How much does food cost in Hong Kong?

We Batgung are asked the same question by many commenters and emailers: ‘How much does it cost to live in Hong Kong?’

The easy answer is ‘quite a lot, but maybe not so much as you might think, so long as you know where to look for things’.

What’s much harder is demonstrating by anecdote or isolated example how much difference it makes in Hong Kong if you buy your goods and services from expat-centric providers, as opposed to local ones.

So this article is a beginning attempt to nail down some comparative prices for people living different lifestyles here in the same city. It focuses on a common range of products we all consume: fresh food. It will be followed by additional comparisons and information on other types of products and services, so stay tuned.

To pick up on a theme I mentioned elsewhere on the site, you will see that I’ve divided our fresh food survey into three ‘lifestyle price ranges’:
  1. Low A low-budget special, based on shopping in wet markets in completely ‘local’ areas of Hong Kong, especially those dominated by public housing.
  2. Mid-range A middle-class Hong Kong approach, typified by shopping at big local chains such as Park N Shop and Wellcome, etc. Most of the fresh food sold at Hong Kong’s big supermarkets is still locally grown, but I’ve thrown in a few imported products an expat might be inclined to buy.
  3. High A full-on, everything-we-had-back-home expat approach, shopping mostly in expat-friendly supermarkets such as Great and CitySuper. Note that when I checked out prices in this category, I expressly did not choose the highest-priced options. I picked what I thought was a ‘typical’ or mid-range-price product from what I saw available. You can certainly spend more on just about every item in this category if you are so led. I did express a preference for ‘ecologiclly correct’ option, however. This may have raised the overall bill just a bit, but these stores stock very few fresh products that are not ‘organic’ or ‘free-range’ or whatever.
You’ll see that the actual items in each ‘basket’ don’t exactly equal each other. That’s unavoidable, unfortunately, as cuts of meat, types of fish, etc. that are typical of Chinese and western cuisines don’t match up very well. Nevertheless, the total cost of each ‘basket’ of food should be roughly comparable, as each item has an appropriate representative in each budget category.

All prices are stated in Hong Kong dollars first, then in US dollars for easier reference for those outside Hong Kong. Most measures are per kilogram, with exceptions noted. For Americans, remember that 1kg=2.2 pounds, so we’re talking about quite a large quantity of each item measured in this way. I’ve included additional explanatory notes, particularly as to the origin of the food, wherever I think they’ll be helpful. If there’s no indication of where an item originated, this means it’s either local/from nearby in mainland China, or I couldn’t find out.

Food item

Low budget (HKD/USD)

Mid-budget (HKD/USD)

High-budget (HKD/USD)

White bread


7 slices


6 slices ‘Old English’


7 slices toast

Potatoes 1 kg




Organic red (USA)

Onions 1 kg




Organic red (UK)

Tomatoes 1 kg




Australian plum

Carrots 1 kg




Organic (Australia)

Oranges (large navel, 6)






Organic (USA)

Apples (large Fuji, 6)





Lettuce 1 head






Hydroponic Cobb

Fresh spinach 1kg





Broccoli 2 heads




Organic (Australia)

Eggs (large, 12)



USA white


Free-range (NZ)

Beef: minced 1 kg





US or Australian

Pork (lean, boneless) 1 kg




US boneless loin

Chicken: fresh




Chilled, whole (PRC)


Organic (France, 1.7kg)

Fresh fish (4 servings)**


Large ‘gold thread’


Chilled catfish filets


Chilean sea bass (400g)





**Note: I found fish to be the hardest item to compare, given the cultural/cuisine differences I mentioned above. I therefore chose what I thought might make for 'four servings' in each category. The 'gold thread' is a locally-caught fish with a nice firm flesh that's delicious fried up whole. The 'chilled catfish filets' I found at the local supermarket (and very cheap, I might add -- a full pound for just 19.90), were from the species Pangasius Hypothalmus (no, really, it was the only identifying information on the label). I discovered that this noble fish hails from the catfish family -- and geographically from Vietnam -- by googling the species name, then finding it lavishly referenced at the clearly indispensible Planet Catfish site. The sea bass servings I've assumed are actually quite small, i.e. just 100 grams, so the price for this number could go waaay up easily.

So, my first reaction to the total prices: Wow. When I decided to research and write up this topic, I expected a big gap between the ‘local’ and ‘expat’ buying approaches, but nothing on quite this scale. But then on several occasions I’ve observed someone ahead of me in the check-out line at Great or CitySuper presenting a modest-looking basket of groceries, and being rung up to the tune of 2,000-3,000 Hong Kong dollars.

