New to the City? Get to Grips with HK’s Transport System!
There are numerous ways to navigate the bustling streets, winding roads and stretch of harbour in Hong Kong. We’ve created the ultimate go-to transport guide if you’re new to the city and are still working out how to get around… use that sense of direction and this handy guide and you’ll be zipping around in no time!
If you’re used to fighting head to head with fellow passengers on the sweaty London Tube, or tend to avoid public trains like the plague for one of these many reasons, you can breathe. The MTR is a breeze. No, seriously – it’s crazy efficient and probably the most reliable way to navigate your way around Honkers. With links all over the Island, Kowloon and to the New Territories, and with new MTR lines soon to be opening up the likes of Aberdeen and Southside, whiz from one end to the other with minimal waiting time between trains – we’re talking 1-3 minutes (hallelujah!) and… there’s air con!
Alright, you may have to grit your teeth and suck it up come Admiralty at rush hour, and ignore the old lady who’s elbowing you in the ribs in her mad dash for a seat. But in the grand scheme of things, the fact that you can live all the way out in Tung Chung and still get to work in Central is pretty great. Make sure to grab yourself an Octopus card as having to line up at the ticket machine can be rather grueling. Plus, connivence aside the fares are slightly cheaper than purchasing a one-way or a return.
Price: Prices will vary depending on where you’re heading to! But generally, to put it in to perspective, if you’re starting at Kennedy Town and getting off at Chai Wan (the end of the Island line) you’re looking to fork out about $11. Fares are higher if you’re headed out on the East Rail Line and to outlying areas however check out this handy link for a full fare estimation.
To Note: To avoid that mad fumble for spare change whilst the queue gets bigger at the ticket machine, link your Octopus card to your bank account! That way, you can ensure that every time your balance reaches less than, for example, $5, you can choose to have it automatically top up $100 or whatever you decide each time. Super handy for when you’re in the need of a quick drink or snack at 7-Eleven too. And for those brand new to the 852, if you’re looking for the MTR when roaming the streets keep an eye out for a blue sign with the logo —>
Useful Canto Phrase: ‘Nei jau mou dei tou’ (Do you have a map?)
Taxis are a plenty in Hong Kong. Granted, it can be a bit of a bun fight finding one which isn’t already full of pooped-out party-goers at 2am in Lan Kwai Fong, but generally hailing a taxi is pretty easy here. With the exception of really remote areas, grab one off the street or call up to book if you’re out of luck. Relatively cheap and air-conditioned (for the most part!) there are dozens of taxi ranks set up about town. Majority of taxi drivers will speak some english, but occasionally they will radio in and ask you to explain where where you’re going to a representative – plus, all taxis are metered which saves on any awkward haggling or refusals!
Price: Urban taxis have a fixed starting price of $22, with the fare increasing by $1.60 every 200 metres. There’s also an extra charge of $5 for luggage and $5 for birds or animals (most drivers are very relaxed about having your pup in the back seat!). Remember that if you’re going cross-harbour, passengers are also expected to pay any tolls fees!
Route: You’ll mostly find red-coloured taxis in HK’s urban areas that’ll take you pretty much anywhere, even as far as the airport, but if you’re out in the New Territories (green taxis) or Lantau (blue taxis) for the most part, they will only operate in that area – although actually a little cheaper if you’re out that way.
To Note: If you’re standing at a taxi rank be sure to take note of where the taxis are going and whether they are heading across the harbour and over to Kowloon side, so if you’re actually looking to get to Times Square, make sure to check the sign before queuing up for half an hour! It’s been rumoured that drivers will also put up an ‘out of service’ sign if they’re looking to go in that direction too, and if you make a wave pattern with your hand they’ll stop to take you over the harbour – we’re not sure how reliable this is, but feel free to try your luck!
Useful Canto Phrase: ‘Mm goi, daai ngo heoi’ (Please take me to…)
One of the quickest ways to get around town, mini busses will take you from city lights to Hong Kong’s most scenic areas in one err… very quick (albeit slightly nerve-wracking) ride. These little speed machines operate all over the city which means that you can hop on board at one of the many stations littered around the islands, or alternatively flag one down from the street. Holding a maximum of 16 passengers however, on a busy day, you may have to wait for a few to pass before being able to hop on.
Price: Depending on how far you plan on traveling, fares can start from as little as $3 and up to around $25 – which is still a super cheap ride!
