The Octopus card was first launched in 1997, allowing Hongkongers to pay subway, bus and ferry fares with a single card. Nowadays, 95% of Hong Kong’s population carry Octopus cards. In addition to transport, they can be used at fast food outlets, coffee shops, convenience stores, parking lots and more.
The card goes by the Cantonese name baat daat tung (八達通). Literally meaning “eight arrivals pass,” it’s a reference to the idiom sei tung baat daat (四通八達), meaning “going in all directions.” The number “eight” obviously inspired the English name, “Octopus card,” as an octopus has eight tentacles.
You can buy a new Octopus card at any MTR (subway) station, including the Airport Express station at Hong Kong International Airport.
To add money to your card, visit the counter at any MTR station with cash in hand. Most stations are also equipped with self-service “Add Value” machines. You can also top up your card over the counter at any convenience store or chain supermarket. (Click here for a full list of authorized locations.)