Budget Travel – Hong Kong
Hong Kong – the city opportunities, adventure and mixing cultures, the city which never sleeps. Kristina and I were really looking forward to visiting Hong Kong not only to figure our how much things cost here, but also to experience what it feels like to be a traveller in what seems to be not only the financial but also the cultural capital of Asia. We enjoyed our visit (every single day was packed for us – read more about places we visited here) and now it’s time to take a look at the numbers.
Is it possible to travel in Hong Kong on a budget?
First and foremost, before your arrival in Hong Kong you need to be aware of the Octopus card. Octopus is a multi-purpose card that is used (by almost everyone in Hong Kong) for paying for the metro, trams, buses as well as for goods in grocery shops and other places. It can be purchased in Hong Kong International airport and the cost of it is 150 $HK for an adult and 100 $HK for a child. 50 $HK is a refundable deposit and the rest is the balance than can be used wherever you want. At the end of your trip simply hand it in at one of the train/transport information desks and get the deposit refunded.
We found Octopus card to be super useful and it made our stay so much quicker and convenient. I ended up paying for almost everything with our octopus card because it was so simple. However, the issue is that once your balance gets low you will only be able to top it up with cash.
Although a bit frustrating, this is not a huge problem because cash machines in Hong Kong are not difficult to come by and withdrawals are free. Your own bank might charge you a foreign currency withdrawal fee though so keep that in mind. We avoid paying fees on our withdrawals by having our Revolut cards handy. You can order one for yourself in minutes – it is irreplaceable when traveling.
My last suggestion would be to always carry some cash with you as many restaurants (especially the smaller ones) tend to only accept cash.
Note: At the time of writing (June 2019) 1£ = 10 $HK, 1$ US = 7.8 $HK.
Food in Hong Kong
We spent around £10-£15 per person per day for food in Hong Kong which was pretty much bang on in terms of what we expected. We are budget conscious travellers so in Hong Kong we kept the costs low by preparing our own breakfast and during the day we opted for reasonably priced restaurants.
One thing that really stood out was prices of fruits, vegetables and especially fruit juices. We saw a 100g pack of imported grapes being sold for 220 $HK (£22) and small bottles (750ml) of our favourite brand of juice going for £5-7. This is a short list of prices of food items to help you budget for your trip.
Water bottle in a supermarket – around 20 $HK for a 2l bottle
Beer in a supermarket – 40 $HK for a small beer
Local baked goods (tasty!) – 6 $HK to 15 $HK
Fruits (bananas/apples) – 5 $HK per piece
Dim sum dish at a budget restaurant – 20-30 $HK (you need 3-4 per meal)
Dish at a restaurant – 100 $HK+
Transportation in Hong Kong
Hong Kong must be the easiest (or possibly a close second after Singapore) city in terms of getting around with public transport. The metro and trains run every 2-3 minutes, are fast and cheap (single journey on average would range from 4 $HK to $12). Metro system is also very easy to understand as maps are clear and metro stations well sign-posted.
We did not use buses to the same extent as metro and trains but buses (as well as trams) seemed to be just as easy to use even for Hong Kong first timers. Tram journeys were particularly affordable – single journey is a flat 2.6 $HK no matter whether you need to jump out at the next stop or you are going to an opposite side of the city. We actually used tram as a way to do some sightseeing as it was much quicker than walking!
The only thing that seemed a little expensive was the airport express train. For a 105 $HK per person one way it was easily the most expensive journey we took in Hong Kong. Taking a bus from/to the airport would have been a cheaper alternative but it would have taken significantly longer time as we would have had to change buses / transfer to/from a metro. Official Hong Kong Airport website suggests bus fares vary from 48 $HK to 19 $HK depending on the destination.
One mode of transportation that we generally try to avoid (and successfully did in Hong Kong) are taxis. My research suggests your taxi fare to get to Hong Kong Island from the airport could exceed $300 depending on your final destination.
Note: Once you land in Hong Kong ask about how to get to Hong Kong at one of the information desks – we were offered a 170 $HK train deal for two people one way which saved us 40 $HK.
Accommodation in Hong Kong
Prices for Hotels/Hostels in Hong Kong vary widely. A budget friendly options in decent areas start from £30 per night for a double room, but can easily reach £200 or more for those who don’t mind splashing out!
We were lucky to find a bunch of couchsurfers to host us in Hong Kong during our stay – big thanks to guys at Nido Asia art gallery who hosted us. Holywood Road in Sheung Wan, which is where we stayed was only a stones-throw away from many of the Hong Kong’s attractions and I would recommend visitors checking out hotels in this area.
Right around Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) station you will find a myriad of significantly cheaper options (starting from £10 per night) but this part of town is not referred to in best words by the locals. Walking past this particular area you will notice loads of guys handing out flyers with pictures of their “Hotel Rooms”. Although we have no proof any of those are dangerous or dodgy (read the reviews online before you book!!!) this particular part of town did not have the same vibe as some really nice areas we stayed at in Hong Kong island.
Attractions in Hong Kong
If you are looking for information about cool places to check out in Hong Kong I would recommend you checking out this post. Here are prices for some of the most popular attractions.
Ferry Tsim Sha Tsui – Central station of Hong Kong Island – 2/2.8 HK$ (Mon-Fri / Weekend or public holidays)
Tram ride anywhere in Hong Kong Island – 2.6 HK$ flat fare
Victoria Peak bus/tram ride one way – 12 $HK / 40 $HK
Metro Roundtrip to Lantau – around 30 $HK
Hong Kong Park / Hong Kong Botanical Gardens / Kowloon Park / Nan Lian Gardens – Free of charge
HK Science Museum – 25 $HK (free on Wednesdays!)
HK Space Museum – 10 $HK (Sky show movies are additional 24 $HK)
HK Museum of History – 10 $HK
As you can see from the list above, most of the points of interest in Hong Kong are either free or really cheap so you should be able to enjoy your visit without breaking the bank.
Hong Kong was such a cool place to visit. It felt so international, multi-cultural and lively. We saw a lot of foreigners living there and it really seemed these communities of expats had their space carved out in this amazing city. At certain it felt so strangely familiar – almost as if we were back in the UK!
However, our stay in Hong Kong has come to an end and our job now to look at how much you should budget for your stay if you ever decide to visit. This is how a 2-week stay would look like in terms of costs.
Accommodation (budget hotels for 14 days) – £560 ($177)
Food (14 days at 1500 PHP per day) – £280 or $405.
Transportation – £100.
Sightseeing and Entertainment – £150. This should cover you for a few tours, museums and many many tram trips around Hong Kong!
Total – £1090 or around £78 ($99) per day.
Note: Check your personal Visa conditions. Also note that although Hong Kong is officially part of China it has its own imigration and entry regulations. For the majority of Europeans entry is visa-free as long as stay is less than 90 days.
*One change that you will notice from our other budget travel posts is that this time I have not included prices of flights. The reason for that is that not everyone will be traveling from the same country and flight prices for some locations are season dependent. At some point in time the other budget travel posts will be changed for consistency.