Escaping the city heat on the cheap
The Hong Kong heat is on and you are desperate to escape the city during the summer. But how can you get a decent holiday on the cheap?
If it is just a short neighbouring city escape, try a budget airline. We all know about Malaysian-based Air Asia, but recently, Jetstar announced it would open its first no-frills airline based in Hong Kong. It will not officially launch until later this year, but discount Jetstar flights have already started from Hong Kong.
At the time of writing, a mid-June return Jetstar flight to Singapore was just HK$1,500 all-inclusive. Similarly, an Air Asia flight to Kota Kinabalu over the same period was just over HK$1,500.
Both airlines also have regular promotions for those on their newsletters. Jetstar is offering "surprises" over the coming months, with the first being a buy-one-get-one promotion for you and a friend, while Air Asia regularly offers bargain airfares for as little as HK$500.
Those with a flexible weekday schedule should check out Cathay Pacific's weekly Fanfares promotion. Every Tuesday morning, the airline offers up to 10 flight promotions to such faraway destinations as Paris and Toronto, each with limited departure dates and seats. At the time of writing, a flight to Melbourne leaving May 23 was just HK$1,990, not including taxes.
Both Cathay and Air Asia also offer a number of great flight and hotel package deals through their sister websites. Over that same period in June, Cathay Pacific Holidays has a two-day Singapore package at the Shangri-La hotel for about HK$3,700, while AirAsiaGo has a two-day package to Kota Kinabalu staying at a Novotel for HK$4,700.
Then there are those flights that are not available anywhere else. But there is a problem with looking for them online: all those supposed "travel comparing" sites offer amazing deals till the very end, when they slap on some hidden tax or charge.
In that regard, Momondo.com is the best travel website I have ever used. It not only compares every one of those travel sites to find the best possible deal, but it takes you direct to the source - the airline website - so you will not get surprised at the last minute by a mystery charge. It works just as well with hotels, and surprising discrepancies were found in prices advertised on popular sites, in the range of HK$100 to HK$200 per night.
The Momondo website is not pure salvation, however, as other deals are still occasionally at hand.
There is Backbid.com for example, a recent website which pits hotels against each other. You make a refundable hotel reservation, post it on the site and numerous hotels in the area will send you a better deal within hours.
In addition, a number of major hotel websites have got into the smartphone app game, and to entice travellers to download them, offer a number of app-only discounts. Booking.com's Secret Deals is probably the best - I found discounts of up to 50 per cent, compared to its website.
Finally, there is the site on everyone's lips recently: Airbnb, where individuals rent out their flats to travellers, usually at a fraction of what hotels charge. If you were to take the Singapore flight listed above, on Airbnb you could get an entire centrally located apartment with laundry, maid service and Wi-fi for as little as HK$650 a night. Try to beat that.