Who’s going to argue that picking out sightseeing is the funnest part of planning a vacation? Not me. Scroll through some pretty pictures, pick your favorite spots, make sure you can actually get to the places you picked… Wait, that last one’s not fun. But unless you’re aiming to walk everywhere, getting from point A to point B is a key part. When I started planning my Big Asian Adventure, I had to do a lot of research on traveling in Taiwan, Japan, and Hong Kong. Each country honestly deserves its own how-to-get-around guide, and this one is for Taiwan.
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Where to Stay When Traveling In Taiwan
When visiting Taipei, we chose to stay at Leofoo Residences. It was decent. An apart-hotel with okay prices in a good location, a kitchenette and a washing machine.
PHOTO CREDITS: LEOFOO RESIDENCES VIA HOTELS.COM
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Long-Distance Travel – Going Between Cities
Taking the THSR – Taiwan’s Bullet Trains
You read that right. Japan isn’t the only country with bullet trains. Taiwan has its own version nicknamed the THSR, short for the “Taiwan High Speed Rail.” Tickets can be on the pricier side, but you can get from Taipei to Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s two most popular cities, in two hours. It costs around NT$1500 (US$50) for general fare, but that same trip by regular train takes four hours.
And of course, Taipei and Kaohsiung aren’t the only destinations, not by a long shot. This speedster hits twelve different cities along Taiwan’s west coast, going up to 220 mph. Sure, it’s a bit expensive, but shorter travel time means more time for fun stuff. And depending where you’re going, the price might not even be so bad.
As for how to get tickets, it’s pretty straightforward. Just walk up to an automatic ticketing vendor, go through the steps, and pay. Don’t worry – if you don’t have any Taiwanese currency on you, a credit card is fine.
Leisurely Views via Regular Trains
If you’re on a budget and want to save your money for museums and the like, go for the regular trains, or TRA (Taiwan Railway Association). Tickets start around NT$50 (US$1.70) for shorter rides, but even longer trips only cost half as much as THSR. The regular trains also stop at a lot more places, too, with over 200 stations around the country, including Taiwan’s eastern side.
It’s not as fast as the THSR, but hey, slower means you can enjoy the scenery passing by. It lets you enjoy traveling in Taiwan in style! (Or lets you enjoy an extended nap. Jetlag is not a kind mistress.)
Charter Buses: Cheap but Kinda Inconvenient Traveling In Taiwan
If you want an even cheaper option than the TRA, you may want to look at the long-distance charter buses. They’re the cheapest and you get a bit more choice in terms of quality. Stick with the cheapest bus or aim for something higher-end – it’s all up to you.
The only downside is that a lot of the charter bus drop-off locations aren’t in the city. Instead, you usually get dumped by highway interchanges. So unless the hotel you’re staying at happens to be right there, you’re going to need another mode of transport.
Still, they’re the only budget option if you’re trying to get to a more rural area. If you don’t mind spending a bit more, though, you can try your hand at rentals.
Rental Cars and Scooters
“But wait!” you say. “I want to go to a rural town that doesn’t have a train station or a charter bus. What should I do?” Well, your only choice at that point is to rent a car and drive there yourself. That or change your itinerary, but who wants to do that?
You can get a rental car from the airport or any of the THSR stations. Make sure to bring along both your driver’s license and an international driver’s permit; you won’t be able to rent a car without them.
Motorized scooters are also an option, though not one I’d recommend for super long distances in the summer heat. They’re more ideal for milder weather or driving within city limits. Speaking of which…
Traveling in Taiwan’s Cities
If you’re going to be traveling in Taiwan’s cities, the first thing I’d recommend is to get an Easy Card. It can be used to pay for pretty much any kind of transportation – bus, metro, rentals, you name it. It’s not necessary, per se, but it does make things a lot easier.
You can get an Easy Card at pretty much any convenience store or metro station. To make things easier, I’d recommend staying at the _ hotel in Taipei. It’s a quick walk away from a metro station, which is perfect for getting your Easy Card and transport all in one place.
Choose Metro, AKA MRT (Mass Rapid Transport), for Cheap and Convenient Travling in Taiwan
For going between sightseeing spots in the city, I’d highly recommend using MRT. There are stations sprinkled throughout the city, often close to popular tourist attractions. It’s cheap, with trains coming and going regularly. Honestly, they make traveling in Taiwan a breeze.
The MRT is also the simplest way to get from the international airport to Taipei, so chances are that you’ll use it at least once or twice. The easiest payment method is an Easy Card, not the least because you can get a discount within Taipei. Otherwise, just use cash or credit to get the ticket(s) you need.
The only downside is that you can only find MRT in five cities so far: Taipei, Kaohsiung, Taoyuan, New Taipei and Taichung. The bright side is that these are all major cities that you’ll probably visit if you’re traveling in Taiwan, so who cares?
City Buses – The Old Standard
The city buses are good for getting around the city. The only tricky part is that if you haven’t done your research, it’s easy to get lost since many buses don’t have an English translation.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Buses are without question the cheapest way to get around, and if you go in prepared, you’ll get where you need to. They also may be the only way to get around if you’re not in one of the five metro-blessed cities mentioned earlier. And fortunately, things like Google Translate make navigating foreign spaces much easier.
More good news: you can use your Easy Card to pay – or, if you prefer, the spare change in your pocket. Cost is based on distance, but like I said, it starts dirt cheap.
Stuck Between Sites? Try a YouBike! (Or other Public Bicycle)
While the other things on this list will be familiar to most of my fellow Americans out there, the YouBike might raise some eyebrows. Sure, you’ve got bike rentals in the U.S., but those are more of an attraction since you have to return them before the store closes.
YouBikes, on the other hand, have stations all over the cities where they’re located. All you need is a local phone number and you can use them like your own personal bus (except it’s a bike). I even found a detailed guide on how to make your own account and rent YouBikes while traveling.
Taxis and Ubers for Traveling in Taiwan’s Streets
That’s right, Taiwan has Uber, too – though it’s not necessarily cheaper than a taxi cab. I say, go with whatever you’re more comfortable with. You can check out this website to get an idea of what your fare might be. They definitely cost more than other options, but if you’re lost, they can be a lifesaver.
They’re also a great choice if you want a bit of privacy or are sick of knocking elbows with strangers. Public transportation can get pretty crowded, after all. I’d be the last to shame someone for wanting a moment of peace on their vacation!
Wanna Learn More about Traveling in Taiwan?
I’m doing a whole series on Taiwan – sightseeing, local libations, and more. If you like what I’m doing, be sure to follow me so you’ll be notified when I next update!
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