Hong Kong Tour Guides

useful info and tips for visitors to Hong Kong

Category: arrival information

Hong Kong MTR Map and Details

Hong Kong is a city on the move, and any city on the move depends on it’s public transit. Hong Kong’s MTR corporation runs the trains and subways, which is generically referred to as “the MTR”. The system is a subway system (underground), a classic train (ground level) system, and also in some area an elevated system. The trains run to almost every area of Hong Kong, or at least get you close enough to your destination to take a taxi, bus, or even walk.

Let’s start off with the hong kong MTR map (this is the official map from the MTR for 2015):

hong kong mtr map

The map isn’t to scale or anything, but it at least gives you an idea of the size of the system. You can see the Hong Kong Airport Express line that runs from Asia World Expo to Hong Kong station, colored blue-green. That is likely to be your first experience with the MTR system, and likely a very positive one. The ride from the airport to Hong Kong station takes about 23 minutes, this is the fastest train line, the orange line from Tung Chung to Hong Kong takes about 40 minutes to cover the same basic journey. The trip from Hung Hom to Lo Wu (the Chinese border crossing) takes about 45 to 50 minutes.

The full list of the lines include the Airport Express (blue-green), the Island Line (blue), the Tsuen Wan Line (red), The Kwun Tong line (green), The Tseung Kwn O line (Dark purple), the West Rail Line (Light Purple), the East Rail Line (light blue), the Man On Shan line (brown), The Tung Chung line (orange), and finally the Disney Land Resort Line (pink). The system is constantly in expansion and getting improvements, with the extension to Kennedy Town station recently added on the Island Line, and other extensions currently under construction.

The MTR train system works on a fare by distance system. Basically, the further you go, the more you pay. Payment is by using your Octopus card, single journey tickets, tourist day passes, and similar. The Airport Express has pre-paid return tickets. There are also fare concessions including certain discounts for doing the same trip more than once a day, including free return to the airport if you travel in the same day. This is particularly useful if you have a long layover between flights and want to get some fast tourist time in Hong Kong. The MTR system is a “beep in, beep out” system (except for the Airport Express), which means you been your Octopus card to enter your departure station, and you beep it again to exit, and your fare is calculated as a result. You can exchange freely from one line to another at the interchange stations without having to beep out. There is one exception station, which is the Tsim Sha Tsui and East Tsim Sha Tsui stations, where you have to beep out of one, and into the other. This is not generally recommended as it makes your journey more expensive. It is better to change at other stations.

The MTR also operates a number of light rail / surface trams in the New Territories around the Tuen Mun and Tin Shui Wai areas. Riding these is considered a separate journey.

The MTR subway and trains are such the common way to travel that many businesses will state their location relative to a station and even a particular exit. This is actually a key way to get where you are going in Hong Kong, and during your visit you will find the MTR a great way to not only get around, but to enjoy Hong Kong like a local!

Taking the Airport Express to Hong Kong

So, let’s say you have decided to take the airport express to your hotel. A good, safe choice, as the airport express will certainly get your closer to your hotel, and the free shuttle bus service is really helpful if your hotel is one of the ones on this list.

If you haven’t don’t it already, now would be a good time to do the Things To Do Before Leaving Hong Kong Airport, because a bit of cash in hand is good, and the Octopus card will be used to pay for your Airport Express. Please note there are sometimes specials on the Airport Express (recent example was Hong Kong to the Aiport for $160 for two people… which is a bit lower than the price when you use the Octopus card). But remember, in the end, the airport express is $100HK per person from airport to Hong Kong (central) station, or under $13US… any discount would be about $2-$3 US is you can get it.

The airport express station is centrally located in the airport. Once you have picked up your Octopus card at the MTR ticket counter:

mtr octopus card booth hong kong airport

you will see signs for the airport express train. There are three access points to the train platform, one behind the ticket booths as shown in the picture near the A and B sides, and there is also one in the middle. Pro tip if you have baggage is to use the access closest to your exit gate, because it has a ramp up and not stairs! Just look for these passages:

airport express sign

or closer up:

airport express passageway hong kong airport

or finally signs like this:

hong kong airport express trains to city

The airport express from the airport is one of the rare train stations that you do not have to “beep in” to get to the platform. Generally Hong Kong subways and trains are “beep in – beep out” systems that track your travel from start to finish and deduct from your Octopus card that way. However, from the airport you can just walk right onto the platform. So let’s go and get to the platform and wait for the train. Your wait won’t be long, the trains leave every 10 minutes or so. Here is one other nice Pro Tip to remember in Hong Kong: Above the doors for the train, you will see a route map, like this:

airport express map

It shows each station on the journey. The ones that are still colored are the ones remaining on this trip. Notice which way the stations are, because that is the direction that the train will travel when you get on – so you can sit on the train facing the right way! This system applies for all MTR subway trains in Hong Kong, so you can be sure you are heading the right way, and you know which way the train will run.

