A scenic tram trip to the top of the island, Coca-Cola, vegetarian food and serenity - all for a reasonable price.
Taxis are cheap and plentiful but getting to an exact address can be difficult unless your Cantonese is up to scratch. Use the underground (MTR) instead.
Each MTR station has lettered exits. There is always a map in the station and using this can help you find the correct exit. Or just ask the office you are visiting for the exit number. If you are revisiting, write the exit number on any business card you get - but not while you are in the meeting. It's a bit of an insult to write on a business card.
Would you like to avoid lugging your suitcase all the way to the airport? All you need to do is make use of Hong Kong's airport express train. Direct to Hong Kong Island/Airport in 25 minutes, you can also check in before departure at the train station. This becomes ideal when you have to check out of your hotel by 12 but you don't have a flight until the evening.
Those who are familiar with Hong Kong will know that the city is split across two key areas. Kowloon is attached to the mainland and whilst it benefits from all the colour and charm that Hong Kong has to offer, it isn't as convenient for business as Hong Kong Island. When you are in Hong Kong for business, it's best to stay on Hong Kong Island and you will be close to the business district. Taxis are easy to come by but you may find yourself commuting more quickly by MTR, tram or even walking.
Hong Kong Island
What it is: Hong Kong's Octopus card - a prepaid travel card that can also be used to pay for items at convenience stores as well as travel.
Why I recommend it: One of the headaches of travelling to a new place is dealing with all of the change and new currency. A big headache can be removed by getting an Octopus card (which can be bought from the Airport Express counter). You can purchase an Octopus card at any MTR station or at the airport that can be charged up with a return Airport Express journey (or single) and 3 days unlimited travel on the MTR. Buy one card and you can also use it for paying for chewing gum, water or whatever at your local 7-11 store as well. A guide on how to use it can be found online.
Airport Express One Free Single Journey + 3 days unlimited travel on MTR + $50 deposit + Stored value $20 = Price HK$220.
Airport Express Two Free Single Journeys (valid for 180 days) + 3 days unlimited travel on MTR + $50 deposit + Stored value $20 = Price HK$300.
You can also get a card which excludes the Airport Express transfer if you don't need it. Also remember that there is a refundable deposit on the card too.
If you're in Hong Kong and you can take two days (or more) off, then travel agents on Nathan Road (Kowloon) can arrange a trip to Beijing (flights, hotel and visa) with 24 hours' notice. It's not so expensive and well worth the effort. Just one or two nights in Beijing are very rewarding.
Bottom of Nathan Road (ferry end) on Kowloon. There are many travel agents.
How can waving your handbag over a sensor gain you entry to the underground railway network? They must have an Octopus card in there somewhere. A must-buy as soon as you arrive in HK. The best thing to use when paying for public transport (except taxis). You simply pay a HK$50 deposit (which is refunded on its return, or you can keep as a souvenir) and add as much value as you think you need. We charged ours up with HK$100 which lasted us comfortably for 3 days travel. Simply wave your card over the reader to gain entry to the MTR and then wave it again to exit. Your fare is calculated and deducted. Dead easy to use. Not only that but the MTR is the most efficient way to get around Hong Kong. My wife summed it up best when she mused that the MTR is the best underground railway she had even been on. When asked why she simply replied "it's so clean and I feel tall".
Valid though these reasons may be, what impressed me was the speed and the efficiency of the service which moves 2.4 million people every weekday through its 51 stations over 83.7km. Simple touches like a map showing you where on the line your train is and lights showing which side of the train the door will open on made the journeys more enjoyable.
Unlike older underground networks, like London, you can also get a mobile phone signal on the MTR, making sure you don't miss that vital call. It is also cheap with the maximum fare around HK$13 for a single journey (unless you venture out to Chung Tung which will set you back HK$20 – around £1.20). Of course there is the inconvenience of packed carriages at times and the confusion about which exit to take in the larger stations but the attractions are all well signposted. But we agreed that safe is the keyword for the MTR. We always felt safe, unlike in London, Rome, Paris and Barcelona, which is possibly due to the clean, modern look of the stations and the trains.
The only problem is that it is largely underground! Whilst the MTR is the way to get around Hong Kong, the Star Ferry is the only way to get from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon (or vice-versa). By taking the ferry you can get a view of the Hong Kong skyline like no other. And how much do you pay for this view? Something in the region of £1 - £2 for the 10 minute crossing, and photo opportunities aplenty. You can also use the Octopus card to make purchases from 7-Eleven stores (where you can also charge them up, as well as at MTR stations), McDonalds, KFC etc.
The south of Hong Kong Island is a nice place to escape to after spending time walking through the interesting streets of Hong Kong. Sit and enjoy the view of the sea and find the hotel with a hole in it - apparently something to do with the spirit of a dragon! Probably best not to swim in the sea though - I hear it's quite polluted. Get on a bus and take to the top deck for a ride across Hong Kong Island.
