View of Hong Kong Island across Victoria Harbour

Top 10 “Almost Free” Things To Do in Hong Kong 2019

What comes to your mind when you think about Hong Kong? Delicious food? Financial city? Lots of tall buildings?

One thing we’ve all heard is that Hong Kong is an expensive city. Yes! It’s expensive if you want to buy a house, or rent a flat, or stay in a hotel, or even if you just need a bed in a hostel. Basically, all accommodation is expensive and most of your budget will be spent there.

Winco grew up in Hong Kong and Ben spent 3 years as “kind of a tourist”. Together, we think we know everything; hidden spots that don’t show up in guide books and secret places that locals haven’t even heard of!

Time to pay less and see more. Here are some fun and cheap ideas to help you stretch the rest of your money a bit of further.

All prices are in HKD ($). We are assuming that you are staying in Kowloon or Hong Kong Island and have excluded nominal transport costs (< $15).

Visit Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery 

Golden Buddhas line the steps to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery

This hidden gem is sparingly known, as the Giant Buddha on Lantau Island grabs all the headlines. The Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is a monastery with, you guessed it, 10 000 Buddhas inside. You can decide whether 10 000 small Buddhas are better than 1 giant one.

The Man Fat Tsz Pagoda ( Ten Thousand Buddha Tower), along with a Ten Thousand Buddhas Hall, are located at the top of a hill after a 400 step climb.

Most noteworthy, however, is not the excessive amount of Buddhas, but the 500 Arhats that line the path up. The golden statues stand bold either side of the steps, each with a different pose, build and facial expression. You will have endless opportunities to take pictures and catch your breath on the way up.

It is free to visit and the opening hours are 9am-5pm everyday.

Address: Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, Shatin

Public Transport: MTR to Sha Tin

Cost: $20-$30 (it’s in the New Territories, so you are paying for that extra travel)

Go to horse racing in Happy Valley

8 horses run the final leg of the night time horse racing at Happy Valley, Hong Kong

Horse racing is one of the biggest things in Hong Kong. Maybe because you have the chance to win big or maybe it’s because you can enjoy horse racing without enjoying horse racing.

In contrast to most horse racing events worldwide, Happy Valley races happen at night. The atmosphere is carnival like, due to people dressing up and the themed musical performances and shows.

The themes change monthly and are inspired by different countries and cultures, such as Japanese, Brazilian and French nights. You can enjoy a cold beer and delicious cuisine from their cultures whilst soaking up the atmosphere and hopefully winning some money.

No matter if you gamble or not, you can definitely enjoy the party there. But if you do fancy your chances and have no idea how the betting works, there are staff to help you out. You may not win anything, but it definitely makes the race more exhilarating.

Happy Valley horse racing attracts holidaymakers, backpackers and locals alike. Similarly, there are people attending for the first time and fans who follow horse racing every week.

Races and shows are 7-11pm on Wednesdays only. You can sit up high, stand up against the track or just join the party and forget about the racing. Basic entry costs $10 before 9pm and it’s free after!

If you get there earlier, you could check out the Hong Kong Racing Museum, which is free and open 12-7pm most days of the year. On non-racing days, the inner track is open to the public, so you can run around whilst the horses place bets on you!

Address: Happy Valley Racecourse, Wong Nai Chung Rd, Happy Valley

Public Transport: MTR to Wanchai or Causeway Bay. Tram to Happy Valley.

Cost: $30 (take enough for a few bets, bet the horses with the best names, buy some food and beers from the winnings)

Hike Dragon’s Back

The "Dragon's Back" hiking trail sign in Hong Kong, with islands in the background

Dragon’s Back is one of the most popular hiking trails in Hong Kong for tourists and locals alike. It’s popularity stems from the variety of views on the hike and its proximity to the city. We had a great afternoon hiking Dragon’s Back.

The start of the hike is around 45 minutes away from Central or TST by public transport, and just 25 minutes if you can afford a taxi. Along the hike you can see different and beautiful views of Hong Kong, such as beaches, islands, woodlands and a reservoir.

