Octopus Cards

Unless you are traveling by red minibus or taxi, the best way to pay for rides on public transportation is by use of the stored-value Octopus card.

You can purchase them at any MTR station by paying a deposit, which is retrievable upon returning the card as you depart from Hong Kong.

There are cards for children, students and seniors which already have concessions factored in. You may also choose to personalize your Octopus card with your name and photo. This gives you the added advantage of being able to report a lost card. You can also purchase special tourist Octopus cards for visitors. With an Octopus card, you can pass through MTR gates, board a bus, or get on a ferry with a simple “doot.”

If you don’t want to carry a physical Octopus, you can add it to your iPhone or Apple Watch using the Octopus app or Apple Wallet, get a bank card that doubles as an Octopus, or even buy a watch with Octopus functionality (great for kids).

With an Octopus card, you can pass through MTR gates, board a bus, or get on a ferry with a simple “doot.”

Octopus cards are also used to pay for many other things in Hong Kong, including vending machines and car parks, and for purchases at supermarkets, convenience stores and fast food outlets. Each card contains a built-in microchip containing information on the card’s remaining value. Life is a lot simpler with an Octopus card; it is highly recommended to buy one as soon as you arrive in Hong Kong. 

Cross-border Octopus cards are also available for Shenzhen and Guangdong. These cards can be used at designated transport and retail service providers in Hong Kong as well as on the mainland, enabling seamless purchases on both sides of the border.

Topping Up/Automatic Add Value Service

Topping up the card’s value can be done quickly at convenience store outlets and MTR stations or via the Octopus app. The most convenient option is to sign up for the automatic “add value” service (AAVS), which will automatically top up the balance so that you don’t have to go to a special kiosk to do so.

You need to apply for AAVS and be a client of a financial institution (credit card company or bank) that participates in the scheme. The application process may take several weeks and upon confirmation that it has been approved, you will need to take your Octopus card to an MTR customer service center to activate AAVS.

Fare Concessions

Fare concessions are available for senior citizens (aged 65 and above) on all modes of public transportation and taxis. Some public transport operators in the city offer free rides to children of designated age groups and those with disabilities. (For more information on accessibility, refer to Plan > After Arriving > Accessible Hong Kong.)

MTR (Mass Transit Railway)

The Mass Transit Railway, or MTR, is consistently praised for its cleanliness and efficiency. Millions of Hong Kongers rely on the railway’s smooth operation every day.

Take a journey during rush hour to see for yourself why the MTR has been called the “backbone of Hong Kong’s transport system.”

The territory-wide commuter network currently covers around 100 stations and 68 light rail stops. This includes interchange stations that provide convenient transfer points among the ten lines (Island, Kwun Tong, South Island, Tsuen Wan, Tseung Kwan O, Tung Chung, Disneyland Resort, East Rail, West Rail and Tuen Ma Phase 1, formerly known as Ma On Shan).

The MTR network is constantly expanding. A high-speed rail link between Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong opened in 2018, and the Tuen Ma line opened in 2020, part of a still-ongoing project to build a direct link between Sha Tin and Central.

Light Rail Transit, also managed by the MTR Corporation, provides local transportation to residents of northwest New Territories. MTR Corp also provides bus services to facilitate the interchange of passengers between the Light Rail and West Rail networks.

The MTR network is constantly expanding. A high-speed rail link between Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong opened in 2018, and the Tuen Ma line opened in 2020, part of a still-ongoing project to build a direct link between Sha Tin and Central.

The MTR system includes stations and train routes that were formerly operated by the Kowloon-Canton Railway (KCR). Since the MTR and KCR merger in 2007, routes and services from the Hung Hom station include frequent daily links to Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau on Hong Kong’s border with Shenzhen.

Intercity train services are also available from Hung Hom station to three cities in Mainland China: Beijing and Shanghai (direct overnight trains) and Guangzhou (via Changping).

Good to Know 

If you see a sign that says “Subway,” don’t expect it to lead to the MTR. The term “subway,” which refers to underground railways in the US, does not have the same meaning in Hong Kong. Here it denotes an underground pedestrian walkway built beneath busy streets.

Airport Transfer

Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) is one of the world’s top-rated airports, receiving millions of passengers a year and boasting many duty-free and other shopping outlets.

