How to Visit Hong Kong on a Budget

October 28, 2016

Along with HK's sky high skyline comes sky high prices. Luckily, we've got the best insider tips and tricks from Hong Kong resident Siobhan Brewood-Wyatt so you can still visit if you're on a budget.

Frequently voted the most expensive city in the world, Hong Kong is challenging if you're on a shoestring budget. Luxury hotels and rooftop bars are as expensive as they sound but that doesn't mean this vibrant city is completely off limits to purse conscious travellers. From free cultural sights to the world's cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant, we round up the city's best insider tips, tricks, places and spaces so you can save your pennies. 

On a Budget: Eating

Hong Kong Dim Sum

While Hong Kong is famed for its luxury dining options and plethora of five-star high teas, there are plenty of cheap eats for those looking to skimp on cost but not on taste. Temple or Stanley Street Night Markets are a great option for foodies - the adjacent seafood restaurants offer plenty of home-cooked and reasonably priced dishes. Another good option is Tak Fat Beef Ball in Haiphong Road Temporary Market, where a hearty bowl will cost you under 48HKD (£5). Cha chaan tengs (tea cafes) are also popular, try Tsai Wah which serves up simple local favourites - although it's a (small) chain, its emphasis on traditional dishes keep it authentic. When only an award-winning meal will do though, head to Tim Ho Wan in the Olympic district. The world's cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant, expect mouth watering fried cha siu baau (pork buns) and mandarin glazed meatballs; a portion of dim sum will set you back around 24HKD (£2.50).

Value for money: The reasonably priced Kowloon Street Food Tour is a great way to explore the city and sample lots of tasty food. 

On a Budget: Drinking

Hong Kong Nightlife

Ditch daiquiris and cut out cosmopolitans - if you want a tipple in HK you'll need to opt for the simple life. Beer and wine are good bets (although the latter is more expensive) - they're even more reasonable if you head to one of the city's bars for happy hour. Running anywhere between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. many places offer 241 drinks deals or reduced rates. Even better they're often paired with nibbles so you can drink and dine for a fraction of the cost. Our favourites are Posto Publico (expect free flowing red-wine and tapas-style meatballs for around 95HKD (£10), 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., weekdays) and Lily & Bloom (around 5HKD (50p) for your first drink, 48HKD (£5) for all drinks after and free fries). If that's not budget friendly enough for you then hit the street for 'Club 7-11'. You'll find hordes of young party goers gathering outside of 7-11 alcohol shops, drinking drinks from the store, socialising and people watching at leisure. Alternatively, if you're looking for a drink with a view then do like the savvy locals and take your own drinks to the free public terrace at the International Finance Centre for Victoria Harbour views. 

Value for money: Skip the line, enjoy a free drink and make use of the knowledgeable local guide with a budget-friendly pub crawl deal

On a Budget: Adventures

Hong Kong Lamma Island

Hong Kong is surrounded by miles of lush green scenery and excellent hiking opportunities. If you're there in the (very) hot and humid summer months then there's only one thing to do: hit the beach. Catch a cheap passenger ferry over to nearby Lamma Island (home to hikes, bikes and beaches) or alternatively walk Dragon's Back Ridge for outstanding views. Other ultimate HK experiences are climbing the famous 'Peak' or riding the old wooden trams that trundle through the city which date back to 1904. As well as an effective form of transport, the trams are also a fairly budget way to explore. If you're looking to discover the city by foot, then a walking tour is also a good way to wander the streets and absorb the culture. 

Value for money: If you're really looking to penny pinch then a self-guided audio walk is cheaper than a walk with a tour guide.

On a Budget: Tourist Sites

Buddha, Hong Kong.

Hong Kong has an abundance of tourist sites but half the allure of the city are its iconic buildings, towering skyline and glittering vistas - all of which are free. At 8.p.m every night a free light show appears across the side of major skyscrapers and a walk along the waterfront is a great (and cheap) way to view the spectacle. The famous HK island to Kowloon Star-Ferry which has been running since 1888 is the ultimate way to see one of the most photographed harbours on earth - it's also extremely cheap. For history and culture lovers a trip to the huge Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island is a must; the bronze Buddha (one of the largest in the world) is free to visit. A cheaper alternative than arriving by the popular Ngong Ping Cable Car is to catch Lantau Bus No. 23 which takes around 50 minutes from Tung Chung Centre. Other top tips? Seven of Hong Kong's biggest museums are free on Wednesdays and most religious sights (nunneries, churches and temples) are also free to enter (dress appropriately). 

Value for money: If you do opt for the cable car, save some cash with a skip the line cable car pass that includes Lantau Island bus travel. 

On a Budget: Transport

Hong Kong Transport

Hong Kong's extensive Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is an efficient and money saving way to nip around the city; your best bet is to buy an 'Octopus Card' which you can top up (conveniently you can also use it to buy goods in local shops, including 7-11s). MTR journeys start from around 4HKD (40p). Uber cabs are also widely available (and work as if you're using the app at home, but check exchange rates) although even cheaper are the city's metered taxis. You'll spot them everywhere (usually red) and they're substantially cheaper than you'd expect from a major financial hub. If you're planning on visiting the Outlying Islands or Kowloon (via the ferry) note that fares are higher on Sundays and public holidays. 

Value for money: Pre-book a MTR day pass, Ngong Ping cable car and airport transfer combination - it works out cheaper. 

On a Budget: Sleeping

Hong Kong Hotel Views

You can easily blow a month's budget on one night in a swanky HK hotel - rooms here are among the priciest in the world. Luckily, there are some budget friendly options available if you know where to look and book in advance. A good a place start is YesInn, which has a deservedly excellent reputation, plus bright, basic and clean accommodation (doubles from around 358HKD (£38) per night). The city boasts two - one in Fortress Hill; the other (newer) in Causeway Bay has a roof terrace. Alternatively try the Hop Inn on Hankow (doubles from around 426HKD (£45) per night) which has guestrooms designed by local artists. If you need to cool off in the sweltering summer months then Bishop Lei International House in Soho has small rooms (doubles from around 521HKD (£55) per night) but an outdoor pool and wonderful Victoria Harbour views. 

What are your Hong Kong money saving tips? Tweet us @travioor or post a comment on Travioor's Facebook page.

Siobhan Brewood-Wyatt
After a Masters in Comparative Literature, Siobhan worked for several big-name travel companies before joining travioor. She has been hooked on travel since her teens and her biggest adventure is booking flights from Rome to Rio after a few too many beers. Follow her on Twitter @SiobhanBW