Hong Kong isn’t exactly known as a budget destination. As the financial powerhouse of China, the densely populated tiny group of islands known collectively as Hong Kong is populated by no nonsense business men, ladies who lunch and everything in-between.
Luckily Hong Kong is packed with cheap or free things to do for the budget conscious! Around every corner there’s something jaw droppingly epic – Another gigantic mall, quirky shops, strange alleyways, colonial history, fantastic architecture and plenty of cityscape travel photography opportunities.
It’s still one of our favourite places to visit. Hong Kong is an incredibly vibrant city, easy to explore and offers something new every time you step outside to explore what’s on offer. And as an ex-British colony, English is widely spoken. Another plus!
So let’s get started!
Grab an Octopus card
This is Hong Kong’s prepay travel card you can use everywhere around the city. Load it up with HK dollars and use the buses, trams, the MTR (underground) and even use it to make purchases in shops and vending machines around the city.
Cost: $50 deposit including $20 credit.
Hong Kong is surprisingly small. You don’t need to get the MTR or buses everywhere, use your legs and really see the city. Explore the tiny streets and crazy markets, wander around with a sore neck from looking up at the amazing building for too long!
Ride the Hong Kong Tramways
The Hong Kong Tramways are the oldest mode of public transport in Hong Kong and runs pretty much the entire length east to west of Hong Kong Island.
It’s slower than other forms of transport around the city, but it’s infinitely cooler, and the view is pretty good!
Cost: $2.50 per journey
Climb the Bank of China Building
The Bank of China building is one of the most iconic buildings on Hong Kong Island and has an observation deck on the 30th floor. While it isn’t the tallest building, the view is spectacular and you get a good view of Kowloon across the Victoria Harbour. Just remember to take your passport for security clearance.
Ride the Star Ferry
Top of the cheap things to do in Hong Kong pile is to ride on the iconic Star Ferry! Running from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon, the ferry is the perfect vantage point to enjoy the epic skylines on both sides of the water. It gets a bit choppy so bring your sea legs!
Around 5pm is perfect for riding the ferry back to Hong Kong Island as the sun is setting and reflecting off the windows of the surrounding sky scrapers – Plus you’ll beat the commuter rush!
Cost: $2.50 Mon-Fri
Explore the Museums on Wednesdays
ALL of the museums in Hong Kong are totally free on Wednesdays, and are some of the best Eloise and I have ever been to. Ever. The Hong Kong History Museum is incredible, with more colonial history and fact than you can throw an opium pipe at. Allow a whole afternoon!
Ride the bus to Stanley
Catch the bus from Central to Stanley, a port town south of Hong Kong Island. You can either take the tunnel or go the long way around past the Happy Valley Race Course (more amazing city views)!
On the bus you’ll see how the other half live as you pass Repulse Bay, home to some of the most expensive real-estate on the planet. Stanley has a market on Sunday and is great for clothes and souvenirs, as well as having some nice sea front bars and shops.
Cost: $6-10 on Oyster Card
Visit the Beach!
A beach in Hong Kong? The south island has one or two reasonable beaches, while they’re not up to Thailand spec, if you can put up with coach loads of mainland Chinese tourists, it’s a nice way to spend the afternoon. Check out Repulse Bay or South Bay beaches if you want a dose of city beach action.
Check out the ‘Symphony of Lights’ Light Show
Every night at 8pm the buildings on both Hong Kong Island and Kowloon light up for a typically Chinese laser and light show. While it’s a bit crap, fortunately it’s free!
The view itself is much more awe inspiring than the laser show. Grab an ice cold Tsingtao from the 7-11 at the Star Ferry dock, get there 30 minutes early and sit and wonder what the fuss is all about!
Stroll through Statue Square and Victoria Park on Sunday
For a contrast to the business vibe and usual hustle and bustle, head to where Hong Kong’s massive domestic worker population gathers in huge numbers every Sunday in various parts of the city.
Hong Kong’s largest minority, the Filipino’s, flock to the Statue Park area in Central. While the Indonesian collective head to Victoria Park. Ladies sing, pray, listen to music, watch videos and generally enjoy their one and only day off to the max.
What free or cheap things have you discovered in Hong Kong?
Nice post! You’re very right, I did some of those same things when I was in HK. For the bus to Stanley, I always recommend you take the 973 that takes the coast road, then take the 6 back – it climbs the hills and then comes downhill into the city. Both very scenic rides. The Star Ferry and Tsim Sha Tsui (for the views over the harbor) are must dos as well. One thing that was free when I went which I recommend: Hong Kong Park as well as the Botanical Gardens.
What amazed me about the city was not so much the actual city but the geographical setting which is spectacular.
Good job with the post,
Frank recently posted…Photo Essay – Montreal in the summer
Cheers Frank! Ah yes the botanical gardens, missed that one! Is the garden near Central, I think it has a lovely church nearby too. Yeah the geography is pretty extreme, they explained loads about it at one of the museums with loads of scale models of past landslides. Interesting stuff!
Thanks for stopping by!