Transport and Driving in Hong Kong


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Hong Kong is a very compact city with an excellent system of public transportation, 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.
 
Expats usually only buy a car if there are kids to shuttle from one place to another, or if they have large leisure-based or work-based equipment that frequently needs to be moved. Single, childless expatriates who enjoy the odd drink or two are definitely better off taking public transportation in Hong Kong.
 
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. New arrivals in the city will be able to take advantage of a variety of options including Mass Transit Railways (MTR), ferries, trams, buses and taxis.
 

Mass Transit Railways (MTR)

The most popular mode of transport for most people in Hong Kong is the MTR, the city's subway. It is extremely efficient and clean, mobile phone reception is available, and commuters have the privilege of avoiding the street-level congestion above.
 
The MTR runs all over Hong Kong, from the island all the way across to the airport, and up to and over the border with China. All that's needed to use the MTR is an Octopus card, a charge card which can be used for the MTR, buses and grocery shopping. 
 
Fares are calculated from point to point, and are roughly based on distance. While unlimited ride cards for tourists do exist, these are actually quite pricey, and aren’t really economical for people who are merely journeying to and from work.
 
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 such as Admiralty or Mong Kok.
 

Ferries

Hong Kong ferry by Barney MossThe 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. It is also the only connection from these islands to Hong Kong Island, except for the emergency ambulance helicopter service.

For the most part, the schedule is simple, and easy to memorise. Expats can use their Octopus Card to pay for the ferry, as well as other annual package deals. Prices increased in 2013, much to the consternation of some residents, but are still relatively affordable
 
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 or a black rainstorm warning. 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 weather observatory can be consulted in advance to make sure that ferries are running. 
 

Trams

The tram is only 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, so, unless they live in Sai Ying Pun or on May Road which the MTR doesn’t reach, it is unlikely that they will travel on the tram on a daily basis. The Octopus Card also works for the tram, which happens to be the cheapest means of traveling around the island, other than walking.
 

Buses

Buses are a popular mode of transit, especially for people who don’t live near the MTR lines, in areas such as Hong Kong Island South or Sai Kung. They are usually less packed than the MTR, but are subject to the same slow-moving traffic as private vehicles. People tend to choose this mode of transit so that they can get a seat and have some shut-eye before arriving at work.
 

Minibuses

There is a huge variety of minibuses in Hong Kong, ranging from the green-top vehicles that travel on fixed routes to red-top, sole proprietor vehicles.
 
This mode of transit is essential for those living in places such as Sai Kung or Cyberport, where the MTR doesn’t reach, and is generally preferred over buses by those in a hurry. Minibuses only stop when people request to disembark and don’t stop at every station, and only hold between 14 and 16 people.
 

Taxis

 

Taxis in Hong Kong by Laure WayaffeTaking 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 a car 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 transit for expats, especially those that choose accommodation farther away from the city centre.
 

Driving tips for expats

  • Cars drive on the left hand side of the road in Hong Kong 
  • Hong Kong is very hilly, so be prepared for some steep terrain
  • Learn to parallel park, as car parks are small and on-street parking is mostly in parallel spaces.
  • Hong Kongers drive close to the car in front of them, so brake slowly rather than stopping quickly to avoid accidents
 

Pedestrians in Hong Kong

 
Hong Kong is relatively safe for pedestrians compared to China, and people generally stick to the cross-walks and the signals that accompany them. Cycling on the road is also acceptable, but it can be dangerous to cycle on the highways in the evenings. Those who don't fancy walking can use the outdoor escalators in places like Mid-Levels.

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