Taiwan is a small country that is connected by comprehensive and affordable bus and rail services. Transport in Taiwanese cities is excellent, and Taipei, where most foreigners live, even boasts a metro system. The public transport system is reliable, affordable and easily accessible, so expats should have no problem getting around in Taiwan.
With an EasyCard, expats can pay for bus services in most cities, and railway, MRT and some ferry and cable car tickets. They can also pay for YouBike rentals, parking and convenience store purchases.
Public transport in Taiwan
There are buses that travel almost every main street in Taiwan. They’re clean, safe and run often. Taking the bus in Taiwan is a practical and safe way to get around town inexpensively. They're also a popular means for travellers who want to get to smaller or more rural destinations. There are a variety of buses to choose from and among the most popular are Kuo Kuang Hao, Ubus and Aloha services. Bus companies usually have offices near train stations in most Taiwanese cities.
Passengers can take the train easily from city to city. The trains in Taiwanese urban centres run frequently and are cheap. The announcements are in both Mandarin and English, as are all the signs.
The express train, Tze-Chiang, is the most comfortable and fastest way to travel around Taiwan. It is also the most expensive. Tickets should be booked in advance, especially when one plans on travelling over a weekend or public holiday.
For long-distance travelling, Taiwan has a high-speed rail system (HSR). In a little over two hours, expats can travel the whole length of the island. The train is modern but can be pricey.
Train stations in the larger cities in Taiwan usually have tourist information counters with English-speaking staff. Most cashiers at ticket booths will understand foreigners when they speak slowly, and buying train tickets should therefore be quite straightforward.
Cycling in Taiwan
With a bike network spanning more than 3,000 miles (5,000 km), much of it on dedicated paths, Taiwan has a well-developed cycling infrastructure. The country has a variety of routes, from flat coastal paths to challenging mountain climbs, and many bike rental shops are available. Taiwan has a strong cycling culture, and the world's largest bicycle company, Giant, calls Taiwan home.
YouBike is a public bicycle-sharing service operated by Taipei City that allows anyone to rent a bicycle from kiosks throughout Taiwan's major cities. Users can rent a bicycle using a smart card or a mobile app, and in the more crowded cities, cycling can be the fastest and most affordable means of getting around.
Taxis in Taiwan
There are taxi services in most cities in Taiwan. Taxis are metered and fares are cheap. Fares differ between cities, but no matter where in Taiwan an expat is located, the cost of taking a taxi is much cheaper than in Western countries. Taxi drivers often don't speak English, and expats should therefore have their destination written down in Mandarin. All the taxi companies in Taiwan have an app that can be downloaded from the App Store. Expats can use the app to hail a taxi, or they can call the designated taxi company number. Uber is also available in Taiwan but only in certain cities, namely Taipei, Taichung, Kaohsiung, Taoyuan and Hsinchu.
Driving in Taiwan
Driving in Taiwan is difficult due to the chaotic nature of the local driving culture. It's common for other drivers to disobey traffic laws and drive dangerously. In Taipei, traffic laws are enforced and driving there is safe and easy. That said, outside of Taipei, this is generally not the norm. Scooters also tend to weave in and out of traffic, which can result in accidents.
An international driving licence can be used in Taiwan and, for those who plan on living in the country, it is valid for 30 days, after which new arrivals must obtain a Taiwanese driving licence. Taiwan has reciprocal licence agreements with certain countries. Members of these countries can obtain a Taiwanese licence without taking a driving test, but they will need to ensure that their original licence is translated into English or Chinese first. Otherwise, expats not from these countries will need to first secure and hold a learner's permit for at least three months and pass the Taiwanese theoretical and practical driving test, which can be taken in English.
Air travel in Taiwan
There are four international airports in Taiwan. Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport is for the northern part of the island, and Kaohsiung International Airport caters to the southern part of the island. While Taichung International Airport and Songshan Airport also fly internationally, they only fly to certain destinations in Asia. There are also many local airports where one can book a flight to anywhere in Taiwan, including the islands out in the Strait of Taiwan.