Hong Kong MTR
This page is a step by step guide on taking the train in Hong Kong.
What is MTR?
MTR, or Mass Transit Railway , is the most common mode of public transport in Hong Kong. An estimated 4 million passengers take the MTR every workday. Each train can carry about 2,500 to 3,750 passengers depending on its number of cars (in some lines, the trains have 8 cars, while the others have 12). The MTR trains are fast and safe. Once you've missed a train, you wouldn't have to worry about getting late, because before you know it, another train would have arrived.
Most MTR stations have protective screen doors to prevent people from falling or jumping on the rails. The pathways are wide to accommodate large crowd of people going in and out of the MTR stations. Several stores are lined up for the passengers' convenience. However, the mostly air-conditioned MTR stations do not have public toilets. If you really can't hold you bladder, you can politely ask the MTR staff's permission to use their staff toilet.
MTR is the most common mode of public transport in Hong Kong
Photo: Wikinedia Commons
the screen doors in MTR stations protect passengers from falling or jumping on the rails
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
MTR Route Map is Your Friend
the MTR lines are color-coded for easy glance
Photo by DearEdward | Flickr
Before you can travel through MTR, you need to first acquire an MTR map. Don't worry, the MTR map is simple and easy to understand. Each line is color-coded for easy glance. The interchange stations are also indicated in the MTR map. Know the nearest MTR station to your destination, and decide which route is the shortest and fastest to take.
Tickets and Octopus Card
Octopus card indeed makes life easier
Photo by Andrew Currie | Flickr
MTR tickets can be bought at ticket counters and vending machines. If you are nervous about using the machines, you can go straight to the counters. The MTR staffs can understand common English. It can be inconvenient to constantly buy MTR tickets though, especially if the station is crowded. For your ease, you can purchase an Octopus Card. Octopus Card is a stored value card used to make payments not only in MTR, but also in other public transport, convenience stores, shops, or anywhere that has an Octopus reader. I have also recently discovered that it can be used for Airport Express. It has an initial deposit of HK$50. You can monitor your balance or add value to your card with the Add Value Machines found inside the station. Or you can go to MTR counter or even to any convenience store such as 7-11 to inquire your balance and to add value to your card. Since your card is refillable, do not throw it away; otherwise, you'll have to deposit another HK$50 for the new card. Keep it for your next visit to Hong Kong
MTR Fare Saver
Every Octopus Card owner should know about MTR Fare Saver. Keep your eyes wide open in your travels. Once you've spotted this machine, run straight to it and swipe your card over it to get a HK$1 or HK$2 discount on your next usage! I've spotted one inside the Harbour City. There's also one in the Central Mid-Level's Escalators.
Senior Citizen Discounts
There's a special Octopus card for senior citizens. Usually, someone age 65 and above is considered a senior, but some operators are more lenient and may sell it even to a 60-year-old.
Contrary to what others believe, this card can also be availed by tourists. I bought this card for my parents without any problem. The staff didn't ask for any ID or passport (probably because of my parents' abundant amount of grey hair?). Just make sure that a real senior citizen uses this. Don't try to cheat because they'll find out and you'll get fined.
How Not to Get Lost Inside the MTR Station
signs are there to guide you
Photo: Hairworm | Flickr
there are a lot of signboards inside the MTR
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
before you exit, look up
Photo: DearEdward | Flickr
Before you take an MTR train, look carefully at the signs. Not the signs from the Universe, but from the MTR Corp. Ltd. There are a lot of signboards, symbols, and letters. Take note of the stations at the end of each line to prevent you from going to the wrong direction.
Know where to exit. Exits are labelled by letters (and sometimes with numbers). In case you don't know the exit to Citygate Outlets for example, you can look for the signboard where most of the famous destinations are listed. Look for "Citygate Outlets" and its corresponding letter.
Look at the little circles. Inside the MTR trains, the exit can be on either side. How will you know which side to exit before you get stuck in the crowd? The answer is to look up. Above the train doors on both sides, you will see the sentences "Please exit this side" and "Please exit from the opposite side." If the exit is on the right side, for example, the circle beside "Please exit this side" above the correct door will be lighted. Otherwise, the "Please exit from the opposite side" circle will be lighted. I have noticed most tourists didn't know about these circles. They would repeatedly look from right to left and sometimes, they would wait on the wrong side of the train. On your next ride, don't act like you're lost inside the train. Don't forget to look at these little circles. It will make you look cool and you will definitely impress your travelling buddies.