21 Cheap and Nearly Free Things To Do in Hong Kong and Macau

1:49:00 AM


So, Macau marked the 20th country in our 5-year old Philippine passport. I was surprised though that Hong Kong and Macau immigration issue a mini, 3x2 slip of paper as travel document and not a passport stamp. Anyway, here goes a short blog post about our quick trip to celebrate my 27th birthday in Hong Kong and Macau!

Of all my closest friends, I am probably the last person who’ve seen Hong Kong. And before going there, I didn’t know that it is the third most expensive city in Asia - next to Tokyo and Seoul. So I have to ask my friends if it’s really expensive to travel to Hong Kong. Surprisingly, they told me that it’s NOT! Instead, they filled me in with how awesome Hong Kong was when they were there - like how great the train system was, how memorable their Disneyland, Ocean Park and cable car experiences were. I checked online for the price of these attractions and I was like, “Nah, I’m fine. I’m not going to see either.” The Disneyland ticket costs ₱3,200, ₱2,500 for Ocean Park and NP360 costs ₱2,000. Though If I had a bigger budget, I’d want to experience NgongPing 360 for that view of Hong Kong!

Flying to Hong Kong For a Quick 3-Day Vacation
A week before my birthday, I booked my round trip ticket via Philippine Airlines for ₱7,000. It’s a bit expensive for a short flight but I thought this price was okay given that it was booked just a week before the travel date. If you regularly check other budget airlines like Cebu Pacific or Air Asia seat sale, a round trip ticket to Hong Kong should just cost around ₱2,000. Flight time is less than 2 hours so it follows that the airfare shouldn’t be that exorbitant. I promised myself that I shouldn’t exceed my budget of ₱20,000 (all-in) because I nearly spent ₱25,000 for a 2-week travel in Indochina. Two weeks, my friends. Two weeks.

A photo posted by πŸ™‹ ABADB (@shes_abadb) on


Route in a Nutshell
Day 0: Arrival in Hong Kong
Day 1: Full day in Mainland - Kowloon, Mong Kok, TST
Day 2: Full day in Hong Kong Island / Central
Day 3: Half day in Macau (because we woke up late!)
Day 4: Depart Hong Kong

Average Cost of Travel in Hong Kong / Macau
Hong Kong is a great place to spend a long weekend but you have to plan your activities so you don’t go beyond your budget. Here’s a quick breakdown of common expenses you’ll encounter when you travel to Hong Kong:

Particulars
HK Dollars
PH Peso
A21 bus from airport to city
$23
₱145
Airport Express train
$90
₱567
Octopus card
$150
₱945
Sim card
$88
₱616
Cheap double room (Kowloon)
$230
₱1,449
Cheapest train ticket
$3
₱19
Ferry crossing HK island
$2.50
₱16
1L Water / Coke
$7
₱44
Street foods
$7
₱44
Meal at McDonald’s
$28
₱176
Cheap noodles / dumplings
$35
₱221
One-way Ferry to Macau
$164
₱1,033
Check out How to get to Macau from Hong Kong: A Family Guide by HotelsCombined for more transportation and accommodation tips in Macau

21 Cheap and Nearly Free Things To Do in Hong Kong and Macau
Hong Kong isn’t all about Disneyland and Ocean Park. It’s vibrant. It’s photogenic. And although it’s an expensive city, there are many ways to experience Hong Kong without spending lots of money. Of the 59.3 million who visited the country in 2015 alone, all possible permutation of itineraries is impossible to derive. Whew, every visit to the country is surely unique! Here’s 1 of 59.3 million, a rundown of our cheap, zippy but noteworthy tour of HK and Macau!

{ Mainland Hong Kong }
1. Nan Lian Garden
If you’re staying in Tsim Tsa Tsui district, Nan Lian Garden is accessible via the MTR - Tsim Tsa Tsui station and you have to get off at Diamond Hill station. The complex is just opposite the Plaza Hollywood mall. Nan Lian Garden is a 3.5 hectare complex with wooden structures and a small golden pagoda in the middle of the garden complex. I think the pagoda is pretty but kind of blown up in most travel articles. What I loved about this place though is that it’s green, calm, not congested and entrance is for free! The wooden creations in the garden are well-maintained too.


