How To Spend 36 Hours In Hong Kong On A Budget

36 hours in Hong Kong - Hong Kong itinerary

I’ll be honest with you, Hong Kong and I didn’t immediately hit it off. Despite it being Chinese New Year, our first night in the city was a chain of unfortunate events which involved a lot of hassle and a little crying on my part, you can read more about this incident in my 5 biggest travel misadventures post.

But after a good night of sleep I was ready to give the city another chance! It was after all the first big Asian city I ever visited and definitely one that made an impression. Let me tell you about the 36 hours I spent in this busy and bustling city!

36 hours in Hong Kong (without breaking the bank)

In this Hong Kong city guide you will find:

  • Getting to know Hong Kong
  • Our 36 hour Hong Kong itinerary
  • Our Hong Kong travel budget
  • Where to stay in Hong Kong (and where not to stay)
  • How to get around by public transport in Hong Kong
  • Food and drinks in Hong Kong

In the map you can retrace our Hong Kong itinerary.

Summary of our 36 hour Hong Kong itinerary:

  • Hong Kong itinerary day 1 (evening): arrived at the airport and made our way to Chungking Mansions (note: AVOID like the plague).
  • Hong Kong itinerary day 2 (entire day): walked along the Avenue of Stars, admired the skyline, took the Star Ferry, visited Victoria Peak, ate delicious dinner and watched the fireworks for the Lunar New Year.
  • Hong Kong itinerary day 3 (morning): checked out of our hostel and made our way back to the airport.

Getting to know Hong Kong

Over 7 million people are living in Hong Kong, that’s 6544 people per square km! After spending 6 weeks in New Zealand (240 times bigger than Hong Kong with only 4 million people living there!), this was a bit of a shock…

Hong Kong is big, busy and British! Well, technically not anymore, but there were definitely things that reminded me of London. Like the double-decker trams and buses. And the English breakfast that was served in lots of restaurants. And the fact that all the traffic drives on the left.

How to spend 36 hours in Hong Kong

On the other hand, Hong Kong felt like a real Asian city, with Chinese signs I couldn’t read and food I had never seen, smelled or eaten before!

36 hours in Hong Kong: our itinerary

Hong Kong itinerary day 1 (evening)

After a long flight from Auckland, a flight were I may have cried a little and I tried to come to terms with the fact that I had to leave my beloved New Zealand, we arrived at Hong Kong Airport. It was a warm welcome, because of Chinese New Year the airport was festively decorated and it wasn’t hard to guess which year lay ahead.

Hong Kong in 36 hours - things to see and do in Hong Kong

We hopped on the bus to the city center, which was easy and effortless, and got out near Tsim Sha Tsui station. That’s where the trouble started…

You can read the full story here but long story short: my hotel reservation for the Peace Guest House was cancelled for some obscure reason, for an even more obscure reason a random guy showed up offering us another room, we accepted the obscure room he offered because we were exhausted from a long travel day and subsequently locked ourselves out of said room. Not a great start for me and Hong Kong.

A word of advice: Don’t book the Peace Guest House! Better yet, don’t stay at Chungking Mansion. IT SUCKS!

Hong Kong itinerary day 2 (entire day)

A good night of sleep works wonders and the next day I was back to my usual happy self. We left Chungking Mansions as fast as we could and moved to a different hostel (more information below).

Along the way we had some breakfast and strolled over the famous Avenue of Stars. We admired the famous though foggy skyline and took the Star Ferry to Central.

Things to see and do in Hong Kong

There we found the infinitely better Hong Kong Hostel (more information below). After dropping off our bags in our newly found room, it was time to do some more exploring around Hong Kong. Our plan was to take the Peak Tram to the top of Victoria Peak. However, because of Chinese New Year there was a huge line of people waiting to go to the top…

Hong Kong sightseeing itinerary - Peak Tram Victoria Peak Hong Kong

Because we didn’t feel like waiting 2 hours so we walked up instead, which in hindsight was actually a much better option.

It was a nice walk through lots of green and the views along the way and from the 550-meter high Peak over the city were very nice (despite the smog;-).

