Tips on Traveling to Hong Kong

Recently, I took a trip to Hong Kong and there were a few things I would have liked to know about before going:

  1. 1The MTR (Main trains) are fantastic, and fairly cheap. The Hong Kong dollar is about about $7 HKD to 1 USD and many of the rides that you’ll need are around $15HKD each. What you’ll need to do is to get an Octopus card (It’s a value store system) at the airport after you leave customs. (Along with a SIM card) Make sure to put at least $250 on the card so that you can leave the airport express train.
  2. You have to wave down the bus that you intend to get on.
  3. Most places accept Visa cards, this is good, but make sure to bring cash.
  4. The food in Hong Kong is fantastic, and comparatively cheap. (You can get out of Bread Street by Gordon Ramsey paying less than 100$ USD.)
  5. See the Tian Tan Buddha on top of Nong Ping. Also, if you have the money, get the clear bottom cable cars. They tend to have less of a line to get on.
  6. Go to the markets and haggle. Never use your CC and bring a diverse amount of bills. Most of the places will give you a price and another “special price.” Always make sure that you counter, and meet in the middle. If you’re looking to buy multiple items, settle on a low single unit price, then ask for a discount for multiple. See the Youtuber Colin Abroadcast for examples on some of the bargaining.
  7. Stay in Kowloon. There’s no need to be in Hong Kong City. The train runs all night and it’s very fast.
  8. Connecting through the airport: The airport is a pretty efficient airport for transferring you though. Getting through security shouldn’t be a problem. (There is a special area for transiting and you don’t have to go through customs if you’re flying from one country to another in the airport).
  9. See the Peak Tram/Victorias Peak. But check before hand on the best times to go. This can be a very busy place.

 

Somethings I learned about the Train System in Europe

  • The UK has many train vendors. Some of these vendors resell each other’s seats. For example if you buy a Megatrain ticket at Waterloo: You’re actually buying a Southwest (UK) train ride. Additionally you’ll only be able to go on the email they sent you as a confirmation of your ticket. This is rather confusing because they have ticket machines, and typically you have to check in and get a ticket to pass the gates. There is nothing mentioning this situation, and waiting in the service queues will not result you in an answer to this. To get through the turnstiles you have to find an employee and they’ll badge you through after seeing your ticket.
  • In Germany and Belgium there is a huge difference between a Regionbahn and an ICE train. The RegionBahn is a local train network, as this is the case with the VRN in Mannheim/Heidelburg.
    • They are ticketed differently: Your ICE train is a fixed train, you cannot switch between trains with that. The RegionBahn is very flexible.
    • You can get on the next RegionBahn train without issue. [As long as it’s within your route].
      • If you’re going from a RegionBahn train to an ICE, it’s better to get there earlier than later. RegionBahn trains, like the CTA/Metr(a/o) are often late.
    • Always get a seat reservation with an ICE train, this is even more so the case if you’re travelling with someone.  If there is a busy train, then you may be split up. Also you get to boot people from your seat if you have a seat reservation (which is nice when you have large amounts of luggage).
      • Seat reservations are pretty cheap.
  • The platform for IC trains in the Antwerp, Belgium station are on the top of the station.
  • The people dealing with the train tickets and information in the Amsterdam airport, were (in 2007) and still are cranky and are constantly pissed off. The Dutch people are great people, but these people are an exception.
  • Look up the train car on your reservation before you get on the train. All German stations have a  map of the trains and their configurations on your platform. Also noting this, the high speed train platforms rarely change, you can trust your ticket.
  • It helps to look up the end of the route on the train that you will be getting on. For example, the Thalys train that I got on in Amsterdam was going to Paris, however I went to Antwerp. It also helps to keep a route map so you can be prepared to get off on the right stop.
  • This is a common sense deal: Knowing a little bit of German goes a long way on the DB.
  • The train stations are typically walkable to the city they’re connected in.  (Even Salisbury, UK and Cork, Ireland)
  • Take the London Heathrow express. It turns your train ride to the central part of London into a 30 minute ride from 1hr20m-ish. (20 minutes if you’re coming from Terminal 1,2,3)  (It’s $30 per person, but there’s always room, its smooth, and sane). When I used it, the tickets were easy and quick to purchase from the ticket box outside of the train. They even offered a chance to purchase the tickets on the train.

Should you buy a rail pass in Europe?

Unless you’re an extreme in taking the train everywhere in Europe, you shouldn’t get a rail pass. Why? There are numerious operators that will try to sell you a pass. However, what they won’t tell you upfront is a few things:

  1. Their tools for booking the train routes are bad. They will either tell you 2 things.
    1. That they would recommend x pass and what routes are covered with that pass [But not including the cost of the necessary, but not included seat reservations]
    2. The individual prices for what they would sell the ticket for.
  2. Every seat reservation performed by the rail pass seller has a fee of 8e [which was the case for EuRail] on top of the seat reservation cost by the carrier. [For the Thalys trains, that’s 39e]. These prices are per high speed train and per person. This is going to get very expensive very quick.
  3. The rail passes don’t cover high speed trains.
  4. To get a refund on these passes you’ll forfeit a predatory restocking fee. [There is no reason for this fee]
  5. To use the passes, you usually have to get the passes “activated” which is a matter of a stamp/docs verification at the trainstation. In the case of the Gard du Nord Est station in Paris. That’s not easy to find.

Need another reason? Deutche Bahn, Thalys, MegaTrains UK, and the Irish rail accept American credit cards and offer the home print option for their tickets. On top of that, the reservations include a seat reservation.

If you’re going to be travelling a lot by train get a Bahn 25/50/100 card, or the equivalent discount card.

Going back to the question about buying a rail pass?

No you shouldn’t.

Train Stations

Keeping to a similar topic as the last few posts, I thought I’d come up with a list of the train stations that I have got on a train at or got off. Passing through, or stopping for a break does not count. [For those overseas: Amtrak stops for cigarette breaks every so often] Secondly, I couldn’t let Warren outdo me with his trainstation list.

  • US
    • Durham (DNC)
    • Charlotte (CLT)
    • Washington DC (WDC)
    • Burlington, NC (BNC)
    • DC: China Town/Gallery PI
    • DC: Smithsonian
    • DC: (Amtrak/Metro) Union Station
  • England (All in London)
    • Terminal 4
    • Earls Court
    • Knightsbridge
    • Camden Town
    • Westminster
    • Waterloo
    • Notinghill Gate
    • Oxford Circus
    • Monument
    • High Street Kinsington
    • Tottenham court Road
    • Bond Street
    • Shepherds Bush
    • Victoria Station
    • Piccadilly Circus
  • Germany
    • Berlin: Alexanderplatz
    • Berlin:  Fredriedrichstrasse
    • Berlin: Hauptbahnhof
    • Berlin: Potsdamerplatz
    • Berlin: Stadtmitte
    • Berlin: Bundestag
    • Mannheim HBF
    • Munich: Marienplatz
    • Munich: Olympia zentrum
    • Frankfurt Airport
  • France (All in Paris)
    • Gard du Nord
    • CDG Airport
    • Gard Du Est
    • St- Michel
    • Assembly Nationale
    • Ecole’ Militare
  • Austria (All in Vienna)
    • West Hbf
    • Stefansplatz