Hong Kong on a budget with kids

Our final destination on our Chinese adventure is Hong Kong.  We knew beforehand that this was going to dent our purses, but it’s too good a destination to miss.   Therefore we were planning to visit Hong Kong on a Budget with kids.

As former British Colony, we knew that travel would become much easier for the final leg.  We have visited Hong Kong (pre-kids) and stayed in the very hectic Kowloon area. This time we have opted to stay in Causeway Bay on Hong Kong Island.  

The whole area is a financial hub with skyscrapers consuming every inch of land. To say it’s compact would be an understatement, but there’s plenty to see and do.

Where we stayed

Hong Kong is mega expensive!!!  It’s a city after all… but the difference here is space, which is deeply lacking.  If you’re expecting to pay big bucks and get a large luxury apartment then think again.  Most of the cheaper accommodation will be found in the towering skyscrapers with rooms no bigger than a shoebox, but it’s only somewhere to rest your head – so meh!  You’ll find the more budget accommodation will have reception desks on the 3rd or 4th floors so finding your place can sometimes be tricky.  Make sure you research your destination with detailed description of your hostel.   I’d also recommend you find somewhere with a lift!

We opted to stay at a hostel called Hong Kong Hostel.  Situated not far from the Causeway Metro we soon found the single door entrance, amongst the high end fashion shops.  

We followed the instructions to the 3rd floor and found a small reception and seating area. We were then shown up to the next floor for our separate room.  It describes itself as a hostel but I’d suggest it’s more of an apartment/hotel. It’s very segregated and not a great place for socialising. However, we were just using this as a sleeping option and weren’t too bothered.  The area was busy outside but quiet in the room with quite a good amount of space and nice bathroom area.

 

Where to eat

After China, the cost of Hong Kong’s restaurants, street food and even fast food places was a shock to the system.  Unfortunately, we resorted to eating in McDonalds a few time to tick a box and keep the budget in check!  (That’s the healthy eating out the window!)

I really wish I could recommend a budget restaurant, but in honesty we couldn’t find them!  A number of times we visited the supermarket situated directly opposite our hostel which had a small bakery, salad section, fruit section and some cooked curries and ate in the hostel.  Or we took a picnic out during the day.

Travelling on a budget in Hong Kong it a challenge for sure, but you just need to be creative!

 

How to get around

There is a plethora of transport options in Hong Kong.

  • Trams – this was our favourite way of travelling on Hong Kong Island.  There is a track which runs through the CBD but be prepared for a bit of walking as well.  Each journey costs HKD 2.60 per adult and HKD 1.30 per child.

  • Buses – if you want to travel to the otherside of Hong Kong Island, you will need to catch a bus.  There are some minibuses with very limited seats, and slightly cheaper. We caught Bus 40 to Deep Water Bay for HKD $10.80 per adult and half price for kids.  However, once these minibuses are full they will not stop. We found this when tried to catch a return journey from Deep water bay and as we weren’t the first destination on the list, every bus was full!  Instead we caught one of the larger buses back to the CBD and walked from there. There’s always an option!
  • Metro – the most convenient, point to point, transport option – it’s also the most expensive.  We paid HKD 42 for a family of 4 from Causeway bay to Kowloon.
  • Star Ferries – a popular, but not overly busy, option for crossing from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island.  The journey is only 15 minutes and its a pleasant way to travel. The cost is

Almost everyone in Hong Kong has a Octopus card.  These cards are for payment of transport and can be handy as exact change is required. 

Things to do

As we are on a budget Hong Kong was a shock to the system in terms of cost.  So we kept the activities to a minimum. To be honest just walking the streets of Hong Kong is a pretty amazing activity as the skycrapers loom over you.  

Mid Level Elevators

These are the free and are the worlds longest outdoor escalator system and rises up the steep hillside.  It’s more of a novelty and in fact if you get an octopus card you can scan it to get points back (supposedly for being active!).  You can get on at Queens road and ride right up to Conduit Road. This is where you can get off to visit the Hong Kong Botanical Gardens

Hong Kong Botanical Gardens

Only a 15 minute walk from the mid level escalators, the Botanical Gardens are another free activity.  Within the gardens are a number of cages housing a range of monkeys and an orangutan. There were also a number of reptiles and a meerkat house.  The boys enjoyed seeing the animals but unfortunately the facilities are not in great condition and the space is a little limited, as you can imagine!  It’s a shame really as I’m sure more can be done to improve this.

