Best Budget Layover on Earth? Where to Eat the World's Cheapest Michelin-Star Food and Take a Stunning Cruise for Pennies

Best Budget Layover on Earth? Where to Eat the World's Cheapest Michelin-Star Food and Take a Stunning Cruise for Pennies

PART 10: Here's how to make 24 hours in an otherwise super-expensive city feel like a thrilling and affordable vacation all by itself.

Hello again from Ben Schlappig, the blogger behind One Mile at a Time, living an uber-luxury travel lifestyle by using miles and points. When we last left off, I had flown my boyfriend, Ford, across the world business class... which sounds nice until you understand how little I let him relax before we were in the air again! We were off again from Bali to Hong Kong in merely hours.

Hong Kong is probably my favorite city in the world, and one of the few places I could imagine settling down. I’m not sure how much of my love of the city stems from the memories I have from there, rather than the quality of the city itself.

My first ever trip to Asia was to Hong Kong, and it was such a memorable trip for my dad and me. But even having visited dozens and dozens of other cities in Asia, Hong Kong is still probably my favorite city in the region.

We have arrived!

What I love about Hong Kong is that it’s different but approachable. As fascinated as I am by cities like Tokyo and Bangkok, I'd perpetually feel like an outsider in those places.

Due to Hong Kong’s colonization, there’s a very clear British influence, but at the same time it doesn’t feel out of place being just a few miles off the coast of mainland China.

Everyone has different things thy look for in cities, and for me it’s all about the vibe of a place. Typically cities exhaust me, and I get more tired the longer I’m there. Hong Kong, on the other hand, energizes me, which I can’t say about many major cities.

A spot of refreshment

On this particular trip we had just under 24 hours in Hong Kong. While I’d ideally spend much longer there, I’ll certainly take what I can get.

Hong Kong is a great city for a layover given how easy it is to get from the airport to the city. The Airport Express train takes you from Hong Kong International Airport to the city in just 24 minutes. On top of that, it’s clean, comfortable, and even has free Wi-Fi.

Thanks to how centralized Hong Kong largely is, there’s also so much you can do in the city on just a short layover — and there are great budget-friendly things to pass a short bit of time, despite how expensive the city is overall.

We arrived late in the evening, and after checking into our hotel we walked along the Avenue of Stars, which overlooks the harbor.

The energy in Hong Kong is electric — and the view aint bad either!

Hong Kong is split into two main areas — Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. Hong Kong Island feels more like London or New York, as it’s full of skyscrapers and is where most international businesses are. Kowloon, on the other hand, feels more “local.” While I like spending time on both sides, I love Kowloon for the fact that it has great views of Hong Kong Island.

There’s even a nightly choreographed lights show that the city puts on, where dozens of buildings light up for an awesome show. As touristy as it is, it’s something that never gets old for me.

One of the primary ways to get between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island is using the Star Ferry. It’s very cheap (about a quarter), and is a fun experience in and of itself, as you can take a boat that’s nearly 100 years old (but, of course, restored) across the harbor.

But there’s so much more to do in Hong Kong. There’s Victoria Peak, which is on the back side of Hong Kong Island, and has views of the entire city. If you’re a foodie, I highly recommend Tim Ho Wan, which is the world’s cheapest Michelin-star restaurant. That’s only one of a countless number of incredible restaurants in Hong Kong.

Always working...

So not only is Hong Kong a very approachable city, but it’s also one of the best cities out there for a quick layover.

Since this was planned last minute, hotel options were initially quite limited and expensive, especially as we were staying over Valentine’s Day. That’s one of the reasons I love credit cards that offer annual free-night certificates.

For example, IHG’s credit card offers an annual free-night certificate every year, just for paying the $49 annual fee. In turn, that certificate can be redeemed at virtually any IHG property. That’s an incredible value. In our case we stayed at the InterContinental Hong Kong, which would have retailed for nearly $400 per night. Almost anyone should be able to get outsized value out of that.

The credit cards issued by Hyatt and Marriott also offer annual free-night certificates, though there are more restrictions on what kind of hotels are eligible. This was a great option for our quick overnight.

Speaking of the overnight as such, the ability to do a 24-hour stopover is one of my favorite benefits of redeeming miles. Many people dread making connections, but I love them when they allow me to break up the journey and stop in a place for a day at a time.

Some airline frequent flyer programs even allow longer stopovers for free. For example, many airline programs allow a free stopover on a roundtrip award, which can last as long as you’d like. Some airlines even allow a free stopover on a one-way award ticket.

For example, Alaska Mileage Plan, Korean Air SkyPass, and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer allow free stopovers on one-way tickets. Given all he partners those airlines have, that can be a great way to visit two places on a single award ticket.

Stick around to check out our next exciting stop — not to mention valuable travel tips, hacks, and strategies for using miles and points!


I support my boyfriend's first-class travel life (and in return he lets me pull stunts like this).

See how I booked a $12,000 flight for nearly free.

See Bali's littler-known party side — including a hangover brunch (with a DJ) to end them all!

Glimpse the five-star life I love (and buy with miles!) in Bali.

Here's why I call Bali the ultimate place to recharge.

Check out my epic layover in the world's best airport on the way to Bali.

Read up on my Hello Kitty-themed flight to get this far...

And the Hello Kitty airport experience to match!

And here's where it all began at LAX.

It's actually easy to earn free hotel nights! Here's how:

Ben Schlappig, the blogger behind One Mile at a Time, experiences about $1 million worth of travel every year using miles and points — and covers about 400,000 miles annually this way. Ben has teamed up with Bravo’s Jet Set for a series called The Upgrade, in which he shows you how you — yes, you! — can score real-world-ready strategies for upping your travel game. Come along for the adventure!

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