#1959 | The Broke Student’s Guide to Hong Kong

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imagesHong Kong, China.
All photos taken with the Nikon D5500

Another one for my BSG: Asia segment. It really was a matter of time, before I hit HongKong. We did HongKong at the end of June, as part of a collaboration with Skyscanner and HKTB, which is something I am very excited about because I’ve been using Skyscanner forever and to finally begin a professional relationship with them is something I’d never even imagined could happen! If you’ve read my 24hr guide to Hipster Hong Kong, you’ll already know that my first brush with Hong Kong was less than ideal. This trip for me was a way of redoing a semi-familiar place in a way that would make it my own unique experience – not something set out and dictated for me by a tour agency – and it turned out so well that I couldnt have asked for anything more 🙂

Let me first say that I wasn’t particularly frugal on the trip. At least, it didn’t feel that way. I budgeted 400SGD for a 4D3N trip, and it was more than enough – which I think is decent given how most of my trips to Bangkok see me spending over a thousand dollars. The allure of four dollar tank tops that fall apart after two washes are too much to bear. Given how HK is more metropolitan and expensive than BKK, I think 400SGD expenses and below is pretty workable for most students looking for a short getaway – I even had spare cash left over after the trip.

Pre-trip planning

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Best fare comparison site ever

Skyscanner covered my flight and accommodation, so I didn’t have to worry about that, but usually when planning for a trip my first step is always to use Skyscanner to run a search across all airlines and airfares. I dont know why more people aren’t aware of this, but Skyscanner is a completely free search/farecomparison service that doesn’t take a cut off your booking – in fact, when you make payment you’re actually redirected to the airline site itself. You can also book hotels and hire cars off it, but my primary use for it remains flight searches. You can also run a search for the lowest fares across a whole calendar month, which is what I usually do if my dates are flexible – it’s much easier to get the cheapest possible fare that way.

Getting to and fro the Airport

Hong Kong is one of the most efficient cities I’ve been in in terms of airport accessibility, which is more important than one would think because it makes for a very stress free travel experience.The Airport express train will cost you 100HKD to Hong Kong Station (it’s the name of a train stop), and is extremely comfortable – it gets you to the city in about 45 minutes, so I definitely recommend this over taking a cab. Note: Some hotels offer free coach transfer services from Hong Kong Station itself, so check with your hotel on that.

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HK International Airport

When getting back to the airport, make use of the HK In-City Check in service, which is a stroke of pure genius. HK Station has an airport counter which caters to most, if not all, airlines that fly in and out of HK. You can check in, drop off your baggage, and then go walk around the city centre some more till it’s time to train in to the airport for boarding. Genius!!!!!! I dont know why more cities dont do this!

Transport within HK

Transport within HK is relatively affordable, about the same as in SG, I think. You pay for your rides with an Octopus card which looks nothing like an Octopus, so I think that’s just HK trying to be cute. We topped up 100HKD for 4D3N and used less than half of it, not counting to and fro the Airport. You can use the Octopus card to pay for purchases at some stores too, like 7-11 or whatever, so you can just drain your card of value there if you’ve got leftover cash at the end of your trip.

Popular modes of transport in HK include the train, bus, tram, ferry, and taxi. The train is the fastest, the bus is the most scenic, and the tram is the most classic. Ferries are supposed to be really really cheap, like 3-4HKD/trip, but it’s a huge regret of mine that we didn’t manage to take one this time – there just wasnt time. Taxis are great if you’re looking to go out and about at night, because they’re relatively cheap and don’t have midnight/peak hour surcharges to the best of my knowledge.

Accommodation in HK

I don’t have any cheap recommendations for this but I put this section in anyway because I know people will ask. My accommodation was covered by Skyscanner, and they put me up in this amazing 4.7star hotel called Mira Moon which I absolutely adored but which I believe isn’t cheap either, so if you’re looking for cheap accommodation you might need to trawl travel forums or ask around for this.

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The luxurious Mira Moon hotel..

Food in HK

Let’s just say it: Food in HK isn’t cheap. It’s not outrageously expensive, but it’s just not cheap. I dont know if I’m doing it wrong, or something, but most of the places I hit were recommended by locals so I dont think so..? But I felt like it was more expensive than Singapore to eat out in HK – a basic plate of rice with roast meat costs about 30++HKD, which is about 7SGD, whereas you can get a decent plate of the same in Singapore for 3-4SGD.

