Travel Guide: How to explore Hong Kong on a budget
Posted on July 02 2019
Disclaimer! (Before you dive into this awesome read) we could have saved A LOT more money on our visit to Hong Kong if we weren't avid happy hour participants and enthusiasts. Also, if the food in Hong Kong wasn't SO DAMN GOOD, but what would life be if we didn't try all the yummy food out there? I will tell you what it would be. That would be a life that is (absolutely completely one hundred percent) lifeless as fu*k! And who wants that?
Okay now that I got that out let me get to the important stuff, like the point of my post. You can definitely explore and enjoy Hong Kong on a budget. We were able to see the sights, go to Hong Kong Disneyland, eat, drink and have great low cost accommodation while remaining in our budget of $150 a day.
So, how do you on a backpackers budget explore a city that has so much to see, do, eat and experience? You book on Airbnb, you do the occasional 7 Eleven run, and you stay strong!
Making a Plan and Creating Your Budget
Kurt is the mastermind behind creating our budgets. He does his research mainly by reading other blogs, looking for how much money you need per day (for two) in Hong Kong. The budget breakdown goes something like this:
Then he researches what there is to do and most importantly what out of those things we would like to do. When the research on where to stay began it was a nightmare. I honestly thought we wouldn't be able to make it. Kurt’s patient nature paid off because he stuck to it and after hours upon hours of searching, reaching out to friends and nearly giving up, we got it done. My point is, planning is a necessary evil even for non planners like us and it takes time!
At the end of our trip this is what our breakdown came to:
Sight Seeing 18.5%
Drinks 8.5%: Happy hour and a night out.
Transport 5%: Round trip airport bus and MTR.
Madly Addictive 1%: Business expenses.
Groceries 1%: Instant coffee, oatmeal and water.
Budget your trip is a great reference for a Hong Kong travel budget 2019. The only thing they do not consider is vacation rentals like Airbnb. They average daily cost to visit Hong Kong on a budget is $57 per person. A mid-range trip at $143 a day per person. So we fit right in between budget and mid range (like I mentioned we could have cut out the happy hour). When creating your budget here are the key things to consider:
1. Accommodation will take up most of your budget.
2. Factor in major transportation costs (roundtrip airport).
3. Food will be a major expense in Hong Kong.
Once you have established a budget you are comfortable with you can start looking for hotels in Hong Kong, which brings us to my next point.
Research and Compare Places To Stay
In our experience the best option was booking through Airbnb as most of what we found as far as hotels go, were way out of budget or just not available, so make sure you book in advance.
For all transparency here was our criteria when researching hotels in Hong Kong:
1. A room we could be comfortable in (fit two people and our backpacks).
2. A place that wouldn't eat up our budget.
3. Location, location, location.
Airbnb was a great option for us as we found a new listing (which means there were no reviews) and took a little bit of a risk, but found a great place in the heart of SOHO. When researching most people recommend staying in the Kowloon area, but we found soho to be perfect for what we like doing and it has a much more local feel. Soho is a young, hip and vibrant area where there is always something going on. There are also tons of places to eat and the area is walkable. It is also connected to major transport stops like Central. When choosing an area to stay in you have to consider: price, location and what you would like to experience. Hong Kong is a big city with many different areas to visit and lots to do so, staying close to public transportation is a necessity. When comparing locations think about what you like to experience when in a new city. Do you want to be in the busiest area? Do you like to be where its more touristy or would you prefer a more local feel? Do you like to stay in the middle of it all or more off the beaten path? Ask yourself these questions before you start looking so the process is made easier. We decided on Soho based on price, location in the city, public transport and the fact that we could walk to other areas.
Travel Tip: If you book a hotel room during week nights it will save you almost 50% compared to weekend rates. We stayed at the Grand City Hotel and it was perfect! Clean, just enough room for two, great location and price was just right. We booked a three night weekday stay there before the rates doubled on the weekend. Then switched over to an Airbnb to save even more!
Make A Food Plan
If you love food almost as much as you love to travel Hong Kong is definitely the place for you. However, the only downside is that it will be one of your largest expenses while visiting the city. So, I say make a plan. Once you know what area you will be staying in you can easily research places to go eat on TripAdvisor. Luckily we have access to all sorts of information and reviews on Hong Kong restaurants, which yes takes some extra time to plan but, will save you money. Plus, we all make bad choices when exploring a new place and are starving! If you happen to rent an apartment you can get some groceries and plan to have breakfast before you go explore for the day and then just have your lunch and dinner while you are out. Also, all over Hong Kong they offer lunch specials that really help you get more bang for your buck or actually just more food for your dollar. Try to wander a bit and find a local spot off the side streets, it is a guaranteed way to save and have some delicious food. I know everyone says to eat local it’s an obvious choice but, it's not as easy to find sometimes. A great local spot with famous french toast (Hong Kong style) is Chau Kee. Another great thing to check out are the Hong Kong street food festivals. Take a look online to see if they are having any events while you are in town. They are an awesome way to get out and try different food from different Hong Kong restaurants without having to run all over town. Another great way to save and enjoy the awesome food in Hong Kong is to share meals. If you are traveling with someone and like the same types of food why not share? Ms.100 was the perfect place to get a healthy meal that was enough for two and didn't break our plan.
Know Your Transportation Options
Since there are so many things to do in Hong Kong and you have to get there some how you will be spending money on transportation. One major transportation cost is getting to and from the airport. The most economical way is to take the bus. Depending on where you are staying in the city the bus will take you about 30 to 45 minutes to get to your destination. One way bus ticket to and or from the airport costs 47 HKD ($6.00 USD) per person. The buses are all double decker and a fun way to get a view of the city without having to take a tour. With the great public transportation system in Hong Kong you wont need to spend too much money on taxis but if you find yourself in need of a car you can grab an UBER. Taking the ferry across the island is only 80 cents one way and its a beautiful ride with great photo ops, you should definitely give it a try.
Travel Tip: There are many free things to do in the city. Like walking around Lan Kwai Fong, taking pics at the Avenue of the Stars, Temple Street, you can also hike up to The Peak and save on the transport cost.
Hong Kong is an amazing place and if you have the opportunity to get there you should definitely go! Just remember if money is a concern all it takes is some planning and it is not only doable but enjoyable. Hong Kong is vibrant, fun and never boring we fell in love and hope you will too.
- Sandy Lee