Apparently Hong Kong is not a ‘budget friendly’ city. According to who? Not us. Considering its reputation you will be pleasantly surprised at how many cheap things you can do in Hong Kong. Whether you have 2 days, 2 weeks or 2 years there are some things you just can’t miss out on (and ones your wallet won’t mind either)
Take the Star Ferry
Featured as the 2nd most popular thing to do in Hong Kong on Trip Advisor you’d be forgiven for forgetting it is actually a form of transport- and the cheapest one at that. For $2 the ferry will take you from Central to TST, or the opposite way, with undoubtedly the best views of the skyline you can get from sea level. Tip: treat yourself to a ride on the Upper Deck for an extra 50 cents!
- Cost: $2.50
- Star Ferry Pier, Kowloon Point, Tsim Sha Tsui (Nerest MTR East Tsim Sha Tsui);
- Star Ferry Pier, Central Ferry Pier No.7 (Nearest MTR Hong Kong)
Happy Valley Horse Racing
Whether you are into betting or not a Wednesday at the races is one of the most exciting evenings in Hong Kong. As you walk into the stadium you are nearly knocked over by the electric atmosphere and shock at the sheer size of the place. People fill the stands surrounded by bright lights, pitchers of beer and betting slips. There’s entertainment, MCs and even a McDonald’s inside. If you want to bet you can start with as little as $20. A night here doesn’t have to be expensive at all, and there is no rule against being inside without betting. But if you are feeling lucky you can be entertained from 7.30-9pm with up to 8 races. (The horse racing takes a break through August).
- Cost: $10 admission
- Where: 2 Sports Rd, Happy Valley. Nearest MTR Causeway Bay Station, Exit A or hop on any tram for ‘Happy Valley’
Ride the Tram
Raining? Too hot? Whatever the weather this is a perfect activity to do at all times of the year. If it is sweltering heat sit up at the top and enjoy the natural air conditioning, or if it is pouring hide at the bottom and watch the world go by. Either way, ride it from the beginning to the end (Kennedy Town to Chai Wan) and simply stare out of the window. Hong Kong is such a vibrant city and this is a great way to see a lot of it. A one-way ride only costs $2.30 whether you ride it one stop or all the way to the end
- Cost: $2.30
- Where: Trams run from Kennedy Town in the West to Shau Kei Wan in the East, with a separate line to Happy Valley.
Take the Bus to Victoria Peak
While taking the tram is fun, if you’ve done it once you don’t really need to do it again. The bus boasts good views and is wallet friendly. It takes around 30 minutes and climbs up mid-levels all the way to the world famous Victoria Peak. You can enjoy some of the best views in the city from up here. Why not try a stroll around the flat Peak Circle trail, which loops around starting and ending at the Peak. Or for something more bracing take the Morning Trail back to Central (find more information on walking trails here).
- Cost: $9.80
- Where: Board the Peak Tram shuttle bus No. 15C at the Central Bus Terminus. Buses run daily between 10:00 – 11:40 pm
Go Temple Hopping
Temples in Hong Kong are free to visit – and plentiful. The most accessible one is Man Mo Temple on Hollywood road, which is a splash of colour and culture tucked in between the skyscrapers. If you want to get out of the city a bit head to Chi Lin Nunnery where you can easily spend a few hours walking around and eating at the vegetarian restaurant set under a waterfall! There are lots more temple touring ideas on the Hong Kong Tourist Board website here.
- Cost: Free
- Chi Lin Nunnery, 5 Chi Lin Drive, Diamond Hill. Take the MTR to Diamond Hill, Exit C and follow the signs.
- Man Mo Temple; 124 Hollywood Rd, Sheung Wan. Take the Midlevels Escalator to Hollywood Road and walk West towards Sheung Wan.
Hit the Markets
You cannot come to Hong Kong without heading to the colourful markets to soak up some street life. Temple Street market is Hong Kong’s last remaining night market, and alongside the typical street market offerings you will find fortune tellers plying their trade. To find them walk along the Temple Street Night Market northwards and go past the Yau Ma Tei library until you reach the temple gardens.
For daytime shopping, the famous Ladies Market showcases the latest fashions, gifts and toys direct from China’s factories. And the nearby Goldfish market (yup, it really is a market full of goldfish – it has to be seen to be believed) is also great fun.
- Cost: Free
- Temple Street Market: MTR Yau Ma Tei Station, Exit C, turn onto Temple Street.
- Ladies Market: Mong Kok MTR exit E2. Pass the first cross street which is Sai Yueng Choi Street South. The next cross street is Tung Choi Street where Ladies Market starts.
