Since 1997, an electronic money system, namely the Octopus card, has been introduced to provide a fast, efficient and convenient fares payment alternative to the traditional banknotes and coins. Available for purchase in every Mass Transit Railway stations, the Octopus card now is the payment method of choice for not only public transport (such as trains, buses, trams, ferries and minibuses) , but also widely used at parking meters, convenience stores, supermarkets, fast-food restaurants and some vending machines.
Hong Kong Island is dominated by steep, hilly terrain, which required the development of unusual methods of transport up and down the slopes. In Central and Western district, there is an extensive system of free escalators and moving pavements. The Mid-levels Escalator is the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world, operating downhill until 10 am for commuters going to work, and then operating uphill until midnight.
The Mid-levels Escalator consists of 20 escalators and 3 moving pavements. It is 800 metres long, and climbs 135 vertical metres. Total travel time is 20 minutes, but most people walk while the escalator moves to shorten the travel time. Due to its vertical climb, the same distance is equivalent to several miles of zigzagging roads if travelled by car. Daily traffic exceeds 35,000 people. It has been operating since 1993 and cost HK$ 240 million (USD $30 million) to build.
A second Mid-Levels escalator set is planned in Sai Ying Pun.
Hong Kong has an efficient train network. Public transport trains are operated by the MTR Corporation Limited (MTR). The MTR operates the metro network within inner urban Hong Kong, Kowloon Peninsula and northern part of Hong Kong Island with newly developed areas, Tsuen Wan, Tseung Kwan O, Tung Chung, Hong Kong Disneyland, the Hong Kong International Airport, the northeastern and northwestern parts of the New Territories. The Hong Kong Tramways operates a tram service exclusively on northern Hong Kong Island. The Peak Tram connects Central, Hong Kong's CBD, with the Victoria Peak.
There are altogether ten lines in the MTR system, with a total of 82 railway stations and 68 light rail stops. The ten lines are , , , , , , , , the and the . Eight of the lines provide ordinary metro services, whereas the Airport Express provides a direct link from the Hong Kong International Airport into the city centre, while the Disneyland Resort Line exclusively takes passengers to Hong Kong Disneyland.
The Light Rail possesses many characteristics of a tramway, including running on streets with other traffic (at grades) on some of its tracks and providing services for the public in New Territories West, including Tuen Mun and Yuen Long.
All trains and most MTR stations are air conditioned.
The Hong Kong Tramways is the tram (streetcar) system run exclusively with double deckers. The electric tram system was proposed in 1881; however nobody was willing to invest in a system at the time. In August 1901, the Second Tramway Bill was introduced and passed into law as the 1902 Tramway Ordinance. Hong Kong Tramway Electric Company Limited, a British company, was authorised to take the responsibilities in construction and daily operation. It was soon taken over by another company, Electric Tranction Company of Hong Kong Limited and then the name was changed to Hong Kong Tramways Company Limited in 1910.
The rail system is 13 kilometres (8 miles) long, with a total track length of 30 km (18.6 miles), and it runs together with other vehicles on the street. Its operation relies on the 550V direct current (d.c.) from the overhead cables, on 3'6" gauge (1067 mm) tracks. The trams provide service to only parts of Hong Kong Island: they run on a double track along the northern coast of Hong Kong Island from Kennedy Town to Shau Kei Wan, with a single clockwise-running track of about 3 kilometres (1.9 miles) around Happy Valley Racecourse.
Bus services have a long history in Hong Kong. In 2005, five companies operate franchised public bus services. There are also a variety of non-franchised public buses services, including feeder bus services to railway stations operated by the railway companies, and residents' services for residential estates (particularly those in the New Territories).
The five franchised bus companies are:
Founded in 1933, the Kowloon Motor Bus Company (1933) Limited (KMB) is one of the largest privately-owned public bus operators in the world. KMB's fleet consist of about 4,300 buses on 420 routes and a staff of over 13,000. In 1979, Citybus began its operation in Hong Kong with one double-decker, providing shuttle service for the Hong Kong dockyard. It later expanded into operating a residential bus route between City One, Shatin and Kowloon Tong MTR station. New World First Bus Services Limited was established in 1998, taking over China Motor Bus's franchise to provide bus services on Hong Kong Island together with Citybus. NWFB's owner company later bought Citybus, but the two companies have basically been operating independently.
