Air

Taiwan's domestic carriers have a poor safety record. One of the most recent accidents was in 2015, when a TransAsia flight crashed into a river in Taipei because of pilot error, killing 43 people.

Airlines in Taiwan

The excellent train network renders domestic air travel, except to the outer islands, a bit pointless.

Domestic flights from Taipei leave from Songshan Airport and not Taoyuan.

Flights to outlying islands are often cancelled because of bad weather, especially on the east.

Daily Air Corporation

Website

www.dailyair.com.tw

Phone

07-801 4711

Destinations

Kaohsiung to Penghu; Taitung to Green Island and Lanyu

Far Eastern Air Transport (FAT)

Website

www.fat.com.tw

Phone

02-8770 7999

Destinations

Flights between Taipei, Kaohsiung, Penghu, Taichong and Kinmen

Mandarin Airlines

Website

www.mandarin-airlines.com

Phone

02-412 8008

Destinations

Taipei to Kinmen, Penghu and Taitung; Kaohsiung to Hualien; Taichung to Kinmen and Penghu

TransAsia Airways

Website

www.tna.com.tw/en/

Phone

02-4128 133

Destinations

Taipei to Hualien, Penghu and Kinmen; Kaohsiung to Penghu and Kinmen; and Taichung to Hualien

Uni Air

Website

www.uniair.com.tw

Phone

02-2508 6999

Destinations

Flies to Chiayi, Kaohsiung, Kinmen, Penghu, Matsu, Taichung, Tainan, Taipei, Taitung, Green Island and Lanyu

Bicycle

Long-distance and recreational cycling has taken off in Taiwan and quite a lot of routes, especially in scenic tourist areas, have designated cycle lanes. The east coast is especially popular and beautiful to cycle.

This means there are plenty of bike rental places. Bikes can be shipped by regular train one day in advance, or carried with you in a bag on the HSR trains and all slow local trains. You'll have no problems bringing bicycles into the country.

The main enemies of the cyclist on regular roads and highways are bus drivers and motorcyclists. Note some stretches of the east-coast road are considered treacherous.

Boat

There are regular ferry routes to Penghu, Lanyu and Green Island (and between Lanyu and Green Island as well) in summer, and to Little Liuchiu Island year-round. Sailings to Green Island, Lanyu and Matsu are subject to weather conditions, however. Expect cancellations in bad weather and winter schedules to change frequently.

Bus

Buses are reliable, cheap and comfortable. Some companies offer very large, cosy airplane-style reclining seats. Reservations are advisable on weekends and holidays. Buses are severely air-conditioned so pack a blanket or warm clothes. The easiest way to buy a ticket is either from the bus station itself or from a convenience store, such as 7-Eleven.

For routes and companies see Taiwan Bus (www.taiwanbus.tw/). Two of the biggest companies are Kuo Kuang and UBus.

Intercity Buses

There's an extensive network from Taipei to Kenting National Park and across the north as far as Yilan. Service from the west coast to the east coast is limited to a few buses a day from Taichung across to Hualien and Kaohsiung to Taitung. Service is also limited within the east area (from Hualien to Taitung).

On the west coast there are very frequent departures (some 24-hour operations), with midweek and late-evening discounts. Most companies serve the same west-coast routes. The main transit points are Taipei, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung.

Rural Buses

The network is wide, but there are few daily departures except to major tourist destinations (such as Sun Moon Lake). In most cases you are better off taking the tourist shuttle buses.

Taiwan Tourist Shuttle

Taiwan has an excellent system of small shuttle buses with well-planned routes that connect major and minor tourist sites and destinations. The buses usually leave hourly on weekdays and half-hourly on weekends.

Single fares or one-day unlimited tickets are available. Children under 12, seniors and student card holders travel for half price.

See www.taiwantrip.com.tw for information on timetables, fares and routes in English.

Fares

Fares vary by city. For example, a single zone fare in Taipei is NT$15, while in Kaohsiung it's NT$12. The cost of travelling in two zones is double the price of a one-zone fare.

Sometimes you pay when you get on and sometimes when you get off. If you cross a zone, you pay when you get on and again later when you get off. As a general rule, follow the passengers ahead of you or look for the characters 上 or 下 on the screen to the left of the driver. The character 上 (up) means pay when you get on; 下 (down) means pay when you get off. If you make a mistake the driver will let you know (or likely just shrug it off).

