So you’re coming to Taipei! Congratulations, you’ll enjoy driving among the five million vehicles on the road! Crowded streets, traffic jams, accidents…Doesn’t sound too appealing, does it? However, anyone traveling to Taipei should rest easy knowing that it is one of the most accessible cities in the world for those who don’t drive. In fact, there are nine exceptional ways for getting around Taipei and the whole metropolitan area without ever needing to sit behind a steering wheel.
1. The MRT: Make Rapid Transit Across Taipei
The Taipei Metro (MRT) System is one of the best aspects of life in Taipei. It whisks you around the city on the five lines in the Taipei Metro Area efficiently and effectively.
Tickets are affordable: a full single ticket cost is between NT $20 and NT $60 (about $0.60 to $2.00 USD) for a ride anywhere. If you buy a day ticket, or Easycard, it’s even easier and cheaper.
Trains are frequent on every route with a headway of 6-8 minutes. They run from 6 am to well after 11 pm. It’s convenient to transfer between lines and you can visit the best attractions in Taipei fast. For tourists and day-visitors, there are 24-, 48-, and 72-hour tickets, which are also valid on most buses, too.
While stations use Chinese, English, and numbers, for simplicity, the lines are also color-coded making it easy for foreigners and travelers to understand:
- The Red Line operates from Tamsui in the North to Taipei 101 in the East District.
- The Blue Line goes from Nangang in the east of Taipei through Taipei, Panqiao, and to the south of Taipei.
- The Green Line goes from Songshan area to Hsindien also in the South.
- The Brown Line runs also from Nangang in a loop past the City Airport to Taipei Zoo.
- Lastly, the Yellow Line trains head northwards from ChongHo to Hsinchuang and Sanchong.
So, for example, if you are visiting Taipei 101, take a train to any station that crosses the Red Line, then jump on the next Red Line train to Taipei 101. The Taipei 101 Tower is a short walk from the subway of the same name. Just don’t forget to look up! Combine this excursion with shopping, dinner, and dancing for an exciting evening in the swanky East District of Taipei.
Vending machines for tickets are simple to operate and instructions are available in English. Likewise the system, signage, and announcements are also available in English — All in all, the MRT makes getting around Taipei easy for foreigners and travelers.
2. Taiwan Trains: You Don’t Need Any Training
The Taiwan Train Network runs through much of urban Taipei in an east-west direction. There are main stations at Nangang, Taipei, Wanhua, Songshan, and Panchiao, and local train stations at tourist spots like Pingxi, Keelung, and Yingge.
For exploring Taipei’s metro area, the commuter trains are your most likely bet, as they stop at most stations. For further afield, travel on the Puyuma or Express trains for shorter journey times.
Getting around Taipei by train is convenient with transfers and connections to the MRT and buses. In fact, your Easycard will permit travel throughout the networks.
When you travel by Taiwan trains, you can easily venture out of Taipei to enjoy a change of scenery.
If you’ve got the time while exploring Taipei, I recommend the following day trips on the local rail network:
- Keelung is an attractive out of town destination by train, with its vibrant market, sea-front location, and short trips up the coast, to places like Jiufen, Hoping Island, and Bisha Fish Harbor.
- Take a day trip to Pingxi on the railway, get a train from Taipei to Ruifang then change for a local train towards Pingxi, no booking required.
- For another day trip, get a train for Yingge and enjoy an afternoon at the ceramics street and museum in Yingge then connect to a bus or taxi to Sanhsia for visiting the old street and Zushi Temple built in 1767.
Once again, signage is in English for most things, though ticket machines are a little complicated. Easycards do make it easy, really!
3. Bus Routes For Success
Many bus companies provide bus services in Taipei, so it is the most extensive form of public transportation here and makes getting around Taipei easy with many bus services running all over the twin cities. Many bus services also connect to the MRT and trains, so you can simply make two-way transfers to your destinations.
For example, to visit the National Palace Museum, leave Shihlin MRT station at exit #1 where you will find buses running the route during the day. Unlike other cities, the bus network continues to run until the late evening; so you don’t have to worry about getting home after a night out at the restaurants or night markets.
With most fares costing between NT $15 and NT $30 (about $0.50 to $1.00 USD), you will never be out of pocket on a city bus. For some buses, you need to pay when you get on, and on some, you should pay on getting off. For longer rides, you will pay both fees. Paying with your Easycard is also possible on city buses. Buses generally have signage and automated announcements in English, and the fare system is simple to understand. However, drivers probably do not speak English.
There are also several tourist bus routes that show visitors around the most popular attractions in the city. The Taipei City Hop On/Hop Off Tourist Bus runs two routes, conveniently colored blue and red:
- The Blue Route Buses stops at Taipei Children’s Park, the Science Museum, Shihlin Night Market, the National Palace Museum and Martyrs’ Shrine.
- The Red Route runs through the east of the city, stopping at Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, YongKang Street, Taipei 101 Tower, and Sun Yatsen Memorial Hall.
