Government plan to reintroduce Wallah Wallahs as water taxis

Hugh Farmer: The source of information in this article is somewhat outdated, and I would be very grateful if anyone could contact the website with more up to date information regarding the return of Wallah Wallahs to Hong Kong.

Crossing the Victoria Harbour may just be a taxi ride away, if a Hong Kong government proposal to boost flagging tourism by reviving “water taxi” services gains approval, almost 50 years after the smaller boats ended their run.

Under the plan, the boats, which will offer passengers more flexibility, would take them to popular areas such as Central, West Kowloon, Kai Tak and Tsim Sha Tsui, according to the latest tourism development plan released by the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau on Friday.

In a written reply to the Post’s queries, the Tourism Commission said it would work with other departments to study the feasibility of launching water taxi services.

Water Taxis New York Variety Image SCMP 14 Oct 2017

Water taxis such as this one in New York were being considered for Hong Kong to boost tourism. Photo: Shutterstock Courtesy: SCMP

Though no clear details have been revealed, the tourism industry applauded the “innovative” idea, claiming it would put Hong Kong on par with major cities such as New York, Venice, Sydney and Bangkok, which offer waterway transport services.

“It is a good idea as Hong Kong is famous for its harbour. Introducing the water taxi [service ] can help build the image of our harbour,” Travel Industry Council executive director Joseph Tung Yao-chung said.

He expected the water taxi routes to be longer than those of the existing ferry services, which currently take passengers across the harbour within about 15 minutes. Having a longer route would allow tourists to fully appreciate the views on both sides of the waters, he said.

To enhance the service, Yiu also suggested that the government build more supporting facilities such as smaller boat terminals, and design routes carefully to avoid causing interruptions to existing ferry services.

The concept of the “water taxi” is not new, as similar vessels had operated in the city from the 19th century until the 1970s, serving mostly locals.

Wallah Wallahs Andrew Suddaby And Gwulo 4th Aug 1981

HK Wallah Wallahs August 1981 Courtesy: Andrew Suddaby/Gwulo

Back then, residents and sailors in Hong Kong hopped onto a cheap, on-demand motorboat known as “walla-walla” to travel across the Victoria Harbour.

Landing points were concentrated in Hong Kong’s busiest districts including Central, Sheung Wan and Wan Chai on Hong Kong Island, and Tsim Sha Tsui, Yau Ma Tei and Tai Kok Tsui on the Kowloon Peninsula.

Even after the establishment of Star Ferry in 1898 – a company which later dominated the ferry service between Central and Tsim Sha Tsui – many commuters still relied on the on-call motorboat to cross the harbour. (1)


  1. Hong Kong water taxis: when you haggled to cross harbour at dawn, fares were ‘diabolical’, but the service was 24-hour SCMP 18th March 2018
  2. Hong Kong’s first ‘barrier-free’ waterfront opens in Wan Chai, as public urged to embrace creativity over safety fears SCMP 27th December 2020 includes “Water taxi service also in the works, but delayed amid pandemic and more time needed for installations”

This article was first posted on 19th August 2023.


  1. ‘Water taxi’ idea floated to boost Hong Kong tourism SCMP 14th October 2017


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