Living on a Budget as an International Intern in Hong Kong
By Iyarat Karod on Feb 13, 2019
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The life of an international intern in Hong Kong can be pretty costly, as Hong Kong isn’t the cheapest place to live.
The country’s economic prosperity also results in a relatively high cost of living.
According to CNN, Hong Kong was ranked as the most expensive city in 2018, followed by Tokyo, Zurich and Singapore.
However, you will find it surprising that living a frugal life in Hong Kong isn’t impossible.
While it is true that the cost of living in Hong Kong is quite high when compared with other bustling metropolitan cities, this is only partially true.
It is likely that Hong Kong’s high standard of living shown in most surveys is chiefly due to the skyrocketing prices of property.
In fact, you will find Hong Kong much cheaper than a bit of time spent in New York, ranked thirteenth, or London, ranked nineteenth.
This is because Hong Kong also offers a plethora of bargains.
So, if you are a bargain hunter like us, follow this guide and you will find a significant amount of money you could save during your international internship in Hong Kong.
Take the Public Transportation and Get the Mighty Octopus Card
Just like any other tourist-packed cities, public transportation in Hong Kong is splendid!
The Hong Kong Trams on the Hong Kong Island are extremely affordable with the fare of HK$2.60 (33 US cents).
If you want to cross the Hong Kong harbor, the iconic Star Ferry will cost you only HK$2.70 for the upper deck and HK$2.20 for the lower deck.
Yet, the most convenient and rapid means of transport is the MRT.
With its vast and interconnected network comprising of 115 stations, you can get on and off the MRT and pop up anywhere around the city.
So, why take a costly cab when you can roam around the underground passageways and do not even have to worry about the traffic above.
However, the ultimate money-saving advice is to get the Octopus Card.
The Octopus Card is a smart cash card for easy payment processing.
It is equivalent to London’s Oyster Card and Tokyo’s Pasmo Card. Most Hong Kongers possess the Octopus Card because of its convenience of not having to buy a single ticket, and it works on multiple modes of transport including MTR, buses, minibuses, ferries, trams and Airport Express.
Moreover, the Octopus Card carriers will have benefits such as a discount on fares for using the card instead of a single ticket.
This all-purpose card only costs HK$150 (US$20).
With the initial purchase, HK$50 is the deposit of the card, in which you could get it back once you return the card, and the rest becomes value stored.
The Octopus Card can be easily purchased and retuned at any MRT stations.
Likewise, keep in mind that if you have some time once you land the Hong Kong International Airport, you can purchase an Airport Express Travel Pass which provides the normal Airport Express fare to Hong Kong Station as well as 3 days of unlimited use of the MTR.
After that, you can top up the card and continue using it.
When you’re in Hong Kong, Eat like Hong Kongers
When you’re in Hong Kong, you eat like a king, and pay very little for it.
Hong Kong is a paradise for food.
There are plenty of places where you can have such amazing, unique and world class food, at such an affordable price.
Look out for Outdated Shops
Opposite to a fancy restaurant, you may find a local food shop just around the corner, packed with locals and lineups.
That’s the right place for you.
Hong Kong is full of cheap and cheerful restaurants where you can indulge yourself with homemade wonton and noodles at affordable prices around HK$30-HK$40 ($3.75-$5.00).
Not a big fan of noodles? Hong Kong offers a variety of rice dishes as it is the staple food of the local residents.
The prices are similar to noodles and they are ubiquitous around the city.
Yet, the quality of food may vary.
The tip for you to get the best food, in terms of budget and quality, is to look for shops that seem old-fashioned because they most likely have been operated for generations and continue in the present day because of their ancestor’s secret recipes and the quality of the food.
Shops that are hidden in side alleys are usually cheaper than those fancy-looking ones facing the main road as well.
Try the Various Street Food
Hong Kong is home to the world’s best street food.
During your internship in Hong Kong, you will come across countless street vendors as they are all around serving different types of dishes.
However, most of them aren’t proper meals, but more like grab-and-go snacks.
Whether it is an afternoon or midnight snack, you will be able to find them at anytime and they will save you from having to pay for an excessive dish.
Freshly cooked pork dumplings and delicious black tea served in a porcelain cup can be purchased at HK$8 ($1) each.
Check out the bustling Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon and Wellington Street on Hong Kong Island where you can find a variety incredible street food at every corner.
Supermarkets and Local Markets Are Your Best Friends
The ultimate way to save money on food is to buy from supermarkets or local markets.
Wellcome, City’s Super and Taste are big supermarkets popular among locals, as they are similar to Walmart and Carrefour.
You will find pretty much all you need for daily life with a fair price.
Don’t forget to check these supermarkets out late at night because there will be affordable pastries on offer.
Stock up some snacks and carry them around during the day as this will save you from hunger cravings.
If you’re confident enough to take your grocery shopping to another level, visit local markets where you can find even cheaper and fresher food and snacks.
Language barrier may cause some difficulties, but Hong Kongers are always eager to welcome and communicate with foreigners.
Don’t be afraid and get your first-hand experience of the local lifestyles in order to make your internship in Hong Kong to the fullest, and of course still on budget!