Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hong Kong Transportation - Octopus Card

Octopus Card
If you are going to explore Hong Kong on your own, this is your first thing to do – buy an Octopus card.

Upon your landing at the Hong Kong International Airport, you can buy an Octopus card from the Airport Express customer service counter. If you are in town already, you can buy one from any MTR station customer service centres.

This is an extremely convenient tool for you to get on any public transportation in Hong Kong without worrying about coins and changes.

The Octopus Card is a stored valued card which requires a HK$50 refundable deposit plus a basic ticket value of HK$100, your initial investment is HK$150. However the value shown on the card wouldn’t include the deposit. You are allowed a maximum of HK$35 overdraw. You can add value to the card of not exceeding HK$900 at a time.

Hong Kong transportations that accept Octopus payment are:
Airport Express, MTR, Light Rail, Star Ferry and other ferries, Tram, Peak Tram, green van and limited number of taxis.

The beauty of the Octopus Card does not only limit to Hong Kong transportation. Actually a lot of retail shops accept Octopus payment, such as MacDonald’s, 7-Eleven and many others.

You can purchase an Octopus Card at any of these locations:
• Airport Express Customer Service Centres
• MTR Customer Service Centres
• Light Rail Customer Service Centres

• Add value points - All outlets of 7-Eleven and Circle K Convenience Stores

Hong Kong Travel - Transportation

Friday, February 20, 2009

Hong Kong Transportation - MTR & Airport Express

Hong Kong MTR and Airport Express

Whenever time is of essence, I take MTR. It has proved to be a safe, reliable and efficient public Hong Kong transportation. Its air-conditioned cabin does not allow eating and drinking. This makes your journey to be extra comfortable.

Minimum fare is HK$4 (US$0.5). Within major urban area is just HK$11 (US$1.4). MTR offers around 10% discount to Octopus users. MTR is extremely convenient to take you to everywhere in Hong Kong.

MTR Route Map & Fare Table
The whole of Hong Kong, Kowloon, New Territories and Lantau Island are connected by a very well developed railway system which consists of MTR, KCR, Light Rail, Airport Express, Disney Line and Shatin racecourse. Find out the interchange stations on the map, and you are able to go to almost anywhere in Hong Kong.

Click the small MTR route map to gain access to a full-scale full-colour route map with interchange station info. Here are the major MTR routes:

Hong Kong Line – between Chai Wan (east) and Sheung Wan (west)

Tsuen Wan Line – between Central (HK) and Tsuen Wan (New Territories)

Kwun Tong Line – between Yau Ma Tei (Kowloon) and Kwun Tong (Kowloon)

Tung Chung Line – between Central and Tung Chung (Lantau Island)

Disney Line – change at Sunny Bay along Tung Chung Route

Hong Kong Airport Express
Airport Express is a high speed rail operated by MTR. It takes you from Airport to Central in just 23 minutes at a toll of HK$100 (US$12.8). Airport Express provides free porter service, free shuttle bus and free MTR connections. Airport Express is luxurious, comfortable, fast and reliable.

MTR Interchange Station: Central, Kowloon, Tsing Yi

Special Note:

As soon as the Airport Express leaves Lantau Island, it will run through the state-of-the-art Tsing Ma Bridge (which is the logo of my blog) and continues its way into the city. As you might know that the Hong Kong International Airport was built from 0 on the land of Lantau Island. The Tsing Ma Bridge is an important part of the airport transportation network, and has now become a landmark of Hong Kong.

Airport Express Tickets Online
Though it is extremely easy to buy an Airport Express ticket or Octopus card at the arrival hall of the Hong Kong International Airport, you can choose to buy tickets on line.

Hong Kong Travel - Transportation

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hong Kong Transportation - Star Ferry

Hong Kong Star Ferry
is one of the most important Hong Kong transportations for locals and visitors. It takes passengers from Central or Wanchai to Tsimshatsui. Its upper deck costs only HK$2.2 (US$0.28).

Star Ferry is cheap, but it is great. The five-minute ride between Central and Tsimshatsui is the best way to view the Hong Kong skyline and the world-famous Victoria Harbour. The view on board is extremely stunning especially at night. Locals like me always make excuses to ride on Star Ferry, only for the view.

Star Ferry Locations
Star Ferry is a famous place in Hong Kong. Hence taxi drivers all know. But please specify which Star Ferry you are going to (e.g. Wanchai, or Central), as there are two piers on Hong Kong side and two on Kowloon side.