Car & Motorcycle

Having your own vehicle, either a car or a scooter, is particularly useful on the east coast and in mountain areas.

Driving in Taiwan

By the standards of many countries, driving in Taiwan can be chaotic and dangerous. Always be alert for approaching cars driving in your lane (especially when going around blind corners).

You're not advised to drive in cities or medium-sized towns until you're familiar with conditions.

Fuel & Spare Parts

Petrol stations and garages are widely available for parts and repairs for scooters and cars. Check out www.forumosa.com for a thread on reliable and trustworthy mechanics.

Road Conditions

Roads are generally in good shape, though washouts are common in mountain areas and roads are often closed. Most road signage is bilingual.

Road Rules

  • Taiwanese drive on the right-hand side of the road.
  • Right turns on red lights are illegal.
  • Mobile phone usage is prohibited (even texting at red lights).
  • Drivers and all passengers must wear seatbelts, and children under the age of four (and 18kg) must be secured in safety seats (though rarely done and rarely enforced).
  • In general, only speeding, drunk driving and turning-on-red-light violations are enforced.
  • See the Information for Foreigners (http://iff.immigration.gov.tw) website for more.

Road Tolls

Several routes charge a toll, which is paid electronically through a system called eTag. Check with your rental company whether you pay this when you return the vehicle or if it's included in the rental fee. The toll is based on distance travelled.

The first 20km is free, the next 200km is NT$1.20 per kilometre; anything exceeding 200km on a single day is charged at NT$0.90 per km.

Driving Licence

International Driver's Permit (IDP)

An International Driver's Permit (IDP) is valid in Taiwan for up to 30 days. With an ARC (Alien Resident Certificate) you can apply to have your permit validated at a local Motor Vehicles Office. You will need your IDP or local driver's licence validated by a Taiwanese mission in your home country.

Local Driver's Licence

Driver's licences are issued by county, and if you have an ARC you can apply. Tests include a written and driving section, and also include a health test.

Reciprocal Licence Agreements

Some Asian countries and US states have a reciprocal agreement with Taiwan so that a Taiwanese licence is issued just by showing your home licence and passport.

Vehicle Hire

Car Hire

Day rates start at NT$2400, with multiday and long-term discounts available.

All airports, and most HSR stations, have car-rental agencies (or free delivery).

Car Plus (0800-222 568; www.car-plus.com.tw) Good reputation with island-wide offices.

Easy Rent (0800-024 550; www.easyrent.com.tw) Island-wide locations including downtown Taipei, major airports and HSR stations.

Insurance

Third-party liability insurance and comprehensive insurance, with an NT$10,000 deduction for damages, is included in rental costs. In the case of theft or loss, renters are charged 10% of the value of the car.

Scooter Hire

On average, scooter hire costs NT$400 to NT$800 per day. Some places will allow you to rent with an IDP, while others require a local scooter licence.

In some tourists areas, Kenting for example, electric scooters, which have a top speed of 50 km/h, can be rented without a licence.

Hitching

Hitching is never entirely safe, and we don't recommend it. Travellers who hitch should understand that they are taking a small but potentially serious risk.

At times, such as getting to or from a mountain trailhead, hitching may be your only option if you don't have a vehicle. Taiwanese are usually more than happy to give you a lift. Money is almost never asked for.

Mass Rapid Transit

Taiwan's two major cities, Taipei and Kaohsiung, both have Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) metro systems. They are clean, safe, convenient and reliable. All signs and ticket machines are in English. English signs around stations indicate which exit to take to nearby sights. Posters indicate bus transfer routes.

Check out the stations' websites, which both feature excellent maps of areas around each station.

Kaohsiung MRT (http://www.krtco.com.tw/en/) Two lines, 37 stations, 42.7km of track. Connects with the international and domestic airports. On average trains leave every four to eight minutes.

Taipei MRT (http://english.metro.taipei/) Ten lines, 102 stations and 112.8km of track. New lines in the works. Connects with Taipei (Songshan) Airport, and is expected to connect with Taoyuan International Airport by the end of 2016. On average trains leave every three to eight minutes.

