More on the cost of living in Hong Kong

  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /nfs/c03/h01/mnt/51424/domains/batgung.com/html/drupaldir/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 879.
  • strict warning: Declaration of content_handler_field::options() should be compatible with views_object::options() in /nfs/c03/h01/mnt/51424/domains/batgung.com/html/drupaldir/sites/all/modules/cck/includes/views/handlers/content_handler_field.inc on line 208.
  • strict warning: Declaration of date_handler_field_multiple::pre_render() should be compatible with content_handler_field_multiple::pre_render($values) in /nfs/c03/h01/mnt/51424/domains/batgung.com/html/drupaldir/sites/all/modules/date/date/date_handler_field_multiple.inc on line 185.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument::init() should be compatible with views_handler::init(&$view, $options) in /nfs/c03/h01/mnt/51424/domains/batgung.com/html/drupaldir/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument.inc on line 745.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_validate() should be compatible with views_handler::options_validate($form, &$form_state) in /nfs/c03/h01/mnt/51424/domains/batgung.com/html/drupaldir/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 589.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_submit() should be compatible with views_handler::options_submit($form, &$form_state) in /nfs/c03/h01/mnt/51424/domains/batgung.com/html/drupaldir/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 589.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_validate() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_validate(&$form, &$form_state) in /nfs/c03/h01/mnt/51424/domains/batgung.com/html/drupaldir/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_row.inc on line 135.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_submit() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_submit(&$form, &$form_state) in /nfs/c03/h01/mnt/51424/domains/batgung.com/html/drupaldir/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_row.inc on line 135.

A few weeks ago I introduced a new component in our set of articles on the cost of living in Hong Kong. In that first installment, I compared the prices of fresh produce and meats in Hong Kong's markets, ordinary supermarkets, and high-end 'expat-oriented' food halls.

In this installment, I concentrate on some 'non-fresh' food items, and some day-to-day toiletries and things. Since quite a few of these items aren't available in Hong Kong's wet markets, I've cut out the first column in my table. We'll just compare prices in typical neighborhood supermarkets, and the expat shopping meccas. I've again consciously avoided selecting either the very cheapest products from the supermarket (I've chosen instead brands I think I or other expats might be happy with) or the most expensive options from the expat places (if you try this, the prices just go through the roof -- for example, I could have included the straight-from-the-aging-cask Italian olive oil I sampled at Great; it only sets you back HKD720/USD92.30 per litre).

In general, you will see that for food and household supplies, the big price differentials between Hong Kong's ordinary supermarkets and its 'expat' supermarkets still hold true. The difference for the basket of household goods is really eye-catching; the 'expat' items are over five times as costly as the ordinary supermarket stuff, plus you get one less toilet roll -- and you never know when you're going to wish you had that!

The happy exception to this general rule seems to be alcoholic drinks. As you can see from the numbers in the table below, there's little significant difference, especially for wine and hard liquor. It seemed to me that the expat stores mark up beers just a bit more than the supermarkets, but it's not that significant. Buying booze therefore is much more about availability (i.e., where can I find my very own special brands?) and looking for sales, which can indeed be cause for rejoicing, and much stocking up. I don't buy alcohol all that often, so I wonder if any readers know (from hard-earned experience, of course) whether the supermarkets are more likely to put wine/beer/liquor on sale than the expat stores? The bad news about booze is that the likely reason its prices are so uniform across Hong Kong is that it's so heavily taxed, and therefore so costly already.

Three other notes before you get started: First, for several items, I've quoted prices from a brand called 'Select'. This is local supermarket chain ParkNShop's current 'house' brand; it's from the UK, and most of the 'Select' items I've bought have been just fine in terms of quality. Wellcome has a similar house brand, called 'First Choice', from Australia. It also seems to be perfectly good. Second, note that I've again pro-rated items to a standard measure, e.g. 1 kg of frozen chicken. You likely won't actually be able to buy an exactly-1 kg frozen chicken from either source, of course! Third, prices are listed first in Hong Kong dollars, then in US dollars for comparative convenience.

