Here’s some help for finding hotels and guesthouses in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a big territory with many villages and towns, two big islands, and many small islands. Prices for bunks in the cheapest dormitories in Kowloon are about 70 HK dollars or 9 USD. Prices in the 5-star hotels in the city start at about 3,200 HKD or 400 USD for a room with two beds. For inexpensive shopping and hotels, Kowloon is the best choice. An advantage of Kowloon is its good and inexpensive museums. For luxury boutiques, starred hotels, famous restaurants, social events and the horse races, Hong Kong Island is the place to stay. Hong Kong Island has good natural parkland and beaches, Ocean Park amusement park, and great free zoos. But the place to stay to get away from the noise of the city and relax in a big natural environment is Lantau Island. It is connected to the city via a metro train system, buses and ferries. Its large undeveloped natural parks and beaches are a wonder, and Hong Kong International Airport and Disneyland Resort are on the northern and northeastern side of the island. Here’s information about finding the right hotel for you in Hong Kong at the places most international travellers would want to stay at in Kowloon, Hong Kong Island and Lantau Island.
The city of Hong Kong is centered around Victoria Bay. There are two parts in Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Hong Kong Island is more expensive than the Kowloon District across the bay. You can find luxury hotels in both parts of the city, but the cheaper backpacker and budget tourist hotels are in Kowloon. Tsim Sha Tsui has the cultural mix and the cheaper shopping, restaurants, bars, museums and other things that are a part of what makes Hong Kong interesting. The room prices in Chungking Mansions are lowest in the city.
Lantau Island is a great contrast to the city of Hong Kong. Lantau Island is a big, quiet, and mostly natural island except for the area around the airport and Disneyland. On Lantau, you can get a room near the airport, near Disneyland or in Mui Wo and relax and enjoy the sound of the waves on the beaches and walk on the hills. Some of the scenery in the higher mountains is reminiscent of the Rocky Mountains in the US. However, the drawback is the half hour or more travel time to the mainland. Here’s information about finding the right hotel for you in Hong Kong at the places most international travellers would want to stay at in Kowloon, Hong Kong Island and Lantau Island.
Kowloon’s Central Location and Bargain Shopping
For people who mainly want to shop, the shops selling inexpensive goods are mainly in Kowloon where Indians, Pakistanis and Chinese merchants compete to sell their merchandise in street and alley stalls and small shops. These kinds of shops are mainly in Tsim Sha Tsui and Mongkok in Kowloon. Mongkok is about thee kilometers or two miles from the bay and the Star Ferry terminal along Nathan Road. Tsim Sha Tsui is where the Star Ferry terminal and the China Ferry terminal are that allow quick and cheap transportation to Hong Kong Island, Macau, and Lantau Island. Tsim Sha Tsui’s four big museums and the experience of the mix of cultures in Tsim Cha Tsui makes the small area a good place for a tourist to stay at.
Kowloon’s Inexpensive Hotels
Most budget travelers and backpackers might want to stay in Kowloon and especially in Tsim Sha Tsui. Tsim Sha Tsui is the southernmost part of Kowloon and is on the bay. The city of Hong Kong is centered around Victoria Harbor and is divided into two parts in Hong Kong Island and Kowloon District. In Kowloon, the cheapest places to stay are along Nathan Road starting from Chungking Mansions northwards to Mongkok. Most of the single rooms with a bathroom cost about 150 to 250 HKD or 15 to 30 USD per night. In Hong Kong, a room for less than 80 USD per night is considered to be inexpensive. In the Tsim Sha Tsui area of Kowloon are the cheapest hotels that are a little chancy.
If you are a budget traveler and want to learn about the world and chance problems and scary behavior, then Mirador Mansion and Chungking Mansions in Tsim Sha Tsui are both famous and infamous in the city. Your stuff can get stolen, but the two buildings are right in the center of the cheaper shopping, restaurants, bars, museums and other things that make Hong Kong interesting. Since Chungking Mansion and Mirador Mansion are the biggest hotel clusters that house thousands of travellers per night and are where the greater part of young backpackers first stay, here’s important introductory information about Chungking Mansions and Mirador Mansion.
