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When we were planning out our Southeast Asia backpacking trip, Hong Kong was high on our list! As a first-time visit we booked 5 days, which ended up being the perfect amount of time. We were able to do everything that we wanted to without having to rush around to fit it all in. Hong Kong has become one of my favourite Asian cities since our trip, mostly for its character. I loved the feeling that beyond the main streets there was so much more to explore. So many of the buildings contain mazes of shops and apartments that you wouldn’t see from the outside! Whilst the prices in Hong Kong are cheaper than those in Western countries, it is a little pricier than other places in Southeast Asia. So here I have compiled my top tips and our itinerary so that you can enjoy your time in Hong Kong on a budget!
I have also done a whole other post on Hong Kong where I recommend the top things to do when you are visiting. Make sure to read that post here too!
HOW MUCH DID WE SPEND IN 5 DAYS?
– TOTAL FOR 2 PEOPLE – £330.31 –
ACCOMODATION – £91.94
For our first-time visit to Hong Kong, we were looking at staying in the Tsim Sha Tsui area, which is really central and has great transportation links. There are hundreds of cheap options on Airbnb, and we finally decided on this one here! It was a very small room, but had everything we needed! Unless you have a little more to spend, then I think the majority of options will be a similar size to this. The location was perfect, we were just a few minutes walk away from the MTR Station, right next to a 7-11 and we still felt secure when entering our room. Our Airbnb lister was really great, she answered any questions we had quickly, and a lovely lady cleaned our room every single day!
FOOD & DRINK (INCLUDING WATER) – £133.05
So, before our 5 days in Hong Kong we had spent the past year in New Zealand, where the prices for groceries and eating out are high. We had experienced the low costs of Southeast Asia before and couldn’t wait for the freedom of not really taking too much notice of the menu prices in Hong Kong. But it definitely wasn’t as cheap as we were expecting! It was cheaper than the likes of New Zealand and Europe, but not on the same low levels as Thailand or Vietnam.
So we limited ourselves and bought quite a few snacks and noodles from 7-Eleven to keep costs low. My tip would be to keep costs low for breakfast and lunch, and spend a little more on dinner. We had some really great noodles by Temple Street Market for £13 for the two of us!
MISCELLANEOUS – £9.83
This may be an area in your budget that you can skip, but if you are on a backpacking trip then at some point you encounter costs that you just have to accept! We found the laundry to be pretty cheap in Hong Kong, just £4.86 for a few kilograms! We actually found a self-service laundromat near our Airbnb on Google Maps, which in the end we couldn’t find. When looking for the laundromat, we stumbled upon a laundry service, where we would just drop it off and pick it up the next day! This saved us a few hours of our time that we would have otherwise spent sitting in the self-service, and also a couple of quid!
TRANSPORT – £95.49
OCTOPUS CARDS – £34.91, BUS FROM AIRPORT TO CITY – £6.55, TRAM DOWN VICTORIA PEAK – £7.35, NGONG PING CABLE CAR – £46.67
If you are heading to Hong Kong and wanting to tick off the main tourist attractions, then you really can’t avoid using public transport. But luckily both the MTR and public buses are so easy and fun to use! Your Number 1 priority on your first day should be picking up an Octopus card. They are cards that you top up and use to pay for public transport, but also for vending machines, 7-Eleven’s and so many other shops in the city. I will talk about the Octopus cards in a little more detail later on.
Aside from our Octopus cards, our only other big transport expense was for the Ngong Ping cable car up to the Big Buddha. We knew that it was going to be a more expensive activity, but that didn’t deter us and I think it was definitely worth the price!
GETTING AN OCTOPUS CARD
As previously mentioned, make sure to get an Octopus card on your first day! You will be able to get them from any MTR Station or even the airport. The inital cost is £15 per card, which includes £10 of credit and then the remaining £5 is a deposit. If you use up this credit, you can easily top it up at your nearest MTR Station. But don’t worry if you have any credit left on your card when you are leaving Hong Kong. After you have finished with it, either at the airport or one of the stations, you can get the deposit and any remaining credit refunded to you!
You even get a discounted rate when using an Octopus card for transport, instead of purchasing a single ticket! If you want some more information head over to the website here.
I have included below the MTR map! Our nearest station was Tsim Sha Tsui on the Tseun Wan Line, which also is just one stop away in the other direction to Hong Kong Island! The system is incredibly easy to use, and trains arrive every 10 or so seconds. If you aren’t sure what stop you will need to get off at, put your end destination into Google Maps and it will work it out for you.
5 DAY BUDGET TRAVEL ITINERARY
I have included our itinerary of what we got up to each day below. Hopefully this will give you an idea of what you would like to do in the city, and how much you would need to budget for your trip!
EXPLORE YOUR LOCAL AREA – FREE
My favourite thing to do for our first full day in any new place is to explore the immediate area. So as we were staying in the Tsim Sha Tsui area we spent the morning walking around here. But of course if you are staying in a different area you can do the same around your accomodation! This is also a very budget-friendly activity! So we took a walk North up Nathan Road and stumbled across Kowloon Park. A wonderful park and it gave us a little insight into the day to day life of the locals. It appeared that Tai Chi is a very popular hobby here, there were many groups of people practicing it in the park!
Also make sure to combine this with a walk across the waterfront, it is a really peaceful area where you can enjoy the views of Victoria Harbour! I think this is a great way to spend your first day, as by just having a wander around you come across different sights that you otherwise probably wouldn’t have seen.
