A short but useful guide on traveling in Hong Kong on a budget whilst getting the ultimate cultural experience.
There are many reasons to visit the bustling and energetic city of Hong Kong. Many airlines offer affordable flights to this major hub, it is a popular visa-free destination for many nationalities and you can often get cheaper flights to South East Asia transiting through Hong Kong. Although shopping in Hong Kong is generally more affordable compared to other major cities like New York, London, Tokyo and San Francisco due to no import taxes or VAT (yes, it's true!), it can quickly become an expensive travel destination if you don't know where to eat, which public transport to take or which grocery stores offer the best bang for your buck. In this guide, we share our 6 top budget travel tips that will not only help you save money, but help you get the most authentic cultural experience in Hong Kong.
1. How to save money booking accommodation in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is notorious for expensive property prices and high rent, therefore accommodation will be the most expensive component of traveling to Hong Kong. The upside is that there are thousands of accommodation options in the city ranging from affordable hostels to luxury hotels. In general, accommodation on Hong Kong Island (close to Central, Causeway Bay, Admiralty) will generally be more expensive because these areas are popular for business travel. Tsim Sha Tsui is also likely to be expensive due to its prime location next to Victoria Harbour. Your best option is to use websites such as Booking.com or Agoda to find accommodation within your budget outside of these two expensive nodes. Public transport is very extensive in Hong Kong, so as long as your accommodation is close to public transport, it should be easy to get around.
2. Cheapest public transport in Hong Kong
Public transport is extensive and easy to use in Hong Kong. Depending on the length of your stay it may be more cost effective and time efficient to purchase an Octopus card instead of individual tickets. The Octopus card works like the Oyster card does in London, except the Octopus card is even more convenient as you can even make purchases with it at convenient stores such as 7 Eleven or coffee shops such as Starbucks. It works on a cost per trip basis and the costs are slightly cheaper than single ticket trips. When you leave Hong Kong, you can either give the card back to get your deposit, or keep the card as a souvenir.
When topping up or purchasing tickets, it is important to have cash on hand as the machines as well as the teller does not accept credit or debit cards. You can also only top up your Octopus card in HKD$50 increments.
In general, taking the public bus and red mini-bus will be more affordable than taking the subway. The best way to manage transport costs is to check the cost of your trip on apps like CityMapper because there have been occasions where the bus and train option cost similar, but the train ride was faster.
3. Eating out on a budget in Hong Kong
The best way to find the tastiest street food is to go where the crowds are. Most of the signs will be in Chinese so just take a leap of faith and point at what you would like to try. We recommend the curry fish balls and the bubble waffle. "Yum Cha" (traditional Cantonese dim sum) is also a must-try, but will likely be more expensive compared to street stalls.
If you're absolutely missing western food, then going to a franchise will be the most affordable option.
4. Where to buy cheaper food in Hong Kong
Instead of eating every meal out, you can also save some cash buying some snacks and sandwiches from grocery stores. For fruit and fresh vegetables, we recommend going to a local wet market. You can easily find one by googling for the closest wet market near you. Not only will the fresh produce be more affordable, you will also get an authentic cultural experience shopping like a local Hong Konger at a wet market. However, if you're vegetarian, vegan or very sensitive to smells and seeing chopped fish and meat, this experience is probably not for you. Instead, you can go to a more western adapted grocery store like Welcome, Taste and Park n Shop, which are the more affordable options.
5. How to have a night out in Hong Kong on a budget
A visit to Hong Kong is incomplete without visiting the infamous pub district of Lan Kwai Fong. It is an amazing and fun experience but can quickly become a very expensive night out. Our recommendation is to start the night early and make use of happy hour. The other option is to buy drinks from the 7 Eleven in Lan Kwai Fong and enjoy a few drinks in the street. Don't worry, it is legal (only in the district of Lan Kwai Fong). Lots of expats and locals do it so it is a nice way to meet people.
6. How to save money on foreign currency when traveling
The most useful benefit for us is that we are able to buy and hold up to 23 currencies on the card. The game changer is that we are able to buy or sell these currencies at the real exchange rate (i.e. the googled exchange rate) without any commission. What makes this even better is that Revolut gives you free cash withdrawals up to GBP200 (if you registered in the UK) every month. These small savings add up if you love to travel.
You can use Revolut card anywhere where they accept Mastercard or VISA, but you can currently only register if you're a UK, European or Australian citizen/permanent resident. Downloading the app and registering is free. They offer different account options. The basic account is free, but you will need to pay GBP5.95 to order a physical card. For a free card, use our link and you will get a physical card for FREE and we will get GBP5 for the referral.
This is our top money saving tip for any travel destination.
Where to travel to next after Hong Kong
There are plenty of cheap flights from Hong Kong to South East Asia. If you're heading to Thailand, be sure to explore outside of Bangkok and Phuket so you can get away from the crowds and make the most out of your adventure. We have a complete guide on how to get around Thailand on the cheap, which explains how their public transport system works. If you're all about beaches and island life, then make a stop at our best beach guide for Koh Phangan island. If you love exploring lakes, hiking through water caves and kayaking, then be sure to check out our Khao Sok Lake Tour guide. It's one of our most unforgettable experiences we've ever done.
If you found our money saving travel tips useful, let us know in the comments below. For more money saving tips, let us know which travel destination you would like money saving tips for.
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We're Michael & Chloe!
An adventure travel couple from South Africa. We've hiked up mountains, dived the depths of the ocean, free-fell through the sky and finally walked down the aisle together. We love exploring the adventurous outdoors and discover hidden gems. Our dream is to inspire others to travel more consciously and responsibly while having an adventure of a lifetime.