Quite the best way of travelling in Hong Kong and the many outlying islands is on the brilliant integrated transport system. The electronic Octopus card will save you both time and money, not least of all on the express in from the airport.
Unlike London airports where transport for London offers no prominent advice to those visiting the UK, The Octopus card is comprehensively trailed at a dedicated desk at the airport.
Amazing! Check in and get rid of your luggage 24 hours before your flight time. So you can stroll around the city and not have to hang around in the airport. A great idea - why don'y we have this in London? (actually... we know why...)
Airport express check in. Hong Kong station - Central
The Airport Express is the express train that runs from HK international airport to central HK.
It costs 100 HKD to take a single and there are return tickets available if you are returning within 1 month.
On the return trip, you may be able to check in for your flight at Hong Kong station or Kowloon station. Check with your airline beforehand as this can save you some time.
Hong Kong International Airport
Hong Kong Island has some fantastic beaches on the south side of the island.
Accessible by minibus, taxi and bus, these beaches can be a fantastic half-day out away from the city.
The beaches, from west to east, include Deep Water Bay, Repulse Bay, South Bay and over the point to Stanley.
Deep Water bay is a great place to enjoy the sun and sand and is connected to Repulse Bay around the point past Middle Island by a promenade (20min walk).
Repulse Bay is fundamentally a high-end residential area with a large beach and shops.
A short taxi ride from Repulse Bay is South Bay beach. This gem is usually less crowded and great for swimming and has a decent restaurant for snacks.
Over and around the point is Stanley (famous for its market) which has two beaches of note – the first is the main beach facing east (a short stroll from the main bus terminus); the second is St Stephen's beach. Facing into Stanley Bay, its a 15min walk along Wong Ma Kok Rd (taking you past one of HK’s many military cemeteries from WW2 – a sombre reminder of what went on here in recent history). Great for picnics and just enjoying the scenery, you can also take part in dinghy sailing and kayaking if you have the energy.
From Central Exchange Square terminus: to Stanley – 6, 6X, 260, 66 (6X, 260 via Deepwater Bay) all routes pass through Repulse Bay.
To South Bay: take a taxi from Repulse Bay (£2).
How often have you thought "why don't we put escalators up hills?" Well, its been done in Hong Kong as an attempt to ease traffic congestion. The Mid Levels escalator failed in its objective but it is certainly the most unorthodox way this Wrestler has reached a bar. Spend the time while you are ascending peering into bars and restaurants as you pass.
From Central MTR station walk towards Central Market. At Cochrane St you pick up the escalator.
The new Ngong Ping 360 cable car goes from right near Tung Chung MTR metro station on Lamma, 5.7km up & around Lamma's peaks to the Po Lin Monastary and giant bronze budhha.
The trip is undeniably fantastic, with views of Hong Kong airport to one side. It's very smooth, but those afraid of heights should be aware!
The only downside is being dropped off in "Ngong Ping Village", actually a shopping village full of many of the same international brands elsewhere on HK (Starbucks etc). There's also a 'Monkey's Tale Theatre' and 'Walking With Buddha' experiences, which might keep easily distracted kids amused but otherwise are quite commercially crass against the backdrop of the huge, serene buddha.
Better might be to do what I did: take the ferry to Mui Wo, then the bus up the mountain. Just as cheap and more fun. You can then stop off for food in the village (assuming you've not eating cheaply at the monastary) before being whisked back by the cable car and metro.
This smart card allows you to travel on all the transport system in Hong Kong without the need to worry about carrying the correct amount of small change. It works on the swipe card principle. Available from all metro stations and 7/11 shops.
The initial deposit is 50 HK dollars, minimum credit when purchased is 100HKD. Top up as required.
For a near-free tour of HK island's major attractions, travel on the upper deck of the old electric tram, from Kennedy Town in the west, through central to Quarry Bay and beyond in the east. You can peel off at Wan Chai for Happy Valley and the horse races.
Though very slow, you see virtually the whole of HK island and savour its flavour at street level, jumping off wherever you want - each trip is just HK$1-2 (20p). Avoid rush hour. Watch out for pickpockets. Anyone tall should find a seat quick, or face a crick neck all week.
If there's a few of you, hire your own tram, complete with its own bar for a Friday night trawl. Ask the tourist board.
All major HK island MTR stations, just look for the tracks, listen out for the clanking bell
This is an all purpose travel card and smart card. You can buy it for HK$150 which is $100 credit and $50 deposit. It can be used on the MTR, KCR, buses, ferries and the peak tram, so there’s no more queuing to buy tickets or trying to find the right change. It can also be used to buy items at the kiosks in the MTR and is accepted at places such as Starbucks and McDonald’s. Top-up terminals are located at all MTR stations.
Any KCR or MTR station
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