Reflections, and how to do Hong Kong on a budget

We arrived in Hong Kong on a budget and limited in time. Despite this, our stay was fantastic.

When I think of Hong Kong, I think of skyscrapers; I think of a shiny, busy financial district. So it was a pleasant surprise to discover a vibrant city beneath that, with a stunning skyline and lots to do which didn’t involve stocks and shares. We had originally expected Hong Kong to be a brief “city break” for us on our way back to Asia, but we completely underestimated how packed Hong Kong is with things to do. If you get tired of the city, there is hiking and other islands to visit. We could (and should) have allowed much more time.

We landed in Hong Kong in early December. If you happen to be in the area, and want a bit of Christmas cheer, you’ve come to the right place. Hong Kong does Christmas very well indeed. The malls – in addition to the standard fairy lights – had tasteful Christmas tunes and decorations such as a wintery corner of Paris. How fabulous is this?

A little boy goes to Paris
A little boy goes to Paris

Even the Christmas trees were, without exception, beautiful! It almost made me a bit homesick though, so I was glad to be leaving before we got too close to Christmas.

Christmas tree at the Peninsula Hotel
Christmas tree at the Peninsula Hotel

Another thing that surprised me about Hong Kong was that it was reasonably affordable. Not cheap-like-Thailand cheap, but more so than I was expecting. We set a budget of £50 per person per day (about $75), and we comfortably stuck to that, despite a night at the races and an expensive food tour. We stayed in cheap accommodation, and everything else (food, transport) actually isn’t too pricy.

How to do Hong Kong on a budget

Given that the city is the most densley populated on the planet, accommodation is (unsurprisingly) expensive. AirBnB is a useful tool here, as you can stay in someone’s spare room rather than an overpriced hotel. We stayed in a small but perfectly nice apartment with some lovely hosts for £15 each per day. This meant we also got some tips about where to head to around the city that weren’t on the tourist trail – bonus! You could also consider couchsurfing for an even cheaper option!

Get an Octopus card. This is the equivalent of London’s oyster card and offers cheap transport on the trams, MTR and buses around the city. You can also use it to pay for entrance to the Victoria Peak tram and the Happy Valley race course, as well as small purchases from McDonalds and convenience stores. You can pick them up in Hong Kong airport; the deposit is refunded when you surrender the card at the end of your stay.

Consider the bus. Hong Kong airport has a network of airport buses which serve the city. They are comfortable, reliable and have free wifi! We used them to get to and from our apartment rather than an expensive taxi. Google Maps should highlight if you can use the bus to arrive at your accommodation.

Research the museums for free admission. The Hong Kong Museum of History, for example, has free entry on Wednesdays.

If you want to visit the Victoria Peak (and you so should) – a cheaper way down is to catch a local minibus rather than a return tram journey. You’ll need the green #1 minibus, which departs from the bus station near to the shopping centres.

Hong Kong skyline
Hong Kong skyline

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