You’ll need a day pass for the tourist buses, and you can’t use your Easycard. But it is a fun way of getting around Taipei. Pick up the buses at Taipei Main Station M4 Exit. They run every forty minutes. The last Red Route bus is 22:00, while the Blue Route last departs at 16:20 because attractions close at 6 pm.
4. High-Speed Trains: Faster Than A Speeding Bullet
Taiwan was the first country outside Japan to build and operate real Shinkansen bullet trains. While the High-Speed Train (HST) network is only a single line running north-south for 348 km, there is a dozen dedicated High-Speed Train Stations that dot the West coast of the country. The fastest journey time for the entire route is 94 minutes, and shorter journeys are much quicker.
Riding the bullet trains in the North won’t let you experience the top speeds of the train, but once you get past Hsinchu the train begins to hit 284km/h. So visiting the main cities of Taichung, Hsinchu, Tainan, and Kaohsiung is relatively fast and very comfortable. The HST is often located outside city centers, so regional connecting railways, shuttle buses, or taxis will take you onwards to your final destination.
For Example, a trip to Tainan City — the ancient capital of the island — on the HST would take about 105 minutes. You would then change to a local train at Shalun Railway Station right next door for a 22-minute hop to Tainan downtown. There are plenty of other sites worth seeing on the Western corridor, but you will always need to connect to local trains, bus services, or taxis to complete your journey: Lugang, Jiji, Changhua, … to name a few possibilities.
Pro Tip: the HST is the fastest way between the three HST stations in Taipei! Journeys from Nangang to Panqiao take 18 minutes. Signage, automated announcements, and ticket machines all provide English.
5. Urban Bicycles: It’s Just Like Your Bike!
Probably the healthiest way of getting around Taipei, the city offers a large urban bicycle network for tourists to enjoy the outdoors. Many routes run around town, but the best ones for escaping the urban jungle are along the river bank routes. Not owning a bike isn’t an issue, for bike rentals are plentiful, convenient, and light on your pocket.
Youbikes are available at stands near popular destinations all over the metro area. Not only are they convenient to hire or return, you can use your mobile phone to pick up the bike and your Easycard to pay. A Youbike costs NT $20 (about $0.66 USD) per hour for the first four hours, but the prices rise quickly after four hours, so watch your clock!
The bikes are sturdy, have their own locks and lights, and come with three gears! Yes, three! There’s also a basket in front for your bags. Though pretty solid performers, on the steep sections or difficult roads, you might have to get off and push.
If you’re needing a serious bicycle kit, two-seater, baby seat, electric bike, rickshaw or multi-rider bike, look for a private bicycle rental company near the popular tourist areas or at the citywide bicycle network. For the rental, you’ll probably need to leave a security deposit of some kind or an ID of some sort. For low-powered electric bicycles, where you have to pedal at least some of the time, no driving license is currently required.
6. Boatloads of Fun
Taipei isn’t located near the ocean, but that didn’t hinder the early traders who ferried goods up and down the Tamsui and Keelung Rivers. Even today, for getting around Taipei travelers can take to the water at several locations. Tamsui Ferry Pier is the most obvious location. Walk about 10 minutes along the Old Street, and you’ll soon come across the Pier with ferries to Bali (across the river), Beitou, and Fisherman’s Wharf.
From Bali, you’ll lap up the riverside walk, mangroves, and popular street food. Now, savor the views from the riverside over towards Yangmingshan. Or take a boat to Fisherman’s Wharf from there. It’s a short journey, and the pier is a busy little harbor.
At Tamsui Pier, you may even see the “Great River Queen” berthed and waiting for passengers. The Queen is a riverboat that sails the Tamsui River on weekends from Tamsui to Dadaocheng in Taipei City. If you’re adventurous, boats are waiting at Fisherman’s Wharf for your ocean adventure to spot whales or dolphins.
In Taipei City, there are three ferry routes to choose from:
- Dadaocheng to Tamsui/Guandu
- Xikou to Meiti near Neihu
- Guandu to Bali, Tamsui or Fisherman’s Wharf
These ferries sail primarily on weekends or holidays, though so call ahead for a schedule. Also, be on the lookout for river cruises which will return to your departure point.
7. Gondola To The Sky
The most romantic way of getting around Taipei has to be the Maokong Gondola that plies the skies above Mucha. Get yourself to the Taipei Zoo Station on the Brown Line, exit the MRT and walk to the Gondola Station nearby. Taking the gondolas allows you to escape the noise of Taipei, and within a few minutes, you’re transported to an entirely different landscape of trails, mountains, tea farms and traditional shrines.
The trip itself is eerily peaceful, but if you want extra thrills and you don’t suffer a fear of heights, take the crystal cabins! The floors are reinforced glass for your safety so you’ll appreciate the views under your feet. There is only one short line, with three stops at Taipei Zoo South, Zhinan Temple, and Maokong. Watch for maintenance schedules, Mondays, and bad weather when service is canceled.