On the other hand, it is loads cheaper to drink in HK. The hotel we stayed in – Mira Moon Hotel – had a 250HKD champagne buffet every evening for two hours. That’s 45bucks for free flow champagne. Unheard of. A local also recommended this place in Kowloon which I dont remember the name of (lol sorry) where you can get oysters and wine for an incredibly cheap price. They just have really, really good deals for fancy night outs is what I think.

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Champagne buffet at the hotel we were staying at

Things to eat in HK include Dim Sum, Roast Meat Rice, Beef Brisket Noodles, and HK Pastries. Besides what I recommended in my 24hr Guide to Hipster Hong Kong, here are some other things we enjoyed:

1. HK Pastries: Egg tarts from Tai Cheung and Wife Biscuits from Hai Heung.

I’ve already waxed lyrical about the Tai Cheung egg tarts, so on to the wife biscuits. I’m personally not a fan of Wife Biscuits because I dont like the sticky insides, but these were so strongly recommended that I had to try them. Hai Heung is a chain that is apparently better than all the old established brands according to some of my friends’ parents who are HK-frequenters, so I trust them because #respect. The most convenient outlet is the one in Sogo’s basement, the mall connected to Causeway Bay’s Train Station. It’s pretty inexpensive and besides buying them home for my family, I bought one to try on the spot and I think it’s safe to say that it’s the only wife biscuit I’ve ever enjoyed in my life, ever.

It also does very good char siew triangle pastries which I feel sorry for because I think they deserve more credit instead of just being overshadowed by the wife biscuits.

2. Roast Meat Rice

We were recommended quite a few places but the reality of travel is, most times you can only make it to whatever is nearest to you, recommended or not. If you live in the city and have all day to travel to wherever, that’s a different story. Anyway, we collapsed into this random eatery near the train station in Sheung Wan, and it turned out to be really good!

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Yum

Ok la to be fair on the way out we saw that it was on the Michelin Guide. But yeah, moral of the story is, even if you duck into a random place for HK roast meat it can turn out to be pretty decent too 😀

Unfortunately this rule does not apply to dimsum, because we popped into a random restaurant (all the ones we wanted were closed wtf and we had a flight to catch) and it was quite dismal. On the plus side, now we know that Swee Choon in Singapore can make better dim sum than some HK places.

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Cindy is not impressed

Things to do in HK

On the plus side, the things to do in HK were relatively cheap. I’m particularly proud of this road trip we did to Stanley, a whole different part of the island, given that both of us can’t drive. Yeah, well, whatever. We took a bus from Exchange Square (6 or 6A will go), ran like kids for top-deck seats, and then took a two hour loop journey around HK, to Stanley, and then back to HK Central. We got to see the mountains and beaches and the bay area and it cost us seven HKD. Plus, it was damn hot in HK when we were there and we saw the island from the comfortable air-conditioned bubble of a bus, which was super awesome, okay?

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Sights from the bus

Most of our activities included just walking around the city to sight-see on foot, and popping into interesting corners without actually buying anything, haha. Hollywood street was an interesting area, chock full of strange looking shops – you can spend an entire afternoon just being mesmerised by the weird and interesting things on sale.

One of the things that also stood out to us was the former Police Married Quarters, shortened now to PMQ, which I also mentioned in my 24hr Guide to Hipster Hong Kong. It’s now a complex full of pop up stores and exhibitions catering to local budding artists, and it was really interesting to just spend a couple of hours browsing the place!

Special Segment: Reader Suggestions

HongKong was really a case of too much to see, too little time. I was especially touched because this trip, some of you sent me really awesome suggestions that I really appreciated but didn’t get to see due to a lack of time/ stomach space. One reader even sent me a super long email full of suggestions because he had stayed in HK for three months on internship before! Gan dong si le. So I decided to just include a list of suggestions that stood out, from all of those sent to me, so that any of you headed to HK can decide whether to include them or not when planning 🙂

HK local options

A few people left comments on my instagram raving about dimsum at Prince Edward – I believe a place called One Dim Sum serves really good and cheap dimsum, which we really really wanted to go to but which was too far out of the way. Other places recommended to us include Dim Dim Sum at Causeway Bay, Che’s Restaurant at Wan Chai, and Social Place in Central. And one reader swears he discovered his love for dimsum in Sha Tin, in the Wo Che district, where apparently there’s a small place only open till 5pm which serves amazing liu sha bao. Map your way to Wo Che Estate Cooked food stall and it should be right beside it.

