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So you want to live in Hong Kong? There’s heaps of beaches, a wild party atmosphere, mountains to explore ghost villages in, and some lovely places to take your kids. If you haven’t seen it, check out here for a quick idea of how life is for my daughter and me.
If you’ve gotten this far and you think, I can’t live abroad, you’re wrong. I’m a single parent, and I live abroad with my daughter. I’m from a small town in the middle of Michigan, there’s nothing special about me.
I didn’t leave the USA for the first time (except to Windsor, Ontario at 19) until I was 24. If I can do this, the only thing stopping you is you. Or, probably a million other things, but don’t let them get in your way. Do it.
If you’re wondering about the cost of living in Hong Kong, wonder no more.
Essentials Included in the Cost of Living in Hong Kong, per month
Taking a ride on Hong Kong’s MTR is an ultraconvenient way to travel. It’s cheap, fast, clean, and relatively uncrowded when you’re not traveling during the rush hour. The MTR is the city’s subway system.
Buses are ubiquitous in Hong Kong. There are so many; there are big buses and little buses, red buses and green buses. You literally can’t walk down the street without getting blasted by their exhaust pipes in some places, like next to Prince Edward Station. Buses in Hong Kong are affordable, safe, well-marked, and the plethora of information online regarding Hong Kong’s buses is excellent for mapping your route ahead of time.
Taxis and Uber are available. More expensive, but safe and they are everywhere.
Walking is ideal in Hong Kong if you’re staying in a tourist area. No reason to hop on transport at all if you’re within a kilometer or so of where you’re going. You’ll get to the city from ground level!
Ferries and boats are continually bubbling through the waterways of Hong Kong. Use them to cross from TST to the Island. Or take one to an outlying island and see what you can find. Highly recommended!
Overall, transport is relatively cheap if you avoid taxis. Shouldn’t be more than a few dollars a day if you’re using public transportation. Since travel is something impacting your cost of living in Hong Kong everyday, so might as well look for ways to save!
Food (local HK food, specialty cuisine, western food, groceries): >$300
Cooking in Hong Kong is difficult. Why? Space is limited in Hong Kong, so accommodations can be small. If you’re wealthy enough to afford an apartment that comes with a full-western kitchen, you’re probably not too worried about your money anyway, so I can’t imagine why you’re reading this.
I have a hot plate and a rice cooker/steamer, but I have to store them under my bed, and I cook on top of my fridge (just to give you a sense of space limitations in Hong Kong).
If you’re cooking, however, you can buy rice/noodles relatively cheap. Fruits and vegetables are reasonably priced in the wet markets (sometimes less expensive for locals than you), and if you shop around (like I do) between the nearest Wellcome, Park n Shop, and Vanguard you might be able to find some meat and yogurt (and sometimes even beer!) with a 50% off sticker stuck to it. That’s usually a good way to go.
Affordable ‘street food’ is available, but not like in Thailand. You can find plates of fried noodles, rice and (add ingredient), etc. for less than $2.50, even in the more touristy areas. Fast-food-style restaurants dot the ground level corners of Hong Kong’s buildings.
You could easily eat this for every meal and spend less than $10 per day on food. But do you really want to do that to your digestive system? No judgment, I love the occasional gut bomb.
Bakeries are abundant, and they offer everything from sugary donuts to tuna fish buns to banana bread to rolls stuffed with red beans. Most buns are less than a dollar, few are more than $2. If you get them warm, they’re extra delicious, but the bakeries are always a good option if you aren’t gluten-free.
There are a gazillion restaurants that can eat up your cost of living in Hong Kong. Chain restaurants like Cafe de Coral and Fairwood are yummy, and most meals are between $4-$7. Western restaurants like Outback Steakhouse are no stranger here. Some bars have great deals on burgers (like a place on the island that has an impressive burger and a craft beer for about $12, just wish I could remember where it was). Hotpot, Korean BBQ, and other buffet style restaurants usually let you eat all you can for an hour or two starting at $20. If you want to splurge and eat at something 5-star, Hong Kong has that, also, but your budget is going to soar.
Western comforts are everywhere. McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, 7-11 are all thriving in Hong Kong. Don’t get Pizza Hut though, get PHD, it’s way better here.
