by Niall Doherty

I leave Hong Kong on Friday after almost two full months living in the Sheung Wan area. Below I’ll reveal exactly how much it cost me to live in one of the world’s most expensive cities.

Keep in mind though that I was very much focused on work while here in Hong Kong, grafting full-time from home and rarely going out exploring the city and doing all the typical tourist stuff. I saved a lot of money by renting a room in a shared apartment, cooking most of my own meals, and eating at the same few cheap eateries over and over again. All that suited me perfectly, but probably not everyone’s idea of a good time.

Still, what follows should give you a feel for how cheap you can live full-time on Hong Kong Island. I’ve also included some info from friends and fellow bloggers I met here in HK to help round out the picture a bit.

Housing and Utilities

I share an apartment with three other people I’d never met before moving in. The rental was arranged by Wing-Kong Holdings. According to my research before the move they provide perhaps the cheapest rooms for rent on Hong Kong Island. You can see a video tour of my place in this video. It’s small but clean and has everything I need (fast wifi, kitchen, laundry facilities, etc.). All utilities are included in the rental price and a cleaner comes twice a week to take care of the common areas.

Rent is paid per month, minimum one month stay. For me it worked out to 165 USD per week.

There’s also the deposit, which was 775 USD, but I should be getting that back in full later this week so it’s not included in any of the totals/averages below.

Food and Drink

This worked out to 108 USD per week, give or take. About 61 USD was for groceries and the rest for restaurants, coffee shops, etc.

As mentioned, I was very careful here. Most of my meals out cost me 5 USD or less, and I made the same few cheap meals over and over again at home. I’m not a big foodie so this arrangement was fine by me, but if you like eating out a lot or buying lots of different ingredients for cooking, you could easily spend two or three times what I did each week.

Also, I don’t drink alcohol, which helps save a ton of money.

A typical restaurant meal for me in Hong Kong

A typical restaurant meal for me in Hong Kong

Public Transport

The public transport is phenomenal in Hong Kong, and I consider it fairly inexpensive. I’m sure if you’re jumping around the city a lot though it can add up pretty quick. Per week I spent less than 5 USD on public transport, but that’s certainly not typical for most people living in Hong Kong. Keep in mind that I work from home.

Mobile Phone

Less than 8 USD per week for unlimited 3G service from 3 Mobile.

Everything Else

Let’s lump the rest in together, resulting in about 46 USD per week for miscellaneous expenses. That covers…

  • Laundry detergent
  • Toiletries (note that I don’t use shampoo)
  • Two trips to the barber
  • A new tin opener
  • Stamp and a postcard
  • Air freshener
  • iPhone armband
  • One month of Krav Maga classes
  • Krav Maga t-shirt

(Take away the Krav Maga stuff and I would have been down to less than 8 USD per week on miscellaneous.)

Final Tally

For the seven full weeks I spent living in Hong Kong, the total damage was 2,391 USD, which works out to approximately 342 USD per week.

I did of course spend more money online during those weeks, but the $342 average accounts for all expenses directly related to my living here in Hong Kong.

(By the way, if you’re wondering how I keep accurate track of all my expenses, I have the MoneyWiz iPhone app to thank for that.)

Other Perspectives

As mentioned, I reached out to some friends and fellow bloggers here in Hong Kong to see how much they spend living here. As you see, expenses can vary a lot depending what part of the city you live in and what kind of place you’re renting.

Beth from Besudesu Abroad

  • 1,800 USD per month for a 600 sq. ft. apartment in the Mong Kok area. The apartment is two bedrooms, one bath, no proper kitchen (just a stove top, no oven or microwave). Located in an estate, meaning there are multiple buildings and they have access to a pool, gym, sports center, etc.
  • Meals in restaurants in that area cost 6-7 USD per person for western food, and more like 5 USD for local dishes.
  • Grocery prices are pretty much the same in supermarkets citywide, fruit and veg generally cheaper at the street markets. Beth and her boyfriend spend approximately 75 USD per week on groceries, though they eat out regularly since they can’t cook much at home.

Beth sent along the following pics:

Beth's living room

Beth’s Hong Kong living room

Beth's Hong Kong kitchen

Beth’s Hong Kong kitchen

View from Beth's balcony

View from Beth’s balcony

Head on over to Beth’s blog to see some great pics from the famous Hong Kong dragon boat races.

James from Plus Ultra

James grew up in Hong Kong and offers the following tips for people moving here.

  • Renting long-term gives you more options as a lot of landlords aren’t willing to rent out for only 1-2 months. Once you get above the 3-month mark you’ll have more places to choose from, though the prices will be about the same regardless of how long you agree to stay.
  • Kowloon is generally much cheaper than living on Hong Kong Island.
  • i-house offers serviced studio apartments in Wan Chai and Causeway Bay for 750-1,150 USD per month, and they accept short-term contracts. Studio Studio have similar units (100-280 sq. ft. studios) in Sheung Wan, Causeway Bay, Wan Chai and North Point for 800-2k USD per month. There are more besides but those two agencies are recommended by friends of James at university in HK.
  • Location-wise, you can’t go wrong with virtually any neighbourhood between Sheung Wan and North Point.

Check out James’s blog for a stroll through the Wan Chai markets in Hong Kong.

That Backpacker Audrey and Nomadic Samuel

  • Paying 40 USD per night for a small apartment in Mong Kok, found via Wimdu. The place has a double bed, a tiny private bathroom, a small desk, a/c and super-fast wifi.
  • Price was regardless of how many people sharing the apartment.
  • Lots of great and affordable restaurants nearby, plus lots of fun markets and performances happening.
  • Short commute to Hong Kong Island.
Audrey and Samuel's $40 view in Mong Kok

Audrey and Samuel’s $40 view in Mong Kok

Mong Kok at night

Mong Kok at night

Thanks to Audrey for the above pics. She and Samuel also post up excellent travel videos on YouTube, like this one showing the epic views from the top of Hong Kong.

Oneika the Traveller

  • 2,000 USD per month for a large, modern one-bedroom flat in Sheung Wan.
  • Bills are paid independently, not included in the rent. Typical bills to pay are water, gas, and electricity.  Water and gas are fairly cheap, only ~40 USD per month. Electricity is more expensive in the summer months due to higher a/c usage, upwards of 90 USD per month.
  • Internet and cable costs about 32 USD per month with PCCW.
  • Mobile costs about 25 USD per month with 3 Mobile.

Be sure to follow Oneika on Instagram for excellent pics of life in Hong Kong.

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