Located on Chek Lap Kok, north of Lantau Island, HKIA’s two runways serviced 71.5 million passengers and 4.8 million metric tons of air cargo in 2019.

The MTR-operated Airport Express, a high-speed train service between the airport and the city, is by far the most popular way to travel to the airport. The journey takes around 25 minutes from Central and services several other stations along the Tung Chung line. Airport Express stations at Hong Kong and Kowloon also offer in-town check-in services, enabling passengers to check their bags and collect their boarding passes up to 24 hours before departure, subject to airline flight schedules. (In-town check-in has been suspended since April 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.) Free shuttle bus services to and from many major hotels and transport interchanges are available at these two stations.

HKIA is otherwise accessible by road or ferry (from different ports in China). The estimated taxi fares from the airport to major areas are about HK$280 for Causeway Bay, HK$290 for Central, HK$380 (or more) for the Southside, HK$230 for Tsim Sha Tsui and HK$195 for Tsuen Wan. (Note: The cost of tolls is added to the taxi fare.) Other means of public transport include Citybus’ Cityflyer routes, which cover most parts of Hong Kong and stop at many hotels.


Taxis are a key transportation service in Hong Kong. At present, there are more than 18,000 taxis that cover three broad areas: urban taxis (red), New Territories taxis (green) and Lantau taxis (blue).

Red urban taxis operate throughout Hong Kong and Kowloon (except roads in South Lantau). Most red taxis will take a fare cross-harbor from Hong Kong to Kowloon and vice-versa. However, some drivers may decline taking you if it is close to their shift change or if they feel they do not know the destination. It is always best to ask the driver if they will take you cross-harbor before jumping in (or look for specially marked cross-harbor taxi ranks). The tunnel fee for the cross-harbor trip will be added to your fare.

Red urban taxis and Lantau’s blue taxis are allowed to operate on a limited basis to Discovery Bay. The taxis are permitted to enter through a tunnel and can only drop off and collect passengers outside the Auberge Hotel located in Discovery Bay North.

Green taxis operate primarily in the New Territories and in certain urban locations through specified routes. Blue taxis operate only on Lantau Island. All taxis are allowed to provide service at Hong Kong International Airport and Hong Kong Disneyland.

Hailing a Taxi

There are many designated taxi pick-up and drop-off points at various locations around Hong Kong. Look out for green taxi rank signage on the streets, and the best tell-tale sign — a line of waiting taxis. 

You may hail a taxi on some streets. A red, round, illuminated “For Hire” sign visible through the windshield indicates the taxi is available for hire. However, during specific times of the day, and especially on main streets and thoroughfares, taxis are not allowed to stop along roads with “no stopping” restrictions and at roadsides marked with double yellow lines. 

If a taxi’s meter is covered with a cloth or displays the “out of service” sign, it usually means the driver is about to change shift and has to go to a certain destination to meet the next driver. If you are going his way, he may take you. Shifts change at around 11am, 4pm and 11pm. These can be tricky times to find an empty taxi.

The driver must display his driver ID card and number on the dashboard. Most taxi drivers have a basic knowledge of place names in English. If a driver doesn’t understand where you want to go, you just need to repeat your destination on his radio-link, and a dispatcher at his company will give him the directions. Alternatively, you can use your smartphone map application to show the driver your destination, or use a taxi translator app like TakeTaxi.

A list of taxi services, call stations and taxi stands is available on the Hong Kong Transport Department website.

Fares and Payment

The base fare for urban taxis is HK$24 for the first two kilometers and HK$1.70 for every 200 meters thereafter for fares up to HK$83.5. The incremental charge is HK$1.20 for every 200 meters above the HK$83.5 threshold.

Fares for green taxis in the New Territories is HK$20.50 for the first two kilometers and HK$1.50 for every additional 200 meters up to the HK$65.50 threshold, after which it falls to HK$1.20 for every 200 meters.

The fare for Lantau’s blue taxis starts at HK$19 and increases by HK$1.50 for every 200 meters thereafter for fares up to HK$154, after which it falls to HK$1.40 every 200 meters.

Pay for your taxi fare with cash (only a small number of taxis accept Octopus cards). In the morning or at the beginning of a shift, taxi drivers may not be able to provide change for large bills. Be prepared with twenty-, fifty- or hundred-dollar bills when you plan to take a taxi. The driver is not obligated to carry change and it is not an offense for taxi drivers to not give change for HK$500 or HK$1,000 notes.

