2 hour lines are normal from 3pm to 8pm 7 days a week, unruly crowds and crooked taxi drivers make the situation unbearable .. and this is when the temperature is pleasant.
There is something very wrong with the Peak Tram at both ends.
For a couple of years now the lines have been getting out of hand to the point where it is having a negative impact on visitors perception of Hong Kong.
I was up there on Friday afternoon at 3pm and what I witnessed was nothing out of the ordinary, it is like this now every day and amazingly it is much worse on a Sunday and Public Holidays.
In a nutshell the problem is very simple, the capacity of the Peak Tram ( a rather iconic must do thing for visitors ) has not increased it's capacity since 1989, the 2 carriage tram holds a maximum of 125 people ( in reality about 100 is more accurate ).
In 1989 we had about 10 million visitors to Hong Kong
In 2013 we had almost 55 million visitors to Hong Kong
The number one attraction in Hong Kong for visitors is a trip to the Peak for the view.
The problem is immediately apparent and it is going to get worse, our Tourism Chief is forecasting 70 million visitors by 2018 and 100 million visitors by 2023.
There has been some vague talk about increasing the capacity of the Peak Tram (which will take years) and building a new tram line but at the moment that is talk so for the foreseeable future the problem is going to get much, much worse.
Words cannot really describe the mayhem I witnessed on Friday at the lower Peak Tram terminus on Garden Road, the line was 2 1/2 hours long and management of the line was terrible, arguments were breaking out amongst the frazzled people in the queue and unfortunately some Mainland Chinese tourists were living up to their reputation for being queue jumpers causing more anger.
For me the worst part was nefarious taxi drivers offering to take passengers to the Peak (off meter) for HK$300 when the normal fare is around HK$55, I took pictures of these crooks and as usual there was not a Policeman in sight to scare them off... they actually had many takers but I was able to warn several groups of non Chinese people and point them in the direction of the legitimate taxi stand 50 yards away and there was 10+ taxi's waiting for passengers.!
My advice to visitors is to forget going on the Peak Tram (going up) unless you are prepared to go around 9am in the morning... in my experience this is not the right time to go anyway, it can be cloudy and misty at this time, early afternoon is the best time to visit. Simply take a taxi up from anywhere on HK Island (inexpensive and if there is more than 3 people, cheaper than the tram), the ride up will take 15 - 20 minutes.
Please also note that 7 days a week from about 5pm to 7pm the line is a solid 2 hours wait going up.. a visit at night is very popular!
This is a difficult one, generally speaking (except Sunday and Public Holidays) it is easier to go down on the tram up until around 4pm, you might only have to wait 20 minutes and frankly I find going down much more exciting than going up! if you feel the line is longer than you wish then simply take a taxi down to a central location (for me the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Central District)
Please also note that 7 days a week from about 5pm - 9pm the line is a solid 2 hours wait going down.
This is reality and it is going to get much, much worse.
One goes to the Peak for the view where (from my spot!) you get the best city view in the world day or night.
The image above shows the view is from my spot, which requires a 15 - 20 minute walk (both ways) but it is worth it.
Most people when they visit have no option but to go to the viewing platform on top of the Peak Tower, the monstrosity is shown in the image above, you must go up many escalators and run the gauntlet of the many touristy shops in the building and then line up and pay HK$40 (US$5) to get to the viewing platform and this can also be a very unpleasant experience due to the crowds.
...more importantly, the view is nowhere as good as the view from my spot!
These days I think the whole Peak experience for the average visitor can be quite unpleasant, there are two shopping malls at the Peak who simply cater these days to the Mainland Chinese Tourists who seem to spend more time shopping than actually looking at the view.
Alternative means of transport to the Peak
Bus no. 15 from Central to the Peak is perhaps the most famous mode of transport after the Peak Tram... however shown below are 2 letters to the editor of our most famous English language newspaper the South China Morning Post on February 9th 2014.. letters like this are getting to be very common.
A very fair comment...
A fairly typical comment from a fairly typical visitor.
I quite often take the bus no. 15 to the Peak (getting on at the first stop close to the Ferry for Discovery Bay at Central Pier) ensuring I get the front seats upstairs - by the 3rd stop it is standing room only.
I imagine the the Bus Company has already requested an increase on the number of buses they can run and increase the frequency, however it is not that simple, they need approval from the Transport Department which can take a long time with no guarantee they will allow any increase in frequency.
I personally think it is about time that the Transport Department put out to tender another bus service to the Peak that made a stop at the Peak Tram and then onto the Peak via the same route as the No. 15 bus, with NO stops after the Peak Tram, in other words to serve visitors only thus allowing the No. 15 bus to serve mostly residents. This will NEVER happen.. it is too easy a solution.
There is also a mini bus service (route no.1 ) to the Peak from IFC Mall but forget this, the lines are horrible for this as well.
So, I always recommend a taxi, 95% of the time there are no issues getting a cab, it is cheap and quick and beats waiting in line for 2 hours!
The Peak is my favourite spot in the world but for the average visitor it can be a very unpleasant experience and it is time the Transport Department stepped in to solve the issues as the situation is going to get a lot worse.
End of rant.