Hong Kong budget travel - How to travel Hong Kong on a budget plan a trip to Hong Kong

Hong Kong Itinerary: 36 Hours In Hong Kong Without Breaking The Bank

From Victoria Peak we took the bus back to the city. There we choose one of the many restaurants and had a delicious dinner (a hot pot with ramen!). After our dinner we walked to the harbor and watched the Lunar New Year firework show!

Also read: Things to do in Hong Kong with kids

Hong Kong Itinerary - Hong Kong budget trip
Hong Kong fireworks Lunar New Year

Hong Kong itinerary day 3 (morning)

The next day we already had to leave Hong Kong for our next exotic destination: a 3 week trip through the amazing Philippines.

We hopped on the bus to the airport (the bus stop was a 1 minute walk from the hostel, very convenient) and said goodbye to our first Asian city.

It certainly wasn’t our last, in the following months we also visited Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, each city with its own vibe, rhythm, smells, culture and quirks!

Got more time to spend in Hong Kong? Check this great guide to Lantau Island!

Our Hong Kong travel budget

Hong Kong isn’t the cheapest place in Asia, but it wasn’t too bad for such a big city. As you can see in the infographic we spent 1278HKD during our 36 hours in Hong Kong. Taking the exchange rate into account this comes down to about €150/$170.

Read all about the costs of spending 36 hours in Hong Kong (accommodation, transport, food & drinks).

Budget accommodation in Hong Kong

The biggest chuck of our expenses was accommodation. For our first night in an unknown hostel in Chungking Mansion we paid 350 HKD. Again, don’t go there!

For the second night in Hong Kong Hostel we paid 332 HKD, I think it was excellent value for money. The rating on Agoda is a 7,2 which I personally feel is a bit low for everything they offer.

5 reasons to stay at Hong Kong Hostel

  • It was easy to find and there was an actual reception!
  • The girl behind the reception spoke English very well! She was extremely helpful and let us check in even if it was only 11am.
  • The Wi-Fi was the fastest I encountered during our entire 5 month trip.
  • The room was exceptionally clean and the bed was very comfortable. We had a nice view and a private bathroom! Given the limited space available in Hong Kong this is somewhat of a luxury, particularly for a hostel.
  • The location was awesome. Just 1 minute to the main street (Hennessy Road) with plenty of shops, restaurants and public transport options. It’s close to Causeway Bay Station and to Wan Chai Ferry Pier and right next to the bus stop for bus 11 to the airport.

In conclusion: I couldn’t be happier with Hong Kong Hostel after our disastrous first night in Chungking Mansion…

Getting around by public transport in Hong Kong

We walked a lot and only took the bus for longer distances (like from and to the airport). You can find all the fees and information how to get from A to B in the table below. Our total transportation costs were 166HKD, which comes down to €20/$22.

36 hours in Hong Kong: How To Get Around.

Food and drinks in Hong Kong

I would have loved to try much more food in Hong Kong. Unfortunately there is only so much you can eat in 36 hours… We had a rather English breakfast (porridge and tea with milk) and a delicious dinner (hotpot with ramen). I am slightly ashamed to admit we had coffee at the Mac Cafe and an oreo cheesecake (my favorite!).

Our total costs for food and drinks were 430HKD, which comes down to €50/$57. This included 2 days of breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 dinner plus some coffee and snacks.

I hope this Hong Kong guide has inspired you to visit this unique city! If you like, you can download all the information by clicking the download buttons. Only got 24 hours? Check out this 1 day Hong Kong itinerary!

Looking for more travel planning resources? Check out the Phenomenal Globe Travel Planning Library and my Travel Resource page!

Going to Hong Kong? Read everything you need to know in one complete and detailed guide including budget info, a 36 hours itinerary with map and how to get around! Going to Hong Kong? Read everything you need to know in one complete and detailed guide including budget info, a 36 hours itinerary with map and how to get around!


