Hong Kong Airport and Transportation

The Airport

Unless you own the Love Boat, you'll begin at the airport. The airport is clean, very modern and of course very crowded. Depending on which terminal you arrive at, you will need to negotiate some escalators and/or elevators and board a tram for a short ride to your baggage. Keep a close watch on your kids, especially the little ones, as the crowds can push and shove a bit.

Watch for Hong Kong Tourist Information kiosks in the airport"€they have free maps and brochures. One idea with the free maps that worked with our now 11-year-old was to have her locate and mark on HER map the places we visited. She also felt older (which is her primary goal now, to be "older") when we asked her to help figure out where we were going on HER map.

Learn more from at the Hong Kong airport website.

Getting Into Town

There are several ways to get from the airport to the stuff you want to see, but we recommend the Airport Express. Not only is this the fastest way to downtown (23 minutes from the Airport to Central/Hong Kong Station) but it also has cartoons playing on little TV monitors. There is also room for luggage and you get a peak at some interesting places out the window as you zip past. Prices are HK$100 for adults, HK$90 for kids. The signs say that elementary school kids and older pay a fare; babes in arms are free.

You can get off the Express at stations near the airport, Kowloon and Central/Hong Kong Station. Major hotels have a free shuttle bus at Central, or you can find a gazillion taxis lined up waiting to inhale your money.

Octopus Card

In many instances you will want to buy an Octopus card instead of just paying the fare for Airport Express. You buy this card very near where you board the Airport Express train, major credit cards accepted. For HK$220 you get the train into downtown, three days unlimited travel on Hong Kong's subway and another HK$20 to use on buses, trams and the Star Ferry. There is also a HK$50 deposit on the card that you can get back when you leave (the card has a microchip inside, hence the deposit). For HK$300 you get all of the above and the return fare to the airport.

Another cool thing is that your three free days of subway riding commences when you first ride the subway, so the card is still a good deal even if you arrive at night with no subway plans.

The information that comes with the Octopus card says you must be able to show your passport when required by subway workers to prove you are not a real Hong Kong resident and thus not entitled to the tourist-only Octopus card. While we are not residents in Hong Kong, we also had no intention of carrying our passports around all day. No one ever asked us to show the passports and no subway worker ever asked for the passport nor ever doubted we were indeed tourists.

By the way, we were told that the card is called "Octopus" because it is useful on eight different forms of transport, and Octopuses (Octopi?) have eight legs. Anyway, the name is fun.

More on the Octopus? Right here www.mtr.com.hk.

MTR Tips

There are several useful things we can tell you about the subway system in Hong Kong:

  • It is not known as a subway; "subway" in British English means a passageway under a street to allow you to cross. Call it the MTR.
  • There are no toilets in the MTR stations. McDonalds is everywhere and has clean toilets, so go before entering the station.
  • The MTR goes all over Hong Kong, Kowloon and environs and is cheap, convenient, very safe and very clean.
  • The MTR stations are not well-marked, and the free tourist maps at the airport only show the stations via the MTR symbol. It took us awhile to figure this out, so to assist you, here's the darn symbol:

When you exit the train, take any escalator or set of stairs marked (in English), EXIT. The, however, you need to pay attention, as each station has multiple exits, some quite far apart from each other. The exits have signs near them listing nearby landmarks, but if possible, learn from a phone call or your guidebook not only which station but also which exit to use. Using the correct exit can save you a harrowing cross across traffic, a wrong turn that plunges you into a shopping arcade from Hell or some equally inconvenient detour.

The MTR cars can get very crowded at busy times (i.e., anytime of the day or night) and people do tend to push and jostle a bit. You will feel safer holding smaller kids, or even placing bigger kids in a corner while you sort of block traffic to create a kind of bubble for your young ‘un.

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