Hong Kong Gardens

Across the road from the Botanical Gardens is Hong Kong Park – another free facility.  It’s lovely for strolling or a picnic. It was too hot to rest on the day we visited but there is a large avery with numerous birds.  They seemed to have more space and didn’t seem as cramped as the other animals we saw. After stopping at our local supermarket we did stop for a picnic here.

 

Free Wednesday Museum day

Many of Hong Kongs Museum’s offer free admission on Wednesdays!  This consequently means its the busiest day but if you fancy visiting the Space Museum, Art Museum or History Museum this is the day to do it, if you’re on a budget.  We found ourselves out of time on this occasion but it would be great as a wet day activity!

 

Symphony of Lights

Every night at Victoria Harbour in Kowloon the CBD skyscrapers on both sides of the water come alive to music.  There is a 30 minute display of lights and lasers and if you watch from the Avenue of stars you can hear the music & narration that accompanies it.  I’d say it was a nice activity, but nothing special. The boys weren’t blown away, although they did like to see the lasers.

Victoria Peak

No visit would be complete without a near vertical tram ride up to Victoria Peak.  I recommend you get there early as queues start building from 9am and if really busy it can take a few hours to get a tram!  Cost of the Tram is HKD 52 adults and HKD 23 children. Or if you really want to save the pennies then you can walk up or down!

You can pay to access the panoramic views from the top of the Sky Terrace (HKD 52 per adult or HKD 26 for children).  However, we took the free option and instead took the Peak Circle Walk. It takes around 1 ½ hours (around 3.5km) and is flat most of the way round with an established pathway.  We met lots of walkers and runners early in the morning. It has some splendid views over Hong Kong and the Harbour areas.

We also walked up to Victoria Peak Gardens, it’s a steep uphill climb and although there are a few grass areas, I’m not sure if offered anymore spectacular views than the ones we saw from Peak Circle Walk.  But if you have time it’s worth a look out. The path wasn’t very well signposted so make sure you have google maps for guidance.

Beaches

There are a number of beaches to visit on Hong Kong Island.  We decided on Deep Water bay (although Repulse Bay – further along, is another option).  

The beach was pleasant enough but the water was a little murky (certainly not the crystal clear waters we enjoyed in Croatia!), plus there were lots of small dead fish.. hmmm!  It wasn’t for me but the boys and daddy did enjoy a big swim out to one of the 3 life rafts in the bay.

There are toilet, shower and changing facilities but not much else.  I did see one snack shop but luckily we brought enough waters and snacks with us for a few hours.  The bus cost HKD 10.80 per adult & half price for kids and is bus 40 from Causeway bay.

 

Shopping

Well if you love shopping or need to stock up then Hong Kong is the place to go!  It has everything you need and more. We found an M&S, a Decathalon (European sports shop) and a fabulous ‘Great food hall’ (which was a gourmet food place situated under Pacific Mall – it was AMAZING!).  The difficulty with Hong Kong though is deciding where to go as there are multiple malls and millions of shops – it’s quite overwhelming!

Markets

We preferred the markets, but you need to head to Kowloon for these.  There are:

  • Ladies Market – a clothes market with knock-off items for a cheap price.  Be prepared to haggle for a real bargain!

  • Night Market – starts around 5pm but doesn’t really get going until nighttime.  It’s more about the atmosphere for this one.
  • Flower market – not as flamboyant as I recall, but is an area of shops with hundreds of stunning orchids.

  • Fish Market – the boys favourite by far with tanks and bags filled with hundreds of fish of all shapes, sizes and colours.
  • Bird Market – situated just down from the flower market and inside a garden.  There are lots of birds, cages, feed in the stalls along with a few parrots on display.

Markets always tend to be a real eye opener and these are no different.

Conclusion

We loved Hong Kong, although it was burning a hole in our pocket, we really couldn’t fault.  It was definitely one of our favourite cities so far and very easy to explore. Make sure you have decent footwear and get out exploring!  There is plenty to keep the family occupied and if you budget allows there are options for island hopping, cable car rides, more hiking and even Disneyland!  

We got the best out of our visit to Hong Kong and would definitely recommend it as a great short city break if you find yourself looking for a stopover destination.

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