For many people, October conjures up images of spiced pumpkin lattes, leaves changing colors, and Halloween preparations. In #China, October ushers in the busiest travel week of the year—Golden Week. Nationwide, 710 MILLION people head to airports and train stations to travel during China’s national holiday. During this time, prices for transportation and lodging triple and every tourist attraction is packed. But that doesn’t mean we were going to stay at home for a week. So we packed our bags, grabbed our passports, and headed to #HongKong for a three-day getaway.
You won’t find many of the typical tourist attractions listed here, but you can add them in if you would like. If you are looking for a laid back, “live like a local” experience in Hong Kong, then this is the #itinerary for you! Get ready for strolling the streets, stopping at restaurants and craft beer bars at your leisure, and enjoying the natural beauty of Hong Kong. Read below to find out where we stayed, how we avoided the crowds, and how we made it cost-effective during the busiest week of the year.
We originally planned to visit Thailand—but when we saw flights for 6-7,000RMB round trip (when they are usually less than 2,000), we balked. Instead, I used two of my favorite tools to find the best flights possible.
Kayak Explore is a great starting point to choose your travel location. Instead of searching by destination, you search by price—and Kayak Explore will tell you which destinations are within your budget. I’ll be honest, for Golden Week, the options were very limited, but Hong Kong was surprisingly affordable at only 1,200RMB round trip per person.
Take note that Kayak Explore doesn’t have every airline in its database, so it is important to do a little more digging. I always Google search budget airlines in the region where I want to travel. Then, I check out their individual websites to ensure I get the best deal.
Finally, if you are traveling within Asia, download the C-Trip app for your phone. C-Trip is almost exclusively used by expats and locals in China to search and book travel. It is reliable, cost-effective, and has great customer service. If you can read Chinese (or use Google translator), the Chinese version sometimes offers even better deals.
When you arrive into Hong Kong International (HKG), you can transfer to your final destination by the Airport Express train, which connects directly to the metro system. It costs $170HKD each way. Unfortunately for us, we arrived outside the train’s operating hours and had to take a taxi, which cost us $360HKD since we hopped islands. At the metro station, be sure to get an Octopus Card, which can be used for everything—from the metro to purchasing a Coke at 7-11.
There are a number of lodging options in Hong Kong, depending on your travel style. We prefer hiking, going out, and cool neighborhoods more than staying near the big tourist attractions. Airbnb usually offers a more authentic experience and costs way less than hotels catering to tourists. We elected to stay in Soho on Hong Kong Island and it was perfect! Our Airbnb was located right next to Lan Kwai Fong, one of Hong Kong’s best nightlife neighborhoods. It is also close to Victoria Peak and the metro. Always read the reviews to get an accurate idea of what you are getting into. I definitely recommend the place where we stayed!
Spend the rest of your first day exploring! Walk to the harbor, check out the shopping, go out for happy hour, and enjoy the beauty of this spectacular city.
TIP: Go to Ce La Vie for a beautiful view of the skyline. The drinks are pricey, and the tables require reservations, but we shared happy hour cocktails and stayed at the open tables near the bar. Just go for the views and then finish your night with less expensive drinks and food at the multitude of restaurants along Lan Kwai Fong.
TIP: Into craft beers? I’m not, but my husband is. He found this little gem tucked away on a side street in Soho. Not only do they have local craft beers to purchase, but you can brew your own beer right in the store. It takes about a week to ferment, so this might not fit into a 3-day itinerary unless you are an expat in China and can make the trip back to Hong Kong. But the staff is friendly and they give away “expired” beer for free (and it’s still good—because we may have relieved them of a substantial amount of their stock. Because we are helpful that way).
Day 2—Hong Kong Disneyland
Ok, if you know me, you know I wasn’t going to skip Hong Kong Disneyland. A lot of people refer to HKDL as a “half-day park”, but I disagree. There was enough to keep us occupied from park open until park close. I was actually nervous the park would be packed, but even during the busiest week of the year, most of the major attractions only had 10-30 minute wait times.
The park is about an hour from Soho on the metro. Look for the pink “Disney Line” and use your Octopus Card to access the station. You will know you are on the Disney Line when your subway car looks like an ode to Mickey Mouse (it’s the cutest subway I have ever ridden!). The ride will cost you less than $30HKD. You can find directions here.
Spend the entire day at Hong Kong Disneyland—keep your eyes peeled for my complete1-day HKDL itinerary!
Day 3—Hiking Dragon’s Back Ridge
Since our trip was short, and we were staying on Hong Kong Island, we decided to visit the renowned Dragon’s Back Ridge. We hopped on the Island Line (blue) to Chai Wan and then grabbed a taxi right outside the station up to the start of the Dragon’s Back Ridge trail. Get directions here. You can show the taxi driver the name for the trail---龍脊, or you can ask a local to help you translate (assuming they are bilingual—that's what we did). Or, you can take bus number 9 to the trail head, which is denoted by a sign and other hikers waiting for the bus.
The hike only took us a few hours, but the trail continues for miles, wrapping around the island, so you can hike for as long as you would like! If you still have steam, you can head back to Soho and tackle Victoria’s Peak for an afternoon hike in time to watch the sunset over the Hong Kong skyline.
TIP: After sunset, head back to Lan Kwai Fong for a well-deserved drink and dinner. I recommend Picada for authentic Latin cuisine! The décor is gorgeous, the owner is super friendly, and they have live music regularly.
TIP: Check out the Iron Fairies jazz club. Super cool vibes, live music, and great cocktails!
Hong Kong is an oasis in the middle of mainland China with so much to offer. We will be heading back to conquer more of the hiking trails and maybe see some more of the “traditional” tourist attractions. Plus, Hong Kong’s brunch game is pretty strong, so that is definitely on our “to-do” list. One thing is for sure, Hong Kong should be on your travel bucket list if you are visiting Asia!
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