Hong Kong: low budget is not a limitation

Any hole in the wall serves food here. If it does not, it probably sells beauty products or is a Prada or Gucci store, but mostly it’s cafes, restaurants, fast food, kiosks, roast beef and duck stalls and wet markets.

Alas, I am not the first to reflect on the variety and abundance of food in Hong Kong.

Just $35 per day for 2 people? EASY!

Locals confirm, it’s easier to eat out or order a take-out than cook yourself, might just turn out to be cheaper too. As anywhere prices vary, but for cheapshits like us it’s about getting the best quality for the smallest amount possible. So here are a few general thoughts that let us get generous sampling of Hongkongese best food for just below $35 per day for both (!) of us.

Research, research and research! Seriously, when it’s killing hot outside, you are sweating all over, tired from walking, weary and hungry the last thing you want to do is decide where to eat between literally ten thousand options. Admit it, choosing a meal in a foreign city can be a nightmare that more often ends up with you either paying too much, or getting below average food, or both.

got to a real Michelin star dim-sum place and paid a total of 104HKD (that’s just 13$) for a meal for two

As for us, I googled “cheap good food in <cityname>”, got a few guides promising local cuisine gems and, if one place turned up on more than one guide with a bearable price tag (10$ per person per meal), marked it on google maps. I made sure that the markings are in different parts of the city, now wherever we found ourselves in time for hearty meal we had a clear destination right there on the map and did not have to evaluate every freaking street food stall and restaurant in vicinity. Worked out pretty good for us too – got to a real Michelin star dim-sum place and paid a total of 104HKD (that’s just 13$) for a meal for two.

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Enjoy local style. Honkongese eat literally the same food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which means that street food stalls would sell you fried noodles, gluttonous rice and steamed rice rolls in spicy sauce for breakfast. Sure, you can try and find something more European (like eggs and sandwiches) instead but generally it would just taste worse and cost more. Rule of thumb is: local food is cheaper and tastes better no matter what.

cheap food does not come on porcelain plates from immaculate waiters, still delicious and safe

Do not be too picky. Come on, cheap food does not come on porcelain plates from immaculate waiters, which does not necessarily mean that it is not both delicious and safe. Local wet markets and cooked food centres sure look like sanitary inspector’s worst nightmare (btw there is a whole Sanitation and Food Safety office right at Kowloon city market, the place still looks pretty sketchy though), yet it does not stop the locals from eating and shopping there and occasional brave tourists do not regret a visit.

Do not plan too much. This is not a guided tour where you have a freaking schedule and know exactly where and when you are going to be. Spare yourself the frustration of having the whole day planned out in both sightseeing and eating. We planned for one big meal a day, generally lunch or dinner, and had a snack here and there when we felt like it, that saved us trouble and money and allowed to try different things on the go.

plan rough amounts that you are prepared to spend for breakfast, lunch and dinner and add 10% on top for any delicious nonsense you might see

Have a budget and watch it. A cup of iced milk tea here, a snack there, an ice-cream and a beer… and here you are having spent 30$ by noon without realizing it. One day in the city and you start to get an idea of how much food costs, plan rough amounts that you are prepared to spend for breakfast, lunch and dinner and add 10% on top for any delicious nonsense you might see.

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Be self-sufficient – it helps to save money. You can buy whole papaya, dragon fruit, mango or whatever else at a fruit stall or you can get a ready-made fruit salad at a supermarket, that will just be 4 times more expensive and not that fresh. We would have a pocketknife, wet wipes and some fork, spoon or chopsticks in our backpack at any time, so if we saw a delicious cheap mango we could eat it right away.

Check out special offers. In HK most bakeries close around 8pm but would sell bread and pastry at half the price after 7pm. Make mental notes of such offers near the place you stay and use them later. Also, check out discount areas at the supermarket – some offerings can be worth your while.

if you are travelling on a budget – eat when you are hungry

And my favourite one:

If you are travelling on a budget – eat when you are hungry. This works two ways 1) do not starve – starving traveller is a sad, angry, irritable creature that is unable to socialize or enjoy shit at all 2) the food is generally not going anywhere and eating when you are full is a bad habit anyway, remember that before you spend money on something that looks nice but that you do not really-really want.

 

Coming up next: Hong Kong markets

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