The Backpacker’s Survival Guide to Hong Kong

Hong Kong

After 2 weeks in Hong Kong, I began to see the major similarities between Singapore and here. It’s hard not to compare. It’s busy, commercial, noisy, bustling, slightly chaotic, crowded, etc. All the aspects you associate with a huge city. I noted a few things that someone who has never been to an Asian country before would be freaked out about.
Hong Kong is a rather expensive country to visit, even when comparing to Singapore. When I was there, I was appalled by how expensive drinking and eating were. So naturally I searched for the cheap options and compiled a list for you.

For more detailed information visit LaughTravelEat’s post about Hong Kong. 

Hong Kong
My first time ordering food from a local hawker place. Definitely an experience.

Ordering food

Ordering food in restaurants is daunting to say the least. It’s really scary when you are in a place where the wait staff shouts incoherent noises at you, as they usher you to sit down sharing tables and knocking knees with strangers, looking at a menu full of symbols that makes no sense and pressure to order something builds. All you can do is point at pictures (if there are any) or at what everyone else is eating around you and hope for the best.

They hand you a piece of paper with a couple of numbers on it, but as you take out your wallet to pay, they point to a counter and speak a few more incoherent sentences to you. Confused you sit back down , put your wallet away and observe how things worked around here. By the time you figure it out, your food comes and there are no forks, so it’s time to put on your best chopstick skills so that you don’t embarrass yourself in front of these strangers.

This is the likely story of your first experience in a local eatery or a cooked food place. Fear not, I’m here to help you. From my years of traveling, learning to speak the language is not only easy, but it’s also not enough. Learning to read and recognise some of the most basic of words will help you. The easiest way to go about these is to download Google Translate and use the camera function to decipher the words. However if you want to seem like a pro, here are some of the most common ones that you will need to survive one of these ordeals.

SoupCoffee 咖啡

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Cheap transportation

The local light rail tram system is the cheapest transportation anywhere in Hong Kong island, though only serving the north. For 2.20HKD, you can go from the Eastern end to the Western end. Although it’s the slowest transportation option, due to subsceptibility to traffic, it’s one of the prettier ways to travel within the island. So if you have time to spare and not in a hurry, try the tram.
The Bus is the next cheapest option. From 4HKD to 20 HKD, the bus can take you anywhere in Kowloon and the island. The worse part about it is that you pay a one time fee, not according to how far you are traveling. So if you are traveling long distances, it’s a good option. A note of advice, traveling by bus along Nathan Rd in Kowloon is the worse idea ever if it’s during the weekends and peak hours. It’s much faster walking.
The ferry system is also relatively cheap. If you are in Tsim Sha Tsui, the best and prettiest way to get to the island is using the ferry. At 2HKD a person, it’s definitely the cheapest way to go between these two places. From there it’s a 10min walk to Central and 5 min walk to the tram system.

Hong Kong
The ferries are a great way to view both the island and the kowloon at the same time.

Cheap Alcohol/food

Mr Wong’s – This corner shop has become one of the most talked about establishment in all of Hong Kong by the backpackers and expat community. Every night, after 7pm, this restaurant offers a $60HKD all you can eat and drink beer offer. That’s right, all the beer you can drink and so much food you don’t know what to do with for only 60HKD or $7.70USD. The man himself is extremely friendly and accomodating. If he likes your group enough, he will either give you whiskey or give you a birthday present on your day. How you ask he could do this? Firstly, you probably shouldn’t know, but you really wanted to there are rumours that it’s a front for him selling cocaine upstairs. It’s a hearsay thing so don’t quote me, just enjoy it blissfully and ignorantly.

711 – This convenient store by far sells the cheapest alcohol I could find anywhere. For $25HKD you can buy a 4pack of Skol and if you top up any more, Heikenen, Carlsberg, etc. While here, you can top up on your drunchies (and maybe munchies).

Hong Kong
You can buy anything you want for cheap at these shops, if you can find anything.

Local eateries – Many say that Hong Kong is a very expensive place visit. While it’s mostly true, you can still find relatively cheap meals amongst the local places. Places where they probably don’t speak english and nothing on the menu is english. The most you should even pay for a meal is 40HKD. The lowest I’ve paid for is 23HKD. It’s afforable, better than the 200HKD westerns and 150HKD ramen.

Happy Hour – Hong Kong has some of the longest happy hour I’ve ever come across in the world. Most places go from 2pm to 9pm, some even 12pm to 10pm. Regardless, bars are always open to having deals to attract the tourists and after work crowds alike. The best value and variety that I went was Hong Kong Brew House. At 50HKD from 4pm to 9pm, you can choose from 10 different draught beers including La Chouffe Belgian. If not for another 10 to300HKD you can choose from 100s of bottled beers from various countries. Otherwise, 70HKD for a Carlsberg pint is pretty normal.

Free Wifi

There are dozens of places to get free wifi. All McDonald’s and 711 have free wifi. There is a free public wifi at popular places, called freegovwifi and freegovwifi-e. The e requires you to register but comes with a better security and encryption which I prefer using. Everytime you come across it you just have to accept their terms and condition. Easy.

Hong Kong
The insanity of air con units that plague the city. Free water drippings for all.

Other advices

One of the things that annoys me the most when in Hong Kong is the water drippings from the air conditioning units at the side of the buildings. Everywhere you go and i mean everywhere, there will always be water dripping. My advice is to wear a hat to prevent that and since the sun is out, it’s multi purpose. If you think this is silly, wait till you experience it yourself.

One of the hidden expenses when traveling is the purchase of bottled water. In most tourist places, a large bottle of water (because that’s the only kind you should be buying) will set you back anywhere from 11-13 HKD. However, if you wonder into the less known places, the cheapest bottle I’ve ever bought was 5.50HKD, though 8HKD is a little more common.

“Free” Attractions to escape from the city

The Peak – Probably the most popular “outer-city” nature escape. At the view-point, the skyline and cityscape of Hong Kong can be enjoyed. There are many restaurants and tourist shops nearby as well. Though the view is good, especially the night lights, this is my least favourite “escape”.
Sai Kung – The largest national park in Hong Kong. Located in the New Territory, this area takes a while to get to but that also means way less tourists and people in general. There are many activities for people of all ages
Dragon’s back and Shek O Bay – This is a popular hiking trail among locals and tourists alike. Located in the southeastern corner of the island, the trail takes you up a ridge overlooking the bay on one side and the sea on the other. It’s a relatively short hike of an hour and another hour to get to Big Wave Beach where surfers congregate.
Kowloon Park – This little paradise is located smack in the middle of the busy and touristy Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok. Once you pass the entrance, the hustle and bustle gets drowned out and your eyes adjust to the change of scenery. It’s nice to take a breather here in the middle of the day from walking around the city. The Hong Kong Heritage Centre is a nice, free and relaxing educational tour of Hong Kong.


Hong Kong
Try and catch the local demonstration while there! Be part of the umbrella movement

Do you have anything to add to this Hong Kong guide?


For more detailed information visit LaughTravelEat’s post about Hong Kong. 

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