While Hong Kong is not part of the usual Southeast Asia backpacking route, I decided to hop over to Hong Kong from Hanoi to visit my brother who was part of a student exchange program at University of Hong Kong. What was originally just a short visit, became 7 days of exploring Hong Kong.
Currency Info: In January 2019, the exchange of the Hong Kong Dollar to the Canadian Dollar was around 5.9 HKD to $1 CAD.
Before I left on my gap year, I have amassed a lot of airline points through signing up credit cards (I will create a separate post on how I did it). But I was able to redeem 4,500 British Airways Avios points and $60.29 CAD in taxes and fees for a Cathay Pacific flight from Hanoi. The cheapest flight I could find at the time was $103 CAD, so I got to save myself $40! And I got to fly with a great airline with Cathay Pacific, which also included a free checked bag.
Food & Drinks
Homes and kitchens tend to be small due to a high population density and with the long working hours, take-out and dining out is also very common. Hence you can find so many great eats around the city. Its not only quantity you can find, the quality is also there. The 2019 Michelin guide contains a total of 82 starred recommendations for Hong Kong and Macau. Out of the 82, I ate at three of them, in which you can read more here. In the span of 7 days, I spent $228.56 CAD, which amounts to $32.65 per day which was my largest expense in Hong Kong.
Here are some things I ate and how much they cost:
- Beef brisket noodles $33 HKD ($5.59 CAD)
- A half roast goose at the Michelin Star Yat Lok Restaurant $310 HKD ($52.54 CAD) which I shared with two other people
- Seafood meal at Lamma Island’s many seafood restaurants $144 HKD ($24.41 CAD)
- Szechuan beef egg sandwich at Sun Hang Yuen $23 HKD ($3.90 CAD)
- Condensed milk and peanut butter toast at Sun Hang Yuen $10 HKD ($1.69 CAD)
- Pineapple bun from Kai Kee Restaurant for $11 HKD ($1.86 CAD)
- Beer for one of the best views of the city at the Peninsula Hotel $100 HKD ($16.95 CAD)
- Breakfast set (which includes the best scrambled eggs I’ve ever had) at Australia Dairy Company $32 HKD ($5.42 CAD)
- Steamed rice rolls at Hop Yik Tai $8 HKD ($1.36 CAD)
- Create your own burger at McDonald’s $61.50 HKD ($10.42 CAD)
- Refreshing VLT tea (half tea, half lemonade) $7.5 HKD ($1.27 CAD)
Make sure you check out what makes it to the Top 5 Eats in Hong Kong & Macau!
While in Hong Kong, I highly recommend getting the Octopus card. It is a prepaid debit card that can be used to pay for all kinds of public transport, and some stores such as 7-Elevens and McDonald’s. It is so much convenient tapping this card when taking the MTR, buses, or trams rather than hassling around with coins. There is a slight discount on MTR rides when you use the card, and is useful when taking buses as you need to pay for exact fare (no change is given). An Octopus cards cost $150 HKD ($25.42 CAD) for $100 HKD in credit plus a $50 HKD refundable deposit. Unfortunately, there is a $9 HKD service charge if the card is returned for a refund within 90 days.
Hong Kong is home to one of the best public transportation in the world. You can get around the city in so many different ways. Here are some of the ways:
- Mass Transit Railway (MTR). This way is the fastest way to get around as most of the tracks are underground but is also the most expensive. Fares depend on distance.
- The double-decker city trams. You can find these if you are along the northern section of Hong Kong Island. The fare is a flat $2.3 HKD ($0.39 CAD), but they only take exact change or Octopus card. They are a cheap way to get around and a great way to sightsee as you will have an elevated view of Hong Kong Island.
- The double-decker buses. These buses are found all over the city, and is also a pretty cheap way to get around. Like the MTR, fares depends on distance. Take a seat in the upper deck and watch the city go by!
- Ferries. These ferries go between the many islands of Hong Kong. The most popular line goes from Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon) to Central and Wanchai (Hong Kong Island) and offers amazing views of the Hong Kong skyline. This a must do when in Hong Kong and is only $2.2 HKG ($0.37 CAD)!
Due to many reasons, Hong Kong has been consistently ranked as the least affordable housing in the world. Tens of thousands of Hong Kongers are living in spaces that are the sizes of small bathrooms. This is reflected in the accommodation prices. It doesn’t help either that I had been spoiled by the cheap prices in Southeast Asia.
Where I stayed:
Rainbow Lodge HK for 5 nights for an average of $152.14 HKD ($25.79 CAD)
Location, Location, Location! The most important aspect of any place, this hostel has the perfect location. It is located in Tsim Sha Tsui, the major tourist hub in Hong Kong, with many shops and restaurants. The area is also very convenient as its in middle of the local eateries in Kowloon and the sights in Hong Kong Island. The hostel is right across the MTR station, and is walking distance to many places such as the Kowloon ferry terminal to Macau, the Hong Kong Museum of History, and A Symphony of Lights. The staff are friendly and hosts activities such as dim sum nights and going to Happy Valley Racecourse. The downside is that the beds are tiny and squeezed together in small rooms. But this seems to be the case in most accommodation in Hong Kong.