2. Chi Lin Nunnery
Chi Lin Nunnery is a stone’s throw away from Nan Lian. It’s a large Buddhist temple complex built as a retreat for Buddhist nuns. You can hear chanting that’s very soothing to the ears as you stroll around. We got some good photos of the temple, but taking photos is forbidden inside some halls. The temple halls and the lotus ponds are open to the public free of charge by the way. And I think, “Peaceful” is the best way to explain this temple :-)

A photo posted by πŸ™‹ ABADB (@shes_abadb) on


3. Kowloon Park - Free
Nope, this is not a must-see. But if you’ve staying near Nathan Road, where most budget accommodations are, you can drop by Kowloon Park to skip the city rush. Many locals hangout in this area especially on weekends when parents bring their kids to swim school. It’s a place where you can just chill. And it’s free to see, so we can't really complain!
kowloon park
Kowloon Park is like the Central Park of NYC, but in Hong Kong! :D

4. Explore Kowloon, Tsim Tsa Tsui and Mong Kok
We stayed in the Tsim Tsa Tsui area so everything around Kowloon and Mong Kok is accessible by foot or a quick metro ride. The neon lights, crowded crossings, and Chinese signboard-plagued streets that I saw online are undoubtedly found in these districts. Famous museums like The Hong Kong Science Museum, Space Museum, History Museum and Art Museum are all found in Tsim Tsa Tsui area.


A photo posted by πŸ™‹ ABADB (@shes_abadb) on


5. Sneaker Street
I think there’s a strong “shoe (or sneaker) culture” in Hong Kong. Most of the locals wear really nice rubber shoes and shoe stores are nearly full even if the items are not on sale. I thought sneakers are cheaper in Hong Kong but nope. Though there are designs which you can’t find in Manila, so a short trip to Sneaker street can be interesting. Fa Yuen Street runs from Argyle to Dundas Street in Mongkok. I think the famous shopping area of Temple Street is also accessible from this place. Since I was short on budget, I didn’t buy anything. (Duh, what’s new?) :P The photo below was not from Sneaker street though! Not able to get a picture of the place coz it was crowded.

A photo posted by πŸ™‹ ABADB (@shes_abadb) on


{ Hong Kong Island }
6. Star Ferry - $2.50
This is probably the best $2.50 I spent in Hong Kong. Where else can you get a view of Hong Kong Island and Victoria Harbour for this price? The views are rewarding especially if you’re  at the upper deck of the ferry! You can see Hong Kong sparkle at night. If you’re lucky you can chance upon the symphony of lights and sounds happening every 8pm. The ride is scenic and because it’s cheap, you can ride it as much as you like. Note that it takes around 8 minutes to cross the Victoria Harbor from Hong Kong Island, that’s why the ferry ride is cheap. If you want to go on a real tour, you have to pay around $95 for a 1-hr ride with Star Ferry. I’m good with riding the public ferry once in daylight and at night time for different photos!

Hong Kong Central - A short walk from the Star Ferry Terminal
Hong Kong Central - A short walk from the Star Ferry Terminal
7. Eat Street Food in Central Pier - $7
There are 10 piers in Central Hong Kong. The one that services Tsim Tsa Tsui to Central is pier #7. Street foods cost $7 per order. There are different dumplings to choose from, also fish and squid balls and shoo-mai. Canned drinks cost around $4-6 and beer is $12. You can spend an hour by the harbor with a view of Kowloon skyline while eating your choice of street food! There are many bleachers around the area where you can enjoy the view for free. Also, the bus going up the peak is near pier #7. Should you decide to go to Victoria Peak, you can hop on the bus anytime!
A photo posted by πŸ™‹ ABADB (@shes_abadb) on


8. Hangout at the outdoor patio of the IFC Mall
IFC mall is just opposite the Star Ferry pier and offers a great view of mainland Hong Kong and Victoria Harbor. There’s a garden with viewing deck and lounge chairs that you can use for free. There are chic coffee shops too but they all look expensive so we didn’t try to get in. I think the best day to go to IFC is on weekdays as it was crowded when we were there on a Sunday.

