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.
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.
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.
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…
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;-).
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 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.
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.
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!