Entrance Hallway of Chungking Mansion
These two big buildings are only about 120 meters away from each other on Nathan road. Chungking Mansion is about 350 meters north on Nathan Road from the Space Museum and the Museum of Art that are on the shoreline. The location of these big buildings make them about the most convenient hotels for backpackers in the whole area. They are next to the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR exits and within a 15-minute stroll to the Star Ferry Terminal and a 20-minute walk to the China Ferry Terminal. The China Ferry goes to Macau. The Star Ferry ferries ferry people in about 7 minutes across the bay to Admiralty District and Central District on Hong Kong Island. At Central’s ferry terminal piers are ferries that go to other places further out such as Lantau Island and other islands.
Chungking Mansions is a huge building with 17 floors in 5 blocks called A, B, C, D, and E. A “block” in the building is a vertical segment. Block C has no guesthouses, but there are shops in it. The other four blocks have shops, guesthouses and restaurants. It is a crowded building with a lot of small shops and some small restaurants and money-changing places on the first floor and second floor. The guest houses are on the floors above. Altogether, it is said that there are 200 guesthouses. Most of the guesthouses are small with only about 5 or 8 small rooms. Some of the guesthouses have dormitory rooms with four or more beds in one room. People have to share a bathroom in a dormitory room. The bathroom is usually in the hall outside the dormitory room. The biggest dormitory rooms have about 12 bunk beds. There are lockers in the dormitories where people can store their cameras and valuables, but people have to bring their own locks.
When you walk into the building from Nathan Road, you can see money exchange shops on both sides and a security guard desk with a big sign listing information about the building. You will probably be surprised at the South Asian and Chinese people outside the building touting rooms and watches. They are very persistent. They don’t often give up talking about a room even when you say you don’t want one. Inside, there are usually crowds of tourists looking for bargains or waiting for an elevator. Groups of Africans and South Asians stand and sit around watching. Prostitutes may come up and proposition, and if you walk in the alleys around it, people often offer drugs and may act rudely or threateningly to tourists. There are many Indian, Pakistani and Nepalese restaurants on the first three floors to choose from. You’ll probably smell pee on the stairways or in the alleys around it.
Along with tourists, there are a lot of African and South Asian merchants who use the building as a place to stay on their trips to and from their countries. They are generally harmless and peaceful and just want a cheap place to stay. The South Asians often stay in hotels managed by others from their own country or religion. The Hindus and Moslems don’t get along well. There are few African-managed guesthouses. The Chinese-run guesthouses are generally the cleanest and biggest and are where most Western and Japanese backpackers and budget travellers stay in.
Just a few of the 200 or so hotels that are in there and are listed on the walls.
The greater part of the guesthouses seem to be owned and managed by South Asians. These guesthouses are problematical. Though the prices they offer at first are generally cheaper, they are also trickier. Once you follow a tout up an elevator after waiting for it for a few minutes, they may tell you there is no room for the price they quoted and offer you a more expensive room. They may not change the sheets, and you may find bedbugs. Also, the security is lax, or there may be no security. You may find a key for your door sitting where everyone can get it for example. The best thing to do is to go around up and down the stairs, see the people who are there, and examine the rooms before you pay money for a night. You can negotiate about the prices. Don’t take a place that doesn’t feel safe. In general, it is best for new tourists to take a room in the guesthouses where they see a lot of other international backpackers staying in.
Bunk beds in dormitories at Chungking Mansion start at about 60 HKD per night. On the 16th floor of A block, there is are several dormitory rooms with a kitchen and outside bathrooms with hot showers, and the place is generally clean. Young backpackers like talking to the others around them in the dormitories. Double rooms with no bathroom start at about 120 HK per night. A single room with a shower, TV, and maybe a phone starts about 150 HKD, but you might be able to negotiate down depending on the time or day. A tiny room not much bigger than a small bed with a bathroom outside starts from about 100 HKD. You might be able to reserve a room beforehand at a few of the more expensive guesthouses via online hotel booking sites or via phone. In general, the better guesthouses don’t have touts bothering people downstairs or on the street.