As far as hiking goes, this one is easy. It is 8.5 km and takes 2-3 hours. Owing to its popularity, there are always other people hiking this route. The hike is safe and suitable for all ages and fitness levels.

However, bring enough food and water as there are no stores on the journey. Also, keep the environment clean and take your rubbish back with you!

You can follow this Hiking Guide to make sure you don’t get lost!

Address: Dragon’s Back, Hong Kong trail Section 8

Public Transport: MTR to Shau Kei Wan Station, exit A3, then Bus 9 to To Tei Wan Station.

Cost: $20 (if you are staying late, the minibus will cost a little extra)

Go to The Peak

Night view of Hong Kong skyline from Victoria Peak

What is The Peak? It’s Victoria Peak, sort of. It is actually a commercialised scenic spot, very near and almost as high as Victoria Peak.

You can see the whole Victoria Harbour view from the top and you might want to shout out “I’m the King of the World (or Hong Kong)!”. That is a different breathtaking feeling from seeing the view in Tsim Sha Tsui.

There are some shops and restaurants in the shopping mall and also some funky museums that you can pay to visit. Bubba Gump is a popular restaurant for tourists thanks to Forrest Gump.

If it’s your first time going to the peak, taking The Peak Tram is a must. It has a long history and provides a exhilarating experience of just riding straight up the side of the mountain.

You can enjoy the view of Hong Kong at a different angle. Try to get a seat because it is unbelievably steep. Otherwise you will need to hold on tight with your strongest hand. Keep one hand free for taking photos!

Once at the top, you can pay to go up to Sky Terrace 428, on top of the mall. Alternatively, you can see a very similar view at Lions Pavilion for free!

You can walk down The Peak ending up at Central or HKU, depending on which direction you walk, both routes are relatively easy, because you are just walking downhill, and enjoy suburb views! There are also plenty of buses, or The Peak Tram if you want to go backwards.

Address: The Peak Tram, Central

Public Transport: MTR to Central

Cost: $70 (less if you purchase the Peak Tram ticket with a discount)

Check out the Museums

Pretending to drive the tram at a museum in Hong Kong

Museums are some of the best places to enrich your knowledge and there are plenty of them in Hong Kong, which can easily steal a whole morning or afternoon from you.

If you want to know more about Hong Kong History, go to Hong Kong Museum Of History. There is lots of historical information to read. Even if you don’t like to read, the models and the pictures would also catch your eye!

If you love science, go to Science Museum! There are a lot of interesting and amazing things to discover, and also some difficult games for you to crack!

There is also an abundance of other interesting museums in Hong Kong, such as Hong Kong Heritage Museum in Shatin, where you can see The ‘Bruce Lee: Kung Fu Art Life’ Exhibition. In Sham Shui Po there is the Heritage Of Mei Ho House, which you can see the old Hong Kong style flats.

We have previously mentioned Hong Kong Racing Museum at Happy Valley and just one pier down from Central Star Ferry is Hong Kong Maritime Time Museum.

You could also head over to Tsuen Wan, the oldest rural walled village in Hong Kong, and check out Sam Tung Uk Museum.

All the museums in Hong Kong have their own things to learn and they are all awesome!

Cost: $0-$30 (free most of the time, check the museum website for specific details)

Walk the Ping Shan Heritage Trail in New Territories 

A narrow road on Ping Shan Heritage Trail, Yuen Long, Hong Kong

It may seem like a bit far from the centre of Hong Kong, but it just takes less than an hour to get there from Hong Kong Island. The trail is one of the many interesting things to do in Yuen Long.

On the trail, you can see lots of “Old Hong Kong”, with modern Hong Kong sometimes making an appearance in the back drop.

There are traditional style houses, temples and a pagoda on the route. You’ll also be able to read historical information on the way and encounter friendly local people.

There are some nice restaurants on the way, including F1 Cafe, which is lit by amber traffic lights and you sit in a racing seat. More information about the route is available here.

Address: Ping Shan, Yuen Long

Public Transport: MTR Tin Shui Wai Station, Exit E

Cost: $20-$30 (it’s in the New Territories, so you are paying for that extra travel)

Ride the Public Transport

Yes, we’re serious, ride the public transport!

