Getting Around Hong Kong: Guide to Public Transportation

people waiting for a train on the MTR platform, Hong Kong

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Getting around Hong Kong is easy: routes that aren’t already covered by the MTR (Mass Transit Railway) can be reached by bus, minibus, tram, or taxi. And as payments for most of these can be covered by the contactless, prepaid Octopus Card, you don’t have to worry about exact change too much, either!

How to Ride the MTR

The MTR is Hong Kong's subway system. Its eleven lines and 98 stations cover all of Hong Kong’s major districts and areas, venturing beyond Hong Kong Island into Kowloon and the New Territories, all the way to the border with Shenzhen in Mainland China.  

Fares and Rates

Tourists riding the MTR, bus, tram, and Star Ferry can buy the versatile Octopus Card to pay for their rides. Alternatively, they might also purchase a single journey ticket or a tourist day pass (valid only for one day). Tourists staying more than a day in Hong Kong should get an Octopus Card to maximize their transport bang-for-the-buck.

The MTR fare starts from HK$4.80 (adult) and increases along with the distance traveled to one’s final destination. Causeway Bay to Hong Kong Disneyland, for instance, will require two transfers and cost HK$27 per trip. Up-to-date information on MTR fares can be found on the MTR website.

How to Pay

Octopus cards and tourist day passes can be purchased at the airport, at automated vending machines at each station, and through most convenience stores around Hong Kong. Updated information on Octopus Card purchases can be found here.

Each card is generally sold for HK$150, with HK$100 useable stored value. It can be used like any contactless card—just touch the card on the turnstile pad to get in and out.

Routes

Passengers on the MTR can travel all throughout the territory except for the Outlying Islands. Specialized lines diverge from the main network to head to Hong Kong Disneyland and Hong Kong International Airport. (Riding the Airport Express into town is just about the fastest way to get there or back.) Two stops even straddle the boundary with Shenzhen in the Mainland, at the East Rail line’s Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau Stations.  

Hours of Operation

Trains on all lines start between 5:30 a.m. to 6:10 a.m., and stop between 12:50 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. MTR trains run at a feverish frequency, with headway (frequency between trains) between two to three minutes, slightly less later at night.

Accessibility Concerns

The majority of MTR stations are either equipped for special needs passengers or are being upgraded for that purpose. About 95 percent of stations in the network have elevators connecting the street level entrance to the concourse level.Every station has at least one wide gate to accommodate wheelchair users, and all trains set aside a multipurpose space suitable for wheelchairs. Certain stations have designated accessible toilets for special needs.

Online Resources

Use the trip planner on the official MTR website to plan your trips, find out the cost, and read up on real time updates that might affect your ride. Download the Mobile app to plan your trip on the fly, using your smartphone.

Double-decker bus in Central, Hong Kong
EarnestTse/Getty Images

Riding Hong Kong’s Buses

The Hong Kong bus network is extremely comprehensive, with a dense network of about 800 routes covering the whole territory except the Outlying Islands. While most of these routes overlap with the MTR system’s main stops, there are a few sights and areas (such as Hong Kong’s beaches) that are only reachable via Hong Kong’s bus network.

The buses running around Hong Kong are some of the most modern in the world – all air-conditioned, mostly double-decker, with special needs access standard on all units. Electronic information screens aboard the bus announce the next stop in both Chinese an English.

How to Pay

Passengers pay by tapping the Octopus Card getting in and out, or by paying the exact change into the automated payment box near the driver. Fares range from HK$2.50 to HK$58, depending on the length of the route.

Hours of Operation

Bus services start from before 6 a.m. and run till midnight, with a high frequency between stops. A smaller number of night buses run from midnight to 6 a.m.

Online Resources

To plan your trip, look up Hong Kong Mobility’s unified page for local transportation (including buses); you can also download its mobile apps for Android and Apple

Riding Hong Kong’s Minibuses

Shorter routes are served by smaller “minibuses” that seat a maximum of 19 passengers. There are two types of minibus, categorized by color. Find out more about both red and green minibuses with our handy minibus guide.

Green minibuses operate on fixed routes and set fares just like their double-decker cousins. Passengers pay using their Octopus Card.

Red minibuses only have a set start and end point, and can take the fastest route to get from A to Z. These are more informal by nature, and don’t get ridden a lot by tourists.

Hong Kong Tram in Central
Mike Aquino 

Riding Hong Kong’s Tramways

Hong Kong’s old-fashioned, open-air trams operate only on a single, eight-mile east-west corridor (plus the Happy Valley loop that detours to its namesake racecourse) passing through the city center including CentralWan Chai, and Causeway Bay, with termini at Shau Kei Wan and Kennedy Town.

The whole tram experience is straight out of the early 20th century. A ride costs only about HK$2.60, with no air-conditioning, wooden bench seating, and a cruising speed of 6 miles per hour. Its six “routes” are actually just overlapping sections of the same line; most itineraries will require you to switch trams in between.

To pay for a ride, get on whenever you want, and swipe your Octopus Card when you disembark.

Riding Hong Kong’s Ferries

From the Central Ferry Pier in Central, you can take several ferries that take you across the harbor to Tsim Sha Tsui, or to Hong Kong’s outlying islands.

The Star Ferry is Hong Kong’s classic cross-harbor ferry, operating since 1888, making the 10-minute trip every 6-12 minutes, from Central to Tsim Sha Tsui and vice versa. Passengers can pay using their Octopus Cards.

Ferries also connect Central to the Outlying Islands. Discovery Bay Transportation Services Ltd. travels to Discovery Bay and Lantau Island; New World First Ferry Services travels to Cheung Chau and Lantau Island; Hong Kong & Kowloon Ferry Ltd. services Lamma Island and Peng Chau; and Park Island Transport Company Ltd. connects to Ma Wan Island.

Passengers can choose between standard ferries and faster (and pricier) fast ferries.

Tips for Getting Around Hong Kong

  • If you’re only hopping short distances, take a bus instead of traveling on the MTR. The same goes for the tram, if your destination is near the tram route (a near-certainty if you’re in Central or Admiralty).
  • Try to avoid traveling during rush hour, from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. in the mornings and between 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at night.
  • MTR stations are clean and safe, but they tend not to have toilets. The MTR website has a handy guide that explains the most accessible toilets adjacent to certain stations.
  • Taxis do not accept Octopus Card payments; better to pay them in cash.
  • Time your Star Ferry crossing with the Symphony of Lights, which takes place every evening at 8 p.m.
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