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Monday, August 27, 2012

MTR, Bus and Tram at Hong Kong, Shen zhen, Macau

I need to make separate subject for the transportation method since it would be a long and interesting topic to describe... might be boring for you who used to travel using MTR (MRT) in Singapore.
But anyway... here it is....
As always... please feel free to add comments or writing to add or correct my writing...

Hong Kong and Shen zhen has similar public transportation method ie : Bus, MTR, Taxi, while Macau does not have MTR, Macau is the smallest among them.
Hong Kong has 'Octopus' card system that will make your trip faster and easier, it is basically a prepaid or stored value card that could be used just by taping on octopus card reader. The octopus card and card reader would looks like this :

To use it, you just need to tap the octopus card on the card reader logo where ever it is, Bus, MTR, 7 Eleven, Star Ferry, even Cafe de Coral, circle K, parking, Watson, KFC etc.

More about octopus card : click on octopus hong kong official website.
Basically there are two types of card either you 'buy' or 'loan'.
If you choose to buy (because the sold octopus card has thematic icon, such as year of the dragon, or Master Q character...) then you must pay the price of the card (ie : Year of the dragon will cost 288 HKD) you should then top up latter because they come with no deposit or stored value.

Unless you are a card collector I think you might be more interested with the 'loan' card, which (supposed you use the most popular card, the adult Octopus card) you can loan at 50HKD, then pay initial value of 100 HKD, so you pay 150 HKD then get a loan octopus card that has 100 HKD stored value.
The 50 HKD deposit is partly refundable, since Jan 2012, you must pay 9 HKD as administration fee, so from 50 HKD deposit, you could only get back 41 HKD.

I would suggest you 'loan' octopus card and use this card for travelling around Hong Kong.
I spent around 300 HKD for 5 days in HK, but I'm a speed shopper, means go to many destination in a day and hop in and out MTRs and buses quite a lot. I even use MTR to travel between Admiralty and Causeway Bay... I could have used the old tram system or just walked but thought MRT would be faster.

One trip from lets say Mei Foo to Central or Admiralty (that is crossing the Kowloon - HK strait) cost 12.5 HKD about 16 thousand rupiah (1 HKD = 1.300 Rp) one way. Quite expensive for 15minutes ride, but is cheap compared to taxi (off course) and if you see the distance you would probably choose MTR than bus.
If you familiar with the bus route than it would be the best value for money, but is slower, otherwise just use MTR for speed traveling.
All MTR stop around 11-12 pm, so make sure you came home before 11 just for be on the safe side, and then the last trip for all busses is also about 11-12, beyond that you can only rely on night bus.

Where to buy Octopus card ? you can buy and return Octopus card easily at any MTR station in HK.
Each person need to have his / her own octopus if you use MTR, but for bus, ferry, 7-eleven etc you could share Octopus card. This is make sense, in Bus, ferry you paid fix price no matter how long your trip is. But with MTR your fare will be determined at the exit gate means different distance could charge you differently.
As a rule of thumb, any transportation method that need to be tapped twice would need individual octopus card.

This is Hong Kong Subway (MTR) Map, right click to download it if you like... I got it free from the internet.

Besides the 'light rail' (around Tuen Muen, that I do not ride) there are 10 MTR lines in Hong Kong.
Link to official Hong Kong MTR :

All Hong Kong MTR station would be marked with below sign, so it is quite convenient and easy to find MTR subway station. Whenever you see this sign you know you are close to an MTR subway station.

MTR station sign in Hong Kong

I assumed that you will not find it difficult to use MTR once you have your Octopus card with you.
Just tap at the entry gate (you'll hear a beep and there will be an arrow at the display) and tap again at the exit gate. The fare and the residual amount of your octopus card will be displayed at the exit gate.
There will be a distinguish beep sound each time you successfully taped your card (with sufficient amount of money).
So rather than explaining Hong Kong MTR system in detail, I'll just put some shots that I consider interesting during my MTR ride...

Disabled woman queuing MTR
MTR is everyday life for Hongkish...
shopping, delivering goods..

Interesting advertising in MTR wall.

MTR Advertising is not as advanced as Singapore where at some point the advertising is 'running' to catch up with the MTR window (so you can always see it during your ride.... :) how persistent... :D.

