When we spent five days in Hong Kong, we were at the end of a month-long trip that had seriously blown out what we had budgeted for. Unfortunately this happens more than it should when we travel – despite our planning and budgeting (there’s always unexpected costs)! But it’s good to know that even a world-class city like Hong Kong is easy to enjoy without breaking the bank!
When we travel we like to focus on experiences, culture and of course food. Modern or global attractions like chain store shopping, theme parks etc aren’t really our thing and I’d like to think we can spot a tourist trap from a mile away. So here is my cheap and free guide to Hong Kong that I’m positive will give you an authentic experience.
The Cheap and Free Guide to Hong Kong
Experience the mid-level escalators
In Central Hong Kong Island lies the mid-level escalators. It’s an outdoor set of escalators that will take you hundreds of metres up the hill to the more residential areas of Hong Kong. Whether you are staying up this way, would like to see where the locals live or just want a lift up a few blocks (Hong Kong can be steep!), the mid-level escalators are a must-see underrated attraction. We stumbled upon them our first day; rode them all the way to the top and then wandered down again.
Day Trip to Stanley Bay
if you don’t have the budget to visit any other islands in Hong Kong, take a bus to the south side of Hong Kong Island to the town of Stanley. Stanley is probably most famous for the Stanley Markets where you can find clothing, leather bags and souvenirs. While you’re here, take a dip at the beach (did you know you can swim in Hong Kong?!), walk the promenade and see the iconic Murray House. Stanley is about a HKD$6-7 bus ride from the Central HK Bus Station, but feels worlds away from the hustle of central Hong Kong! Catch the number 6 bus which takes you up over the hill (an experience in itself), or the 6x express bus.
Street Art Walk
There are a lot of wall murals in the streets of Hong Kong if you know where to look. Take a wander along Staunton St, which turns into Bridges St and keep an eye out on the side alleys for the impressive artworks. You can’t miss them – there will likely be people posing and cameras everywhere (go early if you’d like a clear shot).
Cat St Markets
The Cat Street markets on Upper Lascar Row are filled with antiques and bric-a-brac that is so satisfying to wander and sort through. Unless you’re a pro, it may be hard to spot what’s actually worth a penny. But if you’re just looking for something that will catch your eye, you will no doubt find a souvenir or unique knick-knack. I picked up some Chinese medallions carved out of stone that I’ve repurposed as coasters. Even if you aren’t looking to buy, take a wander through anyway.
Catch a Tram
Along the main drag of Des Voeux Road is one of the main tramlines. What’s great about this is that you can basically travel along the island in either direction without fear of getting lost. And it costs just a couple of Hong Kong dollars, no matter how far you want to travel! Its amazing that something so simple can be so joyful. Grab a seat up top in the front to feel the breeze and get the best views. Note that you enter at the rear of the tram and exit at the front door, paying on departure (no change given).
Victoria Peak Loop Walk
Whether you catch the peak tram (cable car), a bus or walk(!) to the top of Victoria Peak, most people won’t leave Hong Kong without visiting this landmark. Its an absolute must see with amazing views! But what most people don’t know is that there’s a 2-3km loop road around the top of the Peak called Lugard Road. Walk this road, which is flat, paved and shaded nearly the whole way, to get nearly 360-degree views of Hong Kong Island! The path was nearly empty and it was well worth the walk. Do this and skip the (expensive) Sky Terrace.
Mong Kok market walk
The mainland side of Hong Kong is well worth a visit, even if its just to wander through the unusual markets. In Mong Kok, experience the flower markets, bird market and fish market all within walking distance of each other. If you’re just visiting Hong Kong its likely you won’t be buying but its well worth the experience. If you’re catching the subway, get off at either Mong Kok or Prince Edward stations.
Day trip to Stanley Bay
Street art on Hong Kong Island
Of course there’s a multitude of other things to do in Hong Kong, like visit the Big Buddha on Lantau Island, take a trip on a Junk boat and do some world-class shopping. But if you’re wanting to know if you can visit HK and still get by on a budget, the answer is yes! If you are looking for cheap and free things to do in Hong Kong, why not Pin this post for later!