Transportation - Get In
Hong Kong maintains a separate and independent immigration system from that of mainland China. If required, the Hong Kong visa has to be applied for separately from the mainland Chinese one, and there is no single visa that serves both areas. A visa is still required to enter mainland China from Hong Kong. Macau is also a separate country with regards to visas.
See Entry requirements to Hong Kong for a list of visa requirements or visa-free stays by country of citizenship.
All visitors (regardless of whether visa-free or not) may be required to demonstrate evidence of adequate funds and confirmed booking for the onward journey.
Obtaining a visa
Foreign nationals who require visas for Hong Kong (if they cannot enter visa-free, want to remain for longer than permitted by their visa exemption, or want to work, study or establish/join a business) can either apply for one at a Chinese embassy or consulate, or directly through the Hong Kong Immigration Department. Foreign nationals living in Macau who require visas for Hong Kong can apply for one at the Office of the Commissioner of the Chinese Foreign Ministry. Foreign nationals living in mainland China may apply for a Hong Kong visa at the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Guangzhou, or at the Office of the Government of the Hong Kong SAR in Beijing.
Travellers from mainland China
Leaving mainland China for Hong Kong is considered to be leaving China. If you wish to enter Hong Kong from China, then re-enter mainland China, make sure you have a multiple-entry Chinese visa.
Calculation of the visa exemption period
Expiry of the limit of stay is counted from the day after the date of entry. For example, if you have a 7 day visa and arrive on January 1st, you are allowed to stay until January 8th. If you are arriving late at night, you may want to wait until after midnight to clear immigration. Likewise, you may be able clear immigration just before midnight on the last day that your visa is valid and then take a flight or boat in the middle of the night on the next day. For more information, see question #11 of the Visa FAQs.
Regular visitors to Hong Kong
Save time if you are a regular visitor by registering to use the e-Channel. Instead of clearing passport control at a manned counter, you can avoid the queues by going through an automated barrier which uses fingerprint recognition technology.
APEC Business Travel Card
All holders of an APEC Business Travel Card can use the counters for Hong Kong residents at immigration control and can stay for up to 60 days in Hong Kong visa-free if their card has 'HKG' printed on the reverse.
Holders of Chinese passports need to apply for a appropriate entry permit (往來港澳通行證）to enter Hong Kong, except when transiting through Hong Kong, whereby visa-free access is granted for up to 7 days.
Residents of Macau
Holders of Macau permanent identity cards or Visit Permits with permanent resident status can enter Hong Kong visa-free for up to 180 days. Holders of Macao Visit Permits without permanent resident status can enter Hong Kong visa-free for up to 30 days. See Visit/Transit Arrangements to Hong Kong for Macao Residents for more details.
Residents of Taiwan
Residents of Taiwan are granted visa-free access to Hong Kong for 30 days if they have a 'Taibaozheng' (台胞证). Otherwise, a pre-arrival visa is required, which in many cases can be obtained through an airline company. See Arrangements for Entry to Hong Kong for Overseas Chinese and Chinese residents of Taiwan for more details.
All visitors to Hong Kong must complete an arrival card when clearing immigration and must return a departure card at immigration control when leaving Hong Kong - unless you are a Hong Kong resident (with a Hong Kong identity card or a passport with a residence/employment/study visa), a Macao permanent resident (with a Macao smart identity card) or a Chinese citizen (with a travel document （往來港澳通行證 or 因公往來香港澳門特別行政區通行證) issued by the Mainland China authorities). The main exception is e-Channel users, visitors and residents alike; data collection is done electronically so the paper card is not required.
Note that you are not able to take more than two tins (1.8kg) of powdered milk formula (such as baby formula) out of Hong Kong.
Day trips to Macau
Macau is a separate international destination and you will have to pass the standard immigration checks on your return, including the arrival card for entering Hong Kong.
Obtaining a visa to Mainland China
China Travel Services HK (CTS) has an office at the arrivals area of Hong Kong Airport and can process visas to China on the spot. A photograph will be required. Alternatively, the cheapest way to obtain a visa for mainland China is to apply for one at the Commissioner's Office of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong, where a single-entry visa costs HKD200 and a double-entry visa costs $300 for most foreign nationals and takes 4 working days to be issued. The visa can be issued within 3 working days for an additional $200 or within 2 working days for an additional $300. See the price list for more information.