  1. February 20, 2016 / 1:01 pm

    Interesting itinerary… really. It’s incredible all this things can be done in 36 hours

    • Lotte
      February 20, 2016 / 1:42 pm

      Haha yes, a lot can be done in 36 hours;-)

  2. February 20, 2016 / 3:39 pm

    Good info. I love the cost breakdown, maps and the cost of transport, etc. Unfortunately I have never visited an Asian country so reading your post basically gave me an idea of what to expect, well at least in Hong Kong. With respect to accommodation I normally confirm up to the day before I travel that I am booked and my room is waiting. Sorry for your challenges though. But then again every challenge is an opportunity to learn something new, which makes traveling worth it.

    • Lotte
      February 20, 2016 / 3:50 pm

      Thanks, glad you like the information and that it gave you an idea of what to expect in Hong Kong:-) Lucky for me, it was the only time a booking was cancelled!

  3. Carol Colborn
    February 20, 2016 / 3:41 pm

    So sorry for that first night and the smog. Did you get to see the Large Sitting Buddha and the longest escalator in the world?

    • Lotte
      February 20, 2016 / 3:47 pm

      No unfortunately I didn’t have time! But it’s always good to save something for a next visit;-)

  4. February 20, 2016 / 5:23 pm

    I kind of have been in Hong Kong and at the same time not really! Let me explain. I stopped there on my way from New Zealand to Europe. Didn’t have time to do anything, so looking forward to a longer stopover next time so I can actually do something. The views from the peak are great!

    • Lotte
      February 20, 2016 / 5:55 pm

      It’s a great place for a stopover and I definitely recommend going to the top of the Victoria Peak:-)

  5. melody pittman
    February 20, 2016 / 9:59 pm

    That is quite an adventure you had! Looks like so much fun. I loved how you described it as signs you couldn’t read, and foods you’d never seen, tasted, or smelled. Nice choices of words. 😉

    • Lotte
      February 20, 2016 / 10:06 pm

      Thank you Melody, that’s so sweet of you to say:-) You made my day!

  6. February 21, 2016 / 8:41 am

    I can relate to Chungking mansions. A lot of cheap hostels or hotels are there but it is really not the perfect place to be in. Well, the location is very convenient but usually people complain about the state of the place and the elevators. A better option would be in Mirador Mansions, right beside it, but still not the best.

    • Lotte
      February 21, 2016 / 9:39 am

      No Chungking Mansions was a pretty depressing place… I was really happy we found Hong Kong Hostel, which was a similar price and a million times better!

  7. February 21, 2016 / 3:21 pm

    Great tips and insights! Glad you found a better alternative to Chungking Mansions. 36-hours does not seem like a lot but can offer a great introduction.

    • Lotte
      February 21, 2016 / 7:25 pm

      Thank you Elena:-) There is certainly much more to see in Hong Kong, but at least we got a taste of the city!

  8. February 21, 2016 / 8:34 pm

    I was just in Hong Kong in January for 5 days! We had such a great time and we stayed in Tsim Sha Shui. We had our own crazy adventure because it was around 32 degrees (f) and the coldest it’s been in the city in 60 years. I’m glad you were able to do some fun things during your 36 hours. We had to skip quite a few due to the poor weather.

    • Lotte
      February 21, 2016 / 9:56 pm

      5 days, wow, that’s awesome! I had to Google how many degrees Celsius 32 degrees Fahrenheit actually is, but it turns out that’s pretty cold;-)

  9. February 22, 2016 / 2:36 pm

    Hong Kong isn’t really for anyone looking to slow down. I love it’s fast paced, competitive energy though. Really incredible selection of restaurants and bars. Thanks for all the tips and even the budget breakdown, Lotte! Have fun in my home country, Philippines! Can’t wait to see your posts about it!

    • Lotte
      February 22, 2016 / 3:09 pm

      Hong Kong is fast paced indeed:-). You can already read my Philippines posts, I have written lots about my 3 week trip around Luzon, Palawan and Bohol!

  10. February 22, 2016 / 5:30 pm

    Sorry about the rocky start, but it’s nice you got to do so much in a short period of time!

    • Lotte
      February 22, 2016 / 5:41 pm

      Ah well, rocky starts are part of traveling as well;-). And it was an interesting 36 hours for sure…

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