I’m also a bit surprised by how close the totals for the ‘low’ and ‘mid’ budget approaches are. I knew that the wet markets are actually more expensive than the supermarket chains for certain items, especially since the latter have added their own ‘fresh market’ sections, but I still expected more of an overall difference. In fact, if you bought locally-raised beef and eggs in the supermarket instead of the Australian (I went for the imported on the grounds that these are products some expats might be more suspicious of buying locally), you’d come out cheaper than in the wet market overall.

One last point to note: if you consider that you’re getting a full kilogram of most of the vegetables on the list, it’s clear that fresh food in Hong Kong is pretty cheap – assuming you avoid the ‘expat’ approach, that is!

As I mentioned above, I’ll be adding to this article in the future with more categories of food, drinks (I know some of you can’t wait to see the booze section), entertainment expenses, housing costs, and so on.

Reader reports of price-gouging, shopping strategies and bargain sightings are very welcome.

[Note: the next installment, and the next, of this series are also now up.]


Thanks for the comparison

I am fascinated with your comparisons. My local friends always tell me I'm paying way too much shopping at PNS, but I've done the comparisons and there is not that much difference--not enough, anyway, for me to pay the extra for parking (which would eat up the difference) and lose the convenience in time in going to PNS. I love the wet markets for many reasons and will go there for things I know I can't get other places, and if I lived nearer to a wet market (ie. walking distance), I would use it more often. However, since I have to drive, it would be more expensive for me to go to the wet market nearest me (Hang Hau--10 minutes away).

Being vegetarian, there are some things that are more expensive for me, as I do buy some "soy meat" at several of the area stores and they tend to be more expensive than "real" meat. However, tofu is quite cheap, as are dried beans, so no big deal.

I look forward to reading more.


also depends on *when* you buy

Prices also vary by when you buy. SK-baba frequently comes home about 7pm w/ some very inexpensive fish fillets that a fish monger in our local wet-market was practically giving away at the end of the day, because he wanted to close up & would not be able to sell the fish the next day.

This is of course, not a phenomenon only known in HK. When I was young and living in Boston, I would go to Haymarket at about 4pm on Saturday afternoon and get trays of strawberries and other goodies for "Dolla a box!"

If you live near Sai Kung you can also buy reasonably priced organic bell peppers at the Lions Nature Education park market.

Thanks for the

Thanks for the well-researched article! Your findings in fact confirm my long-held impression of the cost of fresh food vis-a-vis the places you shop.

It almost always goes without saying that the one would *expect* the 'expat-friendly' supermarkets to be more expensive, but your research just shows how much more expensive it is. And this is true not just with regard to the items you presented above, but also for identical products (e.g. a particular brand of sour cream that costs about HKD12 in Wellcome will set you back by about HKD18-20 in Great Food Hall).

I was also not surprised, as you have pointed out, that contrary to popular belief it would appear to be cheaper to shop for fresh food in the mid-budget supermarkets as opposed to the local wet markets. Some time ago (whilst still apprised of the erroneous belief that wet market produce is cheaper), I finally agreed to give local wet market shopping a chance (I prefer shopping in the cool, dry environment that is the supermarket!). Fresh garlic and onions made up my purchase, and they cost more than what I would have had to pay in Wellcome.

The other thing about shopping in supermarkets is that the produce you buy can actually be traced all the way back to the suppliers. A recent news report about certain wet market stalls selling illegally-imported pork comes to mind.

Organic produce

I suppose the response of Hong Kong's famous free market was inevitable: just a couple of days after I posted this article on comparative produce prices, I noticed that the new Park N Shop in my neighborhood mall had introduced a new line of organic vegetables. Its brand name is 'Sarinah', and the label says it's grown in China. The prices seemed to fall right in between the expat stores' stratospheric heights, and the down-and-dirty normal supermarkets.

Here are a few examples of Sarinah organic produce prices (priced in Hong Kong dollars/US dollars):

  • Package of three large carrots: 16.00/2.05
  • 300g package of choi sum: 12.00/1.54
  • 300g package of yin choi (aka 'Chinese spinach'): 12.00/1.54
  • Package of two large potatoes: 18.00/2.31

Then I realized a few days later there was yet another line of fresh produce right next to the Sarinah stuff. This one, branded 'Grace Cup', is from Malaysia. It didn't seem to say it was precisely 'organic', but it did heavily feature the rather unsavory term 'compost-grown' on all the packaging. Must be good, I guess? Anyway, this stuff was clearly more expensive yet, almost in line with prices at the expat supermarkets. Some samples:

  • 1 red pepper: 26.50/3.40
  • 500g package of carrots: 24.90/3.19
  • 200g package of green beans: 19.90/2.55

I expect the growing (sorry for the pun) demand for organic produce will result in quite a few more options appearing both in local supermarkets and wet markets.


