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How Much Money Do I Need For Hong Kong?:

September 21st, 2017

Hong Kong has it all – heavenly food, high-octane nightlife, striking architecture and top shopping all laced with heaps of culture and tradition. There are plenty of ways to spend a fortune, but Lee Cobaj explains how Hong Kong doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive

Hong Kong
Hong Kong © barbara-pictures

Compared to its SE Asian neighbours, Hong Kong is relatively expensive, though there are definitely plenty of ways of ways to stretch your dollars further. Hotels are generally pricey but day-to-day expenses such as eating out, transport and attractions are pleasingly cheap. So, although it would be easy to break the bank, it’s also possible to fully enjoy the city on a backpacker budget of £50 a day.

Hotel Prices In Hong Kong

Space equals luxury in this sky high city so accommodation is probably going to be your biggest cost when visiting Hong Kong. As a rule of thumb, you’re going to pay more to be on the island than you are on Kowloon-side, and the closer you are to Central the higher the room rates. If you’ve got the cash, you could easily blow through £500 a night soaking up sublime service, designer interiors, Michelin-starred food and harbour views at one of the city’s ludicrously luxurious five-star hotels – The Peninsula, The Mandarin Oriental, The Four Seasons and The Upper House are amongst the very best in the world.

However, there are plenty of solid mid-range hotels out there too – The Fleming, Eaton Smart, Hotel Icon, as well as those listed below – are terrific, with prices in the £75 – £150 price bracket, and a strong focus on service and design. Decent budget hotels and roach-free guesthouses are harder to come by but not impossible to find, although hostels, which often have great facilities and private rooms are a better bet. Fairly new on the scene and also worth checking out is AirBNB, which has a growing database of smart city pads at cheaper than hotel prices.

Hong Kong Dollars
Hong Kong Dollars © refractedmoments

Affordable Hotels In Hong Kong

  • Bishop Lei International House Tucked behind the Botanical Gardens in the centre of Hong Kong Island, Bishop Lei has a swimming pool, gym and brilliant on-the-ball service. Squeezy single rooms (180-square feet) average HK$425/£35 per night, doubles are a few pounds more, but it’s worth splashing out the extra £30 for one with that spectacular harbour view if you can afford it.
  • Mei Ho House Youth Hostel: This 1950s public housing settlement was repurposed into a shiny new youth hostel in 2012 and, OK, it is off the beaten track but there’s an MTR station close by and the neighbourhood – Sham Shui Po – rocks a very cool retro Cantonese vibe. Double rooms come in at HK$600/£50 and have ensuite bathrooms, while dorms start at HK$200/£17 and have lockers and power sockets. All are immaculately clean – and there’s a garden café, museum and free wifi too.

Mid-range Hotels In Hong Kong

  • Ovolo Southside: Wong Chuk Hang, near Aberdeen Harbour, is a little bit out of town but it’s a tradeoff worth making for a stay at this affordably stylish hotel. Sleek sunny rooms come with heaps of freebies, including breakfast, soft drinks and snacks from the mini-bar, self-laundry facilities and a comp shuttle bus to the city centre. Expect to pay around £65 per night. It’s also worth checking their website for three nights for the price of two deals.
  • Cordis at Langham Place: Formerly known as Langham Place, the newly revamped Cordis offers plenty of bang for your buck. Situated in manic Mong Kok, there’s no end of great shopping and eating in the area, while bright comfortable rooms, starting from HK$1,250/£104, come with bathtubs, top tech and complimentary smartphones for use during your stay.

Luxury Hotels In Hong Kong

  • The Peninsula: Humming with history, built on tradition yet unfailingly fashionable and always memorable, a stay at The Pen is the stuff that bucket list are made of. The dining, design and service are flawless but it’s the sparkling Victoria Harbour view that will stick with you forever. Doubles from HK$5,000/£418, with breakfast.
  • Upper House: Design-led, voguish, and exuding cool from every clean-cut angle, the Upper House is contemporary Hong Kong at its very best. There’s no swimming pool, gym or fancy spa, but you won’t give a fig when you’re cocooned in your enormous sky suite overlooking Victoria Harbour. Doubles from HK$5,500/£460, room only.

