Got an Octopus Card?


Hong Kong

Hong Kong S.A.R., China

22° 25′ 20.8344″ N114° 12′ 38.7972″ E

Sun, 03/24/2013 – 5:09am
Hong Kong is a very large city, with many modes of transportation. However, few people have cars here compared to the U.S. because of the cost of having and maintaining one, and because the public transportation system makes it so that you do no need one.Octopus Card

Getting around in Hong Kong is a breeze. Hong Kong has one of the most advanced and efficient transportation systems out of any place I have ever been to, and you definitely do not need a car.

How do people get around?:

There are many ways for people to get around in Hong Kong. By far the most popular method is by subway or train. In Hong Kong, a private company called the MTR Corporation (or just MTR) runs the subway and train system. When people here refer to the subway, they simply refer to it as “the MTR”. The MTR has many stops, usually at all the important neighborhoods, shopping areas, and business districts. In Hong Kong, entire neighborhoods sometimes center around MTR stations, and many people choose to live near them as a result. In many places, apartment complexes are connected to MTR stations so people do not have to even go outside to ride the MTR. This is very convenient, especially during the unbearably hot and humid summer months, from May to October. Going outside during these months will leaving you dripping with sweat within ten minutes on a bad day!

The other major method of transportation in Hong Kong is the bus. Buses in Hong Kong take you to places that the MTR does not go, and is often more convenient than taking the MTR. For example, my friend lives right next to a bus stop, and I can catch a bus that goes directly from my building to his building in twenty five minutes. Most buses in Hong Kong are double-decker buses, meaning they have two floors where passengers can ride. These buses are slightly narrower than buses in the U.S., because they often have to squeeze through narrow and congested roads. It is a wonder that these buses never get into accidents, because they always seem as if they are about to hit something, whether it be the car in front of them or the building next to the bus stop.

One of the most convenient things about riding the MTR or riding the bus is the Octopus card. The Octopus card is a card that you can purchase at any MTR station, and it is the main way to pay for the MTR and the bus. You can add money directly to the Octopus card, and it saves you a lot of time and effort when traveling around Hong Kong. Almost all Hong Kong residents have an Octopus card as a result. Instead of having to rummage around your bag or wallet for spare change, all you have to do is scan your card and you will be allowed access to the MTR or the bus. Usually you have to scan your Octopus card once to gain entry to the MTR or the bus, and once more to exit. A computer calculates the distance that you traveled during your journey, and takes away the appropriate amount from your Octopus card. An Octopus card is a must when traveling through Hong Kong, even if it is only for several days.

The MTR stops running at midnight, and buses generally stop running after 2:00AM. Both resume service at around 6:00AM. If you need to travel between those hours, or if you need to go somewhere quickly and conveniently, then riding a taxi is also an option. Taxis in Hong Kong are monitored and regulated very strictly, and always have a meter so that you know exactly how much you are being charged. For most occasions, taking a taxi is too expensive. However, if you are with several friends, taking a taxi is sometimes a convenient option. Most taxi drivers don’t speak very good English, so you have to speak slowly and clearly to them. In my case, I learned how to say “Chinese University of Hong Kong” in Cantonese so that taxi drivers would not get confused.

How did I feel when I tried this way of getting around?:

When I tried to get around using the MTR, bus, or taxi, I really got a sense for how large the world is. I felt a bit insignificant, like a single ant in an anthill. There are just so many people using public transportation that it is never possible to get around without getting pushed or jostled about in some way. It was not just me using the transportation system, I was just one of millions of people using it every day.

Is this way of getting around connected to the culture and environment, How?:

The MTR and the bus system is completely necessary for Hong Kong to function. The city would come to a complete standstill without it. This is due to the fact that Hong Kong as a city is divided into two main sections: Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula. The ocean separates the Hong Kong Island from the Kowloon Peninsula, and there are only a few bridges that connect the two parts together. If everyone were to drive from one to the other, this would cause massive traffic jams at the bridges. However, since most people take the MTR to and from the island and Kowloon, traffic jams rarely happen near the bridges. Without the MTR, it would also be very difficult to travel within Kowloon. Kowloon is an extremely mountainous area, and getting around would be a huge hassle if everyone were on the roads.

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