Hong Kong is expensive, but it is possible to do Hong Kong on a backpacker budget. Seeing the high prices when you arrive can be a little scary, but, as I discovered, you can visit Hong Kong on a tight budget, and you can actually do a lot for a little.
I thought I would put together some tips which helped me not to blow my budget, and allowed me to have a great time, without spending a fortune.
This week is all about Hong Kong’s budget accommodation. Next week, I will talk about how to eat in Hong Kong without blowing your budget, and then how to enjoy the city without going broke!
Budget Accommodation in Hong Kong
We headed to Hong Kong to get our tourist visa for China. We heard that accommodation in Hong Kong was astronomical, but when we first started to peruse a few hostel websites we thought the prices looked okay. This was because they were showing the lowest price, for the biggest dorm, like a ten bed mixed dorm, for example.
But as soon as we went to look further, we found that the room was either unavailable for the nights we were visiting, or that the price was much higher, and that it was actually the price for a big male dorm. As a couple, we were looking for a private room and so we spent a few stressful moments thinking we were going to be broke after accommodation alone.
We had decided to stay in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, as we knew there was cheapish accommodation to be found there, and it seemed pretty central.
The Chungking Mansions and Mirador Mansions on Nathan Road are definitely not mansions, first of all! They are big high-rises which are home to all the cheap accommodation, lots of currency exchange places and other little businesses. Despite hearing some horror stories about rats and terrible smells, we had little choice in the matter. We went for the Germany Hostel, which was one of the cheapest we could find ($30 AU per night).
When we arrived in Hong Kong, we braved the chaos of the Chungking Mansions and lifts (more on that later!) and found that the Germany Hostel didn’t have a reception on its floor.
A sign pointed us to another floor where there was a reception shared between a few hostels, and in what turned out to be a stroke of luck, our room wasn’t ready for ages. After hanging around outside for a while, we went back up to see if the room was ready.
At this stage, we were exhausted and sitting there like wilting daisies that had been clutched in a child’s hand all day. The girl must have felt sorry for us because she offered us a different room in another hotel, which looked a lot better than ours. It had a window, something we had been prepared to do without, and there was even a tv and fridge- a major bonus.
The room was tiny. The bed wasn’t full sized and took up most of the room. Luckily, there was space under the bed for our backpacks, and we used the little fridge as a table.
We felt really happy with our little upgrade, but we were scared the price would go up when we asked to extend. However, as often happens in Hong Kong , when you actually speak to the place directly, the price can go down. For the rest of our stay, we ended up paying less than we did the first night. Score!
HONG KONG ON A BUDGET
- Do your research early! The night before we left for Hong Kong, Sean and I spent a stressful couple of hours bent over our phones, sweating in the hallway of our Pontianak accommodation as we tried to pick up the slow wi-fi and find somewhere we could afford. Not recommended! I think if you were to be sensible and book it in advance, you would have more choice and less stress!
- Book your chosen accommodation for, say, two nights, and then try your luck bargaining when you need to extend. We heard that this often leads to a far lower price than what is advertised, and in our case, it worked.
- Be aware that on the weekend, rates can shoot up. You will see the difference when you search a hostel website. We got really lucky as we got a low rate when we extended, and didn’t get hit with a higher rate.
- If you can, find out if your place has a fridge. This was so handy and it helped us to keep our food budget down.
- Don’t be put off by the hectic atmosphere as you first enter the mansions. I came to really love the energy of the ground floor, with everyone selling their services and delicious smelling food as they had a laugh all day.
- As for the lifts…be prepared to feel like a Crayola crayon packed tight in a box, and be prepared to wait a little while for the lift to come, and not necessarily be able to fit in the first one when it arrives!
- Do not look out the window if you’re claustrophobic, or queasy about seeing a stream of toilet paper with questionable brown streaks on it.
- Oh, you may not even get a window, but that’s okay, really. It’s all part of the experience!
Next week I’ll talk about how to eat in Hong Kong on a budget, as part of my little ‘How to do Hong Kong on a Budget’ series.
If you have any tips of your own, please pop them in the comments below! 🙂