Most expats are accustomed to hearing how expensive living costs are in the West, especially in the major cities. Coupled with stagnant salaries, it can be hard to make ends meet. However, the world’s most expensive city to rent does not belong to Europe nor the United States, it is rather Hong Kong. Over the last few years, the packages offered to expats have fallen compared to other cities in Asia. The cost of accommodation and schooling has increased and feeling the pinch, many companies have lowered the standards of their incentives. China, on the other hand, has increased theirs in order to entice more foreign talent to work in the major cities. Therefore, competition for top jobs in Hong Kong is cutthroat. With packages looking less attractive and rental costs zooming up, it can be a financial minefield.. So, here are some tips on how to watch your money whilst still being able to enjoy all the city has to offer.
Always use public transport and research your options beforehand
Flights around Asia are remarkably cheap but not if you book the week before. If you are flying to Hong Kong, or planning on travelling around the area, try to book your flights a few months in advance. Bear in mind that Chinese New Year, during late January and early February, is the most expensive time to fly. Another peak period runs from October to December, so avoid this time too. It might be tempting as the weather starts to cool down and Christmas celebrations get into full swing, but it can be eye-wateringly expensive.
Once in Hong Kong, the public transport system is reliable, easy to navigate and can take you almost anywhere in the city. It is much cheaper to use an Octopus card instead of buying individual journeys. You can use this card on the Star Ferry too. You can also get 50HKD back as part of the refundable deposit you pay for the card. The card itself is 150HKD, with 50HKD being the deposit and 100HKD as credit to use on journeys.
House prices in Hong Kong are astronomical and space is a rare commodity. If you can accept that your house will be much smaller and more expensive than back home, half of the battle is won. Location in Hong Kong is paramount to what you can expect to rent. If your job is located in the downtown business districts of Hong Kong and you choose to rent there, you can expect to pay through the nose. However, moving further afield means that rent reduces significantly and you can enjoy more of the city’s authenticity.
Average prices in the centre of Hong Kong can be as much as $4000, but crossing the harbour to Kowloon can see this price drop to as little as $800 for a basic apartment. This drops even further if you decide to share to around $600. So, it may be worth considering living a little out of the main drag to enjoy not only what the city has to offer locally, but also to save some money.
Live like a local and save money
This is where you can see your money begin to mount up if you make some smart choices. Maintaining an expat lifestyle can be expensive if you do not take the time to find out what Hong Kong can offer to it’s native citizens. Eating in local restaurants can cost between $7 and $10 dollars, compared to prices upwards of $70 in more Western style restaurants.
Hong Kong is also a street food paradise, as we have already seen (insert link). Many of these food items can be found for less than $5 and will keep you full up for most of the day. They are perfect for eating on the go, in bulk and on the cheap. Business lunches and fine dining have their draws, but so does all the mouthwatering street food that is on offer in Hong Kong. The more ‘native’ the food, the cheaper it will be so stick to noodles, dim sum and pineapple buns. Street food can be found for around $1 and with $5 in your pocket, you can buy a versatile, tasty and authentic meal.
Hong Kong has an excellent array of markets, from Temple Street to Wan Chai to the Ladies Market. Here you can find clothes, bags, shoes and occasionally electronics for rock-bottom prices. The Jade Market is an excellent place to find cheap souvenirs or gifts or simply to while away the time with friends or family. The trick is to haggle and never settle for the first price you are given. This can be an incredibly fun activity and may mean that you walk away with a bargain. Markets are also a great way to see local culture and to socialise. Many have on-site bars, cafes and food vendors where you can pick up a snack, have a beer or enjoy a meal. These rarely cost more than $10 per person and can be a welcome step outside your comfort zone.
What advice do you have for living in Hong Kong? Do you have any tricks to live on the cheap? Please comment below with your tips!