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!