The underground railway system in Hong Kong, called 'MTR' is a very expensive mode of transport. Unfortunately it is kept artificially expensive by the Hong Kong government. Yes, this is true. In 2015 I stayed in Hong Kong's Fortress Hill area (YesInn @ Fortress Hill) for several days at a stretch and tried to see and feel Hong Kong's local life from up close. I watched a local TV channel called 'Pearl' (TVB Pearl) every evening. There was a show on Pearl on which they invited a politician in-charge of the local transportation and asked him some tough questions - "why were Hong Kong's underground trains so crowded?", "why was the capacity of the MTR system not being increased?", and "why the government wanted to increase the already high passenger fares when the MTR Corporation had earned a profit of 15 Billion HKD during the previous year?" The politician cut a sorry figure in the show. He had no answer to the overcrowding problem. About the fares he said that although the government was the majority owner of the MTR Corporation, it was a public entity listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and hence profitability mattered. He further explained that there was an inflation linked formula that decided the passenger fares and as inflation rose, so did the fares. What he did not say was that when MTR fares increased, inflation increased further as a result and the people of Hong Kong, as also the tourists, were caught in an endless vicious cycle. Keep reading...
|Hong Kong Octopus Card|
Why I Don't Envy a Hong Kong Resident
Due to my frequent travelling in Hong Kong and Singapore, it has been possible for me to compare the appearance of the local passengers in Hong Kong's MTR to that of the passengers in Singapore's MRT. Many passengers that one sees around in Hong Kong's public transport system look tired and sleep deprived, particularly during weekdays and in the evenings. The overcrowded trains and long waiting time at the platforms makes everything worse. A tourist visiting Hong Kong for a few days may not see this, unless carefully observing faces. Singaporeans are in comparison a happier lot even if they do not know this. Singapore's MRT as a system is much less crowded and less expensive too. Well, here in this article we are talking about Hong Kong's MTR System and hence let us see how tourists in Hong Kong can save a few dollars while using MTR.
|Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade Hong Kong|
Saving Money on Travel While in Hong Kong
If you do not already know, the answer is Octopus Card. It is the equivalent of 'Easy Link' card in Singapore and 'Rabbit' Card in Bangkok. Octopus can be used across Hong Kong's public transport system, even while using the Star Ferry. Octopus Card can also be used to do some shopping for daily needs at 7-Eleven and similar other shops. You can buy Octopus Card from a designated counter at the airport or at an MTR Station for an initial price of 150 HKD of which 50 HKD is the refundable deposit and 100 HKD is the initial stored value. This is for the "Standard Adult" Octopus Card. A "Child" Octopus Card will initially cost 70 HKD (including 50 HKD deposit) and the eligibility for "Child" fares is 3-11 years of age. The refundable deposit gets reduced by 9 HKD if the card is returned within three months of issue. But the validity of the card is a few years and it can be used during the next trip to Hong Kong or even handed over to a friend or family member visiting Hong Kong later. To be precise, Octopus Card is valid for 1000 days from the date of the last value add transaction. Now let us see how Octopus Card saves money...
Lesser Fares on Octopus Card
The fare charged when an Octopus Card is used is lesser as compared to what one pays for a single journey ticket. The difference can be substantial for a tourist who is using MTR trains as the primary mode of travelling within Hong Kong. See this example:
(Fare example may not be current because in the meantime, MTR Corporation may have increased the fares again. A difference in the fare, however, will still be there.)
Travelling from Fortress Hill Station to Jordan Station, a single journey ticket costs 12.5 HKD whereas upon using Octopus, the fare is just 11.1 HKD. That is a saving of 1.4 HKD. The minimum fare from Fortress Hill when I took the picture of the fare table was 4.5 HKD by using a single journey ticket and 4.2 HKD by using Octopus Card. The saving is guaranteed every time.
Special Octopus Card - City Saver
There is a special Octopus Card also, called "City Saver". It cost 400 HKD at that time and it covered 40 single journeys within a 30 day period. Except Airport Express and travelling first class on East Rail Line, all MTR services are covered. So a tourist can do a simple calculation of MTR fare from the location of the hotel to the locations likely to be visited during the stay in Hong Kong. I think in all probability, the City Saver will prove to be a good deal.
Saves Time Too
Having an Octopus Card saves time that one will spend on buying a single journey ticket each time. Plus it saves the bother of carrying change in the pocket and can also be used to buy water bottles etc. from 7-Eleven.
Uptodate information on Octopus Card can be obtained from their official website: http://www.octopus.com.hk/home/en/index.html
|Posted by Narinder Singh|