Secret spots, hidden gems, and fun things to do! We’re spilling our top secret information on living in Hong Kong.
Whether you’re a party person or a homebody, Hong Kong has so much to offer, including a variety of karaoke bars, dive bars, and local markets. And if you want to scout out interesting locations, avoid busy situations, and find hidden spots in the city, we felt it only right to share some of our personal favourites. So, here are some useful tips and hacks for you and your friends who are living in Hong Kong – pass them on!
Tips you need to know if you’re living in Hong Kong
For getting around:
1. How to never miss a bus
One of the easiest and most effective ways to save money in Hong Kong is to make use of the city’s amazing public transportation system. For those who like to take the bus (for a more scenic route than that of the MTR), be sure to download the Citymapper and KMB apps to know exactly when the next bus comes, so that you’ll never have to make a dramatic run for the bus again! Covering almost every route across Hong Kong, these two apps allow you to check everything from the location of the stops, to the fares, to the live schedule of the next three buses.
2. Grab your MTR discounts
We bet even some locals living in Hong Kong wouldn’t know about this secret: MTR Fare Savers. There are these machines dotted around Hong Kong near certain MTR stations (not actually inside MTR stations though, mind), where you can simply wave your Octopus card over the reader and get a $2 discount on your next MTR journey from the nearby stop. $2 isn’t a lot, but if you accumulate that… Well, you can probably save up for a meal or two.
Find out more about MTR fare savers.
3. Collect your public transport fare subsidy
A more widely known but often forgotten life hack is Hong Kong’s Public Transport Fare Subsidy Scheme. We say “forgotten”, because we can’t count the times we’ve forgotten to collect our subsidies! Remember: Starting from the 16th of each month, you can collect the subsidy of the previous month, and you have three months to claim them. Simply tap your Octopus card at the designated collection points such as MTR stations, all outlets of 7-Eleven and Circle K, and the Octopus App.
Find out more about the Public Transport Fare Subsidy Scheme.
4. Hop on the tram and the ferry
The tram and the Star Ferry are two of the cheapest ways to travel in Hong Kong. Affectionately known as the “Ding Ding” due to sound of its bells, the tram costs just $3 per journey for adults. While it’s relatively slow, it offers a scenic tour of Hong Kong Island, passing by most landmarks and giving you the chance to people-watch as you sit by the windows. As for the Star Ferry, a cross-harbour journey goes from just $4 for adults – less than half the price of MTR. It also grants you a full view of the beautiful Victoria Harbour as you gently make your way across the sea – talk about unbeatable value!
5. How to jump the taxi queue
This is a slightly tricky one, but if the queue at the taxi stand is looking disgustingly long, you can head to the nearest hotel, where friendly staff should be more than happy to get you a cab. But, note that some hotels only offer this service to their guests, so don’t feel too dejected if they say no to your request. (P.S. In our experience, asking the staff in fluent English may give you an advantage, as you might be considered a tourist and they want to ensure you receive the most hospitable treatment in Hong Kong. As long as you’re not putting yourself before the actual hotel guests, especially on a busy day, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem…!)
6. How to always arrive on time
If the previous hack fails, you can always rely on taxi apps to grab a cab in Hong Kong. In fact, they’re particularly useful when it’s raining or typhoon season. A more affordable version of Uber is the HKTaxi app, with which you can get matched with the nearest drivers.
Find out more about the HKTaxi app.
For the culture vultures:
7. Join the library for free
For the grand old price of $0, you can sign up for a library card. That’s right, for absolutely zero money, you can access the hundreds of public libraries across the 852. You can check out up to eight books or magazines at a time to catch up on all the reading you’ve been meaning to do.
Find out more about applying for a library card.
8. Where to seek out rare novels and comics
Having a hard time finding French novels or comics when you’re living in Hong Kong? Among the bookstores in Hong Kong, we’re particularly fond of Parentheses Librairie Française. From Guy Delisle to Riad Sattouf, it has it all!
