In total, I spent about £8000 from January to June while I was in Asia.
You do not need this much money to have an absolutely amazing semester in Hong Kong.
First I’ll explain how you can have a great semester on just the lowest amount of loan and the £1000 bursary, then I’ll explain how I spent an extra 4 grand.
Loan and Bursary
Lowest amount of loan = 2 payments of £1500, or £3000.
Bursary = £1000 in two payments of £750 and £250.
Disclaimer – the situation I am presenting is perfectly doable on this budget, however the timing of these payments may require a short term dip into your overdraft.
Okay so to start with, I got a return flight to Hong Kong with Air China for £450**. My accommodation, air conditioning and bedding package only came to about £620. So thats your bursary gone but now all thats left is food, other commodities and fun!
You now have £2930 left.
You can live perfectly easily on $HK500 a week, this is just under £50. This includes food (only if you eat like a local, western restaurants are more expensive), transport, a low cost weekend activity, such as a hike (so so many beautiful hikes in Hong Kong) and, if you’re a girl, you might even squeeze a night out on ladies night with that (free drinks for girls on ladies night in most clubs).
The term is January to may, thats 20 weeks – it’s probably more like 17/18 weeks when you consider the term starting dates but if we say 20 weeks that covers the max time you can be there. £50 a week for 20 weeks = £1000.
You now have £1930.
Okay, now you need to take into ‘other costs’. Going out drinking every single night for the first week, eating in every restaurant you can find for the first 3 weeks while making friends, that cute top (or ten) that you can’t help buying because no back home will have it, going to Disneyland, going to Ocean Park, forking out for the cable car to go and see Bug Buddha after reading my blog on that horrific hike, getting a taxi back on your own when you loose everyone in the maze of clubs in LKF and buying plates, bowls and mugs so you can have tea and oatmeal in the morning, etc, etc.
Theres another thousand gone. But depending on how much you drink, how much you crave western food and how much you shop, you could get a day trip to Macau out of that budget (£35 for return boat ride + spending money), or get the train for a day trip into mainland China.
You now have £930.
You might need this money for more ‘other costs’, and just because a lot of other students will have travel plans, it doesn’t mean that exploring and experiencing Hong Kong to its fullest with this money is a bad way to spend it. However, if you’re not fussy on where you sleep and you travel mainly by bus or train, £930 could buy you 3 weeks in Southeast Asia (maybe more) when term ends. With this budget, I wouldn’t recommend travelling in Chinese New Year, this is the most expensive time to travel so just hold out and travel in the summer.
What I Did
You’re probably now wondering how on earth I spent double that budget.
My number one biggest expense was travel. I had three, week long holidays during term time. I went to Taiwan in Chinese New Year, which was expensive (for Asia), I went to Beijing to see the great Wall, which again, turned out to be an expensive tour, and I went to Malaysia. Bam, £1300 gone.
My month long trip around Southeast Asia in June set me back £2000. This was because we wanted to fit in as many places as possible so it made more sense to fly between most destinations because of distance; this racked up costs.
It was the coldest winter in 61 years while I was in Hong Kong, this meant a large investment in blankets, jumpers, anything to keep myself warm.
I made several extravagant purchases – £45 on an all you can eat sushi buffet (so worth it), £20 on a dragontini in the highest bar in the world etc. etc.
I had a severe case of FOMO (fear of missing out), which meant I spent an extortionate amount in the first month. The first budget above assumes that you do not suffer from this and do not mind missing a night out or two.
I didn’t bring that much stuff with me. I basically didn’t bring any work out gear with me because I assumed it would be hard to do in Hong Kong, when in actual fact the uni gym cost 30p per session, the running routes around the university were brilliant and the hikes throughout Hong Kong were spectacular.
I had to go to Macau because of a mess up with my visa, but I loved it so much I went back again.
In all honesty, I wasn’t as careful with money as I could have been. But that doesn’t mean my experience was any better than someone who did it on their minimum loan.
But in all honesty, I don’t know anyone on the minimum loan who’s parents don’t help them out a little, and my friend who had a larger loan than me ended up using the left over money for a holiday in Greece with his girlfriend.
**I’ve since been told that Air China isn’t the most reliable airline but I found the flight comfortable with decent food and just enough english films to keep me occupied and I made it back alive so don’t let the local students scare you