Yesinn @ Causeway for 1 night at $104.15 HKD ($17.65 CAD)
One of the nights, Rainbow Lodge was full so I had to move to another hostel. I decided to stay at another hostel as it was the weekend and Rainbow Lodge was charging almost double on the weekends (Too much for my budget). If you want a cheaper place and in Hong Kong island, I recommend this place. I had nothing to complain about this hostel, but the friends I made were already at Rainbow Lodge.
I thought that because I’d be in Hong Kong for a week, I would be able to have time to work on my blog and relax a bit. Unfortunately (maybe fortunately), I did not find time to do that as the city is filled with so many things to do!
Here are some of the things that I did:
- The best thing on a Wednesday night, go to Happy Valley Racecourse $10 HKD ($1.69 CAD). I also made a bet of $40 HKD ($6.78 CAD) and lost 🙁
- Learn more about past and present of Hong Kong with Hong Kong Free Tours FREE (of course don’t forget to tip your guide!)
- Learn more about Hong Kong’s often neglected Kowloon area with Hong Kong Free Tours FREE (of course don’t forget to tip your guide!)
- Check out what I think is one of the best FREE museums at the Hong Kong Museum of History
- View the Hong Kong skyline on the Sky Terrace at Victoria Peak $52 HKD ($8.81 CAD). If you want night time shots, get here early as it will be crowded. There are multiple ways to get up and down:
- Walk up and down (approx 45 mins each way) FREE
- Take a taxi
- Take the tram
- Watch as Hong Kong’s skyline lights up in A Symphony of Lights which is dubbed the world’s largest permanent light and sound show. To be honest it was pretty disappointing. Apparently there are narrations if you tune in into a specific radio frequency. FREE
- Join the commuters at the Central–Mid-Levels escalator and walkway system, the the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world. FREE
- Have a photo shoot at the very instagrammable Monster House and Choi Hung Estate. FREE
- Relax at the tranquil Nan Lian Garden. FREE
- Take a day trip to explore one of Hong Kong’s outlying islands, Lamma Island. It has rustic villages, walking trails, beaches and amazing scenery. It is popular destination for those that want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong. All you need is a ferry to get there.
I didn’t have any other expenditures in Hong Kong as:
- Canadians like many nationalities do not need a visa to get in
- I decided not to get a SIM card as I thought I can last the 7 days without data. I thought there would be more places that would have WiFi, but I still survived without data. FYI, all the MTR stations do have WiFi.
- Even though shopping is huge in Hong Kong (no sales taxes helps), I did not buy any souvenirs or clothing.
- No ATM Fees! I used HSBC and they didn’t charge any fees. Make sure you use a debit card that doesn’t charge you for any foreign transaction fees. If you are from Canada, I recommend using STACK!
Right across Hong Kong is the former Portuguese colony of Macau. Macau is known for the gambling capital of the world (yeah not Las Vegas) as it generates more revenue from gambling than anywhere else on the planet.
Like Hong Kong, Macau is designated as a Special Administrative Regions (SAR) of China. This means that they have separate immigration from mainland China and Hong Kong. Something that I forgot, as I made it all the way to the the opening of the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge without bringing my passport. So I had to go all the way back to my hostel to get passport. So, don’t forget to bring your passports!
While you are in Hong Kong, I highly advise on taking a day trip to Macau. Even if you are not a gambler, the cobble stone streets and its rich Portuguese influence is enough to make you visit.
Check if any thing I ate in Macau made it to the Top 5 Eats in Hong Kong & Macau!
Some of the expenses I incurred in Macau:
- The TurboJet Ferry from Hong Kong to Macau 180 HKD ($30.51 CAD)
- The ferry back to Hong Kong 190 HKD ($32.20 CAD)
- Macau’s famous Pork Chop Sandwich 35 MOP/HKD ($5.93 CAD)
- Betting roulette at MGM Grand 20 HKD ($3.93 CAD)
- Portuguese egg tarts from Lord Stow’s Bakery $12 HKD/MOP ($2.03 CAD)
The Sum of 7 Days Exploring Hong Kong
This trip to Hong Kong was definitely a price shock coming from Southeast Asia! For the 7 days I was there, I spent a total of $637.02 CAD which comes out to $91 per day!
I found that there were plenty of attractions and things to do in Hong Kong and Macau that are completely free, which why you can see why my activities budget was pretty low.
Nightlife and drinking is something that really kill your budget in Hong Kong. A place to go for nightlife is Lan Kwai Fong which is home to many bars, clubs, and restaurants. However, beers at the bars start around 60 HKD ($10.17 CAD)! Therefore what I (any many other people) did to save money was to buy at the 7-Eleven in the area and drink on the streets. You can find just as many people partying and drinking on the streets compared to inside the bars and clubs.