HK Magazine Archive

The Cheapskate's Guide to Hong Kong

It doesn’t matter if you make $14k or $40k: Here are perfect money-saving tips for all Hongkongers.

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 October, 2015, 4:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 4:51pm

Traveling Light
Sure, Hong Kong’s transport system is cheap. But it can be even cheaper still with these frugal tips…

Mass Savings Learn to play the MTR. There are 31 fare discount terminals all over Hong Kong which offer discounts of $1-2 on your next MTR journey, if you tap your Octopus on them before taking a ride. The full list is here: A few to know are on the Central-Mid-Levels Escalator over Hollywood Road, Causeway Centre (i.e. Brim 28) in Wan Chai, and inside Welland Plaza in Sheung Wan, opposite the Civic Centre. Also, through the end of November, you get 10 percent off every second trip you take on the MTR.

Take Off Cathay Pacific’s cut-rate Fanfares tickets ( go on sale on Tuesday at 8am. Sign up for email alerts so you know whether or not it’s worth having the page loaded at 8:00:01 exactly. The flights tend to be great deals, but you have to be quick about booking—and very flexible with your holiday dates. Meanwhile, low-cost airline HK Express has just turned two, and it’s celebrating with $22 trips—yes, $22—around Asia. Of course, the timings are a little awkward so you might have to be unemployed to use it—but a cheap flight is worth quitting your job for, right?

Book Late Snagged a great trip? Home-grown app Hotelquickly (free on Android and iOS) is all about last-minute deals on hotels in Asia, straight from your phone... Sure, it’s stressful taking your booking down to the wire, but you save a lot of money. It’s also good for spur-of-the-moment staycations.

Criss Cross Cross-harbor commuter? Ditch the Octopus for an MTR City Saver card. $415 gets you 40 trips in a month, anywhere south of Kowloon Tong. Given that it generally costs at least $11 to cross the harbor, this one’s a no-brainer.

Wave Rider To go from Central to Tsim Sha Tsui costs $9.40 by MTR. The Star Ferry from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central costs $2.50 on the upper deck—and better yet, it’s just $2 on the smelly diesel lower deck. Instagram a photo of the engine room as you cross, and the olfactory discomfort is all worthwhile. Meanwhile, the Hung Hom-North Point ferry costs $6.50, whereas the 106 bus costs $9.30. Tram Fair No one accepts 10 cent coins any more: Save them up for your next tram ride to dispose of them honorably.

Frugal Fun
Why spend big on activities when you can save the cash instead?

Ocean’s One Ocean Park does free entry on your birthday for anyone with an HKID card. If your birthday falls on a weekday, just go on your own: That way you don’t have to queue for the rides you don’t like.

Exhibitionist Tendencies All of Hong Kong’s public museums offer free admission on Wednesdays. So what if it’s only $10 normally? A tenner here, a tenner there... pretty soon we’re talking real money.

Have an Art Generally, Wednesdays are art gallery opening nights. Wander up and down Hollywood Road in your very artsiest turtleneck and pretend to look interested in the art, while helping yourself to glass after glass of free wine and little nibbles. There is no guarantee that the wine will be any good, and if you get so drunk that you break it—you buy it.

Minimalist Cinema Want to catch a new film? Hold off for a few days. Pretty much all of Hong Kong’s cinemas are at least $20 cheaper on Tuesdays.

Tea for View Got visitors in town? Skip dropping $168 on the ICC’s Sky100 observation deck at the ICC and go for tea at the Ritz instead, two floors higher. At $618 for two, you get exactly the same view, AND you get scones.

Work with Us Be a lifestyle journalist. It’s a great way to get invited to events, where you’re plied with drinks and food aplenty. We’re hiring! Email us at [email protected].

Pop This They don’t search your bags in cinemas. Instead of dropping an extra hundie on popcorn and a huge soda, sneak in a beer and a nice sandwich for a fraction of the price. Try to avoid overly crinkly packaging.

Flagstaff Museum of Teaware

Sporting Good
There’s no need to shell out millions on a gym membership with these cost-saving tips.

Lucky Gym Government gyms cost a pittance ($14/hour or $180/month). You just have to sit through a free, three-hour-long “Briefing on Proper Ways to Use Fitness Equipment” session first. Alternatively, just work out for free in the parks, next to all the grannies walking backwards around the bauhinias.

