First up, if you are a senior, yay you! You get really cheap public transport in Hong Kong, you don’t need to be a resident, you just need to be over 60 to qualify.
No idea about fares for kids – you are on your own to find out that info.
Otherwise hopefully the rest of the info below maybe useful to some.
Arrival into Hong Kong
Ok, you arrive at the airport, you have done all the necessary arrival tasks and are ready to leave the airport for you hotel, what do you do? Duh! Follow the signs for the trains – open your eyes and look for the picture with the train on it. 🙂 (For what is worth, Hong Kong is extremely well signposted in English and Cantonese.)
The MTR uses single use tickets you can buy as you go, or, if you are there for a few days, and will be using the public transport system a bit, consider getting an Octopus card. The card saves you a small amount on each fare and you can get a refund of credit at the end of your stay (keep reading).
There is a customer information/service desk at the station. Just ask for an Octopus card and airport express tickets. They will issue you with the best options. We were recommended to get single use tickets on the airport express but they also sorted out our adult & senior Octopus cards at the same time and loaded them with credit. You will pay a deposit on the card which you can get refunded when you have finished with it.
The airport express train includes a FREE bus to area hotels. The customer information desk will give you a brochure showing you which bus to get for your hotel.
So now you have your train ticket(s) you can then go and board the Airport Express train to Kowloon Station – again, just follow the signs. All announcements are in Cantonese and English and its very clear on the train which stop you need (but its express so there are only like 2 stops).
At Kowloon Station, you then follow the signs for the airport express bus. On your brochure you will know which bus to get for your hotel, they are clearly marked. Note – You need to put your own luggage off/on the bus. Most routes look to only have a handful of stops and you just get off when you are the right stop – it was super obvious for our hotel (YMCA at Tsim Sha Tsui).
Using the MTR
We didn’t have need to use the bus system, we did use the ferry to go across to central but we found that the MTR got us pretty much anywhere we needed. The trains work much like most other major underground systems around the world and there is a handy iPad app called MTR Mobile which helps with the route if needed. I believe there is also an Android equivalent.
To use your Octopus card, just place your card on the reader and walk through the turnstile.
When you get to your destination stations, there will be large signs and maps which show which exit to take for each street or area attractions. Once out on the street, without fail, we found signs to attractions, markets and then back to the nearest station again. Very easy!
It works the same way on the ferries, and presumably the buses too.
When you go through the turnstile at the end of your journey, it shows you your current balance and the cost of that fare so you can keep track easily.
Most fares were well less than $HK10 for an adult, Disney was one place that it cost more. It appeared that seniors pay $HK2 for pretty much most places except the airport express and Disney.
At each station there are machines to show your current balance, separate machines to load extra credit and the single use ticket machines.
You may like to consider adding extra credit to your Octopus card as many places accept it for payment. You can use it in vending machines, to buy items at convenience stores, entry into museums and dozens of other places.
Departure & getting your refund
Repeat in reverse… catch the FREE airport express bus to Kowloon Station.
Now, most airlines have check-in desks at Kowloon Station, so you use your Octopus card, checkin, get your boarding passes and ditch your suitcase. Note – when using your card for the online checkin area, it takes the airport express fare off your card at this point, not arrival at the airport (so make sure you have enough credit on your card – I believe it was $HK90 each including seniors – this is one of the exceptions to the cheap public transport).
Then you head to the train. You need to use your card again, or use your card for the first time if you didn’t checkin already. If you used the checkin area, it won’t charge you again – don’t panic!
Once you get off the train at the airport, right where you get off (at least for Terminal 1), there is a customer service desk, just line up and get a refund on your card.
For reference, at time of writing, $HK10 is approximately $NZ1.50 and $US1.30.