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Guide to Hong Kong public transport

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.

Trains and trams

MTR

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.

MTR

High-speed rail

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.

Tram

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

Taxis

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.

Hong Kong Taxi

Tips:

  • “Aside from HKTaxi , there’s another must get taxi app called TakeTaxi that will translate any road name or landmark for you so you just have to show your phone to the driver. It can be a lifesaver!” – Claire
  • Get the app: 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.

Buses

A strong network makes bus travel in Hong Kong reasonably easy – although buses can get crowded. In addition, more than 4,350 minibuses are in service across the city, 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.

Getting the bus – Hong Kong Macau Bridge

At 55 kilometres long, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-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.)

Hong Kong trams and buses

Boat

Ferries remain an active and necessary form of 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.

Ferry

Planes

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). Almost 75 million passengers were handled by HKIA last year. And there’s rarely a bad word spoken about the facility by anyone who travels regularly. That includes the food: the airport was voted the World’s Best Airport for Dining by Skytrax in March 2019!

Third runway!

You’ll likely hear a bit of buzz around town about HKIA’s new third runway. The expansion work is set to be completed by 2024, at a cost of HK$140 billion.

Planes

Escalators

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.

This article appears in Expat Living’s City Guide. Subscribe now to get your free copy!

New to Hong Kong? Get more advice in our Living in Hong Kong section:

Buying a car in Hong Kong
Guide to supermarkets, online grocers & speciality stores
Expat’s guide to where to live in Hong Kong