However hidden within the bustling streets of Hong Kong’s many islands are cheap, unexpected and exotic treats that will match any traveller’s budget. Jessica Lever shows us the way to go…
A frequent train service is available from Hong Kong Airport to the main islands. Standard tickets can be purchased from the airport desk, but check next door at the Regal Hotel’s concierge, as they often offer a discounted price for train transfers. Taxis are metered, relatively cheap and handily colour-coded to reflect the different islands. If you’re not travelling to a landmark, be sure to have the address ready to pass to the driver as the language barrier can be an issue. The metro is easy to navigate, and a tourist pass is available to buy at stations. A fun, but slower paced option, is the famous Star Ferries service which runs frequent services between islands. At around 20p a ride travelling by ferry is an absolute steal, and also a great way to sightsee without paying harbour cruise rates.
Where to stay
Your first, and probably most pricy expenditure, is likely to be accommodation. Hop Inn, a hipster youth hostel with a roof terrace that’s smack bang in the centre of the bustling bright lights of Tsim Sha Tsui, will fit you in a tiny but unique room with a private bathroom (literally inside the room) for around £50 a night for a twin/double. If staying in a youth hostel doesn’t take your fancy, Hong Kong’s Airbnb section is stacked with relatively low cost accommodation options that give a real taste of island living.
What to eat
Hong Kong is a hive of deliciousness, with world cuisines packed into practically every street. Chinese street BBQs offer a cheap, readily available and authentic dinner option but the smell of grilled offal is not for those with squeamish noses. Be sure to visit one of the many cute canteens, pull your chopsticks from the table’s side drawer and sample delicious roasted pork, steaming soups and if you’re there for breakfast iced coffee with sago. Chains such as Ajisen Ramen serve up an affordable but decent bowl of – you guessed it – ramen. Dessert parlours are a big deal in Hong Kong, and if you can handle its notorious odour, be sure to try the durian ice-cream.
What to do
If you only do one thing in Hong Kong make sure to head to the city’s summit, known as The Peak. Unless you feel like walking, tourists are transported by the Peak Tram Since 1888 this funicular railway has teetered on the edge of the mountain, creeping up the tracks and offering an amazing view of the island. Dodge the expensive shopping and dining outlets and head straight to the free-entry observation deck, and its informative audio guide to the amazing city views. Get there early for a prime sunset spot, and walk the whole way around to experience a 360 glimpse of the whole island from its highest accessible point.
A walk around the Avenue of Stars provides an amusing and free insight into Hong Kong’s film industry, with the added bonus of amazing views of the harbour. Look out for Jackie Chan’s hand prints and rival the local’s selfie skills by striking a pose with Bruce Lee.
Shopping is a big part of Hong Kong culture, and many of the metro stations will land you straight in the middle of a fancy mall. If you’re looking for a bargain – or just for a new experience – be sure to stroll through one of Hong Kong’s markets. In Kowloon visit the vibrant Flower Market, the Jade Market to see beautiful precious stones (but be wary of fakes), Ladies Market for trinkets and titbits and Temple Street Night Market for sweet souvenirs. After trawling the night market, head to one of the traditional karaoke houses that line Temple Street, and be sure to tip HK $20 in the pot if you’re impressed by the singers.
Horse racing is seriously popular in Hong Kong and a trip to Happy Valley race course makes for a great night out – even if you don’t want to gamble. The racing season starts in September and runs until July on Wednesday evenings. Races start around 7.30pm with an entry fee of HK $10 before 9pm.