Advertising is very common and lustrous in Hong Kong MTR.

Teaching kids to play music instrument ?

Hong Kong Logo, funny Pig.

Need information ?
After entering the entry gate where you need to tap in your octopus card, there will be maps and information all over the wall to easily determine your destination station.
There will be free internet station (15minutes of usage) not in all but in many station to help you find address or just checking your facebook or email.

Free internet station at the MTR would looks like this.

Just read the sign and it shouldn't be to hard to tuned into Hong Kong MTR system...
One thing is you need to remember your 'end station' because all sign will be written with this end station.
Meaning if you would like to go from Central to Quarry Bay, you need to remember and look for direction of Chai Wan, the last station of MTR going from Sheung Wan - Central all the way to Quarry Bay and end at Chai Wan station.

At the MTR door, while queuing, check if your destination station is within the list.
The next station would only be the colored one, the grey station is behind already.

I count 8 wagons in each train, and each wagon has 5 doors. So every time a train stop, there will be 40 doors open at the same time. Passenger will rush out and in from and into those 40 doors.
You could sense the ground situation by the number passenger coming in and out from that station.
Transfer station (2 or 3 lines crosses at one station) would be more crowded than the other. Mongkok, Tsim Tsa Tsui, Central, basically business central would also be crowded.
Higher chance to get a seat is either you hop in from a less crowded station, not in a rush hour and also if you  queue at the end wagon, ie, the first (wagon number 1 or 2) or the last (wagon number 7 or 8).

Inside the MTR, you could easily locate your position by looking at the display above each door.
Look at the picture below, now you are between Tai Wo Hau and Kwai Hing station (yellow arrow). Tai Wo station is behind you, the next station is Kwai Hing and End station would be Central. There will be 13 stops before you reach Hong Kong - Central station.

Situation inside the MTR, this picture is taken NOT during rush hour....

Most Hongkish speaks English, especially the youngs.
If you are Indonesian, especially Javanese, don't worry you could almost always find Indonesian people (most likely House Maid btw) through out Hong Kong MTR station, especially on Sunday or Public holiday.
If you see 'familiar faces' most probably they are Indonesian... I did not have problem differentiating Indonesian with Pinoy (Phillipino), gesture, body languange, etc.... so you could ask from them. The house maid usually comes in group and they speak out loud, easier for you to identify their presence... :).

Indonesian House maids in MTR station
they dressed up and hair cut like Hongkish already

Interesting Fact : Could you guess the salary of a house maid in Hong Kong ?
The answer is : around 3.500-4.000 HKD more or less 4.5 to 5 mio rupiah !
They have 1 day off each week (that is Sunday) so no wonder they will be all over Hong Kong in Sunday, in the mall, MTR, buses, recreation and public area (Victoria park most likely).
They could and would dress up as they have higher salary even compared to common staff level in Indonesia (office, clerical works).
Nevertheless they generate a lot of dollar for Indonesia :), foreign exchange hero (pahlawan devisa).
To be able to work in Hong Kong, house maid would need to have a working visa, match making and other paperwork usually would be handled by an agent. This agent charges the house maid 5-7 months of her salary, meaning for the first 5 - 7 month, the house maid would receive no payment at all !
again... salute !!

Shen Zhen MTR system

MTR in Shen Zhen is called 'Metro'. Same sign but different color, if HK MTR uses Red background then Metro MTR uses Green background.
While in Shen Zhen I did not manage to find or buy prepaid / stored value card similar to Octopus card in Hong Kong. So I always use 'coin' instead.
It is pretty much similar to one way ticket for MTR in Hong Kong.

To purchase a coin just go to any MTR station, there will be several coin machines (ticket vending machines). Now examine carefully, some machines will receive 20,10 and 5 RMB (Yuen), some machines only accept 10 and 5 RMB. They all could give you small change in return should your fare is less then your money.
All machine accept 1 and 0.5 RMB coin.

I will try to describe it in detail here...
First of all, SZ has 5 lines, differentiated by color.

