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Transport options at Hong Kong airport

Old Feb 21, 2024, 7:24 am
FlyerTalk Forums Expert How-Tos and Guides
Last edit by: miklcct
Hong Kong International Airport

Paying for transport

Cash
Although cash remains accepted for all forms of public transport (apart from a few resident's routes) in Hong Kong, very few people use it anymore as it is inconvenient. Cash is dropped into the farebox with no change given on buses, and a ticket is needed from the ticket machine to travel on the railways. However, cash is still essential for taxis, and at small shops. Unlike some other European countries, cash is still accepted at the majority of retail outlets, including shops and restaurants, and some places remain cash-only.

Octopus card
Octopus card is the main form of payment for transport fares in Hong Kong, where most discounts and government subsidies offered exclusively through it. Hong Kong was the leader of the world in digitising public transport payments by means of an Octopus card.

Octopus card is universally accepted on all railways, buses, green minibuses and ferries. It is always cheaper than paying by cash. Most red minibuses (share taxis) now accept them as well, since the introduction of government subsidies, but acceptance on taxis remain limited. Due to its universal adoption in Hong Kong, its also the preferred electronic payment method of many small shops due to its speed and the simplicity of usage.

A normal, standard on-loan adult Octopus card is sold at $150, including $50 refundable deposit and $100 usable value. Top ups can be done in multiples of $50. The maximum value stored is $3000, so it is not suitable for large purchases. It is allowed to go negative (up to $-35) once, for example, you can still take a bus with $0.1 remaining value, but once it goes zero or negative, it cannot be charged again before the value is brought back to positive. A fee is charged to refund a card under certain circumstances. Also, an annual $15 inactivity fee is charged on new cards sold after 1 October 2017 after 3 years of non-usage, to deter hoarding of cards.

Children aged 3 - 11 should use a child Octopus card, and elderly aged 65 or above should use an elderly Octopus card, such that the correct fare can be charged on transport services.

Contactless bank cards (including NFC mobile wallets)
Contactless PAYG is being rolled out by various major transport operators in Hong Kong, including MTR, KMB & LW, Citybus, and Hong Kong Tramways.

Most operators accept Visa, MasterCard, UnionPay, and their associated mobile wallets, and some accepts JCB as well. However, MTR currently only accepts Visa (not MasterCard), on urban line standard class only.

Only adult fare can be charged using contactless bank cards. Cross-operator interchange discounts and government subsidies aren't available.

Bank cards are not generally accepted at small stores in Hong Kong due to its relatively high transaction cost. Only chain stores, supermarkets, and places with higher average spendings (where the average spending is likely in the region of hundreds or thousands), are likely to accept bank cards as a mean of payment, while Octopus cards are commonly used for small-value transactions.

Mobile QR ticket (Alipay, WeChat Pay, BOC Pay transport codes)
MTR and major bus / minibus companies accept the use of mobile QR ticket (transport codes). The region needs to be set to Hong Kong in the app.

These mobile wallets (QR code payment) are also a commonly-used form of payment in Hong Kong (less widespread than Octopus but more widespread than bank cards), with frequent discounts and promotion available.

Airport Express
Airport Express is the premium train service between the airport and the city. 24 minutes between Central Hong Kong and the airport which nothing can beat. Trains run every 10 minutes. The fare between Hong Kong and Airport is HK$115 single / HK$205 30-day return on a ticket, and HK$110 single / same-day return on Octopus, with no elderly discount. There are usually promotions available, including discounted taxi connections, group tickets, etc. Airport station is the only ungated heavy rail station in Hong Kong, please don't be surprised if you can walk directly onto the train without tapping in, and fare collection is done at the other end.

The train calls at Tsing Yi and Kowloon (which, despite its name, is on the west of West Kowloon station) intermediately. Kowloon station is a 10-minute walk from HK West Kowloon high-speed train station. The Airport Express is in a different ticket network to other MTR metro lines ("urban lines"). but free onward transfer is available onto the MTR metro lines using an Octopus card, including the border stations of Lo Wu / Lok Ma Chau, but excluding East Rail Line First Class.

In-town check in was suspended during the pandemic. It has now resumed by Cathay Pacific at Hong Kong station only. Departing air passengers on Cathay Pacific can check in at Hong Kong station, up to 90 minutes before departure, with baggage checked through the train to the flight. This service is free on top of the train ticket price.

Taxis are available at the taxi stand from every Airport Express station. There are no longer dedicated Airport Express shuttle buses, which ran between Airport Express station and various hotels nearby.

