Travelling and saving while teaching English in Hong Kong

Have you thought of teaching English in Hong Kong? Are you wondering how much it costs to live there, and how much you need for living and travelling? This article is on just that.

As the financial capital of Asia, Hong Kong is a special place to be, and to teach. In it, you can enjoy the sights of the sea and hikes in the mountains. You can shop in western stores or Asian markets, and the standard of living you choose will determine how much travelling you can do.

If you’re travelling to Hong Kong to teach, the chances are that you want the cosmopolitan lifestyle, and the ability to travel easily in and around there. The good news is that, in the capital that links the east to the west, the salary you earn can give you more than a shoestring budget to travel on.

For specific information on the monthly salary, the cost of living, travelling on a teacher’s budget, and whether you can save or not, read this article on travelling and saving teaching English in Hong Kong.

The Monthly Salary

What is a typical teacher’s salary in Hong Kong, and what can you do on it? As far as salaries go, you will be earning between $2,500 and $6,500 USD per month.

Your level of education and experience combine to place you on the pay scale. Those with PhDs in TESOL, Linguistics, or English and with great academic credentials would command the highest salaries at the most distinguished universities.

Many teachers start at the NET (Native English Teacher) scheme schools and go on to get placements in international schools, where your salary will be about US$4000 per month.

The Cost of Living

Shopping in Hong Kong means choosing between local shops and markets, and ones that are pricier selling more international items.

To give you an idea, a litre of milk is about US$3, and a loaf of bread would be the same. A weekly shop could be between US$50 and $100, depending on how much you enjoy cooking. For meals out, you’ll be looking at about US$10 at a more budget-friendly restaurant. Double or treble that amount if you want to eat out at western-oriented restaurants.

Getting around is not as expensive as you might imagine in a busy city like Hong Kong. A transport card for the month is US$64, but this does depend on where you live in Hong Kong, and how far you are willing to travel.

The most significant expense per month would be your accommodation. A smaller rental in Hong Kong is around US$1200, which is typical of rentals in the capital and cosmopolitan cities. Unless you are in the higher earning bracket, a monthly rental of your own place could cost half to three-quarters of your salary.

To save more on travelling, the best option is to find a flat on sharing basis rather than rent an entire flat. It does mean finding the right flat-mates, but that shouldn’t be too hard in a place like Hong Kong.

Travelling on a Teacher’s Budget

Compared to being in a rural area of mainland China, Hong Kong’s position makes travelling easy and almost affordable. Any city that offers what Hong Kong does would be expected to have an expensive transport system, but it is possible to get around on a budget, not just in the city itself, but to surrounding countries too.

As the gateway between the east and the west, what you have is an international flight hub. By keeping your living costs low, you can save a third of your salary. Call it the Travel Fund. Every few months, you’ll be able to spend a week or two away exploring its neighbouring countries.

The only thing that might hinder your travelling plans is your contract at work. Just skipping off for a few weeks at a time might get you in trouble at work. What you could do quite easily is fly from Hong Kong to another country or city for a weekend or even a long weekend. That way you get to travel, and your school gets you full time.

You might think quick adventures across the pond is for UK/European citizens only, but in fact, Hong Kong is to the rest of Asia, what London is to Europe.

Is saving possible in Hong Kong?

If you are already keeping your costs down by sharing a flat, and you’ve found the best public transport for your needs, are you spending money on travelling? If so, you’d need to be strict about saving to do it.

There are teachers out there who choose between travelling and saving. Some want to save for the duration of their contract, then spend it on travelling afterwards.

On the other hand, some teachers only save to travel, and in Hong Kong, it is possible to save to travel.

The better you manage your finances, the more able you will be to do so. The responsibility is yours, but remember when you start in Hong Kong, you will have to give yourself time to find more budget restaurants and shops to free you to travel more.

Say Hello to Hong Kong

If you want to be based in a location from which you can travel easily, while not being stuck in rural areas, consider Hong Kong. Many new teachers are put off of it because it has a higher cost of living than other cities in Asia. Though that may be true, what you get for living there makes up for any cost increase.

You won’t be lonely for western comforts, nor will you be without a fast-paced lifestyle, yet at the same time, you are never far from the rest of Asia and all it has to offer.

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This article was originally published on December 9, 2019 and was last updated on June 16, 2020.

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