An efficient network of double-decker buses takes commuters just about anywhere, including areas not served by the MTR, such as the south side of Hong Kong Island and the New Territories. Virtually all buses in Hong Kong are air-conditioned and are generally comfortable and extremely efficient. The frequency on most routes is 5-15 minutes, with the exception of late-night buses or some long-distance routes like the airport, where the frequency drops to 20-30 minutes.
There are three major bus companies: Citybus and New World First Bus, both of which operate on Hong Kong Island, and Kowloon Motor Bus, which operates in Kowloon and the New Territories. The Lantau Bus Company operates mainly on Lantau island and the Long Win Bus Company which is owned by Kowloon Motor Bus provides connections between Lantau and the airport.
Fares range from $3.70 to $18.00 for urban routes, from $1.9 to $45 for the New Territories routes and from $8.4 to $35.6 for the cross-harbour routes. Fares are paid into the fare box when boarding the bus. Change is not given so, if you don’t have an Octopus card (See “Public” section for more information), it is useful to carry plenty of coins with you when using public transport. Pets are not allowed on buses.
All buses have signs with their final destinations marked in English and Chinese, and bus stops also have bilingual signs indicating the route for each bus service. However, the signs can be somewhat confusing at times and as few drivers speak English, expatriates new to Hong Kong generally avoid the buses in favor of the subway. Still, it is not uncommon to see foreigners taking the public buses, especially those who are more adventurous or who have lived in Hong Kong for a while. It can come in handy to learn the bus routes near your home, especially if you plan to venture out of the major city districts, as there are still many areas in Hong Kong not served by the MTR.
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Minibus / Public Light Buses
Minibuses, privately-owned 16-seater passenger vans, are best suited for those who speak some Cantonese as there are no fixed stops, and drivers generally do not speak English.
There are two types of minibuses: green and red (the color refers to a wide stripe painted at the top of the vehicle). Green minibuses follow a standard route and have fixed fares. They accept Octopus cards but do not provide change if you pay in cash. You usually have pay cash or swipe your Octopus card when you board a green minibus. These minibuses tend to go to the more remote locations that are not well-served by other modes of transportation though many of them also serve center city routes as well.
Red minibuses have no government-fixed routes, and routes are usually determined by demand. The red minibuses have no set stops so you must flag them down to board. Red minibuses do not accept the Octopus card and prefer you to tender the exact fares which are posted on the screen of the bus. These fares usually range from $4 to $10 but they tend to rise sharply during adverse weather conditions. For the red minibuses you usually have to tender your fare when you get off at your stop.
Even though both types of buses will have their destination posted in English at the front of the bus, most expats tend to avoid taking the minibuses. Besides language difficulties, minibuses have a reputation of being somewhat dangerous due to drivers exceeding speed limits. However, after a spate of fatal accidents, a law was passed requiring all minibuses to have a large digital speedometer at the front of the cabin, and safety standards have since generally improved.
Some minibuses do allow pets but it is advisable to have them in a suitable carrier.
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