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Home > Useful Information > Transportation in Hong Kong Life is short; let's living / study abroad!


Transportation in Hong Kong


Transportation in Hong Kong is not just acceptable. The railway / subway system are among the best in the world. The means of transportation that I am going to introduce are all 'easy to handle', clean, convenient and most importantly - cheap. Although they don't go to all the places I recommend in the Guide, you will fall in love with HK's public transport after you have arrived for a week already.

Octopus Card
Taxi
Train (MTR)
Bus
Mini-bus
Tram
Ferry
Peak Tram
Driving

The Octopus

Octopus Card

The first thing after you arrived in Hong Kong is not getting your student identity card or anything. You should go to the customer service center of the Airport Express Airport Station (or at a train station if you come by land) and get your Octopus Card. It is on level 5 of the Airport Terminal - the same level after you pass through all the Customs, Immigration and begin your adventure in HK (and also the bus stop level). Why? This is why:

Octopus Card is a stored value card which you can use to pay for nearly all kinds of public transport in HK, except most Red Topped Minibus and most Taxi. Why are they not included? Because they don't require passenger to pay for exact fares. But the others, MTR, Bus, Mini Bus, Tram and Ferry, exact fares must be produced. For Bus, Minibus and Tram, changes are not given back to passengers. With an Octopus Card, however, you can save all these troubles.

Yet, it is not all the Octopus got! Besides making payment for transportation, Octopus can also be used in 24 hours opening convenient stores: such as 7-11 and Circle K; fast food shops: McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chickens, Cafe de Carol, Fairwood and Maxim's (Cafe de Carol, Fairwood and Maxim's are local fast food shops); supermarkets; Watsons and Mannings (local stores for personal products and medicine); to buy movie tickets, and many other things in HK.  

Octopus Card sensor

This is the sensor for Octopus Card. Place your Octopus Card above it at the shops or anywhere you see it for payment.

So it is very convenient and you probably will get one, but you may ask why should I buy it right at the Airport (or train station / pier)? It is because for every journey you make with your Octopus Card with MTR, you will be entitled for a concessionary fare automatically. Unless you are taking a cab at the Airport, get your Octopus at the Airport and enjoy your benefit since the first time you travel in HK.

The Octopus Card allows you to store value up to HK$ 1,000. You can add money to your card anytime (it is usually when you have used or almost used all the stored value though) at any customer service center of MTR, 24 hours convenient stores 7-11 and Circle K, supermarkets Wellcome and Park'N Shop (Taste), and at the add value machine by yourself in all MTR stations.

The Octopus Card can be bought at any customer service center of MTR stations, and you must pay HK$ 150 for an Adult card. It includes HK$ 50 as deposit / production cost of the card, which will be refunded to you if you decide to return your card to the service center when you go back home (It takes 7 DAYS for MTR to process your refund. So, either you say goodbye to your Octopus 7 days before you leave, or just take it home as a souvenir - Octopus is so cool that you won't wanna say goodbye to it until you leave though). The other HK$ 100 is the stored value which you can begin using. You can get your Student Octopus Card if you are a student in HK.

The reason why you may buy an Adult Octopus Card on the day of your arrival before getting a student one (if eligible) because: You have to wait for at least 21 days for your Student Octopus Card to be ready, and you can have your deposit back when you return your Adult Octopus Card when receiving your Student one anyway. Otherwise, you might want to kill yourself within a few days for being such a smartass at the beginning just to save a few bugs, after realizing how amazing and convenient an Octopus Card could have offered you. Besides, you can only save money when using it for MTR. Buses, ferries, canteens, etc., they all charge the same to both Adult and Student Octopus Cards holders.

One final note about the Octopus Card is that it has HK$ 35 pre-paid value in the card - they can go negative to HK$ 35, under the condition that you still have positive value in your card (at least HK$ 0.1), then you can make a payment which is not more than the total of HK$ 35 and the positive value you still have in your card.

