Travel and Student Accommodation in Hong Kong - Octopus Card, MTR, Hostels

by ashmita.tamta

Travel in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has a fast, sophisticated, and reliable public transport network, comprising both public and private transport. Every day, nearly 12.7 million daily commutes are on public transport i.e. more than 90 percent, the highest rate in the world.

As an international student, you first need to check the way from the airport to your accommodation. Find out the location and contact details of the international student office for your university. It will serve as the first point of contact in Hong Kong.

Pre-departure checklist for international students

  • A valid Hong Kong student visa affixed to a blank page in your passport
  • An amount of HKD 1,000 to 1,500 to pay for taxis, buses, etc.
  • Acceptance letter from the university
  • Contact details of your accommodation in Hong Kong
  • Medical records along with details of your health insurance policy
  • Academic records
  • For those who are married,
  • Marriage certificate (if your spouse is coming along with you)
  • Passport photos
  • Proof of funds available including bank statements
  • of the past 2 months, scholarship or other)
  • A document specifying your permanent address in your home country

Note: Keep the documents in your hand baggage and not in your check-in luggage. You will be asked to produce them at the immigration counter at the airport. 

Arriving in Hong Kong 

Proceed to Arrival immigration at the Hong International Airport with all your documents ready. Most universities in Hong Kong send student ambassadors to receive new students at the airport. Contact your university regarding the details of your flight well in advance.

If you wish to reach your university on your own, you can take any of the following:

Bus

City buses are available at the Airport Ground Transportation Centre. Timings are 0530-2400 hours. It takes around 1 to 2 hours to reach most universities.

Taxi

Taxis are available at the Airport Terminus. Keep the address of your place ready in both English and Chinese in case the driver does not understand English.

Airport Express Train

The Airport Express Train runs every 10 minutes every day. Timings are 0554-0113 hours. 

Travel Cheap with Octopus Card

Octopus Card, a stored-value payment system, is great for traveling in Hong Kong at slashed prices. The card saves time and is accepted in:

  • Local ferries
  • Trams
  • Subway
  • Buses and minibuses
  • MTR Hong Kong regional rail
  • All taxis in Hong Kong

You can also travel to China using an Octopus Card.

Full-time university students in Hong Kong can avail student discounts by using a personalized Octopus Card with student status. The student status can save you around 50 percent on MTR fares. Many bus routes also offer student discounts.

How to apply for a student discount Octopus Card?

  • Obtain the form from your university or any MTR Customer Service Centre. You can also download the form from the MTR website.
  • Fill in the forms to activate the “student status” on your Octopus Card.
  • Submit the form to the designated MTR station.
  • Pay an application fee of USD 12 for a Personalised Octopus with “Student Status”.
  • To renew the card, pay an administration fee of USD 2.6.

Carry your student Octopus Card every time you travel. If you forget and buy a ticket, you will be charged the full adult fare. 

Ways to Travel in Hong Kong

Public buses and trams

  • Buses ply 24 hours a day in Hong Kong.
  • A tram trip costs you just USD 0.2, no matter how far you travel.
  • Very affordable and hence the most popular mode of transport among students.
  • A lot of buses provide service to universities in Hong Kong. You can take the buses at the bus stop located near your university.
  • Average fare: USD 0.63
  • There are five companies managing public buses. They cater to different areas and charge differently.
  • All accept Octopus cards.

Kowloon Motor Bus Company Limited (KMB)  

  • Hong Kong’s largest road passenger transport operator carries nearly 2.76 million passengers daily.
  • A fleet of 3,967 air-conditioned buses with a majority of double-deckers.
  • Operates 334 bus routes in Kowloon and the New Territories along with 65 cross-harbor routes.
RouteFare for Student Octopus Card Holders
Urban routesUSD 0.41 to USD 1.7
New Territories routesUSD 2.6 to USD 5.93
Cross-harbor routesUSD 1.07 to USD 4.54

New World First Bus Services Limited

  • Runs 45 Hong Kong Island routes, 13 routes in Kowloon and Tseung Kwan as well as 35 cross-harbor routes.
  • Carries around 454,000 passengers every day.
  • A fleet of 702 air-conditioned buses.
RouteFare for Student Octopus Card Holders
Hong Kong Island routesUSD 0.41 to USD 1.49
Kowloon and Tseung Kwan routesUSD 0.48 to USD 1.89
Cross-harbor routesUSD 1.07 to USD 4.55

City bus Limited

  • Has two bus networks under two franchises.
  • One of the networks operates 52 Hong Kong Island routes, one New Territories route and 29 cross-harbor routes.
  • A fleet of 753 air-conditioned buses,
  • Carries about 502,000 passengers a day.
RouteFare for Student Octopus Card Holders
Hong Kong Island routesUSD 0.32 to USD 1.35
Cross-harbor routesUSD 1.19 to USD 4.11

The other bus network operates 24 routes and 206 air-conditioned buses services between urban areas and Airport/North Lantau. Fares vary from USD 0.38 to USD 6.63.

Long Win Bus Company Limited

  • Operates 30 routes and plies between New Territories and Airport/North Lantau.
  • Its fleet of 245 air-conditioned buses carries about 107,000 passengers a day.
  • Fares range from USD 0.45 to USD 5.74.

New Lantao Bus Company

  • Serves 22 Lantau routes and one New Territories route.
  • A fleet of 114 single-deckers and 10 double-deckers carries 78,000 passengers daily.
  • Fares vary from USD 0.40 to USD 5.49.