Be prepared with twenty-, fifty- or hundred-dollar bills when you plan to take a taxi. The driver is not obligated to carry change.

There are additional charges for booking a taxi in advance via telephone, and for transporting additional items such as luggage, baby strollers, dogs, and animals in carriers. Wheelchairs and crutches carried by disabled passengers are not subject to any additional fees. Typically, riders round up fares to the next dollar as a gratuity, though it is not required.

All taxis are metered and equipped with receipt-printing machines. It is an offense for taxi drivers to refuse to issue a receipt upon request. In case the receipt-printing machine fails to operate, the taxi driver should issue a handwritten receipt. 

Lost Property on Taxis

Forgetting or losing property in a taxi happens frequently. If you have a receipt for your fare, it will be very useful in locating the taxi you left something in. You can also call the Road Co-op Lost & Found 24-Hour Free Hotline for Lost Property for assistance: 187 2920.

Taxi Apps

There are multiple apps for hailing licensed taxis, and most allow you to pay using your Octopus.


Ride-hailing per se is not regulated in Hong Kong, meaning that Uber operates in a legal gray zone. In 2018, 24 Uber drivers were fined for carrying passengers for hire without a permit, a decision that was upheld the following year by the courts. However, you can still download and use the Uber app in Hong Kong, and it remains a popular choice, especially in areas with low numbers of taxis.

Buses and Minibuses

Bus services in Hong Kong are divided into three types: Franchised bus, Non-franchised bus and Public Light Bus (also known as minibus).

Franchised Services

Franchised bus services provide the majority of all bus services in Hong Kong. Franchised buses are generally double-deckers, clean and air-conditioned. The routes and fares of the franchised buses are regulated by the Hong Kong Transport Department. There are five privately owned bus companies that provide franchised bus service across Hong Kong, operating more than 700 routes:

  • Citybus, providing service on Hong Kong Island, Tung Chung/Airport, and cross-harbor routes 
  • New World First Bus Services (owned by the same parent company as Citybus), providing service on Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, Tseung Kwan O and cross–harbor routes
  • Kowloon Motor Bus Company, providing service on Kowloon, New Territories, and cross-harbor routes
  • Long Win Bus Company (owned by the same company as KMB), providing service on routes to North Lantau, Tung Chung, Disneyland Resort, and routes shuttling between the airport and New Territories
  • The New Lantao Bus Company, providing service on Lantau Island and New Territories routes

The websites of these bus companies have excellent information on bus routes and arrangements in case of special events and festivals. There are three apps offering real-time information about bus arrival, schedules and routes: New Lantao Bus, APP 1933 (for KMB and LWB routes) and CitybusNWFB (mainly Citybus and NWFB routes). You can pay for your bus fare with change or Octopus card, but if you pay in cash, bear in mind that you will not get change.

There are three apps offering real-time information about bus arrival, schedules and routes.

Non-Franchised Services

Non-franchised bus services supplement the mass carriers. Their role includes filling in passenger demand where it is not met by the regular public transport services. These buses often provide tailor-made services to specific groups of passengers. These buses include:

  • Tourist services
  • Hotel services
  • School services
  • Employee services
  • Residential services
  • Contract hire services


In addition to franchised and non-franchised buses, Hong Kong has 16-seater minibuses. They can be extremely convenient, but there is a bit of a learning curve for new riders: drivers can be gruff, the ride hair-raising, and the route information less than obvious. There are two types of minibuses:

Green Roof Minibuses
Green roof minibuses operate on fixed routes and have a set fee shown in the window. Passengers pay in exact change or by Octopus card when they get on the vehicle. These “green” buses have route numbers, and information on the routes can be found at the Hong Kong Transport Department website or on 16seats.net.

Red Roof Minibuses
Minibuses with red roofs have no government-fixed routes, and routes tend to be fixed by demand and familiarity. The fare is posted on the windshield. On these minibuses, passengers pay the fare by cash either when they step on or get off the vehicle. Only a few red minibuses accept payment by Octopus card. Bus drivers will give change, but don’t ask the driver to break a HK$500 note unless you want a quick lesson in Cantonese expletives. The “red” minibuses do not have route numbers, so you must look for the destination signage on the bus to know where you are going.