Along with tourists and honest business people, a lot of secretive activity goes on in the two buildings. This is especially true of the Mirador Mansion where the atmosphere is now very different than Chungking and more tense. Mirador Mansion is a big building, but the inside of it is open space from the bottom to the top. This makes the building airy. The hallways are also cleaner than Chungking, but the people in it who are mostly Chinese are unusually subdued. Teams of Chinese with suitcases move in groups and pre-arrange their stays. Many of the shops are shuttered, and the people don’t seem happy but suspicious or scared. Rates for a small single room with a shower start at about 150 HKD if you can find it. The rates are generally higher than at Chungking Mansions, and there are far fewer international tourists.
Inside Chungking Mansions, you can find lots of bargains. There are literally dozens of shops trying to sell the same things crammed in the same place. The area around Chungking Mansions is up-scale with 5-star hotels such as the Peninsula Hotel and Sheraton Hotel right next door or nearby, so for tourists wanting to shop for bargains in the area, Chungking Mansions and the alleys outside it are probably the best place. Tourists can find the things they need such as groceries, suitcases and clothes at about the cheapest prices in Hong Kong. There are about 22 shops for money exchange where you can get almost the best exchange rates in HK. There are 70 shops selling clothes. If you look in the out of the way places in the building, you can get jeans or pants for about 45 HKD or 5.50 USD. You can find cheap but OK shoes for 95 HKD or about 12 USD. This is about the same price for equivalent stuff you’ll likely find in China unless you travel in poor areas. There are 27 shops selling delicious food. There are dozens of shops selling various types of electronics. There is even one shop selling artwork.
Kowloon’s Better Hotels
If you want to stay in a better hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui, there are the 5-star Sheraton Hotel and Peninsula Hotel that are across from each other on either side of Nathan Road near the Space Museum overlooking Victoria Bay. In the Sheraton, prices range from 3,200 HKD or 400 USD for a single room to 8,000 HKD for a Harbour View Suite. The front of the Peninsula was constructed early last century, and it has a stately 19th century look. It has a courtyard in front with a fountain. Room rates are about 5,000 USD per night. It is considered to be Hong Kong’s most expensive hotel. People go there just to take pictures.
Probably the best bet for a backpacker in Tsim Sha Tsui who doesn’t want to stay in the two mansions is the big and plush YMCA that is right next to the Peninsula and also faces the bay. A bed in the shared dormitory costs about 440 HKD or a little more than 55 USD. Single rooms start at over 800 HKD or about 100 USD. But part of the resources you get for staying there are the sports facilities, a bookstore with dictionaries, language learning aids, and mainly Christian literature, and two good restaurants. Both restaurants serve buffets that are inexpensive but good by HK standards. If you get a room high up facing the bay, you’ll get a 5-star view like the 5-star hotels near it.
Hong Kong Island’s Attractions -- Shopping and Recreation
Hong Kong Island has some of the area’s best malls in a big area stretching from Central District to Causeway Bay, and the priciest malls are next to each other in Central District. These luxury malls are the Landmark and the new IFC Mall that is under the IFC skyscraper. On the island , there are also parks, good free zoos, the boat restaurants at Aberdeen, natural parks and beaches, hiking areas, and the big and renovated Ocean Park amusement park. The Happy Valley Racecourse near Causeway Bay is a famous tourist draw. Strolling around the area, you can see the British Colonial buildings and visit the parks and zoos. Much of the island is covered by public forest land that makes the island scenery beautiful and that makes for good and safe natural hiking areas. All of these attractions on the one island makes the place a good place to find a hotel.