Public light buses (小巴) (widely referred to as minibuses, or sometimes maxicabs, a de facto share taxi) run the length and breadth of Hong Kong, through areas which the standard bus lines can not or do not reach as frequently, quickly or directly. Minibuses carry a maximum of 16 passengers; no standees are allowed.
The Hong Kong Transport Department (HKTD) allows and licenses the operation of two types of public light buses - (1) green minibuses that have route numbers, stop at designated stops and whom have their fares, service and frequency regulated by the HKTD; and (2) red minibuses that may or may not have regular routes, may or may not be numbered, may or may not have fixed stops and whose fares and service levels are not regulated by HKTD.
Red minibuses do often provide more convenient supplementary transportation services for riders which aren't serviced by green minibuses or other public buses, and are thus quite popular to use. Where green minibus drivers are paid fixed wages to drive their routes, red minibus drivers often rely on their pick-up fares for a living and thus are often seen to be more aggressive drivers. The prevalence of aggressive driving has resulted in the HKTD making it mandatory for Hong Kong minibuses to be equipped with large read-out speedometers which allow passengers to track the speed at which minibus drivers operate. Currently, if minibuses exceed 80km/h, the speedometer will sound an audible warning signal (begin beeping) to the driver and passengers. If the minibus exceeds 100km/h, the beeping will turn into a sustained tone. However, it is almost without exception that this warning signal is ignored by both the driver and passengers. The HKTD has also regulated, after a series of minibus accidents, that all new minibuses brought into service after August 2005 have safety belts installed, and riders use these safety belts when riding in a minibus.
As of 2005, there were 18,138 taxis in Hong Kong, 15,250 of which were urban taxis, 2,838 New Territories taxis, and 50 Lantau taxis. Every day, they serve 1.1 million, 207,900, and 1,400 passengers respectively. Taxis carry an average of one million passengers each day, occupying about 12% of the daily patronage carried by all modes of public transport in Hong Kong.
Most of the taxis in Hong Kong run on LPG (liquified petroleum gas) for protection of the environment. In August 2000 a one-off cash grant was paid to taxi owners who replaced their diesel taxi with an LPG one. By the end of 2003, over 99.8% of the taxi fleet in Hong Kong ran on LPG. Since August 2001, all newly purchased taxis run on LPG.
Taxi fare is charged according to the taximeter; however, additional charges on the faretable may apply, such as road tolls and luggage fees. Red urban taxis are the most expensive, while blue Lantau taxis are the cheapest. The standard of service among different kinds of taxis is mostly the same. The reason for having three types of taxis is to ensure service availability in less populated regions, as running in the urban centre is considered to be more profitable.
Most cars are right hand drive models, from Japanese or European manufacturers. Hong Kong does not allow left hand drive vehicles to be primarily registered in Hong Kong. However, Hong Kong registered vehicles may apply for secondary mainland Chinese registration plates, and these can be driven across the boundary to mainland China; likewise, left hand drive cars seen in Hong Kong are usually primarily registered in mainland China and carry supplementary Hong Kong registration plates.
Cars are subjected to a first-time registration tax, which varies from 35% to over 100%, based on the size and value of the car. The level of vehicle taxation was increased by a law passed on 2 June 1982 to discourage private car ownership, and also as an incentive to buy smaller, more efficient cars, as these have less tax levied on them. First-time registration tax was doubled, annual licensing fees were increased by 300%, and $0.7 duty was imposed on each litre of on light oils.
In addition to the heavy traffic at times, parking may be problematic. Due to high urban density, there are not many filling stations; Petrol in Hong Kong averages around US$1.55 per litre, of which around half the cost is taxes. It was suggested in the news that that the government had deliberately impeded the use of new environmentally friendly diesel engines by allowing only light goods vehicles to be fuelled by diesel. While it cannot be determined why exactly the government does not allow private cars to be fuelled by diesel, it has been pointed out that the government does receive a tax that is 150% of the actual fuel cost. This is mostly to discourage car ownership for environmental reason.
