Getting around Hong Kong
Living in Hong Kong is an extremely fast-paced way of life, with little sense of personal space – but don’t let that put you off. Even those who come to Hong Kong from major cosmopolitan cities like London or New York don’t expect the hustle and bustle which they are met with. Luckily, English is one of the primary languages, so you shouldn’t be too overwhelmed.
MTR and the stylish Octopus card
The public transport system is considered rather excellent, being punctual, clear to understand and well-organised. Perhaps the crown jewel of this is the MTR subway, which facilitates 5 million journeys in just a single weekday and has been slowly expand over the last thirty years to accommodate the various islands which make up Hong Kong.
One of the reasons the MTR is such a popular form of public transport, is because the payment method for it – the Octopus card system – is so convenient, easy to use and has expanded to other facets of life in this densely-populated region. The electronic card means there is no need to handle actual money, allowing for a quick, smooth passage of commuters through the network as well as other to be used on other transport systems. The system has since been adopted by London in their Oyster card system. The card can be “reloaded” or topped up with more credit at numerous locations, and can be used to pay for goods in shops and at vending machines too – all extremely useful for professionals and students alike who are on-the-go.
Furthermore the Octopus card is sometimes not even a card! You can buy small trinkets or ornaments which have the same function and facility as their card counterparts, and are generally a lot more fun and fashionable to carry. Or if you don’t want to carry them or risk losing them, there are also now stickers for your phone which you simply swipe across the scanner at the turnstiles. There aren’t many places where you can buy a matching clutch bag set to match your public transport payment method! We would highly recommend getting one of these cards.
One thing to note is that eating and drinking on the MTR is frowned upon and considered a nuisance for fellow-passengers – so don’t do it!
You can use your Octopus card on other forms of public transport too, such as buses and tramways. With these, the British influence on Hong Kong is evident in their double-decker structures – apparently it’s not just the buildings which are stacked high in Hong Kong!
There is also the option of ferries, which can provide an excellent tour of the harbour and get you to those islands which are further dispersed. There are also ferries which can take you to China and Macau (China’s other Special Administrative Region). If you’d prefer to travel by land, there are boundary-crossing trains to Beijing and Shanghai too.
Taxi services serve specific areas: red is for most of Hong Kong’s urban areas; green for the New Territories; and blue for Lantau Island. They should charge no more than HK$15 for the first two KM of your journey, with an additional HK$1.50 for every 1/5th KM after that.
Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.