Public Transport in hong Kong
The Octopus Travel Card
If you're going to be spending any time in Hong Kong, the Octopus Card is something that will almost certainly become a part of your everyday life. It is a credit card sized rechargeable payment card used for a variety of things but is primarily used for public transport. It does not have to be inserted into a card reader like an ATM card, in fact you don't even have to take it out of your wallet. It is simply waved over a sensor and the correct amount is either deducted or added to your balance immediately. First time visitors to Hong Kong are often confused and amused to see people waving their wallets or handbags over the card readers as they board buses etcetera but it soon becomes obvious how convenient the system is.
Since its introduction in 1997, it has grown to become a versatile system. Its uses include buses, trains (in fact almost the entire public transport network of Hong Kong), convenience stores such as 7-11, parking meters, fast food restaurants and is now being used for access control to office buildings, residential complexes, even tracking the attendance of school children.
In fact, it has been so successful, other locations around the world are adopting the system.
For many people, it has almost completely taken away the need to carry loose change. Even short term visitors comment on the usefulness of the card (the cards are very easy to obtain and set up) so as an expat in Hong Kong, the card is indispensable.
The English name of the card is an adaptation of the Chinese name. The number 8 has significance in the Chinese language in that it can mean 'many' and is also considered to be lucky. Either the English and Chinese names for the card can be interpreted as 'many' or 'infinite possible uses' (hence the symbol for infinity in the cards logo).
Cards can be purchased at any rail station and no identification is required. This means that if you lose your card, you have no way of recovering any credit you had left on your card. However, as some people prefer anonymity, no personal information is stored about you. A maximum credit balance of 1000 Hong Kong Dollars is possible. You may also go slightly into debit as an emergency 'get home' feature. A 50 HKD deposit is required.
Personalised Octopus cards are also available with the cardholders name and picture (the picture is optional) and this card has extra functionality (such as building access features).
Other options include watches and cell phone covers with the Octopus chip embedded.
The Mid-Levels Escalator
It is one of the most unique public transportation systems in the world. It holds the title of being the longest such escalator system, at 800 metres in length and with an elevation of 135 metres from start to finish. It is covered for it's entire length, to protect from the elements.
The Central to Mid-Levels Escalator system was conceived to reduce traffic problems in the Central and Western district, the core of Hong Kong's economic and business activities. The areas on the hills and mountains above, known as the Mid-Levels, are popular with expatriates, who usually have offices down in Central. The escalators make it possible to walk to work.
From start to finish, it takes around 20 minutes if you stand still, obviously it's a lot quicker if you walk. It runs downhill from 06:00 HRS to 10:00 HRS and uphill from 10:30 HRS to 00:00 HRS.
Since the system opened in the 1990s, the escalators have opened up previously quiet streets to commerce and trade, due to the surge in pedestrians. The areas along the route, especially Soho, have developed restaurants, bars, coffee houses, breakfast takeaways, 7-11 convenience stores etc, to service customers as they go to work and return home. It is also a tourist attraction in it's own right.
It should be no surprise that accommodation near a convenient access point to the escalators, attracts a premium.
From top to bottom, the roads intersected/access points are:
- Conduit Road
- Robinson Road
- Mosque Junction
- Mosque Street
- Caine Road
- Elgin Street
- Staunton Street
- Hollywood Road
- Lyndhurst Terrace
- Gage Street
- Wellington Street
- Stanley Street
- Queens Road Central
- Des Voeux Road Central
Use of the escalator is free to everyone.