What's on the menu?
What’s on the menu? © acme

Cost of Food In Hong Kong

You’re not going to find anywhere as cheap to eat as you would, say in Thailand, Vietnam or Laos but it is still possible to chow down on a hearty dinner for around £5 in Hong Kong. There are only 40 or so dai pai dongs (street food stalls) remaining in the city, seek them out – before they’re gone – on Stanley Street in Central and in Sham Shui Po for a steaming bowls of beef noodles, sweet and sour pork and garlic prawns.

Otherwise tuck into top Canto fare at one of Hong Kong’s (not so) excitingly named Cooked Food Centres. Good bets are the Bowrington Road Centre in Wan Chai, which is known for its delicious crunchy-on-the-outside juicy-on-the-inside roast chicken, and Gi Kee at the Wong Nei Chung Centre in Happy Valley; the food is consistently excellent here and it’s also a great place to fuel up before the Wednesday night horse races.

Further up the price scale, are classic Hong Kong restaurants such as Maxim’s Palace City Hall, where curly-permed waitresses still deliver food on old-fashioned trolleys (dishes around £4), Luk Yu Teahouse, an 80-year old establishment with Deco interiors and grumpy octogenarian waiters (dishes around £4), and Fook Lam Moon, a third-generation family outfit with award-winning dim sum and a Mad Men vibe (dishes around £7).

There are, of course, a galaxy of Michelin star restaurants in this foodie mad city too, the most-highly lauded of which would be Lung King Heen at the Four Seasons, Amber at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental – both of which will set you back around £100 a head for dinner – and Tim Ho Wan, the world’s cheapest Michelin awarded eatery where you can scoff a dim sum meal for as little as £2 – just be prepared to queue.

Cost Of Cigarettes And Alcohol In Hong Kong

The cost of alcohol in Hong Kong is on a par with what you would pay in most of the UK; £3 – £4 pounds for a beer in a regular pub, slightly more in a fancier city centre bar, and £10 and upwards at one the island’s glamorous harbour-facing haunts. Beer and alcopops are cheap and readily available from 7/11 though – you’ll pay around HK£10 for a local brew and $18/£1.50 for an imported beer like Corona. Cigarettes can be purchased from street-side newspaper vendors, convenience stores, supermarkets and bars and cost around HK$55/£4.60 for a packet of 20.

Cost Of Activities In Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s smoky temples, rambling country parks, beaches and even Victoria Peak are all free to visit. The city also has a growing collection of excellent government-funded museums, nearly all of which charge an admission fee of just HK$10/85p – and are completely free every Wednesday. Most notable are the Hong Kong Museum of History, which offers a fascinating insight into Hong Kong’s past with a modern-day interactive twist. While if you’re even a little bit of a Bruce Lee fan, you will want to make the hour-long schlepp to Hong Kong Heritage Museum in Sha Tin, which currently houses a kick-ass collection of the star’s personal possessions and film memorabilia.

Money Money $$$ (Tsim Sha Tsui)
Money Money $$$ © 90461913@N00

Nightlife In Hong Kong

Hong Kong has a phenomenal amount of places to drink, from cheap hole-in-the-walls to Hennessey-swilling private clubs to underground dance bars. If money is no object, walk your Ferragamos over to the likes of Felix, Aqua, Sevva and Armani Privé. For a more hipster vibe, hit up the multitude of bars scattered around SoHo (south of Hollywood Road).