Off-the-shelf food items
  Mid-budget
(HKD/USD)
High-budget
(HKD/USD)
White rice, 1 kg 7.60/0.97
Kam Heung (Thai)
(This is Chez Tall's standard!)
49.00/6.28
Organic (USA)
Spaghetti, 500g 10.80/1.38
Vetta (Italy)
68.50/8.78
Italian organic
Flour, white 1 kg 18.20/2.33
Betty Crocker (USA)
23.50/3.01
Marriage's organic (UK
Cheese, imported 250g 34.50/4.42
Mainland (NZ) cheddar
70.00/8.97
Farmhouse cheddar (UK)
Yoghurt, natural 150g tub 7.50/0.96
Danone (France)
19.50/2.50
Yeo Valley (UK)
Milk, fresh 1l 17.90/2.29
Kowloon Dairy
26.90/3.45
Pura (Aus)
Olive oil 1l 89.00/11.41
Select extra virgin
233.00/29.87
Olitalia Cultivar
Corn oil 940ml 19.90/2.55
Mazola (USA)
26.50/3.40
Mazola (USA)
Tomaotes, canned 400g can 11.50/1.47
Waitrose (UK)
19.50/2.50
Muir Glen (USA)
Chicken, frozen 1 kg 28.40/3.64
(Brazil)
100.00/12.80
(France)
Ground coffee 250g 43.60/5.59
Robert Timms (Aus)
50.00/6.40
Cafe Direct Fairtrade
Tea bags, packet of 80 42.90/5.50
Tetley's Drawstring (UK)
49.50/6.34
Taylor's Yorkshire
Mineral water 1.5l 7.60/0.97
Select (from Scotland)
11.90/1.53
Volvic
Orange juice 1l 10.90/1.40
Select
38.00/4.87
Vita Verde Organic (Germany)
Totals HKD350.30/USD44.91 HKD785.80/USD100.74
Alcoholic drinks
  Mid-budget
(HKD/USD)
High-budget
(HKD/USD)
Wine, common table 750ml
(Australian Cabernet Sauvignon)
95.00/12.17
Wolf Blass Yellow label
145.00/18.59
Brokenwood Cricket Pitch
Wine, superior quality 750ml
(Australian Cabernet Sauvignon)
255.00/32.69
Penfold's Bin 407
(on sale; 328.00/42.05 regular)
328.00/42.05
Penfold's Bin 407
Beer, local brand, 330ml bottle 4.40/0.56
Tsing Dao draft
8.00/1.03
Tsing Dao export
Beer, top quality, 500ml 15.90/2.04
Boddington's draft ale
30.00/3.85
Abbot Ale
Gin, Gordon's 700 ml 119.00/15.26
(on sale; 145.00/18.59 regular)
130.00/16.67
Cognac, Hennessy VSOP 700ml 308.00/39.49 318.00/40.77
Scotch whiskey 700ml 298.00/38.21
Chivas 12-year-old
298.00/38.21
Chivas 12-year-old
(note also: 565.00/72.44
for Glenfiddich 15-year-old)
Totals HKD1095.30/USD140.42 HKD1257.00/USD161.15
Household supplies
  Mid-budget
(HKD/USD)
High-budget
(HKD/USD)
Laundry detergent 1.5l bottle 26.90/3.45
Fab
149.00/19.10
Ecover (Belgium)
Toilet paper, economy pack 21.00/2.69
Select premium (10 rolls)
119.00/15.26
Waitrose recycled (9 rolls)
Dishwashing liquid, 1l bottle 12.90/1.65
Axion
75.00/9.62
Ecover (Belgium)
Bath soap, 1 bar 3.30/0.42
Kao (3-pack@9.90)
25.00/3.21
Body Shop
Shampoo, 400ml bottle 29.90/3.83
Rejoice
129.00/16.53
Body Shop
Totals HKD94.40/USD12.05 HKD497.00/USD63.71


Before I close, I'd like to spend just a few moments in reflective self-introspective meditation on my feelings about going through this pricing exercise (a practice much encouraged in the world of education in which I toil). I've unpacked my emotional baggage to its rumpled depths -- only to discover that I've really enjoyed myself. I am definitely a see lai (i.e. a housewifely type with clear penny-pinching overtones) at heart!

The next installment in this series includes price information for housing, transportation and schools.

Comments

Re: the plain white rice:

Re: the plain white rice: Can you actually buy ordinary rice in 1kg packets in local supermarkets? I normally only see it in the 5, 8 and 10kg sacks.

As for the booze, (a subject with which I have a passing familiarity...), Vanguard (the old China Resources Stores) have 10% off some beer on Wednesdays, but it tends to be the more generic tinned lagers rather than anything high end. If you're concerned that your beer is cold and plentiful, you'll be OK.

I've noticed occasional sales or bargains in P'n'S on wines. Not much, but a few dollars off helps and they also sometimes have a 10% discount if you buy more than 6.

Also, their wine prices have dropped a little since the budget. Wolf Blass Eaglehawk 2005 Shiraz Cabernet Merlot, for example, was HKD65 per bottle, which compares pretty well with it being AUD9.99 the last time I was in Australia (last week). (1AUD = 6.5HKD)

Thanks!

wow! thanks alot for this! i'm looking forward to the post on school cost and housing too.

Rice prices

Thanks for those tips on drinks, Odaiwai.