LADIES NIGHT MARKET – FREE (UNLESS YOU BUY SOMETHING)
In the evening take the MTR to the Ladies Market, making sure to have bought an Octopus card beforehand! You can get to it by taking the Tseun Wan Line in the Northern direction, get off at Mong Kok Station and it is just a few minutes walk from there. This was my favourite market in Hong Kong that we went to, and is a really great way to spend your evening.
SYMPHONY OF LIGHTS SHOW – FREE
If you are feeling up to it on your first day, make sure to check out the Symphony of Lights Show at the waterfront! Every night at 8pm there is a light show from each of the eye catching buildings in the Hong Kong skyline. It can be watched from either the Tsim Sha Tsui area along the waterfront or from the other side of the water in Wan Chai. It lasts for about ten minutes, with lasers and lights cast onto and out of the buildings along to music. Make sure to get there five minutes early to get a good spot! And it is totally free!
VICTORIA PEAK – COST OF TRANSPORT ONLY
On Day 2 of your trip your main activity of the day is to head up to the top of Victoria Peak! It is a pretty popular thing to do in Hong Kong, as it gives you great views over the city. You are even higher than all of the skyscrapers, which are often partly covered in smog so it gives it a really moody atmosphere!
To reach the peak you can either take the tram or the bus. To save a little money we decided to take the bus up to the peak, which cost only £1.03 each with our Octopus cards! We got the number 15 bus from the Central bus station on Hong Kong Island which took around 45 minutes. We still wanted to experience the tram, so we decided get it on the way down. It was only £3.70 each for a one way ticket, but I am glad we experienced both options. The bus was a fun way to get to the top, meandering along the windy mountainous roads. And taking the tram down was a little exhilarating as some parts were extremely steep!
TEMPLE STREET MARKET – FREE (UNLESS YOU BUY SOMETHING)
You can then spend the evening wandering around another market in the Tsim Sha Tsui area. Temple Street Market is just a few minutes walk away from Jordan Station on the Tseun Wan Line, and is pretty similar to Ladies Market. Although there are a few more food options here!
NGONG PING CABLE CAR TO THE BIG BUDDHA – £23.34 PER PERSON
I don’t think a trip to Hong Kong is complete without seeing the famous Big Buddha. Unfortunately it isn’t the most budget-friendly activity, at about £23.34 per person to take the Ngong Ping Cable Car to reach the top of the mountain. I think you can also take the bus, but seeing as though this was going to be our only real paid activity we didn’t mind spending that little bit more!
Make sure to leave half a day free for this, as it takes quite a while with all the transport included. So to get there, we got the MTR from the Tsim Sha Tsui Station on the Tseun Wan Line to Lai King Station. Then changed onto the Tung Chung Line and got off at Tung Chung station, which also happens to stop at the Disneyland Resort. From here it was just a short walk to the Ngong Ping Cable Car station. The cable car took about half an hour to reach the top, and you get great views of the outskirts of Hong Kong for the whole journey.
After departing the cable car and walking through the street lined with restaurants and gift shops, you will reach the bottom of the steps up to the Buddha. Luckily it is only 268, so definitely doable! We explored around the Buddha and snapped a few photos and climbed back down. There is also a Monastery to explore too. Maybe try and avoid eating at the restaurants up the mountain, the prices are bound to be a lot higher at such a popular tourist attraction!
EXPLORE THE WALKWAYS – FREE
If you are wanting to head out in the evening, why not check out some of the walkways that cover so much of the city centre. They are built above the roads, and are really easy to stumble across. By having a wander around the city away from the busier pathways below we felt we could take our time looking down onto the streets to people watch. By doing this we found so many of the neon lights that decorate the streets! Again, a really fun, completely free activity!
STANLEY MARKET – COST OF TRANSPORT
Like Ladies Market and Temple Street, Stanley Market sells the perfect souvenirs and gadgets to take home with you. However, being further out of the city it benefits from being much quieter, and is situated next to some lovely restaurants to stop in after shopping. It has much more of a relaxed feel than the markets in the centre of the city. It does take about an hour to get here, so keep that in mind when planning your trip. You can get a bus from the Central station right to Stanley Market without having to change! The buses around Hong Kong are really inexpensive, I think it was just a couple of pounds for the return journey.
In the evenings you can always go back to one of the markets, or find a new one. There are so many in the city, we stumbled across a flower market one night! But we stayed in for our last night, the next day we were flying home and had to make sure everything was packed!
On Day 5 we were flying out of Hong Kong! We had a lunchtime flight, so didn’t really have time to do a lot before leaving. But I have included below all the information you need on how to get to and from Hong Kong airport…
HOW TO GET TO AND FROM THE AIRPORT
To get into the city centre from the airport you can either go by bus, train or taxi. But the bus is definitely the cheapest way! We got the A21 bus and stopped off at Nathan Road/Middle Road, which we knew from our Airbnb host. It only cost £3.30 each, and we had to buy our tickets from the counter when we arrived at the airport in Hong Kong. But if you have acquired an Octopus card, you can use this on the way back to the airport. Unfortunately it doesn’t give you a discount on this journey though. If you are arriving in the evening, the bus journey will most likely take longer than in the day, due to the higher amounts of traffic. Getting from the airport in the evening took well over an hour, but going back in the daytime only took 45 minutes!
WHAT’S IN MY BACKPACK
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