Believe it or not, I went to Hong Kong with my own money. It was part of my 20 things to do during my 20’s bucket list: to travel abroad using my own funds. Saving up enough money to buy plane tickets and booking a hotel is, of course, the top priority but because once I got to Hong Kong I will be shouldering my own expenses, I had to be very conscious of the decisions that I will be making — from buying plane tickets to how I’m going to get around the city. How did a then senior college student do it? Here’s how.
BOOKING YOUR FLIGHT
I subscribed to airline e-mail newsletters, liked their Facebook pages, and downloaded their apps when I decided that I’m going to fly out using my own money. And you should too! Being updated with airline promos and/or discounts is the best way to kickstart your budget friendly vacation. You have to be vigilant with these promo fares because they almost always run out fast. Although seats offered are mostly economy class, learn to make do with it because you really should rather spend more money in the country you’re going to be visiting. I mean, would you really rather travel first class but be broke while shopping in Mong Kok? But if it is a must for you to travel first class, travel expos are your best bet because discounts are much better there than it would be online. Although most of it happens only once a year so you should decide on your travel plans before then.
Most promo fares allow only 7kg of carry on baggage and that was fine for me and it should be fine for you too. Why? The idea here is that the 7kg should be enough for the set of clothes and toiletries that you’re going to bring with you to Hong Kong. What about when you’re about to return home? That’s when you add extra baggage. So you still have the 7kg of carry on that contains your clothes (or the valuable items that you bought during your trip) and an additional 15kg of check-in baggage for the trinkets, clothes, souvenirs that you bought at Hong Kong Disneyland, Citygate Outlets, Kowloon, or wherever else you decided to spend your money on.
FINDING A PLACE TO STAY AT
Now that you’ve booked yourself a flight, it’s now time for you to decide where you’re going to stay. My ideology while I was on this Hong Kong trip was that I flew out to experience the culture, see the sights, and to just go out and explore. Which is why I opted to stay at a hostel rather than a fancy hotel. I was supposed to try out AirBnB but my credit card wasn’t working then. Choose a hostel that has good reviews and whose owner responds to your queries before you book the place. I used Booking.com to book mine but you can also use Agoda.com and like I mentioned before, AirBnB. But if you’re really into staying at hotels, the sites I mentioned also offer hotel discounts but do note that to score a really good discount, book your hotel room at least 3 months in advance. That way there will be more rooms available and if the hotel allows it, you can also cancel your booking if you found a better place.
PLAN YOUR ITINERARY WISELY
Great! You’ve now found a place to stay in, now’s the time to plan your itinerary. You should do so in a way that going through each spot you want to go to is relative to where you’re staying. The hostel I booked was at Tsim Sha Tsui so on my first day (I arrived at night) I went to the Temple Street Night Market because it was just nearby. The next day I decided to spend the whole of it at Hong Kong Disneyland to make the most out of the theme park and really just soak it all in. On my third day I decided to dedicate it for shopping so that I wouldn’t have to worry about paying for entrance fees and other more touristy stuff. I searched for popular (but cheap) shopping spots and found that Citygate Outlets was the farthest so that’s where I went first and then headed to Mong Kok before dropping my bags off at my hostel. Afterwards I walked towards the Symphony of Lights which is just extremely close to where I’m staying at. So you see, you can do more if you really plan it out well. Just go to the place farthest from your hotel/hostel first and make your way back. Very efficient because not only will it save you money but time as well.
GETTING AROUND HONG KONG
One of the things I liked best about Hong Kong was how efficient their transportation system is. Never have I ever felt the need to hail a cab and that really helped me save a lot of money. I made use of their trains and buses, and I had the best time doing so. Experience the life of the locals by commuting. It’s really fun, I promise and it’s not such a hassle! Their trains connect directly to Hong Kong Disneyland, they have a line that takes you directly to the airport, one takes you to Ngong Ping, and more. It may seem daunting at first but you will get the hang of it. Buy an Octopus card upon your arrival at the airport because you can use that to pay for your bus rides, the MTR, and even buy yourself some snacks at 7-eleven! So effficient!
Unless you’re a businessman/businesswoman whose phone should always be reached, I say skip subscribing to cellular or data roaming because there is free Wi-Fi all over the city. And it’s fast! You get to have an hour of free Wi-Fi in the bus, hotels and hostels offer free Wi-Fi, malls offer it for free as well. Even Disneyland has free Wi-Fi! So you can always expect to be connected with your family back home because in today’s world, who doesn’t have Facebook?
LIVE LIKE A LOCAL
I know I’ve said this before but I had to say it again for emphasis. Living like a local would allow you to spend less: commuting, eating where they usually eat, visiting their frequented places, basically just soaking their culture in. Treat yourself to an authentic Chinese dinner, there are a lot along Tsim Sha Tsui and they’re really tasty, and they’re also very cheap. On my first night I had dinner at this Chinese restaurant and they give out huge servings that I ended up extremely full but I was surprised because I only spent 65HKD ($8.83) for a complete meal!
And there you have it! That’s how I spent four days in Hong Kong for only $420! I hope you get to enjoy Hong Kong as much as I did without burning a hole in your pocket. <3