Rent is wild in Hong Kong. $400 gets you a shoebox. Well, a bed, a bathroom, and no more, anyway. If you’re looking for an apartment akin to a modern apartment you would have in New York City, you’re also going to be looking at over $1,000 in rent each month. $2,000-$3,000/month isn’t an uncommon price for a relatively basic apartment on the island.
Rent increases every year in Hong Kong; it’s definitely the most significant contributor to an inflated budget if you’re picky about where you live.
My daughter and I live in a tiny place, but it doesn’t bother me. I actually prefer small areas because it’s less to keep clean and helps maintain my minimalistic ideals.
Utilities (electric, wifi, water): Free-$??
This will vary based on your accommodations. If you’re paying for everything yourself, expect your cost of living in Hong Kong to be similar in prices to the United States.
Internet starts around $30/month. I tether my computer to my phone. Why? My prepaid monthly plan gives me unlimited data for $12.50. Head over to Chungking Mansion in TST to find the guys selling sim cards and data plans.
Shop around between the shops until you find the features you want. I was previously paying $36/month for a similar service to what I have now.
Fresh Water: >$5
Bottled water prices aren’t inflated here, but they aren’t cheap either. You could easily spend a couple of dollars each day on bottled water if that’s how you’re getting your drinking supply.
I recommend you don’t do that unless you want to quintuple your cost of water.
Instead, have a refillable bottle (or two or three) and fill them at the children’s playgrounds where you’ll find fountains with cold water. Better yet, buy a several liter bottle with a handle when you first get here and refill that each time you need to. It’s how I survive!
If you’re doing laundry 4 times each month, you’ll probably spend $10 each time if you drop them off at a cleaner, depending on how many clothes you have. If you do them yourself at LaundryUp or a similar place they will be cheaper, just a few dollars each time.
Local or international? Montessori or corporal punishment style? Hong Kong’s schooling system is diverse and competitive. You can pay over $1,000 a month for the top international schools, or you can do like I did and send your children to a local school where they will learn Chinese like my daughter did. That school costs less than $200/month.
Bonus: her school paid for a field trip this year where they took us to Disneyland! My schools were never that cool; for one field trip in elementary, we went to my home because we had a pond. Yawn town.
Lifestyle Choices: $200
Everyone needs entertainment in their lives. The question is: what kind of entertainment do you enjoy? Hong Kong has everything you can think of: scuba, golf, parties, theme parks, boat excursions, the list goes on forever. Your cost of entertainment solely depends on what you like to do.
If you’re on the alternative side, street drugs are easily locatable in Hong Kong. Quality can be low (or superb), prices are high, dealers are shady, but the cops don’t seem to care too much (at least not enough to stop the obvious slinging in some areas).
Be warned: drugs are illegal here, and you’re not going to bribe your way out of an arrest here like you might in other Asian countries. Not only that, but the addition to your cost of living might not be worth the quality of the products here. Probably equally bad for your health.
Visas: Free, 3-month validity
You’ll have to leave Hong Kong to renew your visa (the easiest way is to hop on a ferry over to Macau and back) every three months if you want to stay any longer without finding a job and getting a working visa.
Tourist visas are free, fantastic! But they aren’t unlimited. Border hop too many times and you’ll be treated with a stamp in your passport that limits your future trips, even banning you for a year.
Side note: Hong Kong is passport friendly in the sense that they offer you a small slip of paper to place in your passport instead of taking up precious stamp real estate. Don’t lose this seemingly insignificant piece of paper though, you need it upon your exit. Otherwise, your first stop is to fee city.
Those fees don’t help your cost of living in Hong Kong, so avoid them by being organized.
Health Insurance: up to you, $100 for me
When considering the cost of living in Hong Kong, you should likely invest in travel insurance. You can receive travel insurance through your credit card, airline, or through the servicor I prefer: World Nomads.
I pay about $100 per month for both my daughter and me, and that covers anything I’m worried about. The piece of mind is well worth the cost, but World Nomads also does well in keeping its promise to pay out when you make a claim.
Total Cost of Living in Hong Kong for My Daughter and Me: ≈ $1395 per month
This price tag doesn’t include transportation in and out of the cost of living in Hong Kong and is a rough estimate based on the information provided and assuming going the cheapest route every time. And this is for a single parent blogger, not a lone traveler.
Even if you’re alone, that $1,395 could easily jump to over $2,000 if you aren’t paying attention to your budget or are living above the basics.