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Home >> Travel Guide >> Taiwan >> Transportation

Taiwan - Transportation

Train

Taiwan has an excellent train system with stops in all major cities. Train stations are located in most city centers and towns and serve as a convenient hub for most types of transportation. In addition, the train system allows you to bypass the highways, which can become extremely jam during weekends and public holidays.

The new train is Taiwan High Speed Rail, a bullet train made using Japanese technology that covers the 345km route from Taipei to Zuoying (Kaohsiung) and the traveling time is only 90 minutes. Other stops along the route include Banqiao, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Taichung, Chiayi and Tainan, but many stations have been built a far distance from the cities they serve and this makes the cost of getting a taxi from the cities to the stations expensive . However, there are free shuttle buses. A one-way ticket from Taipei to Kaohsiung costs NT$1490 in economy class seats or NT$2440 in business class. All signboards and announcements are in English. Bookings are accepted online and via phone up to two weeks in advance.

The Taiwan Railway Administration runs mainline trains. Reserving tickets in advance is recommended when traveling on weekends, especially for long distance travel. Slower (but more frequent) commuter trains without reserved seating are also available. Train timetables and online booking (up to 2 weeks in advance) are available on the TRA website.
Round island tourist rail passes are also available at most larger train stations. And this allows the holder to embark and disembark a set number of times for a fixed price. However, a foreign passport is required to purchase this pass.

Other train services include:

  • Tzu-Chiang: The fastest, most expensive and seatings assigned. Non-reserved (standing) tickets are also sold at full price.
  • Chu-Kuang: Second fastest and seatings assigned.
  • Fu-hsing: Third fastest and seatings assigned. Non-reserved tickets are sold at 80% of original price.
  • Express / Ordinary: Stops at all stations, most inexpensive and no seatings assigned. The light blue trains are air-conditioned while the dark blue ones are not air-conditioned.

Bus

Buses run by private companies are often more luxurious than those run by government-owned companies. Still, the government-owned buses are comfortable, punctual, and clean.

In major cities, bus transportation is extensive. Route maps, however, are almost entirely in Chinese, though the destinations indicated on the front of buses are in English. In smaller cities, there is often no local bus service, though the out-of-town buses will sometimes make stops in the suburbs.

In Taiwan you need to hail the bus you want as you see it coming - much like hailing a taxi. Both end points of the route are listed on the front of the bus in Chinese and sometimes English, so it is important to make sure the bus you get on is going the right direction. In Taipei, you sometimes pay getting on the bus and sometimes getting off (whether with cash or the Easy Card). As you get onto the bus there will be a sign opposite you. If the first character on the sign is 上 , pay as you get in. But if the character is 下, pay as you get out.

Metro

Taipei has an excellent subway system called the MRT that makes traveling around the city very easy. Besides that, Kaohsiung's metro finally opened in March 2008. In Taipei, prepaid travel cards such as the Easy Card for bus and metro travel can be purchased at metro stations. Easy Cards can be scanned and read even though it is kept inside your wallet or purse. The MRT is very clean because no eating, drinking, or smoking is allowed in the stations or trains. There is also a special waiting area that is monitored by security camera.

Taxi

Taxis are abundant in major Taiwanese cities. Taxis look for riders instead of the riders looking for the taxis. They will stop even if you are not hailing. In places with less traffic, taxis are always available by calling taxi centers.

Generally, drivers cannot speak English or read Westernized addresses. Have the hotel reception write out the name of your destination in Chinese and show it to the driver.

Taiwanese cabs are not very expensive and runned using meters. It is a rule that the cab drivers are not allowed to take tips.

From Taoyuan Airport, buses are much cheaper but if you want a direct route, the airport taxi drivers are the best choice. Taxis from the airport to destinations in Tao Yuan, parts of Taipei county and some other destinations are allowed to add an additional 50% to the meter fare.

Taxis are flexible to travel to nearby cities. They run very late at night compared to trains that don't.

Taxi drivers are generally friendly towards foreigners. They are most likely to ask you about yourself, and if you are traveling with small children, don't be surprised if they are given candy when you disembark.

Women are sometimes warned not to take taxis alone at night. This is not an extreme risk, although there have been incidents where women have been attacked. To be more safe, women can have the hotel or restaurant phone a cab for them (ensuring a licensed driver comes), have a companion write down the license number of the driver (clearly displayed on the dashboard), or keep a cell phone handy. Do not get in if the driver doesn't have a license with picture clearly displayed in the cab.

Car

An international driving license is a must for driving in Taiwan and may be used for up to 30 days. After 30 days, you will need to apply for a local permit. VIP Car Rental in Taipei is quite happy to rent cars to foreigners, and will even deliver the car to a given destination. A deposit is often required, and the last day of rental is not pro-rated, but calculated on a per-hour basis at a higher rate.
On the highways, many signs show names of places and streets in Chinese only. Nevertheless, almost all official directional signs will be written in both Chinese and English. The highways have toll stations around every 30 km. Currently, a car driver pays NT$40 when passing each toll station. However, prepaid tickets may be purchased at most convenience stores.
Driving may be the best way to get around the countryside but it is not so in larger cities like Taipei and Kaohsiung because of the massive traffic jams. It is better to take public transport in the larger cities.

   
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