While some minibusses have their destination displayed in English that’s usually the extent of the information in English. The driver won’t speak English and unless you already know your destination, the route you may end up on an unexpected adventure.
If you want to use a minibus, it’s best to stick to one of the well-signposted routes where you know what your destination looks like.
How do Minibusses Work
There are over 5,000 Hong Kong minibusses, also known as public light buses, split into green stripes and red stripes.
Green striped minibusses are the most popular. These follow a set route and have a set fare depending on the distance of the route. Green minibusses are the most common form of transport in the New Territories and from newly built housing estates, although they do a service many city center routes as well. Strictly speaking, green minibusses can’t be flagged down, you must be at the appropriate stop, although many drivers will stop wherever they are asked.
You pay when you get on the bus and you must have the exact change or an Octopus card. The fare should be displayed where you pay.
Red striped minibusses are more of the cowboy variety – they don’t have a set route, set stops or a set fare. Red minibusses have a destination and roughly follow the same route but they can make diversions if there is traffic or if the driver fancies it. Passengers shout our their stops when they are in the vicinity and the driver will pull over at the closest spot. There are no set stops – which means you can flag a red minibus down anywhere you see one.
Payment is also when you alight but fares are not always fixed. Some routes will have a standard fare, others the fare will depend on where you get on. Drivers may also raise the fare if the route is busy.
Despite the somewhat confusing fare structure prices are usually cheap, certainly cheaper than the MTR.
Where to Catch a Minibus
As it can be confusing knowing where to get on and off, it’s best to keep to short routes in the red minibus. The direct routes that run between Mongkok and various parts of Kowloon can be convenient as can the shuttle runs between Central-Wan Chai – Causeway Bay.
Green minibusses are more useful for trips up to smaller parts of the New Territories and essential if you want to reach remoter hiking spots and villages.
The best place to grab a minibus on Hong Kong Island is Exchange Square and along Queen’s Road East. Over in Kowloon minibusses don’t make it down to Tsim Sha Tsui much with the majority heading to their destinations from Mongkok.
There are a couple of specific routes that might be of use.
The number 1A from Choi Hung MTR to Sai Kung, a popular seaside destination.