Pros:
  • The fastest and most comfortable way to travel between Central Hong Kong and Airport
  • In-town check in is available for Cathay Pacific passengers
  • Free of traffic
Cons:
  • Expensive (by Hong Kong standards)
  • Limited coverage, especially Kowloon station is located inconveniently
Tung Chung Line
The closest metro station to the airport, for a non-premium service, is Tung Chung, on the Tung Chung Line. There is a dedicated bus, S1, connecting the airport and Tung Chung station running every 5-10 minutes. The fare of the bus is $3.7. In addition, bus S56 travels express from the airport to Tung Chung station, but it takes a detour in residential areas on the way back.

Tung Chung Line shares track with the Airport Express for most of its journey, but it calls at more stops than the Airport Express, at different platforms than the Airport Express, and uses metro-style rolling stock. Trains run approximately every 6-8 minutes. The journey time between Tung Chung and Hong Kong is about 30 minutes. It is a regular metro line in the same gated area as the whole metro network. The fare is in line with regular metro fares in Hong Kong, which is a much cheaper option than the Airport Express. For example, the electronic payment fare between Tung Chung and Hong Kong is $23.6 (+$3.7 for the shuttle bus between Tung Chung and Airport), where elderly discount is available, compared to $110 on the Airport Express between Airport and Hong Kong. However, a direct airport bus may provide a hassle-free journey at a similar speed and price point, so it's worth checking out if there is one available before commiting to the S1.

Pros:
  • Cheaper than the Airport Express and some airport buses
  • Free of urban traffic
  • easy transfer to the wider MTR network at Lai King
Cons:
  • The shuttle bus takes time
  • Seats on the metro train are limited, and there is no luggage space on the metro train

Airport buses (A- and NA- prefixed)
Hong Kong Airport has one of the most extensive bus networks in the world, with direct buses available to nearly all urban and suburban areas in the territory. The A- and NA-prefixed routes are designated Airport routes, which use luxurious vehicles with more luggage space, and charge a higher fare compared to a standard city buses, but not as expensive as the Airport Express. All airport buses (except A35) run direct to the city without travelling through the operational areas of the airport and Tung Chung New Town, with most also calling at the HK-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge port for travel to Zhuhai or Macau, however, they may make long detours within the city. In the airport direction, all airport buses (except A35) drop off at the 7/F departure level of the airport, instead of ground floor for most regular buses. Double decker buses are used on all routes (except A35), such that you can nearly always get a seat on the bus.

Airport buses are operated by Citybus (for Hong Kong & Kowloon routes), Long Win (for New Territories routes - a subsidiary of KMB, the main bus operator in Kowloon and New Territories), and New Lantao Bus (A35). All airport buses have extensive interchange discounts in the city with city bus routes operated by the same bus company, up to free interchange for the city route, but be aware of the luggage limit on the city route.

Important routes include:
A11 - 40 minutes direct to Sheung Wan (Macau Ferry), Central, Wan Chai and Causeway Bay, runs every 15-20 minutes during the day, $41.9
A21 - 45 minutes direct to Mong Kok, Yau Ma Tei and Tsim Sha Tsui, runs every 10-15 minutes during the day, $34.6
A22 - 40 minutes direct to West Kowloon Station (for high-speed rail connection to mainland China), Jordan, Ma Tau Wai and Kwun Tong, runs every 15-30 minutes during the day, $40.8
A43 - 50 minutes direct to Sheung Shui (for metro connection to Shenzhen), runs every 15-30 minutes during the day, $32.4

Pros:
  • The most hassle-free option to access most of Hong Kong, apart from taking a taxi all the way
  • Scenic view on the upper deck of a double-decker bus
Cons:
  • Buses can stuck in urban traffic
  • Runs relatively infrequently
Regular city buses (E-, N- and S-prefixed)
Apart from the A- and NA-prefixed airport buses, the airport has a number of regular city buses, aimed for airport workers, Tung Chung commuters and budget travellers. Unlike the airport routes, they don't cover the whole territory, they pick up at a separate, further portion at the airport bus terminus, and with the exception of E41 due to historical reasons, they don't drop off at the departure level of the airport, as they don't target air passengers. They also travel through the operational area, and some even makes a long detour in Tung Chung residental areas, before heading to the city, which usually takes 15 minutes more compared to A-routes, but they generally runs a more direct route in the city compared to the A-routes.

E-prefixed buses are buses which leave the vincinity of the airport for the city, while S-prefixed buses, including the S1 and S56 mentioned above, are buses which operate within the airport and Tung Chung town area. In addition, there are N-prefixed night buses which are the only routes serving the airport all night (however, NA-prefixed night airport buses are available when passenger flights operate), and a route B4 connecting the airport and the Macau bridge port.

