Getting around in Hong Kong – the MTR

The MTR is described as clean, always on time, and a bit soul-less by the lonely planet. I reckon that’s a bit unfair. It’s certainly clean, and it runs damn efficiently. About the only thing it has in common with the London Underground is the fact that they’re both trains. The MTR is air conditioned for a start which makes it bearable even in the heat and humidity of Hong Kong. The trains themselves come at regular intervals, and the ticketing system is a doddle. You simply press your destination on the touch screens that then tell you the amount required. I’m normally using the Island line to get to Central or Causeway Bay, and trips invariably cost about HK$5 or in British money, 35p. Somehow, can’t see the Tube doing cheap one off journeys.

This system is made even easier using the Octopus card, which I guess is similar to an Oyster card but far more useful. The Octopus card has the fare automatically deducted by touching the sensors as you enter and exit the MTR system. You can also use an Octopus card for loads of other things; the bus, the trams, the 7-11 convenience stores, most McDonalds, most Starbucks, the Wellcome supermarkets, the Park n Shop supermarkets. It’s possible to use the Octopus in place of cash all day if needs be.

The trains in use by the MTR also feel pretty new, and the seats are plastic, so no cushions to soak up the crap that people spill/drop for you to unknowingly sit in. So that’s that – the MTR is by far better than the Tube… mostly. There are some things that are annoying/frustrating about it. You’re not allowed to eat or drink within the barrier areas. Once you’ve swiped through, you’re in the no eating/drinking zone. Apparently there can be hefty fines if caught. Not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things. I guess the shops that sell food within these areas are selling it to you for consumption outside the barriers. People are crap on the escalators. There’s supposed to be the same system as in London where the left hand side of the escalators is where people walk and they stand on the right. Of course, it only takes one person to completely mess this up, and it happens all too frequently. Fortunately less so in the mornings with the commuters. Queueing here seems to only sort of work. There are 4 lanes marked out for queueing to get on the MTR, but once the train arrives all semblance of order breaks down and it’s like a rugby scrum to get on the train – which I find very odd, as I know there will be another train along in a minute or so. To give London some credit, we’ve got the getting on and off the Tube down to a fine art, you let them off first and then get on. Not here – you can be trying to get off the train only to be met with a stampede of people getting on. It’s not organised chaos, it’s just chaos. So, taking the every man for himself approach sometimes I just have to barge my way off the MTR. It’s quite nice being above average height for a change. I’ve also had problems getting on the MTR; one guy in front of me decided to just stop as soon as he was through the door, despite there being loads of room in the carriage. I virtually walked into the back of him only to then have to back up a bit and move around this idiot. This kind of behaviour actually all ties in with my experiences of walking around on the street in Hong Kong which I shall post about later

The Tube system is also much more complex and covers far more area than the MTR. But, if you’re on the MTR line – it’s a far nicer experience than the Tube in London; especially at the height of summer when the lack of air conditioning is compounded by being crammed in like rats.

One Response to “Getting around in Hong Kong – the MTR”

  1. Stu Says:

    Yeah the tube is especially pleasant these days as it’s quite high humidity here! The joke is they are thinking about installing a cooling system into the tubes… and the solution they’ve come up is stick big blocks of ice under the seats! My £4 single journey tube fair seems much more justified now.

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