16seats.net is not affiliated with the Transport Department, but it has reliable route information for green and red minibuses.


The only trams in Hong Kong are on the Island.

Riders enter at the back and get off at the front of the tram (next to the driver), swiping your Octopus or dropping in change as you leave.

Hong Kong Tramways Limited operates a fleet of 165 tramcars including two antique tramcars and one sightseeing tram on six overlapping electric routes on 13 kilometers of double track along the northern shore of Hong Kong Island between Kennedy Town and Shau Kei Wan, and about three kilometers of single track around Happy Valley.

Hong Kong’s fleet of double-decker trams is the largest in the world. The tram, affectionately called the “ding ding” by many locals because of the onomatopoeic sound it makes as it goes down the street, has been the most economical form of transportation in Hong Kong since 1904. No matter how far you travel, the ride costs a flat fare of HK$2.30 for adults, HK$1.30 for children under 12 and HK$1.20 for seniors. Today, an average of 200,000 passengers ride the tram every day.

Hong Kong Tramways also operates specially outfitted/open top trams which can be hired for private tours and parties.

16seats.net is not affiliated with the Transport Department, but it has reliable route information for green and red minibuses.

The Peak Tram

The most popular way to reach Victoria Peak, Hong Kong’s number one tourist attraction, is via the historical Peak Tram (operated by Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, also the owner of the Peninsula Hotel in Kowloon).

This famous funicular ferries wide-eyed tourists back and forth from its terminus on Garden Road in Central up to the Peak. The journey takes just eight minutes, during which passengers are treated to an unfolding canvas of stunning views over Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and Victoria Harbour as the tram ascends.

The Peak Tram is a 132-year-old iconic piece of Hong Kong. On its first day of commercial operations on May 30, 1888, it attracted 600 passengers. Today this steep ride up to the Peak, with its panoramic view of Hong Kong, attracts more than six million each year. Because of its popularity, expect long lines at the terminus, especially on weekends and holidays.

A single trip on the tram for adults costs HK$37; round-trip fare is HK$52. A Peak Tram Sky Pass includes a trip on the tram as well as access to the Sky Terrace 428, a 360-degree viewing platform of Hong Kong’s skyline below.

The Peak Tram is undergoing a major upgrade and a five-month suspension of services is planned for 2021. The new Peak Tram service, with longer tramcars and an improved lower terminus, is scheduled to commence in 2021.

Did you know? 

There are four intermediate stations between the terminus on Garden Road and The Peak: Kennedy Road, MacDonnell Road, May Road and Barker Road. During colonial times, residents at these addresses would take the Peak Tram as a mode of everyday public transport to and from their homes in the Mid-Levels. Today, the Tram doesn’t stop routinely at these stations unless requested. Passengers boarding at the intermediate stations can buy tickets on board.


Ferries in Hong Kong shuttle hundreds of thousands of people back and forth between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, as well as to and from the many outlying islands including:

  • Cheung Chau
  • Discovery Bay
  • Mui Wo (Silvermine Bay), Lantau Island
  • Park Island, Ma Wan
  • Peng Chau
  • Sok Kwu Wan, Lamma Island
  • Yung Shue Wan, Lamma Island

On Hong Kong Island, the main piers are Central, Wan Chai, North Point and Sai Wan Ho; in Kowloon, the main piers are at Tsim Sha Tsui, Hung Hom, Kowloon City, Kai Tak, Kwun Tong and Sam Ka Tsuen. 

The various franchised and licensed ferry services operate with different schedules, fares and routes. Smaller “kaito” ferries serve remote coastal settlements. Details of all of these ferry services are available on the Hong Kong Transport Department website.

Star Ferry

The Star Ferry, one of the most frequently used ferry services, is also one of the city’s top attractions. The company operates two franchised services, one in between Central Pier 7 and Tsim Sha Tsui, and another in between Wanchai and Tsim Sha Tsui. It also provides the only licensed ferry tour around the harbor.

For adults, fares on the upper deck cost HK$2.70 on weekdays and HK$3.70 on weekends and public holidays. Children pay even less, and for senior citizens aged 65 and above with identification it is completely free.

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