Hong Kong on a Budget

There is an endless list of reasons to visit the wonderful city of Hong Kong, but did you know there are an amazing amount of quirky, cheap or free things to do in the city? If you’re on a budget and looking to discover the real Hong Kong, read on!

Free Things to do in Hong Kong – The Iconic Skyline

Okay, so this one’s not exactly a secret, but did you know you can get the view for free and see some nature in the process? Sounds awesome, right? All you need to do is find the Hong Kong trail, which can be easily accessed from the Western and Central districts of Hong Kong Island. In between the second and third trail markers is a lookout where you can get that postcard view without the crowds. Better than this –

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong On A Budget. Hong Kong Skyline from The Peak

If you want to take the view up a level and see almost the whole city, from the island to the New Territories, get yourself up to Lion Rock from The Tai Wai MTR station. Not only is it as close to the geographical centre of Hong Kong as you can get, but it is also an icon for all Hong Kongers, who are said to have the Lion Rock Spirit.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong On A Budget. The New Territories From Lion Rock
The New Territories From Lion Rock

Hong Kong on a Budget – Historic Trams

You’ve probably heard of the Peak Tram. In truth, it’s a funicular, not a tram and it’s far from the best transport experience in HK. There’s a way to get a more historical experience for a fraction of the price!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Historic Double Decker Tram

The earliest form of transport in Hong Kong was the double-decker trams that still run today. In fact, Hong Kong uses double-decker trams exclusively and therefore has the biggest fleet of them in the world. If you want to see Hong Kong at a slower pace than normal, jump on one of these trams or ding-dings, as they’re known locally, anywhere on Hong Kong island. They run west to east at regular intervals and the best part is that they only cost HK$2.60!

Free Things to do in HK – Statues

As a city, Hong Kong loves statues! From tiny and quirky statues near temples, tombs and memorials to huge gods and goddess looking over entire districts. Can you find them all? You could start with the world’s tallest outdoor bronze statue of Kwun Yam, Goddess of Mercy. At 76m she towers over Tsz Shan Monastery in Tai Po and is twice the height of another famous statue in Hong Kong; the Tian Tin Buddha at Ngong Ping on Lantau Island.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Kwun Yam Statue, Tai Po, Hong Kong K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Tian Tin Buddha, Ngong Ping, Hong Kong K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Bidget. Kwun Yam Statues, 10,000 Buddhas Monastery, Sha Tin, Hong Kong K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Buddha Statues, 10,000 Buddhas Monastery, Sha Tin, Hong Kong

As the 2 main deities worshipped in the area, Kwun Yam and Buddha feature prominently in monasteries. The 10,000 Buddhas Monastery in Sha Tin has areas dedicated to both. You can sometimes find shrines to Kwan Yam and Buddha near villages, or even up in the hills on hiking trails. Often locals even make their own sculptures and place them in the forest for your viewing pleasure.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Buddha Statue, Tuen Mun, Hong Kong K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Shrine in Sha Tin, Hong Kong K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Family Sculptures on the Wilson Trail, Hong Kong K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Sculptures on the Wilson Trail, Hong Kong

You could spend several days seeking out these statues and sculptures!

Hong Kong on a Budget – Wet Markets

If you want to see Hong Kong at it’s craziest, then any of the city’s various markets won’t disappoint. I’m not talking about the street markets, I’m talking about what the locals call ‘Wet Markets’. Generally, these are the go-to places for fresh food. Like still breathing kind of fresh. You’ll see fish swimming around in tanks, right next to their friends that weren’t so lucky. Various cuts of meat hanging from rails in front of a butchers stall, or sometimes the occasional live chicken.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Fish at a Wet Market, Hong Kong

Aside from your everyday fresh foods, some of these markets include local sweet shops and bakeries, where you’ll find the cheapest and tastiest traditional treats. You might have to go past the fish and meat sellers to find them though.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Wet Market Bakery, Hong Kong

The bigger wet markets will also have hardware and clothing stores along with key makers, tailors and traditional goods store. You’re almost guaranteed to find anything you need at these markets.

Hong Kong on a Budget – Cha Chaan Tengs

Cha Chaan Teng roughly translates to Tea Restaurant. People go to these places to ‘Yum Cha’, which literally means drink tea, but colloquially means to eat food and drink tea. Cha Chaan Tengs offer set meals of local style food paired with local drinks like Lemon Tea and Milk Tea.

Cha Chaan Tengs are super common in Hong Kong, but most only have menus in Chinese. If you’re feeling adventurous, give it a go. If you want to get the Cha Chaan Teng feel, but prefer menus you can read, then Tsui Wah is probably the best option for you.

