Cost of Living in Hong Kong
While deserving of its expensive reputation, whether or not you think it is more so than other places depends on your outlook, lifestyle and circumstances. We don't find it any more expensive than some European cities but there are local 'blips' in costs that can be managed with a little thought. However, Hong Kong consistently ranks as one of the most expensive cities in the world for expats (according to the HKSAR government and other economic intelligence sources).
What exactly makes it such an expensive place to live? It goes beyond the pricey nightlife. The shortage of land is a major factor in the high property prices, particularly on Hong Kong Island. Health care is also very expensive. Automobiles and some consumer items are also elements that add to the overall costs due to their inflated prices.
If you're a big spender with a big budget, Hong Kong will certainly help you empty you bank account and there's plenty to help you enjoy an expensive lifestyle in this city. On the other hand, for people on a more modest budget, you shouldn't worry too much as it is quite easy to live on a more reasonable level and get the best out of your money.
Public transport is outstanding and good value. You can easily manage without a car and in fact many people prefer not to have a one. Nearly everyone relies on the public transport network, which is reliable and extensive. Taxis are also surprisingly cheap. When socialising, if you stay away from certain tourist trap bars, or ones that target the big spenders, socialising doesn't have to break the bank. Happy hours are also popular. You'll soon get to know the places to drink as you develop friendships in Hong Kong.
By far, the best way to keep costs down is to adopt a local attitude and live as the locals do. They will know where and how to find a bargain. Below are a few sample costs (only intended as a rough guide). . .
- Tram Ride (Any distance)
- Taxi (Central to North point)
3.80 - 26.00 HK$
- Mid-Levels Escalator
- Typical doctors appt. (Including medications)
- Gym Membership
500 - 1000 HK$
- Unlimited broadband Internet
- Landline Phone
100 HK$ p/m
- Basic Cellphone Package
100 - 150 HK$ p/m
- Meal for two (Mid priced restaurant)
500 - 800 HK$
- Beer in Lan Kwai Fong/Wan Chai (Bottled or Draught)
30 - 35 HK$
- Fast food burger meal
- 6 large navel oranges
- Ground Coffee (250g)
40 - 50 HKD
- Frozen Chicken (Per Kg)
- Minced Beef (Per Kg)
- 1 Litre milk
- 12 Eggs
15 ~ 20 HK$
Much depends on your attitude and ability to adapt. For example, it will be possible to buy everything that was available to you back in your home country. You will find expat-friendly supermarkets, that will stock your favourite brands and products... but this will of course come at a premium.
Most middle class Hong Kong residents will be using places like the ParknShop and Wellcome chains, their fresh goods locally produced and of a good quality. They will also stock major western brands of toiletries etc. These are safe options that'll suit most people and help ease you into your new life here.
Hong Kong also has many wet markets, where low cost produce and goods will be available. You tend to find more of these in areas with public housing. These are great places to get food and basics and can help to keep the cost of living down.
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Hong Kong's taxation system is one of the key motivators and considerations when moving here and will likely be a leverage point in salary negotiations with an employer recruiting from overseas. It's refreshingly simple, residents and expats enjoy a relatively low rate of tax and no one pays more that 17 percent (this varies from time to time). In fact, many pay a lot less than this, or even none at all.
Hong Kong also offers significant tax advantages for married couples and families, making the territory even more attractive. According to a Mercer report, families normally get to keep over 90 percent of their income. Furthermore, if your employer stumps up for your rent, this will be tax free. There also is no capital gains tax, no inheritance tax, no sales tax, not even any VAT.
This page is intended to be a very brief overview and everyone's situation will be different. You'd be wise to seek the advice of a good accountant. You may also be required to pay some of your tax in advance! That said, your tax paperwork is breathtakingly easy to complete.
The very low overall tax burden is yet another reason to live and work in Hong Kong, and makes it attractive to entrepreneurs and businesses. In depth and up to date reading can be found at the Hong Kong Government's website, where they have a very handy online tax calculator: www.ird.gov.hk
There is one immutable fact about living in Hong Kong. . . the shortage of space. It's one of the most densely populated places in the World and naturally, this is reflected in the very high price of land. As a result, the majority of people live in apartment buildings and many rely on housing societies and government lead schemes to organize housing issues.
The vast majority will be living in ordinary apartments in ordinary parts of the city, including many expatriates. Only the very wealthy and highly paid can afford to live in the most prestigious parts of town, such as the better parts of the Mid-Levels and the hillside complexes that overlook the sea and Victoria Harbour, with many executive apartments costing even more than those in Tokyo. A three bedroom apartment in a high end expat ghetto will cost you many thousands of Dollars every month.
Exacerbating this is the large number of people needing to live in close proximity to the business and finance districts, who prefer the low maintenance and convenience of a self contained apartment nearby.
If your employer is taking care of your housing costs, or paying you a handsome housing allowance, this will not be too much of a problem but for those paying all of their own costs, some careful planning may be required to find the right place at the right price. Certainly, you'll be making use of a good agent to help you.
If you're prepared to live outside the normal expat areas, you will substantially reduce your costs and prices come down to a much more reasonable level, more in line with what you may be used to. It's possible to get a reasonable one or two bedroom apartment for under 1000 US Dollars per month but a lot will depend on quality, location and how far you are prepared to commute.
Serviced apartments are a great stepping stone between arriving in Hong Kong and signing your first residential lease. They provide you with comfort and convenience while you find your feet and spend time hunting for the perfect home. Serviced apartments are also a great alternative to long hotel stays if you're only in Hong Kong on a temporary basis but want the comfort of your own space. Not only that, you don't need to commit to a lengthy contract. Just rent by the week, month or year.
Everything you need for day to day living will already be there for you to start your life in the city, without the hassle and significant cost of buying furniture and appliances. A wide range of serviced apartments is available in Hong Kong, from basic but comfortable properties to luxury lifestyle type accommodation.