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Hong Kong's Subway System — the best in the world

hong kong subway map Our Hong Kong subway map shows Hong Kong's 13 subway lines with station names in both English and Chinese. Click on it to enlarge.

Hong Kong's subway system is generally considered the best in the world, and as a traveler in Hong Kong, you can enjoy all the benefits of high technology, safety, cleanliness and fine planning. Tourists can use the system to tour and enjoy all the excellent highlights of this unique city. What's more, the cost for all the quality services and enjoyment provided is quite low compared to the rest of the world. The MTR subway is a foreign tourist's friend to enjoy their time in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong's Subway Is for You

You can save a lot of time, money, and hassle by taking the subway and get around quickly. Signs, annoucements, and calls are all in English, and there are helpful English speaking staff. The intercoms call out English instructions and information. And if you have questions or get lost, just talk to the staff or the locals who often speak English too.

The subway connects to the airport and will whisk you to premier tourist attractions in minutes. It also connects to the border, so you can continue your tour in China conveniently. What do you want to see and do? Excellent shopping, world quality amusement parks, and fascinating streets where the world melts together can all be reached. Or would you want to see beautiful seaside scenery, swim, camp and hike? Use the system to get there cheaply and quickly.

What's So Great About the Subway

Hong Kong is a mass transit oriented region. Though the people are comparatively wealthy, most don't have a private vehicle. Instead, 5 million people use the system every day, and the number of rides is increasing 4% per year. The local government concentrated on working with private companies to create a mass transit system that is the world's standard. In fact, the MTR corporation is so good that it has been invited to manage the mass transit in cities around the world such as London, Stockholm, Sweden, and Melbourne, Australia.

Special Features and Advantages

  • Cleanliness and air conditioning: If it is hot or noisy, so you can relax down below.
  • Shopping and convenience: Clean malls or convenience shops and fast food in the stations.
  • Quiet and clean: Major stations have glass walls along the platforms and automatic glass doors for protection and quiet.
  • Internet: Free Wi-Fi at every station; five 15-minute sessions allowed per device per day. Connect to "MTR Free Wi-Fi" when in range. Some stations even have free-to-use public Internet computers.
  • Handicapped services: Wheelchair accessible.
  • Comfort: First class compartments on trains to the border areas.
  • Safe: Crime is comparatively rare.

Surprising Facts

  • Money making system: The MTR makes a billion dollars (USD) of profit a year instead of relying on tax money or government money.
  • Self funding: Operational costs are covered by fares (this is unusual).
  • Low fares: The cost of fares for the public is about the lowest in the developed world.
  • Top 10: The subway is one of the world's ten busiest in terms of ridership.
  • 1.7 rides per year.

But a Few Drawbacks

Insufficient bathrooms: For all the hundreds of thousands of riders, the bathrooms are small. To use them, you have to go to the station's ticket and information agent to let you in. You can't just walk into one.

Insufficiently descriptive signage for foreign tourists: Though signs are in English, there is still a sparsity of them. For residents who know the routes, choosing the right train isn't a problem. But for tourists, it is common to get on a train going the wrong direction, miss a stop, or transfer to a wrong line. Best advice is carry a subway map with you, watch the stops, and ask people when not sure. Free little maps are available at the ticket windows.

Rush-hour crowding: During the busiest hours, there might be only standing room left.

For Visitors Getting Around To See the Sights

The Avenue of StarsThe Avenue of Stars on Victoria Harbor

For longer distance transportation, it is the quickest and easiest way to go. For short distance journeys such as getting around Tsim Sha Tsui near Victoria Harbor or for going between Tsim Sha Tsui to Central, it might be cheaper and more convenient to take a city bus or get on a ferry. Otherwise, other than taking a taxi, the MTR subway and railway system is the quickest way to get to most destinations.

Ten Lines: There are 8 regular lines, an Airport Express Line, a special Disney Line, and a light rail network for the northwestern part of the region. These lines connect most of the urban areas in the region. Trains run from 6 am to 1 am daily on most of the busiest lines.

Fares: Train fares range from 5 HKD to 55 HKD. It is 55 HKD between Tsim Sha Tsui and the border.

Better for tourists: Except for the simple bus routes such as Bus 6 along the tourist oriented Nathan Road shopping street, most tourists might have more difficulty with city buses than in the subway system. The drivers might not speak English, and there is more Chinese signage instead of English signs.

Octopus Cards: You can get a MTR Octopus card that offers great convenience and a small discount. It also works for LRT, KMB, city buses and HKF ferries. It can also be used in most convenience stores and all supermarkets. These little plastic cards allow you to swipe your way to board and get out of a station, and the fare is automatically deducted. It is great for tourists and can be returned for the deposit and any remaining stored value. The deposit is 50 HKD, and the initial stored value is 100 HKD.

Tourist Day Pass: Tourists can get a day pass that allows for a day of unlimited rides on the MTR subways with the exception of 1st Class compartments on the East Rail Line, the Airport Express, and journeys to and from the Lo Wu, Lok Ma Chau and Racecourse stations. It isn't valid for buses. They cost 55 HKD and are available at all the MTR Customer Service Centers.

Advice about Travel and Fares to Attractions

IFC Mall and TowerIFC Tower and Mall

Here is some advice for Hong Kong visitors. From the airport, you can take the Airport Express that allows quick access to the rest of Hong Kong via the connecting lines at Tsing Yi, Tung Chung and Hong Kong Station. From Hong Kong Station, you can quickly transfer to Central Station. From either Lo Wu or Lok Ma Chau border crossings, you can take the East Rail Line (Blue Line) for quick transport.

