A week before our scheduled flight to Hongkong, the temperature dropped to -3 degrees, which according to my friend’s relative there was unexpected. Even they were not prepared for it. I was naturally expecting it to be freezing cold but upon our arrival, the temperature was already up to 12 degrees Celsius. It was okay, I thought to myself. It’s still not bad compared with the humid weather in Manila. January is one the best months to visit Hongkong because it’s winter time, so be sure that your body is ready for the cold weather.
Weeks before our flight, I started planning our itinerary. HK is an expensive place to travel so I set my budget at 15,000php all in for our 4 days and 3 nights stay. I only have one goal on this trip and that’s to see Disneyland. It doesn’t matter if I don’t get to visit any other places, as long as I’m able to step foot on the happiest place on earth.
I booked our roundtrip flight, Manila to Hongkong in August 2015 for only 2,000php. That’s right, for only 2,000php you can fly outside the country, thanks to the promo fare of Cebupacific. So always watch out for those seatsale because it will definitely give you a big cut on your budget.
Where to Stay in Hongkong?
Finding a decent place to stay was the most challenging part of planning this vacation because the rates of the hotels within Tsim Tsa Tsui and Central Hongkong are quite expensive compared with other places. I was aiming to stay in this area because this is like Hongkong’s Makati city; this is where you can find the tall buildings, shopping malls, popular hotels, and other establishments as well as the Victoria Harbor. The cheapest accommodation that I found in January was in a hotel rate goes around 5,000php per night and I saw this rate in Agoda. Imagine if I stayed there for 4D3N it means I have to pay 15,000php, I am definitely not willing to pay that much.
So I expanded my research and discovered this budget accommodation inside Mirador Mansion. Well, if you had been to Hongkong, you probably already know the stories about this place. I read and heard some horror stories about this building, including being harassed by the people who would come at you to offer an accommodation, long elevator queue, and dirty floors. Some of these stories are true, but I can testify that generally, Mirador Mansion is still an acceptable and a safe place to stay.
Well, you shouldn’t be surprised because HK ranks number 2 on the world’s 10 most expensive city to buy a property. Just to give you an idea, your 1 million USD can give you a home, which is just 20.6sqm. Therefore, expect a small room when you stay inside this building.
The rate of hotels ranges from 160HKD to about 500HKD per night. I booked a room at Kowloon New Hostel for only 180HKD () per night good for two, without breakfast.
Our air-conditioned room has free and strong Wi-Fi, a double-size bed, television, small cabinet, and hot and cold shower. The size of the room is more or less, 15sqm without a view of the city. Cleanliness is not an issue in this room, it is on the 6th floor, which was clean compared with the rest of the floors. I cannot vouch for the other floors in fact some of them are dirty and stinky.
There are four small elevators that are operating inside this building, which can only fit less than 10 people and runs via the odd and even system. I find it somehow inconvenient because our room is on the 6th floor and the hotel reception is on 13th floor. It means whenever I had a concern I had to go either up or down, using a stair to catch an odd elevator.
The best thing about Mirador Mansion is its location. It is somewhere along Nathan Road, which is about 3.6km in length. This road is lined with local and international stores, hotels, bars, and restaurants. Also, Mirador Mansion is a few steps away from Victoria Harbour, the avenue of stars, Hongkong top museums, and MTR TST station.
How to get to TST from the Airport vice versa?
The cheapest way to get out of the airport is via Bus. Hongkong international Airport is huge but believe me, it’s organized. At the arrival area, simply follow the sign that leads to the Bus bay. Because we were so excited, we forgot to rent an Octopus card, which is a sort of beep card that can be used in almost all transportation (e.g., bus, train) and establishments, such as restaurants, convenience shops, etc. I learned that you can live and go around Hongkong even without this card.
From the bus bay, there are two ticketing booths for the bus ticket. Remember, there is no bus conductor in Hongkong and if you pay in cash, you need to drop your money inside the box beside the driver. You need to pay the exact amount because they will not give you change.
If you book a hotel along Sham Mong Road, Nathan Road, Salisbury Road, and Chatham Road South that covers the following areas: Mong Kok, Yau Ma Tei, Jordan, Tsim Sha Tsui, and Hung Hom, take the A21 Bus. The bus fare is 33HKD and travel time takes less than 1 hour from the airport to Tsim Sha Tsui. You also need to take the same bus going back to the airport.
Where to shop and how to haggle in Hongkong?
On getting around Hongkong, another thing that you need to remember is where to exit from their MTR. Exiting at the wrong gate will bring you to a different street or place.
