The first thing to say about public transport in Hong Kong is that it’s excellent! There are many different modes to choose from, and each is clean, efficient, fast, and most importantly, on time.
So with that in mind, here are the 9 things that you must know in order to get the best from using Hong Kong public transport:
1. The MTR Comprises of Different Kinds of Trains
MTR stands for Mass Transit Railway and is made up three different train systems. These are the underground (subway), overground and light rail.
The system covers all of the major districts in Hong Kong, and is certainly one of the most efficient ways to get around. It also goes to the border with mainland China railway stations (Lok Ma Chau and Lo Wu), making it the obvious choice if your journey is heading onwards in that direction.
2. Avoid Using Public Transport During Peak Times
Of course, this isn’t always possible. But when you realize that the MTR alone carries around 4 million people daily, you can get the idea of quite how busy rush hour can be.
Peak times tend to be 07:30-09:30 and 17:00-19:00 weekdays. Most public transport starts at around 05:30 and runs through until midnight or 01:00.
3. Don’t Drink, Eat or Smoke
No smoking or drinking is allowed on the MTR trains or in the stations. It’s strictly enforced and there’s a penalty of HK$5,000.
4. The Exit Signs Can Be Somewhat Confusing
At some of the station exits, there can be up to 10-12 to choose from. This can make for a mind-boggling decision at times.
However, they are listed in alphanumerical order, and there is a map at each exit. You’ll also find many staff at all the stations – many have good English (or at least a small amount), and will be happy to point you in the right direction.
5. Different MTR Fare Options
For tourists, the easiest way to travel using public transport is to purchase a tourist day pass. These cost HK$55 per day (HK$25 for children ages 3-11) and are valid for a month from the date of issue. The ticket is valid for 24 consecutive hours from the time you make your first journey.
Another choice is the Octopus Card. This is a rechargeable smart card that can be used on the MTR and most other public transport. It also allows you to make purchases in various shops, such as supermarkets, in the city.
In addition, your MTR fares are around 5% cheaper using this method of payment. A card can be purchased for HK$150 – this is made up of a HK$50 refundable deposit and HK$100 worth of travel/purchases. The card can be topped up at any MTR station.
The Airport Express Travel Pass allows for 1 or 2 single journeys to or from the airport, as well as 3 consecutive days unlimited travel on the MTR. The cost is HK$250/HK$350 which includes a HK$50 refundable deposit.
For those whose journey begins or ends at one of the border stations to mainland China, the Tourist Cross-Boundary Travel Pass could be an option. It includes 2 single journeys to or from Lo Wu or Lok Ma Chau stations, and unlimited travel on the MTR. The ticket costs HK$100/HK$140.
6. Don’t Forget to Use the Buses
Slightly cheaper than the MTR, the Hong Kong buses are a great way to get around town – and you get a fabulous view as well, because most buses are of a double decker variety (make sure to get a seat up top). Bus routes cover virtually all of Hong Kong.
You can use the Octopus Card to pay for your fares (or cash, if you prefer – but you must have the correct change). The bus services are run by various different companies, including Citybus and Kowloon Motor Bus.
7. Know the Difference Between Minibuses
In Hong Kong you’ll see two different colours of minibus – green and red. The green minibuses run along specific routes and charge fixed prices – just like a regular bus.
You can pay by Octopus Card or cash (exact change). There are no buttons to push to signal you wish to get off, so you simply have to shout to the driver. If the minibus is full, it won’t stop to pick up any more passengers until someone disembarks.
Red minibuses, however, run along routes that don’t have fixed stops – you can get on and get off anywhere. They also don’t have any fixed schedule or fixed fares – fares tend to rise during peak hours or bad weather!
You can’t use an Octopus Card to pay, and the driver usually requests payment when you get off – so you don’t know how much it’s going to cost until you leave! However, they will give you change.
Be aware that most minibus drivers don’t speak any English (or very little), so this method of travel can be a challenge for tourists.
8. There are Different Color Taxis
The taxis in Hong Kong are different colours – red, green and blue. But don’t worry, because the colour simply denotes the geographical area in which the taxi covers (although they all go to the airport and to Disneyland.)
9. Don’t Forget about the Trams
The Hong Kong trams are a fun way to travel the North Corridor of Hong Kong. These vintage vehicles offer a great way of seeing this busy part of the island, and are a bargain to boot: any fare (no matter how far you travel), costs a mere HK$2.30 (exact change needed or pay by Octopus Card).
For the best view, grab a window seat upstairs, and enjoy the nostalgia of a transport method that’s been trawling the streets of Hong Kong for over 100 years.
The trams run every day, starting early in the morning through to midnight. When you get on, this needs to be done at the back of the tram, and when leaving you get off at the front.