Cheap, efficient, and extensive adequately describes Hong Kong’s public transport network. Trains, trams, buses and ferries often give you magnificent views of the city while whipping you from place to place, although try to avoid the rush hour if possible because it does get very crowded.
Hong Kong Transportation Travel Guide
Many destinations are written in both English and Chinese, but people working in the transport system tend to speak limited English so plan your route and get people to write down your destination in Chinese in case you require assistance.
1. The Mass Transit Railway (MTR)
Telephone – 2881 8888
Speedy, but relatively pricey for short journeys, the MTR costs HK$4-26 and single tickets are only valid for the day they are purchased. There are five colour-coded lines that run from Central, across the harbour and into the Kowloon Peninsula to the New Territories. The blue line runs along the north side of the island, the red crosses under the harbour to Tsuen Wan in the New Territories, the orange links Central with Tung Chung, the green links Yau Ma Tei in Kowloon with Kwun Tung in the east and the newly constructed purple line acts as the eastern interchange between the green and blue lines.
The trains run from 6am-1am and there are heavy fines imposed if you smoke, eat or drink in the carriages or on the platforms. Ticket wise, an Octopus Card (telephone 2266 2266 for information) makes the best financial sense and it’s a rechargeable ticket you top up every now now and then that offers you discounted rates on various forms of transport. The initial cost is HK$150 and you pass it over the turnstile when you walk through.
2. The Kowloon-Canton East Railway (KCR)
Telephone – 2602 7799
Offering fine panoramic views from its windows, the KCR runs from Hung Hom Station in Kowloon to Lo Wu every 3-10 mins from 5.30am-1am. If you are wanting to visit the border area then don’t forget to bring your passport and documents with you. Tickets cost HK$9 or HK$33 if you are travelling to the border.
3. Light Rail (LRT)
Telephone – 2468 7788
Provides transport routes to the western regions of the New Territories, Tuen Mun ferry pier and Yuen Long. Tickets cost HK$4-5.80 and can be purchased from the ticket machines on the platforms. Trains are electric and, like the trams, run down the roads.
Hong Kong boasts a cheap and expansive bus network that runs from 6am-midnight. The amount you have to pay is written on the bus stop and make sure you have the exact change to put in the box by the driver. You can pick up timetables at the tourist offices. There are five night bus services that run from midnight to 6am including the N21 to Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry (every 20 mins), the N11 to Causeway Bay (every 30 mins), the N23 to Tsz Wan Shan via Yau Ma Tei and Kowloon City (hourly).
Minicabs are cream and red minibuses that seat 14-16 people and can stop anywhere since they are not confined to fixed routes. To reach a destination you either need to know the number of the vehicle you need (displayed in the front window) or simply flag them all down until you find the right one. Fares are cheap and shout “Yau lok!” in a commanding voice when you want to get off.
Maxicabs follow the same concept, but run along fixed routes and have designated stops. They run from 6am-midnight.
Telephone – 2548 7102
One of the most famous trams in the world runs from east to west along the northern side of the island and has done so since 1904. The ride is very fun and gives you a chance to glimpse the city’s beauty. It costs HK$2 and you pay when you alight.
Either find a rank or flag them down on the street – a red ‘for hire’ flag in the windscreen indicates they are free or, at night, the taxi sign on the roof is lit up. Not all drivers speak good English so you may need to write the destination down in Chinese and if you go through any of the major tunnels then you will be charged double the toll.
A wonderful way to see the Hong Kong skyline and the cornucopia of boats that clutter up the shipping lanes. The most well-known company by far is the Star Ferry, telephone 2366 2576, begun in 1888 and now a tourist magnet for people curious to navigate the harbour. There are four routes, the most popular being between Tsim Sha Tsui and Central which goes every 4-10mins from 6.30-11.30pm and costs HK$1.70 (lower deck) or HK$2.20 (upper deck). You can also go from Tsim Sha Tsui to Wan Chai, every 8-20mins from 7.30am-11pm, HK$2.20, Hung Ham to Central every 15-20mins from 7.20am-7.20pm, HK$5.30 or Hung Hom to Wan Chai every 15-20mins from 7.08am-7pm, HK$5.30. Other ferry companies include Discovery Bay Transportation Services, New World First Ferry and the Fortune Ferry Company.
Hover Ferries run between Tsim Sha Tsui East from 7.40am-8.20pm every 20mins and costs HK$4.50. Alternatively, if you want to experience more ‘authentic’ seafaring methods then catch a Kaido – a medium sized boat that runs to the outer islands, a Sampan – very small, traditional crafts that zip about the harbour or, if you can find one, an elusive Walla Walla. It’s like a water taxi and usually Chinese sailors use them to navigate the coves.
Driving is not worth the hassle in Hong Kong, particularly with such a good public transport system in place but if you want to escape the city (biking in the centre is deadly) then rent a bike from Tai Wai, Tai Po or Plover Cove County and explore the outer islands at your own pace. Hire usually costs around HK$25 during the week and HK$35 at weekends.