Parenthèses Librairie Française, 2/F, Duke Wellington House, 14-24 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong, p. 2526 9215
9. Where to source alternative manga, anime, and merch
If you like pop culture, especially J-pop and K-pop, you’re in for a treat at Sino Centre in Mong Kok. In addition to comics and anime merchandise, you’ll find action figures, collectibles, toys, posters, CDs, DVDs, and more.
Sino Centre, 582-592 Nathan Road, Mong Kok, Hong Kong, p. 2770 7598
10. Watch movies on the cheap
“Netflix and chill” is cool and all, but going to the movie theatre for an audiovisual extravaganza is simply another level of indulgence. Enjoy this underrated experience at reduced prices simply by joining the different cinema memberships in Hong Kong – some are offered for free! A membership can come with complimentary or discounted tickets; invitations to advanced screenings; birthday gifts; and other perks.
11. Get in the know about the arts scene
There are loads going on in the Hong Kong’s arts scene – if you know where to look. Whether art galleries or creative courses, they always deserve more love and attention. A great way to stay informed about the latest art and culture happenings is to subscribe to active organisations in Hong Kong. Besides the popular M+, we feel that HK Phil, Hong Kong Sinfonietta, Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, HKMoA, JCCAC, and Hong Kong Arts Centre, should also get on your radar.
12. Visit local temples
Faith, religion, or superstition – whatever you call it, there’s no denying that traditional beliefs play a huge part in our local heritage. At the heart of this cultural manifestation are the numerous Chinese temples found scattered across the city. Among them, our favourites are the Chi Lin Nunnery and the connecting Nan Lian Garden, with their classical architecture and lush greenery that always make us feel as if we’re not in Hong Kong. Bonus: Don’t miss out on Chi Lin Vegetarian when you’re there – it’s been consistently one of the best vegetarian restaurants in the 852 through the years!
13. Investigate abandoned villages
While Hong Kong may seem all glam with its glossy skyscrapers, there are myriad hidden abandoned buildings and settlements. For a dose of forgotten history and eerie energy, visit the Hakka villages frozen in time. We love surveying the Ma Wan Village, So Lo Pun, and Wong Chuk Yeung, to name a few. Some of these places are even thought to be haunted, so bring out your inner ghostbuster if you must!
For the shopaholics:
14. Explore the Rise Shopping Arcade
An understated building in Tsim Sha Tsui, Rise Shopping Arcade is home to several floors of indie boutiques, all neatly lined up in rows. Though past its heyday in the 80s and 90s, the shopping arcade is still the base for many small local businesses and designers, making it a treasure trove of secondhand branded bags, imported beauty products and makeup, tailored suits, dress shoes, and more. Above all, exploring Rise itself will give you a glimpse into the culture and history of Hong Kong.
Rise Shopping Arcade, 5-11 Granville Circuit, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, p. 2311 1810
15. Take a trip to the street markets
If you live on Hong Kong Island, chances are you rarely venture to the “Dark Side” that is Kowloon… in which case, you’re missing out! A large part of the Yau Tsim Mong district is made up of various markets: Ladies’ Market, Temple Street Night Market, and the slightly less touristy Sneaker Street (aka Fa Yuen Street Market), and. As you traverse the busy network of streets and alleyways, you’ll see a terrific array of knick-knacks, Hong Kong-themed souvenirs, casual apparel and accessories, toys, and even fruits!
A couple of MTR stations away in Sham Shui Po, there’s also the popular Apliu Street Flea Market. Here, you’ll come across more bargain electronics, tech gadgets, audiovisual equipment, and vinyls. Find yourself lost in a sea of cheap finds while discovering affordable treasures that you never knew you needed.
16. Alternatives to Don Don Donki
Is good ol’ Donki getting too crowded (again)? See if there are any JHC (Japan Home Centre), Aeon, and Daiso shops near you instead. From quirky slippers and clever gadgets, to budget utensils, homeware, and Japanese snacks, these outlets are the closest things to “dollar stores” in Hong Kong and are great places to go for a shopping spree if you’re furnishing your house.
17. Go thrifting
Hong Kong has quite a few vintage clothing stores, and one of our go-tos is Mee & Gee. This shop offers a range of garments including authentic leather jackets, worn denim suspenders, and even flamboyant dresses.
