I have said it is hard to get lost in Hong Kong, but I can say that it is very easy to become disoriented in Hong Kong. One is constantly using a variety of visual clues to locate themselves in the urban maze. Watching my brothers-in-law drive around town was enlightening, Hong Kong is very easy to move around on foot and awful in a car.
I humbly suggest you avoid driving while here.
Hong Kong has gone out of its way to be easy to walk. Yes, it is crowded in places and at times. The mash of humanity in such a small space can make wayfinding a challenge. But, thankfully, the HK government has decided to help with that.
In order to show the detail, I'm leaving the images large in this post. Sorry if that makes the post really long.
Nearly every major corner in Hong Kong has wayfinding posts. Here you can see that this post shows us how to get to attractions (in pink) and facilities (in blue). In this case, this corner in Diamond Hill is near Buses, the MTR station, washrooms, the Nan Lian Garden and the Chi Lin Buddhist Nunnery.
These posts are vital. Most tell you the nearest MTR station which, for me, is the backbone of wayfinding in Hong Kong.
Next you'll notice that there aren't a lot of major streets in Hong Kong. This aerial shows that the coffee shop I'm in is on Canton Road. Then there's a park (that green thing at the top) and then another major road - Nathan Road. Street signs are everywhere. Even if you wander down a thin or curvy street, you should find your way out again merely by coming back up against one of the major roads.
The MTR Subway
The MTR is the backbone of Hong Kong. It adds so much coherence to the city. Without it, there would be no wayfinding.
Once you find your way to a station, maps are provided that make life easy.
Here is an MTR system map that shows the entire subway system as it really runs. As a visitor, both this map and the schematic shown in the next section are vital. This map shows each station and - most importantly whether that station is in Kowloon, Hong Kong or Lantau. There's a big difference and the schematic glosses over them.
This map shows the station area. You see the physical station layout (in pink) over the road network. Each area within the road network also shows major destinations, office buildings and transfers to other types of transportation. This one in Central shows the central station, admiralty station, ferries to the outer islands and transfer to the fast train to the airport. This is complete with pictures for people who are unfamiliar with their destination.
Each exit in turn has major destinations printed just before the stairs or escalators out. This gives you one last bit of reassurance that you are, indeed, going the right way.
Each station also provides a station layout map. This map shows the platforms, the directions of the trains, the lifts or escalators or stairs, shops in the station, exits, washrooms and other amenities. This allows for in-station wayfinding.
Wayfinding isn't all about physical movement. Movement requires actions. In this case, the actions have different fares associated with them. This map shows your current location, the stops on all the other MTR lines, the major destinations at those stops and the fares to get to each stop. This table doesn't force you to cross reference with other maps. Just look for the stop and the destination and you know your fare.
The last bit of wayfinding is the payment type. This is likely the least important, but these show the various types of octopus or other cards you can use on MTR to get around.
So, in Hong Kong there are many tools to use for wayfinding. When compared to wayfinding in the typical American suburb, Hong Kong is clearly easier to get around. When I compare clear signage and coherence - even with 12 million people around - to, say, Arvada Colorado, I'll take wayfinding in Hong Kong.
Blogged at a Starbucks in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, Using Windows Live Writer