We spent four (very) jet-lagged days walking around Hong Kong, our first day we explored on five broken hours of sleep in a period of 36. The second day we attempted a city-wide marathon and walked 34 kilometers in the mid-thirty degree heat. We also summited a (small) mountain, Victoria Peak, this day.
Where we stayed:
A $13 CAD/night “hotel” in Mong Kok district, it had two very small twin beds and a bathroom equipped with a toilet, sink, and shower (above the toilet). It was cheap and our first taste of culture shock, just what we needed. It also had easy access to shops, markets, and the MTR (subway system).
What we liked:
The city didn’t sleep and it was safe. With the jet-lag during our first few days, we were happy to be in a bustling area that never seemed to shut down or sleep. We wandered until the early hours of the following day quite comfortably and there was always something open to explore. ATMs were easy to find, almost everything was in English, the food was tasty and inexpensive.
What we didn’t like:
Lots of pushing on the streets.
Use the MTR to get to all of your destinations, it is the quickest and cheapest way around. Buy a card from an information desk at any MTR station, load money on and use it. Any leftover money on the card can easily be refunded at an info desk at the airport before your departure. I suggest putting on about 150 HKD, to begin with. If you’re there for 3-6 days you’ll likely use it all with the airport rides. Download the MTR map (or photo) to your phone. Familiarize yourself with how the map works before arriving.
Cell Phone Use:
Sim cards are available at 7-11’s in Hong Kong downtown or at cell phone stores in the airport, you can buy sim cards by number of days you’re in the area. I purchased a 1.5 gb data card (with text & calls) for 5 days for less than $10 CAD. This was very helpful for the trip as I could easily find my way around using online maps (offline maps aren’t available on google for Hong Kong).
Pro tip: If you break your phone screen in HK find an alley that has plenty of electronic shops in it and you should be able to barter a good deal for a screen replacement. We bartered to $300 HKD in October 2015 in Mong Kok district near the MTR station in an electronics alley by the Sincere House- (guesthouse) on Argyle Street.
Hong Kong symphony of lights was a letdown for us. After much anticipation we were gravely let down as we arrived to the pier and saw a handful of laser beams and lights on the buildings, the supposed daily symphony of lights. Even National Geographic writes about how good this show is. Flying above Hong Kong at night is more exciting. (Did we hit an off day? Not sure but when we went and waited and watched, not much happened.)
The Hong Kong Eye was fun but if there is a really long line I wouldn’t go. It’s worth a trip if it fits your budget and you have the time. If you’re in the city for 36 hours and a tight budget I wouldn’t recommend it.
Sidewalk of the Stars- Temporarily shut down from October until 2018! Bummer.
Wednesdays are free admission to the local museums!
Victoria Peak is accessible by hiking or by tram. The hike is medium difficulty and takes 40 minutes for a fit person (if you don’t get lost).
Tipping is included in almost all restaurant bills so you need not tip again. Some Americanized restaurants may act as if they expect it but it isn’t necessary.
We dined with a local for lunch one day who taught us to wash our utensils with hot tea at Dim Sum restaurants. If you have some time to wait in a line I highly recommend Tim Ho Wan (not the HK Tim Horton’s I promise) This is the least expensive Michelin restaurant in the world and it is dim sum. Amazing dim sum. I didn’t like dim sum until Hong Kong… now I understand the fuss. Get the pork buns. 1 order per person should be satisfactory. You’re welcome!
In Hong Kong, you simply make your way to where you want to go or you are in the way of others. Don’t be sensitive, just gently keep walking forward, the people here seem to push/stampede everywhere from sidewalks, street crossings, tram entrances and MTR entry/exit points. If you don’t keep moving you’ll be pushed so get used to it.
You can hone your bartering skills on the streets and in the Ladies Market. You’ll be able to find electronics, clothing, shoes, and almost everything imaginable within the Ladies Market. My suggestion for bartering is to nonchalantly ask a price of the item and offer half. If they are not interested leave the stall and walk around, you’ll find another stall selling the same thing and might be able to get your price there and now you’ll have a comparison or the shopkeeper will accept your offer before you get far! Buying more of the same thing also gives you bartering rights, ask for more of a discount as you increase the number of items you purchase.
Hong Kong Disneyland:
- You are allowed to bring in small backpacks (they will be searched)
- You can bring in basic snacks and beverages.
- Your backpack can be brought on most rides and the few exceptions have “locker” you can store your bag in while on the ride. Your bag isn’t accessible to others during the ride and it is quite safe. I found this very helpful as we brought in water, sunscreen, and snacks so we could spend a full day.
- We visited a sit down Indian style restaurant in Adventure-land we had side dishes for a better price than mains. Most restaurants have more than what they state out front or on their menu, go in and look around to get a true idea of what the restaurants offer.
We took the MTR to the airport and stopped in Tung Chung on the way to explore and have a late lunch. The Hong Kong airport is very easy to navigate but you’ll need to be on time as there are some long walks once through security. We found a flight with Air Asia from HK to DMK (Bangkok) for less than 100 CAD.
Hong Kong on a budget is easy, just remember you get what you pay for. If your accommodation is 6 CAD per night don’t expect much more than a place to sleep.