One of the great things about Hong Kong is that it keeps building and keeps changing. The bad thing is that the information here can go out of date a bit quickly if I am not careful. So with this, I give you the 2017 updated MTR map for Hong Kong trains and subways. They have added stations and added a whole new South Island Line, which is pretty important for visitors to the city.
The South Island line is significant for visitors as it now gives you direct subway access to Ocean Park, one of the two major theme parks along with Disney Hong Kong. It use to be a bus ride from the MTR but now it’s got it’s own station on the South Island Line.
Also, the green line has been extended to Whampoa, which makes it easier to get the shopping and the “big boat” attraction there. So this update has been good for everyone!
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):
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!
Hong Kong is blessed with many types of public transit, from the ultra fast airport express train at one end to the traditional narrow trams of Hong Kong Island. Those Hong Kong trams are a real treat, and a remarkably good way to see Hong Kong for a really low price.
The trams have run on Hong Kong island for a very long time, they were sort of the original public transit. The current system is one long line the runs from Kennedy Town in the west all the way to Shau Kei Wan to the East. Happy Valley (at the south side of the Happy Valley Horse Race Track) is the other general alternative. All of the trams run down pretty much the same line, going further or shorter depending on demand and the schedule. You have to look at the front of the tram to know which way each tram is going.
Most of the Hong Kong Trams do not go from one end to the other. For the most part, they concentrate in the core of the system, running from either the Western Market or the Whitty Street Depot to Happy Valley, Causeway Bay, or North Point. That is good for touring the city, as they show up very frequently and really let you get around pretty quickly, especially for short trips. The best part is the fare, which is well under $3 for an adult. The fair can be paid in cash or paid with your trusty Octopus Card. Unlike most transit that is either pay first or beep in-beep out, the trams are a much more simple “pay as you leave” system. You enter the tram from the rear, and if you want to go upstairs you use the rear staircase to go up. Coming down you use the front staircase. The seats at the very front and very rear upstairs are some of the best seats for taking pictures and generally drinking in a more true view of Hong Kong as a city.
Using the HK Tramways map, you can see that many of the most popular attractions in Hong Kong can be reached by tram. I personally enjoy riding the trams just because it gets you a chance to see what you might miss riding the MTR trains, all of the things in between the stops. I particularly recommend taking a late afternoon tram through to the North Point depot, as the last couple of minutes the tram goes through the middle of a very busy market, which often reaches right to the edges of the track. You can see a video of the North Point Tram ride here. The market itself is mostly a fish and fresh produce market on one side, and more clothes and such on the other.
The tour to the top of Happy Valley is nice as well, the Happy Valley Race Course is perhaps one of the largest open green areas in downtown Hong Kong, with Horse racing at certain times of the year. The tram terminus point is at the end of the track and is slightly uphill from much of the rest of Hong Kong, giving you a great view.
The Hong Kong trams are also good to ride after dark (remember, Hong Kong is a pretty safe place all considered, just don’t be silly!). You can check out the lights and activity and probably find yourself more interesting places to check out!
I have many people ask me about getting around in Hong Kong and the amount of time required to get from one place to another. Knowing how many places you can go and how long it would take is sort of key when you are planning a vacation or a sightseeing day out. Before we get to that in a future post, I figure I should explain a little bit more about getting around in Hong Kong. It may come as a surprise to many, but public transit (buses, subways, trains, trams and the like) is pretty much the best way to get around in Hong Kong for many reasons.
As I discussed in an earlier post, an Octopus card is a key part of your visit to Hong Kong. They are like a little wallet of money you can use in many places, and are a key part of riding the public transit systems in Hong Kong. If you intend to use public transit at all, it’s worth getting a card. They are not expensive to get ($150 HK to start out, which gets you $100HK credit plus some over run space), and they really open up Hong Kong. I can tell you that living here, I must use my card for non-transit related purchases probably dozens of times each week. It’s just that good.
The key component of the public transit system in Hong Kong is the subways, trains, and light rail trains. Subways and trains are relatively interchangable, as many of the “subway” lines actually run outside, and trains like the blue line (which goes to the border at Shenzhen) have subway style stations but run on train like open rails. Except for cross border trains into China (which generally leave from Hung Hom Station) everything else is “public transit”, generally run by the MTR. Their stations are all identified with the same MTR logo, a very common sight in Hong Kong. To make it easy, I refer to them all as subways from now on, even though they may run outdoors. (more…)