Friday, 25 July 2014

Taxis in Hong Kong

Taxis in Hong Kong are plentiful, clean and efficient - and quite cheap compared to many other large cities.
Hong Kong New Taxi 2013
There are three types of taxis in Hong Kong, easily identified by their colours: red, green and blue. It's important to know the difference, as was highlighted in Week 3 of The Amazing Race Canada's 2nd season!
RED TAXIS (Urban)

The Urban (red) taxis can travel most destinations in Hong Kong and are also the most expensive. Note that on Lantau Island, red taxis are only permitted to go to the airport, Tung Chung and Hong Kong Disneyland.

Byd e6 new territories taxi hong kong
GREEN TAXIS (New Territories)

NT (green) taxis are slightly cheaper than the red ones but are fundamentally confined to rural areas in the New Territories (NT), the airport, and Hong Kong Disneyland.

Toyota Crown Comfort LPG Taxicab (Hong Kong) - Flickr - skinnylawyer
BLUE TAXIS (Lantau)

Lantau (blue) taxis (the cheapest of the three) operate only on Lantau Island (including the airport and Hong Kong Disneyland).

FROM THE AIRPORT

The airport will have taxis with all three colours, however both signs and attendants will make it (relatively) easy for you to make the right choice. If you are unsure, just ask making sure you have your final destination ready.

TO THE AIRPORT

All three taxi types (red, green and blue) serve the airport and Hong Kong Disneyland.

IN THE CITY

Hong Kong Taxi - 10-12-2006 - Cross Harbour Taxi Stand
Cross-harbour taxi stand
What you need to know about taking a taxi in Hong Kong:
  • By law, Hong Kong taxis must take you to your destination, however in practice they tend to ignore this rule if it isn't convenient to them. However unless it is raining extremely hard, then there will be no issue finding another taxi close by to take you.
  • All taxis are equipped with mobile phones and can be reserved and requested via an operator for a token fee of $5 (Hong Kong Dollars), payable to the driver. You are unlikely to need to call a taxi, though, as they are plentiful. 
  • Only during Friday night rush hour in central you might find long lines on taxi stands.
  • The wearing of seat belts is required by law, the driver has the right to refuse to carry the passenger if they fail to comply. In practice this is rarely observed.
  • Drivers are required to provide change for $100 notes, but not for higher denominations.
  • If you only have a $500 or $1,000 note and are going through a tunnel, let the driver know beforehand and he will change it when paying at the toll booth. 
  • Some taxis accept credit cards and Octopus cards to avoid hassles with small change although these are still very rare. If you are unsure, or cannot paid cash, then flash your credit card at the driver before getting in and you'll know if it will be accepted or not.
  • Paying with foreign currency is illegal in China, although some taxi drivers may accept US Dollars for payment, but you will be quoted an unfavourable rate. It is always best to have HK dollars with you.
  • There are no extra late-night charges nor peak-hour surcharges.
  • Luggage carried in the boot ("trunk" in American and Canadian English) will cost you $5 per piece, except for wheelchairs.
  • No charges are levied for travel to/from the airport or within downtown but all toll charges for tunnels are added to the bill. The driver will normally pay on your behalf at the toll booth and you just need to reimburse him at the end of the journey. But you can also just pass the driver the money before the toll booth too.
  • Be aware that crossing the harbour is considered a relatively significant trip, and some taxi drivers may be reluctant to take you. To do this you can stand at a cross-harbour taxi rank (there are not many), by hailing a taxi by making an arm movement like an ocean wave (They will not stop if they don't want to go) or just asking your hotel to call a taxi firm with your destination. Harbour crossing passengers are expected to pay the tolls (add around $70 for your trip).
  • All taxi drivers are required to display inside the vehicle an official name card that includes the driver's photograph and the license plate number. 
  • Unless a taxi has an out of service sign displayed, they are legally required to take you to your destination. 
  • Taxis are required to provide you a receipt upon request.
  • If you think you have been "toured" around the city, or if they refuse to either carry you to your destination or provide for a receipt, you may file a complain to the Transport Complaints Unit Complaint Hotline (Voice mail service after office hours) at 2889-9999.
Tips:
  • Unless you are fluent in Cantonese, it is good practice to get a local person to write the name or address of your destination in Chinese for you to hand to the taxi driver, as many drivers speak limited English.
  • If you wish to take a journey back to your hotel, ask a receptionist for the hotel's business card.
  • It also helps if you have the phone number of your destination, so you can give it to the driver to call there and ask for directions.
  • Nevertheless, even if you don't take these steps, most taxi drivers know enough English to communicate the basics.
  • Be aware that buildings might have an English name used by foreigners and a different English name used by locals. The HSBC building in Central is called "Hong Kong Bank" by taxi drivers for example.
  • Tipping is not expected in taxis but passengers will often round up the fare to the nearest dollar.
  • During a typhoon, when any loss is not covered by insurance, a tip will be expected, or the taxi driver will ask you to pay a surcharge.
  • Read more in our Hong Kong Airport transportation guide's taxi section
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