General Rule of thumb: the faster it is, the more expensive it is.
I finally hopped on a ding-ding tram today, which means that I can finally say I have taken every mode of public transportation to get around Hong Kong.
Here they are, from fastest to slowest.
The taxi fares for Urban Taxis (HK Island/Kowloon), Lantau Island, and New Territories differ, starting at 20HKD, 15HKD, and 16.5 HKD respectively. Urban taxis, obviously more expensive, jump $1.5 HKD every subsequent 200 metres or every period of 1 minute wait time until the amount reaches $72.5 HKD, upon which the add-on amount each time goes down to $1 HKD. 5HKD extra is charged per baggage, pet or telephone booking (wheelchairs are free but not baby strollers). The biggest ouch to the wallet is the sneaky cross-harbour tolls + return toll/fee that taxi drivers will charge you, unless you hail one specifically from a cross-harbor taxi stand. Of the three tunnels connecting Kowloon and Hong Kong Island – Cross-Harbour Tunnel, Eastern Harbour Crossing, and Western Harbour Crossing, the newest Western HC is the priciest. My best friend Andrea lived in Olympic City for a while, and while the Western Tunnel was a VERY fast connection to Central, it also cost her a 60 dollar toll fee each way. Also, don’t expect the driver to give you change if you only have a $500 or $1000 HKD bill; its legally permissible for them to refuse change if you only have 500 HKD for an 100 HKD cab faire.
In general, HK taxicabs are a speedy but relatively pricy choice, except during crazy traffic hours or when they rip you off by going in circles. Rawr.
Dominating the public transportation sphere with 42% and growing market share, the MTR is by far the people’s choice of transportation. Armed with its ever beeping convenient little sidekick the Octopus Card, the MTR covers 211.6 km of rail with 155 stations and makes over four million trips in an average weekday. It extends to Shenzhen in the north; Lantau Island, Airport, and Disneyland on the West, and Wu Kai Sha/Chai Wan on the East.
MTR fares vary on the line and destination, but in general range from 3HKD to 40 HKD + (if you are taking East Rail Line to the Chinese Border). For example, if you take the Hong Kong Island Line from Central to Causeway Bay (3 stops), it would be 4.6 HKD one way. Since my HKU student status gives me a special Octopus Card that grants me 50% all MTR rides, its no wonder that I am ALWAYS on the MTR.
Public Light Bus/Minibus (Green & Red)
Ahh. The minibus – my love hate relationship with these speedy little devils. The maximum speed on these things is 80 km per hour, after which the light will start flashing. Lets just say I have seen many flashing lights, combined with stomach-twisting uphill hairpin turns.
Each bus has 16 passenger seats, and no standing on these buses is allowed. There are two types: the Green and the Red. The Green minis run on fixed routes, and are operated by big companies. Passengers pay the fare upon boarding the minibus, and since there are different prices set for distance traveled, one can tell the driver his destination and potentially pay a discounted fare. For example, the 28 minibus to Causeway from Sassoon Road is 7.5 HKD Full Fare, but if I say “Central”, then I only pay 5 HKD.
The red minibus is less organized, operated mostly by “individuals” (its rumored that red buses are backed by HK Gangs), and can pick their own routes within a certain district. Mongkok in particular, seems to have bajillions of red buses. Passengers are required to notify the driver of their desired destination, and pay when leaving the bus.
Careful though, because some minibus drivers are CRAZY. They are not afraid to almost run you over, and love “drifting”. Regardless, I learned the most Cantonese on these buses (Yau Lo! when wanting to get off) and will definitely miss them.
Hong Kong has franchised bus routes that cover the entire Hong Kong territory, except outlying islands like Lamma or Cheng Chau. The biggest bus companies are KMB and Citybus. Buses are a great way to travel to farther places unreachable by MTR, such as Ocean Park, Repulse Bay, or Stanley located in the Southern parts of Hong Kong Island. They are also popular options (except during peak traffic hours…eek) because of their high frequency and relatively inexpensiveness (compared to Airport Express 100 HKD to Central, Airbus is only 40). All Hong Kong Island buses and almost all (probably 80%) of Kowloon-side buses are airconditioned and generally pretty comfortable double deckers.
Ferries are a scenic but potentially seasickness causing way to travel from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon Side, Outlying Islands, Macau or even Mainland China. The Star Ferry is legendary for the Hong Kong-Kowloon trip, while all Ferries departing for Outlying Islands like Lamma, Cheng Chau, or Lantau are all located at Central Pier. The fare for a ferry from Central to Cheng Chau varies by the day of the week, “ordinary or deluxe”, and speed of the ferry, and can range from 12 HKD to 28.70 HKD. The Macau Ferry Terminal is located at Shun Tak Centre in Sheung Wan. 3 different companies compete for customers’ Macau tickets and offer economy, first-class, and from first hand experience from that intense Macau day, “super VIP”. Prices can range from 120+ HKD – 300+HKD.
The Ding Ding is a unique way to slowly (emphasize on slowly…) sit back and enjoy the street views of Hong Kong. It is a symbol of Hong Kong with its 100 year history, and is the only double decker fleet in the world. It runs on Hong Kong Island from Shau Kei Wan to Kennedy Town, and has another branch running in the Happy Valley District. I must say, Veolia Transport, the company that owns and operate the trams, have great marketing genius. The trams are hot advertising beds for consumer goods companies; my tram today sported a chic Dior exterior, showcasing Dior Addict Extreme Lipstick. You can also rent out a tram for a Tram Party – how cool is that?!?!
Trams have supposedly have an increased maximum speed of 60 mph, but my journey today felt closer to 10 mph. I definitely enjoyed the contrast from the typical crazy minibus drivers that often brighten my day with their near crashes, but living in Hong Kong has made me impatient.
Since the cute Ding Ding Tram runs at the speed of light…it charges a uniform fee of a whopping 2.30 HKD.
To my friends visiting Hong Kong for the first time this summer, make sure you do your research on whats the best bang for the buck when it comes to getting around Hong Kong since there are so many options, and don’t get ripped off!