When I went to Hong Kong last year, I used my own money so everything has to be on a budget. I’m also not a luxury traveler so I don’t really splurge on anything. As much as possible I like to take the most efficient and cost-effective ways when I fly out. Even for my Japan trip this year, despite traveling with my mom, I’m still always conscious about having an itinerary that wouldn’t break the bank. Thus, I’m starting this On A Budget segment for the tips and tricks that I think could help other people out.
I graduated from college last year so I was pretty lucky to receive cash from my relatives as graduation presents which means that I had more to add to my travel fund. But I was still shouldering all my expenses (airfare, hostel, attractions, transportation, food, etc.) so I had to be mindful of where I’m spending my money on. To my surprise, Hong Kong is do-able for a college student as long as you know how to avoid the unnecessary expense!
Always be on the look out for promo fares. My friends and I were lucky enough to find roundtrip tickets that only cost 5, 000+PHP! Make sure that you have your travel dates secured. Don’t be like me who forgot that she bought a ticket to a concert that falls on the day she’s supposed to fly out. 🙁 That was an unnecessary expense for me because I had to re-book my departing flight, and thank the universe because my dad was kind enough to shoulder the excess fee.
Subscribe to airline newsletters, like their Facebook pages, and download their apps so you can always be updated with their seat sales. It’s usually every first week of the month so keep your eyes peeled for that! If you can, attend travel expos too because form what I’ve heard, they offer much bigger discounts during.
To save further from the airfare, my friends and I decided to not add a checked baggage when we flew out. We only carried with us our clothes and gadgets that it didn’t exceed 7kg anyway. We only availed of checked baggage when we flew back. When I packed my suitcase, I put all my clothes and shoes in a big backpack (think Herschel size) and then placed that backpack inside my carry on luggage. When I was packing for the flight back home, all my dirty clothes and shoes, and some trinkets (those that didn’t cost much) went inside my checked luggage while the important stuff I bought from Hong Kong as well as my gadgets went inside my carry on backpack. 😀
HOSTEL > HOTEL
I told you guys that I’m not a luxury traveler so it was totally fine for me that my friends and I stayed at a hostel. We went to Hong Kong to explore anyway. Hostels are way cheaper than hotels so we saved a lot. We just made sure that the rooms are clean and big enough for us and our things, the location is safe and accessible, and that we had a private bathroom. You can also opt to rent an AirBnB for cool (and relatively cheap) apartments, or look into Agoda.com and Booking.com for great discounts.
LIVE LIKE A LOCAL
Hong Kong’s transportation is fast, reliable, efficient, and comfortable which is why we decided to just take the MTR wherever we went. It seemed daunting at first but it’s really easy to get the hang of it. We didn’t mind commuting because it was such a breeze. Not once did we have to take a cab during our whole stay. They even have an Airport Express train that you can take to bring you to the airport, and the seats are super comfortable!
Eat at restaurants flocked by locals, because then you’d be sure that you’re going to get a good value for your money. Try out their street food if you can (just look for ones that practice proper food handling), and visit the places where they hang out as it is usually free (i.e. Hong Kong Symphony of Lights at Tsim Sha Tsui).
Make sure that you purchase an Octopus card as you can use it for train rides, bus rides, and even for paying for stuff at 7-eleven! You can also get the money you paid for the card when you return it at the airport.
Plan your itinerary wisely as it would save you time and money. Start your day by going to the place farthest from where you’re staying and just make you way back. Another idea is that you do all the tourist stuff (sight seeing, theme parks, visiting temples) during your first few days, and save buying pasalubong and/or souvenirs until your last full day. This is so you can splurge on your shopping without having to worry whether or not you still have money for Disneyland.
To also save money for unnecessary meals, before we head out each day, we dropped by at a nearby 7-eleven and bought some bread and a bottle of water. This is so we have something to fill our stomach when it’s still two hours away from lunch. It would’ve been smarter if we brought snacks from home though, but if you forgot like we did, convenience stores are your best bet.
FREE WI-FI EVERYWHERE
Hong Kong is the land of free (and fast!) Wi-Fi. There’s free Wi-Fi at most restaurants, malls, fastfood chains, Disneyland, pretty much just everywhere. You can also get free Wi-Fi during bus rides for an hour. This is why we didn’t opt to rent a pocket Wi-Fi or subscribe to a roaming data plan. So unless you’re expecting a very important call while in Hong Kong, or you need to be connected 24/7, just skip it.
Remember that you’re in Hong Kong for the experience, culture, and fun. Splurge for your own benefit — it’s okay that you didn’t get pasalubong for everyone back home! It’s thoughtful to buy gifts for everyone but unless they gave you money to buy something for them, you don’t owe anyone an I <3 HK shirt.
And there it is! That’s how I traveled to Hong Kong for less than 20, 000PHP ($398). It’s a huge factor that I went with my friends so we were able to split the bills when needed, but even if you’re traveling alone, I believe those tips could help you out! Have you ever traveled somewhere with your own budget? Please share with me your ways!