A lunch or afternoon tea set meal with a drink, soup and main course normally costs somewhere between HK$40-60.

Hong Kong on a Budget – Biking

Need a way to burn off all the calories you gained at the Cha Chaan Teng? The New Territories of Hong Kong are a biking paradise! There are hundreds of kilometres of dedicated bike trails that are signposted extremely well, so there’s no need to tussle with cars for road space or worry about getting lost. That means it’s a safe activity for the whole family.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. New Territories Bike Trail K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. New Territories Bike Trail Sign Post

Some of the trails follow rivers or meander along harbour promenades. There are bike hire places along the way that will let you hire a bike for around HK$80/day and even let you return the bike to another store along the trail. You can also hire a pedi-cab style machine if you have someone in your group who doesn’t feel like pedalling.

Free Things to do in HK – WiFi Everywhere!

Hong Kong is a super-connected city. WiFi is available almost everywhere and it’s generally free. All shopping centres have anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours free access. MTR stations have 5 free 15 minute sessions per day. Airport buses and some city buses have it. Libraries and government buildings have unlimited WiFi, although it’s somewhat slower than in other places.

If you venture to Hong Kong in the summer, you might be more than happy to hang out in the air conditioning with WiFi for a few hours. It beats melting in the unbearable humidity! Some public parks, such as Sha Tin Park and Hong Kong Park even have WiFi. So when it’s a bit cooler, you can enjoy nature and WiFi at the same time!

Free Things to do in HK – Nature

No one would blame you for thinking that there isn’t much nature in the world’s most densely populated city, but that just not the case. The centrally located Hong Kong Park covers a huge area and even contains an aviary with many exotic birds. The Hong Kong Wetland Park showcases a unique ecosystem within Hong Kong’s New Territories and the UNESCO Hong Kong Geopark in the east gives you a glimpse into the region’s geological history.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Waterfall Near Tai Mo Shan K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Highland Island Reservoir

Aside from that, there are many different natural wonders within Hong Kong’s Country Parks. Waterfalls, bamboo forests, reservoirs and streams, just to mention a few.

Free Things to do in HK – Hillside Cemeteries and Tombs

As you would be aware, space is a commodity in Hong Kong, so when it comes to burying the dearly departed, people head to the hills. Designated cemeteries can often be seen on the sides of very steep hills. It’s also quite common to find tombs in the middle of forests. If you happen to pass one at the right time of the month, you may even see some of the more traditional folk leaving food and incense near the tombs to stop any ghosts from haunting the living.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Hillside Tomb K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Small Hillside Tomb K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Food Left Out At Hillside Tomb

Hong Kong on a Budget – Islands and Camping

Did you know that Hong Kong is made up of over 200 islands? Some of these islands are uninhabited, untouched paradises. While not all of them are accessible, there are quite a few that are. Some, like Po Toi Island, only have ferry services on the weekends, due to the small populations residing there. Others, like Lamma Island and Cheung Chau have hourly services.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Tung Lung Island

The government allows camping on some of these islands, as long as you register with them and stay within the designated areas. Not only that, but there are many camping sites within the government maintained Country Parks. A list of them can be found here

Hong Kong on a Budget – Beaches

You didn’t know Hong Kong had beaches? Well, it does and some of them are pretty damn good! Of course, there are ones that are quite popular and easily accessible, but they can get a little too crowded. If you’re looking for something a little bit more relaxed, there are some beaches in the east that are only accessible by hiking for an hour or so.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Secluded Beach off a Hiking Trail K in Motion Travel Blog. Hong Kong on a Budget. Secluded Beach

Sai Wan, Ham Tin and Tai Long in Sai Kung are 3 such beaches. What’s even more charming about these beaches, is that they have small locally run stores there that always have a fresh supply of cool drinks.

Free Things to do in HK – Hiking

This is, in my opinion, the most enticing reason to visit the city; it has the most amazing hiking in the world! That’s not an exaggeration. Over 40% of the land in Hong Kong is hills and forests. The government has wisely instituted a nature reserve system of Country Parks to keep these areas free from developments. There are 24 Country Parks across the territory, with hundreds of hiking trails.

K in Motion Travel Blog, Hong Kong on a Budget. Easy Hiking Trail K in Motion Travel Blog, Hong Kong on a Budget. Not So Easy Hiking Trail

Trails range from super-easy walks that are kid and dog friendly, to technical rock climbing and everything in between. The 4 major trails, the MacLehose, Wilson, Lantau and Hong Kong Trails cover over 300km of ground between them. They stretch from Hong Kong Island in the south, to the remote New Territories in the north, Sai Kung in the east and Tuen Mun/Lantau in the west. The Hong Kong Government has even compiled a one-stop site for all of Hong Kong’s trails here and the Hong Kong Hiking Meetup runs several hikes for all levels, every day of the year.