Taxi

In Hong Kong, available taxis have a red ‘For Hore’ sign on the meter. Three types of taxis ply in Hong Kong, namely urban taxis, NewTerrrtones taxis, and Lantau taxis.

  • Urban taxis (red) run throughout Hong Kong except for Tung Chung Road and roads in south Lantau. They are more expensive than green and blue taxis.
Fare for first 2 kilometersUSD 3.06
Fare for every additional 200 metersUSD 0.3
  • New Territories taxis (green) run only in the New Territories and particular roads on Lantau and the Airport.
Fare for first 2 kilometersUSD 0.15
Fare for every additional 200 metersUSD 0.2
  • Lantau taxis (blue)

Ply in oil destinations in Lantau and the Airport. 

Fare for first 2 kilometersUSD 2.5
Fare for every additional 200 metersUSD 0.2

Public light buses

They are mini-buses with nearly 19 seats. Most of them accept the Octopus Card. They are of two types. 

Green Mini-Buses

  • Public light buses that are used on scheduled services.
  • Provide service from the university to Kowloon Tong or to Kowloon City.
  • Accept cash and the Octopus card.
  • Timings: 0730-1930 hours on weekdays and 0800-1930 hours on Saturdays.
  • No service on Sundays and public holidays.
  • Average fare: USD 0.77

Red Mini-Buses

  • Public light buses are used on non-scheduled services.
  • Operate freely across Hong Kong.
  • Have no designated stops and halt anywhere someone needs to get on or off.
  • Most red mini-buses only accept fares in cash
  • A few accept Octopus Card.
  • If you take the red mini-bus, it helps to be able to say the Cantonese phrase - “ng goi, yau lohk” - meaning you want to get off 

Mass Transit Railway (MTR)

The Hong Kong MTR provides train services with ten lines that serve:

  • Hong Kong Island
  • Kowloon
  • the New Territories
  • Lantau Island

The MTR stations are around 15-minute walk from most universities.

Ferries

  • Many ferries connect Hong Kong, Kowloon, Lantau, and other outlying islands.
  • Use your MTR Octopus card for easy payment.
  • Average fare: USD 0.51

Student Accommodation in Hong Kong

Not as expensive as the United States and Australia, Hong Kong is still the fifth costliest country to study in, according to Times Higher Education. The rental rates are sky high but other living expenses including food and transport remain low.

Student accommodation can cost you between USD 1,200 - USD 24,200 a year, depending on the depending on the size, location, and type of accommodation.

Types of Student Accommodation in Hong Kong

You must start looking for accommodation as soon as you receive the acceptance letter from the university. In Hong Kong, non-local students can opt for two major types of student housing:

  • Halls of residence (university accommodation)
  • Private accommodation.
University-provided residence halls or hostelsUSD 650 to USD 2,000 per semester
Off-campus accommodationUSD 6,000 to 12,500 per semester

University Accommodation

Universities in Hong Kong are constructed recently and therefore, tend to have contemporary designs, state-of-the-art campuses, and ingenious facilities.

  • University residence halls and hostels are the most preferred housing option among students.
  • They are subsidized for students and hence cost much lesser than off-campus accommodation.
  • They are cleaner and mostly located on or close to the campus.
  • There is usually an option between a single or shared room. A shared room is cheaper of the two.

How to Apply?

  • Get in touch with the Residence Office of your institution to know about the availability and application process of university accommodation
  • Fill and submit the application to the Residence Office or Student Affairs Office as soon as you obtain your university acceptance letter.
  • Pay a non-refundable and non-transferable confirmation fee upon the announcement of allotment results.

Note: Early applicants have high chances to get university accommodation.

Private Accommodation

If you are unable to obtain on-campus student accommodation, there are plenty of off-campus options including a shared room or a home-stay with a family.

  • Rent can be exorbitant, especially for flats located on Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon. Pencil-style buildings are cheaper than others.
RegionMonthly rent
Hong Kong IslandUSD 630 to USD 1,785
KowloonUSD 570 to USD 1,122
New TerritoriesUSD 765 to USD 1,275
Lantau IslandUSD 765 to USD 1,275
  • Living off-campus is more expensive than on-campus.
  • You can share the flat with fellow students to bring down the cost. International Office can provide with the list of off-campus options.
  • Serviced apartments are also a popular choice. They are less costlier than hotels. They are mostly fully-furnished with shared bathrooms and kitchens.
Type of Serviced ApartmentsPrivate room, Shared room, and Entire place
Monthly Rent in Hong KongUSD 16,800 to USD 35,000

Popular online student accommodation services in Hong Kong

  • www.student.com/en-gb/cn/hong-kong
  • www.cedars.hku.hk
  • www.campushk.com
  • www.easyroommate.com.hk
  • www.rentaroomhk.com/

Arriving in Hong Kong without prior living arrangement 

Hostels and Hotels in Hong Kong

If you are landing in Hong Kong without finalizing accommodation, you can book a room in a hostel or a hotel. Student hostels provide a safe and multicultural atmosphere to students from all over the world. They are cheaper and can cost around USD 9 to USD 35 per night.

Hong Kong Youth Association Hostel (YHA) is quite famous in Hong Kong. It operates seven youth hostels across the city that are open to only members of YHA. You have to pay a fee of USD 9 to become a member. It costs USD 15-50 per day with breakfast included.

Staying in hotels is an expensive option for students. It can cost around USD 20 to USD 65 per night. The international student office can also book your room in a nearby hotel. You can also reserve a room online.

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