Mee & Gee has several stores across Hong Kong.
18. How to make money on the side
To shop till we drop, some extra cash is always appreciated. Our favourite platform to buy/sell secondhand clothes, CDs, and books is Carousell. Snap a picture of the things you want to resell, post them on the apps, and potential buyers will message you directly. Then, just set up a meeting and close the deal. You’ll find lots of cool stuff there at a much cheaper price, too.
Find out more about Carousell.
For the foodies:
19. Street food galore
Looking for delicious and affordable local bites? Located on opposite ends of Hong Kong, Tai On Building and Kwai Chung Plaza are both beloved Hong Kong hotspots for cheap tasty eats. From authentic beef brisket and fishballs, to contemporary fusion snacks and bubble tea – who said the best street food can only be found on the streets?
Tai On Building, 57-87 Shau Kei Wan Road, Sai Wan Ho, Hong Kong
Kwai Chung Plaza, 7-11 Kwai Foo Road, Kwai Fong, Hong Kong
20. Challenge yourself to Durian Dou Hua
If you’re into both tofu and durian, you’ve got to try the signature Durian Dou Hua by Yi Dou Hua. Dou hua (豆花) is a popular Chinese dessert that is made with soft tofu and brown syrup. With a generous dollop of durian on top, it becomes a unique and deliciously divine street snack – a must-try for those of you visiting Hong Kong!
Yi Dou Hua has multiple locations across Hong Kong.
21. Sample the iconic Hong Kong-style milk tea
On the topic of local eats, cha chaan teng (茶餐廳) is another money-saving blessing for those of us living in Hong Kong. The retro cafes take us back in time and allow us to relive the atmosphere of the classic Cantonese movies in the 80s and 90s. Depending on what time you drop by, these restaurants can be loud or peaceful, but either way, it’s a quintessential place to go to experience the city’s culture. We like to have a hearty Cantonese breakfast, paired with Hong Kong-style milk tea or lemon tea at the time-honoured Lan Fong Yuen.
Lan Fong Yuen, 2 Gage Street, Central, Hong Kong, p. 2544 3895
22. Get introduced to liang cha
Liang cha (涼茶), or Chinese herbal teas, are classic remedies based on the ancient wisdom of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). There are many local liang cha shops on the street, but unfortunately for non-Chinese speakers, the majority of stores tend not to have English menus and often sell more potent (and therefore bitter) teas that may be tough for first-timers. That being said, these bittersweet infusions are well worth trying for their medicinal benefits such as detoxifying the body, boosting immunity, relieving sore throats, reducing internal heat or inflammation, and more. If you’d like to give liang cha a go (we applaud you!), the Spica Prunellae (夏枯草) and Chrysanthemum Tea (銀菊露) are sweeter, more beginner-friendly brews you can start with. Find them at Hung Fook Tong, which are easily accessible at MTR stations. And trust us when we say: these drinks can become your healthiest addiction!
Hung Fook Tong has multiple stores across Hong Kong.
23. Seize the sushi train
This might be a train you can’t ride on, but it’s still one of the coolest (and most accessible) restaurant features in Hong Kong! Forget conveyor belts – there are “Kousoku trains” that deliver your order to you at Genki Sushi, one of our city’s most famous sushi chains. While the food isn’t exactly the best in town (yeah, let’s face it), it’s cheap and cheerful, and makes for some good Boomerangs.
Genki Sushi has multiple branches across Hong Kong.
24. Where to enjoy a quiet picnic
Want to dodge the crowds at West Kowloon? Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park in Sai Ying Pun is a great spot for a picnic, with a soft patch of grass for you to lounge on. Plus, it’s pretty close to Sheung Wan MTR Station, making it one of the most convenient but also relatively chill picnic spots in Hong Kong.
Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park, 16 Eastern Street North, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong, p. 2540 9704
25. Go on a foodie hike
Nothing beats a nice meal after a long hike! With all the amazing hiking trails and yum cha restaurants in Hong Kong, going on a foodie hike is the way you can experience the best of both worlds in a single journey. An easy foodie hike is starting from Choi Lung Teahouse in Tsuen Wan, and ending at the Tai Mo Shan Lookout. After just over two hours going to and fro the restaurant, enjoying beautiful scenery on the way, you can reward yourself with some har gao, siu mai, char siu buns, and more dim sum goodness!
