Of all the things one can do in Hong Kong, riding the tram would be the prerequisite for claiming that you have “done” Hong Kong. Forget to climb up The Peak? No problem. Not interested in Disneyland? Up to you. No time riding the cable car atop Ngong Ping? Who cares? Got seasickness to board the Star Ferry across the harbour? There are three tunnels to get you across. Didn’t ride the tram? Dude, what’s your point in coming to Hong Kong then?
The famous “ding-ding” tram is perhaps one of the iconic symbols of Hong Kong (other than the Star Ferry mentioned above). Yes, it is only found on the island but you’d be damn sure when you Google “hong kong” one of the images you would see is the tram.
The name “ding-ding” owed it to the double bell ring trams use to warn pedestrians of their approach. It is the only tram system in the world that uses double-decker car as its fleet. Started operational back in 1904, the track line extends from Kennedy Town in the west to Shau Kei Wan in the east, with tram stops located at an average of every 250m. The track is built parallel to the MTR Hong Kong line, with a detour line after Wan Chai/Causeway Bay heading to Happy Valley (for people going to the horse racing track); you can say that the tram line track runs on a straight line.
There are 6 routes available, between west bound and east bound route: Shau Kei Wan to/fro Kennedy Town , Shau Kei Wan to/fro Happy Valley, Shay Kei Wan to/fro Western Market, North Point to/fro Whitty St, Happy Valley to/fro Kennedy Town, Causeway Bay to/fro Whitty St, and Western Market to/from Kennedy Town. Each tram will display their final destination of their route on the front as would a bus. For first timers, the information of routes and stops including both termini and main terminus may be overwhelming since there are more than 50 stops for each west bound and east bound route, but for tourists whom would mainly traverse between Central and Causeway Bay, you can board any tram along the way so long as they do not display “Happy Valley” on their front.
Trams run between 5.00 am (east bound)/5.45 (west bound) and midnight daily, and fares are fixed at HKD2.30 (about RM0.80 sen) for adults and HKD1.20 (about RM0.40 sen) for child between the ages of 3 to 12 regardless of destination. Exact fare is required and passenger must pay when alighting at the front of the tram (entrance is at the back). Octopus is the way to go here since you would not want to incur the wrath of Hongkies waiting behind for you scrambling for change in your pocket.
The best part about the trams is that their track shares the same route with other vehicles, so it is quite exhilarating (or terrifying) seeing how close other vehicles can come in contact with the tram or how close a pedestrian is being run over by it while crossing the road. On weekdays, particularly during peak hours and lunch hours, trams can be very crowded. So for family travelling with small childrens, with stroller/push chair on tow, you may want avoid the experience or find some other time off peak hours when it is not busy.
Sitting on the upper deck gives a good view of the city as the tram rattles by. You can feel the vibration as the tram runs along the track especially when making turns at road junction. It is an experience one would never forget especially for those whose native home does not have such system. Here’s mine on video traversing between Wan Chai and finally alighting at Central just in front of the HSBC headquarters building.
For those who wish to experience the city up close, but with minimal cost, riding the tram is the best option you have. And being it one of the iconic symbol of Hong Kong, you can’t really say you have “done” Hong Kong until you ride in one.