If you have goods that are banned or more than your allowance, you must declare them at the Red Channel when you enter Hong Kong - even when travelling from mainland China, Macao or Taiwan.
Meat, animal products, fish, rice, ozone depleting substances, items with forged trade marks and radio communication transmitting apparatus are banned goods and must be declared.
A traveller aged 18 or above is allowed to bring into Hong Kong - for his/her own use - as part of his/her duty-free allowance:
- 1 litre of alcoholic liquor with an alcoholic strength above 30% by volume measured at a temperature of 20°C
- 19 cigarettes OR 1 cigar OR 25g of cigars OR 25g of other manufactured tobacco
If the traveller holds a Hong Kong Identity Card, he/she must have spent 24 hours or longer outside Hong Kong to benefit from the duty-free allowance relating to alcoholic liquor.
Due to heavy demand from mainland China, the Hong Kong government has placed a restriction on the amount of baby milk powder formula that may be taken out of the territory. If you have friends or family in the mainland, then they may ask you to bring back as much formula as you can carry, however Hong Kong customs are very much looking for smugglers of this precious product.
Hong Kong International Airport
Hong Kong International Airport also known as Chek Lap Kok 赤鱲角 (the name of the small island containing the airport), is located on Lantau in the west of Hong Kong. Designed by Sir Norman Foster it has since been named "World's Best Airport" by Skytrax 8 times.
Hong Kong's flag carrier is Cathay Pacific (國泰航空), which has consistently been ranked as one of the world's best airlines in terms of customer service. Together with its subsidiary,Dragonair (港龍航空), it has an extensive network with flights to many cities around the world.
To/from Shenzhen International Airport
To travel between Shenzhen Airport and Hong Kong:
- Direct buses operate between the airport and the Elements Shopping Mall, above the Kowloon MTR station. You can check-in and receive your boarding pass (except for China Southern Airlines passengers) at the check-in desk on the 1st floor of the shopping centre, opposite Starbucks. This in-town check-in is completely separate from the in-town check-in provided for Hong Kong International Airport. The cost of the service is $100 and the bus is advertised to take 75 minutes, but it usually takes 100 minutes. Buses run every 30 minutes from 06:30 to 19:00 from Hong Kong and from 10:00 to 21:00 from Shenzhen.
- A cheaper way is to take the underground (Shenzhen Metro) line 1 from the airport to the Luohu terminus (65 minutes, CNY9 or USD11.25), then pass through a long corridor and an international border gate (make sure to have your visa ready for this) and once in Hong Kong, hop on the East Rail suburban rail line to Hung Hom (43 minutes, HKD35). Total travel time from Shenzhen airport to Hong Kong is thus under two hours at the price of HKD46.25.
- An alternative to Luohu is "Futian Checkpoint" (called Lok Ma Chau on the Hong Kong side) which is served by the East Rail Lok Ma Chau Spur Line. The emigration queue at this control point is less crowded than Luohu. It takes about 48min from Lok Ma Chau to Hung Hom ($35).
Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport
Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport is a bit further away than Shenzhen, but has more flights and with direct coach connections to Hong Kong.
To/from Macau International Airport
To travel between Macau Airport and Hong Kong:
- With the Express Link service, you can transfer directly from airport to ferry (or vice versa) without going through Macau immigration.
Sky Shuttle operates a helicopter service every 30 minutes from the Terminal Marítimo in Macau to the Shun Tak Heliport (IATA: HHP) at the Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Pier in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong Island. The trip takes 15 minutes and one-way fares cost $4,100, plus $400 on public holidays.
- Operating from Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Pier, 202 Connaught Rd (Sheung Wan MTR exit D) in Central.
By cruise ship
Star Cruises operates from the Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui. Cruise ships travel to Vietnam, mainland China and Taiwan. There are also long haul services all the way to Singapore via ports in Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia.
Shenzhen is the city in mainland China that borders Hong Kong.
There are 6 land checkpoints between Hong Kong and mainland China. Be sure to note the opening hours of the border crossing before starting your journey. If you are driving across the border, you must have a set of plates issued by each of China and Hong Kong. Note that you will have to change sides of the road at the border since people in Hong Kong drive on the left, and people in mainland China drive on the right.
In addition to crossing the border on foot, another way to cross the border is to take a "Cross Boundary Coach". These buses operate between Hong Kong and several cities in mainland China and are usually easier than crossing the border via several transfers and several modes of transportation. For information on these bus services, see the website of each border crossing listed below.