Choi Lung Restaurant, 2 Chuen Lung Estate, Route Twisk, Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong, p. 2414 3086
For the sports and nature lovers:
26. Opt for a night hike
Want to beat the heat and all the hiking crowds? Go on a night hike instead. Not only will you be able to enjoy a more peaceful walk, you’ll also get to see breathtaking panoramic views of Hong Kong’s skyscrapers, dazzlingly lit up at night. Just remember to stay in a group and bring a torch or headlamp!
27. Discover secluded beaches and waterfalls
As a coastal city, Hong Kong has an abundance of beaches, many of them are particularly popular during summer. If you want to immerse yourself in nature undisturbed, seek out the hidden beaches and waterfalls in the countryside. They’re worth the trek, we promise!
P.S. Beachgoers, try these thrilling water sports while you’re there.
28. Enjoy the waterfront promenades
Prefer pavement to sand? Hong Kong has developed many new waterfront promenades in recent years, offering urbanites a chance to delight in harbour views without needing to leave the city centre. You can take a quiet walk from Kennedy Town to Wan Chai; Tsim Sha Tsui to Whampoa; or head East to Kwun Tong or Quarry Bay. If you want company, join a running club to jog along the paths with a friendly community.
For the partygoers:
29. Club 7-Eleven
Nightlife is essential to Hong Kong’s identity. But, being a city that never sleeps, Hong Kong can drain your wallet in a jiffy. Want to have fun on the cheap? In addition to heeding our tips for a cheap night out, you need to take advantage of the notorious “Club 7-Eleven” in Hong Kong. Before you head to the club, get your fill of pre-game drinks at the convenient store, with two branches conveniently located in the heart of LKF. Chugging a Smirnoff Ice or bottle of soju from 7-Eleven has become a local partygoer’s rite of passage at this point!
7-Eleven has multiple stores across Hong Kong.
30. Book party rooms over karaokes
As much as we love a good belting sesh at karaoke bars, the venues have become pricier nowadays. A more affordable alternative that locals turn to is party rooms, which are concentrated in the areas of Kwun Tong, Mong Kok, and Causeway Bay. Not only are most party rooms equipped with karaoke equipment, they also offer other gaming facilities such as Nintendo Switch, board games, mahjong… Some even have ball pits! Moreover, party rooms generally provide more space, privacy, and bespoke customer service in comparison with karaoke bars.
An important thing to note, though, is that party rooms aren’t always reliable. As individually operated businesses, some face licensing problems and fail to adhere to the Fire Safety Ordinance. Make sure you weigh these risks carefully before booking!
31. Nab student discounts
Home to top international schools and world-class universities, Hong Kong boasts a vibrant, multicultural student community. If you’re a student here, you’re in luck: our city offers a variety of student discounts for scholars living in Hong Kong. From entertainment to food and drinks, you’ll be able to save up while taking a break between the books.
32. Snap up birthday deals
No longer a student? There are still benefits to becoming a year older: birthday discounts! Whether you’re looking for one-of-a-kind experiences, or hoping to indulge in a birthday banquet, your wishes will come true with the variety of options to celebrate and save.
33. Where to catch fireworks
With the gorgeous Victoria Harbour and incredible skyline, it isn’t difficult to see why Hong Kongers love fireworks displays in the city. There are a number of celebrations during the year when the pyrotechnics make their colourful appearance across the sky, such as New Year’s Eve and National Day. You can watch the fireworks from either side of the harbour (we especially like chilling at Harbour Fun Restaurant & Bar on the Wan Chai waterfront!), but you can also try befriending someone who lives in one of the high-rise residential buildings in Causeway Bay. Failing that, renting a hotel room with a sea view and flashing it up for the night is also an awesome party idea.
Harbour Fun Restaurant & Bar, Water Sports & Recreation Precinct, Hung Hing Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, p. 9559 3899