The MTR – H.K.’s Subway System

A train during non-peak hours

A crowded train

I’ve mentioned the MTR in several of my previous posts. The MTR (Mass Transit Railway,) is Hong Kong’s subway system that stretches to 53 stations and is used by over 2.4 million people each day. Every car is extremely clean, air-conditioned, well lit, and completely safe. They are likewise graffiti free, although they are occasionally covered in advertisements (some of which are actually innovative and cool). The train’s cars are open, with no doors in between, so you can look down the entire length of the train for as far as you can see. Many of the platforms are enclosed which keeps the tracks clean, and prevents accidents.

Hong Kong’s MTR system is less complex than other subway systems around the world, which makes it easy to get around and simple to use. There are several different lines that intersect, but nothing as complex as New York or Tokyo. Should you have a question, there are station manager booths with people to provide information or address any problems with your ticket. Announcements of stops are made after the doors close. All announcements are made in Cantonese, English, and Mandarin. Maps of the system are located above the train doors in every car. There are five major lines, plus the Airport Express. Each line has a different color theme. Trains run from 6am to 1am. There is even a new Disneyland Resort Line with specially customized trains. Mobile phones work perfectly throughout the system. Click the image below to see a map of the MTR system.

Click to see the full system map!

In many of the stations there are 7-11 or Circle-K convenience stores (although no eating or drinking is allowed on the trains.) Each station has ATM machines, and many also feature small bank branches. A popular place to select to meet friends is usually at the bank.

There are two ways to get through the turnstile (more like a small gate) to catch a train. One way is by purchasing a ticket, the other way is by using an Octopus card. To purchase a ticket, simply go to one of the ticket vending machines in the station. You pay a fee based on your destination. Just press the destination, and the machine will calculate your fare. You can pay either by coins, or small bills – as some of the machines take ten and twenty dollar bills. However the preferred method of payment is via Octopus card.

Octopus card

Octopus cards are stored value cards that work by radio waves. You don’t need to take them out of your wallet or bag, simply touch it to the right place on the turnstile and you can proceed. You can use your Octopus card (or the even cooler – in a geek way – Octopus watch,) to make small transactions as well as pay for your fare on everything except taxis including: the MTR, busses, ferries, trains, trams, and mini-bus. You can also make purchases from convenience stores, McDonald’s, Starbucks, and the two major grocery stores chains (Park N Shop and Wellcome.) The rechargeable Octopus cards can be purchased for $150 HKD and are available at the station booths.

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