You're right about the rice -- the PnS rice I quoted was the pro rated price for an 8-kilo bag. I know you can get it in 5-kilo bags as well, but smaller than that I doubt. The US organic rice I quoted is actually pro rated up from a 2-pound bag.

I've got a Vanguard across the street from my office, incidentally. It's quite a different feel from PnS or Wellcome, isn't it? Very down-home. I sometimes buy apples and other fruit there, but you have to watch them like a hawk at Vanguard -- I find their staff routinely play dirty by putting fruit into packets bad-side down, putting rotted fruit under fresh stuff, etc. But hey, what can you do to a can of beer?

cheese and dairy

I find cheese and dairy products to be unbelievably expensive here! I'm heartened to see "mainland" brand is from NZ and not the Mainland (china) as I'd been assuming without checking the label and therefore not buying on the assumption that the chinese wouldn't know much on the cheese making side!
btw, I have a lot of hassles with your captcha validation - it takes several tries before it will accept what I've typed....

shopping, groceries, alchohol

Does anyone know if HK has all the good ausie stuff like Vegemite, Carlton Draught at supermarkets?

We've got a jar of vegemite

We've got a jar of vegemite in the fridge, so that must be available. Haven't noticed Carlton Draught, though bottles of VB are in the supermarkets.

MrB

Cheese

Hi Gweipo;

Why a NZ company decided to name its products 'mainland' is beyond me, but then marketing is terra incognita to me.

I recommend mainland's 'Vintage' cheddar, by the way. Their other varieties are pretty bland, but I find the Vintage very good value indeed. I often buy the 500g package, which on sale runs just under HKD60.00. For that same money you get maybe 200g of good cheddar at the Great cheese counter.

 

prices for food in Hong Kong

I stumbled across your page by accident. I am moving to Hong Kong in a couple of months and found it to be super interesting. You demonstrated on one box chart what I already suspected, that it would be very easy ( and quite costly) to get sucked in to shopping in the ex-pat places and pay a fortune. Laundry soap is a prime example. I will make a point to seek out the local grocery stores and reduce my food bills by 50%. I was also suprised in reading your list what a wide range of countries of origin are listed. From Belgium to Brazil, it seems the whole whole is supplying Hong Kong. What tremendous access to variety! I am so excited to be able to experience this soon myself and will return to read more of your essays. Thank you so very much! Barbara

Provisions

I have it on good authority that either Park n Shop or Wellcome in Happy Valley has a variety of Australian goods, including Vegemite (could be next to the axle grease in the hardware section though...)

Prices and quality

This goes back to the previous installment - prices at mid range supermarkets are cheaper than wet market for some things and way cheaper than expat stores but what is the quality like? Where is the best fresh food from? Is wet market better than supermarket? I'm currently in London but may be moving to HK and here it can be more expensive for some things at markets but the quality is stratospherically better - so worth the money. Love this site, by the way, answers lots of my questions, even some I didn't know I had...

Here are the supermarkets in

Here are the supermarkets in HK that I know:

Mid-budget:
Park'n Shop
Wellcome
CRC Shop (Mainland China owned?)

High-budget:
TASTE
Great
GOURMET (These 3 are owned by the same company that operated Park'n Shop)
City Super
ThreeSixty (Organic, natural and wholesome food)

Affiliated with departments:
Jusco City
Sogo
Seibu

And here's a website I found that list supermarkets and other HK shopping/dinning places: http://ramsss.com/hong-kong/supermarket/index.htm

which supermarket is the best for boddingtons and yorkshire tea!

Being a northerner, coming to the sub-tropics yet again, I need something to sate my thirst, while cold chinese beer is OK, a taste of home is never wrong!

Nice table this, good work!

Cheers
Alex

beverages

Hi Alex;

The only place I've seen Yorkshire Tea is Great in Pacific Place, but then I've never looked that hard for it, either, so it may be available in other places. Tetley Tea is pretty widely available, and I like Marks and Spencer's Extra-Strong teabags, which are available in all of their HK stores.

Boddingtons in the 'draft' cans is widely available in HK supermarkets, which is a sign that God loves us, and wants us to be happy, to paraphrase Dave Barry. It runs about HKD14-16 a can, depending on whether it's on sale or not, which right now averages out just about one pound sterling.

Mr Tall

cheers for the info

The only place I've seen Yorkshire Tea is Great in Pacific Place

I know this mall, its in TST right? Walk past the Star ferry to get to it?

It runs about HKD14-16 a can

Thats v good pricing. I heard its fetching 24 rmb a can in Carrefour on the mainland, at least in Hangzhou anyway!

