Hong Kong is one of the world's most expensive cities to live in, along with other major Asian cities such as Tokyo, Seoul, and Singapore. The good news is that employees are compensated for this cost through relatively high salaries.
In fact, salaries in Hong Kong are the second highest in the world, according to the annual HSBC Explorer survey. The average salary in Hong Kong is HKD 439,000 or USD 56,178 per year, as per the exchange rates in February 2022. This makes it an attractive destination for skilled employees working across various industries.
One of the factors that contribute to Hong Kong’s high cost of living is its costly property prices and rents, so choosing which district you’re living in is a major factor in your overall expenses.
Below is a guide that can help you decide on where to live in Hong Kong depending on your budget and needs.
Many young professionals choose to live in these neighbourhoods because they offer a great balance between work and leisure time. The areas are close enough to Central, so they can easily commute every day, but also have plenty of restaurants and bars near their homes.
Sheung Wan/Sai Ying Pun: Sai Ying Pun and Sheung Wan are two neighbouring districts that together make up one of Hong Kong's most historic districts. They are both popular areas for expats looking for more affordable rents than those found in Central.
A vibrant district that borders Central and downhill to Victoria Peak, Sheung Wan is one of the few areas in Hong Kong that can offer a balanced combination of old, new, and dynamic lifestyles.
A thriving business community, affordable cost of living, and the convenience of Hong Kong’s central business district make Sheung Wan a popular choice for businesses looking to base themselves in Hong Kong. The area is easily accessible by MTR, bus or team and is only walking distance from Central.
Most of today's Sheung Wan real estate is mid- to high-rise and increasingly modern. This is not surprising, given the area's proximity to Central and Admiralty, but it also reflects the fact that many of the older buildings have been renovated and converted into mixed-use properties that include offices on the upper levels.
Bordering Sheung Wan and the Mid-Levels, Sai Ying Pun is a charming waterfront district. Stylish cafes and art galleries are dotted around the community, which is close to the revitalised waterfront area.
The district is popular with expats and has many parks and green spaces, open areas for sports and exercise, bus routes within easy reach, and multiple local restaurants and markets. You can take the escalators through First Street to Bonham Road to get around with ease.
The Sai Ying Pun area is mainly residential with a mix of high-rise luxury residences and older mid-range apartment blocks. Most accommodation options offer apartments with newer developments, such as Island Crest on First Street and The Nova on Third Street offering modern and high-quality facilities.
Mid Levels: The Mid-Levels neighbourhood is an upscale enclave of Hong Kong Island that houses some of the city’s most expensive properties. Sitting at the base of The Peak overlooking Central, this elite area has been home to many wealthy expats, celebrities, and billionaires over the years due to its central location with sweeping views over the city.
Modern shops, bars, international restaurants and cafes are easily accessible within walking distance making for a very enjoyable lifestyle. The Central Mid-Levels Escalator, the world’s largest outdoor escalator, provides a means of convenient transport for working professionals between Central and Mid-levels districts. It solves the problem of travelling between levels of buildings and helps reduce traffic congestion on other streets by diverting some commuters during peak hours.
Happy Valley: Considered an upper-class area, Happy Valley is one of the most popular places for young professionals to live in Hong Kong due to its proximity to the Central business district, as well as other key areas like Causeway Bay or Wan Chai.
Living here brings with it all the benefits of the city’s convenience with a village-like atmosphere and easy access to top sports venues, restaurants, and shopping arcades. The famous Happy Valley Racecourse and Hong Kong Football Club are just a few blocks away from residential properties.
The nearest light rail station in Happy Valley is Wan Chai, a 29-minute walk away. It is also connected through buses, trams, and subway services. This makes it very convenient to get around, day or night.
Stanley, Tseung Kwan O, and Kowloon Tong are popular residential areas for expat families due to their proximity to schools, parks, hiking trails, and beaches. These areas are also relatively close to the city centre, making it easy for expat parents to commute to work.
Stanley: Stanley is a great place to live in if you have kids and want to explore Hong Kong's natural side. The area offers direct access to the beach and is also very close to Repulse Bay and Deep Water Bay. It is also near the great hiking trails, the most renowned one being the Wilson Trail. Families can also enjoy some alfresco dining in Stanley Plaza or along Victoria Road West.
With large, renovated flats, townhouses and family apartments, the area offers ample space for families looking for a new home in Hong Kong. The low-rise housing stock means apartments are less expensive than in other areas of the Central District like Mid-Levels. However, it does mean it requires more time to travel into Central during peak hours.
Tseung Kwan O: Tseung Kwan O (TKO) is an area on Lantau Island that offers a quiet suburban lifestyle with easy access to public transit and shops. It is close to beaches such as Clear Water Bay, where you can easily bring your kids.
TKO is well-equipped with public sports facilities, including international-standard pitches and an indoor basketball court. Jogging lanes are also abundant. Having these facilities within easy reach allows residents to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.
Parents looking for an excellent school education for their children have a great list of schools to choose from in Tseung Kwan O. This includes the French International School, Invictus School Hong Kong, or Shrewsbury International School Hong Kong which are well-known by expats and locals alike.
