Hong Kong’s public transportation system is one of the most accessible in Asia, but it will present some challenges for disabled travelers, particularly those using wheelchairs. The accessible transit options include the MTR metro/subway, the Airport Express train, city buses and the water taxis and ferries. The nature of accessibility on each mode of public transit is described below.
Airport Express Train
The Airport Express train runs between the Asia World Expo Center and the Hong Kong Island Central Station, with intermediate stops at Hong Kong International Airport, Tsing Yi and Kowloon. The train is fast, connecting the airport to central station in just 24 minutes. Train cars are level with the station platform, but a small gap between the train and platform may create difficulty for some wheelchairs and scooters. Ramps can be provided to bridge the gap – just ask a member of the station personnel for assistance.
Each Airport Express train has a designated wheelchair space (pictured above), allowing wheelchair users to travel in comfort.
The cost of riding the Airport Express train is based on distance, with the various options listed below:
- HKG Airport to Asia World Expo — $5 HKD
- HKG Airport to Tsing Yi — $60 HKD
- HKG Airport to Kowloon — $90 HKD
- HKG Airport to Central Station — $100 HKD (~$12.75 USD)
Fares can be paid with cash, credit card or from the balance on a reloadable Octopus Card, which is discussed later in this article.
The MTR is a rapid transit system located primarily underground, consisting of ten lines serving 93 stations. The MTR is almost 100% accessible, connecting Hong Kong Island with Kowloon, Lantau Island and the New Territories of Hong Kong.
The map above depicts the Hong Kong transit network, including the ten MTR lines and the Airport Express. Of the 93 total MTR stations, 90 provide elevator or ramp access from the street to the station concourse.
Where elevators are not available, whether from the street to concourse or from concourse to platform, stair lifts or a wheelchair aid/stair climber are used to provide access. Every station can accommodate wheelchairs, but some may require staff intervention or assistance. If you need to utilize the stair lift or stair climber, notify a staff member by speaking into one of the call boxes located at the station entrances or exits.
MTR trains are not always level with the station platform. Gaps of several inches or more can restrict access to wheelchairs of all types (mine included). Fortunately, portable ramps are provided upon request at all stations. Locate a station staff member to request that one be provided to assist you onboard the train.
When you request the ramp, be prepared to tell the team member where you will be getting off (or connecting), as they will call ahead to make sure a colleague is waiting with a ramp to help you off the train. The process is flawless — in my many visits to Hong Kong and countless MTR rides, I have never been abandoned. The operation is impressive!
Fares on the MTR start at $4.50 HKD (~$0.57 USD) and run up to more than $50 HKD (~$6.37 USD), depending on distance traveled. Riders paying with the reloadable Octopus card will receive a discount on some fares. If you have a question about the fare on a particular route, consult the MTR fare finder tool.
The Hong Kong city bus system is largely accessible, with the majority of buses having a low floor and wheelchair ramp. Accessible buses operate on routes throughout Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, but a number of routes are not served by lowered floor buses with wheelchair ramps. Accessible buses have a designated space for wheelchairs, and the wheelchair ramp folds out from the front door.
Wheelchair users should NOT attempt to ride the bus to/from Hong Kong International Airport, as these buses are often older style coaches without the necessary accessibility features.
Hong Kong Ferries
Both public and private water taxis/ferries to/from Hong Kong and the outlying islands and Macau are wheelchair accessible. The most utilized of these is the Star Ferry, which offers service between Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the Wan Chai district. Riders of the Star Ferry should understand that the ramps used to board the ships can be very steep – manual wheelchair users will need a push (which crew will provide) and some low-powered scooters may not be able to climb. My powered wheelchair handled the incline with relative ease.
Fare Payment with the Octopus Card
Save yourself the headache of purchasing tickets individually and buy a reloadable Octopus Card – the official Hong Kong transit card. The Octopus Card can be purchased at the airport, at MTR stations and at many convenience stores.
A deposit of HK$50 is required to secure an Octopus Card, which is refundable when you return the card. Or, you can keep it as a souvenir, or for future use on a return trip to Hong Kong.
The Octopus can be used to pay fares on the Airport Express, MTR, city bus and ferries. Load it up and tap in/out of public transit!
For more information on the Octopus card, visit www.octopus.com.hk.
Public Transit Services that are NOT Accessible
The on-street trams operating along the northern shore of Hong Kong Island are not accessible to wheelchair users.
The Peak Tram to the top of Victoria Peak is not wheelchair accessible. Riders must navigate steps in order to board the tram.