Last Updated on February 26, 2021 by Jim Ferri
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
By Jason Rupp and Carla Marie Rupp
Arriving in Hong Kong is exciting. The airport is huge and consistently rated among as one of the top in the world.
After we landed we boarded the local double decker bus for Kowloon, which costs just under $5USD per person. It’s a great way to get from the airport when you’re visiting Hong Kong on a budget. The perfectly paved expressway to downtown passes over large bridges, huge mountains, and of course, monstrous buildings scattered throughout the 45-minute ride.
The journey is beautiful and perfect, much it would be anywhere in the Western world. When you cross the last bridge into Kowloon, where we decided to stay, however, the sights become much more interesting and you begin to feel you have finally arrived in exotic Asia.
Neon signs brighten up the sidewalks even more than the street lights do. Above the countless food stalls serve up hot steaming dumplings and other foods, large multicolored neon signs jut out over the streets, sometimes hundreds of them in one block, all trying to out-do each other in their reach farther into the middle of the street in an attempt to block the rest.
Finding Budget Accommodations
We’d been to Hong Kong a number of times in the past but on this trip we decided we’d soak in the street scenes on foot. It turned out to be something we really enjoyed and it kept us within our budget.
When our bus reached the center of Mongkok, we began our search for budget accommodations, which turned out to be a fun adventure and not difficult at all. Visitors can easily find accommodations from budget prices to high-end in this amazing city on the water but if you come during the Chinese New Year it’s best if you book ahead. We quickly checked into our hotel and just drop our things in order to get back out onto the busy streets to head to the world-famous light show.
The Symphony of Lights, Great for Budget Travelers
The Symphony of Lights is one of the most popular free experiences for visitors. It’s a great things to enjoy if you’re seeing Hong Kong on a budget. The splashy laser and light show, synchronized with sound, fills the spectacular skyline view of Hong Kong Island from Kowloon. Sitting with other visitors, primarily from Mainland China, we knew the show was bringing spectators so much joy by hearing the ‘ooh’s and ‘ahhh’s. Scheduled for 8 pm every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on Victoria Harbour, it’s the largest of its kind in the world, according to the Guinness World Records.
The next morning, we walked through busy Tsim Sha Tsui in southern Kowloon to the water’s esplanade to see the Avenue of the Stars, where we had viewed the light show the night before. Now, however, we were able to see the many handprints of Hong Kong stars, such as those of Jackie Chan. We saw people taking photos at the popular statue of Bruce Lee, Hong Kong’s forever most-famous gift to the rest of the film world. After a while we continued on foot, along the way taking in the views of the impressive wide-open skies on the waterfront of Hong Kong.
Seeing Hong Kong on a Budget? Take the Star Ferry
We walked to the nearby Star Ferry pier to take the ferry to Hong Kong Island. The commuter ferries of Hong Kong is one of the best deals for travelers enjoying Hong Kong on a budget, due to their convenience as well as their price, which is less than $1USD each way.
Boarding the ferry from any of its entry ways is full of adventure, because it is a place where all mix together, some just needing to get to their destination without waiting in traffic, others just wanting a photo-op. We thought how this mix reminded us of the Staten Island Ferry in New York City. Here in Hong Kong, international travelers bump elbows with each other and with the Cantonese-speaking locals, all the while taking pictures from the boats in the harbor.
Up to Victoria Peak
We arrived at Central Pier, in the center of Hong Kong Island’s business district, planning to walk to the Peak Tram. The walk to the Peak Tram passes the financial district and is uphill, and we were glad we wore sneakers for the climb.
When we arrived and boarded we found the steep tram ride to the top of Victoria peak was as thrilling as we expected it would be, as we climbed higher and higher over the towering skyscrapers, enjoying the views of Hong Kong made famous by postcards.
At the top, we took pictures of the panoramic views, shopped, wandered around and sampled more local food. There’s also a nature walk at the top that looked beautiful, but by this time we had walked all around the city, and the uphill walk from the Central pier to the tram was enough workout for us. If you’re in the mood for exercise you can hike up and down the mountain,
After going back down on the Peak Tram we stayed on Hong Kong Island for much of the day, walking around, looking into small shops, art galleries, and a theater, even stopping in at the Foreign Correspondents Club, which is open to all for food and drinks.
An Ever-Changing Landscape of Activities
The bustling city treats visitors to an ever-changing landscape of activities, whether you’re seeing Hong Kong on a budget or not. It’s loads of fun and perfect people watching too, seeing families, couples and singles enjoying themselves and eating delicious Chinese food. This is, in fact, a city where you could just walk around all day eating.
Food of all kinds was just so good during our days and nights. We remember the lady who was making noodles by hand and after she sold two bowls to us, gave us the biggest smile when fumbled to eat with chopsticks.
There’s no better time to see Hong Kong, with its beautiful parks, spectacular views, easy-to-use transportation and more shops than anyone could imagine selling everything from brand-name clothing , watches and cameras, to high-end jewelry. There is even a Disneyland, which brings in many families from all over Asia.
When we left Hong Kong we returned to the airport the same way we arrived, sitting on top of a double-decker bus. It’s not only the cheapest way to get there, but also the best if you’re visiting Hong Kong on a budget.
With so many airlines using Hong Kong as their hub city in Asia, it is a gateway to the rest of Asia. If you need to go anywhere in Asia it’s good to check the flights to Hong Kong as well, adding on the cost of your ticket to your final destination in Asia. You just might save money on a trip, and have the chance of spending a few nights in Hong Kong.
Hurrah to Hong Kong. We’ll be back anytime we can – the possibilities for adventure, fun and good times are endless.
If you go:
Hong Kong Tourism
The Victoria Peak Hong Kong Tram
Symphony Of Lights
You can listen to the show’s music and English narration nightly live along the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront between the Avenue of Stars and the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, the promenade outside the Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai every Monday, Wednesday and Friday night.