It’s gritty. It’s grimy. It’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s Hong Kong, a true metropolis where East and West meet. This shopping mecca and food haven has been pegged with a high price tag, and as such it is often overlooked by travelers on a budget. Yet it's time to dispel this dim, dark myth; Hong Kong is full of fabulous and affordable opportunities for any traveler. Whether you're passing through or spending a couple of days, there are ways to keep money in your wallet and a smile on your face, without missing out on any of the action.
Hong Kong makes a great layover stop, add-on to your main land China stay, or a simple weekend getaway. Divvying up your days between all of the sites, snacks, and shopping takes some savvy scheduling. Keep in mind the weather can be temperamental, so you should be ready change your to-do list at the drop of a hat. If there’s even a hint of sun, heading to the top of Victoria Peak via the Peak Tram to catch a glimpse of the entire harbour from above is an absolute must. At a price of only 40HKD (roughly $5 USD at the time of writing), the round trip is a major bargain. If you’re a dice roller or photographer, wait until dusk and watch as the city transforms into something spectacular.
To see the world-famed skyline up close, ride the Starry Ferry across to the mainland and the Avenue of Stars. Make the most of it by grabbing a few Tsingtao beers from the nearest 7-Eleven and parking yourself on the waterfront just in time for the Symphony of Lights show, which starts every night around 8pm. Feeling swanky? Cap your night off with a trip to Ozone, the world’s highest bar situated on the 118th floor just above the Ritz Carlton. Entrance is free, and the menu is filled with funky fruity cocktails; however, if you want to indulge, choose a glass of red to sip on and drink in the sprawling view from the terrace.
What’s left? None other than the favorite: Food. Trying dim sum is a requirement, and if you’re the adventurous type, the Lin Heung Tea House is just the place for you. This hangout is a local institution on the back streets of Wellington on HK Island. Here, you'll find women servers weaving their ways through communal seating with traditional carts that are stocked with local goodies. It's a whirlwind experience, so be prepared to think and choose fast — though not really knowing what the heck you're picking out is half the fun.
Still hungry? Head to the hidden Tsim Chai Kee Noodles shop nearby and grab a bowl the famous king prawn noodle soup for only 22HKD. Dropping by the Ka Bai food market and open food stalls also found in this area is another great way to get your fill.
If you want to try some local delicacies in a more modern setting, head to the world-famous and surprisingly affordable Din Tai Fung. Try their famous xiao long bao, a dish that is traditionally associated with Shanghai.
While you’re over that way, take some time to scour the various markets filled with foods and trinkets galore. Sticking around for the Temple Street night market is recommended, but mind your HKD conversions, as price gauging is an unfortunately common practice these days.
So hush any whispers and rumors you hear that Hong Kong is your wallet's biggest enemy. Whether you decide to spend a day roaming around or choose to spend a weekend, there are ways to soak in the sights, flavors and energy of Hong Kong without breaking the bank.
Catherine Stark is a special contributor to The Daily Meal. You can follow her on Twitter @casita02