9. Go Window Shopping in Fashion Walk Causeway Bay
Like the rest of Hong Kong, it’s shopping, shopping and more shopping. It’s a nicer place than the streets of Causeway Bay in my opinion. Of course, the creme de la creme of European fashion is here, so high-end clothing and accessories are found there. It’s an area of luxury stores and restaurants, definitely not for average people (like me) to buy clothes. I am not a shopaholic, so this place isn’t for me! Though I love the jewelries on display.
Maison Kitsune Store somewhere near Causeway Bay
10. Ding Ding Ride - $2.50 Flat Rate
We hopped on a tram after having our lunch in Din Tai Fung, Causeway Bay. Trams in Hong Kong island are either West or East bound, so you will never get lost. You get in at the back of the tram and exit is in the front. It’s best to avoid the Ding Ding during rush hour as you might be squeezed inside and not enjoy the view at all. I also searched online and found out that the entire tram ride is approximately 90 minutes, depending on traffic. Since it’s too hot that day, we only rode the tram from Yee Woo Street (where Din Tai Fung is) until Sheung Wan. Also, this station is very near our next stop - the famous Man Mo temple.
tram ride in hong kong island
Two trams in juxtaposition - chos!
11. Man Mo Temple
I initially thought that this temple is very big because of some photos I saw online. Anyway, Man Mo Temple is accessible by foot from the Sheung Wan MTR Station or the SoHo neighborhood. The temple was beautiful and a contrast amidst the tall apartment buildings that surround it. The coils hanging in the roof are actually incense burned all at once. There’s literally too much incense inside. After being in the temple for just a few moments my eyes were burning as ashes are flying everywhere. Good thing, they don’t prohibit taking photos inside the temple for as long as you don’t bother the worshippers.
man mo temple
Coil incense in the ceiling
12. Hong Kong Street Art
One thing I like about Hong Kong is that there are pretty much good graffiti that you’ll see randomly. I mean, the artsy street stuff not the vandalisms. You can take good, feelin-like-a-hipster snaps while exploring the city on foot!
causeway bay
Causeway Bay Graffiti
13. Eat Beef Noodles and Dumplings Near Central - $35 per bowl
If there’s one thing that made me cry a little is how expensive food is in HK. I’ve always thought that I can eat dumplings cheaper than Tim Ho Wan in Manila, but I was wrong. Because yes, Hong Kong is a first world country and it follows that food is expensive as well. We tried Din Tai Fung and Little Bao in SoHo, both were very expensive! Since we were on a tight budget, we have to cut back on most things including food. But we didn’t want to eat in fast foods or 711. Chinese food is too good to resist. As we explored the streets of Central and Kowloon, we were able to slurp on a delicious bowl of beef noodles for only $35. I noticed that most menus in HK restaurants are in Chinese texts which can be a challenge. Though you can still order because the food items are next to a photo and everything is numbered. Contrary to the blogs I read online, there are rice meals in almost every local restaurants we tried. But we still opted for noodle soup and dumplings because they were so good! I’m sorry but I don’t know that names of the restaurants we tried because they were all in Chinese.
Somewhere in HK Central

14. Explore the Neighborhoods of SoHo and Mid-Levels
SoHo is short for “South of Hollywood Road”. The area was populated by many elderly locals, old antiques and porcelain shops. It’s full of intriguing and cool expat hangouts, fancy restaurants and hip night clubs. The mid-levels escalators were used to be the longest outdoor escalator in the world. This attraction is a bit weird but still worth to try! I read online that it’s good to remember: “down in the mornings and up in the evening.”
soho hong kong
HK Neighboorhood at Night
15. Get in some of the skyscrapers in Hong Kong Island
“The Center” which is the 5th tallest building in Hong Kong has a very chic lobby. Its ceilings are high and its steel structures are impressive. HK has at least 7,829 high-rise buildings, with no fewer than 1,294 skyscrapers! Some of the notable buildings are International Commerce Centre (ICC),  International Finance Centre (IFC), Bank of China Tower and the Central Plaza.
The Centre Hong Kong
The Centre
16. Take the bus instead of the funicular going to Victoria Peak - $9.80
I can’t comment about the funicular experience as I took the bus going to the peak. I read online that lining up for the tram ride can be 2 hours long. Taking the bus still gives you the same view especially if you’re in front of the upper deck, plus, it’s faster. From the central pier, the bus going to the peak is #15C - the bus stop is in front of Star Ferry Pier #7. By the way, the Peak Tram Sky Pass costs $88.

