Is it worth hiring a car in Hong Kong?
I’ve included Hong Kong simply because it is the most extreme example of a city where a hire car is a complete non-starter.
You simply cannot even get a hire car at Hong Kong airport, nor would there be any reason to consider doing so.
Some major car hire companies such as Avis do have offices elsewhere in Hong Kong, but prices are exorbitant and there is just no need.
Even in somewhere “obvious” like Venice, there are numerous reasons why getting a hire car can be a great idea for exploring outside the city. Whereas here, the idea of Hong Kong car hire remains all but a non-starter.
Naturally, it goes without saying that Hong Kong has one of the most modern and extensive mass transit systems in the world, backed up by extremely high frequency buses and those legendary double-decker trams – and walking is also easy, even if it can get a bit sticky in the tropical heat.
Well basically, you can’t, or if you really wanted one, you could pick up a car in Central, but you are going to pay through the nose (don’t expect any change out of HKG 1,000), and then you will need to pay for parking on top.
However, if we swap “car” for “taxi” or simply we ask – why go around by road in Hong Kong, instead of by MTR or ferry, then that’s an entirely different question!
There are no car rental facilities at Hong Kong International airport, and only a handful of car-rental offices within Hong Kong itself. Even if you go across the board into Shenzen, none of the major Western car hire companies are represented – so essentially, car hire in Hong Kong is all but a non-option.
Hong Kong by MTR train, tram and ferry
Given that Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated cities on the planet and that the import of cars is so heavily taxed, it is hardly surprising that public transport and other means of getting around are of a very high quality. In fact, Hong Kong is one of the few cities in the world (perhaps together with Amsterdam, London, New York and San Francisco) where numerous different means of transport are effectively icons of the city in their own right, rather than just means of getting around. Here is just a small selection of options:
- Hong Kong Metro (MTR).
- Hong Kong double-decker trams.
- Hong Kong Star Ferries.
- Hydrofoils (and other ferries) to Macau.
- The Hong Kong Peak tram (actually a funicular railway).
- The Central <> Mid Levels escalators (an outdoor escalator system some 800m long).
- Visit Ocean Park and take a choice of outdoor escalator, funicular railway or cable car to get to there.
- The Ngong Ping 360 cable car on Lantau Island, leading up to Po Lin Monastery.
- Hong Kong by bus / minibus or bus tours.
- Hong Kong on foot – pedestrian highways.
- Hong Kong parks and beaches/hiking trails.
The Star Ferry or the hydrofoil to Macau are two essential experiences when visiting this part of the world. Taxis are also widely available throughout Hong Kong -note that different colours denote different districts.
Is it worth hiring a car in Hong Kong? If your plan is to carry onwards into mainland China, then public transport is pretty good throughout the Pearl River Delta region, but if you do want to hire a car, it is much better to do so once on the other side of the border. Note that it is still very difficult to find Hong Kong or Shenzen car hire deals using online search engines. Be prepared to have to check locally and pay through the nose.
Verdict – very strong no!