Hong Kong side

Wanchai – Access by footbridge from Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre

Central – Harbour front outside the Two International Financial Centre

Kowloon side
Tsimshatsui – next to Hong Kong Cultural Centre
Hung Hom – residential area

Route Map and Fare Table

Recommended Route
The route connecting Central and Tsimshashui is highly recommended. Not only it is cheap, it also offers the best views of Hong Kong and the Victoria Harbour. Also Central and Tsimshatsui are both connected to major tourist spots in Hong Kong. Have fun. Mark this is a ‘must’ for your Hong Kong travel.

Star Ferry Fare
Central/Tsimshatsui - Adult: HK$2.2 (upper deck) / HK$1.7 (lower deck)
If you want to stay close to water and enjoy the harbour breeze, please go on the lower deck. However you would have to put up with a bit of noise, as the engine room is there.

Operating Hours
06:30 – 23:30 – every 6 to 10 minutes

Hong Kong Travel - Transportation

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hong Kong Transportation - Peak Tram

Hong Kong Peak Tram
The Peak Tram is one of the earliest public transportations in Hong Kong. It is a funicular railway and is the shortest yet most scenic route to the Peak of Hong Kong. The whole journey takes seven minutes with four stops.

Peak Tram is not only a vehicle, it is a unique experience of your Hong Kong travel.

It takes you up an incline as steep as one in two, almost perpendicular at some points. Buildings look like they are leaning at a 45-degree angle. They just look like a jungle of buildings with extreme density. It’s going to be an unforgettable experience.

Hong Kong Peak Tram Fare
Single journey: HK25 (c.US$3.2)
Return journey: HK$36 (c.US$4.6)
Children (3-11) / Senior (65 or above): HK$9 for single / HK$16 for return

Operating Hours
07:00 – midnight – every 10 to 15 minutes

Peak Tram Connection Bus 15C
Peak Tram town station is located at Garden Road in Central. It is just a minute’s walk from the Bank of China Tower or the Cheung Kong Center.

It is connected to Central Pier 7 (next to Star Ferry) by open-top bus number 15C.

If you want to go to the Victoria Peak, this is a great way to experience Hong Kong.

Open top bus 15C: HK$4.2 (Air-Conditioned or Open Top)

Hong Kong Travel - Transportation

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hong Kong Transportation - Tram

Hong Kong tram is one of the most historical local transportation. It’s been running on the northern coast of Hong Kong island since 1904 - From Shaukeiwan in the east to Kennedy Town in the west These east-west bound double-deckers run on rail have a fleet of 163 plus two antique trams.

Tram Tour
Trams run at a relatively slow pace through major residential areas and major commercial / shopping areas of Central and Causeway Bay.

Hong Kong trams are sometimes crowded, especially during peak hours, Sunday and holidays. They are not air-conditioned, you might feel uneasy during summer time. However their speed is slow, therefore they are good for sight seeing.

I would suggest a trip from Central to Causeway Bay where you can see the busiest and the most interesting part of the Hong Kong city. From Central, hop on any east-bound route, or vise versa from Causeway Bay. In either cases, avoid the Happy Valley route, or you won’t be able to see the best city views of Hong Kong.

Tram Stops / Route Map
You will notice that tram stops are sometimes very close to each other. Therefore if you are in a rush, this might not be the best choice of transportation. Some of the major tram stops have covers (see photo) while some others don’t. There are route maps at each of the stops indicating where you are and what the next and previous stops are. However some of them are not quite noticeable, you need to find them.

Download Hong Kong Tram Route Map

Hong Kong Tram Fare
Adult: HK$2 (c.US$0.26)
Child & Senior : HK$1 (c.US$0.13)

This is probably one of the cheapest means of transportation in the world.

You have to pay exact fare – drivers are not responsible for changes. You can pay by your Octopus card.

Operating Hours
06:00 – 24:00

Environmental Friendly
I am the green representative at the company I work for. I go to work everyday on tram and walk home after work. Hong Kong tram is one of the most environmental transportations that I recommend.

Hong Kong Travel - transportation

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Hong Kong Transportation - Taxi

Hong Kong Taxi

In Hong Kong, taxi is the most convenient point-to-point transportation. However due to the small area of land and high density of vehicles, there are lots of restricted areas where taxis cannot stop in certain hours of a day.

Taxi passengers are required by law to wear their seat belts.

Hong Kong Taxi Fare
First 2 Kilometers: HK$18 (c.US$2.3)
Every subsequent 200 metres:
* HK$1.5 (For meter fare below $70.5)
* HK$1 (For meter fare $70.5 and above)

The fare system is designed to lower the expenses for long-journey customers. However due to the inflation in international oil price, taxi drivers had been kept yelling for fare raising.

