Transport and Driving in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a very compact city with an excellent public transport system, so driving is more of a vanity than a necessity. Moreover, Hong Kong is densely populated, so parking is very expensive and the traffic jams can be frustrating.
Even expats who live off-island do not need to invest in a private vehicle. Kowloon is almost as compact as Hong Kong Island, and certainly very densely populated as well, making its terrific public transport network more convenient than a car.
Public transport in Hong Kong
The superbly efficient system of public transport in Hong Kong makes it easy to navigate. Commuters will be able to take advantage of a variety of options, including Mass Transit Railway (MTR), ferries, trams, buses and taxis.
Mass Transit Railway (MTR)
The most popular mode of transport in Hong Kong is the MTR, the city's subway system. It is extremely efficient and clean, and has added perks like air conditioning and consistent mobile phone reception underground. Commuters also have the advantage of avoiding the street-level congestion above.
The MTR system is over 200km (124 miles) long and with lines running throughout Hong Kong. All that's needed to use the MTR is an Octopus card, a charge card that can be used for the MTR as well as at selected retailers.
When riding the MTR, expats should bear in mind that Hong Kongers are perpetually in a hurry, so they should make sure they shuffle along quickly to avoid getting trampled on or pushed over, especially at busy interchanging stations.
The ferry is an essential mode of transit for expats living in Discovery Bay, Lamma Island, Park Island, or any of the other outlying islands favoured by foreigners.
The schedule is quite simple and easy to memorise. Expats can use their Octopus card to pay for the ferry, as well as other annual package deals.
Ferries are, of course, subject to Hong Kong’s occasionally extreme weather conditions, and service can grind to a halt in the event of a typhoon. In these cases, employees may be asked to leave work early, or find a friend to stay with until the storm has died down.
The Hong Kong Observatory can be consulted in advance for information on weather warnings.
The tram is available on Hong Kong Island and travels from the eastern part of the island to the west side as well as up the Peak. Expats should note that this is a very slow means of transport and is therefore not ideal for a daily commute.
The Octopus card also works for the tram, which happens to be the cheapest means of travelling around the island, other than walking.
Buses are a popular mode of transport in Hong Kong, especially for people who don’t live near the MTR lines. They are usually less packed than the MTR, but are subject to the same slow-moving traffic as private vehicles.
The Octopus card is accepted on all buses, and if paying in cash the exact amount is required.
Taxis in Hong Kong
Taking a taxi in Hong Kong is incredibly cheap in comparison to places like Tokyo or even some cities in Western Europe. Expats will soon realise that each driver's English proficiency and mapping skills can vary tremendously. Hong Kong taxis accept cash only and usually round up their fares to the next Hong Kong dollar.
Driving in Hong Kong
Buying a car in Hong Kong is not necessary. The region is small, and the costs of buying and parking a car are high. That said, it is still a common mode of transport for expats, especially those that choose accommodation farther away from the city centre. Hong Kong has a good road safety record, but expats are advised to nevertheless take extra caution when driving. Traffic jams are frequent and parking spots are few and far between.
Walking and cycling in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is relatively safe for pedestrians, and people generally stick to pedestrian crossings and the signals that accompany them. Hong Kong is not very bicycle friendly and for the most part, cyclists use the roads to get around. This can be dangerous, especially on highways and in the evenings. It's also important for expats planning on walking or cycling to keep an eye on air pollution levels and avoid long periods of rigorous exercise outdoors when pollution is high.