Travel Tip of the Week: How to Get Around in Hong Kong

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The best way to get around in Hong Kong is public transportation. I really love the Hong Kong subway system, called MTR. It’s one of the best I have seen so far and reminds me of the London Tube. No wonder, Honk Kong was a British crown colony for over 150 years. In 1997 Hong Kong was handed back over to the Chinese government.

The MTR system is amazing. It brings you basically wherever you want to go in the bigger Hong Kong area. Everything from the airport to the New Territories. Sometimes it’s as easy as walking across the platform to catch your connection train on a different line. There are maps all around the stations and even in the trains and they are pretty much self-explanatory.

What I love most is the interactive map inside the MTR. You can see at which station you are, in which direction you are going and even on which side of the train you have to exit at the next station. This is great and you don’t have to rely on the audio announcements. Especially if your Cantonese and English are not the best.

How to use Public Transport?

The best way of using the public transportation system is the Octopus Card. Of course, you could buy single tickets, but it is so much easier to use the Octopus Card. Same fares are cheaper by using the Octopus Card over a single ride ticket.

Besides cheaper prices, the card is contactless and you don’t have to take it out of your wallet. Just hold your wallet close to the reader. Of course, you have to make sure that you have no other similar cards in the near proximity of the Octopus Card in your wallet.

Tung Chung Station Entry

But the Octopus Card doesn’t only work with Public Transportation, you can use it also as a form of payment in supermarkets, department stores, fast-food restaurants, theatres, government-owned toll roads and tunnels and much more. Just keep your eyes open for the Octopus logo or ask a staff member.

You can buy the Octopus Card at

– Airport Express Customer Service Centre.
– MTR Customer Service Centre (except Racecourse station).
– Customer Service Centres of public transportation companies.

The adult card costs HK$150: It comes with an HK$50 deposit fee and is pre-loaded with HK$100 for you to use. The HK$50 will be reimbursed when you return the card plus the remaining value on the card. If the card gets returned within 3 months, you will lose an HK$9 fee for early return. The card can only be bought with cash and no credit card is accepted.

Don’t worry if you forget to return your card to get a refund for the remaining value. The card will stay active for 1000 days after the last time you added value to it. After that timeframe, the card gets deactivated, but there is also no reason to worry. You are still able to get your whole money back. If the card gets deactivated, just visit one of the many MTR or Airport Express Customer Service Centres and they will reactivate your card free of charge. This means you can keep the Octopus Card and use it on subsequent trips to Hong Kong.

You can top off the card at any Airport Express or MTR Customer Service Centres or ticket machines inside stations. The card can only be reloaded with cash. At the same locations, you can check your remaining balance and a history of the last transactions. If you are a bit geeky, you can download the Octopus app for your smartphone.

‎Octopus 八達通
‎Octopus 八達通
Developer: Octopus Cards
Price: Free
Price: Free

If you need to, you can setup auto-reload for your card, but that is not necessary and is a bigger hassle if you only visit the city for a few days. The card can hold a maximum value of HK$1000.


Kowloon MTR Station
Kowloon MTR Station
MTR Train
Inside an MTR Train

Airport Express Travel Pass

An alternative to the Octopus Card is the Airport Express Ticket, which gives you either 1 or 2 rides to and from the airport. As the name says, this is the faster way to get from the airport to downtown as the airport express has fewer stops than the MTR:

The Airport Express Travel Pass (AETP) gives you besides your airport rides, unlimited free rides on the MTR, Light Rail and MTR Bus (Northwest New Territories) for 3 consecutive days after first use.

The AETP with 1 Airport Express journey costs HK$220 and can be purchased at any MTR or Airport Express Customer Service Centre. (except Racecourse Station).
The AETP with 2 Airport Express journeys costs HK$300 and can be purchased at any AE Customer Service Centre or at the following MTR stations: Kowloon Tong, Mong Kok, Tsim Sha Tsui, Wan Chai and Causeway Bay stations.

The Airport Express Travel Pass is for tourists only and you have to show your passport or any other form of foreign ID and you can’t be in Hong Kong for more than 14 days at the day of purchase.

MTR Mobile App

The MTR Mobile App is a great companion to find timetables and schedules for your trip and to get an overview of the network. The app is so sophisticated that it will tell you which car and door you have to use to board the train to reach your exit faster or get quicker to a connection. If you follow the “Fast Exit” instructions you will disembark the train either close to an escalator/stairs or a lift. The feature is shown in the video below. You can get an idea of it, even without understanding the language.

More Information – Official Octopus Card Website – MTR Website, Trip Planner, and Airport Express Travel Pass


My First Day in Hong Kong
Hong Kong: Light and Laser Show at Victoria Harbour

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