For example, if you have a positive value of HK$ 5, you can only make a payment with your card for something equal to or less than HK$ 40 (35 + 5). After you have make the payment, the stored value in your card will become a negative value: HK$ -35 (+5 - 40). By then, you can no longer make any payment with your card until you have added more value to it, and make the stored value become a positive value again.

The used pre-paid value will be deducted from the value you add to the card afterwards. Using the above example again, if your card has a value of HK$ -35, you will only get a positive value of HK$ 65 if you add HK$ 100 to it later (100 - 35).

This 'traveling / shopping card' of HK is called Octopus because it symbolizes the 8 directions on a compass in Chinese and with that you can go anywhere.

HK is the first city in the world to implement this kind of stored value card for transportation. There is also "Octopus Card" in Macao, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Beijing, etc. Just for your information.  

When you can get a Student Octopus Card, please follow the steps below:

1) Enroll to the University as a full time student - get student card with a valid student visa
2) Get an application form - either from your school or any MTR station
3) Fill in the form and obtain the approval from your school
4) Return the form to any MTR station and pay the application fee (return the adult one and install the valid to a new one if applies)
5) Get a temporary Student Octopus Card which you can use it already
6) Keep the receipt and wait for a few weeks to get the official Student Octopus Card

Actually there is one more thing I want to say about Octopus Card (I was reminded by Sheung Leung, student from the Netherlands. She got so pissed off because I did not mention this when she was in HK and she had to learn her lesson lol): Don't place your Octopus Card and your Student Identity Card too close together inside your wallet. Somehow, the chips of the two things do not like each others and it is the Student Identity Card always win. I, Sheung and many others have had our Octopus Cards replaced once because of this reason.

The Tung Chung Line Pass - You can get a Tuen Mun - Nam Cheong One Day Pass at the stations of Tung Chung Line between Nam Cheong and Tuen Mun. It is HK$ 21 only. If you want to explore the west of the New Territories, it would be much better having this pass. 

Since you can use Octopus Card to get on the Airport Express train and buses; that's why theoretically this mighty Octopus Card can take you to anywhere in the world!


Taxi (Cab)

Taxi is a more expensive means of transport compares to the others. However, it will not be that expensive if you travel with 3 or more people (the max. is 5).

There are 3 types of taxi in HK:

Red colored - runs from the city (Kowloon and Hong Kong Island) to every parts of Hong Kong (includes the Airport but not other parts of Lantau Island).

Taxi city

In 2017, fare starts at HK$ 24 which also covers the first 2 km (about 1 1/6 miles). For every 200 m thereafter, an additional charge of HK$ 1.7 would be added. (Notes)

Total fares will be the sum of the fare shown on the meter, and if any, the toll fee for crossing tunnel or bridge (from HK$ 3 to HK$ 50), and luggage stored in the truck (HK$ 5 for each, size doesn't matter).

Green colored - runs only in the New Territories, but not includes Shatin, Tsuen Wan, Tseung Kwan O and Lantau Island.

Taxi New Territories

In 2014, fare starts at HK$ 20.5 which also covers the first 2 km (about 1 1/6 miles). For every 200 m thereafter, an additional charge of HK$ 1.5 would be added. (Notes)

Total fares will be the sum of the fare shown on the meter, and if any, the toll fee for crossing tunnel or bridge (from HK$ 3 to HK$ 50), and luggage stored in the truck (HK$ 4 for each, size doesn't matter).

Blue colored - runs only in Lantau Island.

Taxi Lantau

In 2014, fare starts at HK$ 19 which also covers the first 2 km (about 1 1/6 miles). For every 200 m thereafter, an additional charge of HK$ 1.5 would be added. (Notes)

Total fares will be the sum of the fare shown on the meter, and if any, the toll fee for crossing tunnel or bridge (from HK$ 3 to HK$ 50), and luggage stored in the truck (HK$ 5 for each, size doesn't matter).

