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Navigating Hong Kong

 2017-05-14    ThomasIronmonk    Tips    Hong Kong    1121  

For a first time arrival, Hong Kong can feel like a bewildering place. 2,775 square kilometers of mountains and metropolis, including Hong Kong Island, the Kowloon Peninsula, and the New Territories. South of the Sham Chum River there are more than 250 outlying islands in the SAR. Tai Mo Shan, a country park is the highest mountain peak at 957 meters above sea level while Hong Kong’s urbanized areas are the fourth most densely populated in the world. Kwun Teng District can boast 55,000 residents per kilometer squared!

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Photo: Transatlantically

That’s a lot to negotiate. Fortunately, this is a twenty-first-century city par excellence with a public transport infrastructure that is second to none. Buses, minibusses, boats, ferries, underground trains, light rail, and a fleet of taxis get Hong Kong’s seven million plus souls where they need to be going with startling efficiency. The choice facing you then is simply which vehicle to board, a decision determined by your destination and budget.

Here’s the lowdown on how to get around:    


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The Mass Transit Railway is the umbrella term for the rapid transit system in Hong Kong. The railway network consists of ten urban metro lines as well as the Airport Express line, which connects the Airport on Lantau Island with downtown in 24 minutes at a price of 100 HKD. There are, in fact, 84 railway stations in total, as well as 68 light rail, stops webbing Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories. The light rail system in the northwest near Shenzhen has 12 routes. The MTR network also includes a feeder bus service. An Octopus Card, which costs 50HKD (including 20HKD of stored value) is a worthy investment as it can be used for all means of transport including taxis, as well as in some shops.


The bus system in Hong Kong covers almost all of the territory with the exception of a few small outlying islands. The buses are equipped with a self-service ticketing system so bring the correct cash. Of course, an Octopus Card makes life a lot easier.

There is also a kind of minibus or public light bus going to remoter areas or along narrower roads. Typically a public light bus has just 16 seats. Note that the red-roofed buses do not have regular routes and do not accept the Octopus Card.


The many piers afford visitors some of the best ways to see Hong Kong, whether you're island hopping, crossing the bay to Kowloon or indeed, trying to get to mainland China or Macau. Some of the ferries date back to the 1950s and were built in British shipyards. All Hong Kong bound ferries to take Octopus Cards and sail regularly, though disruption is known during the typhoon season.


Another classic way to get around Hong Kong is the tram, which at over 100 years old, is as much a tourist attraction as a practical means of getting about. There are six main routes running between Kennedy Town and Shau Kei Wan covering 13 kilometers on Hong Kong Island.
There’s also a hill-climbing tram leading to Victoria Peak a favorite spot to view the cityscape. It takes seven minutes to travel from an elevation of 28 meters to 1396 meters.


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“What kind of transport is this?” I hear you cry. But getting through hilly Central to the Midlevels is a lot easier when the floor’s moving, especially at the humid height of summer. At 800 meters this is the longest roofed escalator system in the world, which makes it worth a ride just to say you’ve done it. It begins at the Hang Seng Bank HQ in Central, passes by Central Market, Cochrane Street, Hollywood Road, Shelley Street, Mosque Junction, Robinson Road and finally reaches Conduit Road, taking almost 20 minutes to finish the whole trip. The escalator is actually 20 single-direction escalators and three moving travelators connecting pedestrian walkways and bridges. It’s easy to hop on and off if you see a good restaurant or interesting boutique, of which there are plenty along the route.

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