When the train arrives, the doors will open and inside each door area is place for your baggage. Put your bags here, it really is safe, and just take your carry on with you. Take your seat and get comfortable, your journey to Hong Kong proper is about to start. There are three stations on the route, and you choose your exit based on where you are going. Most people will not get off at Tsing Ye (this is for the New Territories generally). For most travelers, it will be a question of Kowloon Side or Hong Kong side. If your hotel is on Hong Kong Island (such as Wan Chai, Central, Cuaseway Bay, North Point, Tin Hau, Happy Valley, or similar) then you will want to take the train to the Hong Kong stop. If your Hotel is in Kowloon, Jordan, Kowloon East, or similar, then you will want to get off at Kowloon station.

Before You Leave Hong Kong Airport For Your Hotel

Before you leave Hong Kong airport for your hotel (or other final destination in town) there are a couple of things you should do. These two important steps will turn you into a real Hong Kong person and make your trip very much more interesting.

Before you can do either of these things, you will need some cash. Hopefully you followed my advice and didn’t do any money exchange in the arrivals area of the airport, their rates are generally terrible. The best way to get cash in Hong Kong is to pull out your trust ATM / cash card and make a withdrawl. At current rates, a $1000HK dollar withdrawl is about $130 or so US dollars. Thankfully, there are a number of ATM machines right in the airport, which makes things a little easier.

citibank atm hong kong airportThe cash machines are generally located in the area between the A and B exits, near the central elevator / escalator complex. If you came out of the A gate, that will be to your right down the concourse, and if you came out of B, it’s to the left. All of the stores and services are located along the wall between the A and B gate exits, so as you walk along from the A gate you will have shops and banks on your right, and restaurants on your left (congrats, you just saw your first Hong Kong McDonalds!). There are a couple of sets of ATM machines along the right side near the elevators. I think they are a Citibank and an HSBC, but not to worry, they have global access to most other banks. Withdrawing cash here will likely get you a much better rate than trying to exchange cash at the airport. You should probably withdraw a couple of thousand HK (which is only $250 US dollars) as you will need to spend a bit in the next few minutes to get yourself organized.

octopus card hong kongNow, for Hong Kong step 1: You need an Octopus card. Why would you want an octopus on a card? Well, actually, in Hong Kong the Octopus card is possibly one of the single most useful things you can have. It’s you method for paying for trains, buses, subways, and even the airport express train. So in that regard, it’s sort of a transit pass. But it is much more, because pretty much every small convenience store (7-eleven, Circle K, Vingo, and others) will have a machine that lets you pay for your purchases by deducting right off the Octopus card. No more fighting for change! You will actually be very surprised all of the places you can use it instead of cash, from McDonalds and KFC to local restaurant chains like Fairwood or Cafe Coral. You can use it to access the cross harbor ferries, you can even use it in some places in Shenzhen in mainland China. It’s a value added storage device that will keep you from ending up with a pocket full of change, and also help you to not slow down lines in convenience stores!

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Hong Kong Airport To Your Hotel

hong kong airport signOkay, keeping up with my previous post about arriving at the Hong Kong Airport (terminal 1), let’s keep the show on the road and deal with the next part of your journey, getting from arrivals to your comfy, wonderful hotel (or the hole in the wall you have chosen, depending on your desires). The good news as you can see is that the aiport is absolutely filled with clear and distinct signs, and they are all bilingual English and Chinese, so no problems here for most people (if you are reading my blog, you are probably okay). The pictograms are also nice and clear and easy to follow.

Hong Kong Airport is laid out in a pretty organized way, and the ground transportation is pretty much all in one area. As you come out of Gate A or B (see my previous Hong Kong Airport Arrival post for more in that part), the ground transportation options are generally right ahead of you. How you decide to do things will depend on your budget and size of group.

If you are coming in with an organized tour group, generally your tour leader should meet you right here in front of the gates, and you don’t have to go any further. Keep your eyes open for the person holding the right sign for your group, and you are on your way. The same thing with most pre-arranged travel by limo or shuttle bus. If their service includes meet and greet, they will do it right about here, and they will guide you from that point.

If you are like the rest of us and having to figure your way from the airport to the hotel yourself, then it’s time to examine your choices on how to get where you are going. It’s also time get yourself some Hong Kong supplies so that the rest of your trip goes well.

There are three general ways to get to your hotel: train, taxi, or bus. Hong Kong has amazing public and common transit systems, and each of these options has a plus and a minus. Let’s have a look at each one:
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Welcome To Hong Kong – Confused Yet?

hong kong airport arrivals

Welcome to Hong Kong Airport. Are you confused yet?

Welcome to Hong Kong. Are you confused yet? If the time zone changes and the long flight to get here haven’t completely scrambled your mind, the airport arrival will certainly get you going a little bit more. Thankfully, with a little explanation, I call let you know what you will see coming in the airport, and how to make your arrival smoother and more reasonable.

First off, Hong Kong airport has two terminals, but the vast majority of the flights come into Terminal 1. For the moment, I will concern myself with your arrival into this modern, spacious terminal. Get your hiking boots on, because almost without exception you are going to be doing some walking. Like most modern airports, the gates are fairly far away from the main terminal building. Depending on what gate you come in, you may have to take a “people mover” train to get to the main terminal building.

hong kong airport people mover

people mover terminal at the hong kong airport image from wikicommons


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