Singapore may top the list of most expensive cities around the world, but Hong Kong stands out for its absurdly high rent, causing many lower-income workers living there to resort to cage homes. Though parts of the Chinese Special Administrative Region are certainly out of reach for the budget traveler, there are deals to be had if you know where to look.
All prices are listed in Hong Kong dollars, HKG. As of this writing, 1 USD = 7.8 HKG.
1. Stick with Dim Sum.
Are there affordable, even cheap restaurants of different varieties in Hong Kong? Yes, of course. The area contains fine dining, upscale shopping, and five-star hotels where anyone can spend thousands of dollars in just a short trip. However, scattered nearly everywhere across the island and mainland are exclusively dim sum restaurants, delicious food intended to be shared for about $10-20 per plate of dumplings. True, it would be best to splurge on at least some of the other amazing food available, but dim sum is a delicious and satisfying budget meal.
2. Get an Octopus Card.
Most of the year, walking through Hong Kong for even a short time can leave anyone sweaty, unless you’re one of the few to know the intricate paths to take you underground, over the streets, and through office buildings, malls, and tunnels with air conditioning. Getting into Hong Kong by the airport express train may not be especially cheap ($110 one-way), but even before you arrive in the city, purchase an Octopus Card to save time and money — the airport express train fare can be loaded onto your card, and once connected to the MTR network, each swipe saves you a few dollars and the inconvenience of paying cash at the machine.
3. Shop at Temple Street Market.
Blowing your budget by being thrown by the currency exchange rates is something every traveler experiences at some point, but with the premium shopping available in Hong Kong, it can do some serious damage. While it may be tempting to hop into the nearest brand name store and see what’s available, there are other options for travelers on a budget. Temple Street is lined with vendors during the day, and at night comes even more alive with food stalls, tables set out with wares, and even places for some traditional Chinese medicine. It beats shopping at H&M.
4. Hike Victoria Peak.
Though certainly on the tourist track, for those looking for an awesome daytime or nighttime view of Hong Kong Island, Victoria Peak can be just as much a budget day trip as a walk through the market. However, you don’t have to shell out $45 for the tram or even take a bus as long as you’re in decent shape and up for a hike. Trails from Kennedy Town to Admiralty lead all the way to the top of the mountain without an entrance fee. If you’re willing to forego the sky terrace view or a seat at the highest Starbucks in Hong Kong, there are plenty of free places along the trail more than suitable (and less crowded) for amazing pictures.
5. Visit Lamma Island.
If you feel like taking a boat to Macau, you’ll have to pass through immigration and risk losing your head at the blackjack tables. Dinner cruises around the harbor can start at around $200. However, for a mere $11, you can get your time on a boat and find a welcome escape from the urban areas. Lamma Island is only about 30-40 minutes away. While definitely not completely isolated from tourists and crowds, there’s a decent beach, cold beer, and fresh fish at Rainbow to keep you occupied before the ferry back.