The Octopus card is all you need to use public transport in Hong Kong. It is similar to London’s Oyster card or New York’s MetroCard. But this one is not only used for transportation but for paying for almost everything as well.
It is essentially a pre-paid card that can be used in all public transport, food chains, supermarkets, museums, convenience stores, shopping malls and more.
Some advantages are:
- It is cheaper (e.g. metro ticket is 10% cheaper)
- It is refundable
- It is accepted everywhere
- It can be topped up in many places (7-Eleven, Circle K, Starbucks, Mc Donalds)
Octopus cards suitable for Tourists
So all tourists should get one. But there are a couple of ways/types to get it.
Octopus app for Tourists
The Octopus for Tourists app is the easiest way to buy and top up your card. The only downside is that it’s currently only available for iPhone or Apple Watch. But I am sure they are going to release the Android version soon.
This app, unlike the standard Octopus app, accepts non-HK-issued credit and debit cards to top up. With this app, you only need your phone or watch and you can top up, pay, and check the balance and history of use at any time. Moreover; you can also return it and get a refund of your balance and the deposit for your card at any time from anywhere in the World just by using the app.
So the steps are extremely easy:
- Install the app
- Follow the steps to add a new Octopus card, select the currency (e.g. GBP), and top up. The app will add the card to your wallet and that’s it! It is ready to be used on your device.
Note that the minimum value to top us is HKD 100 and there is a one-time refundable cost of HKD 50.
Once you are about to leave Hong Kong or you are already in a different country you can ask for a refund. You don’t need to go to any office or machine. You just follow the steps to return the card with the app and you will get your money back in the same card you use to top up. The app will also remove the card from your wallet.
The image above shows the last step after returning your card. More information is available on the official website.
On-Loan (Standard) Octopus
This is a non-digital alternative that includes choices for Child, Adult and Elder. This is essentially the physical version of the option above. The downside is that being a physical card you also need to top it up using cash only via a top-up machine or in one of the shops that can do that (e.g. 7-Eleven).
It is not available everywhere either, so better to get it at the airport or at any MTR/ferry station. And the same places can be used to return it and get a refund of your balance and the refundable deposit of HKD 50.
More information is available on the official website.
Tourist Octopus (Sold version)
The Tourist (Sold version) is similar to the Standard option, but you pay a non-refundable fee of HKD 39 and you can keep the card as a gift or souvenir.
So unless you really want a souvenir in the form of an Octopus card, do not go for this option.
Tips when using the Octopus in Hong Kong
Which Octopus card should I get?
If you prefer digital top-up and use and you have an Apple device (phone or watch) I would go for the app for tourists.
If not, I’d go for the Standard if you don’t want to pay HKD 39 for a souvenir.
When should I return my card?
With the app, you can do it even after leaving Hong Kong. For the other options, you should do it at the airport or before leaving Hong Kong.
Travelling to and from Hong Kong Airport
If you are going to take the train, most of the time there are promotions that are cheaper than simply using the Octopus. When we were there, there was an offer for couples or families for both single and return tickets. So better to go to the cashier and ask.
Buses are cheaper than the train and there are many of them going to many places in Hong Kong. We stayed in Sheung Wan and we took the A12, but it is super convenient and cheaper. the same bus would be good if you are staying in Central.