Getting around Hong Kong is easy, inexpensive and often a pleasure. In spite of the vast number of people crammed into this small area, the excellent and integrated public facilities cope comfortably and modes of transport range from enormous escalators to high-speed subways (MTR).
As it has acquired wealth, the city has invested heavily in its infrastructural systems, which it hopes will continue to bring visitors to this Asian transport hub. Along with its speedy, efficient services, Hong Kong also offers slower, more traditional transport such as the Peak Tram and Star Ferry, both of which have become tourist attractions in their own right.
If you’re going to be in Hong Kong for a substantial period, it is worth buying an Octopus card. The stored-value cards can be used to pay for most forms of transport in Hong Kong as well as certain stores and restaurants. There are also tourist-friendly versions of the card available.
Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway (MTR or subway) system is cheap at only HK$4-26 per journey, but it can get very busy at peak times (, and ). There are six routes, the most useful being the Sheung Wan (red) and the Island (blue) lines.
The Sheung Wan Line runs from Central on Hong Kong Island under the harbor, following Nathan Road north until Prince Edward, where it bears west out to Tsuen Wan. The Island Line goes from Sheung Wan in the west of Hong Kong Island past Central, Admiralty, Wanchai and Causeway Bay out as far as Chai Wan in the east.
Route maps are plastered all over the MTR system as well as on the trains themselves. They also show which is the next station where the train is heading and which side of the carriage the next exit will be. Stations often have a bewildering choice of street exits. Using the ticket machines is fairly straightforward, but you need coins or small notes (HK$20 or less) to use them – there are change kiosks in the stations. Tickets are in the form of plastic cards. If you plan to use the MTR a lot in one day you can also buy day-passes for HK$50.
In addition to its MTR system, Hong Kong also has an effective rail network, which is useful for getting out to the New Territories. The Kowloon-Canton Railway has several branches and runs as far as the Lo Wu (Luo Hu) border with Shenzhen in the north, Tuen Mun in the west and Ma On Shan in the east, with a light rail line (and the airport express) going out to Lantau.
Trams have operated here since 1904 and are still a common feature on the streets of Hong KongIsland.
Trams follow several overlapping routes along the north shore of Hong KongIsland, of which the most useful run along Queensway and Hennessy Roads.
They are in service from early morning until and cost HK$2.
They are a fun way to get around the city, offering good views from the upper deck.
Get on at the back of the tram and pay as you alight.
If you’re really fond of tram travel you can even rent trams for private tours of the city, although it’s not cheap (HK$570-2,800 per hour).
Hong Kong Tram
Hong Kong has an efficient and extensive double-decker bus and minibus network that covers the major sights on Hong Kong and Kowloon as well as destinations in the NewTerritories. There are also services on some of the larger OutlyingIslands such as Lantau.
However, given that the MTR covers many of the sights close to Kowloon’s Nathan Road and Hong KongIsland’s downtown zone, buses are most useful for trips to more distant parts of Hong KongIsland and into the NewTerritories.
The major hubs are outside of the two Star Ferry terminals and at Exchange Square in Central. Buses tend to be comfortable but can be slow, especially during rush hour. Services operate from to and cost between HK$3.5 and HK$6.
Easily identifiable bright red taxis are everywhere on Hong KongIsland and in Kowloon, though you’ll have trouble finding an empty one in the rain. Cabs are green in the NewTerritories and blue on Lantau. Fares are HK$15 for the first two km (1.2 miles), and then HK$7 per km (0.6 miles) beyond this, with a fee of HK$5 per piece of luggage placed in the trunk.
If you go through any of the Kowloon-HongKongIsland tunnels you’ll have to pay the HK$20-30 toll, which will be added to your fare at the end of the journey. Likewise, the ride to the airport involves extra charges. Many drivers speak a smattering of English but it’s best to get the name of your destination written in Chinese at your hotel, or make sure know where it is on the map.
Although you can rent cars in Hong Kong, its small size, excellent public transport facilities and the amount of traffic make it more hassle than it’s worth, even for residents.
What’s more, car rental isn’t cheap (starting at around HK$500 a day) and many of the places you might want to escape to, such as the OutlyingIslands, are inaccessible by car.If all this isn’t enough to discourage, then try Avis at Shop 46, Peninsula Centre, 67 Mody Road (tel. 00852-2890-6988; Mon-Fri 9 am-6 pm, Sat & Sun 9 am-4 pm). You need a valid international driver’s license to rent vehicles.
Downtown Hong Kong is not fun to negotiate by bike, but once out in the countryside or on the outlying islands it can be a great way to get around. You can rent bikes on CheungChauIsland and at Tai Po KCR Station in the NewTerritories for around HK$50 per day.
Despite the construction of several tunnels linking Hong KongIsland and Kowloon, the Star Ferry, in Service since 1888, remains one of the principal carriers for this route and offers 10 minutes of spectacular harbour views in the bargain.
Divided into a pricier upper deck and a cheaper lower level, the Star Ferry has featured in many a movie and is a must for any traveler to Hong Kong.
The ferries run from Tsimshatsui and Hung Hom in Kowloon to both Wanchai and Central on Hong KongIsland. The Central Pier was just moved, amid much controversy, from its old locale due north of Statue Square, to a new spot half a mile to the north, next to the Outlying Islands Ferry Pier. Fares range from HK$1.7 to HK$5.30, depending on route and class. It’s best to have exact change, although there are change booths at the toll gates. If you want to see more, the Star Ferry also runs harbor cruises.
Outlying Islands FerriesHong Kong has countless small islands and to reach many of them you’ll need to come to the OutlyingIslands Ferry Pier, next to the Star Ferry terminal on Hong KongIsland. There are frequent and inexpensive services to Cheung Chau, Lamma and Lantau.
Although journeys can be a little choppy, the crafts are fairly modern and comfortable. Note that during severe weather, such as typhoons, these services may be suspended, so check before you head out to the islands if you’ve got a plane to catch. See the descriptions of these islands below for durations and frequencies of services.
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