The Cost Of A Night Out In Manila vs Hong Kong

How far does the money go?

Photos L-R: Manila’s skyline via Flickr; Hong Kong at night via Flickr

I have lived in Manila, Philippines my whole life but have recently moved to Hong Kong to work at a university. I drove myself insane during my first few months, converting everything from Hong Kong Dollars (HKD) to Philippine Pesos (PHP). That made absolutely no sense as the cost of living here completely blows my mind.

HK has consistently ranked close to the top (if not the top) of the list of most expensive cities in the world, so what am I doing comparing expenses in Manila and Hong Kong? I realize there is absolutely no way to reasonable compare the two. But what if I compared two similar scenarios, but in different cities?

For this experiment, I decided to compare social gatherings in both cities, not including the flights. Both cities would have to meet the following requirements: they had to be social gatherings, which meant good conversations and good food where time was not an issue (so no business lunches). These gatherings also involved some sort of commute, and they all involved alcohol. Here are my findings:

Manila

I was in Manila for a few days and decided to organize a Sunday lunch with the family and a late-afternoon party at a friend’s house. It seemed less chaotic to prepare a family lunch than to eat out — or at least, the chaos would be controlled. To prepare for the feast, we went to the wet market to buy the ingredients. For Sunday lunch we had some of my favorite home-cooked meals: spaghetti, roast chicken, baby potatoes, ribs, pancit, molo soup, mango sago, and buko pandan (coconut jelly dessert). Plus my brother-in-law brought a burratta.

After stuffing a family of 16, incuding four children under the age of ten, there was still enough food leftover to bring to a friend’s house — pancit and molo soup plus the wine, chocolate and chips I picked up just in case. We spent the afternoon and evening watching Red Bull TV, discussing Philippine hardwood, and lamenting how little time we have for Netflix.

Wet market ingredients: PHP$2,500 (USD$52.34)

A non-airconditioned Jeep, modelled after American WWII jeeps that serves as public transportation in the Philippines to to the grocery store: PHP$8 (USD $0.17)

Wine and snacks: (Yes, I only buy cheap wine. Don’t judge.) PHP $550 (USD$11.51)

Uber from the grocery to my house: PHP $67 (USD$1.40)

Molo soup. Retrieved from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pulaw/6787521299

Uber to my friend’s place: PHP$176 (USD$3.68)

Transportation going home: PHP$0 (I rode with a friend).

TOTAL EXPENSES: USD $69.10

Hong Kong

Back in Hong Kong, I found out a friend was in town and we made plans to meet up for dinner with other people from Manila who were in town. We all had dinner at Crystal Jade in the Harbour City Mall. Don’t ask me what I ate, all I remember was that the xiao long bao, tofu, shrimp and fried noodles were so so good. We ordered more than enough for 6 people and still had some leftovers.

MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui: HKD$11.90 (USD $1.53)

Crystal Jade: HKD$215 (USD $27.73)

We needed to wash that amazing meal with some dessert (or we just wanted to eat more). I had a pearl mango shake: HKD $39, plus an extra HKD$12 for take-out (USD $6.58).

We made plans to meet some friends at Lan Kwai Fong or LKF, HK’s party center. We would be with graduate students that night and as anyone who has ever hung out with a university student (undergraduate or graduate) knows, their livers seem to have a tremendous carrying capacity for alcohol. Drinks in LKF can be ridiculously expensive, especially if we planned for a whole night of drinking. So I introduced them to “Club 7–11" where we pre-gamed.

MTR from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central: HKD$9.70 (USD $1.25)

7–11, for a bottle of Absolute Citron split amongst us and 2 cans of Kronenburg 1664: HKD$140 (USD $18 )

The beauty of LKF is being able to dodge in and out of bars without actually buying anything. We skipped the bars that required dress codes and entrance fees, while the pre-game slowly worked its magic.

Bar scene at LKF

We met up with another student at this tiny bar hidden in a shady alley (That’s HK for you, you never know what you’ll find!). He was close friends with the owners, which only meant… FREE SHOTS! Free cocktails! Bartenders getting us drunk! Man, it feels good being back in uni again!

I don’t know how I managed to crawl out of the bar at 4 in the morning (I can’t even remember the last time that happened). But somehow, I was able to find a cab and stumble to my apartment building where I crawled into bed.

Bar-hopping: HKD$0

Cab ride: HKD$50 (USD $6.45)

I woke up on Sunday with the worst hangover ever.

Optional Sunday hangover cure of one carrot banana apple shake. HKD$19 (USD $2.45)

TOTAL EXPENSES HK: USD $63.99


A few takeaways from Manila: Nothing beats home-cooked food in terms of price, convenience, variety, and portion sizes. Transportation on a Sunday in Manila is ridiculously cheap. I took 2 Ubers and the total just cost a fraction over USD 5. To be fair on any other day, this would have been impossible as our notorious traffic would mean an instant price surge.

Takeaways from Hong Kong? Yes to Club 7–11 (even if bar owners have been complaining about business going down because of it) and knowing who to hang out with is worth its weight in gold. Free drinks? Yes, please! It’s also very easy to spend a load of cash on a night out, but if you try and plan carefully, you can easily avoid unnecessary spending.

Winner: Me obviously. I was able to go home to Manila for a few days, have a great meal with my family and hang out with good friends and wine. In Hong Kong, I ate such good food and got to make new friends. Despite the massive hangover, it was worth it.


I don’t have an author bio yet. You can follow me on Twitter: @leiwillplay