The city of Hong Kong, comprising of four varying regional zones- Outlying Islands, Kowloon, Hong Kong Island and the New Territories (that have not grown old over the last century!)- is spread over around one thousand square kilometers of land area. The Hong Kong region ranks as one of the destinations in the world that can be navigated with utmost ease.
Public transportation in Hong Kong is excellent to say the least. If you cannot reach the place you wish to travel to by means of the Mass Transit Railway (MRT) then rest assured that you will find a bus- mini, single or double decker- to take you to your preferred destination. Taxis, abundant in almost all of the city streets, make up for the remaining gaps. The Airport Express service chugs its way to and from the Airport Arrivals to Downtown Hong Kong. To add to the fun element of public transportation in the city, Hong Kong also has a cable car and, among other things, the longest covered outdoor escalator in the world. A sad absence from the public transport network in the city are the rickshaws which were once the mainstay of public transportation in Hong Kong and lined the gateways to amusement parks and museums.
It is also very easy to navigate around Hong Kong, thanks to the compact geography of the city. Moreover, signs that indicate the location of subways, buses and streets are well marked out in English. One drawback of the public transport network is that, unlike in other cities, it is not integrated into a single system. Each means of transport has its own fare structure and tariff system so you will require a new ticket every time you take a new means of conveyance.
Let us now explore the various means of public transportation in Hong Kong in greater detail.
The Mass Transit Railway (MTR) network in the city is easy-to-use, fast and extremely modern. One can safely conclude that as far as the entire transport network of Hong Kong is concerned, the railways form the backbone of the system. The MTR network in the city has a light rail system operating on twelve different routes and an express line to Hong Kong Airport apart from nine routes on the subway service. There is also a tourist cable car system, the Ngong Ping 360. By the year 2016, it is expected that the MTR network will operate subway services on twelve different routes with the stations being located close to most of the residential areas around Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Bus service
Most of the buses that ply on the city streets are double-decker buses while you are also likely to come across a few that are air-conditioned. These buses, operating on a cheap fare, serve the territories of Kowloon, Hong Kong, the New Territory and some regions around Lantau. However, if you are a tourist new to the city and do not have any idea of the streets around Hong Kong, then it is advisable that you get hold of a route map before travelling on the buses. A great advantage for the bus passengers is the excellent scenery that is on view outside the window as the bus makes its journey through the city streets.
There is also the light bus service in the city that is of two different kinds. While one of them operates on set routes, there is another service that does not follow any specific route of travel. The buses that run on set routes are coated in a yellow-green color and have predefined get-off and pick-up points around Hong Kong. You need to pay the ticket fares before you hop on to the service. The unfixed route, on the other hand, is red-yellow and has its fares and destinations written on the board at the front of the vehicle. The get-off and pick-up points are as per the wishes of the passengers who inform the driver minutes before getting off and then pay for their ride.
Escalators and Trams in Hong Kong
It has been over a century since trams started operating in the Hong Kong Islands alone. The local people refer to this service as “Ding Ding” owing to the characteristic sound produced by the vehicle. They are a cheap mode of travel and travel slowly in the downtown Hong Kong Island regions thus giving the visitors an opportunity to enjoy the beautiful pictures around the place. If you have to travel to the Victoria Peak and enjoy a panoramic view of Hong Kong, then you will be required to take the tram service. This century-old escalator in itself is good enough to make for a unique experience for the tourists.
Taxi service in Hong Kong
If you are standing before a hotel or are at a taxi stand, then you will find it very easy to flag down a taxi. A glance at the mile indicator or at the lightbox on top of the vehicle will let you know whether the vehicle is ferrying passengers or not. If you are in urgent need, then you can also make a phone call to avail the taxi service. Please note that for travelling along some of the city tunnels, you will be required to pay a tunnel fees.
Hong Kong Ferry service
Apart from the Hong Kong Island tramways network, the city has had a century-old servant in the public transport network in the form of the Star Ferry, operating between different routes such as Tsim Sha Tsui and Central, and Hung Hom, Tsim Sha Tsui and Wan Chai. To take a Star Ferry during the time of New Year or Christmas on the route between Tsim Sha Tsui and Central and enjoy the glamorous and glittery high-rises makes for a really excellent experience. Hong Kong has numerous other options as far as their ferry service is concerned and if you are heading for the outlying islands, these make for the best option for the commuters.
If you intend to cycle along the streets of such urbanised areas as Hong Kong Island or Kowloon, it would represent a seemingly suicidal plan. However, in the quieter areas of the New Territories and Southern Hong Kong Islands, it would be simply lovely to travel around on a bike. Cycling around the city is more a recreation activity rather than a form of public transportation in Hong Kong as you will invariably be slowed down by the hilly terrain. Note that most of the bike-rental kiosks and shops run out off bikes very early on weekends if the weather forecast makes for a favorable readings.
For the best tourism and sightseeing experience of the city, it is best that you go around the place on foot. Since Hong Kong is very compact and not too large in terms of land area, you won’t find it too difficult to visit most of the tourist destinations on foot.