Getting Around Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is one of the dynamic cities in the world. People can explore city’s endless possibilities through different modes of transportations. Here are some suggestions that you should consider in getting around Hong Kong.

Octopus card

This is the heart of Hong Kong’s public transportation system that was introduced to the public in 1997. It is a contactless smart card that you can tap on card readers (even if the card is inside a wallet or bag) and the correct amount will be deducted from the money stored in the Octopus card.

In addition to being used for all forms of public transportation (except for red minibuses and taxis), it is also accepted for payments in virtually all convenience stores, restaurant chains like McDonald’s and Café de Coral, vending machine, all roadside parking, and some car parks. Some establishments even use this card for identification at entry.

The octopus card provides discounted rates-and even rebates-in Hong Kong’s subways, trains, and some bus routes. Also, it is fully-refundable both in deposit and on unused credit.

However, if you are not going to stay as long as 3 months in Hong Kong, it is best not to purchase it because of the hefty deposit price and other charges.


Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway (or MTR) underground network is the fastest way to get around the city, but what you gain in speed you lose in views and (at least for short distances) price.

The system has five lines, with the most important one for tourists are the Tsuen Wan Line (marked as the "red" line in subway maps), which travels from Central to Kowloon, to downtown’s Nathan Road towards Tsuen Wan in the New Territories; and the Island Line (marked as the "blue" line) that runs along the north coast of Hong Kong Island, the most urbanized part of the city.

Meanwhile, the Tung Chung Line ("orange" line) is the fastest way to get to Lantau Island. It is one of the cheapest way to get to the airport when coupled with the S1 shuttle bus and it also provides a link to Hong Kong Disney Land through a change at Sunny Bay Station.

Remember that in Hong Kong, a "subway" is an underground walkway, not an underground railway, as most North Americans would refer it to.


The Kowloon-Canton Railway connects Kowloon to Canton (in Guangdong, mainland China) and it is also an important commuter line. The main KCR East Rail runs to East Tsim Sha Tsui, where you can interchange with the MTR and the Star Ferry. The KCR West Rail links up Kowloon with the Western New Territories.

Tourists can buy a day pass and enjoy unlimited rides on the KCR system except to Racecourse and Lo Wu Stations.

Trams – The narrow double-decker city trams trundling on the north coast of Hong Kong Island are a Hong Kong icon. They are slower but the route along the length of Hong Kong Island’s center is pretty much the cheapest sightseeing tour around.

One recommended mode is the Peak Tram, which is a steep climb from Central to Victoria Peak. It is worth the trip despite the relatively steep price (HK$20 one-way, HK$30 return; return tickets must be purchased in advance).


The large double-decker buses cover practically all over the territory. They stop frequently and charge varying fares depending on the distance. It is much recommended to take the first seats of the upper deck, as it has the best view. While generally easy to use (especially with an Octopus Card), signage in English can be sparse and finding your bus stop can be a bit difficult. Buses are pretty much your only option for traveling around the south side of Hong Kong Island as well as Lantau.

Meanwhile, van-sized public light buses carry a maximum of 16 passengers and come in two varieties: the red and the green (also called maxicabs), the color referring to a wide stripe painted on top of the vehicle. Red minibuses can pick up and drop off passengers anywhere the law allows, while the maxicabs follow a fixed route from point to point as fast as the traffic will allow. We recommend to take a maxicab #1, which runs from Victoria Peak to Central.

Remember to pay exact fare when riding a bus, as no change can be given. Paying by Octopus Card is much convenient.

The problem though in riding the bus is the confusion in the route numbering. You may say that you are riding through route #6 along Tsim Sha Tsui but you have to mention whether it is a bus route or a minibus route, as both have different directions.


Vast fleets of ferries ply between the many islands of Hong Kong. The granddaddy of them all and an attraction in itself is the Star Ferry, whose most popular lines travel between Kowloon and Central nearly continuosly, and offers amazing views (especially when coming from Kowloon).

Ferries to Lamma, Lantau, and other island depart from a variety of ports, but the largest and most important terminal is at Central adjacent to the Star Ferry. Ferries are usually divided into fast ferries and slow ferries, with fast ferries charging around twice the price for half the journey time. Note that all fares increase around 50% on Sundays and public holidays.


Cabs are plentiful, clean, and efficient. They were actually rated as one of the cheapest in the world. Flag-down rate is HK$15 for two kilometers, which increases to HK$1.40 on every 200-meter increments. No tipping is expected but the fare may be rounded up to the nearest dollar.

Drivers are required to provide change for HK$100 notes, but not for higher denominations. If you only have HK$500 or HK$1000 notes and are going through a toll tunnel, let the driver know beforehand and he will change it when paying at the toll booth.

The only difficult part about riding Hong Kong’s taxicabs is that they come in three different colors, and three different areas that they are allowed to travel. Red taxis typically serve Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, and some parts of the New Territories, but they are permitted to travel all over Hong Kong except to Lantau Island. Green taxis serve only the New Territories, and they come in slightly cheaper fares than red taxis. Rare blue taxis (there are only about 50 of them) solely serve Lantau Island. All types of taxis can take you to the airport. When in doubt, take a red taxi.

In addition, red taxis are based in either Hong Kong Island or Kowloon. If an Island-based taxi takes you to Kowloon, the driver will charge you twice the toll fee so they can get back. You can use this to your advantage by picking a homebound taxi from a cross-harbor taxi rank in places like the Star Ferry pier or Hung Hom station. In this way, you can only pay a single toll charge.

Hong Kong cabs do not have a late-night charge. Baggage will cost you $5 each (but in practice almost never charged) and all tolls are required to be paid by the passenger. The wearing of seat belts is required by law.

It is good practice to get a local to write the name or address of your destination in Chinese (or you can get a business card of the hotel or establishment you want to go) for you to hand to the driver, as most drivers do not speak English fluently.


Renting a car is almost unheard-of in Hong Kong, with it heavy traffic, extremely complex road network and difficult parking. If you have to, even a small car would have you pay HK$600 a day.

Cable car

There is a cable car to Ocean Park on the southern side of Hong Kong Island, and Ngong Ping Skyrail in Lantau (which is due to open soon).

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