For example, the cheapest bus connecting the airport and urban Kowloon is the route E21, which charges $14.5 and runs every 12-30 minutes, while the cheapest bus to Hong Kong Island is E11 at $21.7 and runs every 20-40 minutes.

Pros:
  • The cheapest option to reach the city
  • Sometimes the only direct option for some places in the city
Cons:
  • These are regular city buses, which commuters use, and can be crowded during peak hours
  • Very slow, with some routes modified to make long detours in Tung Chung to serve residential needs
  • Less luggage space than A-routes
Cross-border Coaches

There are a number of coach companies, including China Travel Service (中旅社), EEbus (永東), Kwoon Chung (冠忠), S.T. Travel (三通), operate coaches between Hong Kong Airport (landside) and various cities in Guangdong Province of mainland China through the land border between Hong Kong and Shenzhen.

Taxis
There are 3 kinds of taxis in Hong Kong: red (urban), green (New Territories) and blue (Lantau), with blue taxis the cheapest, green the second, and red the most expensive in general. The reason of different colouring is to ensure availability of taxis in rural areas, by having taxis which cannot serve the city core. Despite their name, green taxis cannot serve the whole of New Territories (for example, they cannot serve Tsuen Wan and Sha Tin, apart from a number of designated taxi ranks for feeder purpose), and they cannot cross urban areas to reach the other side of New Territories, such as Clear Water Bay.

A taxi carries up to 5 passengers (2 at the front, and 3 at the back), but most newer vehicles now carry only 4 (1 at the front, 3 at the back). If you are a group of 5, you need to wait for an old vehicle, but I recommend you splitting into 2 taxis for comfort.

Before entering the queue at the airport taxi stand, the staff will ask for the destination and guide the passenger to the appropriate colour. In addition, an information sheet showing the estimated fare is given to ensure that the passenger is not overcharged. The airport websites also provide estimates as well. There is a charge for luggages, at HK$6 each piece in the luggage compartment, and for oversized luggage (such as musical instruments) carried by hand in the cabin as well. It is illegal to refuse a ride within the operating area, with the exception for non-cross-harbour rides from a cross-harbour stand (which doesn't apply from the airport, but can be significant once in the city - the driver can refuse to carry you to the airport if you attempt to board a taxi at a cross-harbour stand in Kowloon).

Most taxis in Hong Kong are notorious for cash-only. You need to take cash in general to take taxis in Hong Kong, unlike most other forms of transport. In addition, the driver is allowed not to give change to HK$500 or HK$1000 bills, to prevent running out of changes for a short ride, but paying HK$500 for a typical airport-city ride should not be a problem.

If you pre-book a taxi, they can only wait and pick up in one of the car parks (where you are expected to reimburse the parking charge), where green taxis are not accessible. Negotiating the fare when booking a taxi does not break the law. The traditional way to book a taxi is by phone, however, nowadays, ride-booking apps are also available.

Pros:
  • Takes you to your destination direct point-to-point
  • Can be cheaper than Airport Express + transfer, or even night airport buses, for a group
Cons:
  • Expensive for a solo traveller
  • Can be stuck in urban traffic, with no ability to use bus lanes
  • Queue for a taxi can sometimes be long during peak flight periods, especially for green or blue taxis

Light goods vehicle
Hiring a light goods vehicle (LGV, 貨van) is an option for traveller with lots of heavy luggage, as they can be considered to be "goods". It is illegal to hire one without goods. Hiring a van can be cheaper than taking a taxi for long-distance journeys with lots of luggage, which is chargeable on a taxi.

Light goods vehicles can only pick up and drop off at the airport at designated goods vehicles car parks, which are further away from regular passenger pick up / drop offs.

Booking one is also traditionally by phone, and now apps are available as well. There may also be an option to request an assistant to help you in carrying your goods to your place of residence / business, with an extra charge.

Pros:
  • The hassle-free option with luggage
  • Takes you to your destination point-to-point
Cons:
  • Does not work if travelling without goods
  • The goods parking is far away from the passenger terminal

Private limousine
A number of private transfer companies operate limousine services to/from the airport where you can pre-book. These are a kind of luxury and is more expensive than just taking a taxi, however, they can sometimes cater for more special needs, such as a 7-seater for larger groups. They can also provide direct private transfer to mainland China as well.

By law, these vehicles need to have a Hire Car Permit, and these are strictly pre-book only. Do not accept anyone touting you into a car.




