Author: Fenella Cools
You've probably heard that Hong Kong is one of the world's most expensive cities - after all, you don't get to soak in those famous skylines for nothing. For the savvy traveller though, Hong Kong offers plenty for the budget backpacker if you know where to look and luckily for you, we're going to show you exactly where that is.
Hong Kong Accommodation
Undoubtedly, one of the largest costs of any Hong Kong vacay is going to be your accommodation. If you're beelining for those tourist hot spots like Central on Hong Kong Island then be prepared that even a basic Inn or hostel is going to put a strain on your hard-earned dosh. For the cost-conscious, your first move is to stay on Kowloon, otherwise known as the 'mainland'. Don't worry, you're still as little as two metro stations away from Central (yep, the metro travels under the bay) and better yet, you're smack bang in the middle of the real culture. Tsim Sha Tsui and Wan Chai are the hottest tourist spots this side of the bay, but for the real cost-conscious, check out accommodation in neighbouring districts like Jordan and Mong Kok. If you're chasing local charm that won't bust the bank, historic neighbourhoods like Sai Ying Pun and Sheung Wan boast plenty of Airbnb style accommodations that are still only a few metro stops from the CBD.
Hong Kong Transport
The MTR subway system is deadly efficient, clean, comfortable and services practically anywhere you'd ever want to explore. Better yet, they're incredibly easy to use with convenient timetable apps and English on all metro maps as well as stop announcements. There's no excuse to get lost when it's this easy. While the metro is already affordable, your first port of call is to pick up an Octopus Card from the airport or any metro station. These stored valued cards make it as simple as tapping on and off without having to worry about cash or paper tickets. Better yet, you can also use these cards to pay at heaps of places around the city including 7/11, Starbucks and McDonald's as well as other transport like the buses, ferries and taxis - too easy!
Locked in a struggle between traditional and modern, many of Hong Kong's more classic transport modes also double as budget sightseeing options. Why pay for a sightseeing bus when the best way to spend an afternoon getting to know the city is to rattle around Hong Kong Island on the local double-decker trams? These beauties come in all sorts of eclectic colours and are a set HK$2.30 per ride no matter how many stops you go. Jump on board with the locals and sit back as your tram squeezes through historic districts, right through the middle of local markets and past suburban scenes. Second, on the list of transport come sightseeing hybrids is the Star Ferry between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. Sure you can catch the metro, sure you can splash some cash on a sightseeing cruise. But why would you when you can simply tap your Octopus Card and hop on board the iconic tiny green ferry that has been faithfully transporting tourists and locals alike across the bay since 1888.
Hong Kong Sightseeing
Some of the best sightseeing in Hong Kong is totally free, or very close to it. From people watching to out of this world cityscapes - we've got you covered with all the best places to soak in the city's vibe without breaking the bank. Hong Kong spoils the adventurous traveller with more street markets then you know what to do with. Spend hours wandering the tiny alleyways and colourful stalls of The Flower Market, the Goldfish Market, the Ladies' Market, the Cat Street Antique Market and more. Most of these markets are within walking distance of each other and you can enjoy them completely free. Even better? A few metro stops away from here is the Nan Lian Garden where you can wander idyllic landscapes complete with a waterfall featuring an urban city backdrop. Nestled between skyscrapers and gardens, this location also hosts the Chi Lin Nunnery. With free entry, this is the perfect location to soak in history, culture and spectacular views without spending a penny.
If you're after sweeping panoramic views on a budget, swap the pricey entrance to the Sky Terrace at Peak Tower for the Peak Galleria. Located just across the road, this building also offers an observation deck but totally free of charge! Next, swap the hustle and bustle of metropolitan Hong Kong for neighbouring Lantau Island. Lying in the mouth of the Pearl River, this lush island is largely covered in forestation and easily accessible by the MTR from the CBD. High in the mountains here, you'll find the 112ft Tian Tan Buddha. Climbing the 268 steps to its base as well as entrance to the adjacent Po Lin Monastery is completely free and rewards you with sweeping views of the ocean and surrounding mountains.
Hong Kong Eats
Lastly, but let's be honest, most importantly is Hong Kong's best bites. While the city is stuffed to the brim with a trending cafe scene and countless high-class restaurants, these do not come cheap. Instead, why not tantalise your taste buds with local delights. Eating on the cheap in Hong Kong is a breeze if you take tips from the pros. Cha Chaan Tengs are small diners with cheap eats ranging from noodles to desserts. Try the famous steamed milk pudding for the ultimate comfort food or sit down to some fried rice in some of the city's most popular Cha Chaan Teng chains including Kum Wah Cafe and Matchbox Cafe.
And last, but certainly not least, in a turn of events that is characteristic of the Hong Kong attitude of mashing together the very best of old and new, the city also plays host to the world's cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant. For dumpling heaven that is easy on the pocket and an experience you literally can't find anywhere else head to the dim sum masters at Tim Ho Wan. These balls of stuffed deliciousness are an absolute godsend and better yet, there are multiple locations around the city so knock yourself out.
About The Author:
Self-proclaimed dumpling Queen, Fenella, is always on the hunt for the best Vegetarian street snacks. She likes exploring a city by foot, even though she's useless at reading maps and travelling to destinations she can't pronounce.