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A First Timer’s Guide to Getting Around Hong Kong

18th August 2016

Hong Kong is a beast of a city. Made up of the Kowloon peninsula, Hong Kong Island and over 200 other islands that fall within the city limits, there is so much to explore that it easily warrants back-to-back trips that could always offer something new to discover.

'To the first-timer, it can be overwhelming to navigate with so much to do, see and eat spanning every mountain, hidden alleyway and stretch of shoreline in this towering metropolis.

Here are some handy tips to make getting around Hong Kong for the first time a breeze.

How to do the airport run

When it comes to the airport to hotel dash, there are two main options – both being easy, very affordable and comfortable.

The Airport Express

The Airport Express departs Hong Kong International Airport every ten minutes, which means you can wheel your bags to the platform and will never have to wait long for the next train. Just a 24-minute ride to Central Station (MTR), from here there are numerous connecting services that can take you throughout Hong Kong.

 Hong Kong's busy city streets are filled with transport modes. Hong Kong's busy city streets are filled with transport modes.

Airport Taxi

Many travellers opt to get a taxi from the airport so they can arrive directly to the doors of their hotel. Arriving passengers can find a taxi easily at the Taxi Station outside the Arrivals Hall. There are no extra fees for late-night trips or for extra passengers but you can expect to pay a luggage fee of HK$5 per bag and any applicable toll fees. A standard fare from the airport to Central Station is around HK$300.

Getting around the city

Once you’ve settled into your hotel, it’s time to explore. As well as the MTR buses, underground and suburban trains, these services make it easy to navigate the maze of sights in Hong Kong stretching across the many corners of the city.


Hong Kong’s world-class MTR (Mass Transit Railway) is one of the easiest ways to get around. It is efficient, clean, safe and easy to navigate and it takes in many of the major sightseeing stops along its network of 155 stations. Most lines have trains running every few minutes and typically run from 6am to 1am. A word of warning: if you use the MTR during peak hour, expect it to be crowded.

Another great thing about the MTR is that many of the city centre stations have exits located inside popular shopping centres and buildings, which makes it easy to avoid the heat during the hotter months and provides easy access if shopping is on the agenda.


With over 200 islands to its name, ferries form a key part of the Hong Kong transport network. There are many ferry routes connecting Kowloon, Hong Kong Island and the Outlying Islands, including Peng Chau, Cheung Chau, Lamma Island and Lantau Island – typically with both slow and fast ferry options.

The star attraction on the water however is the Star Ferry, an iconic local experience as much as it is a mode of transport crossing the waters of Victoria Harbour between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. It makes for a lovely journey, with beautiful city views on either side.

 The Star Ferry is an iconic way to cross Victoria Harbour. The Star Ferry is the iconic way to cross Victoria Harbour.

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Ride a piece of living history the double-decker trams that have been zooming their way around Hong Kong Island since 1904 and still to this day make for a fun and affordable way to get around. Running from early morning until midnight, some popular areas they stop at include Wan Chai, Causeway Bay, North Point and Happy Valley.

Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car

If you’re planning to venture to see the Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island, the best way to get there is on the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car. The longest bi-cable ropeway in Asia, it’s a 25 minute ride filled with incredible views as you soar high above the lush mountain scenery below.

 Take the Ngong Ping Cable Car to Lantau Island. Take the Ngong Ping Cable Car to Lantau Island.

City Taxis

Getting a taxi in Hong Kong is easy and when you compare the prices to other world-class cities, a cab fare in Hong Kong is incredibly affordable. With over 18,000 cabs on the city streets, you shouldn’t have a problem hailing down a cab in most areas – but it can be more difficult during peak hour or when it’s raining and demand is high. Also, take note if there are yellow lines on the street as this means it’s a restricted area where cabs aren’t allowed to pull over and pick you up.

While keeping an eye out for a cab, you’ll notice the taxis in Hong Kong are colour coded. On Hong Kong Island they’re red, in the New Territories they’re green and on Lantau Island they’re blue.

Peak Tram

Another iconic local experience, the Peak Tram is the best way to reach The Peak viewing platform which peers out over the city skyline. There’s no denying the line is long and the wait can be long, but it’s definitely worth it to ride this historic tram that has long been a part of the Hong Kong experience.

The Peak Tram is all a part of The Peak experience in Hong Kong. The Peak Tram is all a part of The Peak experience.

Popular tickets and passes

While it’s easy to buy single one-way tickets on the MTR and other public transport options on the spot as you go, sometimes it works out easier and cheaper to buy one of these most popular tickets and passes.

Airport Express Travel Pass

The perfect pass for short stays. It includes a return trip on the Airport Express and three consecutive days of unlimited travel on the MTR, Light Rail and MTR buses. One way/return: HK$250/350.

Octopus Card

The Octopus Card is a rechargeable smartcard valid on all the major forms of transport you’ll need to get around, including the Airport Express journey. It’s incredibly convenient and also allows you to make purchases at retail outlets such as convenience stores and supermarkets. Octopus fares work out to be 5% cheaper than regular MTR fares.

MTR Tourist Day Pass

Use this one-day pass for 24 hours valid travel anywhere on the MTR network. HK$65.

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