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Getting Around Hong Kong – Part I

July 9, 2011

Hong Kong is widely regarded as having the world’s most advanced mass transit system.  Being adventurous types – we figured we’d give it a try.

Hong Kong is essentially divided into three areas:  Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories.  To test this system, we opted to stay in a new hotel in the New Territories – the Hyatt Regency Sha Tin.  http://www.hongkong.shatin.hyatt.com/hyatt/hotels/index.jsp?null.  We were able to get two nights of lodging using points, where a hotel in Kowloon would have burned points in a single night.

Our stop was University, halfway up the East Rail line (blue and white on the map).   It turned out the hotel was all of 100 yards from the station – a two minute walk, tops.

That’s the station as viewed from the balcony of the hotel.

We paid $55 HKD each for tourist day passes – unlimited use of the trains and buses.  This is less than $7.00 US.

The stations were clean, colorful and well marked.

The Pheebs craves neatness and order, and the Hong Kong rail/subway system passed her test with flying colours.

In the States – we view mass transit as the domain of the underclass – if you can’t afford a car, you ride a bus or the rails.  It’s dicey travel at best.  Quite the opposite here – it’s merely a way to get around and everyone uses it.

It can get quite crowded.  I’m not a big fan of crowds, but everyone riding the train is quiet and polite.

Transit to downtown Hong Kong Island took all of a half hour, including two transfers.

Once downtown, we became a little disoriented as the streets appear at first glance to be pedestrian unfriendly.

Streets – and especially intersections – are fenced off preventing jaywalking.  It was only after bumping around for a half hour that we noticed people heading to public staircases, and we discovered the secret to getting around Hong Kong on foot…

There’s a vast network of  elevated covered walkways.  One goes to the street level to conduct business, but getting from A to B on foot is achieved from above.

Hong Kong has an extensive highway system – but as you can see in the pic, most folks use the rails.

Most of the vehicles on the road are buses, vans and taxis.  We used taxis on occasion – including transit from the airport to the hotel.

This is a Toyota Crown – the standard taxi of SE Asia.  Cab fare from the airport to the hotel (a 45 minute trip) was $28 for the two of us.

Locals use a smart card called an Octopus Card to get around. I estimated the cost of a Smart Card to be about $5 a day on average, or $150/month.  With vehicle expenses (depreciation, gas, maintenance and insurance) running north of $500/month in the US, Hong Kong’s solution to travel is both inexpensive and convenient.

Next Up – The best travel deal in Hong Kong – the Star Line.

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