Route: Depending on the colour of the mini bus you get on, it’ll depend on the route! Generally you’ll easily be able to get from A to B, but it’s good to remember that green busses operate on fixed routes (See here for the HK Island, Kowloon and New Territories routes) and at fixed fares, whilst the red ones are free to operate anywhere without control over routes or fares.
To Note: Unlike the larger busses, many of the minis won’t have a button to press that signals you’d like to get off, so make sure to shout extra loud to the driver to let him know that your stop is coming up… or you may just find yourself deep in the depths of Stanley when actually, you were all set for a day at Ocean Park!
Useful Canto Phrase: ‘haah yat jhaam lok, m’goi’ (Next stop, please!) or ‘yauh lohk’ (this stop!)
Oh, our little ‘ding dings’. Where would be without them? Actually, we’d probably be fine considering how efficient the MTR is… but the tram is arguably Hong Kong’s most charming way to get around and was one of the earliest ways to do so. It’s been around since 1904 on Hong Kong Island, originally as a single-track system until 1949. The fact that the tram still exists today despite Hong Kong’s rapid development just goes to show how integral it is to the intricate make up of our city streets. The tram is a true icon of Hong Kong, bumbling along at a leisurely pace – so be warned, this is not the mode of transport to use if you’re in a rush. Equally if it’s chucking it down with rain, the open air windows may not be the best shout! However, if you’ve got plenty of time or simply want to watch the world go by and get a sense of each neighbourhood, it’s ideal. And for just $2.3 per person, it’s definitely the most cost-efficient way of getting from one end of the island to the other!
Price: Hop on, squeeze through the turnstile, enjoy the ride until you reach your destination and before you hop off either ‘doot’ your octopus or slot just $2.3 into the coin collector.
Route: There are various tram routes that take you all the way from the west side to the east side of the Island. You can start in Kennedy Town and end up in Shau Kei Wan. There are six main routes that you can check out here.
To Note: Get the most out your tram experience and learn a bit more about Hong Kong on your journey with a ‘Tramoramic Tour’, or privately hire out a gorgeous antique ‘party tram’ for a special occasion. There’s even a chance of an air-conditioned ‘cool’ tram hitting the tracks soon…
Equally as iconic as the tram – perhaps even more so – is our beloved Star Ferry. Founded in 1888, the Star Ferry has been shuttling commuters from one side of the harbour to the other ever since. The distinctive green and white ferries, each one named after a different star (Morning Star, Evening Star, Rising Star and Guiding Star are just a few), offer stunning views of the Hong Kong skyline in just a few minutes. This is by far the most scenic way to travel from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon side or vice versa, and the cheapest! One trip is only $2.5 per person (on a weekday), so you’ll be saving pennies and no doubt a few photos on your iPhone too.
Price: Just $2.5 per person one way, Monday – Friday, and $3.4 per person on Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays.
Route: There are two routes, one from Central and one from Wan Chai, both to Tsim Sha Tsui. Either buy your ticket from the machines, the counter or use your octopus card. You’ll have to wait for a little while once you’ve gone through the turnstile for your ferry to arrive, then board!
To Note: Sit closest to the water to get the best views! If a few minutes on the ferry isn’t enough for you, then consider the Harbour Tours on the double-decker ‘Shining Star’.
If you’re new to Hong Kong and have no idea when someone tells you to ‘just meet them by the escalators’, don’t fret. The Central/MidLevels escalator and walkways is one of the best ways to get from harbour front IFC mall all the way up to Conduit Road, and is the longest covered escalator system in the world. It allows you to skip over busy main roads and cruise on up the steep slope to Midlevels, going past Queen’s Road Central, Hollywood Road and Soho. Trust us, this is a life saver in the dreaded Hong Kong heat and humidity and makes getting around much quicker!
Other Useful Canto Phrases:
Turn left – juun zhou
Turn right – juun yau
Go Straight – jik hui
I want to stop here – yau lok
I need a receipt, please – yiu daan, mm goi
This is my stop – yee doh yau lok
HELP! SOS! – gao meng
Is there an MTR nearby? fuu gan yau day teet mah?
How much? gay dor chein?
I’m Lost – ong dong sut low
I’m not feeling well – ong mm shu fook
Add money to my Octopus card – bat daat tong ga chein
*Disclaimer -These phrases have been written phonetically to help you as best we can with the pronunciation… we understand they may not strictly be correct!*
Check out the hottest spots around town using Sassy’s very own customised MTR Map!
All illustration credit goes to our talented Sassy Designer, Tin Iglesias!