The action spills out onto the pavements here so one local trick is to nip to the nearest 7/11, pick up a couple of bottles of beer and then mingle into the crowd. Nearby Lan Kwai Fong is best avoided – unless you’re after an 18-30s-style scene of course – but the former red light district of Wan Chai is still a blast – hit up rooftop bar Wooloomooloo for potent cocktails and panoramic views of Happy Valley, Causeway Bay and the harbour.

Lastly, happy hours and ladies’ nights are a big thing in Hong Kong so if you have a vagina it’s possible to drink all night for free! Yay! And if you don’t, you can at least cut your drinks bill in half. Most of the action happens around Wan Chai on a Wednesday night but check the listing in local publications like Time Out, HK magazine and for more deals around town.

Shopping In HK

People who say you can’t get a bargain in Hong Kong anymore just aren’t trying hard enough. A highly-competitive tech market and no sales tax means that most electronics are at least 20 per cent cheaper here than in the UK – just be sure to buy from well-established Hong Kong chains such as Fortress, avoiding the cowboys around Nathan Road at all costs.

Mong Kok’s Golden Computer Arcade and the Computer Centre in Wan Chai are both great bets for electronic accessories – items like hard drives, memory cards, and safety screens are a steal compared to the UK. Clothing is another area where you can save big; for everyday wear and accessories, scour the side streets and outlet stores around Hennessy Road in Wan Chai; for sports gear (including ski suits, weirdly) and Abercrombie, Guess and other American-brand samples and over-runs rummage around Stanley Market; while if you’re after luxury labels, head to Horizon Plaza in Ap Lei Chau (near Aberdeen), where you’ll find 28-storeys of outlet stores with up to 70 per cent off everything from Alexander McQueen gowns to Prada purses to Ralph Lauren bedding – tip: the ancient lift is crazy slow so start at the top and work your way down.

Toiletries And Other Essentials

Watson’s is the most recognisable pharmacists in Hong Kong, with branches on practically every street. They stock everything you could possibly need with brands that are instantly recognisable. Prices are slightly higher than in the UK or US.

HK Sim Cards And Internet Access

Free wifi is pretty easy to find in Hong Kong; most malls, coffee shops and 7/11s offer it as part of the service, and there are government hotspots dotted all over the city – these are ropey at best though. For a seamless service pick up a tourist SIM at the airport. However, I actually don’t think the tourist SIM is particularly good value. Better to just get a local one, best deal I found when I was there last was from China Mobile – HK$80 for 3G with HK$78 in credit so in reality cost just 2p! Then it just needs topped up by HK$30 every ten days for continuous use. China Mobile stores are all over the place.

Getting Around
Getting Around © chrisny2

Travelling Around Hong Kong

Transportation costs in Hong Kong are astonishingly cheap so this is where you can save big. The MTR underground rail system covers large parts of the city, with double-deckers and mini-buses filling in the gaps, making it easy to reach the likes of Big Buddha, Stanley Market and Victoria Peak for just a few pounds. Then there’s the tram system, which idles east to west across Hong Kong Island and makes for the perfect sightseeing trip, costing just HK$0.23/20p a ride, wherever you get on and off.

A harbour crossing on the iconic Star Ferry is the same price. Cover all these bases and save time fumbling for change by picking up a Tourist Octopus Card at the airport. A more comprehensive version of London’s Oyster card, it can be used on all forms of public transport, including ferries and the Airport Express train, as well as in supermarkets, cinemas, department stores, theme parks and museums.

Lee Cobaj lives in Hong Kong and specialises in writing about Asia. She is a regular contributor to the likes of The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, National Geographic Traveller, Which? Travel magazine and more. Follow her on Twitter @Lee_Cobaj

No Indonesia Visa Required For Citizens Of 45 Countries:

August 2nd, 2017

The Indonesian Government recently announced citizens of forty five countries no longer need a tourist visa to enter Indonesia.

Indonesia Immigration Stamp
Indonesia Immigration Stamp

How Does Visa Free Entry To Indonesia Work?