- Lo Wu Control Point (train and pedestrian crossing): MTR trains from Tsim Sha Tsui East to run to Lo Wu run every 5-8 minutes. Shenzhen city centre lies just beyond the mainland China immigration checkpoint. This control point can only be accessed by the MTR East Rail Line and crossing the border can only be done on foot, unless you take a through-train from Hung Hom where the train will not stop at all. See "By train" section below. It is often congested with travellers during weekends and holidays, so if you want to avoid for the long queues, use the other control points. Visa-on-arrival can be obtained on the mainland China side for certain nationalities.
- Lok Ma Chau Spur Line Control Point (pedestrian crossing): Northbound East Rail Line trains terminate here. It can also be reached from Yuen Long by KMB bus B1 or by GMB minibus #75 . After crossing the double-decked Lok Ma Chau-Huanggang pedestrian bridge, passengers will find themselves at the Fu Tian immigration checkpoint of the mainland. On the Shenzhen side, Fu Tian Checkpoint metro station is located just after the immigration checkpoint. This control point is not popular and thus less crowded than Lo Wu.
By bridges and tunnel
Scheduled to open in late 2017, the 50 km Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau link is likely one of the largest ongoing construction projects in the world right now. The link will make it possible to travel quickly between across the Pearl River Delta without taking the ferry and will also be a remarkable landmark.
Lok Ma Chau Control Point (road, cross-boundary bus, and pedestrian crossing): This crossing consists of separate facilities for pedestrians arriving by bus and for road vehicles and is the only border control point which is open 24-hours per day. The Lok Ma Chau Public Transport Interchange can be reached via KMB buses 277, N277, 76K, and 276B. Alternatively, you can take express buses from Hong Kong directly to the control point. After passing through Hong Kong Immigration control, you must board the same bus at the other side of the control point, where you will be taken to Huanggang port in Shenzhen to pass through mainland China immigration control. A shuttle service, known as the "Yellow Bus" operates between the Lok Ma Chau Public Transport Interchange located at San Tin and Huanggang Port of the mainland side.
- Man Kam To Control Point (road and cross-boundary bus crossing): This crossing is mostly used by private vehicles and cross-boundary buses. See "By bus" section below.
- Sha Tau Kok Control Point (road, cross-boundary bus, and pedestrian crossing): Located furthest east, this control point can be accessed by taking a cross-boundary coach. It is far from the centre of Shenzhen and is relatively quiet. There are no mainland visa-on-arrival facilities. See "By bus" section below.
- Shenzhen Bay Port (road and cross-boundary bus crossing): This control point links Hong Kong directly with Shekou, Shenzhen. It can be used by private vehicles and cross-boundary buses. See "By bus" section below.
Note that in Hong Kong, bicycles are not permitted in all tunnels and on most highways. Therefore, Very few Hongkongers manage to use a bike as a substitute for public transport. However, roads in the country parks, because of the hilly landscape, are ideal for adventure biking.
Crossing the land border between Shenzhen and Hong Kong with a bicycle is possible as follows:
- Take the MTR train to the Lo Wu Control Point. Cycles are allowed on the train with a payment of between $20 and $40, depending upon the time of day, and provided that the front wheel is removed.
- GMB minibus #75 operates between the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line Control Point and Yuen Long for $7 and allows a folded bike with 50cm wheels. While most passengers take a bus connecting to urban areas, it's possible for bikers to take the "yellow bus" ($7) just to the other side of the border. There is not much luggage space on this bus and you may be required to disassemble your bike.
MTR runs all long-distance passenger services to Hong Kong, the central station is Hung Hom in Kowloon. There are up to 10 daily departures from Guangzhou via Foshan, journey time is about two hours. Overnight passenger trains run from Beijing and Shanghai every second day. Tickets can be bought online or at the station.
There are plans for a cross-border high-speed rail line from Beijing to Hong Kong, and construction of the Hong Kong section, though plagued by delays, is currently underway and scheduled to open in 2018. For now though, the high-speed rail terminates at Shenzhen North Railway Station, from which you can take the Shenzhen Metro to the border and cross into Hong Kong by foot.
Alternatively it's possible to travel by high-speed train or overnight sleeper to Shenzhen, connected to vast array of Chinese cities, and then change to metro to reach Hong Kong.
