Aside from a walk on The Peak, taking a ride on the Star Ferry is another must while visiting Hong Kong.
If you’re a tourist on a tight schedule, chances are you’ll only be able to take the ride once. When it’s time to board you need to know which seats will give you the best view and photo opportunities. Sitting on the wrong side, in the wrong place will squander the trip.
Though the Star Ferry ride is now shorter than it once was (due to the relocation of the pier,) the brief trip still offers a fantastic view of the city at any time of night or day.
To get the best view, first make sure you take the entrance to the upper deck. In the Tsim Sha Tsui and Central ferry terminals, you know you’re headed to the upper deck if you’re one level higher than the ground floor. Another way of confirming this is by the fee, which is a mere 2.2 HKD for a one-way ride on top.
After you figure out the new token machines, and proceed through the turnstile, you will normally be waiting for the next ferry to arrive. During most times of the day, there will be a new ferry every five minutes or so.
In the terminal there are two slips, one on either side. Typically the next boat leaves from the opposite berth than the last ferry departed from. You should make your way to the entranceway and stand in line before the electronic gate swings open.
For the best photos you should sit in the outdoor seating area. The outdoor seating area takes up the middle of the boat and is divided into two parts. The ferry also has indoor seating at the front and back ends of the boat, but this is not the ideal spot for taking photos.[photopress:Star_Ferry_Hong_Kong_HK.jpg,full,pp_image] The down arrow points to an ideal seat at the end of the row. In the photo above, the back support would need to be pushed in the opposite direction so that you could face forwards, heading towards Tsim Sha Tsui.
As you board in Central, you should sit on the right side of the boat. This will give you an excellent view of the interior of the harbor, including landmarks such as the Bank of China, the Convention Center and Tsim Sha Tsui’s Cultural Center. The other side faces the exterior of the harbor, Discovery Bay, and less notable parts of Hong Kong and Kowloon. If you are boarding from Tsim Sha Tsui, heading towards Central, you’re going to want to sit on the left side of the boat to get the best view.
Ideally you will want to be one of the first to board and the first in your row. If there are already too many people on line, and you’re afraid you won’t get a good seat, don’t despair. Hang back and catch the next boat, it’s usually just 5 minutes away. (Even if there are people on line, you’ll have an edge, since you’re going to know which are the best seats before you even board!)
The bench seats on Star Ferry have a movable back support that can be changed depending on which direction the boat is traveling. Once you board, you will often need to push it back, so that you travel facing forwards. (Facing the wrong way is a sure sign you’re a tourist!) The boat always goes in the direction of the destination. So when you’re boarding from Tsim Sha Tsui, the boat will be facing Central and traveling towards towards Central.
You may have to switch the back-support to the correct direction before you sit. Look for the opening in between the thin columns. You’re going to want to sit in a space where the view is unobstructed. (O.K., it doesn’t make a huge difference, but it will provide you with the best opportunity for taking video and photos.) If you can’t get the seat you want in the first section of the boat, there are other good seats towards the back in the second section of outdoor seating. Look for a row where there will be a clear view not blocked by the columns and sit in the seat closest to the water.
To recap: sit on the upper deck on the correct side of the boat: right side leaving from Central, left side from Tsim Sha Tsui. Enjoy!
For more tourist info, check out my post on Hong Kong in only 1 day!