Navigating Hong Kong Transport with the Octopus Card
While living on China’s mainland for six years I was spoiled with having a car and driver included in our expat package. And when the driver was off the clock, hailing a taxi on the mainland was a bit easier than it is now living in Hong Kong. Now, travel to and fro consists of a long line of commuters, tourists and massive crowds on the MTR (subway), tram stops and taxi stands and ferry terminals. Depending on the time of day and what is on our agenda walking about town tends to be a more relaxing and favorable option.
China and Hong Kong both boast excellent public transportation systems. And, recently I have become familiar with Hong Kong’s system, more so than any other city I have lived in. Not only am I in favor of the accessibility and convenience of taxis, trams, and the MTR, but the nifty plastic Octopus card that has been in circulation since 1997 makes the commute a gem.
Secretly, I am a sucker for the super trendy and a trend that puts 10 million Octopus Cards in circulation makes purchasing one a no brainer.
Purchase one at any MTR or KCR (Kowloon-Canton Railway) customer service station. All you need is to pay a refundable deposit of 50 HKD ($6.50USD) and add as much as you think you might need. I use it everywhere around Hong Kong that accepts it. It’s not only perfect for transportation and parking, but also retail outlets, self-service machines, leisure facilities and schools as well as online. It is even being accepted at a number of residential and commercial buildings.
Secretly, I am a sucker for the super trendy and a trend that puts 10 million Octopus Cards in circulation makes purchasing one a no brainer. (10 million cards is more than the entire 7 million Hong Kong population.) No need to carry and fumble with coins. The tram costs an odd amount of 2.4 HKD, which in total is five coins (five too many for me to hold onto) especially when traveling around the city with my camera and groceries. In addition to the Octopus Card, there are two types of Airport Express Tourist Octopus:
1. Airport Express One Free Single Journey + 3 days unlimited travel on MTR + $50 deposit + Stored value $20 = Price HK$220
2. Airport Express Two Free Single Journeys* + 3 days unlimited travel on MTR + $50 deposit + Stored value $20 = Price HK$300 (*Valid for 180 days after purchase)
Generally, the Octopus card is an essential item when traveling in Hong Kong, and “Octopus” + “MTR” + “Buses” is the dream team of Hong Kong transportation. One can reach most parts of Hong Kong by using them.
I still haven’t managed the bus routes nor do I know the difference between the four major bus lines used. We tend to use the tram to get to the closest MTR station and walk to our points of interest from there. Even though a seat on the tram is rarely available the standing room has free flowing air. Just mind your toes.
Across the bay and currently further west of us is Lantau Island, Discovery Bay, soon to be our new home. Travel time, twenty five minutes by ferry, no cars are allowed. Golf carts and bicycles are privately owned for getting around the island. Bus services are the only means of paid public transportation. Taxis have just been approved to take guests to the one and only hotel. Our thought is to hire a ride from the hotel to get to the airport or mainland with larger suitcases. Taxis in Asia in general are very affordable compared to the rest of the world.
And if I need an adrenaline rush of city life I know how to use my Octopus card and take the ferry to Central.
Many fear I might be bored in Discovery Bay (gasp! how can I leave HK Island?); driving a golf cart back and forth to the grocery store and walking the dog amongst the tree-lined sidewalks sounds a bit mundane to Hong Kong, true bloods. These changes will be different than what I have been used to over the past few weeks; carbon commutes through the concrete canyons in and around, up and above, the Island Line. But, after 6 years, 2 months in China/Hong Kong I am ready for the drastic change. And if I need an adrenaline rush of city life I know how to use my Octopus card and take the ferry to Central. It’s only twenty-five minutes away.