If you are doing your research on transportation in Hong Kong and how to get around in the city, I bet you are seeing many articles pointing you to the MTR.
The MTR in Hong Kong is the city’s rapid transit system that consists of 155 stations. The network of stations literally cover most of the city’s urban area. In other words, you can go to many touristy places efficiently by using the MTR.
This guide is intended to give you a general idea on what it is and tips on how to save time and money while using the MTR.
One Of The Best Rapid Transit Systems In The World
Unlike many other subway systems in the world where they are often dirty and ugly, the MTR in Hong Kong is very well maintained and comfortable. Trains are always clean and there is air-conditioning all year long.
The vast network of underground passageways and exits for each station means you can get to the same platform from many places. Many stations even have exits that are inside shopping centres and buildings, so you don’t have to step outdoors.
The downside to the MTR in Hong Kong is that it tends to get extremely crowded during rush hours, especially at the main stations I will mention in a moment. People will push you to try to get into the train. I highly recommend you step aside and wait for another train if it gets too crazy. Since you are a tourist, you are not in a rush, let other people fight over the last inch to get in.
Most lines have a frequency of just a few minutes. Service hours vary for each line but generally service begins daily at 6AM and ends at 1AM.
Saving Time And Money With The Octopus Card
There are 2 ways to pay for your ride on the MTR: single ticket or Octopus Card. The Octopus Card is a smart magnetic card that stores money value for easy payment processing. Most MTR riders use it because of its convenience of not having to buy a ticket every time.
There is also a discount on fares for using Octopus Card over single ticket. For example: a typical ride from Causeway Bay Station to Mong Kong Station on the Tsuen Wan Line costs HK$10.50 per adult paying with Octopus Card. The same ride costs HK$11.50 paying by single ticket.
Octopus Cards are available at all MTR stations. Each card costs HK$150 (~ US$20) per adult and HK$70 (~ US$9) per child. With the initial purchase, HK$50 is the deposit of the card, and the rest becomes value stored. When you are departing Hong Kong, simply return the card to a MTR customer service counter and get your deposit back minus a HK$9 administration fee.
Here’s a tip: if you choose to use Airport Express after arriving at the airport, go to the MTR customer service counter and ask for a Airport Express Travel Pass. This travel pass includes the normal Airport Express fare to Hong Kong Station plus 3 days of unlimited use of the MTR. After the 3 days, you can add more money to the card and continue using it.
Lines And Stations
The MTR in Hong Kong has 10 rapid transit lines and 12 light rail lines. Together, they form a network of 155 stations throughout Hong Kong. It may seem confusing at first looking at the map of all the lines and stations. But as a tourist, there are only 4 lines and a few stations that you really need to know.
The Airport Express Line connects Hong Kong International Airport to the city centre. It has 3 main stations: Airport, Kowloon, and Hong Kong.
Kowloon Station is the main stop at the Kowloon side of Hong Kong. Elements Mall, Ritz Carlton Hong Kong, and W Hong Kong are right on top of the station. It is also an interchange hub that connects with the West Rail Line via Austin Station.
Once you get off the Airport Express on Kowloon Station, you can walk to Austin Station via an underground passageway to get on the West Rail Line.
By heading south on the West Rail Line, you can reach East Tsim Sha Tsui Station. Exit this station if you are heading to InterContinental Hong Kong, Sheraton Hong Kong, The Peninsula, or the Avenue of Stars.
East Tsim Sha Tsui Station is also connected to Tsim Sha Tsui Station with underground passageways. You may exit Tsim Sha Tsui Station and enter a world of shopping, sightseeing, and restaurants. Popular hotels near Tsim Sha Tsui Station are The Langham Hong Kong, The Mira, Holiday Inn Golden Mile, and The Luxe Manor, and the Kimberly.
You may also hop on the Tsuen Wan Line on Tsim Sha Tsui Station and continue your way to Jordan Station for the Temple Street Night Market.
Just 2 more stops and you will be at Mong Kok Station. Here you will find Langham Place Mall, Langham Place Hotel, as well as local shopping experiences such as the Ladies Market.
Hong Kong Station is the other main station of The Airport Express Line that connects you to other lines on the Hong Kong Island side. If your hotel or destination is on the Hong Kong Island, this is your stop. Right on top of the station you will find the International Finance Centre Mall and Four Seasons Hotel.
Central Station of the Island Line is also only a few steps away from Hong Kong Station. On top of Central Station you will find many luxurious shops and hotels such as Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong. Just a few blocks away are Lan Kwai Fong and SoHo (south of Hollywood Road), famous for their night clubs, bars, and restaurants.
The next 2 stops to the east from Central Station on the Island Line are Admiralty Station and Causeway Bay Station. Admiralty Station is connected to Pacific Place, which houses a number of luxury hotels including Island Shangri-La, Conrad, JW Marriott, and The Upper House. On the other hand, Causeway Bay Station leads you to the shopping heaven of Causeway Bay area. Here you can find Sogo (a mega department store), Times Square (a large shopping centre), as well as many unique retail shops.
With these MTR lines and stations in mind, you will have plenty to do for at least a few days. If you have more time in Hong Kong, consider joining a day tour to see other less MTR-friendly tourist attractions.
Get A Map And Ask For Help
The most important thing you should do after buying a Octopus Card is to get a map of the MTR network from a customer service counter. The map gives you a good idea of where the interchange stations are and where to go to switch lines.
Because of the large number of exits at each station, it can be confusing to find the exit you should take to get to your destination. If you take a wrong exit, you may have to walk many blocks outside. It is best to know which one is closest to where you need to go.
Unfortunately, the MTR map doesn’t really show you where each exit leads to. You will have to keep an eye on the signs as you leave the platform. You should ask the customer service staff which exit you should take and the directions to your destination. Most MTR staff can speak fluent English and are quite friendly.
Do you have questions about the MTR in Hong Kong? Do you have tips and tricks on riding the MTR to share with us? Please leave a comment below!