Cities in Asia are some of the most vibrant and exciting in the world: skyscrapers, designer shops and street food galore. But when you think of budget cities, Hong Kong isn't near the top of the list. Why? Maybe nobody's been brave enough to take it on. Until now.
We’re here to show you that behind the Burberry and hidden beneath the Prada there are days of cheap travel to be had, and that it really is possible to eat, sleep and play in Hong Kong for less than $400 a day (around US$50).
Also known as ‘where to drop your bags and not return until your feet ache and your eyes won't stay open anymore’. Note: Hong Kong doesn't let you rest too much. Minutes from Tsim Sha Tsui MTR, Urban Pack is one of Kowloon’s newest and coolest places to stay. Events are organised every night and the staff’s local knowledge is second to none. Tight security and some of the best showers in any Hong Kong hostel make it a popular place even for those visitors not on a budget. Book in advance as rooms get snapped up quickly. Urban Pack Hostel,14F Hai Phong Mansion, 53-55 Hai Phong Rd, Kowloon, 2732 2271; urban-pack.com. Shared Rooms from $199-$299 a night.
Price calculator: $199
Start the day off right and head to one of the Chinese bakeries on the street right next to Urban Pack – Jenny’s Bakery, for example – on Lock Road, and get a tasty freshly baked breakfast of your choice from out-of-the-oven rolls to traditional egg tarts for under $10. Macau Restaurant offers egg tarts outside for $7. 25-27 Lock Rd, Kowloon, 2366 8148.
Price calculator: $206
Start by walking along the Avenue of the Stars, just a short walk from Tsim Sha Tsui MTR and take in the various named stars on the promenade – much like an Asian version of Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. You’ll also find various statues along the way, including kung fu legend, Bruce Lee. Get a photo with Lee against the skyline. Take your time, Hong Kong is generous, it will wait. Tsim Sha Tsui promenade, 2734 8892; avenueofstars.com.hk. Free
Price calculator: $206
Bruce Lee: Kung Fu. Art. Life at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum
Once you’re finished taking photos and watching others take theirs, hop on the Star ferry (sign-posted from Avenue of the Stars, and only a few more minutes’ walk) over to Central. It’s the most scenic form of public transportation Hong Kong has to offer. For just $2 you are able to take in one of the best views of the Hong Kong skyline from sea level. Not only do you get to breath in some sea air, take some great snaps and experience a ferry trip that has been running since 1888, it also sets you down right in Hong Kong Island’s busy Central district. Star Ferry Pier, Kowloon Point, Tsim Sha Tsui, 2367 7065; starferry.com.hk. Ferry ticket $2
Price calculator: $208
Right from Central pier you can hop on the number 15 bus that will take you straight to The Peak. The bus ride up to Victoria Peak provides even more views of the city and the people that live in it. Make sure you sit upstairs so you can get in some great people watching time. The bus only costs $9.80 each way and will take around 30 minutes. You can get the Peak tram from Garden Road Tram Terminus (Cotton Tree Dr, Central; thepeak.com.hk) for $28 one way. But since we’re doing Hong Kong on a budget, the bus is a really great alternative. nwstbus.com.hk. Two single bus tickets $19.60
Price calculator: $227.6
There is a viewing platform perched high on top of the Peak Tower that gives you stunning views of the skyline from above the clouds for $83 (Skypass includes return tram tickets). However, the adjacent Peak Galleria (thepeakgalleria.com) offers comparable views from its rooftop for free. If you fancy a bit of a stroll there are several paths that circle the peak, taking from 15 to 40 minutes by foot, which give you more fantastic views – it also forms the start of the 50km Hong Kong trail should you fancy something longer. hk-victoria-peak.com. Free
Price calculator: $227.6
The MTR is another of HK’s great transportation systems and it’s a pretty affordable way to get around the city. Single journeys start from $4.50 (up to $48.50 for the longest journeys) or day passes cost $55 and include most buses and light rail too. If you plan to stay longer, pick up an Octopus card ($50 deposit). Although there’s no saving on ticket prices, you can charge it up with cash to use on tickets as well as in many stores for small items, saving your small change. mtr.com.hk. Single MTR journey $4.50
Price calculator: $232.1
SEE ALSO: HK's Top 10: Types of people on the MTR
Back at the pier you can follow the signs to Central MTR and get on the Island line to Wan Chai, just two stops east. Take exit C and you will come to some hole-in-the-wall food stands on O’Brien Road. It’s time for some traditional Chinese street food cuisine: fish balls, octopus, tofu, beef and everything in between. A bowl of fish balls with curry sauce will set you back a whopping $8. So treat yourself and try something new! Curry fish balls $8