Transportation - Get Around
Hong Kong has an excellent and cheap public transport system.
The Octopus Card (八達通, Bat Dat Toong in Cantonese,) is a prepaid debit card that can be used to pay for public transportation such as the MTR, trains, trams, buses and ferries. Most taxis do not yet accept although more will in future. Paying for public transport with an Octopus Card is usually at a discounted fare.
It can also be used to pay for items in convenience stores, supermarkets, fast food restaurant chains, many vending machines, all roadside parking and some car parks. It can also be used as an building access card. Some chain stores, such as Wellcome, offer discounts for paying with the Octopus Card. This is a great way to avoid carrying and counting coins.
Basic Octopus cards cost $150 for $100 in credit plus a $50 refundable deposit. A $9 service charge applies if the card is redeemed for the deposit within 3 months. The maximum value an Octopus card can carry is $1,000. The credit on the card can go negative. For example, you may pay for a ride costing $5 with only $2 of remaining value on the card (bringing the stored value to -$3) but you cannot use the card again until the value is topped up. The value of an Octopus card can go as low as -$35. Note that isn't really "negative", meaning you don't have to pay MTR back, since your $50 deposit secures it.
Your Octopus cards' balance is displayed on the reader after each use. The balance can also be checked, along with the last 9 transactions, using a small machine near regular ticket machines at MTR stations.
It is simple to top up your Octopus Card in $50 increments:
- "Add Value" machines, usually located next to regular ticket machines in MTR stations.
- Customer service centres at all MTR stations
- Merchants that accept Octopus (e.g. 7-Eleven, McDonald's, Wellcome, etc.). This is the best way to avoid queues at the MTR station.
It is not possible to top up with a credit card. Some Hong Kong credit cards have an Octopus Card top up facility although this is not available to cards issued elsewhere.
MTR Fare Saver Machines
There are several fare saver machines located in the MTR system. By tapping your Octopus Card at the reader on one of these machines, you will receive a $1-2 discount on your same day next MTR journey if such journey originates at the station where the machine is located.
By Mass Transit Railway
Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is the fastest way to get around, but it does not offer the views of buses and trams and is more expensive. There are 4 underground lines (Kwun Tong, Tsuen Wan, Island, and Tseung Kwan O lines), 4 Suburban rail lines (West, East, Tung Chung, and Ma On Shan lines), the Airport Express, and a network of modern tram lines in the North West New Territories.
The most important lines for many visitors are the busy Tsuen Wan Line (red), which runs from Central to Kowloon via tunnel and then down Nathan Road towards Tsuen Wan in the New Territories, and the Island Line (blue) which runs along the north coast of Hong Kong Island. The Tung Chung Line (orange) is the fastest route to Lantau and one of the cheapest ways to the airport via the S1 shuttle bus from Tung Chung MTR station. This line can also be used to change to the Disneyland Resort Line (pink) at Sunny Bay. All signs are in both Chinese and English and all announcements are made in Cantonese, Mandarin, and English. Staff in the station control room usually speak enough English to be able to help lost tourists.
Considerations when using the MTR:
- Hong Kong's suburban rail system is linked to two international borders with mainland China, at Lo Wu Control Point and Lok Ma Chau Spur Line Control Point, both on the East Rail Line. You pass through a short corridor and then through a large border gate before entering a long one-way corridor and emerging in mainland China, at a station for the Shenzhen Metro.
- The East Rail Line offers a first class car where the seats are wider and more comfortable. The fare is twice that of the regular cars on the same route, and you need to buy a separate ticket for this at a station's ticketing office or tap your octopus card at the designated reader before entering. Ticket inspectors conduct regular patrol in the carriage and passengers without a valid first class ticket will be fined $500.
- Most underground MTR stations have at least one Hang Seng Bank branch, which can serve as a meeting point.
- Note that in Hong Kong, the English name for the underground metro system is the 'MTR'. The term 'Subway' refers to underground walkways, as opposed to the metro system.
- Fares depend on distance. Credit cards are not accepted to pay for tickets or passes, except for rides on the Airport Express.
- Consumption of food and drinks and smoking are strictly forbidden in stations and in trains. Offenders are liable to a fine of $2,000.
