I recently spent two weeks travelling in China and you can see our itinerary here. China was completely different to anywhere I’ve experienced before. More so than South America even. In South America we could at least make educated guesses at what words meant thanks to the familiar alphabet. In China, despite our best efforts to learn a few keywords before travelling, it was impossible to guess what the various lines and patterns meant. It was just the language, the food was pretty challenging too… Let’s just say I don’t plan on eating noodles for a long, long, long time.
We spent a few days in Hong Kong at the beginning or our trip and returned for a night at the end. When we first arrived in Hong Kong it seemed like a different world entirely for the reasons mentioned above. But, returning after having spent two weeks travelling in mainland China I realised actually Hong Kong is pretty Western and it’s not that difficult to get by with a limited knowledge of Mandarin.
I found Hong Kong to be extremely expensive. I think living in London I assume most places will be cheaper, and this wasn’t really the case in Hong Kong. Yes there are bound to be cheaper places throughout the city, but on average? It’s expensive.
That’s not to say it’s not possible to do Hong Kong on a budget. We still stuck to a fairly minimal budget of around £35-£40 (give or take a few ££) a day incl. accommodation. The following top things to do in Hong Kong are all suitable for those of you also travelling on a budget. Let me know if you’ve any more suggestions!
Ride the Star Ferry
The Star Ferry is one of the most popular attractions in Hong Kong. The main route takes you across the harbour from Kowloon island over to Hong Kong island. The ferry has been in operation since 1888 and it’s still maintained a fairly low price.
Travelling across the harbour by ferry gives you a unique look at Hong Kong’s skyline and it’s well worth doing. A night time ride is a great way to see those spectacular skyscraper lights in action too.
Eat Dim Sum
No trip to Hong Kong would be complete without eating some Dim Sum. Whilst Dim Sum is traditionally more or a brunch food to be enjoyed with tea, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t eat it later on in the day as many people do now.
There are many, many places in Hong Kong offering Dim Sum as you’d expect. They vary in price range and tastiness but one of places that you’ll see recommended pretty much everywhere is Tim Ho Wan.
There are several Tim Ho Wan restaurants in Hong Kong and the restaurant shot to fame back when it 2010 after it was awarded a Michelin Star after just a year of being open. It’s also the cheapest Michelin Star dinner you’ll probably ever have. We left feeling full having spent just £10 in total.
A £10 Michelin Star dinner for two? If you know of somewhere that can beat that, let me know!
Definitely get the BBQ pork buns and the prawn dumplings. I promise you won’t regret it.
World’s Longest Escalator
Hong Kong is home to the world’s longest escalator which begins near the Central MTR (underground/metro) station. The Central-Mid Levels escalator, as it is known, is about 800m long and takes about 20 minutes to ride from start to bottom.
It’s believed over 85,000 people use the escalator every day on their commute. The escalators go down in the morning and up in the afternoons and evenings so time you visit for the afternoon to save yourself from climbing hundreds of steps!
There are some very cool looking restaurants and bars along the way which tend to be packed full of Westerners. If you’re missing food from back home, you’ll find some here.
The Big Buddha
The Big Buddha sits proudly on Lantau Island which is in the South West of Hong Kong. Completed in 1993, this Bronze Statue is free to visit and well worth seeing.
There are a fair few steps (268 to be exact!) to climb before you reach the Buddha which is 34m high. The statue faces north to look over the Chinese people and has drawn pilgrims from all over Asia. The Buddha took 12 years to complete and from at the foot of the Buddha there are some remarkable views of the mountains and sea.
You could hike up to the Big Buddha but it’s far more enjoyable to take the cable car…
Ride the Cable Car
The Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car will woosh you up and over the mountains to Lantau Island 5.7km away.
There are incredible panoramas from the cable car too. Just make sure you get there early, or are prepared to queue. We turned up at 9.30 (half an hour before the cable car was even open) and found we had to queue for about an hour once it had opened. When we came back down in the afternoon there were still very long queues!
Take a day trip to Macau
Macau is only about an hour away from Hong Kong by ferry and is best known globally as the “Vegas of the East”. Sure there’s a lot of gambling to be done here, but there’s plenty more to see.
Macau was a Portuguese colony for over 300 years and as such there’s a mixture of two very different cultures which is fun to explore. You’ll notice signs in Portuguese and Portuguese dishes on the menu too.
Walk the historic streets of Taipa and Coloane during the day and hit the casinos at night.
