Hong Kong and Macau on a shoestring
By Patricia May P. Catan
IT’S funny because I have only ever been to Kuala Lumpur aside from Hong Kong and Macau and here I am about to give tips on how you can be a financially responsible traveler. I don’t claim to be a well-traveled person yet. I still have a lot to discover and learn from traveling, but being a first-time solo traveler during my recent trip to Hong Kong and Macau left me with takeaways that are worth a share.
Just to give everyone a background, I flew my first solo international flight last August 8 to 12 to Hong Kong. I must say for a first-timer, I was pretty nervous and anxious. I mean, who won’t be? I thought I will never have problems of traveling alone because I was sort of okay being on my own, but when the date of my flight got nearer, I was honestly scared and even considered backing out because my anxiety was on its peak and I cannot shake it off.
One factor that greatly contributed to my anxiety was my budget for this trip. I booked my plane tickets on impulse because the sole reason I was flying out was to attend a concert in Macau. Crazy, right? But I was very determined to chase my fan girl dreams once more. The fact that I was just in Kuala Lumpur the previous month did not help at all. You can only imagine the damage it did to my back account.
My trip to Hong Kong and Macau gave me less than a month to financially prepare and I did all sorts of saving and earning to sustain myself for this trip. I was a mess planning and budgeting because I had zero knowledge on how much I should bring as pocket money for four full days outside the country. I want to defend myself, as if it makes any difference, by saying that I was in panic mode already. I wasn’t really able to think straight anymore. Of course I did my fair share of research and consulted a few of my friends and family members, but it still left me with bad anxiety handling money problems.
The first of few tips I can share is that you should give yourself ample time to prepare for a trip. In my case, it left me with no choice as you can tell. But if you are given one, carefully plan out your trip to give you an idea on how much money you should allot. It’s best to give yourself a few months for security. Don’t be an impulsive decision-maker especially on your future travels because money will always be involved.
I still fell short of the amount my friends and family suggested. I only had HK$600 that’s roughly P4,000 with me for four days despite the ideal budget of HK$1,200. Now you might be curious how I survived with only HK$600 in my pocket? I was lucky to be staying in Tsim Sha Tsui area. There are quite a number of free attractions you can visit by foot. There’s no need for a taxi or train to transport you to these tourist attractions which was very helpful in my case.
So make sure your location is strategic enough when booking for a hotel to stay in Hong Kong that’s based on your trip itinerary to save a bit of money. But when the train is necessary, you can purchase a tourist octopus card. It’s much more convenient when traveling by train and the prices when using an octopus card is a dollar cheaper compared to the regular fare. You can even use this octopus card in select establishments like convenience stores and shops. You only have to make sure that your card is pre-loaded with money.
When in Hong Kong, you don’t have to worry about food because there are a lot of cheap street food that’s enough to fill your stomach. I must admit that I also resorted to convenience store food for some of my meals to save. But if you want to splurge on food, I guess HK$50 for one meal is generous enough. That amount is fairly good no matter what type of traveler you are. Some might even spend less than HK$50 for a meal. Just like me.
I only spent two days in Hong Kong, so this budget guide won’t be as comprehensive, but the two main things you should keep in mind is budget for food and transportation, which I hope I was able to address with my own take on how to be financially responsible during your first time. Remember that your location matters and street food is a life-saver.
A visit to Hong Kong won’t be complete without a trip to Macau. This might sound crazy but the only time I rode the train in Hong Kong was when I needed to go to the ferry terminal in Sheung Wan to head to Macau. I’m not kidding when I say I saved quite some money staying in Tsim Sha Tsui because everything was just a walking distance away according to my trip itinerary. Another tip: the ferry ticket to Macau is a bit pricey so I suggest you book your ticket in advance through Klook. Klook offers a cheaper price, plus you don’t have to wait in line at the ferry terminal especially during peak hours when it gets packed with tourists.
In my personal experience, it’s easier getting around Macau with free shuttle buses provided by casinos especially when you plan on going hotel hopping. There are free buses that transport you to and from the ferry terminal and the airport as well between the casinos. If you plan on visiting the more touristy parts of Macau like Senado Square, The Ruins and St. Dominic’s Church, you just have to search the nearest casino around the area and walk from there. The distance of these attractions are only a walking distance away so it’s recommended to go by foot.
I also suggest that you stay within the city center than in Taipa or Cotai area because the attractions are nearer and the hotel accommodations are cheaper. To be honest though, an overnight stay in Macau is pricey even when staying in the city center. In my case, I had to book for a night in Macau because I was going back home from there. I was lucky enough to score the cheapest hotel in the city center through Agoda. You just have to constantly search through booking sites in case the prices go down. But I think Macau accommodations are generally still expensive even when prices are lowered down, so it’s best to just save up for it and book in advance.
Overall when you’re traveling solo, you just have to make sure that you’re financially secure. You have no one else to rely on than yourself when you’re short on money, so see to it to bring extra money for emergency purposes. Also, don’t go over your budget. Spend within your means because you’re in a whole different country and you don’t want to experience money problems while you’re there alone. I was lucky to survive on HK$600 for both my trip to Hong Kong and Macau. I even had HK$140 left after my trip!
Can you believe it? It’s crazy to think about it, but I’m glad I survived.