How to Do Hong Kong on a Budget: Where to Spend & What to Skip
While I do admit there’s a certain exhilarating challenge in seeing just how cheap I can go, getting the lowest price is not always the best value when it comes to travel. On the contrary, sometimes going too cheap is a waste of money. That’s why I’m willing to pay more for an engaging travel experience that’s worth the extra effort and cost. At the same time, I am also careful to avoid buying into the contrived tourist event.
Yes, I learned the hard way. But the good news is that you don’t have to. Consider this list of Hong Kong deals and gimmicks when you plan your trip and you will not fall prey. Instead, you will have a little extra cash to apply to your next adventure.
Best Budget Accommodation in Hong Kong
Now, you might be tempted to save money here by staying in a hostel with shared communal bathrooms, loud snoring, and other inconveniences. But why not grab a friend to split the bill and pay a little more to sleep in the YMCA Salisbury Hotel in Kowloon? For its location to local attractions, price, and amenities, the YMCA Salisbury is a true value. In addition, suites are available for larger groups, many of the rooms have views of the famous Hong Kong Harbor, and the colorful nightlife of Nathan Road is steps away.
>> Find cheap hotels in Hong Kong
Best Budget Transportation in Hong Kong
Conveniently, your Octopus card can be used for airport transfers, the subway line, the Star Ferry, Victoria Peak trams, city buses, and even double-decker buses.
Without a doubt, I recommend foregoing an airport shuttle and avoiding all taxis. Moreover, don’t mistakenly believe that an organized guided tour will save you effort or frustration. Moving around the city via public transportation and your own two feet will save you heaps of time and cash.
Best Cheap & Tasty Food in Hong Kong
First, visit a dim sum restaurant for brunch. Having eaten at several in the area, I recommend the Luk Yu Teahouse for its 1930s atmosphere and delicious dishes. Located on Central Island, this traditional local restaurant has two levels where waiters make the rounds showcasing their delicacies, all the while noisily ramming their carts into one another. Be sure to get there before 11:00 am though, since after that the strolling food cart service is suspended for the day and a traditional menu takes over.
In addition, the historic Peninsula Hotel’s Afternoon Tea is tempting for the chance to sit among the gilded pillars and painted ceilings, but the plates of scones and sandwiches are more than a little overpriced – and who wants to wait in that horrendously long line? By all means, step inside the lobby and take a peek around the romantic premises, but you don’t have to spend money to enjoy the ambiance.
Best Budget-Friendly Sights & Entertainment in Hong Kong
Don’t pass up the chance to restore your chi with a foot massage or integrate with locals at the Yuen Po Bird Market. Appreciate the natural scenery in one of the fishing villages or take the tram up to Victoria Peak to stroll around the perimeter. Ride the Star Ferry at night and see the glittery city lights, visit a Buddhist temple and saunter down the Avenue of the Stars at sunset. Or simply adopt my favorite (free) pastime – people watching in a public park.
If you’re looking for an escape from the big city hustle and bustle, outlying Lantau Island is a welcome respite. Home of the Giant Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery, Lantau Island is an easy and popular day trip from Hong Kong. You can even use your Octopus card on the subway to get there. Walking up the steps to the world’s largest seated bronze Buddha and eating a vegetarian lunch at the monastery are engaging experiences and cost little.
Skip the masses at the gondola cable car ride and take a bus up the mountain instead. You’ll save quite a bit of money, and while others are waiting in lines that rival the ones for Space Mountain, you’ll be riding along a narrow thrilling path up to the Buddha.
In addition, while the seemingly quaint Ngong Ping Village and children’s Monkey Tail Theatre may be fairly entertaining, they are fabricated and commercialized experiences. They both promise enlightenment, but you may end up feeling like you are in Disneyland without intending to be.
Best Shopping in Hong Kong on a Budget
But what about the other kind of fabulous shopping that Hong Kong is famous for? Visitors rave about the deals that are supposedly better than what you can find at home. Luxury handbags are seen in every store window, the glitzy jewelry stores beckon with their sparkly displays, and those custom-made dresses and suits advertised by eager tailors all over town seem too special to pass up.
Trust me on this one. Even if you think you are an expert haggler, the Chinese are expert salespeople.
Book flights to Hong Kong, find a hostel in Hong Kong, read about some lesser known places to visit in Hong Kong. Or read our tips for having an indie travel experience in Hong Kong.