The Venetian deserves a shout out whether you’re up for gambling or not. It’s the world’s largest casino and even has a Grand Canal complete with gondalas, whilst the Parisian next door has a sparkling Eiffel Tower.
Visit Wong Tai Sin Temple
The Wong Tai Sin Temple claims to “make every wish come true upon request”. If that doesn’t convince you to visit then maybe the relaxing gardens will, or the fact that entry is completely free.
The temple may be busy from the outside with tour groups, but venture inside and head to the gardens and you’ll find them virtually empty. Just you, the turtles and the waterfall.
Of course, you can miss the incense burning at the centre of the temple either!
Shop at Temple Street Market
Hong Kong is full of markets from a goldfish market to a ladies market and many more. Temple Street market is one of the best due to the variety of products on offer.
Amongst the knock off luxury handbags and designers goods you’ll find tea sets, jade jewellery and I
Climb Lion Peak
Victoria Peak may be Hong Kong’s most famous peak, but I found Lion Peak a far more enjoyable climb.
Whilst it’s a long climb – give yourself about 4 hours to climb up and back down – the views are well worth it even through Hong Kong’s pretty much everlasting layer of mist.
You’ll be climbing up through forest on dirt tracks and there’s a bit of scrambling to be done at the end too!
We started the climb at the Wong Tai Sin MTR. Leave the station at exit B3 and head towards the stairs straight ahead where you’ll soon come across a minibus terminal (lots of green buses!). Head left here and walk along Shatin Pass Road where you’ll begin to see signs for the climb.
Take plenty of water – you’ll need it!
Ride Hong Kong’s double decker trams
Hong Kong is home to the largest fleet of double decker trams in the world! Not only are they pretty cool – I’d never seen a double decker tram before! – but they’re super cheap to ride too.
For about 30p you can ride a tram line for as long as you like. We hopped on at Victoria Park and rode it all the way to the end looking at the bustling streets as we passed and remembering places we wanted to stop off at on the way back.
There are several tram lines on Hong Kong island and although it’s not the fastest method of transport in Hong Kong, I’d say it’s the most enjoyable.
Climb Victoria Peak
Hong Kong’s most famous peak, Victoria Peak, looks down on Hong Kong Island and its mass of skyscrapers on one side, and out to the islands on the other. The hike up takes between 45 minutes and 1 hour but prepare yourself for how steep it is! You could also get the scenic tram up but expect queues of at least an hour.
Once you’re up the peak continue heading up to the gardens where you’ll likely see bridal photoshoots going on, family get-togethers and (hopefully, if you’ve timed it right) a sunset!
There’s no need to pay the $50 to climb the tower. Save that money for somethings else and carry on past the tower and shops and get a great view, for free!, from the viewing platform there.
Watch the Symphony of Lights Show
Ask anyone for tips on things to do in Hong Kong and they’ll tell you to watch the lightshow. It’s a completely free show takes place every night at 8pm and you can watch it from anywhere along Kowloon’s waterfront. The best place though is probably just in front of the cultural centre.
The show lasts for about 15 minutes and it’s best enjoyed with a few drinks and some snacks from the nearby 7/11.
Bonus Budget Things to do in Hong Kong
Watch the locals doing Tai Chi in the park
We stumbled upon lots of locals practicing Tai Chi in Kowloon Park (check it out it’s beautiful!) whilst staying in Hong Kong. Grab a pastry and a coffee and enjoy your breakfast al fresco in the park whilst watching this ancient martial art.
Get soaked by boats in Victoria park
Whilst enjoying a lunch in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park we found ourselves being soaked by toy speed boats zipping up and down a pond in the park. It seems to be a popular pastime at the weekend with the ponds specifically set up for it (there were a couple of poor splash guards at each end) and it’s fun to watch.
Drink bubble tea
I’d never had bubble tea before going to China but I’d heard a lot about it. The drink started in Taiwan in the 1980s and can now be found pretty much all over the world.
Our favourite place was Gong Cha. It’s chain that has loads of different flavours to chose from and you can also decide your own sweetness too if you like a little less sugar in your drinks. The mango one was a dream for cooling us down on a hot and humid day.
Eat an egg waffle
Promise me you’ll eat an egg waffle. They’re basically just waffles in the shape of balls but in China and Hong Kong they usually come with ice cream, chocolates and fruits on them too. Such a good dessert. Oddies serve up incredible egg waffles with chocolate chips in the waffle mixture and delicious ice cream flavours.