Taiwan has a great reputation for its public transport and expats and locals agree that it is safe, clean, reliable and competitively priced.
Taiwan’s railway is an island-wide network that covers 1496 km, offering the most convenient way to access the country’s major towns and cities. The majority of services are operated by Taiwan Railway Administration who are responsible for the total railway network apart from Taiwan’s High Speed Rail services.
There are 4 classes of tickets, giving passengers the opportunity to find the best ticket for them based on cost, schedule, route or type of train. For long weekends and before long holidays it is advisable to book in advance.
Many Taiwanese do not speak English and the ticket machines can be confusing. It is advisable to book a ticket in advance (up to 14 days) and collect it at the station or at a post office. It is recommended to check your timetable online before you get to the station to avoid unnecessary confusion.
Taiwan high speed rail (THSR)
THSR runs along Taiwan’s west coast. The line connects 8 stations on its 345 km stretch between Taipei in the north and Zuoying in the south, the full route typically taking 4 hours, with the major cities of Taipei and Kaohsiung only 2 hours apart. The THSR is connected to Taiwan Railway Administration trains at Taipei, Banqiao, Taichung, and Zuoying, and along the entire line stations are connected to nearby towns and cities via shuttle bus.
Timetables and fares are available on the THSR website. Tickets must be reserved 14 days in advance, however they must be collected at the station or at the post office within 2 days of departure. There are two classes available, business and standard with business costing 50% more than a standard ticket.
Taiwan travel pass
Foreigners with resident permits are not eligible for the Taiwan Travel pass which is intended to help young people experience Taiwan through reduced train fares. In order to qualify for a 5-day, 7-day or 10-day travel pass, students must present a passport from their country of origin, a student certificate as proof of study or a travel pass from the National Youth Commission.
The cheapest way to explore Taiwan is via buses which offer convenient connections between cities with some services running 24 hours a day. The average fare for a bus journey is around $0.50. Within Taiwan, every city has its own bus network, again offering by far the cheapest option to travel. Also, in cities outside Taiwan and Kaohsiung, the bus is the only public transport option available.
Buses are generally more expensive in Taipei and prices are based on the distance travelled. Confusingly, on some routes you need to pay at the end of your journey and on others you pay before you get on.
Taiwan’s taxis are easy to spot as they are bright yellow with a ‘Taxi’ sign on the roof. As most drivers do not speak English it is advisable to ask someone who knows Mandarin to write down your destination down to show to the driver.
Fares in most cities are set by the local government meaning prices are based on the meter and do not vary greatly. Still, it is advisable to confirm the fare before accepting a ride. Note that single fare surcharges apply after 11pm. Outside large cities, taxi drivers may use a meter or ask for a flat rate upfront. The further away you are from a large city, the higher the starting fare when you get in the cab.
Metro - mass rapid transport (MRT)
The MRT Metro network operates in Taipei and Kaohsiung from 06.00 - 00.00. This is the most convenient way to explore the cities. The Metro is relatively cheap and fares are based on zones. For those planning on travelling a lot on the metro an Easy Card is advisable - a pre-paid card which gives a 20% discount within Taipei.
The MRT has a reputation for being clean, safe and reliable. All signs are in English, and English can be selected on the ticket machines. Nearby attractions are well signposted.
There are 2 international airports in Taiwan: Kaohsiung and Taoyuan International airports. Taoyuan is the largest international airport located 40 km from Taipei. The airport is connected by shuttle bus to the Taiwan High Speed Rail Taoyuan Station.