Backpacking in Hong Kong: Costs, Tips and Places to See
Hong Kong is a land of contrasts. From the mass of skyscrapers that light up the night sky to the white sand beaches and emerald hills of the countryside — there really is something for everyone. Here’s a quick guide to backpacking in Hong Kong, including some of the best beaches, hikes and tourist attractions.
Hong Kong Island
Most of those skyscrapers that Hong Kong is famous for are on Hong Kong Island, the commercial centre of the country / territory. To get the best view of Hong Kong from above, take the tram to Victoria Peak. The tram is over 120 years old and the view from the top is incredible. It’s worth paying a little bit extra to go to the Sky Terrace — the view is perfect from up there and it’s only another $40 HKD ($5 US). The line for the tram gets quite long, if you want to skip it you can walk up to the first station (but you’ll have to stand up on the tram). We visited Victoria Peak at around 4.30 pm, which allowed us to see the view in both night and day, as well as a hazy sunset.
Beaches on Hong Kong Island
There are plenty of beaches on Hong Kong Island, and they’ll be pretty quiet if you visit them on a weekday. My favourites were Repulse Bay (one of the more ‘urban’ beaches in Hong Kong) and Big Wave Bay, Hong Kong’s surfing hotspot. We hiked from the start of the Dragon’s Back Trail to Big Wave Bay, which took around 2 and a half hours. We saw paragliders flying over a rugged coastline, lush green hills and lots of other hikers (it was a Sunday).
Lamma Island is home to some great beaches and hiking trails, as well as nice bars and restaurants, boutique shops and rural villages. We spent half a day walking between the beaches and villages (there are no cars/roads on Lamma Island) and it is something I recommend to anyone thinking of backpacking in Hong Kong. We arrived by ferry at Yung Shue Wan (only around $15 HKD) and walked to Sok Kwu Wan, where we took a ferry back to Hong Kong Island. It’s a great way to do it as you don’t have to backtrack.
We didn’t spend much time on Lantau Island but we did see one of its most popular sites — the Big Buddha. We took the Ngong Ping 360 cable car up to Ngong Ping Village, and from there it was quick walk (around 260 steps) to the top. The cable car ride was really nice — Lantau Island has some stunning scenery and it’s a great way to see it. Hong Kong Disneyland is also on Lantau Island, and I’ve heard there are also some good beaches and hiking trails to explore.
Further reading: Read a full post on the cable car/ Big Buddha over at Mismatchedpassports.com
We stayed in Kowloon during our time in Hong Kong. The waterfront area is probably the 2nd best place to see the bright lights of Hong Kong, and a good (and very cheap) thing to do is to take the historic Star Ferry from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island. Kowloon is also where I experienced my first helicopter ride. We flew from The Peninsula Hotel to the New Territories, which isn’t a typical tourist route (we contacted Heliservices HK to propose a partnership and this is the flight they gave us). The pilot seemed a bit confused as to why we were on that particular flight, as the route didn’t take in Hong Kong’s best views. I can’t recommend the tourist flight as we didn’t do it, although the people who went before us raved about it.
Further reading: Check out the full post on our helicopter ride over Hong Kong
The New Territories
Our last day in Hong Kong was spent hiking in the New Territories, the part of Hong Kong which is close to the border with China. It’s Hong Kong’s most unspoilt region and is home to its best beaches. We hiked section 2 of the MacLehose Trail (from Sai Wan Pavilion to Pak Tam Au), which took around 4 hours. If you want to get out into nature while backpacking in Hong Kong, this is the place to do it.
A day trip to Macau
Make sure you leave some space in your itinerary for a day trip to Macau — it’s a unique city full of history. The Portuguese built some impressive churches and plazas, and there are also plenty of opulent casinos to explore. I’ll be writing a post on Macau soon.
Backpacking in Hong Kong: Costs
Hong Kong definitely isn’t the cheapest place to visit in Asia, but things like transport and food are pretty reasonable. A basic meal costs between $30 – $40 HKD and bus/train/ferry rides rarely cost more than $15 HKD. We stayed with a friend so didn’t have to worry about accommodation, but I’ve heard that budget places in Hong Kong are dodgy (check out this post about Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong’s most notorious budget accommodation building). It seems like you can get a room in one of the guesthouses in there (it’s like a big apartment block) for around $240 HKD ($30 USD), but it’ll be tiny!
Have you been backpacking in Hong Kong? Which was your favourite part? Let me know in the comments below!
Disclaimer: I worked with Ngong Ping 360 (cable car) and Heliservices HK on this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own