Hong Kong is blessed with tons of public transportation options — its population of 7.1 million people needs to get around efficiently! In addition to how affordable and convenient public transportation is, travelers will be relieved to know that nearly everything, from subway announcements to restaurant menus, come in dual English and Chinese translations.
For most of the following options, all you have to do is get an Octopus card at the airport or any MTR (mass transit railway AKA subway) station and start using it to take the subway, bus, ferry, and even some stores and restaurants.
If you’ve ever taken the nearly decrepit subway system in New York City, the MTR in Hong Kong will blow you away with its gleamingly modern facilities. Train arrivals are regular and reliable, eating isn’t allowed (no weird smells/spills) and cell phone signal is available underground at all times. Sure, it can get obscenely crowded during rush hour, but if you’re afraid of crowds, what are you doing in Hong Kong?!
The MTR lines traverse three of Hong Kong’s main islands and can even take you to the border of China. You can get your first taste of the MTR on the Airport Express, a quick and easy shuttle that goes from Hong Kong International Airport to downtown in less than 30 minutes. The Airport Express runs 24 hours a day, but the regular MTR stops service every night from around midnight to 6 a.m. (hours vary by line).
Indulge your inner child by taking a double decker bus at least once and sitting in the front row on the second floor, where you’ll get panoramic views of your surroundings as the bus winds up and down Hong Kong’s hilly roads. Bus routes run all over the city, from Stanley Beach to Victoria Peak and more.
The final destination of each bus is displayed on the front of the vehicle in both English and Chinese; LED signs inside the buses alert you to the next stop. Simply tap your Octopus card when you board to pay your fare.
In addition to typical box-like buses, Hong Kong also has has minibuses, which come with green or red roofs and seat only 16 passengers maximum (no standing!). Officially referred to as public light buses, these vehicles traverse routes that the larger buses don’t cover. Instead of pressing a button when you want to disembark, simply yell “yow lok, mm goy” to the driver — it basically means “Next stop, please.”
Minibuses usually display the number of remaining seats in the front window so you’ll know if there’s room for you before you get on. Green minibuses follow distinct routes and take Octopus cards, while red ones are more self-governing and usually only take cash.
Commonly referred to as “ding dings,” Hong Kong’s narrow double-decker trams are powered by electricity and run almost the entire east-west length of Hong Kong Island — for the mere price of 2.30HKD per adult ride (that’s 30 cents USD!). The tram isn’t the fastest way to get around, but they offer a leisurely vantage point from the middle of the city’s busy roads. Plus, they’re historically significant, having been in use since the very early 1900s.
Another historic tram you might hear about is the Peak Tram, which is privately owned and takes passengers back and forth from Central district to Victoria Peak. The retro ride (in operation since 1888) creaks along a steep incline that plasters passengers to the backs of their seats.
For the best views of Victoria Harbour on a nice day, hop on the Star Ferry, which goes back and forth from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon. Sure, you could make the trip just as easily by subway, but the Star Ferry has been in operation since 1888 as both a reliable and somewhat more leisurely form of transport. And yes, you can pay for it with just a tap of your Octopus card!
Getting around Hong Kong is simple, convenient, affordable — and a fun way to see the city. What are your favorite public transport stories? Tell us in the comments!