The taxi fare from Airport to Central in Hong Kong would be around HK$350 (c.US$45).

Additional Charges
* Cross Harbour Tunnel Fee
* Baggages
* Birds and pets
* Wheelchairs
* Any other chargeable items
See detailed Hong Kong Taxi Fare Table

Taxi Receipts and Tipping
Receipts are available, but you need to ask for it, or the taxi driver won’t give you one proactively.

Tipping is not necessary. However some drivers might not give you exact change due to shortage of coins.

Red Taxi and Green Taxi
Hong Kong Taxi has two colours – red and green. The red ones are urban taxis which can run everywhere. The green ones are only allowed to operate within the New Territories and Lantau Island. Green taxi fare is slightly lower with the first 2 kilometers of HK$14.5 only (c.US$1.85) but you need to change to a red taxi at some point if you are going from the New Territories to Kowloon or Hong Kong island.

Hong Kong Travel - Transportation

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hong Kong Weather

Time zone:
GMT +8 (+7 during summer)

Longitude: 114.6 E

Latitude: 22.4 N

Flower of Hong Kong: Bauhinia

Hong Kong weather carries the typical feature of oceanic climate with hot and humid summer; cold and dry winter. Hence the best season to travel Hong Kong is spring and autumn, namely February/March and October/November. In these days, you are almost guaranteed of good weather and less number of tourists and relatively low hotel rates.

You must agree that weather is an important factor that will seriously affect your travel pleasure. So let’s get to know more about the weather of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Weather - General
Hong Kong weather is never too extreme. In summer, it seldom goes beyond 33ºC, and in winter, it seldom goes below 10ºC.

Though summer is hot, Hong Kong is fitted with air conditioning everywhere. Once you are indoor, you are fine. As Hong Kong weather is never too severe in winter, public places don’t have heaters on.

English Hong Kong weather information: dial 18501 when in Hong Kong. Expect some advertising to begin with.

Hong Kong Weather - Typhoons
One important thing you need to know about Hong Kong weather is typhoon. Typhoons occur between May and October every year. When signal number 8 is up, offices close and transportation services stop. Flights may be disrupted or cancelled. You are advised not to venture outdoors.

Typhoon signals are ranked 1, 3, 8, 9 and 10. While 9 and 10 denote a direct hit, it rarely happens. Our last number 10 was in 1999 and the previous one was in 1983. But there is generally a couple of number 8’s annually.

Nevertheless, please have an umbrella with you while visiting Hong Kong in summer. It protects you from sun and rain.

Hong Kong Weather - Rainstorms Warning
Another typical feature of Hong Kong weather is rain. Hong Kong rains quite a lot in summer. We have four levels of rainstorm warnings: thunderstorm, amber, red and black. Black rainstorm warning is somewhat like typhoon signal number 8. Most people don’t have to work when a ‘black rain’ is up. As a tourist, you are advised not to leave your hotel.

Anna’s Notes
Hong Kong is safe to be visited in summer. Though it rains a lot, flooding and landslide rarely happens nowadays. Be prepared to put up with the heat, or choose to visit in autumn.

Hong Kong Travel - Weather

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hong Kong Airport

World’s Best Airport 2001–2005, 2007, 2008
Hong Kong International Airport (Chek Lap Kok Airport) is the World’s Best Airport.

In July 2008, it was voted the world's best airport for the seventh time in eight years in the annual
Skytrax survey.

This state-of-the-art airport not only impressed passengers by its design and facilities. The traveling public is obviously more convinced by its customer services and efficiency in immigration and customs checks. All these together convinced millions of travelers ranking Hong Kong International Airport number one.

Hong Kong Airport Information
Open in July 6, 1998 by Chairman Jiang Zemin. Prior to its official opening, former US President Bill Clinton flew in from China and became one of the pioneer passengers to use the Hong Kong Airport.

* Distance from city - 34 km
* Free luggage cart
* Free porter service
* Facilities for passengers with mobility and sensory disabilities
* No-driver shuttle train connecting passengers to distant boarding gates
* Travelex Worldwide Money – 11 outlets at convenient locations.

From Airport to city

Airport Express
- luxurious, comfortable, fast and reliable

Airport Express takes you to the city in Central in 23 minutes. You can choose to get off at Kowloon Station if your hotel is on Kowloon side.

After exiting the customs check, just walk about 50 meters straight ahead, the Airport Express is there waiting for you. You don’t need to pre-book any ticket. Simply buy a ticket at the ticket booth right after the customs check or at a vending machine. There is no need to queue for a ticket.

