Despite the city’s size and population, getting from A to B in Hong Kong is relatively easy. Hong Kong’s public transport system is fast, efficient and usually very cheap! With an MTR system that’s easily among the world’s best, a good bus network, mini buses, reasonably priced taxis and a few other fun ways to travel, it’s very easy to survive here without a car.
Whether you’re arriving in Hong Kong for the first time, or you’re an old hand who comes and goes frequently, it’s likely you’ve been impressed at the facilities and operations at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA). While 2020 was obviously an aberration for the aviation and tourism industries, in 2019, over 71 million passengers were handled by HKIA; and there’s rarely a bad word spoken about the facility by those who travel regularly
HKIA is regularly voted World’s Best Airport for Dining at the annual Skytrax awards – in fact, it has claimed the title seven times in the past decade. So, if your flight is delayed, don’t fret – dig in!
Expansions are planned at HKIA, and a third runway was originally to be completed by 2024. It remains to be seen how the global pandemic will impact scheduling.
Trains & Trams
The MTR network consists of 11 lines, including the South Island line, which opened in December 2016. It also includes a service to Disneyland and the Airport Express. A light rail system runs between Yuen Long and Tuen Mun in the New Territories and you can also take a train to the mainland, crossing the border at Lok Ma Chau and Lo Wu.
New in 2020
The latest MTR station to open is Kai Tak, on the Tuen Ma line. It began operations on 14 February 2020, a Valentine’s Day event that attracted plenty of attention from train enthusiasts.
If you fancy a trip up to mainland China, the brand new high-speed rail system is the perfect way to do it. The service was opened in 2018 and connects Hong Kong to 44 cities around China. Remember, all foreign travellers require passports and China visas, even for the shortest journeys.
Hong Kong trams, known affectionately as “ding dings”, may not be the fastest way to travel, but sitting on the top deck provides a great view. You board at the back and pay at the front as you exit at the end of your journey (using Octopus card or the correct small change). Trams operate between Kennedy Town and Shau Kei Wan from about 5.30am to midnight.
Cars & Buses
Hong Kong’s taxis are cheap compared to many other major cities. They’re also generally reliable, though do keep Google Maps open on your phone and a Cantonese translation of your destination on hand.
There are three different coloured taxis:
- Blue taxis are only permitted to travel on Lantau island.
- Green taxis don’t leave the New Territories.
- Red taxis operate on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. But be aware that if Kowloon cabbies drop someone off on Hong Kong Island, they can only pick up customers heading back to Kowloon and vice versa.
You can work out if a taxi can take you by doing a wave-like gesture with your hand to let the driver know you want to cross the harbour. Also note that it can be difficult to get a cab during morning and evening rush hours, when it’s raining, or when many drivers are making their daily shift change between 4 and 4.30pm.
HKTaxi is a basic ride-hailing app where you enter your pickup location and contact number and wait for a driver to contact you. Uber is available in Hong Kong but it will normally cost more than a taxi.
A strong network makes bus travel in Hong Kong reasonably easy – though buses can get crowded. In addition, more than 4,350 minibuses are in service across the city, each carrying up to 19 passengers. Green minibuses have set stops, but red minibuses will stop anywhere along their route. Once the bus is full, the driver will not accept new passengers. You need to pay when you get on the bus with either cash or an Octopus card. Shouting “yau lok” tells your driver in Cantonese that you want to get off if you can’t see a bell.
Bridge to Macau
At 55 kilometres long, the Hong KongZhuhai-Macau bridge (opened in 2018) is the fastest and most convenient way to get to nearby Macau. Various bus companies run shuttles across the bridge and back – prices vary, depending on the company running the service, and a trip one way should take about 45 minutes, excluding immigration.
Ferries remain an active and necessary form of public transport in Hong Kong. Aside from Hong Kong’s famous Star Ferry, which still shuttles commuters and tourists from Central and Wan Chai to Tsim Sha Tsui’s Clock Tower, other vessels provide regular services for residents of the outlying islands. Lamma, Cheung Chau, Discovery Bay, Ma Wan’s Park Island, Mui Wo and Peng Chau have dedicated daily services leaving from the Central Ferry Piers. Other ferries shunt from Aberdeen, Wan Chai, Hung Hom and North Point.
Ferry to Macau
Ferries are available from multiple places in Hong Kong to Macau – from the Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal in Sheung Wan, from the China Ferry Terminal in Kowloon and (only for those transferring through Hong Kong, not people originating in Hong Kong) from the SkyPier at Hong Kong International Airport
The outdoor escalator in Mid-Levels is the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world. And while it may be a tourist destination in its own right, it’s also a functional method of traversing a very hilly part of Central. While this particular escalator gets all the glory, there are others in Hong Kong, such as on Centre Street in Sai Ying Pun. The escalators are free to use.
See more in our Living in Hong Kong section
This article first appeared in the City Guide 2020 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.