17. The Peak Sky Terrace - $48
If there’s no queue for the tram, I think the $88 Peak Tram Sky Pass is not that bad. But if you value every possible savings, the bus is still a good choice! After we got off #15C, we headed straight to the garden patio of the mall, where we presumed a free view of HK was waiting . We thought it’s free to see “that view” of Hong Kong skyline but we were wrong. You have to pay $48 or ₱300 to get in the actual peak. I think it’s not that expensive especially when you get to see the HK skyline lighting up between 5pm - 6pm. This is my favorite experience in Hong Kong! Truth of the matter, “The Peak” is super crowded. Prepare for some pushing and lots of cameras shoving off in front of your face. Everybody wants to take photos of the view. Who wouldn’t? Bring out a little patience because you’ll get your turn when the folks got tired of taking their selfies!
the sky terrace
Taken using my Xperia
{ Half Day in Macau }
I never thought that the China Ferry Terminal would look like an airport! From ticketing, to checking-in your luggage, to the immigration and boarding, everything was organized. Depending on the time of the day, Turbojet’s ferry service costs $164 - $184. The journey from Hong Kong to Macau and vice versa is 60-90 minutes per sea conditions. As usual, I made my way to dreamland regardless of wherever I am seated.

18. Senado Square and St. Paul Ruins
From the Macau Ferry Terminal, you can ride the shuttle of Grand Lisboa Casino - the nearest hotel in Senado Square with free shuttle. The architecture is traditional and very pretty at night. To me, it resembles a bit of the small streets of Prague! It’s pretty but there’s not much to see here, worth snapping a few photos if you're in the old town. Also, I wished there was more to see than just the front facade of St. Paul’s Ruins.


19. Eiffel Tower in Asia
You have to go back to the Macau Ferry Terminal to take advantage of the free shuttle to The Parisian. It’s hard to miss the buses going there as they are in pink. The hotel is located in the Cotai Strip and is owned by Las Vegas Sands. It has a half-scale Eiffel Tower as one of its landmarks! It resembles the real one in Paris but it has bridge attached to the mall.



20. See a Slice of Paris at The Parisian Hotel
If you’ve already been to Paris, you will definitely like this hotel! It’s free to enter the casino, mall and lobby of The Parisian Hotel. And the main lobby is to die for. With Versailles, Place de la Concorde, Louvre-inspired halls, it felt like I was really back in France! Plus, it’s new so everything was shiny! I checked online and a night stay in this hotel costs ₱8,000 which I think is reasonable for a 5-star hotel. As we tour around the open area, we saw a replica of Arc de Triomphe, manicured trees like the ones in Champs Elysees. I wished they had al fresco coffee shops and green bleachers like in Paris.

21. St. Mark’s Square at The Venetian Hotel
Did you know that the total size of The Venetian Macao is equivalent to 56 football fields? And that it used to house the largest casino in the world. Everyone who’s been to Macau will never fail to see this place. Because why not? It’s like you’ve seen a piece of Italy for free. Though some of the romance is lost due to the slot machines, and gaming tables, the St. Mark’s Square is almost as jaw dropping as the real thing. It looks prettier at night!

A photo posted by πŸ™‹ ABADB (@shes_abadb) on


Expenses for 3 Full Days In Hong Kong
Particulars
HK Dollars
PH Peso
Round Trip Ticket (if on sale)
-
₱2,500
Travel Tax
-
₱1,620
Hotel 4 Nights (shared)
$460
₱2,852
Food
$603
₱3,736
RT Ferry to Macau
$353
₱2,189
Ticket to The Peak Sky Terrace
$48
₱298
Octopus Card (inclusive of bus to The Peak, airport shuttle, Star Ferry and MTR)
$100
₱620
GRAND TOTAL
$1564
₱13815


Other Places of Interest
Temples
- Big Buddha in Lantau Island, Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple, Lam Tsuen Tin Hau Temple and Wishing Trees, Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, Walk the Ping Shan Heritage Trail

Shopping
- Temple Street Night Market, Ladies Market

Macau
- Tour of Taipa and Coloane, Torre de Macau, City of Dreams, Galaxy!

Hong Kong isn’t all about its famous theme parks. It’s a country that has rich vibrant culture, photogenic streets and unforgettable cuisine! Don’t let your limited budget keep you from exploring this great urban city.
That’s it! Do you have any comments or recommendations for this post? Do you have an itinerary to share? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below!

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XO,


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