Indian food

Hi,

Thanks for the useful information about the cost of living in HK. I also gather from some local friends that on an average for a family of two and one child, the cost of living per month, excluding housing and schooling can come to around $ 15000, based on mid-level budget.

I am a vegetarian and wonder about availability of Indian food like, flour, lentils etc. and spices available in HK. Are they easliy available. There must also be some special shops catering to such food items only.

Any suggestions please.
Kind Regards
Amita

Indian food

I don't cook Indian food much, but when I need sepcial spices and dal, I go to a grocery store on the G/F (back) of Chungking Mansions in TST (Tsim Sha Tsui).  They also sell bottled pickles. I've also bought channa flour there.

 If you want just vegetables - local wet market will have most of what you would want (greens, onions,  fresh ginger, garlic, cauliflower, eggplants (aubergines), tomatoes, potatoes, etc.). If you buy veggies (e.g. spinach) it's usually expected that the vendor will throw in a handful of fresh coriander and green onions. However, I rarely see okra (ladyfingers) in the wetmarket - but that's OK for me, I'm not very fond of it.

If you google "indian grocery" "hong Kong" you can find some threads on other websites (geoexpat.com I think) that recommend   The Maharaja Store  on Carnavon road (in TST) and  the Indian Provisions Store in Wan Chai.

 Yes, it was in the www.geoexpat.com  - go to forum and search "indian grocery".

 They also recommend Kiran's Provision Store in Mirador Mansions

Shop 52, 1/Fl, Mirador Mansion, 58 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. - I should try and visit it myself next time I'm in TST.

Cheese - Mainland brand from NZ

Mr Tall, the South Island of NZ is known locally as "Mainland" because it is the larger island, hence, the name of the brand.

Mainland

That I did not know, ostow -- thanks for the heads-up. No matter what land it comes from, it's pretty decent cheese!

bulk foods at Indian grocery stores

Following up on skmama's post some years ago about Indian grocery stores:

These stores also sell things like flour, rice, lentils, other beans, and spices in bulk and many deliver. Of course, whether your HK apt. allows you to store a 50 pound (22.7 kilos) bag of white flour is another issue; but at 170 HK (about $22 US) a bag (7.5 HK / kilo, certainly cheaper than I've ever found in the wet markets or PNS), it might be worth seeing if the neighbor(s) might want to split....

The following prices are 2011 and come from Maharaja's Indian Emporium, which is now located on the 2nd floor of Haiphong Mansion on Haiphong Road, across from Kowloon Park, Exit A at TST; phone: 2756 5611. (A web search will often come up with their old address on Carnavaron (sp?) Road, but they moved about a year ago. I've also bought things from the other stores skmama mentioned (Kiran, Indian Provision Store, etc.) and was happy with the products, but have mostly dealt with Maharaja because it seems to have the lowest delivery minimum (free delivery if you order over 200 HK; the other places used to be more in the 600 HK range when I checked a couple of years ago).

50 pound bag of Blue Bird brand white flour <http://www.bluebirdindia.com/products/maida-super-sifted-flour.asp> (maida): 170 dollars (I think sometimes 180). 1 kilo bags are 12 dollars. For flour afficionados, here is Wikipedia on maida <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maida_flour>. I use it as an all-purpose white flour in bread and baked goods and have been fine with it, but then I never bought cake vs. bread flour in the US either. Our northern Chinese neighbors (with whom we sometimes split a bag) use it for noodles, mantou, huajuan, etc., and like it.

5 kg bag of whole wheat flour (atta <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atta_flour>)  or multigrain (mix of wheat, barley, oats, corn, and I think a couple of beans - judging by the pictures on the bag!) flour: 60 (sometimes 50).

1 kilo masoor dal (split red lentils): 20

1/2 kg bag of corn flour (not corn meal): 15 (this price is 2010)

I haven't priced other kinds of beans (I've mostly been interested in lentils, which seem hard to find here), but I bet they are economical; I know I saw yellow and black chickpeas and mung beans. Bay leaves and other spices and Indian cooking products are sold in larger bags than you usually get in the supermarkets. I haven't asked about rice, since others in my family tend to prefer Chinese or Thai rices to South Asian ones, but it's probably worth asking.

After an Indian friend recommended these stores for flours and spices, I went down to TST a couple of times to look around. They are all fairly small (groceries rather than supermarkets), so you may need to look a little bit. I think they do a lot of their business over the phone. Anyway, they deliver to the Clearwater Bay area a few times a week, and I've called in an order in the morning and had the bell ring a few hours later! Just make sure you have the correct change; I think Maharaja will take a cheque also for deliveries.

For flour storage, I bought some of those 10 and 5 kg plastic rice holders from Japan Home and have done pretty well with them. Getting a breadmaker helped a lot too in making my way through the flour....