Let’s face it, we all know that life in Hong Kong is notoriously expensive, what with rent taking a huge slice of your paycheque immediately every month. But it doesn’t always have to be that way. It’s totally possible to visit some of the best Hong Kong attractions, devour delectable cheap eats and in general have an awesome time without going into the red.
RECOMMENDED: If you’re literally down to your last few dollars, check out all the free things to do in Hong Kong that exist.
Cheap things to do in Hong Kong
Why buy tickets for a Big Bus tour when you can easily go on a ding-ding and enjoy a trip along Hong Kong Island’s northern shore for only $2.6? Hong Kong’s trams, or ding-dings, as they’re more commonly known, are one of the cities’ oldest modes of transportation, and the tracks pass through many city icons like the historic Western Market, the skyscrapers of Central, Victoria Park and, if you take the Happy Valley loop, Happy Valley Cemetery and racecourse.
Hong Kong is a shopaholic’s paradise. If you’re in need of some retail therapy without emptying your piggy bank, hit up the city’s famous shopping streets including the Mong Kok Ladies’ Market for the best fake branded fashion items, Golden Computer Arcade in Sham Shui Po for deals on all sorts of electronics, Oriental 188 Shopping Centre for retro video game goodies, and Temple Street Market for some eclectic bric-a-brac.
The New Territories is a great place to hit the road. One of the best cycling routes in the city is the track between Sha Tin and Tai Po, which takes you through the Hong Kong Science Park, the Pak Shek Kok Promenade, and the Tolo cycling track. All-day bike rental only costs around $30 during the week and hovers about $80-$100 during weekends depending on how successful you are at sweet-talking the rental owners.
Dai pai dongs are pretty much synonymous with good cheap eats in Hong Kong. Fill up on congee, noodles, fried rice, and sweet soups at one of the city’s iconic – though sadly dwindling in number – open-air food stalls, all without forking out more than about $100. Loved despite their shabbiness and lack of air conditioning, dai pai dongs are a chance to experience a slice of old Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong equivalent of a greasy spoon café, a cha chaan teng is one of the best places to eat without draining your wallet. Get stuffed on fluffy egg sandwiches, macaroni with ham, and pork chop buns. Don’t forget to order a Hong Kong-style milk tea or a ‘yeen yeung’ (a mix of tea and coffee) and an egg tart fresh out of the oven to round off your meal.
Instead of splurging on the latest console game, save some moolah by getting into retro gaming. There’s still a handful of old-school game arcades dotted around the city. Game Centre in Central is a particular favourite of ours. Slot in a couple of $1 coins and start battling with pals on Street Fighter or King of Fighters. Alternatively, strike up a beat on Taiko Drum Master or pay a few dollars more and get racing in Initial D Stage 8. It’s a super budget-friendly way to spend a couple of hours kicking virtual butts.
How does one do a street food sweep? Simple. Ditch your four-walled restaurants, and bounce from food stall to food stall while stuffing your face with delicious, cheap eats. Known to locals as 'so gaai' (which literally translates to sweep street), you can enjoy a diverse snacking experience for less than $50. From egg waffles to cheung fun (rice noodle rolls) to stinky tofu and pig intestines, the choice is yours. There are several areas in Hong Kong known for its wide selection of street food stalls. Go to Hau Fook Street in Tsim Sha Tsui for some late-night curry fishballs, Sai Yeung Choi Street South in Mong Kok for a truly local experience, or Temple Street in Yau Ma Tei for the best of both worlds – late night and local.
Escape the city and head to Lamma for a laid-back day out. You can relax, take in some gorgeous views, and experience the generally bohemian lifestyle of the island for just under $30 and a 45-minute ferry ride. The popular island makes for a great scenic setting for a bike ride and the restaurants near Yung Shue Wan offer some of the freshest and most affordable seafood in the SAR.
We all joke about it but there’s no cheaper place on a Friday or Saturday night at 2am than LKF’s Club 7-Eleven. The convenience store is the only joint in LKF where you’ll find booze for less than $20 and without the need to pay an extra service charge. Granted, there’s no seating or fancy decor, but you can still have a good time getting sloshed in LKF. Plus, think of all the snacks available to satisfy those post-drink munchies.
Hong Kong has no shortage of amazing scenic hiking trails, all varying in difficulty but offering jaw-dropping views of the city. Once known for its infamous fugitive crocodile, Pui Pui, the Nam Sang Wai Wetlands is a rural landscape ideal for a break from the city and a spot of bird watching. There’s no set route to take, simply make your way across the park’s large network of narrow banks between the many ponds. A number of buses go straight to the wetlands. Try either bus 967 from Admiralty or 69X from Jordan.
Having closed down all of its branches in Hong Kong 20 years ago – along with it all of our childhood memories from the 80s and 90s – The wonderful world of whimsy is finally back! Taking up shop in E-Max, Kowloon Bay, this 30,000 sqft fun zone has brought back of the classic games. Though most of the fun and games are targeted more towards children, there’re plenty of old-school gems like skee ball, basketball hoops, whack-a-mole, and air hockey tables to satisfy anyone. Game tokens are $2 each and you can get a discount by buying them in bulk. Happy gaming!
If you need a view to go with your booze, try the IFC rooftop area. Simply pop into a nearby convenience store – we suggest the 7-Eleven in the basement near the Airport Express – and take your drinks up to the roof for some late-night shenanigans. Just try not to sit anywhere near the many international school kids who hang out there.
Founded in 1888, Star Ferry remains the cheapest way to travel across the Victoria Harbour. Sure, the sea breeze is nice and all, but the real champion here is the killer view of Hong Kong’s skyline. Depending on where you sit (upper or lower deck), one ride only costs between $2.2 to $2.7 on weekdays and $3.1 to $3.7 on weekends. For the price of almost-nothing, you can sail from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central or Wan Chai on one of Hong Kong’s most historic public transportations. We recommend going at nighttime so you can capture our city’s waterfront night lights in all its glory.
If you’re keen on doing some bargain shopping but want the AC that you don’t get in outdoor markets, a $12 shop like Living Plaza is the way to go. Here you’ll find the most random collection of Japanese knick-knacks, from massage sticks and prescription glasses to super cheap homeware and tacky wall decorations (nothing wrong with a bit of kitsch) all for, yup, $12.