The Octopus Card: Where, Why & How to Use it
The people of Hong Kong are constantly on the move. To combat this, the city is home to one of the most advanced and efficient public transportation networks in the world. At the center of this is the Octopus Card: Hong Kong’s innovative contactless smart card, that can be used to make electronic payments across the city. The Octopus card, or 八達通 (“baat daat tung”) as the locals call it, has become an icon of Hong Kong, with almost all residents using it. As a convenient and time-saving payment method, we recommend anyone staying in Hong Kong for more than a few days to jump on the bandwagon and get themselves an Octopus Card.
Where to Use your Octopus Card
Pioneered in Hong Kong and mirrored in London (Oyster Card) and most American cities, the Hong Kong Octopus Card is a contactless travel card which was initially designed to provide access to Hong Kong’s public transport with a simple tap of the card. The card can be used on all public transportation systems; the subway (MTR), buses, minibuses, ferries and trams. You can even hop on the train to Shenzhen, China, with an Octopus card.
Apart from providing access to public transport facilities, the Octopus Card now serves a number of other purposes, such as paying at parking meters, vending machines, photo booths and convenience stores. Other stores which accept the card include PARKnSHOP and Wellcome Supermarkets, health and beauty stores Watson and Mannings, fast food restaurants such as McDonalds, Cafe de Coral, Delifrance and KFC, as well as the Hong Kong Jockey Club. The list of merchants accepting Octopus Card payment is ever expanding, however, as you will see on the Octopus official website.
Buying Your Octopus Card
The price of Hong Kong’s Octopus card is HK$150, which is inclusive of a HK$50 refundable deposit and HK$100 credit. You can pick up a card at any MTR subway station. Tourists can conveniently purchase an Octopus card at Hong Kong Airport, at the Airport Express Counter. Here you can pick up one of the two types of special Octopus cards for tourists, priced at HK$220 and HK$300, which include Airport Express fare(s) and three days of unlimited MTR rides. The Tourist Octopus Card can be returned to the Airport Express Counter in Hong Kong Airport at the end of your trip, and the HK$50 deposit and any remaining credit will be refunded.
Using & Topping Up
The Octopus card couldn’t be simpler to use. You wave your Octopus Card over the clearly indicated designated readers as you alight on and off public transport, aside from trams (where you only tap your card when getting off), and buses (where you only tap your card as you get on). A note on buses and trams often the fares on these transportation methods are amounts that are nearly impossible to pay in exact. However, operators do not provide any change, so you are more likely than not to pay an amount that exceeds the actual fare if you pay in cash. Here an Octopus card could come in handy, as only the exact fare amount will be deducted when you tap your card.
You can ‘overdraw’ your Octopus Card by a maximum of HK$35. The outstanding debit will be calculated and deducted the next time you top up. To check how much credit you have left, all you have to do is to tap your card on the Balance Check machines inside MTR stations, where you can also recharge your card to store up to HK$1,000 using cash when your balance is low. Note that the top-up machines inside the MTR stations only accept HK$100 and HK$50 bank notes. Bank notes of other values are accepted at the customer service counters inside MTR stations. You can also top up at convenience stores, supermarkets or through most NFC enabled Android devices.
Overall, the Octopus Card is definitely an essential for those living in or visiting Hong Kong. Whether you are a recurring business visitor, a new resident or a tourist: the Octopus Card lets you save time at stores and public transport so that you can make the most of your time in the city.