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Hong Kong Public Transportation

Octopus Card
Transport Department

The Octopus Card is the heart of the public transport system. It’s a contact-less smart card. Even inside a wallet or bag, you can tap on card readers and the correct amount will be deducted from money stored. In addition to being used for all forms of public transport (except red minibuses and taxis), it is also accepted for payments in virtually all convenience stores, restaurant chains like McDonald’s, vending machines, parking meters, and more. Some housing estates and schools use the card for identification at entry.

Basic adult Octopus cards cost $150, $100 face value plus $50 deposit ($20 non-refundable), but a $7 service charge now applies if being refunded in less than3 months. Any unused balance on the card is fully refundable.  They can be purchased at MTR stations, either as anonymous “gift card”-type debit cards, or as cards linked to a personal account you refill.

The Octopus card allows you to ‘debt’ once, e.g. if you have a card balance of $.25, you can still use the card to pay for a $15 fare, but you must pay back the debt and add to the balance before you can use the card again.

Hong Kong has a highly developed and sophisticated transport network, encompassing both public and private transport. The Octopus card stored value smart card payment system can be used to pay for fares on almost all railways, buses and ferries in Hong Kong. The Octopus card uses RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) to allow users to scan their card without taking it out of their wallet or bag. All parking meters in Hong Kong accept payment by Octopus card only, and Octopus card payment can be made at various car parks.

If you’re paying bus fares in cash, the exact fare is required and no change can be given. Paying by Octopus is much more convenient.  Also, bus route numbering is disorganized, so it’s easiest to just memorize the routes you want, or just ask the driver.

Hong Kong Island is dominated by steep, hilly terrain, which required the development of unusual methods of transport up and down the slopes. In Central and Western district there is an extensive system of escalators and moving sidewalks, including the longest outdoor covered elevator system in the world, the Mid-levels Escalator.

MTR Corporation

GPO Box 9916, Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway (MTR) underground network is the fastest way to get around the city, but it’s a little more expensive for traveling short distances than other forms of transportation.

In Hong Kong, a “subway” refers to an underground walkway, not an underground train.

Double-decker city trams run along the north coast of Hong Kong.  They’re slower than MTR, but run along Hong Kong Island’s centre and have a flat fair of only $2.

Hongkong Tramways Limited
Whitty Street Tram Depot,
Connaught Road West,
Western District, Hong Kong.

There are three types of buses in Hong Kong, and they’re operated by a multitude of different companies:

Double-Decker Buses
Fares vary by distance traveled.  They stop frequently and cover nearly the whole of Hong Kong.  Kowloon Motor Bus (KMB), Citybus, New World First Bus and New Lantao Bus are some of the companies that operate Double Decker Buses.

Red Minibuses
These carry a maximum of 16 passengers and essentially operate like large capacity cabs; picking people up and dropping them off wherever they need.  The “red” refers to a stripe on the bus’s roof.

Green Minibuses
With a green roof stripe, these minibuses run a fixed route with set stops.
Green and Red Minibuses are operated by the Hong Kong Transport Department.

Star Ferry

(852) 2367-7065

Ferries shuttle passengers between all of the islands that make up Hong Kong.  The Star Ferry has been carrying people back and for from Hong Kong Island to the mainland since colonial times.  It’s only $2.20 to ride on the upper deck (about US $.30) for the short ride across the Harbor.

There are plenty of taxis on the island, and they’re reasonably priced.  As of 2006, Fares start at HK $15 for the first 2 km, then $1.40 per 200m.  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 a $500 or $1000 note and are going through a tunnel, let the driver know beforehand and he will change it when paying at the toll booth.