How to Use the Hong Kong Octopus Card

The Octopus card is the best way to travel on metro, bus, and more

Octopus card and scanner

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What Is the Octopus Card?

Hong Kong is a sprawling city of over 7 million residents, with a seemingly endless amount of transportation options to move all those people around. Instead of worrying about single ride metro tickets, bus fares, and other transit fees, pick up an all-in-one Octopus card.

Octopus is the universal transit card in Hong Kong, used by both locals and tourists. Hong Kong pioneered the use of contactless technology for transit passes, which is becoming more widespread as metro systems around the world move away from single-use paper tickets. But Octopus can also be used for so much more than just public transportation; cardholders can use their card funds to pay at convenience stores, restaurants, stores, and entertainment venues.

If you are planning a trip to Hong Kong, the Octopus card is a valuable tool to have that can save you not only time but also money—fares are cheaper with the Octopus card than single journey tickets. With all of the benefits, it's no wonder that 99% of Hong Kong residents use this pass.

Where to Get the Octopus Card?

You can pick up your Octopus card on arrival to Hong Kong right in the airport. There are two types of Octopus that are available, and where you obtain your card depends on which type you are looking for: on-loan or sold version.

  • On-Loan: The on-loan Octopus is available at all Hong Kong Metro (MTR) stations, including the airport. It has an upfront cost of 150 Hong Kong dollars ($19). However, HK$100 is stored on the card for you to use immediately, and the remaining HK$50 is a refundable deposit. Upon leaving Hong Kong, the full deposit along with any remaining balance will be returned to you.
  • Sold Version: The sold version of the Octopus card is also available at the Airport Express MTR station, as well as certain convenience stores like 7-Eleven and Circle K. This is a tourist card that has an upfront cost of HK$39. The card is given to you with no balance, so you'll have to add money to use it. There is also no refundable deposit. When you leave Hong Kong, you can keep the card as a souvenir.

How Does the Octopus Card Work?

The card couldn’t be simpler to use. You wave the card over readers as you walk on and off transport. The machines on the MTR subway will calculate your fare and deduct the correct amount. You are allowed to go overdrawn by a maximum of HK$35. The outstanding debt will be calculated and deducted the next time you top-up. You can check your balance and refill your card using the machines in the metro stations and at many convenience stores around the city.

Mobile phones equipped with the right technology can also check balances and add funds using the Octopus application.

In addition to the metro and public buses, the Octopus card can also be used to travel on ferries, light rail, trams, and even taxis. Octopus can also be used to make purchases in popular stores, such as 7-Elevens, Park n Shop Supermarket, Circle K, Watson’s Chemists, McDonald's, Cafe de Coral, Delifrance, KFC, and the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

Is Octopus Only Valid in Hong Kong?

Some retailers in both Macau and Shenzhen have been accepting the card. However, the number of participating outlets is limited and you should check ahead of time. Neither city is anywhere near as universally covered as Hong Kong, and you shouldn't rely on using your Octopus card anywhere outside of the city.