There are many forms of public transport to take in Hong Kong, from the incredibly efficient MTR to the large Outer Island ferries. The somewhat normal double decker busses, to the wild minibuses that could replace the scariest of roller coasters.

That being said, the double decker bus from Admiralty to Stanley is the most thrill seeking ride for less than $15. Sit upstairs at the front to get the full experience of being driven around a bendy road, on a cliff edge, with a driver trying to complete a record time!

However, you should try the oldest and cheapest transport in Hong Kong; The Star Ferry and The Tram, aka The Trolley, aka The Ding Ding.

The Star Ferry

Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry Pier in Hong Kong

This green and white ferry is an iconic symbol of Hong Kong, having been in operation since 1888. It is also the cheapest way to cross from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island and is one of the best boat rides in Hong Kong.

On the journey, you eyes can feast on the whole of Victoria Harbour and you’ll be able to take photos of both the Tsim Sha Tsui and Hong Kong Island side at close range.

Whilst there is no “best” side to sit on the ferry, as the view in each direction is special. These are the most popular sides to sit, because most tourists want to face the centre of Hong Kong Island. If you are taking the ferry more than once, then mix it up.

  • TST – Central: left (right for sunset)
  • Central – TST: right (left for sunset)
  • TST – Wanchai: right
  • Wanchai – TST: left

It is also worth noting that the Star Ferry does not have a front and back, per se. It doesn’t turn around at the pier. The ferry arrives at the pier going forward, and then it leaves going backwards; then the back becomes the front.

The “Ding Ding” Tram

Traditional Hong Kong trams waiting in line

“Ding Ding” is the sound of the tram across Hong Kong Island. It’s the sound of an oblivious pedestrian wandering into the path of a tram. Two bits of metal clashing together, twice. The sound is a calm and pleasant version of the more aggressive car horn.

If you have time but have no idea for where to go, hop on the Ding Ding and go anywhere! You will pass by financial buildings, local wet markets, shopping malls and lots of people!

Any section will be a perfect picture opportunity for you.

The Route

We’re going to start at Tsim Sha Tsui (TST), and then go to Central, followed by Wanchai, and back to TST. As it is a loop you can start any of those places.

We suggest starting the route between 10am and 4pm, as you don’t want to be on the Tram during rush hour. You could also start after 7 to see the night views.

With the Star Ferry, you pay on boarding and with the Tram, you pay on alighting. It’s easiest if you have an Octopus Card, but you can pay with coins if not. Have exact change for the Tram as it does not give change.

  • Star Ferry, TST Star Ferry Pier – Central Star Ferry Pier: Take the ferry and sit on the lower deck.
  • Walk, Central Star Ferry Pier – Pedder Street, Central: Walk for about 5-10 minutes, head inland (south) over the pedestrian bridge and then another few blocks and you will see the road has tram lines. You will want to take the tram that is heading left (east) from the direction you just walked. Follow the tram lines until you see the stop and then hop on.
  • Tram, Pedder Street – Tonnochy Road: you can take any tram heading between these two places because you’ll get off before the track splits. Sit upstairs for a better view and mind your head!
  • Walk, Tonnochy Road – Wanchai Star Ferry Pier: Walk for about 10-15 minutes, heading back out to sea (north). When you get close, there’ll be signs pointing you in the right direction.
  • Star Ferry, Wanchai Star Ferry Pier – TST Star Ferry Pier: Take the ferry and sit on the upper deck. The lower deck doesn’t operate on this route, so you don’t have much choice. If it’s too hot, you can enjoy the air-conditioned room, which is at either the front or back.

Address: Pier 1, Star Ferry Pier, Tsim Sha Tsui

Public Transport: MTR to TST (or Central or Wanchai)

Cost: $10 (each ride is $2-3)

Symphony of Lights & Stars Avenue

View of Hong Kong Island during The Symphony of Lights

Lights will always catch someone’s eyes. Music will grab the attention of ears. Lights and music combined produce a spectacular event.

The Symphony of Lights happens at 8pm every night on the Victoria Harbour and lasts for 10 minutes. It was revamped in 2018, so it’s much better now.