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Transport options at Hong Kong airport

Old Feb 21, 2024, 7:13 am
  #1  
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Transport options at Hong Kong airport

Placeholder for a wiki thread for Hong Kong Airport transport options. Topics include trains, buses and taxis, and also methods of payment.

Direct travel to Macau / mainland China (without passing HK immigration) through SkyPier is not included.

Last edited by miklcct; Feb 21, 2024 at 9:02 am
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Old Feb 22, 2024, 3:09 am
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Thanks for the excellent Wiki. I would just quibble with one statement:
Bank cards are not generally accepted at stores in Hong Kong due to its relatively high transaction cost. Only supermarkets, and places with higher average spendings (where the average spending is likely in the region of hundreds or thousands), are likely to accept bank cards as a mean of payment
This was true a few years ago, but the Covid episode (and the fact that essentially all credit/debit cards are now contactless) resulted in many more places accepting them. For example, all 7-Elevens and Circle-K convenience stores accept at least Master/Visa/Unionpay (for anything except topping up an Octopus card, which is cash only). Almost all mid- to high-end restaurants take them, and so do most of the low end chains (Mcd, KFC, etc). Most local stores/pharmacies/bakeries, particularly if they are chains, also accept contactless cards. The main places that don't accept cards these days are low-end local cafes / dai pai dongs, small local fruit/veg shops and market stalls; some accept Octopus or cash, and some are cash only.
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Old Feb 22, 2024, 9:54 am
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You will find that acceptance of Octopus payments at the smaller establishments a lot higher after the last two rounds of consumption vouchers.
The availability of a merchant app for iOS and Android also helped.
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Old Mar 31, 2024, 5:40 pm
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Thanks for the informative wiki!

We are planning to visit Hong Kong as a group of 4 people and are staying in the Tsim Sha Tsui area.

With the Airport Express being 115 HKD$single/205 HK$ return (for our entire group, 460 HK$ single, 820 HK$ return), would it just make more sense for us to take the taxi?

The taxi estimate is 265 HK$ according to the Airport website, plus 4 hand luggage and 2 large hold suitcases (6 HK$ each piece), making the taxi total 301 HK$. How big are the taxis? I suspect not enough to carry 6 pieces!

Are the estimates accurate? Should I expect to be paying more?

Source: Airport Website Estimated Taxi Fares https://www.hongkongairport.com/en/t...ort/taxis.page
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Old Mar 31, 2024, 10:03 pm
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You're correct in that taxis would struggle with that much luggage. And they can be quite cosy for 4 people if they are all full-western-size people.

Your cheapest option would actually be one of the express airport buses, with the added bonus of the best views from the upper deck seats.

There are several routes, so it depends on exactly where you are staying as to which would be best; it is likely A21 or A25. The fare is roughly HK$35 per person. The buses have luggage racks.

https://www.citybus.com.hk/routes/ai...px?intLangID=1
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Old Apr 2, 2024, 5:54 pm
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Seating for four Americans would be more comfortable on the bus.

Luggage rack for the airport A buses are inside the bus, sheltered from the elements.
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Old Apr 8, 2024, 8:00 pm
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Originally Posted by tentseller
Seating for four Americans would be more comfortable on the bus.

Luggage rack for the airport A buses are inside the bus, sheltered from the elements.
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Old Apr 13, 2024, 12:22 am
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Originally Posted by dreamingbeyond
Thanks for the informative wiki!

We are planning to visit Hong Kong as a group of 4 people and are staying in the Tsim Sha Tsui area.

With the Airport Express being 115 HKD$single/205 HK$ return (for our entire group, 460 HK$ single, 820 HK$ return), would it just make more sense for us to take the taxi?

The taxi estimate is 265 HK$ according to the Airport website, plus 4 hand luggage and 2 large hold suitcases (6 HK$ each piece), making the taxi total 301 HK$. How big are the taxis? I suspect not enough to carry 6 pieces!

Are the estimates accurate? Should I expect to be paying more?

Source: Airport Website Estimated Taxi Fares https://www.hongkongairport.com/en/t...ort/taxis.page
We arrived around 4pm- me, my wife and 2 year old daughter- last week. We had three medium/large luggage, one big carton box for a toy that my parents gifted their granddaughter and a stroller. We struggled on the way to the airport in a normal Uber so with the box we decided to take the UberXL. From airport to Shatin was HKD400, to TST I think would be slightly cheaper.

By principle, I don't support taxis in HK and would pay a bit more to take an uber.
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