Central District and Admiralty on Hong Kong Island are the financial and government hub of Hong Kong, and they are also where some of Asia’s tallest skyscrapers and most expensive hotels and malls are located. There are a lot of 5-star and 4-star hotels on the northern side of the island. A 5-star hotel to consider on the southwest side near Aberdeen is the Le Meridien Cyberport hotel. The southern side of the island is ideal for people who want to get out of the city. There is a popular beach at Repulse Beach, and above the hotel there is a big woods and jungle area called Pok Fu Lam Country Park where the hiking is good. The boat restaurants at Aberdeen are famous for the seafood cuisine.
Lantau Island’s Guesthouses and Nature
The advantage of Lantau Island as a place to stay during your trip to Hong Kong is the nature and the proximity to the airport and the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort that is a big tourist attraction in Asia. However, most tourist backpackers don’t know much about the island. Many people think that Hong Kong is all one big city. Lantau is twice the size of Hong Kong Island, and the airport and the amusement park are respectively in the northern and northeastern part of the island. The island is connected to the mainland by the Tsing Ma bridge, so there is quick bus and MTR train travel to the mainland and Central District. The HK MTR system is first-class and covers the main populated areas. There are also fast and regular ferry services to the airport, Discovery Bay, Mui Wo and the quaint fishing village and tourist attraction of Tai O. The natural parkland and the relatively undeveloped natural beaches make the whole place very quiet. There are few cars at Mui Wo and Discovery Bay. Driving automobiles in the extensive parkland is restricted, and you’ll see few on most of the island. People may be amazed at the quiet surroundings and natural scenery and at the docile buffaloes walking around in Mui Wo. The island doesn’t seem like a part of China. There are budget hotels and 5-star hotels to chose from on Lantau Island.
Mui Wo is a small town with two small supermarkets and a McDonalds next to the ferry terminal. It takes about half an hour to go there by fast ferry from Central ferry docks, and it takes about an hour to go there by slower ferry that costs 13 HKD or about 1.40 USD. Buses connect it to the other parts of the island. There is an airport bus at the bus stop right next to the ferry terminal. However, a drawback to staying at Mui Wo is that it takes longer to go to the airport. Taxi fare to the airport is about 150 HKD or 19 USD, and it takes about 45 or 50 minutes to get there. There is a big beach there with guesthouses and hotels next to it. But the town is quite small. The main attractions are the large natural park area where you can wander and see no one, and the beautiful beach. What a place to relax! You can walk up to Lantau Peak in about two or three hours through country reminiscent of the Rocky Mountains that is complete with a type of Asian pine tree and a lake.
The Silvermine Hotel is on the beach. It is about 45 minutes from the airport by taxi, and the taxi fare costs about 150 HKD or 19 USD. The hotel rates start about 800 HKD or about 104 USD for a double room. The location is fantastic, but the service and especially the cleanliness is what you might expect at an inexpensive hotel in Kowloon. It is a good place for backpackers probably. Some people complain about the high deposit charge, but that can probably be negotiated about over the phone.
There are other guesthouses in Mui Wo and in the nearby small village of Pui O. Pui O is also on the sea and is about 15 minutes away by bus on a winding road through hill and mountain scenery. A lot of Filipino maids live at Pui O and work on the island in other places. Along with per-pay accomodations, you can find free campsite spots complete with picnic tables and fire rings where you can pitch a tent on the road between Mui Wo and Pui O and above Pui O. That would be a wonderful place to spend the night if the weather is good. Hong Kong may be the only place in the whole region with free American-style campgrounds in a natural environment with forest like a big state park.
You can find more expensive starred hotels at the airport and Disneyland. These hotels are close to Lantau Peak and the country parks, and there is a quick tram that is a tourist favorite that goes up to the Buddhist temple area on Lantau Peak. The Hollywood Hotel and the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel at the resort are both starred hotels. Room rates at the 4 or 5-star Hollywood Hotel start at about 1,500 HKD (190 USD) per night for a “Garden View Suite.” The Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel is rated 4-stars. Around the airport are less expensive regular hotels.