Are you thinking of visiting Hong Kong as a digital nomad? Good choice. Fast internet, warm climate, efficient public transportation, safe, an abundance of things to do day and night – Hong Kong is a digital nomad’s dream.
However, Hong Kong can be crazy expensive.
So if you’re planning on visiting this buzzing city on a budget, you need to do some research and planning.
I came here for 5 days in 2019 after a trip to Bali. My plan is to visit all the countries in the world, so I thought I would stop by here for a few days to tick it off my bucket list. I also had a friend from university who has always told me to come and visit her in Hong Kong.
I did not have high hopes. All I had heard about Hong Kong is that it’s expensive and crowded. And after had spent my money on daily, fancy buddha bowls in Bali, I did not have a big budget.
I was wrong. I fell in love with this vibrant city and it turned out it IS possible to visit Hong Kong without breaking the bank.
Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
Hong Kong Travel Guide for Digital Nomads
Hong Kong Quick Facts
- Hong Kong is a city and administrative region in Southern China with around 7.5 million inhabitants. I easily get overwhelmed by big cities so I didn’t think I would enjoy Hong Kong. And yes, it took me some time get used to all the sites, people and smells. However, after the first few days, I felt like a local. It felt very safe to walk around as a solo traveler, even after midnight.
- The official languages of Hong Kong is Chinese Cantonese and English. Most locals speak English so I had no problem interacting with locals.
- ‘Hong Kong’ is Cantonese for ‘fragrance harbor’.
- Hong Kong has more skyscrapers than any other city in the world.
- Hong Kong is made up of more than 200 islands. I really enjoyed the bus ride from the airport to Mong Kok where I stayed, as it past over several beautiful islands.
Do I need a visa to visit Hong Kong?
Contrary to China which have very strict visa policies, Hong Kong can be visited visa-free for nationals of over 170 countries! How long you can stay depends on your passport, but ranges between 7 to 180 days.
To read more about whether you need a visa and how long you can stay, check out their government website.
What are the living costs in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong is known to be an expensive city, and I did find it a challenge to keep my budget. According to NomadList, the living cost for digital nomads is around $2342 (USD).
Here are some other average costs:
1br studio rent in center: $1,934/month
Beer (0.5L): $3.22
As you can see accommodation is pricey, while food and drinks is slightly lower than in most of Europe and the US.
I was surprised by how affordable the food and drinks were, and I ended up eating out most of the time. If you eat the delicious street food it will be even cheaper! I payed around 4-6 USD for street food meals.
Which brings us to the next topic:
What kind of food do Hong Kong eat?
If you are a foodie then you are in for a treat. Hong Kong is a food paradise, no matter if you’re planning on living on street food or Michelin star restaurants.
A must-try when you are in Hong Kong is the traditional dish Dim Sum, a type of dumpling, usually served in bamboo steamers. Other traditional dishes are stir-fried beef noodles, claypot rice and curry fishballs.
For me it was a bit tricky to find food since I’m vegan, and most traditional dishes contain meat. However, my disappointment didn’t last long – my local friend took me to a vegan buffet called Ahimsa Buffet and it was amazing. It’s cheap (I payed around 7-8 USD) and there you can find all the traditional dishes, in vegan form!
The deserts are very different from back home (if you don’t live in Asia). Most of them consist of bean and rice, often in a milky soup. I had never seen beans and rice in a desert before so it tasted very strange to me. But try for yourself and let me know what you think!
How do I best get around in Hong Kong?
The most efficient, fastest and cheapest way to get around in Hong Kong is definitely with the metro. I have a terrible sense of direction, but even I was able to navigate their metro! Contrary to many other metros in the world that are dirty and dodgy vibes, Hong Kong’s metro is clean and comfortable. Just make sure to avoid the rush hours if you want to get a seat.
There are 2 ways to pay for your ride on the MTR: single ticket or the magnetic Octopus Card. Both are cheap, but you can save a bit extra money with the Octopus card.
To give you an example: a typical ride from Causeway Bay Station to Mong Kong Station costs HK$10.50 (around 1 US dollar!) per adult with Octopus Card. The same ride costs HK$11.50 with single ticket.
