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Hong Kong: A Public Transportation Paradise

The other day a visitor to Hong Kong asked me if he should rent a car to visit some sites in the New territories. My response: “No way!!!!!!!!!!” You can get anywhere you want to go using trains, busses, mini-busses and taxis.

In my opinion, Hong Kong has the best public transportation system in the world. There are differing levels of service depending on where you are going, how quickly you want to get there and how comfortable you are with public transportation.

Both the MTR (subway) and the KCR (railway) are superbly run, reasonably priced and user friendly. Signs are in English and Kanji. Announcements are in Cantonese, Putonghua, and English. Cars are clean. Eating is not allowed. There are no toilets in the MTR stations but there are in the KCR stations. You can ride these two systems to within a half hour walk of 90% of the places you are likely to want to visit. You can buy and use stored value cards (Octopus) which saves money and aggravation.

The bus system is incredible. There are three bus companies all of which have web-sites with routes and maps. City Bus, First Bus and Kowloon Motor Bus will take you to within a ten minute walk of almost anywhere you want to go. Most bus signs are in English and Kanji. The busses accept Octopus Cards.

There is an extensive mini-bus system. Green busses run on Government approved routes and Red busses run on routes that are less popular. All are safe. They stop anywhere you yell out “Stop here, please” or “Yau luk, mm goy,” if you want to risk Cantonese. Many take the Octopus card. These mini-busses are for the more adventurous and will get you within 2-5 minutes of your ultimate destination.

You can always find a taxi in Hong Kong. The longest I’ve ever waited is 15 minutes. The flag drop is HK$15 for two km and HK$1.40 for every fifth km after that. Cheaper in the New Territories. Taxis are metered and I’ve never encountered dishonesty. Tip only the small coins you get in change. Carry your destination written in Chinese. Not all drivers speak English.

In addition there is the Famous Star Ferry running between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. There are ferries to all the outlying Islands from Central, Aberdeen and other locations.

From the airport, try the Airport Express, 23 minutes to Central. If you are on a tight budget try the Airport Busses which go to all major locations. Traveling first class, take a hotel limo or hire a private one.

Lastly, be prepared to walk. Hong Kong is a great place to explore on foot.