Airport Express offers the following free services to their passengers:
* Free Airport Express shuttle bus service
* Free porter service at Airport, Tsing Yi, Kowloon and Hong Kong stations
* Free in-town check-in service
* Central Station provides check-in service 24 hours ahead of your departure time
* Free MTR connections

Taxi is the most convenient door-to-door transportation, though relatively pricy. From airport to central Hong Kong is around HK$350. You would have to pay for cross-harbour tunnel toll and luggage fee. Taxi passengers are required to wear seat belts by law.
Tipping taxi drivers are not necessary.

Airport Buses
Airport buses are comfortable, reasonably fast and economic. They are air-conditioned with in-bus display and announcement to ensure you get off at the right stop. The following two routes run pass major hotels on Hong Kong Island.

A11 – HK$40, operate 06:10 – 24:00 daily Hotels on the route: Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental, Ritz Carlton, Marriott, Island Shangrila, Conrad, Empire, New Harbour, Wesley, Wharney, Century, Excelsior, Park Lane, Regal HK Hotel, Rosedale, City Garden Hotel, Newton Hotel, South China Hotel.

A12 – HK$45, operate 06:00 – 24:00 daily Hotels on the route: Mandarin Oriental, Ritz Carlton, Harbour View International House, Grand Hyatt, Renaissance, Luk Kwok Hotel.

Departing Hong Kong
Departure process is simple and fast. Once you get your boarding pass, you can proceed to the Immigration. You would go through simple x-ray security screening of your hand luggage. You have to put your laptop, wallets and other valuables on trays. Customs officers give each passenger a numbered card in exchange of each tray at the other end. The process is simple however safeguards your valuables while temporarily unattended.

Facilities at the Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok Airport

Eating at the Hong Kong Airport
The Hong Kong Airport is lovely, spacious, light and clean with great shops, good lounges and restaurants. You must be pleased by the choice and quality of food here.

There are plenty of choices if you want to eat at the Hong Kong International Airport. Chain stores like McDonald's and 7-Eleven sell at same prices as their other shops in town.

Coffee lovers will be happy to find five beautiful and comfortable Starbucks here (Airport Gate 2, 16 & 28, Airport Level 5 pre-immigration hall and restricted area). Pacific Coffee also has two shops at the Departure Level.

Shopping at the Hong Kong Airport
Hong Kong is a shoppers’ paradise. The Hong Kong International Airport has seven floors of and over 100 shops and services to meet travelers’ needs. If your schedule allows, I would recommend you come three hours ahead of your departure time and explore this award-winning airport.

Relaxing or Working at the Hong Kong Airport
Want to relax or still need to work while waiting? Well, here is a suggestion. For just a fixed fee, all these are yours: hot showers, food & beverage buffet, internet and e-mail, movies and music, CNN area, magazines and newspaper, massage chairs and seated massage.

Fee schedule: HK$400 for 2 hours; HK$500 for 5 hours; HK$600 for 10 hours.
Hong Kong Airport - Plaza Premium Lounge
Open 24 hours daily

Hong Kong Travel - Hong Kong International Airport

Monday, February 9, 2009

Hong Kong Flights

It is extremely easy to look for Hong Kong flights to travel Hong Kong. As a major Asia transportation hub, there are numerous daily direct flights connecting Hong Kong to major cities in Europe and N. America.

Boeing long-range aircrafts 747, 767, 763 are widely used.

I have short-listed some major carriers for your reference.

Daily Non-stop
Cathay Pacific – from London, New York, San Francisco, Vancouver, Tokyo, Sydney and Johannesburg
British Airways and Virgin – from London
Lufthansa – from Frankfurt
S. African Airline – from Johannesburg
Qantas – from Sydney and Melbourne

Other Non-stop Hong Kong Flights
Cathay Pacific – from Frankfurt to Hong Kong every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday

Travel Hours Required To Fly To Hong Kong
New York - 16.20
San Francisco - 14
Vancouver - 13.25
Johannesburg - 13.10
London - 11.45
Frankfurt - 11
Sydney - 9.20
Tokyo - 4.45

Find the best flight/hotel deal in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Travel Blog

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Hong Kong Visa

Hong Kong is one of the easiest accessible places in the world. We have a liberal visa policy. Nationals of more than 170 countries can travel here without a visa and stay from seven days to six months.Click here for details of Hong Kong visa requirements.

Below is a short list for your quick reference.

