My friend, CeCe, had gone on and on about the MTR (subway) in Hong Kong when she had been there for 3 weeks on business last August. She only had the mornings to tour around before she had to be at work, so she would hop on the subway and head in whatever direction she wanted to go. She saw more in those few hours each morning than I did with full days to explore.
On our last trip to Hong Kong, we did not take advantage of the MTR. We mainly walked or took the ferry to where we wanted to go. We were only in Hong Kong about two days at the beginning of our trip, so this wasn’t a big deal for us. We were so jet lagged, who knows where we might have ended up.
During this trip however, Dek and I got out to see the sights a bit more. I actually had a semi-plan for our last few days before we flew to Osaka. This is rare for me, as many of you know. I did not have extra hands to help me, so the MTR became a mini-lifeline as I navigated the city and tried not to over exert myself by walking too much. It was also way too hot to walk everywhere. The MTR was not only practical transport, it was also a quick a/c break.
Riding the Hong Kong MTR is very easy. It’s actually one of the easiest subways I have ever ridden and it’s pretty extensive. The ticket system works similarly to the Shenzhen subway system. You simply go up to the machine and touch the point on the map that you would like to go. It then tells you how much the fare will be, you deposit your money, it spits out a ticket, and you are on your way. Each subway line is color coated and named, so just head in the direction of your color and named line. Once you are on the platform for your train, there are helpful signs and maps to tell you which direction you are going on the line.
The actual trains are clean and efficient. I never had to wait more than a few minutes for a train to arrive. My favorite feature is that you actually can’t fall onto the track. There is a wall up with doors that open once the train has pulled into the station. I love this because it keeps out that oh so familiar subway smell. You know the one. It smells like dirt, dead rat and hot air.
The cars are air conditioned and most gentlemen will offer their seat up, if the train is crowded, to a single mom traveling with her squirmy child. It is easy to keep track of where you are at, since the stop that you are approaching will light up on the map in the subway car. This was handy for me since I always assume I am going in the opposite direction that I want to go, and I will always be on the local train when I need to be on the express.
I only rode one line north a few times, but I know CeCe road on several lines. She lived in New York for several years after college, so the MTR was no sweat for her. If you are not a subway veteran, have no fear, most, if not all, signs are in English, as well as Cantonese/Mandarin, and if you get stuck, there are customer service desks at the station to help you on your way.
Tip: I did not find Hong Kong very handicap accessible. Not all stations have elevators, which makes it a bit difficult when traveling with a child in a stroller. You may have to visit several different entrances to the same station in order to find one. In the end, I just picked Dek up in his umbrella stroller and walked down the steps, or I took him out of the stroller and carried him down, while I held the collapsed stroller.