How to Explore Hong Kong on a Budget

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Hong Kong ended up being a big surprise for me. I spent 3 days in Hong Kong as a little stopover on my (really long) way back home to Canada after a few months in SE Asia. To be honest, I didn’t expect to like it. After spending so long in Southeast Asia  I figured it would just be a big, modern, city. But, I was surprised by what I found and actually loved my short time in Hong Kong. Enough that I hope to go back one day. However, as much as I loved the food, sites, and attractions I didn’t love the price tag that came with this city. Hong Kong is expensive! But, as I found out, it doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are my top tips for exploring Hong Kong on a budget.

How to find Food and Drink in Hong Kong on a Budget

Hong Kong Street Food Vendor

Hong Kong has an incredible food scene and the best part is that a lot of the best things to eat are cheap or at least very affordable. As with many other places in Asia, I recommend you take advantage of the street food options (make sure to try egg waffles!). Also keep your eye on where the locals go. A lot of times these are tiny little vendors squished into the bottom of buildings and down alley ways. If you see a big line of locals- it’s a good sign. I found a Michelin-rated dumpling place thanks to doing this and it ended up being one of my favourite foodie spots. You can read more about that here.

It’s also worth trying Tim Ho Wan, the famous Michelin starred dim sum restaurant. It can be quite busy and crowded, but the food is good and very affordable considering. Make sure to get the pork buns- so good!

How to get Around Hong Kong on a Budget

Octopus Card

I loved exploring some of the neighbourhoods inHong Kong by foot. But as a whole, Hong Kong is too big to be able to walk everything. The good news is that public transit in Hong Kong is very easy and affordable making it easy to explore and get around.

To use public transit in Hong Kong you will want to get an Octopus Card. These cards work on the bus to/from the airport, the metro, and on the ferry to cross between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. You can also use it in many local shops such as convenience stores, fast food restaurants, and grocery stores which makes it even more handy.

There are two options when getting an octopus card. You can get a ‘bought’ octopus card which has a fun Hong Kong themed design acting like a souvenir, or an ‘on-load’ octopus card which you can return for a small refund at the end of your trip. 

Exploring Hong Kong on a Budget

Hong Kong Sunrise

Wandering Hong Kong’s streets is free but also comes with plenty of temptations in the form of food, cute boutiques, and all kinds of other things. If you are looking to escape that then one of the best ways to explore Hong Kong on a budget without the temptation of spending is to get into Hong Kong’s nature.

From hiking trails to beaches, there are plenty of options in the area that are easy to get too, free, and offer some great photo ops. Favourite hikes include the Dragon’s Back Ridge, Lion’s Peak, Sunset Peak, and Lamma Island. If you’re more into beaches, then try Clearwater Bay, Ham Tim Wan, Golden Beach, or Big Wave Bay.

Hong Kong Budget Accommodation

Royal Plaza Hong Kong Hotel

 Hong Kong is pricey, so it makes sense that accommodation is pricey too. Yes, even the hostels. I think I paid about $50 a night when I visited, however, a big part of that is because I left it until the last minute. So not only did I have limited options, but I also had to pay a premium price for leaving it so late. Lesson learned!

One of my top recommendations for those looking to experience Hong Kong on a budget is to book your accommodation in advance, whether it’s a hotel, hostel, or Airbnb. Personally, I book all my accommodation through booking.com because they often have ‘daily deals’ for destinations and promotional early bird type pricing discounts. Not to mention, most properties are refundable if your plans change- so when that’s the case, it really doesn’t hurt to book as early as possible. Plus, they offer a range of choices for a variety of budgets including hotels, hostels, and apartments.

You can take a look at Hong Kong hotel prices here.

Whatever you do, just don’t stay in Chungking Mansion. While it’s not quite as bad as it used to be, I still don’t recommend it. Especially for solo travellers. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, google it. 

Shopping in Hong Kong: Don’t Forget to Haggle!

Hong Kong Market

Hong Kong has lots of markets that are great both for exploring and shopping. If you do end up shopping here, make sure to haggle! Start really low, like 20-30% of the original asked for price and work your way up from there until you settle on a number that you are happy with. As a tourist, you will still pay more than the locals, but never pay asking price at a market in Hong Kong.

To ensure you get the best deal, you’ll also want to make sure you don’t look too ‘expensive’. Tuck away your fancy DSL-R camera, ditch the designer sunglasses, etc. If you look like you have money, you’ll get asked to pay more. Also, remember to only start haggling if you are actually interesting in buying the item. Bargaining and getting a low price then changing your mind is considered to be very rude.

Keep in mind haggling will only work in markets, don’t try to haggle in a mall or a proper shop. It won’t work!

Final Tips for Visiting Hong Kong on a Budget 

Sunset at Victoria Peak, Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a really fun city with plenty to see and do. Yes, it is one of the more expensive destinations in this part of the world, so it’s not a place to visit if you are really low on cash. However, that doesn’t mean you need to go broke to see and experience some of the highlights of this fun city. Follow my tips above and you’ll be able to experience some of the best of Hong Kong on a budget.

A Note on Travel Insurance in Hong Kong

Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine multiple times. While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance as they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found, plus, they are who I use and I have had great experiences with them. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.

Headed to Hong Kong? Here are some tips to explore Hong Kong on a budget.

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