Hong Kong is a place of convenience where everything you need is within a walking distance. Need to get groceries? Walk for about 10-15 minutes and you’ll find the local market. Need new clothes? The department store is connected with the local market. Since coming here, a lot of local students have asked me if I have my driver’s license back in the states, and I sadly don’t. I conveniently live near a bus stop and train station that can get me to Temple in 30-40 minutes so I haven’t had a use for a car yet (that’s what friends are for!). And this is the same reason why a lot of people don’t drive here in Hong Kong. The public transportation here is so elaborate and easy to use that one can get to anywhere they need to go without the hassle of finding a parking space (which is limited in Hong Kong).
The main mode of transportation for a lot of people here is the MTR (Mass Transit Railway), which is the subway for Hong Kong. The MTR covers the whole Hong Kong, from the Airport to Hong Kong Island, all the way into New Territories. Trains run per minute depending if it’s rush hour to 10 minutes a train. I don’t think I have ever waited more than 10 minutes for a train, even when it was Sunday, compared to Philly where taking the train on Sunday can be anywhere from 20-30 minutes (specifically the Broad Street Line). The MTR has a strict rule where riders are not allowed to eat or drink on trains to keep everything tidy and clean (and yes, everyone follows this rule) and there are also TV’s on the trains to keep riders amused during their commutes. I’m going to miss the MTR the most when it’s time for me to leave Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s transportation system accepts two forms of payments, cash or octopus. No, not that 8-legged sea creature! The octopus card is a stored value card, which is what the oyster card in London is based off of. You basically load money onto the card at any MTR station or convenience stores (7-Eleven, Circle-K, etc.) You can use the card on the bus, train, mini bus, tram etc. just scan your card and off you go! It does cost money to use the card, but if you are a tourist, you can return your card before you leave and get back how you paid for the card. As a student, we have a special octopus card with our picture is on it and we also get a 50% discount on the train (excludes the Airport Express and Disney Land, sadly). Aside from using the card to pay for transportation, the system has become so elaborate that you can use the card to pay for groceries, clothes, food, and even use it to buy random knick-knacks at capsule toy machines here (remember those quarter machines from your childhood? Well in Hong Kong they’re way cooler and the toys are better!)
I know that SEPTA is trying to implement this system into Philadelphia’s transportation system and I hope it goes well. No more need for tokens and tranfers!