- Disabled Access and Stroller Access is provided at the MTR stations, but it will likely require considerable extra walking, often from one end of an MTR station to another. For instance, the lift may be at one end of a platform at train level, whilst the lift to street level will be at the other end. Therefore, be aware that using lifts and wheelchair access will often require you to walk the length of the station 2 or 3 times, just to get from street level to your chosen train. There is usually one designated reader for wider (wheelchair/stroller) access, but often it is a long walk around the station or platform. Occasionally, there will be an MTR staff booth at a set of gates, but it depends on the individual staff member as to whether they will just tap your card on their terminal and let you through the goods entrance to the platform. If you need a stroller for getting around, it may be better to collapse your stroller, pick up your child and use the escalators and "regular" designated readers. Most Hong Kongers will use a small, lightweight, upright folding stroller (some as the Combi range, which appears to be most popular), than can be easily folded, carried and taken through the gates and escalators. You will also ensure that you aren't fighting for lift space with others who need it, such as wheelchair-bound persons and goods trolleys.
Operated by Hong Kong Tramways, the narrow double-decker city trams (also known locally as "ding ding") trundling along the northern coast of Hong Kong Island have provided cheap transport for over a century. Riding the tram is a great and cheap way to sightsee. For an excursion lasting 1 hour, board at the Kennedy Town Terminus and get a good seat on the upper deck. As the tram travels eastward, you will have an elevated view of Hong Kong Island and its different flavours, from bustling Hong Kong street life to its glitzy financial and shopping districts and, finally, a taste of suburban tranquillity.
- Trams are slower and bumpier than other modes of transport, and they are not air conditioned. Summer months can be very uncomfortable even with the windows open.
- They run 06:00-23:59.
- Passengers board at the rear and the flat $2.30 fare is paid upon getting off at the front of the tram. The fare is paid for by Octopus Card or coins (no change given)
- They are the favourite transport option on Sundays for Hong Kong's large foreign maid community and it is very difficult to either sit or stand on that day.
The Peak Tram, Hong Kong's first mechanised mode of transport, opened in 1888. The remarkably steep 1.7km track from Central up to Victoria Peak is worth at least one trip despite the comparatively steep price ($28 one-way, $40 return; return tickets must be purchased in advance). The tram turnstiles do take Octopus cards, which will allow you to avoid the ticketing line at the station.
The Peak Tram is likely to be crowded at night when the view of the city's skyline is magic, as well as on public holidays. Queues can be very long (waiting an hour is common at busy times), and a lot of pushing has been reported.
Note that the tram is not the only way to get to the Peak, and there are cheaper (but slower and still quite scenic) alternatives such as the #1 green minibus costing $8.4 & #15 double-decker bus costing $9.8 from Exchange Square Bus Terminus. These buses will often give you great views of both sides of Hong Kong Island on the way up.
MTR operates a tram system located in the northwest New Territories called Light Rail. It is a modern and fast tram system connecting Tuen Mun, Yuen Long, and Tin Shui Wai. It is also known as ding ding by local people. It has an open fare system, in which passengers are required to buy a ticket or tap an Octopus card at the station entrance before boarding, and ticket inspection is random. The area is seldom visited by foreign tourists but various sights are nonetheless accessible via Light Rail, such as numerous ancient walled villages (highlighted by the Ping Shan Heritage Trail), the Hong Kong Wetland Park, the beaches of Tuen Mun New Town, Yuen Long Town Centre, and seafood towns like Lau Fau Shan and Sam Shing.
There are three types of bus available in Hong Kong. In the inner areas, buses will get stuck in traffic and take much longer than the MTR, however, they cover many more destinations than the MTR. While generally easy to use, signs in English can be sparse and finding your bus stop can get difficult. Buses are also the only public option for travelling around the south side of the island and Lantau. Google Maps will actually let you know the best number bus to take from your current position to destination.
- The large double-decker buses cover practically all of the territory, stop frequently and charge varying fares depending on the distance. The first seats of the upper deck offer great views. The franchised bus operators in Hong Kong include Kowloon Motor Bus (KMB) (and its subsidiary Long Win Bus), Citybus (CTB), New World First Bus (NWFB) and New Lantao Bus (NLB). Route and fare information can be found on the companies web sites. Alternatively it's also wise to install transportation apps such as "KMB & LW" and "CitybusNWFB" into your smartphone, to check fares outdoors if you'll use mobile devices regularly during your stay.