Wetland Park at the south of Taipei Zoo is located near Taipei Zoo South, so you could actually board or start here for a zoo excursion. It’s also a good way to skip the queues at the first station. If you’re not going to the zoo, stay onboard. Next stop, Zhinan Temple is noted for its famous temple. If you’re traveling with a partner, it’s said that Lu Dongbin, the deity worshipped at Zhinan Temple, gets jealous of couples, and breaks them up. Couples visit at your own risk! Worth stopping for the views over Taipei alone! Last stop is the terminus: Maokong Gondola Station. From there you will be able to walk around the tea farms, Taipei Tea Promotion Center, local restaurants, flowers in flower season, and some relaxing hiking. For those returning late, stay up in the mountains for dinner, and relish the breezy evening air.
8. Places To Explore On The Airport MRT
The Taoyuan Airport MRT runs from Taipei to Chungli, via Linkou, Taoyuan and Taiwan International Airport. The line is remarkable for the track is elevated 80% of the way providing scenic views over the Taipei area. Train service is frequent throughout the day. Express trains to the Airport only stop at four stations, two of which are at the airport.
For touring purposes, catch a Commuter train which makes all stops. Taking the commuter trains is a more leisurely affair, so do your duty-free shopping at the Mitsui Outlet Mall. Disembark at Linkou, and it’s a leisurely sign-posted saunter to the mall, where you’ll track down appetizing restaurants, famous outlets, and decent shopping. If you need to escape the crowds which descend on the Mall at the weekends, visit on a regular weekday.
For shopping alternatives, the Taimall is only a short bus or taxi ride from Shanbi Station. It’s a popular place with something for everyone in the family: restaurants, a movie theater, luxury shopping, entertainment.
There’s also Gloria Outlets, a new choice for shopping just outside the Taoyuan MRT exit. Jimmy Choo, Lesport Sac and UGG, Tod’s, Loewe, Ralph Lauren, Ferragamo, Nike, and Coach. Lots of restaurants. It’s located near HST Train Station, too, so connections from the airport are very convenient.
No visit to Taoyuan would be complete without a trip to the Nankan Wufu Temple for appreciating the snake pit, its 350-year history, and the god of war and wealth, Xuan Tan Yuanshuai. The nearest Airport MRT stop is also Shanbi. Get off there, and catch bus 5014 to nearby the temple. It takes only 11 minutes.
For quirky trips, check out the Yimei Tourist Factory in Luzhu, Chuwei Harbor in Dayuan for fresh seafood, or Xinming Night Market near Shanbi MRT Station.
9. Getting Around Taipei in Taxis Not Too Taxing
If you’re ever in a pickle, a dash of Taipei’s ‘Little Yellow’ is usually enough to save your bacon. The yellow taxis here are incredibly good value, efficient and accessible everywhere. If you can avoid the rush hours so you don’t get stuck in traffic, taxis are inexpensive and provide a fast alternative for getting around Taipei.
Rates are straightforward: Base Rate + Distance + Idling time. At night there is a small surcharge to the fare. Also, there are slight fare differences across Taipei Area in base rates or surcharges. Tipping is not practiced here, though a small rounding up of the fare is acceptable. Obviously, rates will vary depending on the distance you go and how long it takes. For intermediate distances or to destinations away from stations or bus routes, taxis provide real urban convenience.
Taxi drivers don’t speak much English, but they will be patient. It’s unlikely you’ll ever be cheated by a taxi driver, but it’s street smart to record the taxi number in any case. Taxi drivers come in all kinds: patient, hard-working, honest, funny, opinionated, polite, vociferous! To visitors, they’ll almost always be unfailingly polite.
Hailing a taxi is also easy, too. Simply stand on the sidewalk or somewhere safe, away from traffic. When a yellow cab is coming, raise your hand to attract attention. Occasionally, a taxi will beep at you to attract your attention. If you don’t speak much Chinese, present a card with the address shown or use Google Maps to show where you want to go. If you speak some Chinese, or the driver speaks a little English, you may experience an entertaining conversation about Taiwanese daily life.
Limousine services are also offered at tourist or travel centers, like the airport or major tourist attractions. Services include trips to the airport, day trips, group trips, etc. Limousine cars are usually black and are also licensed. Always take a licensed cab whichever service you use to avoid unnecessary hassle with unregulated drivers. Most operate from the airport, too… so just go with the regular taxi and limo drivers outside.
Getting around Taipei by whatever means isn’t difficult. Remember you’re in a big city, so allow extra time for congestion and delays. Relax and savor your journey and your destination!
Author’s Favorite Travel Gear
Geysa Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle: It’s easy to get dehydrated here. Public fountains are located at MRT stations, and many other public spots around the city, but you need your own bottle. An insulated stainless steel one like the Geysa Vacuum Water Bottle will also be convenient for buying coffee to go!
FujiFilm X100T 16MP Digital Camera: This camera is ideal for its small size, low weight, and quality image processing. You’ll capture some great shots, even in more difficult situations with the image stabilization and good ISO options. But you should probably add an extra battery.
Klicky Men’s Sport Performance Climalite Underwear: Quick-drying performance fabric for underwear is essential. Taiwan is humid, pretty much all year round. Avoid uncomfortable skin rashes in awkward places by choosing light, breathable underwear. It’s also a plus that it can be easily washed.