Kowloon Tong: Accommodations in Kowloon Tong usually come at higher prices, but they offer brand new, spacious spaces. The area is also home to expats from all over the world who want to live in a more suburban setting that is still close enough to commute into the city centre.
Best known as an upscale yet low-density residential district, Kowloon Tong is one of the most desirable real estate markets in Hong Kong. There is significant demand for luxury housing and good schools with prices that continue to rise.
Kowloon Tong is a popular area for families with many prestigious schools catering to different educational needs. These include The Christian Alliance International School, King George V School, and the American International School.
With the increasing number of people working from home, many have opted for a more relaxed lifestyle by moving away from the hustle and bustle of life in Hong Kong Island and choosing to live in the coastal areas.
Discovery Bay: Located on Lantau Island, Discovery Bay is surrounded by mountains and beaches, and there are plenty of opportunities for hiking and swimming. The town itself has a few shops, but most of the activity revolves around the beach and the waterpark.
Discovery Bay has a wide range of housing options including apartments, duplexes, and townhouses. Many properties have views over the sea or mountains and can be bought with low maintenance fees compared to other areas in Hong Kong.
Lamma and Cheung Chau: If you're looking for a great place to live on a budget and want to experience island life, Lamma and Cheung Chau are the perfect options.
These islands have been developed over time, but they retain a small-town feel that keeps real estate prices down. Unlike Discovery Bay, Lamma and Cheung Chau are only accessible by ferry or private boat. Both islands have their own unique characteristics and personalities, but they share the same laid-back vibe, beautiful beaches, and low cost of living.
Lamma: With an estimated population of 6,000, Lamma Island is a quiet, historic fishing island just thirty minutes by ferry from Central Hong Kong. People living here have a real sense of community and take pride in the island’s heritage.
A highlight is Hung Shing Yeh beach, which people flock to for its restaurants that serve local delicacies, such as fresh seafood, crab and seafood noodles. The Tin Hau Festival is a big event on the Lamma Island calendar and is celebrated by local fishermen. It is held around April or May and involves parades, a fireworks display, singing and dancing.
Cheung Chau: With a warm climate, clear waters and fresh seafood, Cheung Chau is one of Hong Kong’s most popular beach getaways. As the island’s population is just around 20,000 people, it makes for a more laid-back vacation or living experience. With a rich history too, the island is packed full of unique adventures from challenging hikes to relaxing boat rides, and even spiritual retreats.
To reach Cheung Chau, take the 35-minute ferry from Central Pier 5 for around HKD 13. Both fast and slow ferries depart every 15 minutes during peak hours but less frequently at other times.
Clearwater Bay & Sai Kung for larger surfaces and coastal life
In the Clearwater Bay and Sai Kung regions of Hong Kong, you will find a wide range of properties that are perfect for larger families or those looking to live in a coastal location.
Clearwater Bay: Clearwater Bay is a small peninsula located adjacent to Lantau Island that provides easy access to some of Hong Kong's best beaches and wonderful views of the South China Sea. It is also home to some of the city's most exclusive neighbourhoods, such as Sand Key Club, Harbor Oaks, and Edgewater Drive.
This is an ideal location for expats looking for a quieter lifestyle than what Hong Kong offers in Kowloon or the New Territories. There are no tall buildings here—just beautiful views of the ocean and mountains.
Sai Kung: Ranking as the 9th coolest neighbourhood in the world, Sai Kung has a vibe that is both casual and sophisticated. It is an idyllic place for expats and locals alike who want to enjoy spacious living options and stay connected to nature.
The neighbourhood offers plenty of fresh sea breezes, trails for runners and hikers, as well as tranquil scenery just steps from your doorstep. Although Sai Kung has a few high-rise buildings and skyscrapers, the neighbourhood is home to several spacious flats that offer beautiful ocean, mountain and city views.
There are many ways to look for a flat in Hong Kong. You can go through one of the many websites and Facebook groups that list flats for sale. This is the easiest way, as you will be able to see a lot of options and compare them all side-by-side. You can also use these sites to contact landlords directly, or even view the available flats in person if they have an office where you can go.
If you have already decided in which neighbourhood you want to settle in, you can also start by contacting several real estate agencies in this area. The advantage of real estate agencies is that they always have access to a wide selection of properties so that they can find exactly what you are looking for. Or they will at least know what a good value property looks like and where it can be found.
With the cost of living in Hong Kong being so high, many people are looking for cheaper alternatives to living alone. Luckily, numerous flatshare opportunities in Hong Kong offer good value for money. Most of them are students or young professionals who want to save money while starting their careers.
Although Hong Kong can come with a hefty price tag, the cost of living ultimately depends on individual preferences. The ability to pursue career opportunities and raise a family will likely take precedence for many expats in Hong Kong, but others may also look for affordable housing, good quality health care, as well as a vibrant social life.
After all, it would be best to focus on exploring each option and discovering all the city offers to help make your decision-making process run smoothly.
Not in Hong Kong yet? Here’s a guide about their healthcare.
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