Notes:

The Taxi fare is based on a "Travel further, cost smaller" system. The longer you are traveling, the additional charge for every 200 m would be less. For more information, please refer to the government website on taxi fare:

http://www.td.gov.hk/en/transport_in_hong_kong/public_transport/taxi/taxi_fare_of_hong_kong/index.html
 
It is never a good idea to cross the harbor either from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island or vice versa through the Hung Hom (old) Tunnel by taxi from 8 am to 8 pm. The traffic jam may cost you double than usual.

Taxi drivers in general cannot speak English. You better write down your destination in Chinese or learn some Cantonese =)

Some taxi drivers are not very enthusiastic to their profession. Never argue with them, call the Police if necessary.

You may take a taxi anywhere (not the highway) at midnight, but at other times, it is more easy to get one away from the main road (road with 3 or more lanes on 1 side). Taxi is usually not allowed to pick up passenger on road with a yellow or double yellow lines painted on the edge of a road next to the pavement.

Taxi LOST and FOUND - In case you forgot something in a cab, you may try to call the HK Taxi Union Hotline - 23588288. The drivers here are quite honest so if your lost is not taken away by another passenger, they may be able to help you to locate the driver and get your stuff back.


Tips on finding a taxi in HK:

There are about 50,000 cabs in HK; and taxi drivers in HK are usually friendly and professional to their passengers (but not necessary to every one else). To be fair, taxi service in HK is one of the best in the world; as well as one of the cheapest. Nevertheless, you may find it frustrating and disappointing if you have ignored the tips below when looking for a taxi. 

No-service sign - When you see a red cover on top of where the charge-meter should be inside a taxi, it means the taxi is not in service at the moment. So don't get mad when you see this happen. It may just be the time for the driver to go home or to have food. It is hard to spot it until the taxi gets very close though.



Cross-harbor stands - So if the driver has not cover the meter with the red sign, theoretically he or she has to stop for you and take you to anywhere you want. However, it is quite often that taxi drivers are reluctant to take a passenger to go to the other side of the harbor sometimes. Namely from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island or vice versa. They will ask you to get on another cab. As I said, they are not allowed to do so and you may call the police for help. Unfortunately, for most of us we do not have time to play this game with the taxi driver; so we may just tell him or her to GF him / herself and try to find another cab.

One of the reasons why taxi drivers do not take passengers to cross the harbor is probably that they know there is a designated cross harbor taxi stand somewhere close by. And sometimes they are nice enough to point you to the location. A cross harbor stand assembles all the taxi drivers who are happy to take passengers across the harbor in the area. So if there is a cross harbor stand nearby and you want to cross the harbor, you should head over there to wait for your cab.

You may want to know that when you cross the harbor using of the underwater tunnels here, you have to pay an extra fee on top of the taxi fare. If you get on a cab to cross the harbor at the cross harbor stand, The extra fee will be the exact toll fee the driver needs to pay to the tunnel. If you get on a cab from somewhere else, the extra fee will be double the toll fee.

Sometimes, you may also see other designated stands such as stand for going to Kowloon, the New Territories, etc. For example, when you are looking for a taxi at the airport.



Double Yellow Line - In providing door-to-door service, taxis may be stopped at anywhere you like. But like many other big cities, there are road-traffic rules in HK which prevents taxi (vehicle in general) from stopping at some places. When there is a 'double yellow line' (sometimes white) along the edge of a road, vehicles are not allowed to make any stop at any time of the day at all. Usually you will see a double yellow line on a busy road, highway, or intersection. If you try to get on a taxi on a double yellow line road, no matter how hard you are waving your arm and how long you have been doing it, no taxi will stop for you and you will be just looking like an idiot. The worst thing is, no taxi driver can point out your mistake because they cannot stop even for one second and talk to you.

In the same way, don't get mad with the taxi driver if you want to get off on a double yellow line road but he or she refuses to do so; and you have to get off at somewhere like 100 feet farther away.



