Hong Kong is famous for a lot of things. Being an inexpensive city isn’t one of them. Nevertheless, experiencing east-meets-west with big city glitz doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
As a destination known for making the most of the limited space and for having one of the world’s most fiercely competitive food scenes, bargains mostly certainly do abound. In fact, some of the coolest things about any visit to Hong Kong happen in the street and, if not actually free, they are negligible in price.
Allow us to lay out a few ideas to help you save money on during your trip with some tips on where to stay and how to play on a limited budget. We’re assuming you already have your airfare taken care of and that you won’t be renting a car. The local currency is the Hong Kong Dollar (HK$) with an exchange rate of (at the time this post was written) HK$7.8125 to 1 United States Dollar (US$).
For the most affordable accommodation that’s safe and clean, hostels and guesthouses are the way to go. These can be as low in price as US$25 a night, but the best guesthouses tend to run about US$50-60. With respect to location, your two main options are Hong Kong Island (the southern section that’s the historical center of the city) and Kowloon (an area of the peninsula just across Victoria Harbour from Hong Kong Island’s northern shore). You’ll find more budget-friendly options in Kowloon with a mix of hostels, guesthouses, and mid-range hotels.
If you love eating street food and experiencing a place like the locals do, you’ll have a delicious time in Hong Kong on even the most modest of budgets. Hoping to spend US$5 or less for a filling and tasty breakfast or lunch isn’t an unreasonable aspiration and a quality dinner doesn’t have to cost much more. Fun to explore and as authentic as it comes in Hong Kong, the city’s outdoor markets are perfect for trying cheap eats (and drinks) while getting a feel for daily doings of local folks. Some of the best dai pai dongs (open-air food stalls) are at Graham Street, Fa Yeun Street, Li Kung Street and Temple Street.
For those who simply must splurge while traveling but still want to be thrifty about it, consider going all out for one of Hong Kong’s celebrated buffets. From unlimited servings of dim sum and classic Cantonese dishes to a mix of Chinese and Western favorites, the best buffets can run US$75 or more, but there are amazing buffets that are under US$20. Whatever the case, they’re an experience in and of themselves. Plus if you go on the early side (weekend brunch is most typical), you won’t need to eat another meal for the rest of the day. On the lower end of the price spectrum – but much loved for choice and flavor of food – is the all-you-can-eat Super Sunday buffet at 798 Unit & Co on Hau Fook Street.
The best way to navigate Hong Kong’s streets, especially if you’re on a budget, is on foot or via public transportation. You’ll be hard-pressed to spend more than $US10 no matter how much you want to zip around. When you’re there, be sure to get an Octopus card, an electronic card you can use to access most public transportation. It can be purchased at convenience stores, fast food restaurants, supermarkets and stations across the city. For visitors, there are two cards to choose. One is the Sold Tourist Octopus card (HK$39) and the On-Loan Octopus card with a refundable deposit of HK$50. The Octopus can also be used for free entry and discounts at attractions, restaurants, and shops.
Attractions and Sightseeing
Many of the best attractions in Hong Kong are free or have a nominal admission fee. For awesome views of and from the Victoria Harbour, there’s the Star Ferry, which has been used by commuters to get back and forth for over a hundred years and offers a seven-minute crossing that costs pennies (they also have several full tours of the harbour that run from US$12-26. Another fantastic view option is to take the tram to the top of The Peak on Hong Kong Island, which costs around US$11 (or you can use your Octopus card). History and culture buffs should note that admission to many museums in Hong Kong is free every Wednesday. The extremely popular Happy Valley horse races also take place every Wednesday (although they’re usually at night) and a ticket only costs a couple of bucks.
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