  1. Luobao Line      
  2. Shekou Line
  3. Longgang Line
  4. Longhua Line
  5. Huanzhong Line

Here you can explore the Shen Zhen MTR system and map. 
Just use google to search and download Shen Zhen MTR Map, here I gave you one example.
Shen Zhen MTR Station just right click to download the map.
I got it from the internet...

So before buying an MTR coin you need to know your station destination.
Use maps that is all around at the MTR station before you go to the coin machine otherwise you might need longer time and upset people that queue behind you.
An example of Shen Zhen Metro map and fares.
I was at the WOW (Window Of The World Station),
I seems not all metro station has this complete map include the fare. 

You could prepare your money based on the metro fare list such as above picture or just prepare some 10's and 5's and go to the ticket vending machine.
Choose the vending machine carefully, remember that each machine accept certain amount of money.
Looks like 'red display' on top of the coin machines means it only accept 5 and 10 RMB whilst the 'yellow display' accept 20, 10 and 5 RMB.

Coin machine that accept only 10 and 5 RMB

At the coin machine (Ticket Vending Machine), if you could not read Chinese character press 'English' at the bottom right of the screen.

1. Press 'English' at the bottom righ of the screen
2. Press your station destination or choose line
then your destination.

3. Select the number of coin you would like to buy. If you would like to buy 2
then just press 2 (person). The screen will display the fare for single ride
then number of ticket (coins) you would like to buy
then total amount that you have to pay (Amount Due).
4. Put in your money (either banknote or coin) now at the flickered slot on your right.
The amount of money you slot in would be displayed (Amount Paid).
If your money is sufficient, the machine will automatically give you the coin plus
return if any.

This is the coin that you could use to enter and exit MTR gate,
At the entry gate just tap or slap on to the reader, you need to bring the coin along with you and then give it back at the destination exit gate.
There will be a small hole at the exit gate that you could slot in the coin.

I think the sign and information at the Metro station is quite convenient and clear. Just find the correct line and train.
You need to memorize the color (or name) of the line and the 'end station' where you are headed to.

This is the sign at the MTR door means that you will be taking
MTR Luobao Line and the  'end station ' is Luohu.

You can also check whether your destination station is within the list of
station you are heading to. It is written in Chinese and alphabet character.
Your current station would be marked with 'you are here' sign.

Queue and always stand behind the yellow line,
there will be police at the Shen Zhen Metro.
As far as I recall this police is not exist
in Hong Kong MTR.

While in train, you could always find Metro Map easily.
Or you could watch the display on top of the door that shows the next 2 stations.

Metro map inside the train is easily  found.

This display means you are at Tongxinling station now
and the next station is Hongling

While at Tongxinling, exit point and road destination is
also showed in the display... how convenient.

The list of the station is written in Chinese character,
just use the wall map instead.

At the destination station, beyond the exit gate you could stop by to find your preferred exit corridor.

Exit corridor and ground map at the destination station.

List of nearby road and exit corridor.

I did not have chance to travel with bus so I could not comment on the bus system in Shen Zhen.
But I believe if you could not speak or read chinese character it is advisable only to use metro or walk.
Not many people could speak English especially good English.
If you would like to use taxi, ask the hotel staff to write down the destination in Chinese character, the driver MIGHT NOT READ alphabet.

If you use Shen Zhen Map, I would advise to always equip yourself with a compass.
I think these are standard equipment for traveling in Shen Zhen.

Yes it is a dive compass and a watch, Suunto SK9 if I'm not mistaken.
I always use compass when traveling in HK, SZ and Macau.
A Map would also very convenient.


finding bus station is very easy, and they come every 15-20 minutes but you need to study and familiarized yourself with the route. You can check and plan your journey on spot if you had internet connection with tablet computer or smart phone.
There are three major (only the first 2 companies are the big two) bus provider in Hongkong :
1. The Kowloon Motor Bus Co. (KMB) : link to KMB Bus route search :
Included here is Long Win bus, apparently segmented for airport bus and tourist (special route) buses. Link to their routes :
2. City Bus and New World First Bus (NWFB) : link to NWFB Bus route search :
Point to point Bus Guide :
3. New Lantao Bus : mostly operated in Lantau island, Tung Chung, Airport etc. Link :

Link of all bus routes in Hong Kong from Wikipedia :
Just play with the route search a bit and you'll get familiar with it in no time.

