The first thing I can say about public transport in Hong Kong is that it’s excellent! There are, of course, many different modes to choose from. And yep, each is clean, efficient, fast, and most importantly, on time. This efficiency is noticeable the moment someone land in Hong Kong International Airport. Right there and then, access to the Airport Express, bus terminus and taxis are admirably organized.
For someone traveling alone and for the first time in Hong Kong, this is organization is a relief. It is also worth to mention that the entire place is generous with the road signages, so basically, you won’t get lost as long as you read directions. And yeah, it pays to know your routes and where exactly you are going! 😀
So with that in mind, here are the 5 things I believe are the best qualities of public transportation in Hong Kong that makes it worth commuting:
1. The public transport is efficient
The MTR (Mass Transit Railway) is certainly one of the most efficient ways to get around, and has a certain number of trips everyday that follows a pre-determined schedule. It should also be noted that it is made up three different train systems: the underground (subway), overground and light rail. MTR includes the Airport Express.
Buses are also easy to find with the terminus having sufficient signs on where to find the ones going to your destination. There are different buses that caters to passengers to and from the airport during the day (A) or night (N).
Taxis and minibuses are also easy to find.
2. There is no need to prepare exact change every time
Get acquainted with the Octopus Card. This is a rechargeable smart card that can be used on the MTR and most other public transport. It also allows you to make purchases in various shops, such as supermarkets in the city. It costs HKD150 and can be returned for a HKD37 refund at the airport. And oh, you can have this reloaded at any 7-11 shops around Hong Kong. When getting into the bus or through MTR counters, all you need to do is swipe. There is really no need to keep counting pennies when you commute.
If you prefer to pay with cash, make sure you have exact change as most types of transportation in here don’t hand you the change for fares.
3. It is remarkably convenient
You go out of your hotel, and you can easily find a taxi or wait at the bus stop. The buses and trains also come on time and with a short interval between them.
When you live near the MTR stations, going to and fro is easy, and even if you are quite on a distance from these points, the underground pedestrians going to the trains offer shelter from the rain and the sun in the humid Hong Kong weather.
In most cases, despite the crowded trains, you can get a seat. I think it’s not worth the stress to try to fight for a seat since the travel time is swift and commuters get off quite quickly than you expect. Most likely, you only need a short walk when you transfer or get off, and this is actually the only moment you have to pay attention to where you’re going.
4. The public transport is surprisingly comfortable
When you take the train during the peak hours, expect that it will be crowded to airtight. Since most people prefer to take the public transportation to go places (work, school, etc) anticipate the flood of people who will compete for space. During this period, most likely, you will stand along with many other commuters that didn’t seem to mind the limited breathing space. If you happen to take the train when everyone else is still at the office, then it is likely that you will have it for yourself, really. Empty trains can be usual here too.
The leg room and seats for both the taxis and the buses are what I like the most. Nothing beats the happiness of a commuter than being able to stretch his/her legs and lean on the comfortable seat while in transit, right? Buses going to and from the airport also have their own luggage storage by the entrance, so when you decide to take a good look of the city on the upper deck of the bus, you need not carry the heavy bags with you. And yeah, don’t worry, there is a monitor upstairs that lets you see if your bag is still in place 😉
5. Trains and buses are generally on time
It can really be easy to complain about trains that are late by five minutes, but the Hong Kong trains are worth calling the marvels in motion. So basically, you can calculate how much time you exactly need to reach your destination. The public address system in the MTR stations also enables the commuters to adjust their pace going to the train doors. I mean, yeah, they literally run from their drop-off point to the pick up area when they have to change trains.
Buses don’t get to halt at every bus stop unless you press the “STOP” button to signal the driver you are to get off at the next point. So, basically, there is less waste of time.
Every tourist’s commutes in Hong Kong vary. Some are shorter and easier, but quite challenging for others. In my case, for example, I love the almost “umbrella-free” (though I always carry my umbrella) commutes made possible by the covered walkways into and out of the MTR stations and offices. For others, having to take the crowded lines and change trains to get to there destination can be something they have to deal with the entire time. Of course, no two commutes are the same. 😉
What do you like about the public transportation in Hong Kong?
What do you like less?