Hong Kong is a stunning country and can offer the best of both worlds: both relaxing natural attractions as well as a vibrant and breathtaking urban jungle. While Hong Kong enjoys the reputation of being a gastronomic and shopping paradise, there is so much more to discover than food and shops.
Considering that the last time I visited Hong Kong was when I was just 6 years old, I was excited to rediscover the country as an adult. My best friend and I spent 5 days there at the end of July, which, lucky for us was still part of the summer sale season so we were able to score several great buys. We were on a budget but that didn’t stop us from having a great time. Hong Kong’s summer season runs from May to September, so we were warned that it was going to be very hot and humid during our trip. But since we live in the Philippines, we were familiar with hot and humid weather and knew just what to pack: breezy dresses, comfortable flats for walking, and light t-shirts. We made sure to stay hydrated and always carried water bottles so we were fine despite the heat.
We arrived at 9pm on a Thursday night. Luckily for me, I was seated by the window and was completely blown away by the sparkling city lights and glittering megastructures that plane passengers could see from the top as we approached the airport.
Our 5 Money-saving Tips for Traveling around Hong Kong
- Look Early for Cheap Flights Watch out for seat sales to get the lowest price for your plane fare to Hong Kong. The reason we booked this trip in the first place was because we were able to find tickets that were just HKD $398. It was definitely a good bargain especially for budget travelers like us. (It’s easy to use Google to find the current exchange rate, an example search query would be “HKD to USD”)
- Purchase an Octopus card as soon as you arrive at the Hong Kong airport. For a 5 day trip, I loaded my card with HKD $300 which was just about right. The card can be topped up easily in various places. The Octopus card is used to pay for train rides and buses, but is also accepted at convenience stores such as 7/11 which came in handy when we were buying snacks and water in a hurry. Each time you swipe the Octopus card at the train station, the machine will tell you how much of your balance is left.
- Eat good food at a budget by going where the locals go. Dining out in Hong Kong can be quite expensive, but we followed a simple rule: to eat in restaurants populated by locals. We walked the side streets near our hotel to seek out what Hong Kong was most famous for: duck and goose, and got to enjoy mouthwatering meals without breaking the bank. Our neighborhood duck vendor sold filling rice meals for just HKD $40 although there wasn’t much of an ambiance in the restaurant. But that didn’t matter to us; the food was delicious and it was cheap! We also ate at Cafe de Coral several times; it’s the most popular fast-food chain that serves great Chinese food at low prices. Oh, and don’t forget to pair your meal with a refreshing cold milk tea drink!
- Stay at a hostel to save money on accommodations. Paterson Street in Causeway Bay has several hostels that offer both dorm-style and private rooms. We stayed at HK Hostel and we had a really good experience because we were upgraded to a private room! The hostel is located in the third floor of a building in a clean, picturesque street that’s filled with numerous designer shops. It’s also just a stone’s throw away from Ikea, Forever 21, H&M, and many other big-name shops. For 4 nights, we spent almost HKD $500 per person.
- Travel during Hong Kong’s famous sale season to get the most bargains. Shops will offer discounts as much as 70% off so it’s definitely worth it especially if you’re looking to update your wardrobe. While many of the shops we visited are actually available at home, the discounts offered in Hong Kong were much bigger! The sales are everywhere so it won’t be difficult to locate your favorite shops or brand name products. But if you’re looking for souvenirs and unique knick-knacks, head over to the Temple Street night market – you won’t be disappointed. Make sure that you allot at least 3 hours because there are dozens of stalls all of which sell lots of interesting things.
My Favorite Attractions
Few things can make my heart race faster than a fantastic view. Because of this, I knew we definitely could not miss out on visiting Victoria Peak. The views from the peak is found in almost every postcard image of Hong Kong, but even if I were to visit again and again I know I could never tire of the panoramic views. We made it at around 4:30 pm when the sun was low and it wasn’t too hot. It provides the perfect backdrop for taking pictures. We culminated our short trip to the peak by grabbing a bite at Bubba Gump, where ceiling-to-floor glass windows give diners a spectacular view of Hong Kong’s famous skylines.
We also made sure to get some nature therapy during our trip: we hiked up the Dragon’s Back, named aptly so because the mountain resembles the back of Asia’s legendary mythical serpent. It was a short hike – just around 4 hours back and forth, but since we had a late start to the day we arrived at noon and the heat was almost unbearable! We trudged our way up the mountain, making sure to hydrate and took breaks in the shade whenever possible. It was all worth it though; the Dragon’s Back hike rewarded us with sweeping views of Hong Kong’s coastline. Later on as we neared the end of the trail, we were able to see the city’s tall buildings peeking out from the mountain curves.
The Verdict: We loved Hong Kong! It’s now my favorite city in Asia; I can’t wait to come back in the future to explore more of what it has to offer. Plus I was able to scratch off a country off my new scratch off map.
by: Dana Smith