It’s not the fastest way to get around Hong Kong, but the Ding Ding is undoubtedly the most scenic.
Hong Kong Tramways—affectionately known as the ‘Ding Ding’ to locals because of its quaint little bell—has plied its way through Hong Kong’s roads for over a century. And at a minuscule HK$2.60, it holds the honour of being the cheapest ride around (the Star Ferry comes in at a close second).
If you have all the time in the world, you could just park yourself on the top deck and ride the entire route, watching the world go by. This however would take one heck of a long time. Most people just use it for quick jaunts over a few city blocks, rather than travelling long distances.
If you’re lucky, you’ll find yourself on one of the classic trams, which still have the original wicker seats. Or, you may find yourself on one of the new ones that have modern electronic signs that announce the next stop, in English and in Chinese.
Be warned that the trams do not have air conditioning, and in the heat of summer, you’ll wish they did. The windows do open, and often let in not only fresh air, but also rain. You’ll truly feel like you’ve stepped back in time in this classic mode of transportation.
Regardless of how far your journey is, riding the Ding Ding is a quintessential Hong Kong experience. Here’s our guide on how to ride the tram, and what attractions are close to the tram stops.
The tram route
The tram runs an east–west route along the north shore of Hong Kong Island, from the western terminus in Kennedy Town to the eastern terminus in Shau Kei Wan. There is one loop which goes specifically to Happy Valley to take people to the Happy Valley Racecourse. Each tram stop has a name, though it can be hard to see the signs and know where to get off.
Know your destination
So, how to get around by tram? The front of every tram shows its destination, so you just need to know if you are going east or west. The ones going to Western Market, are, obviously, heading west through Central, as are the Shek Tong Tsui and Kennedy Town trams. The ones going to Causeway Bay, North Point and Shau Kei Wan are all heading east.
How to board the tram in Hong Kong
Don’t make the mistake of entering the doors at the front, because that’s actually the exit. You jump on all trams through the turnstile at the rear entrance, and pay as you get off at the front. You can either choose to sit on the lower deck or the top deck, and there are stairs at the front and the back, but it’s good etiquette to go up the stairs at the back.
How to pay
Because of the flat fare of HK$2.60, it doesn’t matter where or when you get off, the price is the same. But be aware the conductors do not give change, so you’ll either need coins or an Octopus card. Senior citizens get half price so watch out for grumpy grannies wielding umbrellas and trolleys of vegetables—they are fierce and fast.
The 4-Day Tram Pass
If you love trams and want to use it a lot, we recommend getting a 4-day Tram Pass for a very cheapo price of HK$34.00. This gives you unlimited rides on the tram for four consecutive days. As for where to go, there’s no shortage of things to see along the Ding Ding route. So get comfy and enjoy the ride!
What to see along the tram line
Here’s our recommendations for the top attractions that are along the tram line, from west to east.
Western Market: The market is a classic old building which has been turned into a big tourist trap. Skip the market itself and wander the streets of Sheung Wan. Follow your nose to the Dried Seafood District and see traditional Chinese ingredients such as birds nest, dried scallops, black fungus, and more.
Central: The beating, money-loving heart of the island. Huge highrises and malls. Jump off the Ding Ding and take a ride up the Mid-Levels Escalator, the longest outdoor escalator in the world. Pop into the historic Man Mo Temple and come out smelling like incense. Giggle at pornographic playing cards and erotic snuff boxes at nearby Catchick Street. Grab a drink in Lan Kwai Fong or Soho.
Wan Chai: Jump out right in front of the historic building The Pawn, an upscale restaurant and bar that was once a Chinese pawn shop. Nearby is Tai Yuen Street, a bustling street market famous for toy shops and other bric-a-brac. Lockhart Road is a popular nightlife district with happy hours, live music, and raunchy bars.
Causeway Bay: Shop til you drop at Times Square, or stock up on Japanese cosmetics at SOGO. Amble the crowded market stalls in Jardine’s Bazaar. Visit the statue of the queen at Victoria Park, or take in one of the many festivals held there. Watch the tradition of the daily firing of the Noonday Gun at the waterfront.
Happy Valley: Since you’ve saved so much on transportation, why not blow it at the races? One special tram goes to the Happy Valley Racecourse, and you’ll see the name on the front of the tram. It’s just HK$10.00 to enter the racecourse, where you can stand so close to the track that you can feel the thundering of the hooves as the horses barrel past.
Fortress Hill: You can’t miss the sight of the tram going straight through the narrow, crowded Chun Yeung Street Market. Shortly after the tram passes the Fortress Hill MTR Station, get off at the stop for North Point Road, and turn onto Chun Yeung Street Market. This is the best place to get some really awesome pictures of the tram barely squeezing through the market as people go about their daily shopping.
Shau Kei Wan: The end of the tram line. In addition to being a typhoon shelter, Shau Kei Wan also has the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence. Complete with a fort, tanks, cannons, a gunpowder factory, Anyone with an interest in Hong Kong’s wartime history will find this museum fascinating. (Note: This museum is undergoing renovations until 2020.)
Other things to do on the tram
Tramoramic Tour: Want to ride the tram, but don’t want the hassle and stress of plotting your own route? Sign up for the Tramoramic Tour, a one-hour trip on a 1920s-style, open-top tram. The tram takes you on a sightseeing tour of major landmarks, between Western Market and Causeway Bay, including Happy Valley. This is not a hop-on-hop-off tour, but during the one-hour ride you’ll get to hear “authentic tales of local life and history”. As a bonus, you also receive a 2-Day Pass for the tram. This tour is rated the #1 Sightseeing Tour and #1 Historical & Heritage Tour on Trip Advisor.
Throw a tram party: Having a private party on an antique tram is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Popular with wedding parties, bachelorettes, birthdays and office parties, you can book your own private party tram. You pay by the hour, and since the trams can hold 30 or more people, it’s easy to split the cost of the charter.