Weekly Workout Need to work out like crazy for a month or two? Cycle through the city’s trial gym memberships, then quit before they start charging. Most of the city’s gyms will do week-long tryout passes to check out all their facilities. You should be able to get two months of free gymming out of this, easy. The major downside is that you’re gonna have to listen to an awful lot of sales spiels. It might be worth more to your sanity just to join one.

Shop Around
Hongkongers love to shop… but you’d better shop right.

Deal or No Deal They’re completely hit-and-miss, but Hong Kong’s online deals sites can be home to some good bargains., and have been known to sport a worthwhile deal or two.

Big on Groupon right now? Hairy crab deals, of course.

Dump the Data Are you paying $400-plus bucks for 10GB of LTE mobile data? Seriously, you really don’t need that much, that fast, unless you’re streaming HD video to your phone 24/7 (in which case, we need to have a little talk). Consider dropping down to a slower speed bracket: Smartone offers unlimited 3G internet for $88 per month. Sure, it’s not going to be blazing fast—but how fast do you need to Whatsapp, exactly?

Sourcing Overseas Need a new dehumidifier or a new bench? Before you schlep out to Ikea or Fortress, make sure to log on to the GeoExpat and AsiaXpat forums. Their classified sections are rammed full of people trying to get rid of their furniture and electronics for a song before they leave the SAR. They get increasingly desperate as their departure dates grow nearer. The larger the item of furniture, the better deal you’ll get on it. The only problem, of course: Where are you going to put it?

Eating Right
Say goodbye to pricey average Soho meals with these dining tips.

ABC Kitchen

Center your Focus Cooked food centers are king. Sheung Wan’s ABC Kitchen serves up excellent French fare in amusingly dissonant surroundings, for an absolute steal.
Shop 7, Queen Street Cooked Food Centre, 1 Queen St., Sheung Wan, 9278-8227.

Spruce Goose Want to eat Yung Kee’s famous roast goose and cha siu rice but don’t have the big bucks to drop on a fancy sit-down meal? Just get it from the takeout counter to the left of the entrance and go eat in the Lan Kwai Fong amphitheater instead. Yes, it’s still $70… but trust us, you’re saving money.
32-40 Wellington St., Central, 2522-1624.

Later Taters Visit the stalls late in the evening when everyone’s just trying to close up shop, around 8pm. You’ll get a much better deal on perishables like fruit and bread in particular. And of course, Mrs Fields’s legendarily aromatic cookies are half price after 10pm, although you’ll have to join the line.

Pack your lunch, already OK, let’s do the math. Every day you go to work in Central, slave away, dash out for a quick bite and a drink you swallow at your desk—about $70. Maybe once a week you grab a longer lunch with colleagues—$120 for the lunch set with a glass of white. So that’s a minimum of $70x4 + $120 = $400 a week you’re spending on lunch, or $1,600 a month. That’s at least $19,200 a year you’re frittering away on crappy tasteless cardboard sandwiches. Start bringing your lunch in, friend.

Fruit Loops Do you like fruit—and we mean, REALLY like fruit? Head in the early morning to the Yau Ma Tei Fruit Market, where the freshest of the fresh is sold in large quantities to interested fruit-loving parties. The market is most active between the hours of  4-6am, but you’ll save money on one healthy diet…

Market on Graham St.

Supermarket Sweep Here’s the supermarket run-down: Wellcome for essentials, ParknShop for basics, Great for upmarket treats, Gourmet for food on the go, Market Place by Jasons for random unexpected international imports, Gateway and A&M for bulk American products, ThreeSixty for organics, and City’Super when you’re trying to impress your in-laws. Vanguard when all you can find is a freaking Vanguard. If you’ve been buying your fruit at City’Super, you have more money than sense.

Shop Smart Obviously, wet market shopping is going to be cheaper than hitting City’Super. But when shopping for more niche ingredients take the time to visit specialist stores. Thai and Filipino stores are a great source of ingredients, and for spices you’ll want to go to the source: A shop like the Yuan Heng Spice Co. (19 Tung St., Sheung Wan, 2542-0275) sells every kind of spice under the sun from giant canvas sacks.

Read our cheapskate's guide to drinking and dating here.