If you are a citizen of one of the countries listed below, arrive at one of the entry points below and proceed to Passport Control. You do not need to stop and purchase a separate Visa On Arrival, which is $35 USD. You just go straight to Passport Control and the officials will stamp your passport with an immigration stamp allowing you to stay in Indonesia for 30 days. You then proceed to baggage reclaim and then out into Indo.

Check for the cheapest flights to Indonesia on Skyscanner – compare airline prices instantly

However, the visa free scheme is only available at certain entry and exit points. You must enter and exit though any one of the following air or sea ports. Your entry and exit points can be different from each other but must come from this list to make you eligible to get the Indonesian visa on arrival free of charge. If you want to enter or leave from anywhere else then the usual fees will apply (USD35) but you must choose which, free or USD35, at your entry point.

  • Denpasar (Bali airport)
  • Jakarta
  • Surabaya
  • Medan
  • Batam
  • Batam (sea)
  • Bintan (sea)

Signage and information locally isn’t great and immigration officials aren’t warning travellers about the strict entry and exit gateways so do be keenly aware of this information, sharing with your fellow travellers too. Also be aware that the implementation of the new rules can be patchy with local immigration officials, so be patient if you run into difficulties.

IMPORTANT! Make sure you have travel insurance. Get it immediately online with World Nomads

Visitors with a visa-free stamp will not be permitted to leave Indonesia from any exit point not listed above so make sure to buy a USD35 visa if your plans require you to leave from somewhere else. There are already reports from travellers that if you try to exit from a non-designated exit point, you will not only be refused, but you will have to travel domestically to a designated exit point to leave the country. It’s bureaucracy gone mad.

How To Get Your Visa Free Entry To Indonesia

  • Make sure your country is one of the 45 countries that Indonesia is offering this visa too (list below).
  • Ensure your passport has at least 6 months validity.
  • Make sure you have one free page for the visa stamp.
  • Don’t leave your boarding card on the plane, immigration officials are likely to want to see it now that they are no longer asking for an arrival card to be completed.
  • Bring a print out of your return flight – rarely asked for but you never know !
  • Check that your entry and exit points match up with the above list. (If they don’t match,you need to buy a visa on arrival, so you’ll need to join the visa on arrival queue before immigration and pay for your visa there.)
  • Go to passport control in the immigration hall

If you have a visa-free stamp in your passport, you cannot extend your time in Indonesia. You’ll need to leave the country through one of the entry/exit points.

If before you arrive in Indonesia you think there’s a good chance you will want to stay longer than 30 days, get a visa on arrival for $35 and then you can extend that.

If you’re planning a trip to Indonesia, you may find How Much Money Do I Need For Bali and How Much Money Do I Need For Indonesia helpful. Top Ten Tips For Female Travelers To Bali is also popular.

Check Indonesia hotel availability and pricing on – book now, pay later
Countries eligible for Indonesia visa-free travel:

Chech Republic
Macao SAR
New Zealand
South Africa
South Korea

Citizens of the following countries can only get an Indonesian Visa upon Arrival which costs USD35

Saudi Arabia
Timor Leste

If your country is not on this list then you need to apply for a visa at an Indonesian Embassy or Consulate within your country. For more info, please check the Wikipedia page about Indonesia Visa Requirements.

12 Years Of Travel: Perhentian Kecil Beach, Perhentian Islands, Malaysia:

June 15th, 2015

Malaysia’s Perhentian Islands are a backpacker haven with great beaches and cheap scuba diving

Perhentian Kecil Beach, Perhentian Islands, Malaysia
Perhentian Kecil Beach, Perhentian Islands, Malaysia

28 June 2006, 9 Years Ago This Week: I’d been commissioned to write a story about diving in the Perhentian Islands by Asian Diver magazine – while it’s a bit of a trek to get there, the sense of really being on a paradise island was hard to shake. (I wrote up a quick guide to diving the Perhentians if you’re interested in exploring underwater rather than just up top).

