Many people living in Taiwan eventually make the choice to buy and use a scooter for daily transportation. Tourists don’t really have that option right when they arrive however.
Luckily Taiwan is full of public transportation options to help you with getting around as soon as you get here.
Buses are a very cheap option to get from point A to point B. There are buses of all shapes and sizes, from small shuttle buses that run back and forth between a few stops all day, every day, to large tour-style buses that run between cities.
Your typical city bus fare for a short trip is NT$15, which averages around 50 cents for you Americans out there. I used to take a shuttle bus to work every morning, and that ran me NT$40 each way.
A luxury tour bus from Taipei to Tainan will cost somewhere around NT$500, which is about $15 USD for a 5-hour bus trip. You even get your own living room style reclining sofa chair and TV screen. I have actually used these as a rolling hotel room by sleeping in the big comfortable chair on an overnight trip instead of getting a hotel room for a few hours.
I mentioned before how taxis are everywhere in Taipei City. They are still really common in other areas of Taiwan as well, though you may need to wait a little longer before finding one.
One thing to remember about taxis is that their starting fare gets more expensive the further away you are from a major city. Taxis in Taipei start the meter at NT$70 (Just a little more than $2 USD) whereas Taxis in Yilan start the meter at NT$120 ($4 USD).
Note: They also add an NT$20 surcharge for trips late at night (like when you’re headed home after hitting the clubs).
Although there are almost as many scooters as people in Taiwan, and lots of buses and taxis, many people still rely on the train.
There are three types of trains available: the local train, the limited-express, and the express. The names should be self-explanatory and the prices vary depending on which you choose and how far your travel, but overall the prices are very reasonable.
The hard part about using the train for new people in Taiwan, especially if you don’t speak Chinese, is buying the ticket. Very few counter clerks speak English and the automated teller machines are a bit confusing, but after a little trial and error you can usually figure them out. You can also check the schedules ahead of time on the Taiwan Railways Administration’s website, and they have kindly created an English language version which is pretty easy to navigate through.
The High Speed Rail
The Taiwan High Speed Rail, or THSR for short, is awesome. It’s my favorite way to travel between cities in Taiwan. It’s only been in operation for a few years so it’s really clean and modern.
This thing is super fast, getting you from the top of the island all the way to the other end in about 2 hours, which is about ⅓ the time that it would take using the regular train. It’s more expensive than the regular train, but if you are in a hurry, or don’t mind dropping a little extra cash, then it’s the choice for you.
You can check the schedule on their website as well, which also has an English version.
Both Taipei and Kaohsiung have MRT systems, but they are the only cities on the island with this form of public transportation. I totally enjoy having MRT access in Taipei, but I don’t think it’s as popular in Kaohsiung, though I have used it when visiting there. Used in combination with buses, you can get almost anywhere in the city, but for long distance travel the MRT is not an option.
As you can see you have tons of options for getting around Taiwan. Whether you are looking to travel locally or between cities, you almost always have more than one option. You can of course also buy a scooter or car if you find that more convenient, but if you don’t want to make that kind of financial investment, or you just want to see different parts of the island without having to worry about directions and highways, Taiwan has made is fairly easy, even for visitors and people with little to no Chinese ability.