Fares will depend more on where you board rather than where you get-off (except for the cross-boundary route B2 and a few overnight buses) which means it is more expensive to board at the earlier stops rather than the later stops. Hence, bus rides which cross the harbour between Kowloon and the Island exceed $9 prior to the crossing. The fare is displayed on a digital display above the farebox - exact change, Octopus Card or a ticket purchased from a bus travel centre (only applicable to a few routes found at major transit hubs such as Star Ferry or Central Bus Terminus) must be used. There are plenty of bus routes that provide a fare discount for transferring with a particular set of routes; they're often confusing for visitors, however instructions are written on bus stop timetable leaflets. There are also some bus routes (especially the routes going to Stanley) which offer discount if a passenger gets off early and taps the Octopus card again prior to alighting.
There are announcements in Cantonese, Mandarin and English except for most buses on New Lantau Bus. To catch your bus go to the bus stop with the right number and when your bus approaches, raise your arm to hail the bus (like you would hail a taxi). Buses will only stop when requested so press the red buzzer (located by the exit doors and on the grab-rails) to signal to the driver that you want to alight. Always board at the front and alight from the centre door - unless the bus has only one door, or on the routes where you need to pay when alighting, in which case keep to the left.
- Van-sized public light buses carry a maximum of 16 passengers (seats only) and come in two varieties, red minibuses and green minibuses (the red buses are also called maxicabs); the colour refers to a wide stripe painted on top of the vehicle. Riding a minibus may not be easy for travellers, as it is required to call out the name of the stop or ask the driver to stop in Cantonese. (Just shouting 'Please Stop' loudly in English usually suffices) More and more red minibuses accept Octopus card, but still many do not accept Octopus but will give you change, while green minibuses do accept Octopus payment but cannot give you change if you pay in cash. The Hong Kong Island green minibus #1 down from the Peak to Central is particularly exhilarating. Red minibuses tend to have a more Chinese feel than green buses. Prices on red minibuses are often displayed only in Chinese numbers. The price displayed on a red minibus can legally vary according to the market price, so expect to pay more at busy times. Some people argue that the driving standards of red minibuses are lower than green minibuses; Minibus drivers generally drive fast, especially at night. Always use minibus seatbelts where available. You will notice that they all have an extra, large, digital speedometer in the cabin for the passengers to view, this is required by the government after a few fatal accidents due to speeding. Since the introduction of these passenger speedometers mini-bus accident rates have dropped.
- The MTR also maintains a fleet of feeder buses. MTR passengers can enjoy a free feeder service if the bus trip is paid for on an Octopus card along with a connecting railway journey (except taking K12 on holidays).
Note that if paying in cash, the exact fare is required and no change can be given. Paying by Octopus is much more convenient. The exception to this rule is if you use a red minibus; Octopus cards are not accepted on red minibus services, but they do give you change.
There are six independent route numbering systems, applying to: buses (i) on Hong Kong Island, (ii) in Kowloon and the New Territories, and (iii) on Lantau Island; green minibuses (iv) on Hong Kong Island, (v) in Kowloon, and (vi) in New Territories and several exceptional auxiliary bus routes. Red minibuses do not usually have a route number. This leads to duplication of routes in different regions. Although the Transport Department has been working on unification of the route numbers, they are still a little bit messy at the moment. If you are confused a bit by the numbering of routes, here is a suggestion: just remember the route number of buses in Hong Kong Island/Kowloon/New Territories only whenever it is necessary. In other special circumstances, ask the driver or the station staff for the Lantau buses and green minibuses and they can answer you.
Generally you need not mention which district the route belongs to when you are asking for directions (almost all people will assume you are asking for the route which runs in the district you are in, e.g. if you ask for bus route #2, locals will assume you are asking for bus route #2 running in Kowloon if you are in Kowloon), but you really need to mention whether the route is by bus or minibus when you ask, since in some cases both buses and minibuses can have the same route number in the same area which are actually different routes. (e.g. there are both bus route #6 and minibus route #6 in Tsim Sha Tsui, which are actually different routes).
A large fleet of ferries sail between the many islands of Hong Kong. The granddaddy of them all and an attraction in itself is the Star Ferry, whose most popular line travels between Tsim Sha Tsui and Central from early morning until late at night, and offers amazing views (especially when coming from Tsim Sha Tsui). The Star Ferry is an icon of Hong Kong heritage and has carried passengers for over 120 years. Taking its 11-minute ride across the harbour and catching some misty breeze is considered a "must do" when visiting Hong Kong. Navigation enthusiasts will also not want to miss the sight of the crew using a billhook to catch the thrown rope as it moors at the pier, a practice unchanged since the first ferry ran in 1888.
