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Ten Budget Things To Do In Hong Kong

David Cawley shares the skinny on some of the affordable options in the centre of his favourite big city

Written by . Published on February 22nd 2012.

Ten Budget Things To Do In Hong Kong

1 The Peak
A great starting point to get the lay of the land for first time visitors, this is the city’s foremost attraction atop Hong Kong Island’s highest peak. The views (above) over the glass and concrete canyons and harbour below are breathtaking. At the summit are short hiking trails and for the more retail minded, the Peak Tower containing shops, restaurants, low-brow attractions and a viewing terrace (small charge for the highest platform) as well as separate Galleria shopping mall. The best way to get up there is to take the 120-year-old and implausibly steep Hong Kong institution, the Peak Tram which costs $65 HKD (£5.30) for a return ticket. Be sure to sit on the right going up. Cheaper still are the 15 or 15A bus services which cost $9.80 HKD (80p) o/w.

2. Hong Kong David Cawley - The Star Ferry, One Of The World's Most Iconic Crossings And Costs Just Pence To Use.The Star Ferry, one of the world's most iconic crossings, costs just pence 

2 Star Ferry
Surely one of the most famous ferry crossings in the world. Join the 70,000 passengers a day for the 9 minute journey from Hong Kong Island to Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon on the mainland aboard the iconic and historic Star Ferry. Ploughing back and forth across Victoria Harbour, the current fleet of two-tiered (go for the upper deck) boats have been part of the ‘Fragrant Harbours’ landscape for 60 years. There’s never a bad time to part with the $2:50 HKD (21p) (Monday to Friday) needed for a one way ticket, but a short voyage at sunset is particularly splendid.

3 Hong Kong’s Museums
In a city often defined simply by skyscrapers, shopping and finance, many might be surprised to learn there’s plenty of museums to go at. The Hong Kong Heritage Museum, Museum of History, Museum of Art and Science Museum (especially great with fidgety kids in tow) are just some of the stand-outs. If you happen to be in town on a Wednesday, you’re in luck as its free entry to museums day. For the rest of the week, entry on the whole costs from $10 HKD (82p) for adults, through to $25 HKD for the Science Museum. Also available from participating museums and to save money further, you can buy a Museum Weekly Pass for $30 HKD for admission to seven of the top museums in the city.

4 Avenue of the Stars and Symphony of Lights
Found on the southern tip of Kowloon, to the right of the Star Ferry pier when disembarking. The Avenue of the Stars is a public promenade similar to the Hollywood Walk of Fame featuring over 70 pavement tablets celebrating film stars with a Hong Kong connection. There’s a collection of bronze statues depicting the local film industry, plus a few snack and trinket vendors along the way. This is also one of the best places to enjoy the nightly light show that takes place around the harbour. Arrive before 8pm to get a great view of the more than 40 buildings putting on the world’s largest permanent light show. It’s all free and ideally be there on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday night when the shows soundtrack and commentary can be heard through PA systems.

3. Hong Kong David Cawley - Dim Sum On Offer At Tim Ho Wan, The World's Cheapest Michellin Starred Eatery.Dim sum at Tim Ho Wan, the planet's cheapest Michelin-starred eaterie

5 Dim Sum
For gastronomic bragging rights at home head to Tim Ho Wan, (Shop 8, 2-20 Kwong Wa Street, Kowloon) and regale friends and family with the tale of eating at the planet’s cheapest Michelin starred restaurant. Serving only dim sum and tea, it’s a tiny, run-down eaterie, always packed and you can’t book in advance, but for 8 plates and all the tea you can drink at just £11.60 for two it’s worth waiting on the street to get in – which you have to do. Take one of the yellow paper menus shelved by the outside window, tick what you want (include the Baked Bun), then hand it over to one of the usually grumpy staff who will take you inside once a table becomes available.

6 A Night at the Races
Another affordable reason to be in Hong Kong on a Wednesday. Situated in the heart of the city, loomed over by soaring buildings, the Happy Valley Racecourse offers a hugely atmospheric evening of horse racing where punters in there tens of thousands turn up each Wednesday night to spend millions of dollars on a flutter. Gambling on the gee-gees is monumentally big here.  A standing ticket at track level is priced at $10 HKD (81p), though for what can be a long night of racing it’s worth considering a seat ticket for $20 HKD. Horses start running from 7pm and it’s normally OK to turn up on the night and pay at the gates.

7 Hong Kong Markets
The city is famous for its retail and unique market trading in particular. For ‘dinner and a show’ head to Temple Street Night Market between 7 and 10pm where gadgets and clothes are the mainstay. Chinese opera performances, fortune tellers and some fantastically cheap street eating adds to the alluring hullabaloo. Dedicated to tourist shoppers, Stanley Market (admittedly a short journey out of the city) is a good place to head for those inexperienced in the ways of the haggle. Clothing for both genders can be had at the Ladies Market in Mongkok; fans of flea markets head to Cat Street; and finally for those not at all troubled by blood and gore and interested in local food and produce should head to the Graham Street Wet Market to see just how fresh the seafood is here. 

4. Hong Kong David Cawley - Hong Kong Park In The Heart Of The City Full Of Free Things To See And Do. Hong Kong Park at the city's heart is full of free things to see and do

8 Hong Kong Park
Close by the base of the Peak Tram and divided in two by Garden Road, this hillside public park is a celebration of both artificial and natural nature. Shadowed by a wall of imposing skyscrapers on one side and mountains on the other, this a beautifully maintained piece of serenity full of lakes, waterfalls, flower beds and pretty walks. Not only that, it also comes with a conservatory, t’ai chi garden, a 10m high aviary walk, small zoo housing endangered mammals and reptiles and Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware all of which is free to enjoy. 

9 Hong Kong Tram Ride
Shake, rattle and roll through the city streets. Journeys are hot, protracted and not that comfortable, but they are cheap and offer a mesmeric view of urban life slowly unfolding outside. There’s over 16km of track and 6 east to west routes and its best to get a seat either at the front of the top deck, or if standing at the back of the lower deck. Tickets cost $2.30 HKD (20p) per trip of any distance paid into a box by the driver when disembarking, which can be a bit of a bun fight during peak periods.

10 Night Time Panoramas
The Peak (listed above) is open throughout the day and into the evening to offer spectacular views over the twinkling lights of HK’s wondrous buildings and harbour cityscape. In amongst it all, hotels too boast suave roof top drinking spots such as the Ritz Carlton’s 118th floor Ozone Bar – the highest bar atop the planet’s tallest hotel. Naturally such a view comes at a price – buying drinks and dinner at inflated prices and in the case of The Peak paying to get there as well. For an almost equally good night-time vistas amongst smart surroundings and free of coronary-inducing hotel bar prices, the IFC Mall on Finance Street has harbour and rooftop panoramas and drinking furniture, which can be used by any Tom, Dick or Huang whose had the notion to bring beer and some crisps from a local deli.


Emirates fly three times daily from Manchester to Hong Kong via Dubai. For further information telephone 0844 800 2777; or visit www.emirates.com. Economy class fares start from £552 and look out for occasional special price promotions on the city’s website.

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cybersydFebruary 22nd 2012.

Number 11 - the Lantau Buddha. Big, beautiful, and tickets come with admission to the nearby temple and a meal at the (admittedly slightly dodgy) vegetarian restaurant.

Great list. If only people would see HK as a destination worthy of its own trip, not just as a stop over!

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