (I usually spend about $30 HKD) You are a bit crammed in at Frescos but it certainly feels authentic, whereas Dim Sum Square feels a little more upmarket. Don’t forget that dim sum is best enjoyed with friends, so that you can get a good range of dishes to share!
- Tim Ho Wan, IFC Mall, Central
If you like your food to be Michelin star quality, then you are in for a treat with Tim Ho Wan as its the cheapest Michelin restaurant in the world! Try the BBQ pork buns (seriously!) for $18 HKD. The restaurant is actually located in the station, under the IFC mall. You’ll know which one it is by the huge crowd standing outside. Don’t bother queuing for a table, as this can take hours, but instead get your food to take away (if it’s a nice day you can eat it on top of the IFC mall roof, with a view of the harbour)
Other budget options, popular with the locals, include buying street food and eating at cooked food centres.
Girls, here’s a valuable tip; you want to go to Wanchai on Wednesday nights and to Lang Kwai Fong on Thursdays. Why? Because it’s ladies night and you can drink free in the majority of bars/clubs. You won’t have to pay an entry free either.
Sorry boys, no such luck for you, but you can save money by buying all your alcohol at 7/11. In Hong Kong it’s legal to drink on the streets and they’ll even open your bottles for you. Don’t worry about looking tacky and cheap, nearly everyone in the clubbing districts is doing the same.
It’s already dirt cheap, no savings advice needed here! But for convenience, if your staying more than a couple of days, you might want to get yourself an octopus card (sold at MTR stations)
SEE & DO (cheap):
- Go to the horse races at Happy Valley.
Races run on Wednesday evenings and entry is $10 HKD
- Go to a museum.
Museums cost $10 HKD ($5 with student ID). The Hong Kong History Museum and the Art Museum are my favourites, or (if you’re a fan of Bruce Lee) why not visit the Heritage Museum in Sha Tin.
- Take the Star ferry across Victoria Harbour
- Or take a ferry to one of the outlying islands to get away from it all.
Lamma and Cheng Chau both have zero cars, lovely hikes and their own local flavour.
- Ride the tram (also known as the ding ding)
SEE & DO (free):
- Hong Kong park & Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical gardens
The zoological and botanical gardens is basically a free zoo with a variety of birds and monkeys. There is also a huge walk in aviary in Hong Kong Park.
- Take in the vibrant chaos that is Mongkok and take a stroll around Ladies Market.
- Go window shopping.
It’s how the local students pass the time. There is definitely no shortage of places to engage in this activity in Hong Kong.
- Chill at the beach.
There a a number of beaches in Hong Kong to choose from. On Hong Kong island there is Stanley, Repulse Bay, Deep Water Bay. Big Wave Bay in Shek O is good if you want to rent surf boards. Better yet, if you have some time, the best beaches can be found in Sai Kung National Park, at the end of a two hour hike through some beautiful scenery – or you can take the speed boat from Sai Kung Town. Camp here on Tai Long Wan beach and save on nights accommodation (tents can be rented from either of the two restaurants)
- Walk up the Peak.
It probably takes the same amount of time to queue for the peak tram during the holidays. Plus this way you get to take in more scenery.
- Visit a temple.
There is Man Mo, the Big Buddha, or Chi Lin Nunnery (near Diamond Hill MTR) is also lovely.
- Take obligatory photos of Hong Kong Island beautifully lit up, at night, from the waters edge in Tsim Sha Tsui.
The best place to view the symphony of lights (8pm every day) is from in front of the Cultural Centre.
If you are visiting Hong Kong in the future, I hope this post helps and I wish you an enjoyable trip.