A public transport network which includes ferries, trams and even outdoor escalators means it really is all about the journey, not the destination. 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 and reasonably priced taxis, it’s very easy to survive here without a car.
Hong Kong’s taxis are cheap compared to many other major cities. They’re also generally reliable, though keep Google Maps and a Cantonese translation on hand. Lantau’s blue taxis are only permitted to travel on the island – similar to green taxis that 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 morning and evening rush hours, rain, and a daily shift change between 4 and 4.30pm are difficult times to get a cab.
A strong bus network makes getting from A to B and anywhere in between fairly easy – although buses can get crowded. In addition, the public transport network is beefed up with more than 4,350 minibuses are in service across the city, carrying up to 16 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 “yauh lohk” tells your driver in Cantonese that you want to get off if you can’t see a bell.
Hong Kong’s MTR network is lauded as a world-class public transport network. It 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.
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. Trams operate between Kennedy Town and Shau Kei Wan from about 5.30am to midnight.
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.
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’s 2017 edition. Subscribe now to get your free copy!
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