How is the Internet speed in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong’s internet is in the top 5 fastest in the world. However, it’s not easy to find places that offer free, fast wifi. You can work from a co-working space and there are a few coffee shops with good wifi.
Where can I find coffee shops to work from?
Due to the limited space in this city, most and coffee shops are very small, crowded and the seats are usually very basic and not comfortable. Free, fast wifi is uncommon and don’t be surprised if you get angry looks from the owners if you overstay your welcome.
So if you prefer working from coffee shops and restaurants, finding a good one can be challenging. I would recommend you to plan ahead and look on workfrom.co to find which ones are near you. My favourite coffee shops to work from were:
- Coffee Academics
- NOC Coffee
- The Study
However, most digital nomads choose to work from the peace and quiet of their apartment or from a coworking space.
Which are the best coworking spaces in Hong Kong?
There are plenty of coworking spaces in Hong Kong. When you put in ‘Hong Kong’ in Coworker.com, you can find 160 options to choose from! And most of them are high quality too, with a community and every amenity you could wish for. The tricky part is finding one that will not make a hole in the wallet.
- The Hive
The Hive have a whopping 9 coworking spaces throughout Hong Kong and have a very active community. There is a packed schedule with social media marketing workshops, language classes, film screenings and more. However, just like most coworking spaces in HK it comes with a big price tag – 360 USD per month for a hot desk.
Workspace in Sheung Wan and just like the name hints, it’s quite the playground with a bouldering wall, a foosball table and a quiet room you can find solitude, The Cave. From 216 USD a month.
- Garage society
Hip coworking chain with coworking offices across HK and Asia. There is free snacks and tons of events every week. Around 39 USD per day.
Where to live in Hong Kong?
If your first instinct is to live in Central, also known as Central district., then you might want to think again. This is where the financial district is, and does not have much fun to offer than office buildings and some fancy shopping.
I lived in Mong Kok and can highly recommend it. Here is where the action is – you have delicious street food, markets and best shopping in Hong Kong.
Now the question is – where to sleep?
This will depend on your budget:
If you are really travelling on a shoestring then Coachsurfing is a good option. This is where a generous local lends a sofa to a traveler like you for free. Hong Kong is actually one of the best places in the world for Couchsurfing with over 30k registered HK hosts.
Worldpackers lets you volunteer or exchange your skills for a few hours a day and get a place to stay for free (some hosts give you food too)! So if you are not working full-time, this might be worth checking out.
When writing this (March 2020) there are two options available – working at an organic farm or at a hostel reception:
Cheap accommodation (hostels)
If you want to save money on both accommodation and coworking, and don’t mind staying in a hostel, Mojo Nomad, a hostel specifically for digital nomads, might be a good option for you. A digital nomad I met in Bali stayed there and he really liked it.
Another good option is Check Inn. It’s a bit more expensive than other hostels ($31 USD/night), but the wifi is fast and it has a workspace area.
Staying at these are not exactly visiting Hong Kong on a budget, but it’s definitely worth staying for a night or two if you have some money over at the end of your trip.
If you really want to spoil yourself, you can check out the exclusive Kafnu, a coworking and coliving club located in the 5-star Kerry Hotel. I can feel my mouth watering when looking at their website – you have access to sea-view infinitive pool, spa, fitness center and work stations that are open 24/7.
I missed my flight home and suddenly had one day extra in Hong Kong. I had spent 5 days in a pee-smelling room which I’m convinced used to be a wardrobe. So I decided to spend my last day here.
This hotel is gorgeous.
It was around 130 USD a night when I booked at Booking.com and includes a huge breakfast buffet and a beautiful rooftop spa. Not that expensive for being a 5 star hotel in the best location (Mong Kok) in Hong Kong, especially if you share the cost with a friend or partner.
Is it possible to work and live in Hong Kong on a budget?
The answer is yes.
Hong Kong cannot compete with Chiang Mai or Bali when it comes to living costs, but if you choose the right accommodation and stock to the street food you CAN visit on a budget.