With the music, you can feel the energy of Hong Kong. Be sure to watch from Tsim Sha Tsui harbour. There are plenty of seats and places to stand for you to enjoy the atmosphere.

Following the light show, you can take a leisurely stroll along the Avenue of Stars. You could do it beforehand, but the music can only be heard when near the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, so you would need to get there before 8pm.

After 3 years of enhancements, Avenue of Stars has now reopened. The path is much wider and there is a lot of seats along the walk for you to just relax, feel the warm breeze and enjoy the harbour views. Some seats even have cup holders.

There are loads of hand prints for you to compare yourself with the celebrities, and some metal artwork depicting other celebrities. There is also the famous Bruce Lee statue, as well as a statue of Anita Mui (Hong Kong’s daughter).

Address: Kowloon Public Pier, Tsim Sha Tsui

Public Transport: MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui, Exit L6

Cost: $0, nothing, absolutely free!

Go for a bike ride along Tai Po Harbour 

Cycle Path in Tai Po, Hong Kong

We rarely see tourists cycle along the Tai Po Harbour because Tai Po is not a touristy place. However, you can be relaxed, riding along the path next to the sea as the sea wind softly touches your face.

For a nice short route, you can head north towards Tai Po Waterfront Park. It is open everyday from 7am-7pm. Inside, there is a memorial tower called Spiral Lookout Tower, which is to remember when Great Britain returned Hong Kong to China. You can go up to the tower and have a look at the Harbour views and the park.

For a longer route you can head south towards Sha Tin. The great thing about this route is that you can just drop your bike off at the other end, no need to cycle back. Not all bike rental stores allow this, so check the drop off location before you rent. More information about this route can be found here.

Address: Tai Po

Public Transport: MTR to Tai Po Market

Cost: $70, (around $50 for bike hire, and a bit extra for travel)

Party at “Club 7-Eleven” in Lan Kwai Fong

A man in dressed in S&M clothing stands outside 7-Eleven in Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong

Lan Kwai Fong, commonly known as LKF, is the most famous party area in Hong Kong. It’s always full of people at the weekends, and most nights of the week too.

You can find lots of bars and clubs there. Although popular, there is not much differentiation between most places. Most play club versions of pop songs and serve expensive alcohol.

Drinking in bars all night would cost a small fortune, so most people head to 7-Eleven first. You can enjoy cheap drinks, feel less sorry for your wallet and get on a level before entering a more expensive establishment.

What is Club 7-Eleven? Club 7-Eleven is buying drinks at 7-Eleven, a convenience store, and partying on the street just outside. LKF has the biggest Club 7-Eleven, with 2 stores in opposite corners and 4 streets full of people. Wanchai also has a small Club 7-Eleven on Wednesday nights.

Club 7-Eleven isn’t just a place for pre drinks either. Many people will party outside all night, and there is no last orders as the stores are open 24/7.

You can see many interesting people, locals and foreigners, groups of people chatting, awkward couples on an early date, drunk people, tourists taking photos under the “Lan Kwai Fong” street sign…

Whether you go there alone, or with others, you will always end up chatting and cheersing with strangers, who quickly become friends. Everyone there just wants to have fun, so you’ll find loads of welcoming people.

Hint: for even cheaper drinks, visit the 7-Eleven under the mid-level escalators.

Address: Lan Kwai Fong, Central

Public Transport: MTR to Central, exit D2

Cost: $60 (3-9 beers depending on which 7-eleven you go to)

Here’s the condensed list of Cheap Things to do in Hong Kong

  1. Visit Ten Thousand Buddha Monastery
  2. Horse Racing at Happy Valley
  3. Hike Dragon’s Back
  4. Go to The Peak
  5. Museums
  6. Ping Shan
  7. Take the Star Ferry & Ding Ding
  8. Symphony of Lights and walk of stars
  9. Tai Po
  10. Attend Club 7-Eleven
  11. (Bonus) Noon Day Gun – everyday someone blasts a cannon into Victoria Harbour at 12:00. It’s free to watch, but for a cool $33 000, you can fire the gun yourself! Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay, Kellet Island (MTR Causeway Bay, Exit D1)