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
Wikipedia doesn’t hold all the answers, you know. While some museums in Hong Kong are free to the public – such as the Hong Kong Space Museum and Hong Kong Heritage Museum – most such establishments require a small payment for you to get in. And it’s not all boring written info at these places. There are plenty of fun interactive exhibitions on display and many top quality exhibitions.
Even if you’ve only got $10 in your pocket, you can still pop along to Happy Valley Racecourse for the regular Wednesday night shindig during race season (September to June). With monthly themes ranging from Bollywood to Christmas celebrations, the weekly horse racing nights promise plenty of action and excitement on and off the track. And while we’re not endorsing gambling, if you pick a winner, you might not need this guide anymore.
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 tunnel mining decor (yeah, thanks, Mine), 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.
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 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 in fake brand name 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.
Thanks to the Hong Kong Leisure and Cultural Services Department, Hongkongers can make waves and enjoy watersports without spending over $30. Pop over to any one of these water centres – Chong Hing Water Sports Centre and Wong Shek Centre in Sai Kung; Stanley Main Beach; St Stephen’s Beach; and Tai Mei Tuk, and you can go kayaking, sailing and windsurfing from as little as $30. If you’re dying to hit the water, this is the way to go.
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, though. 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 butt.
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 $23.70 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.
Snap! is basically a photo studio fully equipped with professional lighting, backgrounds and props, but without the presence of a photographer. Here, you get to control the settings, positions and shots of your best side. With various background themes to choose from — romantic outdoors, London town, emojis — you can create your own affordable wedding pictures, shoot a fun photo session with your pals and get a suave profile pic for Facebook. The perfect headshot awaits for only $90 for two people per hour.
Grab a beach towel, your favourite pair of sunnies, some trashy magazines and prepare to spend the day catching some rays at one of Hong Kong’s best beaches. Ham Tin in Sai Kung happens to be one of our favourite with its powdery sand and clear water. Once you’ve had a splash and got your fix of UV rays, Ham Tin has two restaurants that offer some great cheap eats and booze. You’ll also find watersports gear available and services to book boats back to Sai Kung Pier ($130-$150 per person).
If Sai Kung is too far to go or you’re simply not one for sand, try this option. Hong Kong’s public pools cost just $17 on weekdays and $19 on weekends. The outdoor ones are especially awesome, our favourite being the relatively new Kennedy Town pools that include indoors and outdoors pools and a fun kid’s pool with slides.
Sasa is so notorious for its cheap makeup and cosmetics that it’s not uncommon to see Mainlanders arrive at a branch with suitcases ready to be filled. Experiment with a new eyeshadow colour or simply pamper yourself with a new Korean face mask without spending more than $100. Even if you go on a spree and spend more than a couple of hundred, it just means you’re set for the rest of the year.
Hong Kong has no shortage of amazing scenic hiking trails just a short distance from areas like Central and Tai Po, all varying in difficulty but offering jaw-dropping views of the city. The hike up Pat Sin Leng (pictured), in the northeast New Territories, is a moderate one, suitable for most levels of fitness, with some stunning views. Go to Fanling MTR station and get the 56B minibus, alighting just before its destination in Tan Chuk Hang.
Jumpin Gym USA is the largest chain of indoor playgrounds in the city with more than 30 branches across Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and New Territories. Though most of the rides are targeted more towards children — no adult we know is comfortable in the Frog Hopper or the mini Ferris Wheel — there’re plenty of old-school gems like skee ball, basketball hoops 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.
If you’re keen on doing some bargain shopping but want the AC that you don’t get in the 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) for, yup, $12.
Hong Kong is home to several organic farms and Go Green Organic Farm in Yuen Long (formerly a Hello Kitty themed institution) doubles up as a family-friendly pineapple-themed park. The extensive farms promotes the values of going organic, being environmentally-friendly and a low carbon lifestyle. While here, visitors can attend workshops on how to make fresh jam, pet the farm’s adorable resident goats and even camp overnight. Entrance fee is only $30 but you’ll have to pay extra (approximately $60-$80) for each activity.
Believe it! McDonald’s is definitely one way to chill out on a budget. The fast food restaurant is one of the few places in Hong Kong where you’re allowed to sit all day without paying for an overpriced artisan coffee, plus the swank Admiralty branch provides free phone chargers and free WiFi to boot. Yes, there are drawbacks: the loud children and the annoying individuals who don’t understand the concept of personal space. But for the price and, let’s be honest, pretty tasty sodium-filled food, we’ll take it when we’re down to our last few dollars. (Just don’t make a habit of it.)