In general, it is easier to find a taxi on less busy roads, inside shopping malls, or at major transportation terminals.



HKMTR

MTR

MTR is the subway / metro / underground system in HK. It is one of the most efficient railway system in the world. MTR is clean, fast and convenient; although I prefer to take the bus as I enjoy looking at the city. MTR is only my choice when I need to go somewhere in hurry.

There are only 11 MTR lines in HK but they provide adequate service to the people there. If you are a student you can enjoy half price of the fare by using a Student Octopus Card, except for the Airport Express.

MTR Rail Lines

From December 2007, MTR and KCR have merged together to become one single company. Actually they are not merging, MTR has taken over KCR. To some extent I don't like the take over. KCR service was better and it had more than 90 years of history while MTR has about 30 only. Anyway, because the "merging" took only 1 night to be effective, you may still find the sign of KCR in some of the direction / sign for MTR all over HK. So, if you see the above sign with 2 arrows pointing away from each other, don't panic, it is also referring to the MTR.

Anyway, the MTR R-Lines used to be the railway of HK that goes to mainland China. It still does but nowadays, it mainly serves the New Territories.

Train tickets to Guangzhou (Zhaoqing, Changping), Shanghai and Beijing of mainland China can be bought at East Rail train stations. Train to Guangzhou takes about 1.5 hours, to Shanghai 20 hours and Beijing 24 hours. For more information, please visit http://www.it3.mtr.com.hk/B2C/frmIndex.asp?strLang=Eng
 
Also, you can take the East Rail Line at Kowloon Tong Station if you are going Shenzhen (Lo Wu or Lok Ma Chau / Futian), the nearest city to HK from China, directly. It runs every 5 minutes.

Go to the Maps section for a map of the railway system in HK

Other R-Lines includes the West Rail Line, going from East Tsim Sha Tsui to Tuen Mun and Yuen Long; Ma On Shan Line, running from Tai Wai to Ma On Shan; and Light Rail serving only between Tuen Mun and Yuen Long.  


Bus

Bus

Bus almost goes to every places in HK and it is cheap. Without traffic jams, riding on a bus is indeed a very nice way to explore the city.

Nowadays, all the buses running in HK are air-conditioned. They have large windows which allow passengers to see every thing around clearly.

Route information can be found in the website of the bus companies. They provide detailed information like stops locations and pictures. Their websites are shown in the Useful Numbers section of this Guide.


Mini Bus

Minibus Red Minibus Green

Minibus is 16-seats vehicle designed to support the public bus system. Minibus goes to places usually difficult for bus to go, or places which traffic is not too busy.

There are 2 kinds of minibus in HK. The Red-Topped and the Green-Topped. The Red-Topped is the worst mean of transportation in HK sometimes. The driver waits at almost every traffic light until the bus is full; and most of the time it doesn't take Octopus Card. However, they can stop at almost anywhere for you.

The Green-Topped runs similar to bus. It stops only at minibus stops and they take Octopus Card. However, they require passengers to pay for exact fare since they accept Octopus, or no changes would be given back.

Green-Topped minibus is a useful resource to visitors in HK because it goes to a lot of interesting places. You will be proud of yourself once can figure out the system.


Tram

Tram

Tram runs across HK Island and it has been more than a century already. It is not only the slowest mean of transport in HK, after the elimination of rickshaw; but also the cheapest. All you need is HK$ 2.3 and you can abroad and get off at any stops. In fact, the tram is not that slow. From Central to Causeway Bay for example, it takes 30 mins only. Besides, it is one of the best way to experience the urban area of HK Island by traveling on the tram at a Summer night. The breeze coming from the front will just blow all your troubles away.

Apart from that, it is also a nice way to see all the Christmas / Chinese New Year decorations on the Island from the tram during the festive seasons.

The tram runs from Kennedy Town in the West to Shau Kei Wan in the East.