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Would you like to know more about Hong Kong? Need information about free cultural walking tours and hikes? Feel free to contact me.

38 Replies to “Hong Kong on a Budget”

    1. This list barely scratches the surface of things to do in HK! It’s an amazing city.
      The weather is pretty horrid over summer, so if you can, wait until November or December when the temperatures are much more bearable!

    1. You should come on over! Unless you really don’t like heat and humidity, then you should head over between November and February. :o)

    1. We have the most expensive real estate in the world. Luckily everything else is relatively cheap, including food, if you know where to look.

  1. I know so little about Hong Kong because I always assume it is so metro and expensive so I love this post because you showcase tons of cheap and even better FREE things to do.
    I particularly love all the nature activities from the beaches to the hikes but I particularly love that you featured the cemeteries because we love learning a lot about history and culture and cemeteries can offer a lot of insights.

    1. That’s exactly why I wrote the article! There’s so much more to this city than people think. But I’ve barely scratched the surface in this post.

      We have some pretty amazing and diverse nature and it’s all readily accessible.

      There’s so much more I could’ve said about cemeteries and tombs. There is actually a holiday each year in HK just for keeping tombs in order!

      Our hiking trails also contain a lot of colonial war artifacts, like marker stones, tunnels and abandoned forts.

    1. Flight prices can be pretty horrendous if you’re coming from the east coast of North America. You could try flying into a cheaper Asian destination then fly to HK from there. Flights within Asia are generally quite cheap.

      It’s actually quite cheap for us to fly almost anywhere from HK, but it seems that’s not the case for people flying in :o(

  2. I would so love a ride in the Peak Tram! I’d love to visit Hong Kong. My husband traveled there last year and the photos he clicked were superb. Loved your post! There’s something for just about everyone in Hong Kong!

    1. Yes. It is a wonderous city in many ways!

      The Peak Tram is the biggest tourist trap in HK! I think the island trams are a much nicer experience for much less money. Also, the regularly scheduled bus service to the peak is a third of the price and has a much nicer view on the way up! :o)

  3. Wow, Kez. Always so full of the best information. I pictured Hong Kong as a huge city, not all of the nature that you list here. Seems like the perfect combination of metropolis, culture and nature. True that getting there and lodging are costly, but so many things to do and not spend much more.

    1. I know many people don’t think of coming to HK for nature, but it makes up about 40% of our land! All of our 18 districts either have hills, or are surrounded by them. I’ve climbed the top 125 hills here, but that’s not even half of what we’ve got!

      Flights can be expensive when coming from outside of HK, but it’s pretty cheap for us to fly just about anywhere in the world, except maybe South America. I’ve never spent more than about US$500 for a return flight to Europe, North America, Australia and Africa. I am pretty boss at finding cheap flights though ;o)

      If you do ever manage to find some cheap flights over, I can probably help you organise some cheaper accommodation and cheap cultural tours.

  4. Very nice guide. I didn’t know about a lot of these items. I especially like your recommendation for good view points. Something a photography enthusiast like me appreciates.

    So much world to see, so little time and money. I always look for free or inexpensive yet fun activities.

    1. You will love Lion Rock! I have scaled it hundreds of times and always bump into photographers up there! It’s absolutely beautiful at night too, but I don’t have a camera that can do it justice.

      If you ever make it over, I can suggest a whole pile of other areas with awesome views :o)

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  6. I’m usually really not much for cities, but the HK skyline is really pretty! The Cha Chaan Tengs + street food/wet markets are my favorite! :] I really want to go back to hike do some more hiking there!

    1. Believe it or not, I’m not a huge fan of cities either. It’s a fact that perplexes most people when they find out I live in HK! But I live closer to the hills than I do to the city centre. There are plenty of hills waiting for your return! ;o)

    1. Now is actually a great time to head over!
      Some tourists have been staying away so flights are cheap and hotels are offering amazingly cheap package deals.

  7. I’ve never been to Hong Kong but I plan to go soon . It’s nice to know there are cheap and free things to do there to really make the most out of my vacation .

    Great post and ideas !

    1. This post has barely scratched the surface of things to do in Hong Kong.
      Now is a great time to come over because fights are cheap. :o)

  8. I love the idea of this. There are so many great free options to check out when we’re travelling to a new destination, but we often don’t know where to look! I would love to see more of these as you continue your travels!

    1. Thanks for the suggestion. It’s actually a great idea, as I guess I’m not the only one who travels on a tight budget!

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