- Goldfish Market: Prince Edward Station, Exit B2 onto Tung Choi Street North
Take a Hike
This one deserves its own article so we have written that for you here in our Top 5 Easy Hikes post and here in our Top 10 Hong Kong Hikes. There is so much beauty to be seen in Hong Kong, and you would be surprised at how close it is to your doorstep.
- Cost: Free
Become a Beach Bum
We are blessed with some beautiful beaches here in Hong Kong, so you can get that vacation vibe without the price of an air ticket. To really get away from it all head to laid back Lantau Island and hit Cheung Sha or Pui O beaches for a relaxing beach day. You might get lucky and see a few of Lantau’s famous water buffalo. On Hong Kong Island, but feeling a million miles away from the frenetic pace of Central, you will find Big Wave Bay beach at Shek O.
All these beaches have toilets, changing rooms and showers – so you can feel free to take a dip, and Pui O and Shek O have BBQ pits. Pui O even boasts a government campsite which is free of charge for Hong Kong residents (but you must book in advance). Check out the Leisure & Cultural Services Department’s listing of all Hong Kong’s beaches for more ideas.
- Cost: The price of a ferry or bus fare!
- For Pui O & Cheung Sha beaches, take the ferry from Central Ferry Pier 6 (try to get the fast ferry) and then take number 1 bus (about 15 mins). Alternatively take the MTR to Tung Chung and the 3M bus to Mui Wo and get off at Pui O or Cheung Sha (ask the driver).
- For Big Wave Bay, head to MTR Shau Kei Wan Station, Exit A3. Take bus 9. Big Wave Bay is also close to the Dragon’s Back hiking trail.
Take Your Camera to Tai O
Pack your camera and take a trip to Tai O fishing village on Lantau Island. The Tanka people have lived in stilt homes here above the tidal flats of Lantau for generations and their unique community is a world away from the Hong Kong skyscraper cliché. This spot is an photographer’s dream and it’s impossible to take a bad photo. You can discover the history of Tai O at the local museum and pick up some reasonably priced local food when lunchtime comes around.
The beautiful Tai O Heritage Hotel, a restored early 20th century police station, is a little piece of history in itself and well worth considering some time when you’re not on a $10 budget!
- Cost: Free
- Where: Get the MTR to Tung Chung and take bus no. 11 to Tai O (takes approximately 50 minutes) or take the ferry to Mui Wo from Pier 6 and take bus number 1 to Tai O (30 minutes)
Mooch Around a Museum
The major museums in Hong Kong all offer free entry to their permanent exhibitions, so stimulate those grey cells without spending a cent! And entry to their special displays is also good value for money with an annual pass. Always check the websites before you go, in case of rennovations, and to find out what the latest special exhibitions are.
- Cost: Free
- Hong Kong Museum of Art, 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong
- Hong Kong Space Museum, 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong
- Hong Kong Museum of History, 100 Chatham Road South, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong (next to Science Museum)
- Hong Kong Science Museum , 2 Science Museum Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Kowloon, Hong Kong
- Hong Kong Heritage Museum, 1 Man Lam Road, Sha Tin, New Territories, Hong Kong
Watch the Light Show at the IFC Rooftop Garden
Take the lift to level 4 of the IFC mall and chill out in the roof garden. This is a public space where anyone is free to use the seating and it’s a perfect spot to relax with a cold (7-11) beer and take in the famous Hong Kong light show. If you want to really push the boat out then grab some dim sum from the famous Tim Ho Wan in the IFC basement – the world’s cheapest Michelin starred restaurant.
- Cost: Free
- Where: Level 4, IFC Mall, 8 Finance Street, Central, take the MTR to Hong Kong Station and then Exit F
People Watch in Lan Kwai Fong
Catch the buzz on Hong Kong’s party street, Lan Kwai Fong, without setting foot in a bar. Where would Hong Konger’s be without the ubiquitous 7-11? We hate to think. Stop by the 7-11 on Lan Kwai Fong, grab a beer and mingle with the diverse crowds that spill out onto the street well into the night.
- Cost: How much will you drink?
- Where: Take the MTR to Central, 5 minutes walk from exit D1.
Photo Credits: Happy Valley Racecourse by Karl Baron on Flickr – tram by Fabio Achilli on Flickr – Pui O Beach by Martin Ng on Flickr – Red Bar at IFC by Andrew Kippen on Flickr – Dragon’s Back hike by Mark Lehmkuhler on Flickr – Chi Lin Nunnery by Kent Wang on Flickr – Lan Kwai Fong from Lan Kwai Fong on Facebook