How to navigate Hong Kong’s MTR smooth and easy
If you have lived or visited other cities, I’m sure one of the first things you would notice about Hong Kong is that it’s incredibly compact, and incredibly convenient. Hong Kong is blessed with one of the world’s most efficient public transportation systems, and you can get to most places in Hong Kong easily with the city’s metro system – the MTR (Mass Transit Railway). If your destination isn’t accessible by MTR, most of the time you can get there by a transferring bus/minibus. Here’s what you need to know to make your travels as smooth as possible.
(*Closest station/ Transfer point to Attractions)
Hong Kong’s MTR is easy and simple to navigate compare to their counterparts in Japan and Korea, considering Hong Kong is a much, much smaller city. There are 11 lines, 87 stations and 68 Light Rail stops. And still counting, because the train system is still expanding.
Different stations have different times for first and last train, but generally MTR operates from 6 am – 1am. Hong Kong’s train system is operated by one company, therefore all transfers can be done without exiting ticket gates from one line and entering the gates for another line, with the exception of the Airport Express Line and the Light Rail.
The stations you have to remember are the major interchange stations, and also where the busiest parts in town are. Here are the big ones:
(Island (Blue)/ Tseun Wan (Red)/ Tung Chung (Yellow)/Airport Express Line)
- Central Business District of Hong Kong. Important transfer station. Pubs, top restaurants, shops, culture, skyscrapers, you have everything here.
(Island (Blue) & Tseun Wan (Red) Line)
- Transfer station when you change from Red Line to Blue Island line (Chai Wan direction)
(Tseun Wan (Red) & Kwun Tong (Green)
- Far less glitzy but no less exciting, Mongkok is the shopping area where youngsters and hipsters head to. Transfer station when you change from Green Line to Red Line (Central direction).
(Tseun Wan (Red) & Kwun Tong (Green) Line)
- Transfer station when you change from Green Line to Red Line (Tseun Wan direction).
(Kwun Tong (Green) & East Rail line)
- Transfer station when you change between Green Line and East Rail Line.
Tsim Sha Tsui
(Tseun Wan (Red))
- Hub of luxury brands and attraction points. Do some crazy shopping here.
At all stations, tickets are purchased from vending machines that only accept coins and bills. Fares are determined by how far you ride and ticket machines are usually found near the ticket gates.
The ticket machines are easy enough to use. Select your destination station, choose the type tickets (adult, or concessionary tickets for children aged 3 to 11 and senior citizens aged 65 or above), choose the amount of tickets, insert coins or notes, wala.
Geting a single-trip ticket can be troublesome at times. You can go for these train passes if you are staying long or traveling a lot.
Octopus Card (more details here)
- Electronic card that allows you to load value and use it on MTR, buses, most minibuses, shops and more in Hong Kong. You can check your remaining value/add value at respective machines next to the ticket machines. MTR fares for Octopus card users are also cheaper.
- Buy a Sold Tourist Octopus at convenience stores around the city at just HK$39 with no stored value. For more details, go here.
- For frequent visitors, buy your card (concessionary card available) at any MTR Station Customer Service Counters, HK$50 deposit payable.
Adult/Child Day Pass (more details here)
- One day of unlimited travel on all MTR trains (except Airport Express, MTR Bus, East Rail Line First Class and travel to/from Lo Wu or Lok Ma Chau stations)
- Sold at all Customer Service Centres of MTR stations (except Lo Wu, Lok Ma Chau and Racecourse stations) or through Online Purchase at HK$65 (Adults), HK$30 (child).
Tuen Mun – Nam Cheong Day Pass (more details here)
- The West Rail Line brings you to the more “rural” side of Hong Kong, where there are beautiful sights of nature to enjoy too. You can enjoy unlimited travel on the West Rail Line (between Tuen Mun and Nam Cheong stations), Light Rail and MTR Bus with this pass for one day.
- Sold at all West Rail Line stations (except Austin, Tsim Sha Tsui East andHung Hom) at HK$26.
Getting into the Gates and Navigating the Station
To get into the gates, feed the ticket into the slot, but make sure to grab it when it pops up as you will need the ticket again when you exit. For Octopus cards, just swipe it both on the way in and on the way out. If you lose your ticket/card mid journey, just head to the Custom Service Counters. Someone will help you.
Hong Kong stations are very well-signed in both English and Chinese, so getting around the station shouldn’t be that hard. Even the announcements are in three languages – English, Cantonese and Mandarin, so you would have no trouble knowing when to get off.
As for finding which exits to get out off, many stations only have one area for ticket gates. But some stations don’t e.g. Central. So my advise would be to keep an eye out for the station maps and signs that show which exits are closest to major area landmarks. Then you can save a lot of time finding your way above ground.
Timing Your Travel
You have probably heard this, or even seen this, and you know peak hours at MTR can be downright scary. This scene at Admiralty, a major interchange station, is a norm. So avoid peak hours by all means, meaning 8-9 am and 6-7 pm. You wouldn’t be able to even get on the train.
For the rest of the time, riding on MTR is comfy and speedy. It takes around 2 minutes to travel for each station on the Green and Red Line, and around 3 – 4 minutes for other lines. But for a more accurate travel time, you can plan your trip here. Better still, get the MTR app on your phone to use on the run. Allow time to walk up from the platform to the station concourse, and to change lines. Some stations like Quarry Bay take a good 10 minutes to walk from one platform to another.