I heard that bus driver and policemen paid well in Hong Kong, perhaps this is one of the secret of  well regulated and organized bus and traffic in Hong Kong :).

Anyway... you could use octopus card to pay fixed price fare for bus or pay directly with coins or HKD but no change or return would be given by the driver.
You will need to queue at the bus stop, the only place the bus will stop and allow passenger to hop in and out. Every bus stop has the name of bus and its route, so you can check whether you are queuing the correct bus.

Nice motto printed on the bus....

Everybody queuing with respect to other...
Even senior citizen will queue.

Bus Stop and queuing would looks like this...

Before hop in you could check the bus route to make sure you are queuing for the right bus.

Bus stop and route at the airport
Bus route....

After you hop in (entry from the front door and exit from the middle door). Pay directly with Octopus or cash. The card reader and money pot will be beside the driver.

Octopus card reader and money pot
(red box with grey opening) near the entry door
just beside the bus driver.
Bus route inside the bus

The problem is you could not talk with the driver, and not too many people speak English... so you can not easily rely on asking to other passenger.
You could use the bus route that is available inside the bus, but unless you are familiar with the area where the bus stop is, I suggest it is better to really plan ahead or just take other method of transportation.
The problem is you need to push the bell before the bus stop if you want the bus to stop at the designated bus stop.
If no passenger hop in or out, the driver will continue to drive and will not stop at the bus stop, except at the terminal. Off course if you do not mind to walk a little, generally it would not be a disaster to miss one bus stop, you could just walk all the way back.

So while in the bus, frequently check the bus route and usually there will be announcement in Chinese and English, displaying the next bus stop and sounding it in 3 languages (hard to hear because of the noise).
Just hope that the display is in good condition.

Bell button, push if you want to stop at the next bus stop
this button is available everywhere inside the bus. 

The light near the door and in front of the driver would turned on
indicating that somebody has pushed the bell button.
No need to push the bell button if you see the light is on,
driver will stop at the next bus stop.

Exit door with bell button near it.

Entry would be from front and exit from the middle of the bus.

Prohibition to speak with the driver...
It is AN OFFENCE !! :D.

Yes, all HK bus (minibus is not included) is double deck.
If your destination is far and you would like to side seeing a bit, just go
to the upper deck. Yes... DO NOT find the driver there ok ? there will be no
driver on the upper deck !! :)).

And yes, announcement of the next bus stop is displayed and sounded also in the upper deck.
No smoking (5.000 HKD fine) and theoretically no eating nor drinking inside the bus.

Almost forgot...
If you are in Hong Kong island, along the famous Hennessy road, where all the MTR stops are... instead of MTR or bus, you could also use Tram.
Old transportation model that is electricity powered, no Air Con. So rather than walking if you do not mind sweating a little, and want to travel from east to west or vise versa, just try to use the Tram. Its quite cheap but moves very slow (faster than walking though).

To hop in, look for a tram stop, (similar to bus stop) read and choose the tram route and number, and hop into the correct tram.
This time you hop in from the back and pay latter at the front (the octopus card reader is beside the driber) when you are about to alight.

Tram in Hong Kong, they run on two parallel rails.
The Tram is also decorated, I saw San Rio and Do Ra e Mon thematic Tram.

Inside the Tram, quite narrow space,
do not use tram if you bring a long a lot of stuff
Stairs to upper deck.

Octopus card reader and Tram control panel :). Small, minimal, old stylist, efficient, easy to operate :).

My Tram driver...

Monitoring panel, I am not sure if it is pressure, should it be
voltage because Tram  is powered with electricity ?

Bus in Macau

Bus route at bus stop at Macau

If you are ok with Bus system in Hong Kong then bus system in Macau would be no different unless that you have to familiarized yourself with the area and street names.

Most of the street is in Portuguese language.
I found it interesting though... the mix of European and Chinese culture.

If you wish to read the whole macau bus route then consider visiting these links : (Macau)
Macau bus route, popular destination.

To be continued.....


  1. This is a very well-crafted tutorial, clearly explained, with all the questions and fears addressed, and with photos at exactly the correct places: well done and much appreciated!

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