I have heard from friends the Japanese community that Jusco is better priced than City Super or Great. Apparently they also have an organic range, and particularly good fresh fish (for sushi) I'm planning on doing a trip there soon and I'll take your little list and add some comparisons ...

RE: Organic produce

I have been buying the Sarinah organic products, in my search for organic products for my pregnant wife to eat. Though how can one be sure that they are indeed organic and pesticide-etc-free? One gets the impression that in China anything goes...


HK is claimed to be expensive, but if I compare with what I pay in Amsterdam, moving to HK might make live about cheaper.:

parking 5 euro per hour

1 liter petrol 1,60 euro

 apt 100 m2 (aprox. 1000sq ft) 350.000 (3,500 euro per m2)

groceries 75 per week for 2 person household at the cheaper grocery stores

dining out 45 euro for 1 course meal and some drinks for two


yes, indeed HK is cheaper

Indeed, living in Hong Kong is way cheaper than in Europe or in North America. I stayed for a month in Vancouver and was shocked by the prices of produce there. And the reason is very simple: NAFTA. The produce of South-Asian origin is not favored via higher import duties and may be certain other non-tariff barriers. The same probably is applicable to the EU zone. 

Cheap produce

Hi Ulanbeck;

Thanks for that comparison; it's helpful to know!

I suspect you're right about the trade barriers. Here in HK we benefit from two factors when it comes to produce prices. First, HK's an essentially free port. Also, southern China has a subtropical colimate that's favorable for growing a very wide variety of produce year-round.

Mr Tall

comparison shopping wet markets

If there are several wet markets in your shopping range, it can be worth looking to see if particular ones are relatively cheap; if certain kinds of things may be more expensive or harder to find in particular markets; and how navigable each market is. (Maybe this is really obvious, but in case there are others out there as clueless as myself...).

In our area (Tseung Kwan O/Sai Kung), for example, the Po Lam wet market under Metro City tends to be cheaper than the Hang Hau one in the Hau Tak shopping center, especially for common meats/fish and vegetables. I am told this is because 1) the Hang Hau market burned down some years ago, and the costs are still being passed on in slightly higher prices; and 2) there are relatively more affluent people in Hang Hau than in Po Lam, which caters to a more "average" population. Fruits are sometimes cheaper in Hang Hau, especially if it is something a little out of the ordinary (e.g. peaches); on the other hand, soybeans in the pod are more frequently available in Po Lam, and the same amount of money will often buy a flat of 36 eggs in Po Lam but only 30 in Hang Hau (comparing eggs from the same country (Chinese/Thai/German)). Sai Kung wet market in my limited experience is a bit more expensive than both Po Lam and Hang Hau. The Choi Hung wet market,  which is quite big since it's in a more populated area with lots of housing estates, is supposed to have a better range of and prices for fish; it also has more in the way of cheap children's clothing and household items. But we haven't found the difference enough for other things to justify making a special trip. Since I first shopped almost exclusively in the Hang Hau market, I didn't realize for a while that some markets also sell clothing.

Some wet markets are much easier to walk around than others. I was quite surprised by skmama's suggestion of a wet market visit to entertain small children until I visited the Sai Kung one and saw how wide the aisles were and how uncrowded it often is. Shepherding a couple of children through or even -- my goodness -- pushing a stroller seemed completely doable (and indeed, I have since done it, and the kids quite liked looking at all the soon-to-die forms of life). MANY ARE NOT LIKE THIS. I used a sling to shop with our second when she was a baby and then a small toddler; it was exhausting, but not as bad as trying to get a stroller through. It is of course possible -- you see women pushing old people in wheelchairs through the narrow aisles of Hang Hau market all the time. But having done that myself through the New York City streets and markets, all I can say is that they deserve a special place in heaven and a large raise on earth.

wet market signs

One of the things I like about the wet markets here is that prices are posted for many items. In other places, traditional / street markets often don't post any prices at all, and you have to rely completely on the vendor's honesty and/or your own knowledge of going rates (and be willing to argue). At least here there is some limit to price-gouging on potatoes.... My Cantonese is minimal and I hate talking to strangers, so browsing signs makes shopping in wet markets much less stressful for me.

I think the signs are pretty clear in context even if you don't read Chinese.  But in case they aren't, here is a chart of common terms, especially measure words (e.g. bunch, as in 3 dollars for a bunch, 5 dollars for 3 bunches). Sometimes simplified characters seem to be preferred to the traditional ones on the signs -- probably because they squish better -- and where I've noticed that, I've put both. I took the Cantonese pronunciations from CantoDict; I hope they are right - it seems like a useful tool. I've included Mandarin too, since I've found most vendors understand my reasonable Mandarin better than my painful Cantonese, so if you are like me....If this is overkill, the editors can take it out, but I would have found this handy the first time I lived in Asia and shopped for food...if there had been signs....