Hong Kong insider tips

It’s not unusual to hear a Hong Kong tai tai (supremely rich society lady) talk about getting an allowance of HK$1 million a day from her husband (or someone else’s husband). She’s not boasting, simply recording a matter of fact. If you’re on a similar budget, skip this section. Otherwise, read on…

Eating and drinking

  • Happy Hours (either cut price drinks or two-for-one) start as early as 5pm in the main nightlife zones.
  • Hotel and restaurant buffets simply groan with food – a hearty multi-course lunch can act as the main meal of the day.
  • Dim sum are a typical Chinese breakfast, with dishes at HK$10 each. Don’t be bashful about sharing a table.
  • Food hawkers are rare nowadays, but a bowl of tofu or a bag of chestnuts can cost as little as HK$5.
  • Convenience stores are everywhere, open 24/7 BUT their food and drink are about 20 per cent more expensive than in supermarkets.
  • The party spills onto the street in nightlife zones like Lan Kwai Fong: bars typically price a beer at HK$50, while a corner shop charges HK$10. Go figure.

Getting around

  • Stored-value Octopus (www.octopus.com.hk) cards can be used on just about every form of public transport, and at a lot of other commercial outlets. Well nigh essential.
  • The planet’s cheapest sightseeing cruise – on the Star Ferry (www.starferry.com.hk) from Central to Tsim Sha Tsui – costs HK$2.50. And that’s for the expensive seats.
  • And Hong Kong’s trams (www.hktramways.com) run much of the length of the Island’s north coast for a paltry HK$2.
  • Likewise taxi flagfall is a mere HK$18 for the Island and Kowloon, HK$14.50 in the New Territories, and HK$13 on Lantau.
  • Plus bus fares are frequently around HK$5 or less, and on some routes you don’t need to pay the full amount if you’re not going all the way to the end.
  • A 24-hour MTR Tourist Pass (www.mtr.com.hk) costs HK$55 and provides access right across its main network.


  • Don’t be shy about bargaining in markets and at independent stores, especially if you are buying several items. This advice does not hold good at EG Marks & Spencer.
  • By the same token, market traders reckon it’s good luck to sell the day’s first item cheaply. Early bird and all that.
  • Keep your credit card in sight at all times, even when paying in upmarket establishments.
  • The old trick of substituting what you’ve just bought for inferior merchandise while wrapping it up shouldn’t work in this day and age, should it? Strange but true…

Sights and attractions

  • A pass to seven of the city’s best museums costs HK$30 and lasts for a whole week (www.discoverhongkong.com).
  • Those same museums do not charge for admission on Wednesdays. Guess which day not to visit.
  • Given the lack of space, Hong Kong does pretty well for parks – both those in the inner city and rolling acres further afield. No entrance fee, of course, and often deserted mid week.
  • Hong Kong has some dire beaches, and some pretty amazing ones too. Tai Long Wan beyond Sai Kung stands out. Costs and popularity are as for the entry on parks above.


  • Chinese opera is staged in public in temporary bamboo theatres during major festivals – entry is free and audience members come and go when they feel like it.
  • Cafes like Pacific Coffee (www.pacificcoffee.com) and MiX (www.mix-world.com) offer free internet/WiFi.
  • Likewise public libraries, but you don’t have to buy something first, simply register at the counter.


  • Gangs of pickpockets often operate along Nathan Road – and you look like the proverbial sore thumb.
  • “Buddhist monks” begging for money are charlatans. Give them nothing more than a cold stare.
  • The only thing itinerant fortune tellers at the Avenue of Stars can say for sure about the future is that if you go along with their spiel you’ll end up poorer.
  • Currency exchange booths often give a better rate (and faster service) than banks. Count your wad before moving away.
  • The Jockey Club’s (www.hkjc.com) Mark Six lottery is drawn thrice weekly. Tickets HK$40, first prize a million or more. Don’t ponder the odds – the club’s a registered charity.
  • Don’t let hotels bully you with a noon check-out time. There’s no worse end to a holiday than an afternoon in the lobby contemplating your suitcase.
  • Public loos are often short of paper. Carry a pack of tissues. Here speaks the voice of experience.