Getting around like a Hongkonger

Hong Kong’s public transport network is clean, efficient and easy to use.  There are a few simple steps you need to follow, but once you know them you’ll be getting around Hong Kong on the cheap in no time!

Get yourself an Octopus Card

Photo: Alan Levine/Flickr
Photo: Alan Levine/Flickr

There’s one essential for travelling like a local in Hong Kong and that’s an Octopus card. These credit-card styled travel cards allow you to hop-on and hop-off all modes of public transport very easily including local busses, trains, trams and ferry. Whether you’re sailing across Victoria Harbour on the world-famous Star Ferry, or ascending to Victoria Peak on the Peak Tram you can use your Octopus card for it all.To pick one up, you need to go to your local train station (or MTR), look for the symbol shown below.

Hong Kong MTR. Photo by James Williams
Hong Kong’s MTR train system is clearly identified by it’s red and white logo.

Inside go to the manned booth with some Hong Kong Dollars.  You will pay a small deposit for the card about HKD$50 which you will get back when you return it.  But for the equivalent of less than AU$8 you might even decide to keep it as a souvenir.

Top-up your MTR card with some cash. Local trips are usually less than HKD$6, and longer trips may cost you HKD$15 each way, so depending on the length of your trip you may want to add HKD$200-300.  As you start to use your card, you’ll also find other places you can spend with Octopus, like 7Eleven and to access some local attractions.  Octopus is one of Hong Kong’s most prevalent forms of payment, even more popular than credit cards in some places.


Busses take Octopus which you only scan on for most services.  Alight the bus from the front only…. if you see people trying to get on at the rear, they’re probably from the mainland. Don’t follow them or you’ll find yourself swiftly ejected!  Scan your Octopus card as you get on!  Citybus, KBM services and the Green minibus service both take Octopus.

Hong Kong Bus Octopus Reader
Octopus Reader on Bus in Hong Kong. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Hong Kong Trains (MTR)

Hong Kong’s MTR is super quick and efficient.  Scan on at the turnstiles as you enter the station and scan out as you leave at your destination.  If you happen to scan in and then need to leave without boarding a train, speak to the Customer service desk at the station and explain what has happened – they’ll usually oblige with a refund adjustment to your Octopus card.  An Octopus card will not get you access to train services which run between Hung Hom station in Kowloon and Guangzhou.

Hong Kong MTR Gate with Octopus Reader.
Hong Kong MTR Gate with Octopus Reader. Photo Wikimedia Commons

Hong Kong Trams

Hong Kong Island trams (affectionately known as Ding Dings) are the cheapest form of public transport on the Island.  Always join the tram from the rear, through the turnstiles and leave from the front.  You swipe your Octopus card as you leave the tram.

Hong Kong Tram. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Hong Kong Tram. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Hong Kong Ferry

Ferry services are plentiful and take you to many outlying Islands and locations around Hong Kong.  You can use your Octopus Card on all public ferry services.  Be aware that some ferries may give you a regular and a fast ferry option.  The fast ferry is more expensive.  Other ferry services may offer two classes of the service.  The higher class of service provides access to an air conditioned cabin.  Octopus is also welcome on Hong Kong’s famous Star Ferry service which traverses Victoria Harbour from Tsim Sha Tsui to Hong Kong Island.


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