Using the public transport in the metropolis of Hong Kong is an experience in itself. With old-world trams and ferries, offering sweeping panoramic views, as well as super modern and slick underground trains, the public transport of the Pearl of the Orient is like a microcosm of the city itself – full of contrasts.
The underground network of Hong Kong is reasonably extensive, consisting of over 10 lines and covering more than 90 stations. The lines are colour coded and the stations are easy to recognise from above ground by the MTR logo: a red oval with a white symbol of three interconnecting lines in the middle.
Trains operate daily between 06:00 and midnight or 01:00, running every few minutes, though later in the evenings you may occasionally have to wait up to 10 minutes for a train. As far as possible, avoid travelling between 07:30 and 09:30, and also between 17:00 and 19:00 – as this is when the city experiences rush hour and trains become extremely packed.
Tickets cost between HK$8 and HK$60, depending on the distance travelled, so if you’re buying a single ticket, you must know the name of your destination – in order to get the correct ticket. Once you enter the station with your ticket, you have 90 minutes to complete your journey. Of course, being Hong Kong, it is significantly more expensive than other cities in mainland China, but it is still quite an affordable way to get around.
Another option is to buy an Octopus Card at any MTR station and load it with credit that will be deducted after each journey depending on the distance travelled. A new card costs HK$150 and includes a HK$50 refundable deposit and HK$100 worth of travel. Journeys made with an Octopus Card cost 5% less than individual tickets, and conveniently the card can also be used to make purchases at many shops such as supermarkets and convenience stores around Hong Kong.
The bus network in Hong Kong covers many locations not reachable by underground and also run during the night on several routes, making it a good option to avoid taking taxis if you want to save money. You can use your Octopus Card on buses, saving you having to have the exact change for your fare and stops are announced in both Cantonese and English.
The famous double-decker trams that run along the northern shore of Hong Kong island offer some great views from the upper deck and make for an interesting journey in themselves. They run between 06:00 and 00:00 every day and accept Octopus Cards and charge between HK$5.50 and HK$8 depending on distance.
The famous Star Ferry isn’t the only ferry service that is part of the public transport network of Hong Kong, though it is likely the most worthwhile. Travelling from the Star Ferry Pier in Kowloon, right by the Kowloon Visitor Centre, to Central Hong Kong Island (right by the International Commerce Centre) and also to the New Wan Chai Ferry Pier; both routes offer spectacular views of the city from the water, as Erin and Simon attest to on their blog:
“Our first glimpse of the skyline was by night but by day it doesn’t disappoint either. The best way to enjoy it is to take the Star Ferry across the harbour for impressive views at a bargain price.”
Onward travel from Hong Kong
To travel anywhere south of Hong Kong, you’ll need to fly. Luckily, the airport is served by the metro system and is within easy reach of the centre of the city with the Airport Express service taking just under an hour and costing HK$250 one way of HK$350 return. This may seem expensive, but included in that is also unlimited travel for three consecutive days on the MTR.
To travel north or anywhere in mainland China, you’ll have to cross the border to China and start your journey from Shenzhen, which is also easy to do with public transport: just take the East Rail Line from Hung Hom Station in Kowloon to Lok Ma Chau Station, the end of the line and follow the signs to the border crossing on foot. Allow at least an hour and a half from central Hong Kong to arrive in Shenzhen.