HK cafe options

Capitol Cafe down Mong Kok apparently had really good truffle egg toast, as recommended by Xiaoqi, but we never managed to make it there.

HK non-local options

A reader swore to me that the best korean BBQ he ever had was from a place called Kaya, at Causeway Bay. Pricey, but really yum. 6/F, 8 Russell Street, Causeway Bay. Also, apparently ramen in HK is better and cheaper than in Singapore, though I didn’t get to put this to the test.

If you’re a fan of macarons, there’s also a Pierre Herme Paris outlet in the ICF mall 1, at Hong Kong Station.

HK coffee-drinker cafes

Here are a list of cafes sent over by Pamela from Skyscanner, recommended by their HK office:

o Café DeadEnd (with really good outdoor seats, good ambience, away from the crowd but actually in city centre)

o Common Ground

o Elephant Ground (quite small, but special as it is like a hipster shop combined with a coffee shop, and home made ice cream cookie)

o Fuel Espresso (but it’s inside a mall not very fancy)

o 18 Grams (became a chain coffee shop already)

Nightlife

Lang Kwai Fong is apparently the place to be if you want a taste of local nightlife. It’s quite a polarising place – you either love it or hate it. We didn’t actually get to hit LKF because we were very lame and old and fell asleep for four hours in our hotel room when we went back to freshen up, but we did want to hit this particular bar recommended to us by Ian, who works in Mira Moon Hotel, called Insomnia. Apparently it has fantastic live music.

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Hanging out at the IFC

Wrapping up

Alright, so that’a about it from me. One of the things that stood out for me on this trip was the outpouring of warmth and helpfulness from everyone around me who knew that I was headed to HK – I’ve never gotten such enthusiastic recommendations for any other destination before, and the reactions I got when I announced my impending trip to HK on instagram were really heartwarming! It was honestly touching to receive so many detailed recommendations and lengthy emails that I could tell took effort to write, so that’s something I was really grateful for on this trip and I hope I did a decent job on passing the recommendations on, even if I didn’t get to hit them all myself, bc sharing is caring, people.

Thank you to all of you who left me recommendations and suggestions and who wrote me emails – I genuinely appreciate it! And thank you to HKTB and Skyscanner for sending me on this trip as well 🙂 Till next time, Hong Kong.

x
Jem

Comments

  1. I’m going to Hong Kong in December and this guide will be very helpful!

  2. Thanks for such a down to earth take on Hong Kong! Some serious wanderlust right now.

    ♡ veena | seveninchstilettos.com
    twitter/instagram: @veenamccoole

  3. Hi,
    I found your post and read. You did bring $400 for 4 days 3 Nights. So how much to have left at the end of the trip?
    As for me I’m going to Hong Kong in November 19-26. And yes I’m broke as in no $$$ now.
    Now is to work and just to wait Gov money to receive. so I will probably have around $300 for the trip. I’m not sure.

    So what do you think how much I should bring for a week trip???
    I’m muslim so pretty hard to find halal food.
    So probably eat like 2 times a day or once.
    So I won’t do shopping or anything but going Disney Land is a must!
    Please help.

    • This depends on whether you are with anyone you can split costs with or not. Hong Kong is not a cheap city although it can be done on the cheap, but if youre factoring disneyland in, $300 is not going to be enough because tickets to disneyland will already set you back about 70 dollars and you’re still going to have to find transport to and fro. Youre going for 7 days, and if you’re happy just to spend your time walking and sightseeing and absorbing the sights, that’s fine, but it’s still going to be pricey when you actually want to eat, especially if you go to cafes. You also need to ask yourself if youre strict on the food – like is it ok if you go to a place that isnt halal but you just order things on the menu that you are ok with, or does the entire place need to have halal certification? that kind of thing, because that will greatly change the options you have in terms of where and what you can eat.

      With $300 it is not impossible, but you will have to be willing to walk a lot (shouldnt be a problem in nov’s weather) and also eat super budget for certain meals (like convenience store food that sort of thing). I would recommend bringing about 400-450SGD just in case. Many places in HK accept cash only, so perhaps you could change $300 and bring the rest in SGD for in case you need extra and just change the money there?

      All the best!

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