Student living costs in Hong Kong
By Kali SMITH
One of my biggest concerns over moving to Hong Kong and starting my master’s degree was Can I afford it? Since everyone’s personal financial situation is different, I want to help you make the decision by outlining average monthly cost in Hong Kong.
For reference, 8 HKD ≈ 1 USD
Housing costs will range depending on the area you live in, and what your preferences are on shared spaces. If you live off campus, be prepared to pay a deposit of a few months’ rent when you first move in; if you live on campus, be prepared to pay for the entire year up front.
The cost for living in the international dorm on campus (which is a shared room/bathroom with one other person and no kitchen) is approximately 5700 HKD per month. While this might sound like a lot, it is important to remember that Hong Kong real estate is some of the most expensive in the world by square-meter, so you should expect to spend most of your monthly budget on housing.
When talking to my friends who live off campus, I find that their rent ranges based on location. My friend Noza who lives in Mong Kok (~30 minutes from campus) shares her apartment with 3 other people. They each have their own individual room (just large enough to fit a twin bed, wardrobe, and desk) and share a kitchen and bathroom. Her monthly rent is approximately 6000 HKD.
Depending on your food taste and eating habits, it can be super cheap or super expensive to live in Hong Kong. If you are totally cool with the local cuisine, you’ll have no issues- Chinese food can be super inexpensive! If you eat on campus in the dining halls, you can eat a full meal for as little as 25HKD. Nearby food courts can range from 20-50 HKD for meals. If you want to eat western food however, you will have to pay about 100 HKD. Coffee is ~45 HKD.
Of course you can reduce your food budget by making your own food, but if you live on campus it is a bit difficult as you only have access to a hot water kettle, a microwave, and a toaster. My general rule for spending is to keep my costs under 100 HKD a day, unless I am out with friends or treating myself.
This comes out to ~3000 HKD a month for food.
There is great public transportation in Hong Kong that is very affordable. When travelling around Hong Kong you use a transportation card called an Octopus card, that can also serve as a general money card (there are many stores and restaurants you can pay at using this card). If you are under 26, you can apply for a student Octopus card and get a discounted fare for the MTR and select busses. Depending on how much you travel around, transportation can cost between 50 HKD and 400 HKD a month.
Apart from housing, food, and transportation there might be other shopping you want to do or basic necessities you want to buy. Hong Kong sells almost most anything you could want, and depending on where you go the prices will vary.
Depending on where you live, your setup costs will change. Being in the dorm, initially I only really needed to buy a blanket and a towel. If you have a kitchen however, you’ll need to buy pots and pans and dishes. These however, are hopefully a one-time cost.
Overall, I would estimate the average student cost of living in Hong Kong to be 10,000 HKD per month. If you are lucky enough to receive the full International Postgraduate Scholarship, it will cover this amount and you won’t be stressed for money. If you are not in this group, then be prepared for this monthly budget.
With your student visa, you are allowed to work part time with the school’s approval. You might find a job in your department, or do special projects for the International Office; some students even get jobs in the coffee shops on campus. These part-time jobs will generally pay 50 HKD+ an hour.
Lastly, if you do receive the IPS scholarship, it is important to note that you will not get the money when you arrive. For my program, it took them over a month to process it and I did not receive my first deposit until early October. So be prepared with a little money to make sure your start in Hong Kong is as smooth as possible.