Visa is not required if visit not exceeding 14 days
India, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Vatican City

Visa is not required if visit not exceeding 30 days
Indonesia, South Africa, Thailand, UAE

Visa is not required if visit not exceeding 90 days
Australia, Austria, Belgium, Britain (British Overseas Territories citizens, British Overseas citizens, British subjects and British Protected persons), Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, USA

Visa is not required if visit not exceeding 180 days

United Kingdom (British Citizen)

Visa is required for whatever purposes including those who are in transit and remain on the airside

Democratic Republic of Congo (Formerly known as Zaire), Republic of Cote D’Ivoire, Eritrea, Iraq, Liberia, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Somalia

Visa is required for whatever purposes including those who are in transit and remain on the airside (except holders of Diplomatic and Official passports)

Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka

Hong Kong Visa Requirements
It takes usually four weeks to process a visa for Hong Kong. You should acquire a visa before traveling to Hong Kong. Visa fee is HK$135.

More details about
Hong Kong visa

Hong Kong Travel

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Hong Kong Overview

As the Chinese New Year celebrations are over, let’s start to get familiar with Hong Kong with some basic facts. We will then follow by ‘where to stay’, ‘where to go’ and ‘where to eat’.

Best Time to Travel Hong Kong
Autumn - October and November. These two months are relatively cool and without much rain. If you come in the rainy season of June, July and August, you would have to put up with high temperature (over 30°C) and humidity, heavy rain or even typhoon.

Hong Kong Geography
At the southeast coast of China, Hong Kong is basically built around the world famous Victoria Harbour. It consists of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Peninsula, the New Territories and some outlying islands. Total area is around 1,092 square km. However we have a population of almost 7 million. So when you travel Hong Kong, you would expect to see a lot of people everywhere.

The Hong Kong International Airport is located on one of the largest outlying islands Lantau. It went into operation in 1997 and has been continuously voted as the World’s Best Airport since 2001. It is connected to the city in Central by Airport Express and the whole journey is only 23 minutes.

click picture for larger view

Hong Kong is a completely bilingual city. Chinese and English are the official languages. Most of locals speak Cantonese. As a matter of history, English is widely spoken and you would have no difficulties traveling here speaking English.

Hong Kong Dollar. Packed exchange rate HKD 7.8: USD 1 – since 1983.

Brief History
Hong Kong, one of the world's most popular tourist destinations, was actually a small fishing village some 150 years ago. Opium War in the 19th Century was responsible for all the changes – when British took over the sovereignty, turned this quiet, out-of-the-way village into a modern, vibrant and sparkling jewel of a city which is nowadays Asia’s World City.

In July of 1997, China re-gained her power of sovereignty over Hong Kong and established a Special Administrative Region (or SAR). In the exchange, China agreed with the British Government that until 2047, Hong Kong will enjoy a high degree of autonomy in all matters, except foreign and defense.

More of Hong Kong history – visit my other Hong Kong Travel website

Monday, February 2, 2009

Chinese New Year Zodiac Animals

One of the hot topics when travel Hong Kong during Chinese New Year is about the zodiac animals. You might have already known that the Chinese calendar has a set of matching animals which is always associated with Chinese horoscope.

There are two sets of indexes governing the Chinese calendar namely 10 Tiangan (heaven) (天干) and 12 Dizhi (ground) (地支). Each year is named by the combination of one Tiangan and one Dizi. The set of zodiac animals match with each of the Dizi index. Hence the same index and matching animal will repeat in a 60-year cycle. The leading animal, Rat, matches the Dizhi index of ‘zi 子'. 2009 is the first runner up Ox, which corrresponds with the Dizhi index of 'chou 丑'.

The current 60-year cycle in the Chinese calendar started on February 2, 1984, which is year of ‘Jia Zi 甲子’ and ‘Rat’. Given below are some dates for the past Chinese New Year and the future Chinese New Year.

Rat February 7, 2008
Ox January 26, 2009
Tiger February 10, 2010
Rabbit February 3, 2011
Dragon January 23, 2012
Snake February 10, 2013
Horse January 31, 2014
Sheep February 19, 2015
Monkey February 9, 2016
Rooster January 28, 2017
Dog February 16, 2018
Pig February 5, 2019

Would you like to know your own animal? Mind you, telling your Chinese zodiac animal will give a general indication of your age, as each animal appears every 12 years. So if you don’t want to tell your age, better not to tell your zodiac animal.

Click on the link below and type in your year of birth. You will then find out your own zodiac animal and the associated horoscope for the year of 2009.

Chinese Zodiac Animal

Note: Chinese New Year usually occurs between mid January to mid February. If your birthday happens to be in early January, your zodiac animal might belong to the previous year's. If you are in doubt, drop me a note and I'll confirm for you.

Hong Kong Travel Blog - Chinese New Year