The delightful thing about Hong Kong is that everything is packed within 1000 square kilometers (excluding the New Territories). So not only is everything within reach by at most two hours, but the city government and various transport corporations has provided many ways in which to get there. And even though HK is too humid and hot to be a true walking city, plenty of public transports are air-conditioned to cool you down.
Upon landing in Hong Kong International Airport, immediately head to the customer assistance desk and purchase an Octopus card for HK$ 300. This will be sufficient for a week-long stay. The Octopus card, as suggested by its multi-armed name, is universal payment system which reaches out to all levels of public transport, from MTR stations, buses, trams, ferries, and other transports, to even convenience stores and vending machines for small purchases. It is simply tapped on the recognition pad to register the payment. It can be reloaded in convenience stores or MTR ticket machines. For a city that accepts only exact change in its public transport systems, the Octopus card is a very convenient way to enjoy traveling within the city.
The Hong Kong MTR commuter rail system is one of the most efficient in the world, especially for tourists. You can stay at any Hong Kong hotel in the Kowloon or Hong Kong Island, and still be able to go to different areas in just one MTR ride away. Swing gates, elevators, escalators, ramps, Octopus card-accepting gates, and clear multi-language signs and public announcements all allow for visitors with large luggage and the barest grasp of Mandarin to move easily between districts. Take note: when riding the subway escalators, the left side is left vacant for rushing passengers while the right side is for standing passengers.
Supposing your departure flight takes off in three hours, and you’re still in Central. The Airport Express is your best bet to make it on time. It is a dedicated line that stops only at Tsing Yi, Central, and Kowloon.
The Central Mid-Level escalators serve to ease the foot traffic amidst the steep hills of Hong Kong Island. Think the conveyor belt walkways of The Jetsons. See the detailed article on the Central Mid-Level escalators.
There are three types of taxis: the red urban taxis, green New Territories taxis, and the blue Lantau taxis. The red ones are the most expensive, while the blue ones are the cheapest. The drivers know only a limited amount of English, so make sure to have someone write down your destination to show them.
If you’ve watched Kung Fu Hustle, you can see Hong Kong’s electric trams of yesteryear. The open-air double-deckers run through 13 km. of the northern part of Hong Kong, from Kennedy Town to Shai Kei Wan, passing through both modern buildings and old establishments alike. The tram has designated stops, so you can get on and off without having to interact with the driver. Just remember to get off before he parks it during his break!
The Peak Tram is a dedicated electric rail transport which services commuters along Victoria’s Peak. Learn more about this unique way of reaching the top of The Peak. If you are tired of the usual bus, or don’t want to walk to far or get a pricey cab, this one’s for you.
Also known as public light buses, or maxi-cabs, the mini-buses carry a maximum of 16 passengers. There are two types: the green buses whose routes, fares, and services are regulated by the HK Transport Department, and the unregulated red buses. These mini-buses serve areas not covered by regular buses.
The bus system can be confusing to the first-time traveler, their routes marked only by their final destinations. The bus terminals are also segregated for specific routes. Take the buses only if you feel adventurous, miss the feeling of double-decker delights, or you want to see the city in air-conditioned comfort.
The Star Ferry is one of best ways to spend USD 0.20. Learn more about this centuries old but still very reliable Star Ferry.