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  • Writer's pictureGemma Fottles

Budget travel: Hong Kong on a Shoe String

Updated: Jul 25, 2020

Trips to Hong Kong usually last more than 3 days. And people travelling there usually have more than $90 USD to spare between two people. But if you find yourself in this precarious situation as I did on the way back to the UK from a 2-month backpacking trip in Australia, the options can be a little... limited. Always one to squeeze those lemosns into lemonade, here are a few things that my backpacking friend and I managed to do in Hong Kong with little to no money to spare.

1) Wander

Wandering is the free-est of the free. You don’t get cheaper than free. Hong Kong, like any major city in the world, can be a bit daunting though – masses of people in a rush to be somewhere, humidity levels that leave the unaccustomed tourist unattractively dripping in sweat, and dodgy looking areas with even dodgier looking, people. Two 19-year-old British girls were clearly not the safest pairing of people to be wandering alone. But as long as you’re not stupid about it (for lack of a more sensitive term), everything generally is fine. Get a few touristy maps, ask the people in your accommodation where to avoid and where to go, and get up and do it. 

2) A Symphony of Lights

Head to the LigThis is the biggest permanent light show in the entire world – and it is free, gloriously FREE! Skyscrapers from each side of the Victoria Harbour are lit up with lights and lasers, all of which is accompanied by loud, beautiful, mesmerising music. This spectacular show happens every evening on both Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon, and lasts about 10 minutes. It’s easy to find, even easier to get to, and a beautiful way to end a budget day in Hong Kong.

If you’re on the brink of zero money as my friend and I were, then the light show is worth a visit a couple of times. It’s not as exciting the second… or third time around, but you know, it’s still good. And much better than staying in your hotel room watching awful television and eating questionable food from a questionable supermarket.

3) Po Lin Monastery

The Po Lin Monastery was originally just a small temple built by three Buddhists in 1924 but has gradually expanded into one of the main tourist attractions in Hong Kong due to the world’s largest Big Buddha statue, as well as the beautiful views from the area. It’s a good way to spend a day seeing a different side to the busy city life and experience the more natural and cultural side of Hong Kong.

To get here you have to take a 25-minute long cable car journey. This isn’t cheap for a person with no money (20 - 30 GBP), but the views are worth it. I did spot some people walking on a path below us, so I’m pretty sure you can actually walk to the Monastery and the whole Ngong Ping 360 experience. You’d have to be a brave person to do this. With lots of time on your hands. And water. And training. It looked tough. But you can find all the information you need on the official Ngong Ping 360 website.

4) Do it the local way

The key to enjoying any city on a budget is to live like the locals do. Forget the big touristy attractions and the luxurious side of travel: eat out in weird tiny places that speak no English, use the metro, and get tips from people in your hostel and the real people you meet. Travel does not have to be expensive - and what's the point in not experiencing the real side of the life of a completely different culture than your own?

Hong Kong is a fantastic place to visit, and even though I probably didn’t get to do half as much as I would have liked to thanks to a tiny travel budget, I at least tried to make the most of a potentially dire situation. There are always free or inexpensive things to immerse yourself in on any trip. This experience of Hong Kong on a shoestring only whetted my appetite to come back to experience more!

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