Taiwan is rather small, with a modern and efficient train network, so flying across the main island is more of a luxury than a necessity. Having said that, flying is still the most feasible method to access Taiwan’s remote islands.
Mandarin Airlines, a subsidiary of China Airlines, UNI Air, which is owned by EVA, and TransAsia Airways are Taiwan’s major domestic airlines. Flights are frequent, and booking ahead of time is generally unnecessary. Taipei and Kaohsiung offer frequent flights and connections to most other domestic airports; nevertheless, flying from one domestic airport to another may be impossible. Because of the popularity of the high-speed rail, flights on once-popular west coast sections have been severely reduced.
Domestic flight tickets are reasonably priced, and local aircraft are of high quality. Song Shan Airport is Taipei’s domestic airport, located on the city’s northwestern outskirts and readily accessible by taxi. Taitung, Hualien, Makung (Penghu / Pescadores), Kinmen, Hengchun, Nangan, and Beigan are among the domestic destinations. Travelers visiting Kenting may take advantage of the direct and frequent bus service from Kaohsiung airport, which connects with flights from Taipei.
If you wish to explore Taiwan’s smaller islands, the aircraft is still the best choice. It is the only feasible way to go to Kinmen and the quickest way to get to Penghu and Matsu. The aircraft from Taitung saves many hours over the boat, which is renowned among Taiwanese for its difficult trip to Green Island and Orchid Island.
The railway system in Taiwan is good, having stations in all major cities. Train stations are often situated in the heart of most cities and towns, and they serve as a handy hub for most modes of transportation. Furthermore, the rail system enables you to avoid the roads, which may become very congested during weekends and national holidays.
Taiwan High Speed Rail (HSR, goti) is the new railway backbone, a bullet train based on Japanese Shinkansen technology that traverses the 345 km (215 mi) West Coast line from Taipei to Zuoying (Kaohsiung) in 90 minutes. Other stops along the line include Banqiao, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Taichung, Chiayi, and Tainan, although keep in mind that many THSR stations are located very far from the cities they serve (for example, a cab from downtown Tainan costs up to NT$400, but there is a free shuttle bus). The metro connects Taipei, Banciao, and Kaohsiung (Zuoying) stations. Taichung Station is located adjacent to a train station, making it easy to travel to the city center. Branch railway lines link Hsinchu and Tainan stations to the city center. Other stations are only accessible by bus. A one-way ticket from Taipei to Kaohsiung costs NT$1,630 in economy or NT$2,140 in business class, but economy seats are more comfortable and offer more legroom, so there’s no need to spend more. All signs and announcements are also in English, making navigating a breeze. Bookings may be made online or by phone up to two weeks in advance at +886-2-6626-8000 (English spoken), with payment due only when the tickets are picked up. Credit card payments are accepted.
Bookings are simple to make through the internet, and you can pay online or pay and pick up your tickets at almost every FamilyMart and 7-Eleven. You may also skip long-distance ticket lines at major stations by purchasing your tickets from automated ticket machines. The English instructions on the automated machines are difficult to find, but they are there, typically in the upper left corner of the screen. Wheelchair-accessible stations and platforms are available, and all trains feature a wheelchair-accessible car (wider doors, ample space, accessible bathroom). It’s worth noting that the official English guide for online bookings differentiates between “senior or disabled tickets” and “handicap-friendly seats”; although the former may be purchased online (“valid passenger ID” needed), the latter must be booked by contacting the ticketing office. Early Bird tickets go on sale 28 days before the event, with a discount of up to 35% off.
The Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) operates mainline trains, which are usually efficient and dependable. When traveling by train on weekends, it is best to book your tickets well in advance, particularly if you are going a considerable distance. There are also slower (but more frequent) commuter trains without reserved seats. Train schedules and online reservations (up to two weeks in advance) are accessible on the TRA website 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is important to note that booking online simply creates a reservation; there is no Internet payment option. To get your reserved tickets, you must pay for them at your local railway station or post office. TRA tickets are now now available at handy shops (you can reserve first and take tickets in convenient stores). The procedure for purchasing tickets is similar to that of high-speed rail. Children under 115 cm (45 in) tall go in free, while taller kids shorter than 150 cm (59 in) and under 12 years old get in half the price. If you purchase return tickets, you will get a modest discount based on your trip distance. Vending machines are also available at the bigger stations.
It’s a good idea to be familiar with the “easycard”, which can be purchased at any Taipei MRT station and most convenience shops. It was sold for 200NTD with a deposit of 100NTD. Easycard is accepted in the Taipei MRT, buses across Taiwan, convenience stores, and certain restaurants and businesses. You may load money onto the card at MRT stations, TRA stations, and convenience shops. You may also use it to board a TRA train. The price is determined using the price of a local train plus a 10% reduction. You may, however, ride the Tzu-Chiang restricted express, although without a reserved seat. Northern Taiwan (Fulong, Rueifang, Keelung, Taipei, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Miaoli, Pinghsi line, and Neiwan line) and southern Taiwan (Fulong, Rueifang, Keelung, Taipei, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Miaoli, Pinghsi line, and Neiwan line) (Chiayi, Tainan, Kaohsiung, Pingtung, Shalun line). It CANNOT be used from northern Taiwan to southern Taiwan.
Apart from the THSR, the quickest train is the Tzu-Chiang (limited express) and the slowest is the Pingkuai (Ordinary/Express). There is frequently nothing to choose between fares and destination times for neighboring train classes, but the difference between the quickest and slowest may be very significant.
- Tze-Chiang (自強 ziqiang): The quickest (and most expensive). Seating is assigned. Non-reserved (standing) tickets are also available for purchase at full price. For Hualien, there are Taroko and Puyuma, which exclusively offer reserved tickets.
- Chu-Kuang (莒光 juguang): Second quickest. Seating is assigned. It is as sluggish as a local train in western Taiwan, yet it is still a quick and handy train in eastern Taiwan.
- local train (區間 qujian) : Commuter train that travels short to medium distances and stops at all stations. There is no allocated seating. There are just a few local-fast trains that do not stop at every station.
- Express / Ordinary (普通 putong): All stations have stops, there is no air conditioning, and it is the cheapest option. There is no allocated seating. Some Express trains (the light blue ones on the West Trunk Line) are air-conditioned, but others (the dark blue ones) are not.
Local commuter trains are available for transit to neighboring cities. These appear on a regular basis (about once every ten to fifteen minutes). Furthermore, “standing tickets” may be bought on trains with allocated seating that do not have any vacant seats. Standing tickets cost 80% of the original ticket price and may be helpful for last-minute passengers. The disadvantage, of course, is that you will be forced to stand for the whole of your journey.
Also, attempt to obtain your target station printed in Chinese and play “mix and match” with the system map while searching for the corresponding Chinese letters written on the station. Unfortunately for foreigners, announcements are only given in Mandarin, Taiwanese, and Hakka, thus English would be ineffective aboard the train. As a result, be attentive and on the lookout for your target station at all times, or you risk missing it. It is beneficial for you to ask a passenger to notify you when you will arrive.
Taiwan, like Japan and South Korea, provides international visitors with rail passes that allow them unrestricted train travel within a certain time frame.
Taiwan High Speed Rail also sells a separate THSR Pass that can only be used on high-speed rail trains. A standard 3-day ticket costs $2,400, while a flexible 3-day pass costs $3,200. A normal 3-day pass must be used in three consecutive days, while a flexible 3-day ticket may be used during any seven-day period. The 5-day joint passes provide unlimited trips on high-speed rail for two days during a five-day period, as well as unlimited rides on TRA lines within the same five-day period. These are $2,800 for a regular ticket that does not enable you to travel Tzu-Chiang trains and $3,600 for an express pass that permits you to ride on all TRA lines. The THSR permits may only be used by foreigners in Taiwan on tourist visas (or visa exemptions) and must be bought in advance from travel agencies outside of Taiwan.
Intercity buses are known as keyun , as contrast to county and city buses, which are known as gongche . Private buses are often more comfortable (often including broad, plush seats, footrests, and individual television displays) than government-owned buses. Nonetheless, even government-owned buses are pleasant, timely, and have clean restrooms on board. Long-distance buses may be an appealing choice for individuals seeking to save money on journeys lasting more than two hours. The cost is usually cheaper than that of the train, and the speed and comfort are generally on par with or better than that of the train.
The Taiwan tourist shuttle links with many of the main railway stations and provides direct connections to many of the tourist attractions that may be difficult for foreigners to find by public transport.
Bus service is widely available in large cities. Route maps, on the other hand, are nearly completely in Chinese, despite the fact that the destinations displayed on the front of buses are in English. If you’re staying at a hotel, ask the receptionist to recommend some routes and circle your location on the map. Show this to the bus driver, and he or she will hopefully remember to let you know when it’s time to get off. Local bus service is frequently unavailable in smaller cities, but out-of-town buses may occasionally make stops in the suburbs. Taxi ranks are available at all airports and bus terminals.
A bus driver may sometimes stop a bus away from the curb at a bus stop. It is sometimes caused by a car illegally parked near a bus stop. (According to Taiwanese traffic rules and regulations, cars are not permitted to stop or park within 10 meters (33 feet) of a bus stop.) A bus driver, on the other hand, may stop a bus away from the curb simply because he or she does not want to wait for passing traffic when exiting a bus stop. Since a result, be very cautious while boarding or disembarking from a bus that has stopped away from a curb, as numerous motorbikes, motor scooters, and bicycles will undoubtedly be tempted to overtake on the right side of the stopped bus where passengers board and disembark! (Because traffic in Taiwan drives on the right side of the road, buses have doors on the right side.)
In Taiwan, you must hail the bus you want as soon as you see it approaching, just like you would a taxi. Both ends of the route are posted on the front of the vehicle in Chinese and occasionally English, so be sure the bus you get on is traveling in the correct direction. In Taipei, you sometimes pay to get on the bus and sometimes to get off (whether with cash or the ubiquitous Easy Card). As you board the bus, you will see an illuminated sign opposite you. If the first character is pay as you go in, the second character is pay as you go out (or just watch the other people).
Taipei to Taichung: about NT 170 NT 230 Taipei to Tainan: about NT 220 NT 360 Taipei to Kaohsiung: about NT 399 NT 480
The MRT, Taipei’s good, very extensive underground system, makes getting about the city a breeze, while Kaohsiung’s metro finally debuted in March 2008. Prepaid travel cards, such as the EasyCard () in Taipei, are offered at metro stations for bus and metro travel. It’s known as in Kaohsiung. They are scanned by proximity sensors, so you don’t have to take the card out of your pocket or bag. The MRT is extremely clean since no one eats, drinks, or smokes inside the stations or underground trains. For individuals who are worried about security late at night, there is also a separate waiting room that is monitored by security cameras. Stations and trains are wheelchair accessible, however keep in mind that when there are several exits from a single station, only one of them is typically equipped with a lift.
Taxis are widely available in major Taiwanese cities. You won’t have to search for a cab since one will come to you. The usual yellow cabs search the streets for prospective passengers, such as lost foreigners. It is possible, although usually unneeded, to call a cab. Simply put your palm in front of you, parallel to the ground, to hail one. They will, however, often stop for you even if you are just waiting to cross the street or for a bus. Taxis are always accessible in less highly frequented locations farther away from transportation hubs by contacting taxi dispatch centers.
In general, drivers are unable to speak in English or read Westernized addresses (except for special Taoyuan airport taxis). Take a business card from the hotel and have the hotel employees or a Taiwanese friend write down your destination in Chinese. Show the driver the Chinese lettering of your destination.
Taxis are clearly metered (with a starting point price of NT$70), and taxi drivers are legally prohibited from accepting gratuities. In one taxi, a maximum of four passengers may travel for the price of one. Taxis in Taiwan are less costly than those in Europe or the United States.
Although taxi drivers in Taiwan are more trustworthy than in many other nations, not all are. An indirect journey may cost you half as much. A taxi driver charging night-time charges during the day will cost you 30% extra (make sure he presses the large button on the left on his meter before 11PM). Avoid the more aggressive drivers who gather around railway station entrances. Also, if you’re going to Wenshan or Wulai, hold your ground and insist on paying the meter price. Some drivers prefer to tack on surcharges or utilize night-time rates if you’re going to locations like Wenshan (). Such efforts to defraud are illegal.
Buses are a lot more cost-effective alternative from Taoyuan Airport (TPE), but if you want a straight route, Taoyuan airport drivers are the finest option. They are quite comfy and will get you to your destination as quickly as possible. All TPE cab drivers are connected via radio, so they may be forewarned if police are present. When there are traffic bottlenecks and no cops around, the motorist may choose to travel in the emergency lane. Taxis from TPE to Tao Yuan, portions of Taipei County, and certain other locations are ‘authorized’ to charge an extra 50% of the meter fee.
Inside, the badge and taxi driver identity are shown, while the license number is written on the exterior. You must also be cautious that the driver switches on his meter; otherwise, he may rip you off; in such a situation, you are not required to pay; nevertheless, you must ensure that you can locate a police officer to resolve the issue. It is advisable not to be concerned if there are reports of people entering phony cabs and being assaulted by the driver. Passengers assaulting drivers may be a greater concern for drivers!
If you contact a taxi dispatch center, you will be issued a taxi number that will allow you to identify the car when it comes. Generally, dispatch is very quick and efficient since taxis are continuously monitoring dispatch calls from the headquarters via radio while on the road. This is also the most secure method to hail a cab, particularly for women.
Taxis are also a versatile, though somewhat costly, mode of transportation to neighboring cities. They have an advantage over electric trains in that they operate till late at night. Drivers are obliged to give a receipt if requested, although they may be reluctant to do so.
Taxis, like everywhere else in Asia, are wary about exchanging big amounts. To prevent the bother of arguing with the driver for change, have some lower denomination notes on hand.
Taxi drivers are notorious for their strong political beliefs. Many favor the pan-green coalition and Taiwanese independence, and spend their days listening to Taiwanese political talk radio. Drivers have a bad reputation since they are ex-offenders. Be cautious about expressing your views on sensitive political issues (including, but not necessarily limited to, cross-strait relations); also, be cautious about describing your destination in a way that could be perceived politically (for example, the President’s Office or Chiang-Kai-Shek Memorial Hall). Keep an eye out for drivers that discriminate against other cultures, such as those who tape “No Korean passengers” to their vehicles. This is sometimes inevitable since certain drivers incite such debate. Furthermore, if you see what seems to be blood pouring from the driver’s lips or him spitting blood into the pavement, don’t worry, it’s just him eating betel nut (see box). However, keep in mind that betel nuts are a stimulant.
Taxi drivers are usually courteous to tourists, and some of them take advantage of the chance to practice their poor English abilities. They will most likely ask you about yourself and will listen patiently to your efforts in Mandarin. If you have young children with you, don’t be shocked if they are given sweets as you depart.
Women are often cautioned not to ride in cabs alone late at night. Although there have been instances in which women have been assaulted, this is not a high danger. To be secure, ladies may have the hotel or restaurant call a taxi for them (ensuring a licensed driver), have a partner write down the driver’s license number (clearly visible on the dashboard), or have a mobile phone nearby. Do not get in if the driver does not have a valid driver’s license with his or her photo prominently displayed in the taxi.
By scooter or motorcycle
Scooters with engines larger than 50cc need a driver’s license and must be insured and registered in the owner’s name. Foreign nationals staying for fewer than 30 days do not have an easy time obtaining a scooter license. Until 2003, it was impossible to get a scooter with a displacement more than 150cc. Many scooters in cities have just 50cc and cannot go faster than 80 km/h (50 mph). The more powerful variants, known as zhongxing scooters, are now very popular and may be leased for short-term usage or purchased used at English-language stores. If you’re going to need it for a long, you can get it in Taiwan. They are not permitted on highways, even if they are capable of exceeding 100 km/h (62 mph), unless employed for certain police reasons, which means you must take the scenic route.
If you’re just starting out on the streets of Taiwan, it’s a good idea to practice on a back road or alley until you’ve gotten a feel for the scooter – trying to do so in the larger cities may be deadly. Things can certainly get dicey on Taiwanese roadways, and Taipei, in particular, has smaller and more crowded roads than many other cities. However, if you know what you’re doing, it’s an excellent method to move about a city.