We first visited Temple street night market. This market is popularly named after Tin Hau temple and it is located in the center of the main drag, a place so steep in local atmosphere that it has served as the backdrop for many memorable movies.
Temple Street is located at Yau Mai Tei Kowloon, to get there take MTR red line. If you’re coming from Tsim Sha Tsui take off at Yau Ma Tei Station, Exit C, then turn to Temple Street at Man Ming Lane.
Another option is to take off at Jordan Station, Exit A, turn right to Jordan Road, then take another right to Temple Street. You can also walk from TST up to Jordan, like we did. MTR fare for both stations is just 4.5HKD.
The street is lined with shops selling different cheap items, such as shoes, shirts, pants, bags, jewelry, electronics, home decorations, sex toys (you read that right), and everything under the sun. You can also find good street food here.
A longer version of Temple Street can be found in Mong Kok with over 100 stalls of bargain products. You will surely enjoy shopping at the Ladies’ Market on Tung Choi Street, which provides a one-kilometer stretch of shopping. This will definitely challenge your haggling skills. I could say that whatever you see on the Temple Night Market is exactly the same here. It’s just that Ladies Market has more stalls, which means more opportunities to haggle.
Haggling is very easy in Hongkong. I recommend that you take a stroll first, visit different stalls so you can compare the prices. Now here come some haggling tips. When you ask for the price of a specific item, they will enter the price on the calculator and show it to you; don’t grab it yet. Take the calculator and enter your desired price, at least, 60% lower than the given price. Start to negotiate, if you think you can get it for a lower price from other stalls just politely decline their offer, smile, and walk away. When you do this, they are likely to call you back and sell you the item at your desired price.
You can expect that the stalls in the front area are more expensive so just keep on walking, ask for the price, haggle, and be polite.
To give you an idea, I got 7 pieces of I love Hongkong shirt (different sizes and design) for 100HKD, ref magnet for 10HKD, ref magnet (plastic) 5-piece set, 30HKD, nail cutter, and keychains 5-piece set for 30HKD. Believe it or not, the initial price offered to me was beyond double so to save money, use your charm and haggle.
Where to get cheap HK Disneyland or Ocean Park Ticket?
We arrived in Hongkong without a ticket to Disneyland because I don’t want to trust those websites that are offering cheap Disneyland tickets. Hence, I decided to buy when we got there. Fortunately, our friend Krizia reserved her Disneyland ticket and Ocean Park ticket at Golden Crown Guest House. Golden Crown can be found at 5/F Golden Crown Court, 66-70 Nathan Road. From TST MTR take A2 exit then turn to Nathan Road. Their building is in the middle of the Standard Chartered Bank and City bank. I got my HK Disneyland’s 1-day pass ticket for only 465HKD, that’s a 74HKD difference from the 539HKD ticket that you can buy online.
How to get to HK Disneyland?
Getting to Disneyland is convenient; well actually getting around Hongkong, in general, is easy because of their efficient transportation system.
Take the red MTR line, take off at Lai-king Station. Interchange to Orange line and take off at Sunny Bay then interchange to Disneyland Resort line. Travel time is less than 45 minutes from TST. Single-ride ticket fare is 22.5HKD.
To save money I bought my food from McDonalds at TST. Don’t forget to bring your tumbler too. There are water refilling stations near the restrooms. Bottled water here costs 28HKD and the price of one set of meal starts at 100HKD.
A full review of my Hongkong Disneyland article will be published in a separate article.
How to get to Macau from HK and where to get a cheap ticket?
Take MTR Redline then take off at Central Station. Interchange to blue line then take off at Sheung Wan Station and take exit D., simply follow the signage that will lead you to Ferry station. Fare from TST to Sheung Wan station is 10HKD; travel time was less than 15 minutes.
There are few ticketing booths that are selling tickets near Turbojet booth. We got our ticket for only 165HKD compared with Turbojet booth, which is 177HKD. You’d hear people shouting “Macau ticket” so you can easily spot those who are selling discounted tickets.
A detailed review of my Macau Trip will be published in a separate article.
When it comes to food, we mostly ate at fast food stores like McDonalds and KFC. Sometimes, we try their street food. A set meal will cost you about 25HKD.
Below are my expenses for this trip
Hongkong may not be a haven for budget travelers but if you do your research well, you can definitely survive even with a meager budget. You also need to be streetwise and learn to stick to your budget. I recommend walking around the city to appreciate its beauty and don’t forget to go to Victoria Harbour before 8:00 p.m. to watch the symphony of lights. Overall, I had a fun stay in this Chinese territory called the “Fragrant Harbour,” and I’m looking forward to spending another winter there.