I haven’t been back to the Perhentians since, and I’ve heard that it’s already starting to feel a bit overdeveloped, so I think this is one place I’ll leave to fond memories.

What Is 12 Years Of Travel?

I'm publishing a photo each week during 2015 that was taken in the same week sometime in the previous 12 years on my travels. Join me in my journey to combat early senility by trying to remember what the hell I was doing over the last decade.


No Vietnam Visa Required For Citizens Of Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Spain:

June 19th, 2015

From July 2015, you don’t need to apply for a visa to enter Vietnam if you’re a citizen from Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Spain

Vietnam Embassy, Bangkok
Vietnam Embassy, Bangkok

The Vietnamese government have announced a important change for Vietnam tourist visas – if you’re from Britain, Germany, France, Italy or Spain, you no longer need to apply for a tourist visa from July 2015. Citizens of those countries can simply arrive in Vietnam without needing to obtain a visa beforehand.

Travellers from Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Spain can stay for a maximum of 15 days in Vietnam without a visa. If you want to stay in Vietnam longer, you’ll need to apply for a visa as normal before you go to Vietnam. (See Travelhappy’s pages on applying for a Vietnam visa in Bangkok and applying for a Vietnam visa online).

If you’re any other nationality, you’ll probably need a Vietnam visa – check with your nearest Vietnam consulate or embassy.

If you plan to take advantage of the new rules, make sure you check with the embassy as well during July just to make doubly sure that you won’t have any problems at your airport check-in or on arrival. Bureaucracy can move slowly sometimes and you don’t want to get burned.

You can read more about the change, designed to boost tourism, in this AP news story.

12 Years Of Travel: Bangkok Canal Bike Ride:

June 15th, 2015

One of the best ways to see everyday Bangkok is to take a bike ride into the sprawling suburbs

Bangkok Canal Bike Ride
Bangkok Canal Bike Ride

21 June 2014, 1 Year Ago This Week: Most people greet the idea of cycling in Bangkok with some variation of “Are you insane?”. And while the city’s traffic can be dangerous, there are plenty of ways to circumnavigate it. Bangkok’s canals, or Klongs, used to be the main arteries of the city before being filled in to make way for roads – however, they still exist and following them makes not only for a safe ride (provided you don’t fall in) but also a constantly fascinating insight into semi-rural Bangkok life that’s seemingly a million miles away from the chaos of the city centre.

This shot was taken on a bridge overlooking one of the canals – tourists can stay here at Bangluang House (visible in the shot on the side of the klong) or you can go on an organised bike tour with the likes of Grasshopper Adventures or SpiceRoads, who provide a bike and guide to take you through these fascinating areas.

What Is 12 Years Of Travel?

I'm publishing a photo each week during 2015 that was taken in the same week sometime in the previous 12 years on my travels. Join me in my journey to combat early senility by trying to remember what the hell I was doing over the last decade.


12 Years Of Travel: Thames Barrier, Greenwich, London:

June 15th, 2015

London is steeped in history, but it’s also shaping the future of how we control the landscape

Thames Barrier, Greenwich, London
Thames Barrier, Greenwich, London

10 June 2012, 3 Years Ago This Week: I spent a few days in Greenwich for my 40th birthday – it seemed appropriate to go back to the Source Of All Time as I celebrated being (hopefully) halfway through mine. I remember Greenwich as a kid being quite grotty – my parents took me to see the magnificiently restored Cutty Sark tea clipper – but now it’s full-blown Heritage London, and deservedly so – it’s one of London’s greenest areas with spectacular parks, architecture – especially the Naval College – and, of course, the Greenwich Observatory.

The Thames is ever present in Greenwich, and a few kilometres along from the Greenwich’s history sits the Thames Barrier, originally startlingly futuristic in design when opened in 1982 but now looking like something created by Frank Gehry. The Barrier is often forgotten amongst London’s innovations, but it protects the at-sea-level city, and in recent years it has been used far more often to hold back the waters which would otherwise threaten London’s financial district and, with it, the global banking system.

