By Gemma Dignam (University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)
One of the highlights of going on exchange is getting to travel in your spare time, whether that be in your host country, or visiting neighbouring countries or cities. Due to Covid restrictions still being in place in Hong Kong, we are not able to travel abroad without hotel quarantining on our return- which is not an option on our student budget and schedule! Although this was disappointing to most of us exchanges who wished to travel to surrounding countries, we quickly realised the extent of travel options within Hong Kong itself- and most of them can be done in a much more sustainable way than if we had travelled elsewhere by plane. Hong Kong boasts excellent public transport facilities and here are the ways I have used them to visit the must-see sites of Hong Kong so far, there is no need for a car or even a taxi!
The MTR, Mass Transit Railway, is the metro system in Hong Kong and by the far the most used public transport system here. For everyday life, it is the most efficient, clean and affordable with the Student Travel Scheme- most journey’s cost me around 30-50p. I like that it connects Hong Kong Island to Kowloon, New Territories and Lantau Island- the other 3 regions of Hong Kong and it is my most used form of public transport.
Where to go?
Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok are located in Kowloon and are popular places to grab food, visit museums, shop and overall take in the bustling atmosphere of Hong Kong. In my opinion it’s quite different to the island and you can even sit by the pier to enjoy the beautiful skyline of Hong Kong. Mong Kok is famous for its street food, markets and cheap shops and is another must-visit when in Hong Kong. The MTR is the quickest way to get here, taking around 20 minutes from HKU. However, you can access almost anywhere you would want to go to using the MTR, so this is only one of the many suggestions I have.
A little more expensive than the MTR, but can take you to more specific locations that the MTR does not reach. Minibuses, different to regular buses, are also a popular way to travel in Hong Kong, but the most daunting in my opinion. They reach the more obscure locations in Hong Kong, as well as everyday destinations. They drive quickly and it’s a bumpy ride, especially through the hilly roads, and sometimes you need to shout if you want to get off- the language barrier proving tricky here!
Where to go?
Repulse Bay Beach, Big Wave Bay- while you may think of Hong Kong as mainly urban, there are also beautiful beaches to visit! Both of these can only be accessed by bus and/or minibus but it’s not too far to travel too.
The tram is a great way to travel if you want to see the city. It may not be the most efficient, but it’s a great way to take in the streets of Hong Kong and for 30p a ride, it’s definitely worth it.
Where to go?
Take the tram from Kennedy Town which runs across the North of the Island for sightseeing or as an alternative to the MTR. The Peak Tram, from Central, takes you up to Victoria Peak which is an essential in Hong Kong. You get a great view of the city, especially at sunset. Currently, the tram is under construction so I hiked to the top and took the bus back down, but the tram is normally the most popular route to take for those who do not want to hike.
The ferries are the only way to travel to the outlying islands of Hong Kong- departing from Central Pier- and make great day trips. It can also be used to travel from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon.
Where to go:
I recommend Cheng Chau island- which takes around 45 minutes to get to. Here, you can enjoy the seafood restaurants, street food, beach, hiking or rent a bike to cycle around the island. It’s a great break from the city and perfect in the hot late summer/ autumn weather in Hong Kong
Star Ferry- this takes you from Hong Kong island, straight across to Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon. It’s one of the first things everyone does in Hong Kong and you get a great view of the city skyline anytime of day.
There are also many things to get to by foot! I have found that walking around the University area, there are plenty of shops and restaurants I would not have found otherwise. If you feel slightly more adventurous, there are also many hikes to do in Hong Kong, with the starting points being accessible by the MTR and bus, and then the rest is of course, by foot.
Where to go?
HKU- take the B exits from HKU MTR to explore restaurants around the University if you are sick of the food on campus (like me). There are many local restaurants here to try without even needing to travel anywhere and it’s also a short walk to the promenade.
Lion Rock- this was the first real hike I did in Hong Kong since I waited for the weather to cool down before I attempted any- it was challenging but the views made it worth the trip!
Therefore, it is possible to make travelling during your year abroad sustainable if you live somewhere with such excellent public transport connections!