When I visited Hong Kong in June 2010, it was with only the faintest idea as to how the city was organized or where the places I wanted to visit were located. Thankfully, Hong Kong’s extensive transportation infrastructure (and the fact that nearly all its friendly locals speak and understand English) make getting around incredibly easy, whether you’re bound for a different neighborhood, the airport or even mainland China.
Hong Kong MRT and Star Ferry Between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon
Upon arriving in Hong Kong, my first order of business was applying for the visa I’d need to re-enter mainland China — mine had expired after I quit my job teaching ESL.
I was staying in Kowloon and I needed to head to the China Services Building, located near the Wan Chai Convention Center on Hong Kong Island. My initial instinct was to take the Tsuen Wan line of the Hong Kong MRT to Central, then transfer to the Island Line and take it to Wan Chai.
The owner of my guest house had a different suggestion. “Take the Star Ferry,” he said, and directed me to the ferry port, located at the southwestern tip of the Kowloon.
Riding the Star Ferry, which has two potential destinations from Kowloon (“Central” or “Wan Chai”) presents several advantages over using the MRT. For one it’s cheaper, just HK$2.50 one-way compared to between HK$5 and HK$10 for a metro ticket. It’s also the most direct means of getting between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, with most other journeys requiring a connection of some kind.
Beyond that, the journey across the harbor is relaxing and provides incredible city views. Unless you’re extremely prone to seasickness, I recommend exclusively using the Star Ferry to traverse the harbor.
Transport in Hong Kong Island and Kowloon
Once you’re within the lobe of Hong Kong where you need to do your business, the MRT is the easiest means of getting from one place to another. Simply descend into any station and consult the map to determine a routing to get you to your destination. If you aren’t sure which station corresponds to the physical location you need to be, ask an MRT employee to assist you.
If you’ve got time, energy — a lot of it if you’re on hilly Hong Kong Island — and a map of Hong Kong, I recommend walking whenever you can, particularly if you’re also armed with a camera. In spite of its sometimes chaotic hustle-bustle, Hong Kong is best experienced on foot. Additionally, walking allows you to partake in the city’s famous street food, browse its fabulous shops and get a true sense of what’s happening among locals on a given day.
If you prefer to stay above ground but are too tired or simply unwilling to walk, take a bus or hire a taxi. In my opinion, both of these options are disadvantageous — the bus because the sheer number of them can be confusing when trying to find the right one, the taxi because they’re downright expensive. Time wise, neither of these options are likely to provide shorter journey times than the MRT and depending on traffic, you may even be better heading out on foot.
Hit up the BootsNAll Travel Network and read Hilton Yip’s article, “5 of the Best Lesser-Known Places to Enjoy in Hong Kong,” to get ideas on what to do once you sort your transportation.
Train to Hong Kong Airport
Hong Kong International Airport is located to the west of the city center, on a separate landmass from both Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. The cheapest and quickest way to get from either lobe of the city to the airport is using the Airport Express MRT line from either “Hong Kong” or “Kowloon” stations. The journey costs HK$18and takes about a half-hour.
Several private companies offer bus transport from central Hong Kong to the airport. Although you may save a few Hong Kong dollars this way, it’s extremely unlikely that time will be on your side if you choose this option. It should go without saying that a taxi will be massively more expensive — and again, taking to the roads in Hong Kong is never to your advantage.
Bus from Hong Kong to Shenzhen, China
Although Hong Kong officially became part of China in 1997, flights from mainland China to Hong Kong are nonetheless rather expensive.
One way to save some cash if to fly in and out of Shenzhen, the Chinese city bordering Hong Kong to the north, and enter or exit Hong Kong by land. When I visited Hong Kong in June 2010, this saved me approximately 300 yuan each way on my flight. Even when I added in the cost of round-trip transport between Shenzhen Airport and central Hong Kong, I’d saved almost $60 US.
This scenario is the only instance I’d recommend you take a bus in Hong Kong. Although it’s technically possible to take either city’s metro to and from the border, doing so is extremely time consuming.
From Shenzhen airport, visit any of the bus counters near the airport exit and purchase your ticket, making sure to specify whether you want to go to Kowloon or Hong Kong Island. In Hong Kong, bus companies operate out of Sheung Wan station and Wan Chai Bus Terminal on Hong Kong Island and the Scout Centre on Austin Road in Kowloon, located near the “Jordan” MRT stop.
Prices vary slightly depending on which company you choose, but are around HK$100 or 100 yuan no matter which you select. The journey between Shenzhen and Hong Kong should take you between two and three hours: An hour from your origin to the border; and an hour from the border to your destination.
The time you spend crossing the Hong Kong-China border determines your total trip time. When I entered Hong Kong on a busy Monday morning, crossing the border took nearly an hour, while my late Friday evening departure took me less than 15 minutes.