Taichung's MRT is scheduled to open in 2018.

Taxi

Taxis are ubiquitous in all of Taiwan's cities. Surcharges may apply for things such as luggage and reserving a cab (as opposed to hailing one).

Outside urban areas, taxi drivers will either use meters or ask for a flat rate (the smaller the town the more likely the latter). In these areas, taxis are not that abundant, so it's a good idea to get your hotel to call first, and then to keep the driver's number for subsequent rides.

Train

Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA; www.railway.gov.tw) has an extensive system running along both the east and west coasts. There are no services into the Central Mountains, except tourism branch lines.

Trains are comfortable, clean, safe and reliable, with few delays. Reserved seating is available, and food and snacks are served. All major cities are connected by train. For fares and timetables, see the TRA website.

Classes

Chu-kuang (莒光; Jǔguāng) & Fu-hsing (復興; Fùxīng) Most trains belong to these two classes; they're comfortable but not speedy. The fare is about 20% to 40% cheaper than Tze-chiang.

Local Train (區間車; Qūjiānchē) Cheap and stops at all stations; more like commuter trains, no reserved seating.

Tze-chiang (自強; Zìqiáng) These are express trains and are therefore faster and more expensive.

Taroko Express (太魯閣; Tàilǔgé) This is a special tilting train under the Tze-chiang class that takes you from Taipei to Hualien in two hours. There is no standing ticket.

Puyuma Express (普悠瑪; Pǔyōumǎ) Named after Taiwan's Puyuma people, this is another tilting train under the Tze-chiang class. It is TRA's fastest train at 150km/h. There is no standing ticket.

Booking and Paying for Tickets

You have three main options for buying tickets. Tickets can be booked 14 days in advance online or 12 days in advance in person at a train station.

Online You can book on the TRA website (in English) by entering your passport number. Take your booking number to any train station or a convenience store to pay within two days of booking.

Convenience store Use an ibon kiosk (Chinese only) at a 7-Eleven to book your train ticket. Take the printed slip of paper with your booking number and pay at the counter.

Train station Go to any train station and book your ticket directly. Bring your passport with you.

For fast trains, especially on weekends or holidays, it is advisable to buy your tickets well in advance.

All classes of Tze-chiang train are priced the same for the same journey even though, for example, the Puyuma is the fastest.

Don't throw your ticket away – you'll need it to exit the station at your destination.

High Speed Rail

The bullet service on the Taiwan High Speed Rail (HSR; www.thsrc.com.tw) zips between Taipei and Kaohsiung in as fast as 96 minutes. Tickets are a little less than double the price of a standard train but take less than half the time.

The trains offer airplane-like comfort, and reserved seating is available. Food and snacks are also available.

There are 10 stations on the route: Taipei, Banciao, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Miaoli, Taichung, Changhua, Yunlin, Chiayi, Tainan and Zuoying (for Kaohsiung).

For timetables and fares, see the HSR website. In general, there are at least three trains per hour. All stations have visitor information centres with English-speaking staff to help with bus transfers, hotel bookings and car rentals.

Classes

There are two classes: standard and business. Business fares are about 50% higher than the price of standard, and offer larger seats and 110V electrical outlets.

Reservations & Fares

You can buy tickets up to 28 days in advance. It is advisable to book if you are travelling on a weekend or holiday.

You have three main options for buying tickets (you'll need your passport number to book a ticket).

Online You can book on the HSR website (in English). Take your booking number to any HSR station or a convenience store to pay within two days of booking.

Convenience store Use an ibon kiosk (Chinese only) at a 7-Eleven to book your train ticket. Take the printed slip of paper with your booking number and pay at the counter.

HSR station Go to any HSR station and book your ticket directly, either from the counter or the ticket machines.

There are small discounts for unreserved seating areas and 'early bird' discounts of 10% to 35% when booking eight to 28 days in advance. Tickets for seniors, children and people with disabilities are half the standard fare.

Tourism Branch Lines

Several small branch lines are maintained for tourist purposes: Alishan, Jiji and Pingxi.

Visitor Information Centres

Most cities have visitor information centres with English-speaking staff, inside or just outside the train station. The centres are usually open from 9am to 6pm and have local transport, food, and accommodation information as well as maps in English.