There is a waiting list for local driving tests, while a full (private car) driver's license valid for 10 years costs around US$115. Residents of Hong Kong holding foreign licenses can get a Hong Kong drivers license if they present a valid license from a "recognised" country. Private car owners often provide taxi service for a nominal fee. The term white card describes these drivers.
The following companies operate ferry services in Hong Kong:
Fortune Ferry (富裕小輪)
Coral Sea Ferry (珊瑚海船務)
TurboJet provides 24-hour services, connecting Central and Macau. Its highest frequency is 15 minutes. It also provides the following regular services:
Chu Kong Passenger Transport (CKS) connects Hong Kong to cities in Guangdong province, including Zhuhai (Jiuzhou), Shenzhen (Shekou), Zhongshan, Lianhua Shan (Panyu), Jiangmen, Gongyi, Sanbu, Gaoming, Heshan, Humen, Nanhai, Shunde, Doumen.
There are two gondola lift systems in Hong Kong:
The port of Hong Kong has always been a key factor in the development and prosperity of the special administrative region, which is strategically located on the Far East trade routes and is in the geographical centre of the fast-developing Asia-Pacific Basin. The sheltered harbour provides good access and a safe haven for vessels calling at the port from around the world. In terms of tonnage of shipping using its facilities, cargo handled and the number of passengers carried, Hong Kong is undoubtedly one of the major ports of the world.
The Victoria Harbour is one of the busiest ports in the world. An average of 220,000 ships visit the harbour each year, including both oceanliners and river vessels, for both goods and passengers. The container port in Hong Kong is one of the busiest in the world. The Kwai Chung Terminal operates 24 hours a day. Together with other facilities in Victoria Harbour, they handled more than in 2003. Some 400 container liners serve Hong Kong weekly, connecting to over 500 destinations around the world.
Hong Kong only has one active international airport. The famous former Hong Kong International Airport at Kai Tak was retired in favour of the recently constructed Hong Kong International Airport, also known as Chek Lap Kok International Airport. The airport now serves as a transport hub for East Asia, and as the hub for Cathay Pacific Airways, Dragonair, Hong Kong Express, Hong Kong Airlines (former CR Airways),Air Hong Kong, and Oasis Hong Kong. Ferry services link the airport with several piers in Pearl River Delta, where immigrations and customs are exempted.
The airport is the third busiest airport for passenger traffic in Asia, and the world's second busiest airport for cargo traffic in 2003. In terms of international traffic, the airport is the third busiest for passenger traffic and the busiest for cargo since its operation in 1998. It is popular with travellers — from 2001 to 2005 Hong Kong International Airport has been voted the world's best airport in an annual survey of several million passengers worldwide by Skytrax.
According to the Guinness World Records, the passenger terminal of the HKIA is the world's largest airport terminal building, with a covered area of 550,000 m² and recently increased to 570,000 m². The Airport Core Programme was the most expensive airport project in the world.
Shek Kong Airfield, located near Yuen Long, is a military airfield for the People's Liberation Army, which is of limited operating capabilities due to surrounding terrains. The only aircraft operating on the airfield are PLA's Z-9 helicopters, which is the license-built version of the Eurocopter Dauphin.
Heli Express operates regular helicopter service between Macao Heliport (ICAO:VMMH) on the Macau Ferry Terminal in Macau and the Shun Tak Helipot. There are around 16 flights daily. Flights take approximately 20 minutes in the eight-seater aircraft.
There are also a number of helipads across the territory, including the roof of the Peninsula Hotel (which is the only rooftop helipad in the territory, excluding the rooftop heliport of Shun Tak Centre and those in hospitals) and Cheung Chau Island, between Tung Wan Beach and Kwun Yam Beach.
There are 9 roads classified as highways in Hong Kong and re-numbered from 1 to 9 in 2004. Route 1 to 3 are in north-south direction and crossing three Cross-Harbour Tunnels while others are in east-west direction:
Route 6 (Hong Kong) is an unbuilt and proposed highway.
There are 15 vehicular tunnels (3 currently under construction) in Hong Kong. They include three cross-harbour tunnels and nine road tunnels.
The other road tunnels and bridges which are proposed or under construction are: