The most important aspect you’ll want to understand when traveling to any country is public transportation.
Taiwan isn’t different.
That’s why you’ll want to learn the basics of getting around Taiwan.
To get around Taiwan, you can use the following modes of transportation:
- Bike rentals
- Public busses in various cities
- Scooters—like a Vespa
- Under- and above-ground rapid transit systems
Even though you now know how to get around, you must keep reading. That way, you can learn more information about each mode of transportation in Taiwan and how to access them.
1. Bike Rentals
YouBike is a public bicycle sharing service with over a thousand stations throughout (YouBike station map) Taipei, New Taipei, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Taichung, Changhua, Miaoli, and eventually Kaohsiung.
You can also use a maps app like Google Maps to find YouBike docking stations.
These rental bikes come in two variations, 1.0 and 2.0. If you’re in Taipei, each area with YouBike 1.0 racks, you’ll usually find a row of 2.0 bikes as well.
What’s the difference between YouBike 1.0 and 2.0?
YouBike 2.0s have a built-in solar-powered smart panel as opposed to the sensor being on the bike racks. In addition, you’ll find that these panels come with a myriad of features.
For instance, the bike locking mechanism. When you’re readying to leave your bike outside, you don’t have to worry about any potential bike thieves cutting your bike chains. That’s because the 2.0 locks your entire bike with your EasyCard as opposed to using a key.
Moreover, with this panel, you can use other integrated circuit (IC) cards like iPass.
To rent YouBikes, 1.0 and 2.0, you will need to register on YouBike’s website.
2. Public Bus
Mountain busses, shuttles, recreational buses, small buses, electric buses, and even driverless buses are on the way.
While it might feel like a roller-coaster on the city buses, they still offer more affordable pricing than most other transportation options. However, they aren’t ideal for riding during rush hour.
If you’re on most buses, you can either use contactless cards—tap when you’re boarding and leaving—or you can pay with cash.
However, things change when you take an intercity bus, which is the cheapest route for traveling through Taiwan. You can purchase tickets from any Taiwanese convenience store, in person at the station, or from ticket machines at bus stations.
3. Car Rentals
Avoid this option if you don’t have an International Driving Permit (IDP). Because if you don’t have your IDP, no car rental service will let you rent any vehicles.
If you’re interested in obtaining an international driving permit, here’s how to get an IDP in the following countries:
- American Automobile Association: United States
- Canadian Automobile Association: Canada
- The Post Office: United Kingdom
- National Roads and Motorists’ Association: Australia
- Go Digit: India
- New Zealand Automobile Association: New Zealand
- Automobile Association Philippines: Philippines
If you have your IDP and are ready to rent a car in Taiwan, the island nation has a wide selection of rental agencies, with prices ranging between $65–$260 per day. For instance, Avis serves as one of Taiwan’s most popular car rental services.
These dangerous yet exhilarating and convenient motorized bikes have storefronts around most train stations and other areas throughout Taiwan’s cities. Moreover, many stores offer electric and gas options.
Expect to pay between NT$100 ($3.59) and NT$800 ($28.76) per day for a scooter rental in Taiwan, which doesn’t include gas or battery swapping costs. Another essential expense that you must consider is rain gear. Otherwise, if you’re driving in the rain, you’ll find yourself soaked.
Regarding driver’s licenses and permits, requirements depend on where you go.
Some places might require a Taiwanese Scooter License, while others will accept an International Driver’s Permit.
Some electric motorbike sharing services, for example, that require a scooter license, are GoShare and iRent. On the other hand, scooter rental services that only need international driver’s permits include SKRT and WeMo.
Mom-and-pop stores will vary depending on what part of Taiwan you’re visiting. For instance, the countryside will likely have more lenient requirements than a major city like Taipei.
Important tip: when renting a scooter in Taiwan, ensure you only use lanes designated for motorbikes and keep your wits about you.
5. Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) And Other Rails
One of the best ways to navigate Taiwan’s cities is through the metro or railway; the rides are smooth, quick, and affordable. In addition, many towns throughout Taiwan offer city-specific transit systems.
The Taipei MRT (Taipei MRT map) has six lines and 131 stations that will take you through Taipei and New Taipei City. You can use these lines to reach most interest points, including tourist destinations, train stations, shopping centers, and airports.
The Maokong gondola, a cable car, also falls under the Taipei Metro umbrella. It takes you from the Taipei Zoo MRT Station to Maokong mountain.
Maokong mountain is a gem. You can watch fireworks on New Year’s Eve or drink a cup of tea while overlooking the distant mountains. Moreover, in this area, you have plenty of hiking opportunities where you can feel the breeze brush your face.
You can purchase single-journey tickets—in the form of coins and the least recommended. Or you can use contactless cards such as EasyCard, iPass, HappyCash, and icash.
Also read: Guide to Taipei’s MRT
In 2021, Taichung finally finished its first operational MRT system, the Green Line (Taichung MRT map). It connects Taichung’s high-speed rail station with other points of interest like the National Taichung Theater, Top City department store, and Maple Garden.
Alishan Forest Railway
Initially designed for logging, Alishan’s railway has 22 stations that’ll take you through the infamous mountain resort of Alishan. However, the forest rail system is meant to present the area’s cultural roots.
Danhai Light Rail
Tamsui District’s Light Rail Transit (LRT) currently has 11 stations (Danhai LRT map). The above-ground rail system starts at Tamsui’s Fisherman’s Wharf and ends at a massive shopping area under construction.
Kaohsiung Rapid Transit
Kaohsiung’s MRT (KLRT) is spearheaded by several kawaii anime girl mascots and has a total of 61 stations (KLRT map) that’ll take you to tourist destinations such as Lover’s Pier.
As with the Taipei MRT, you can also use all the above-mentioned contactless cards to explore Kaohsiung.
At the moment, the Taoyuan Metro only has one line, but it’ll take you from the Taoyuan International Airport to New Taipei and Taipei cities. Otherwise, if you want to explore some parts of Taoyuan, such as the Gloria Outlet Malls, or take the high-speed rail, this single line will take you to those stations as well.
Here’s a map of the Taoyuan Metro to help you know which stations are essential.
If you’re in the big city, you’re likely to see taxis everywhere. Whether it’s through the LINE app’s taxi service or a regular taxi. Moreover, according to Taiwanese law, Uber is also considered a taxi.
Most taxi drivers don’t speak English. However, all you need to do is show them the address of where you need to go and keep your eye on the meter. To achieve the best results, have the address of your destination written in Traditional Chinese. If you’re using Uber, let the app do everything.
You can pay for taxis in Taiwan with cash, card, and IC cards.
If you’re outside a metropolitan area, drivers may ask for a flat rate before starting the journey. Furthermore, they’re likely to have higher prices outside of, for instance, Taipei. On top of that, the local governments set the fares in most cities.
Here’s a list of phone numbers you’ll need to file complaints against taxi drivers in Taiwan:
- Kaohsiung: +886-7-222-6816
- Taichung government: +886-4-2228-9111
- Taichung Motor Vehicles Office: +886-4-2691-3464
- Tainan: +886-6-295-3221
- Taipei: Traffic Division, Taipei City Police Department: +886-2311-6409 or +886-2375-2100
Don’t forget to note information like your driver’s name, the time you took your taxi, your route, and other details you think you’ll need for your phone call.
Taiwan has two train options: the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) and the Taiwan High-Speed Rail (THSR). Each comes with different perks that make it up to you to choose your preferred transportation.
Taiwan Railway Administration
The slower variation of Taiwan’s intercity rail system offers 241 stations that run along both coasts. However, they do not provide service within Taiwan’s Central Mountains.
While these offer a more affordable alternative to the THSR, they are much slower. However, due to the staff doing an excellent job cleaning, you’ll find that these train carts are always clean.
Moreover, while riding these trains, you can purchase bento boxes or souvenirs from train attendants.
Also, the TRA offers various services or classes that’ll suit the needs of different travelers. These classes include:
- Local: short and medium services and stops at all stations
- Fast Local: same as Local, but only stops at some stops
- Fu-hsing: similar to Fast Local, but offers reserved seating
- Chu-kuang: long haul and skips some stops—cheaper than the Tze-chiang
- Tze-chiang: goes long distances and only stops at major stations
- Taroko Express: tilting train that’s long-haul and stops only at a few stations
- Puyuma Express: same as Taroko
Local, Fast Local, and Fu-hsing all charge NT$1.46 ($.05) per kilometer. Conversely, Chu-kuang charges NT$1.75 ($.06) per kilometer. Also, Tze-chiang, Taroko, and Puyuma classes charge NT$2.27 ($.08) per kilometer.
Tze-chiang, Chu-kuang, and Fu-hsing all offer reserved seating; however, Local and Fast Local don’t. Therefore, if you intend on taking the Taroko or Puyuma classes, you’re required to reserve seating.
Taiwan High-Speed Rail
The THSR only runs on the west coast and costs more than the commuter. However, if you’re looking to save time, it’s well worth the investment. For instance, going from Taipei to Kaohsiung will only take you 60–120 minutes, whereas, if you take the bus or commuter, it’ll take 270–360 minutes.
Moreover, when taking the Taiwan High-Speed Rail, you’ll have access to food and snacks and feel like you’re on an airliner.
Taiwan’s THSR has 12 stations on its route that include:
- Nangang, Taipei
- Banqiao District, New Taipei city
- Zuoying District, Kaohsiung
If you’re saving expenses from other parts of your vacation, I highly recommend using the THSR for zooming across western Taiwan—to make the most of your time.
How to Purchase a Ticket in Taiwan
To purchase a train ticket in Taiwan, you can either buy one at convenience stores like 7-11 using their ibon (interactive) kiosk or at the train station. At train stations, you can get a ticket either from kiosks or from a service counter. You may need to bring your passport.
You can also book online. Here’s the THSR portal, which will provide online booking and train timetables.
Also, you can buy your ticket 12 days in advance in person or 14 days online. If you’re taking the THSR on a weekend or holiday, you must book in advance.
Once you have your ticket, don’t toss it in the trash. You will need to keep it to exit the train station.
If you’re wondering how to reach Taiwan’s offshore islands, you can either fly or take a ferry. If you’re not in Taiwan during typhoon season, it’ll be safe for you to use marine transport.
Some of the many sea travel routes that you’ll find include:
- Kaohsiung – Magong
- Chiayi – Magong
- Matsu – Keelung
- Taitung Fugang – Orchid Island (Lanyu)
- Chiayi – Penghu
For certain islands like Kinmen, there’s no way that you can take a boat from Taiwan’s main island, so you’ll have to arrive by flight or a ferry from China.
Essential Tips To Get Around Taiwan
Invest in a contactless card: EasyCard, iPass, and more. These cards aren’t only used for public transportation, but you can use them to make purchases at convenience stores and other supported shops. In addition, you can refill these at kiosks in stations or convenience stores.
Download a bus- or MRT-related app. These make your life a lot easier when taking public transportation. You’ll know when the cart or bus is coming, how much it’ll cost, and how long it will take to reach your destination.
It’s an unwritten rule of Taiwanese etiquette, but the right side of the escalator is for standing, while the left, is for people to walk.
You can’t eat, drink, or chew gum on any of Taiwan’s metro systems; however, you can eat on trains.
Frequently Asked Questions About Taiwan’s Public Transportation
To clear any questions that you may have about getting around Taiwan, you’ll want to explore this list of commonly asked questions.
Is It Easy To Commute in Taiwan?
It depends on what part of Taiwan you’re visiting. For instance, if you’re in the countryside, you’ll need a car or motorbike rental to get around. Conversely, if you’re in a city like New Taipei or Kaohsiung, you’ll find it a lot easier due to their myriad of transportation options.
Is LYFT in Taipei?
You won’t find LYFT in Taipei or the rest of Taiwan. You will only find Uber or other private driving services.
Do You Tip Uber in Taiwan?
In Taiwan, you don’t have to tip your Uber or taxi drivers. However, if you feel generous, you can tip the driver—it likely won’t offend them.
Is There Grab or Uber in Taiwan?
The island nation does have Uber. However, Grab does not offer its services in Taiwan. If you don’t want to deal with Uber, you can consider searching for a private car service.
How Do You Call a Taxi in Taiwan?
How Long Does It Take To Go Around Taiwan?
To go around Taiwan’s main island, you will need at least two weeks. That’s as long as you don’t spend too much time in one location. However, if you take Taiwan’s High-Speed Rail, it’ll take you around six hours to get from the top to the bottom of the main island.
What Is the Main Transportation in Taiwan?
Motorbikes, or scooter bikes, are the main transportation in Taiwan, accounting for 48.5% of the country’s transportation. Afterward, come cars, then walking, bicycles, and finally Mass Rapid Transit (MRT).
It Isn’t That Hard To Get Around Taiwan
Getting around Taiwan is convenient and affordable. While the developed country doesn’t have as many rideshare options as other places, it does offer plenty of additional ways to get around.
If you’re in the countryside or on offshore islands, you’ll find yourself more limited to transportation options; however, you won’t have any problems if you’re in the city.
Are you traveling to Taiwan? Don’t make this piece the last guide you read. You’ll need more preparation before you leave. Explore the various Taiwan travel guide articles on Eager Nomad to prepare yourself for your trip.