Upper deck seats cost $2.50 on weekdays and $3.40 on weekends while the lower deck cost $2.00 on weekdays and $2.80 on weekends, both payable with Octopus, cash (no change given) or by onsite vending machine. The Star Ferry also operates between Tsim Sha Tsui and Wanchai but only offers upper-deck seating. A 4-day tourist ticket is also available for $25.
Ferries to Lamma, Lantau and other islands depart from a variety of ports, but the largest and most important terminal is at Central adjacent to the Star Ferry. Ferries are usually divided into fast ferries and slow ferries, with fast ferries charging around twice the price for half the journey time, although not all destinations offer both kinds of service. Example fares for trips from Central to Yung Shue Wan (Lamma) are $10/15 slow/fast, and to Mui Wo (Lantau) $10.50/$21. Note that all fares increase by around 50% on Sundays and public holidays.
Taxis are plentiful, clean, and efficient. They are extremely cheap compared to many other large cities.
There are three types of taxi in Hong Kong, easily identified by their colours: red, green and blue, all of which serve the airport and Hong Kong Disneyland. Be aware if you are choosing from one of the three kinds of taxis when you are finding your way out of the airport. When in doubt, just take a red taxi. Rates for each type of taxi are published online
- The Urban (red) taxis can travel anywhere within Hong Kong, and are the most expensive. The meter starts at $22.00 for the first 2 kilometres, plus $1.60 ($1 after the fare reaches $78) for every 200m or minute of wait time thereafter.
- New Territories (green) taxis are slightly cheaper than the red ones but are confined to rural areas in the New Territories, the airport, and Hong Kong Disneyland.
- Lantau (blue) taxis are the cheapest of the three but operate only on Lantau Island, including the airport and Hong Kong Disneyland.
Considerations when riding taxis:
- Wearing of seat belts is required by law, the driver has the right to refuse carrying the passenger if they fail to comply.
- Tipping is usually not required or expected, however the driver will usually round the fare up to the nearest dollar.
- Drivers are required to provide change for $100 notes, but not for higher denominations. If you only have a $500 or $1000 note and are going through a tunnel, let the driver know beforehand and he will change it when paying at the toll booth.
- Some taxis accept credit cards and Octopus cards to avoid hassles with small change; these are usually indicated by a sticker in the windshield.
- There are no extra late-night charges nor peak-hour surcharges. However, baggage carried in the boot ("trunk" if coming from North America) will cost you $5 per piece, except for wheelchairs. No charges are levied for travel to/from the airport or within downtown but all toll charges for tunnels are added to the bill. The driver will normally pay on your behalf at the toll booth and you just need to reimburse him before alighting.
- Harbour crossing passengers (Hong Kong Island to Kowloon or vice versa) are expected to pay the return tolls. But you can use this to your advantage by picking a homebound taxi from a cross-harbour taxi rank in places like the Star Ferry pier or Hung Hom station. In these cross-harbour taxi stands only single toll charge will be applied to the taxi fare.
- All taxi drivers are required to display inside the vehicle an official name card that includes the driver's photograph and the license plate number. Unless a taxi has an out of service sign displayed, they are legally required to take you to your destination. They are also required to provide you a receipt upon request. If you think you have been "toured" around the city, or if they refuse to either carry you to your destination or provide for a receipt, you may file a complain to the Transport Complaints Unit Complaint Hotline (Voice mail service after office hours) at 2889-9999.
- All taxis are radio equipped and can be reserved and requested via an operator for a token fee of $5, payable to the driver. You are unlikely to need to call a taxi, though, as they are plentiful.
- It is good practice to get a local person to write the name or address of your destination in Chinese for you to hand to the taxi driver, as many drivers speak limited English and Mandarin. For example, if you wish take a journey back to your hotel, ask a receptionist for the hotel's business card. Nevertheless, even if you don't, most taxi drivers know enough English to communicate the basics. Be aware that buildings might have an English name used by foreigners and a different English name used by locals. The HSBC building in Central is called "Hong Kong Bank" by taxi drivers for example.
- Learning some Cantonese pronunciation for your location will help (especially as some names such as Hung Hom, don't sound in Cantonese like they are written in English). "Do" (said like "Doe" - a deer, a female deer, with a middle tone) and "Gai" (said more like "Kai" with a rising tone) are the Cantonese words for Road and Street respectively. If you can pronounce your suburb and local road correctly, this will help considerably.