For simply crossing Victoria Harbor between Central and Tsim Sha Tsui, it much better to take the scenic Star Ferry than the Tsuen Wan subway. It is about a quick (15 minutes), much cheaper, and more scenic.

Useful Hong Kong Subway Lines for Tourists

Airport Express Line, Airport Station – Hong Kong Station

The Airport Express goes to the ICC Tower and Mall. Get off at Kowloon Station that is below the mall. It is the the tallest skyscraper with an observation deck, a major mall and fine restaurants. This trip takes 20 minutes, and the fare is 90 HKD.

The Airport Express then continues to the IFC Tower and Central. The Hong Kong Station is below the IFC Towers. Tourists like this mall for its central location and the many subway lines that meet underneath. The IFC Mall is probably the ritziest of the malls, and is in easy walking distance to other luxury malls. There are buses outside to Victoria Peak and its sightseeing paths and malls. From the airport to Hong Kong Station, it costs 100 HKD, and the trip takes about 22 minutes.

If you want to go to City Gate Outlets near the airport, you can take the S1 shuttle between the airport and City Gate Outlets in Tung Chung. Instead of using the Airport Express to go to City Gate Outlets, you can save money and time by taking the the Tung Chung Line since the station is directly under the City Gate Outlets, and it is much cheaper.

Tsuen Wan Line (Red Line), Tsuen Wan Station – Central Station

The Red Line is one of the most important lines for tourists because it connects Central (中环) with Tsim Sha Tsui (尖沙咀) and Kowloon. Special places around the Tsim Sha Tsui Station include the Harbour City Mall, Hong Kong's biggest, and the Avenue of Stars and its museums and the Symphony of Lights.

The Tsim Sha Tsui Station is on Nathan Road. There are a lot of great attractions around the Tsim Sha Tsui Station and the north side of Victoria Harbor that tourists love. Nathan Road is a tourist shopping street with architectural attractions lining it. Along Nathan Road is Kowloon Park with interesting features such as an aviary. Temple Street Market is a popular pedestrian shopping street for tourist bargains. The Tsim Sha Tsui Station leads directly to Victoria Harbor where there is the biggest mall called Harbour City Mall and great museums such as the Art Museum.

Kwun Tong Line, Tiu Keng Leng Station – Yau Ma Tei Station

Special places along it include the Mong Kok (旺角) shopping streets including Ladies Market around Mong Kok Station and Temple Street and Nathan Road around Yau Ma Tei Station.

East Rail Line (Blue Line), Hung Hom Station – Lo Wu/ Lok Ma Chau

Luohu Border GatesLuohu Border Crossing

This train is very useful for going to the Chinese border via the two border crossings at Lo Wu (罗湖口岸) and Lok Ma Chau (落马洲口岸).

Island Line, Chai Wan Station – Kennedy Town Station

The Blue Line is also important for tourists. It goes west to east along the north shore of Hong Kong Island. You can use it to go to the IFC Malls at Central Station or the Airport Express at Hong Kong Station under the IFC Towers. Causeway Bay Station (铜锣湾) is for the Times Square shopping area. The recently opened Kennedy Town, Hong Kong University, and Sai Ying Pun Statons allow quick access to the western end of the island.

Tung Chung Line, Hong Kong Station – Tung Chung Station

This line is useful for going between Tung Chung and the IFC Towers. Tung Chung is notable for the City Gate Outlets brand name discount stores that are above the station, and the airport is close to the mall. It is also useful for access to interesting places on Lantau Island such as Tai O. AsiaWorld Expo is a major conference facility next to the airport.

Disneyland Resort Line, Sunny Bay Station – Disneyland Resort Station

This short route goes between the Sunny Bay Station on the Tung Chung Line to Disneyland.

MTR Subway History and Future Expansion and Modernization

Ocean ParkOcean Park Entrance

The MTR subway system was a project of the British territorial government and the Hong Kong Administration. The rapidly growing city needed a subway. The first subway link was completed in 1979. In the next few years, several important lines are expected to open up.

The most important line may be completed by 2019. It is a high speed line that would connect the ICC Tower area to Shenzhen and Guangzhou. This allows access to China's new bullet train network that is covering the country. To build this line, a special tunnel is being built through the northern mountains. People will be able to travel to Guangzhou in an hour.

The South Island Line is expected to open in 2016 to connect Admiralty with South Horizons. An Ocean Park Station is being built that will give tourists faster access to Ocean Park amusement park that is the biggest and most popular amusement park in Hong Kong. The Wong Chuk Hang Station will give quick access to popular Aberdeen with its floating restaurants, and the South Horizons Station on Ap Lei Chau island will provide quick access to this area that is becoming a tourist attraction. Getting to Ap Lei Chau once required a long bus ride, but now public transit will take only about 15 minutes from Admiralty.

Touring Hong Kong with China Highlights

If the Hong Kong underground still doesn't sound like the way you would like to tour Hong Kong, see our Hong Kong tours, which can include private transport from/to your hotel. Our coach tours let you see more of Hong Kong above ground at an economy price. To create your own Hong Kong experience with our help tailor make your tour.

Further Reading

Hong Kong's Subway System — the best in the world