Price calculator: $240.1
In Wan Chai you can find just about anything you need and plenty you never knew you needed. Browse through an array of items from street vendors on Tai Yuen Street or head inside the Wan Chai Computer Centre (144 Hennessy Rd, Wan Chai) for a wealth of consumer gadgets. Remember you’re in a city where the selfie stick is an epidemic, so join in the fun and get one. Selfie stick $50
Price calculator: $282.1
Once you are done admiring all things wonderful get back on the MTR and take the Island line three stops to Sheung Wan and start exploring this ‘hipster hangout’. Recently the walls of Soho have been transformed by street artists, creating bright storefronts and alleyways that draw you in. Start on Upper Station Street and poke your head round every alley in search of graffitied wonders. Single MTR journey from Wan Chai $5
Price calculator: $287.1
Keep walking on Hollywood Road and you will come to Man Mo temple (124-126 Hollywood Rd). Built in 1847, this tribute to the god of literature (Man) and the god of war (Mo) is free to enter, and is a spectacular show of Chinese religion. Continue beyond Hollywood Road and you’ll reach Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens (Albany Rd, Central, 2530 0154; lcsd.gov.hk/en/parks/hkzbg) where you can see Bornean orangutans swinging and tropical birds chirping all while walking through flowers and water features. You’ll completely forget you're in a city. Entry to the park and temple are free
Price calculator: $287.1
After a busy day sightseeing, head back to Nathan Road to rest your feet and fill your stomach at one of the dozens of Chinese restaurants that fill the side streets. Most of the restaurants here will sell you a decent bowl of beef noodles for around $40 to $70, but for something a little different try Bismallah Fast Food (Shop 75, 1/F, Chungking Mansions, 36-44 Nathan Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, 2722 5733) for one of its slightly spicy chicken kebabs from just $25. Single MTR journey to TST $9.50, chicken kebab $25.
Price calculator: $321.6
SEE ALSO: Cheap Eats - Our guide to the best meals around HK, all under $50!
It should now be time to see the dark side of Hong Kong, and by that we mean when the sun goes down and the lights turn on! Nighttime HK is like a whole different city! Take a slow walk back down to the Avenue of the Stars and watch the light show that was crowned the ‘World's Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show’ by Guinness World Records. Coloured lights, laser beams and searchlights perform to music and narration that show the energy, spirit and diversity of Hong Kong to its fullest. It starts at 8pm every day and lasts for 13 minutes. tourism.gov.hk/symphony/eindex.html. Free
Price calculator: $321.6
If you think you have seen enough street sellers in Wan Chai, Temple Street night market (Temple St, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon) will blow your mind! The market, which runs almost parallel to the western side of Nathan Road, has row after row of everything imaginable. While over at the Ladies’ market (Tung Choi St, Mong Kok, Kowloon) you’ll find it all, from fake handbags and watches to home furnishings. Haggle with the sellers for a bargain or two. It’s entertainment in itself! Don’t leave without at least a Chinese good luck charm; give yourself a budget of $20 and see what kind you can pick up.
Price calculator: $341.6
If you’re really feeling like a big spender – and at this point you should still have around $60 left – get back over to Wan Chai and enjoy promotions on drinks starting from $20 each; and if it’s Wednesday, ladies you’re in luck! Its free drinks for you! Spirit and mixer from Carnegie’s (53-55 Lockhart Rd, Wan Chai; carnegies.net) on a Monday $20.
Total spent: $361.6
Now, who said Hong Kong wasn't a budget city? It's a traveller’s playground with a little know how. So much to do, so much to see, it’s no wonder it captivated thousands who have ended up staying that little bit longer to experience the magic every day. Welcome to the most wonderful city on earth: Hong Kong
About the author
Self-proclaimed global gypsy, Sarah is a scuba obsessed travel blogger wandering the globe one cup of coffee at a time. Having recently stepped foot back on dry land after living and working on a boat in the Pacific for the last few months she is bringing her adventurous spirit and excitement for life into Hong Kong to keep spreading the word that it is possible to live your dreams as a full time traveller.
Read more from Sarah at coffeewithasliceoflife.com.