Depending on where you’re staying, you should be able to hire a scooter by the day, week, or month. Bikefarm, which is operated by a very nice and helpful English gentleman named Jeremy, is one Taipei motorbike and scooter rental business that offers English language service. Foreigner Assistance Services in Taiwan F.A.S.T. provides a rental service for foreign tourists in Taichung. Aside from that, scooters are usually simple to rent in most large cities, with many of these locations conveniently situated near train or bus terminals. Most demand some kind of identification, even if it is your expired Blockbuster video card in certain instances! The typical fee for 24 hours is $400, which includes one or two helmets.
Renting a motorbike is another option. Many tourists swear by their 125cc Wild Wolf bikes, and riding about the island on one is a wonderful way to explore the island up close.
It should be noted that since 2007, scooters and motorcycles with engines larger than 550cc have been permitted to go on expressways with a red license plate. They must, however, be treated like vehicles and cannot be parked in scooter parking spots.
Driving in Taiwan requires an international driving license, which may be used for up to 30 days before you need to apply for a local permit. Additional limitations may be imposed by certain towns, so verify with the rental shop before of time. VIP Rentals in Taipei is delighted to hire vehicles to foreigners and will even transport the vehicle to a specified location. A deposit is often needed, and the final day of rental is not pro-rated, but is computed per hour at a separate (higher) cost.
Taiwan has an excellent numbered highway system. The majority of traffic signs use international symbols, although several display just Chinese names of locations and streets. Despite this, almost all official directing signs will be written in both Chinese and English. However, since Romanization is not regulated, English names may differ across road signs, which can be confusing. The roads are in good condition, with toll booths every 30 kilometers (19 mi). Currently, a vehicle motorist pays $40 each time he or she passes through a toll booth on a highway. Prepaid tickets are available at most convenience shops and at “cash” toll booths, allowing for quicker passage and avoiding the need to figure out precise change while driving.
While driving is the easiest method to travel about the countryside, in bigger cities like Taipei and Kaohsiung, traffic jams are an issue, as is finding a decent parking spot, particularly during rush hour, and traffic tends to become hectic, so you may be better off using public transportation instead.
While Taiwanese people do not often hitchhike, foreigners who have done so report that it is a simple process. However, in rural areas, people may not recognize the thumb in the air symbol, so you may have to try other methods. For example, flagging down a car may work on a country lane with little or no public transportation, but doing so on a major road may cause confusion, with the driver assuming you are in trouble. As a result, a sign, particularly one in Chinese, would be very useful. The East coast near Hualien and Taitung has a reputation for being particularly excellent for catching rides. Taiwanese people are extremely polite and helpful, so starting up a conversation with someone at a transportation café or highway service station may just get you on your way. However, to prevent subsequent misunderstanding, make sure the driver understands that you wish to freeride.
While Taiwan is well-known for being a significant participant in the bicycle industry (through firms like as Giant and Merida), bicycles were formerly regarded an unwelcome reminder of less affluent times. This, thankfully, has altered in recent years. Bicycling is regaining popularity as a mode of transportation and leisure, and accompanying infrastructure is gradually being built. Several bike routes have been constructed, and recreational riding has grown in popularity among residents, particularly on weekends. You should be warned, though, that local drivers have a well-deserved reputation for being dangerous. As a result, while riding outside of authorized bike lanes and trails, you should use great care.
In recent years, the government has promoted biking as a form of healthy leisure. Several dedicated bike routes have been constructed across Taiwan (especially along riverside parks). Long-distance rides, like as those across the Central Mountain Range and along the coast surrounding the main island, have also grown in popularity. Bicycles may be transported as is for long distance journeys utilizing regular freight service from the Taiwan Railway Administration between major stations. A pricing list may be seen here (Chinese language only). Non-folding bicycles may also be carried on the Taipei and Kaohsiung rapid transit systems during off-peak hours if loaded at specified stations (usually 10AM-4PM on weekdays, check with your local station personnel to confirm).
Giant Bicycles Corporation has a wide network of bicycle retail shops where you may rent a bike for as low as NT $100 per day if you reserve it one week in advance [web]. Public shared bicycles may also be rented via automated kiosks in Taipei’s Hsinyi District and Kaohsiung. Rental costs in Taipei may be paid using the fast transport EasyCard system, although a credit card deposit is required.
Furthermore, many municipal police stations provide basic support services to bicycles, such as air pumps and rest stops.