Hong Kong is consistently ranked as one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in (this year, it shares the number one spot with Singapore and Paris). However, for as many ways as there are to splash out in this bucket-list-worthy destination, there are just as many solutions to keep costs down without sacrificing your vacation experiences.
Here’s how to save, spring, and splurge in Hong Kong.
Seeing the view from above
Hong Kong is a vertical city, with hundreds of skyscrapers lining Victoria Harbour. If you want to see the city in style, splurge on a helicopter flight. Although a 15-minute flight doesn’t come cheap (prices start at around $250 per person), you'll be rewarded with unparalleled views of the bustling city, Victoria Peak, and nearby colorful fishing villages.
If you're looking for something more affordable, make a reservation at OZONE, which is located on the 118th floor of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel (the tallest building in Hong Kong). Make sure to arrive before sunset and join the young, hip crowd for vertigo-inducing views. Cocktails cost around $25 each, and a soda will set you back $12. Here, service is unhurried, so drink slowly.
For a quintessential Hong Kong view without the hefty price tag, head to Victoria Peak, a 1,800-foot-tall mountain on the northern side of Hong Kong Island, which also happens to be one of the city’s top tourist attractions. From the Central neighborhood, you can catch a tram up the mountain for around $7 round trip or $5 one way (and about half that price for kids three through 11 and adults over 65). While the tram is part of the fun, if you have two adults, the total cost of the tram ride (round-trip) is on par with the price of a taxi (which will cost you around $7 each way). Once you reach the top, you may want to spend another $7 on admission to the 360-degree Sky Terrace 428 (admission is also available as an upgrade to tram tickets for an extra $5). If you'd rather not spend the extra money, you can take in the slightly less expansive (but still stunning) view from the free areas.
Additionally, you won't want to miss out on the view from ground level. A ride across Victoria Harbour on the Star Ferry provides another look at the massive scale of Hong Kong’s skyline. The 5-minute ride costs around 30 cents, so it’s worth riding throughout the day and at night – when the Hong Kong skyline is illuminated in neon.
Sleeping in style — at any budget
If you want to splurge, consider booking a suite at the Ritz-Carlton. Location in Kowloon, the property towers over the city as the tallest building in Hong Kong — and is also the highest hotel in the world. High-speed elevators whizz guests to the 102nd-floor lobby and guest rooms even higher above. Here, you'll find a stunning spa and pool with phenomenal views, the OZONE bar, two Michelin-starred restaurants with sweeping views of the bustling city below, a lounge bar, caviar bar, and a café serving afternoon tea. Guest rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows, 400-thread count bed linens, 42-inch LCD TVs, deep soaking tubs, and twice-daily housekeeping. Rates from $450 per night.
Alternatively, consider a stay at the stylish and affordable Hotel VIC on the Harbor. Located on the east side of Hong Kong Island, the property is slightly removed from the hustle-and-bustle of the city, but is just a 5-minute ride on the MTR (the city's subway system) to Central. Though the rooms are slightly less impressive than those at the Ritz-Carlton, they're spacious and comfortable. The property also has a rooftop swimming pool (complete with steam and sauna rooms), a 24-hour gym, and two onsite restaurants. Rates from $150 per night.
If you don't mind minimal space, you can save money by staying at Sleeep, a capsule hotel in Hong Kong’s trendy SoHo neighborhood. Here, you can rent a capsule by the hour, or by the night. Prices vary depending on the exact hours (9 p.m. through 9 a.m. is cheaper than noon to noon, for example) and start at around $70 per night for an individual sleeping pod, which includes access to a full-height locker and a shared bathroom.
Dining and drinking at every price point
Hong Kong cuisine runs the gamut from cheap and tasty street snacks like egg tarts and pineapple buns that'll cost you no more than $2, to multi-course Michelin-starred feasts that cost more than a monthly car payment.
For upscale Chinese cuisine that mixes traditional dishes with modern fine dining and service, head to Mott 32. Here, try the applewood-roasted Peking duck (which is roasted for 24 hours). Although the meal is not cheap (it'll cost you around $100), the portion is large, so there's no need to order anything else. However, if you're still hungry for more, you can't go wrong with the Iberico pork Shanghainese soup dumplings or the lobster fried rice.
With a slightly more modest price point, Happy Paradise offers an eclectic menu of modern Chinese flavors in SoHo. Dishes like the sourdough egg waffles, Australian wagyu seared skirt steak noodles, and Szechuan fried chicken pull from a variety of influences — as does its inventive cocktail menu. While you're here, be sure to try the lemon popcorn cocktail, which is made with popcorn-infused bourbon, salted caramel, and egg whites. At Happy Paradise, you can expect to pay around $100 for dinner and cocktails for two.
If you want to save even more, order dim sum at the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world, Tim Ho Wan. The eatery itself is no hidden gem, though: there's now 46 locations across Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, Macau, Japan, Australia, and even New York City and Hawaii. Still, it’s always packed with visitors and locals alike, who line up for the cheap and delicious offerings like BBQ pork buns and shrimp shumai. Most plates cost just $1 to $3 per order, so you can easily fill up and sample a variety of classic Chinese dishes for less than $10 per person.