Cost of Living in Hong Kong

I recently had an e mail exchange with a young woman who is thinking of moving to Hong Kong. I thought I would share the correspondence as it might help anyone who was thinking about coming to Hong Kong, either to work or play. As always what’s here is my opinion. Feel free to disagree with what I say. I’ve deleted the sender’s name to protect the innocent.

First e mail


Can you tell me if $3500 to $4500 HK is a reasonable monthly salary in Hong Kong? The company will be paying for my apartment.

I’ve been researching cost of living but wanted to find out first hand…

Thank you for your help…

Reply to First e mail

First question and I’m not trying to be a smart ass, “Do you mean HK$3500 to 4500 or HK$35,000 to HK$45,000?”

Second question, “Where will you be living in relation to where you will be working?”

Third question and I am being a smart ass, “Can you live on a diet of steamed rice and tofu?”

The exchange rate is 7.8 to 1, which means HK$4500 is less than US$600 per month. It would be difficult if not impossible to live on such a salary in the U.S., rent aside.

Beginning clerical employees in Hong Kong earn around HK$10,000 per month, give or take a thousand, and they are usually living at home.

So the answer is, in my opinion, no way!

Good luck. Keep me apprised of your situation.


Second e mail

Ok, I’ve got another question for you…

What about a salary of 18,500 HK? This is what they are offering…I computed that comes out to about 2400 US. Is this a livable salary in Hong Kong?

My goal is to be able to travel some every couple of months around Asia to places like Bangkok, India, and also to have enough money to spend on “enjoying life” meaning dining out, entertainment like movies, etc., and also to save some as well, ideally $1000 per month. There are ways for me to increase this, but am I anywhere in the ballpark with this figure considering they’ll be paying my apartment and I won’t have a car, etc.

Thank you, again, for your help. I really appreciate it!

Response to second e mail

Yes you can live on HK$18,500 if your housing is paid. What about utilities? Electricity is very expensive, especially in the summer when you need air-conditioning. What about transportation? How far from your work, will you be staying?

We had a 1000 sq ft flat and our electric bill in the summer months (Apr1 – Oct. 1.) was HK$2,000 per month (US$260). In the winter it was about half that. In our current 1100 sq ft. flat with electric cooking and hot water, summer is about HK$3,000 and winter about HK$1700. I’m home most of the day, though, so it’s higher than normal.

Can you travel every couple months, eat out, etc. and also save US$1000 a month? No way. Make a choice.

I assume when you say eat out, you don’t mean the Chinese equivalent of “Greasy Spoons.” My wife and I are not spendthrifts but it is difficult to eat out with a beer for me and a glass of wine for her for less than HK$400 (US$50). Most of the time we spend more than that. Movies run about HK$70 (US$9.00). Live entertainment is about 20% higher than in the U.S. but the cheap tix go very fast. We are members of an avant garde entertainment club called the Fringe Club and we get a discount on food, drinks and tickets.

Air travel is expensive, although cut rate airlines are starting to appear. Lodging in most Asian locations excepting Japan and Korea is very reasonable. If you plan ahead you might be able to do the kind of traveling you want at least in S.E. Asia. India is a stretch.

I don’t know where you’ll be working but I suspect you will meet others in the same financial circumstances as yourself and doing things in groups is always cheaper.

I would suggest you do a budget and adjust as necessary. If you want any more feedback, let me know. If you have any “female” only questions, my wife, Pam, would be happy to answer them. She’s been working out here for 13 years and is still at it, even though I’m retired.

Good luck. Hope you make it here. Let me know what you decide.


Third e mail Also, is the information from the above web-site accurate? I entered in 30,000 US and it says I would need to make 58,342 in Hong Kong to achieve the same quality of life there….

Response to Third e mail

Hard to say. Remember rent in Hong Kong is much more expensive than the U.S. Think NYC and multiply by 2. Most families, not in public housing, spend 50% of their income on housing versus 25% in the U.S.

We are living in a friend’s flat so our present rent is quite reasonable but our last place of 1,000 sq. ft. was about HK$25,000 a month all in and we lived in a relatively inexpensive neighborhood, for HK Island that is. In the New Territories, one can get a nice flat for about 25% – 35% less.

So, I’m saying the number you got is accurate if you have to pay rent. Without rent, US$30,000 is do-able. Forget saving anything and enjoy.

Remember you have no US taxes up to US$80,000 and the HK tax rate is a flat 15% with a few deductions. No Social Security, either.

It won’t be easy but hell, “Life is tough, then you die.”

Good luck,