There is also open top tram available for public hiring. It could make a wonderful birthday party. For enquiry, you may visit the company's website at http://www.hktramways.com or 25487102
 

Ferry

Ferry

Ferry is divided into inner harbor lines and outer harbor lines. Inner harbor routes include ferries which go between the 2 sides of the Victoria Harbour, or Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. In the past there were more than 5 ferry lines go between different parts of the harbor. Nowadays, people usually refer to the line goes between Tsim Sha Tsui and Central / Wanchai when talking about the HK's ferry.

This harbor crossing line, or city skyline watching line to be more specific, is ran by Star Ferry. It is a very pleasant journey. Although the duration of the journey is shortened because of the reclamation work in the harbor, this 15 mins ride on the sea is an unforgettable moment for everyone coming to HK.

The ferry has 2 decks with different charges. In July 2017, the upper deck, with air-conditioning at the back is HK$ 2.5 / head (3.4 on Sunday and holiday). The lower deck, with less favorable view is HK$ 2 (2.8) / head.

Usually the guide book of HK will suggest you to take the ride between Tsim Sha Tsui to Central. It is just because there are more to see in either Tsim Sha Tsui or Central after you landed. The best way to see the harbor skyline, however, is to ride on the ferry goes between Tsim Sha Tsui and Wanchai. Not only it takes longer so you have more time to take pictures, but also because the ferry will move in parallel with the harbor in the middle way, and that gives you the best location to take pictures.

Outer harbor lines

They refer to the ferries which go between the city and the remote islands. Such as Cheung Chau, Lamma Island, and Lantau Island.

The ride again is fantastic. More detail can be found in the activities section that talk about those remote islands.

Reference: www.nwff.com.hk / www.hkkf.com.hk / www.starferry.com.hk / www.traway.com.hk

Peak Tram

Peak Tram

Since 1888, the Peak Tram pulls passengers from the Garden Road Terminal to the Peak Tower every day. It is the world most inclined cable tram bringing passengers to 373 m at an inclination of about 40 degree.

The Peak Tram runs from 7 am to 00:00, and a 7 mins ride costs HK$ 32 (single journey) or HK$ 45 (round-trip).

It is nice to ride on the Peak Tram for once. Personally I prefer going up the Peak by minibus or bus, which gives me more time to see the city down below on the way.

Also, do pay attention to the announcement made by the Peak Tram company because the tram usually stops servicing a few times during a year for maintenance.

Driving

Ferrari

If you have your driving license from your country, you may drive your car in Hong Kong without taking an examination in Hong Kong if you have an International Driving License already or if you are on the list of exempted countries in the Transport Department; AND YOU ARE STAYING IN HONG KONG FOR NOT MORE THAN 12 MONTHS. On the other hand, you will need to apply for a HK Driving Licence which is valid for 10 years for HK$ 900 from the Department. You may not need to take a driving examination if you are from the list of the eligible countries. Here are the addresses of some of the Transport Department offices:
 
Kowloon Licensing Office, 2/F, Cheung Sha Wan Government Offices, 303 Cheung Sha Wan Road, (Exit C, Sham Shui Po MTR)

New Territories Licensing Office, 2/F, Shatin Government Offices, 1 Sheung Wo Che Road, Shatin, (Exit B, Shatin MTR)

Hong Kong Island Licensing Office, 3/F, United Centre, 95 Queensway, Admiralty (Exit D, Admiralty MTR)

Driving in HK is not easy. Traffic jam occurs all the time, parking fee is expensive, and drivers are.....Public transport is much more lovely on the other hand. But if you are not the driver, who cares!

I have been driving in HK, my experience is - I give up paying attention to the cars from the opposite direction because I am confused of driving on the left side of the road haha.



Last updated: August, 2017 (Version 6.0); since January 01, 2007
Best viewed in 1024 x 768 resolution; IE 11 / Safari / Chrome / Firefox - By Lorencio H M Shiu; all rights reserved MMVII - MMXVII
       
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