See Hong Kong for Thirty Cents – The Amazing Hong Kong Tram System
The Hong Kong trams are one of the most surprising “tourist attractions” in Hong Kong. During the weeks I recently spent in Hong Kong, I spent hardly any money at all. Not out of choice, although, I have known to be “wise” with my dosh, at times. A one week holiday is not one of those times. One week is for cutting loose. For partying like a fool in a Kowloon ex-pat’s bar, staggering out at 5.30am, one shoe missing, losing your phone and discussing Hong Kong politics with a friendly posse of hungry homeless men.
Or… so I have been told. In any case, one week is not for budgeting. Fortunately, the Chinese have a dandy custom of not allowing guests to pay for a meal. I tried to pay. Oh, how I tried. After witnessing boisterous groups of Chinese men coming to physical blows over who would get the “privilege” of paying for a group meal, I decided to just go with the flow. It occurred to me that many of the attractions I visited in Hong Kong were either free, very low cost.
One of the plain-sight-secrets of Hong Kong is the tramways. I spent the best part of a day on the Hong Kong tram system. Eating Michelin star Dim Sum for peanuts, and now seeing some amazing sights, for an absurdly cheap price? My hip pocket has a serious travellers crush on Hong Kong.
Get Around on A Hong Kong Tram. It’s Old School.
One of the earliest forms of public transport in Hong Kong, the iconic double-decker Hong Kong trams have been operating since 1912. The Hong Kong tram system commenced around 1904. Stretching from one end of Hong Kong Island to the other, grabbing yourself a seat at the front of the tram, on the upper level, is better than any Hong Kong documentary you have ever seen.
From Glitz, to Grit, and Back Again. A Typical Hong Kong Tram Ride.
I can’t go back to TV. When you can have the somewhat surreal views of bustling Hong Kong gently flowing by, you can’t go back to TV. On this voyeuristic journey from Kennedy Town to Shau Kei Wan, the well worn layers of the city unfold before your eyes. Just sit back, and casually glide on through. Maybe take a few photos.
From glitz and designer labels, through to the grit and authenticity of local neighbourhoods, typical Hong Kong daily life is viewed from a unique perspective, perched above the crowds. If you’re getting a bit hot, the sliding windows of the tram can be pushed open. Handy for great for photos as well.
The Hong Kong tram ride costs $2.30HK. That’s around 30 US cents. For as long as you want to stay on. Enter at the back, exit at the front. Simple. Pay as you jump off. An Octopus Card (which you can also use on the subway system, the ferry system, and to buy a drink at 7-11) is the easiest method of payment. You can also pay your tram fare with coins (no change).
There really aren’t a lot of tourists on the tram- hardly any in fact. This is one relatively undiscovered Hong Kong tourist attraction. Astoundingly, most tourists to Hong Kong have seen these trams, but haven’t jumped on. The subway is faster, and more familiar to most visitors to Hong Kong, but you will see a lot more from the tram.
You can’t get lost – most of the stops are near a subway line, or you can always just hop off and catch the next tram back to where you started. I hopped on and off various trams, and journeyed from one end of the line (Kennedy Town) to the other (Shau Kei Wan).
I have never visited Shau Kei Wan before. Right near the tram terminus was a fantastic outdoor market, where I enjoyed some freshly cooked BBQ pork (with mustard), whilst observing the other “foods” for sale – such as a bag of live frogs. The tram is certainly a guaranteed journey into discovering the real Hong Kong.
The Tram Ride is A Genuine Hong Kong Institution.
Having visited Hong Kong a number of times before, I am kicking myself for not previously taking advantage of such a seemingly obvious way to discover the island. The photos in this article, all taken on single journey from a Hong Kong tram ride, will give you an insight into what you can expect – but really, every journey will be different.
There aren’t many places on Earth you can journey from one end of a city to the other, high above the ground, but right in the thick of it all. Next time you’re in Hong Kong, give the subways and taxi’s a break, and make use of the historic, and rather practical, Hong Kong trams.
Riding the Hong Kong tram is a very memorable, and unique, Hong Kong experience, that any tourist, on any budget, can afford.