Considerations when driving in Hong Kong:
- Renting a car is almost unheard of in densely populated Hong Kong. With heavy traffic, a complex road network, rare and expensive parking spaces, and well-connected public transportation, renting a car is very unappealing. However, renting a car should not be ruled out if you intend to spend a significant amount of time hiking and camping in the countryside. Expect to pay over $600/day even for a small car.
- The legal age for driving passenger cars in Hong Kong is 18, the same as the Mainland. However, you must be 21 in order to drive commercial vehicles.
- Hong Kong allows most foreigners to drive with an International Driving Permit (IDP). In fact, if one possesses a driving licence which is written in English, he/she can drive in Hong Kong for a temporary period of time. Anyone who drives for more than 12 months is required to get a Hong Kong licence issued by the Department of Transport.
- Hong Kong uses traffic rules and signs similar to the United Kingdom.
- The majority of Hongkongers will exceed the speed limit by around 10km/h which is the tolerated threshold. There are many speeding cameras on most major highways.
- Traffic lights are always observed.
- Wearing a seatbelt is mandatory for every passenger who has a seatbelt provided.
- Rush hour traffic can be severe around the Cross Harbour Tunnel, which is generally congested 08:00-11:00 and 16:00-22:00 and even sometimes right up until midnight.
- Many drivers will not signal before changing lanes.
- Traffic rules are enforced seriously and the penalty for breaking rules can be severe.
- Signs are written in both Chinese and English.
- Traffic in Hong Kong moves on the left (the steering wheel is on right hand side), same as United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, Thailand and Singapore, but opposite to mainland China.
In general, although cycling is possible, Hong Kong is not a bicycle-friendly place because of its hilly landscapes, government policies, air pollution and a general lack of consideration by many motorists. Locals sometimes cycle on the pavements if they are not crowded, although most of time, pavements are too crowded even for pushing your bike. If you plan to use busy urban roads you should be fit enough to keep up with the traffic, which moves surprisingly quickly.
A network of tarmac cycle tracks sprawl across the New Territories making it relatively easy to bike for longer distances. There are also several mountain-bike trails in the country parks, although a permit is necessary to bring your bicycle into the parks. Visitors should comply with the Road User's Guide which is based on the United Kingdom Highway Code.
Bike rental is available in several locations across the territory. Popular rental spots include Cheung Chau, Mui Wo (Lantau), Sha Tin, Tai Po Market, Tuen Mun and Ma On Shan. Rental fees are typically $40-60 a day for a standard entry-level mountain bike, or around $150 per day for a higher-spec mountain or road bike.
Basic rules to follow:
- Cyclists are not allowed by law to ride on highways and tunnels, which are well patrolled.
- It is an offence to be drunk in charge of a bicycle.
- By law, you're required to have a front and rear light.
- Electronic bike conversion systems are not allowed. The police have a strict enforcement policy on this offence.
- The maximum penalty for riding on pedestrian roads is $500 or a three month jail sentence. Usually offenders get a warning, but the Hong Kong Police do occasionally have an annual, or bi-annual crackdown.
- For folding bike users, sometimes a bus driver will tell you that it's not allowed, but if you talk to them nicely they will usually let you board. A bicycle bag that makes your bike look like ordinary luggage can make your life a lot easier.
Bicycles on public transport
Folding bicycles are permitted on all public transport, provided that they are folded.
- MTR: Non-folding bicycles are permitted to travel on the MTR system. Travel in the first or last carriage and remove the front wheel.
- Ferries: Bicycles are permitted on board slow ferries including the Star Ferry, but are not permitted on the Fast Ferries.
- Taxis: Most taxi drivers will carry bikes in the boot if the front wheel is removed. Some drivers will car
The world's longest outdoor escalator travels from Central through Soho to the residential developments of the Mid-levels. The escalator moves down in the morning rush hour but up the rest of the time, and using it is free — in fact, you can even get Octopus credits from machines along the way for being willing to use your feet!
The escalator cuts through some of the oldest streets found anywhere in Hong Kong, so if you are happy to take a chance and just wander and explore the back streets you are likely to find something of interest that dates back to colonial times. The immediate area to the east of the escalator was once reserved for the exclusive use of Chinese people.
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