What Is 12 Years Of Travel?

I'm publishing a photo each week during 2015 that was taken in the same week sometime in the previous 12 years on my travels. Join me in my journey to combat early senility by trying to remember what the hell I was doing over the last decade.


12 Years Of Travel: View From Cortona, Italy:

June 15th, 2015

Famous as the backdrop for the 2003 movie Under The Tuscan Sun, Cortona is a stunning medieval town perched above the surrounding countryside

View from Cortona, Italy
View from Cortona, Italy

11 June 2013, 2 Years Ago This Week: Despite the vast amount of information about every conceivable travel destination available, I still find myself occasionally stumbling upon places in complete ignorance of where I actually am. Cortona was a case in point – we were on our way with a group of friends to stay in a villa in Umbria and Cortona was located nearby – I’d never heard of it before, but the town made an immediate impression, rising up above the surrounding flat plains on a dominant hillside as we drove towards it.

It would take a particularly jaded traveller not to be swayed by the romance of the town’s winding medieval streets that are all on a steep gradient, each leading to the Palazzo Comunale. I was a bit surprised to see quite so many other tourists in the town until I found out later Cortona had been one of the settings for the 2003 movie Under The Tuscan Sun, a rom com starring Diane Ladd. While the movie is largely forgettable, it’s certainly brought Cortona to the attention of a wider audience.

What Is 12 Years Of Travel?

I'm publishing a photo each week during 2015 that was taken in the same week sometime in the previous 12 years on my travels. Join me in my journey to combat early senility by trying to remember what the hell I was doing over the last decade.


12 Years Of Travel: Jawfish With Eggs, Derawan, Indonesia:

May 29th, 2015

Indonesian Borneo has several islands with some great scuba diving – there are plenty of surprises waiting underwater

Jawfish with eggs, Borneo
Jawfish with eggs, Borneo

2 June 2010, 5 Years Ago This Week: Jawfish are one of my favourite sea creatures – they live in vertical tunnels dug in the sand and peer out over the top with their huge eyes and slightly mournful expression. Approach them quietly and slowly and they will let you come quite near without disappearing in a flash down their hole. This particular jawfish, though, was a real surprise as it’s the first time I’d seen a jawfish carrying eggs its mouth – you can see the eyes of the babies already visible through the eggs. We got back in the water at 5am the next morning and were rewarded by seeing the eggs hatch, streaming out of the jawfish’s mouth and carried by the current to hopefully survive and become adult jawfish themselves

You can read a full account and see more photos of my trip through the islands of Indonesian Borneo on my other site

What Is 12 Years Of Travel?

I'm publishing a photo each week during 2015 that was taken in the same week sometime in the previous 12 years on my travels. Join me in my journey to combat early senility by trying to remember what the hell I was doing over the last decade.


12 Years Of Travel: Newquay Cliffs, Cornwall, UK:

May 21st, 2015

Famous for its burgeoning surfing scene, Newquay also has some stunningly beautiful scenic walks along its cliffs too.

Newquay Cliffs, Cornwall
Newquay Cliffs, Cornwall

21 May 2013, 2 Years Ago This Week: Less than fifty miles from where I grew up, I’d never been to Newquay until this visit to see a friend who I’d first met in Thailand. This coastline is similar to the rugged coastline around my home town of Plymouth, which brought hundreds of ships to grief in the days before lighthouses and lifeguards. There’s a savage beauty to this coastline that I’ve not seen replicated anywhere else in the world – it’s the mix of the verdant green and the jagged blackness – and, of course, the omnipresent British rain.

What Is 12 Years Of Travel?

I'm publishing a photo each week during 2015 that was taken in the same week sometime in the previous 12 years on my travels. Join me in my journey to combat early senility by trying to remember what the hell I was doing over the last decade.


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