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Best Ways to Travel Around Taiwan

Traveling to Taiwan still excites me today, but traveling within Taiwan makes the whole trip more special.

Coming from a third-world tropical country, I should say I’m very impressed at how technologically and economically advanced Taiwan is despite the country being small with only a few citizens. This tech advancement extended to their highly accessible means of transportation, and it’s something I appreciate a lot as a traveler.

Of course, every globetrotter loves a smooth journey. And since I’ve tried almost all of the basic means of transportation in Taiwan, I thought about sharing with you the how’s and why’s, and what I love about each of them.

1. Mass Rapid Transit (MRT)

• Taoyuan Metro

Whether you’re heading north or south, there are many means of transportation to choose from at the airport, but first, let’s talk about Taoyuan Metro, also called Ty Metro.

There are two types of Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) in Taiwan: Ty Metro and Taipei Metro. Taipei Metro is, as the name suggests, only in Taipei, while Ty Metro extends (by purpose) to Taipei — but only at the Taipei Main Station. When heading to Taipei, I personally prefer Ty Metro over others because of its overall quality — from fare to convenience.

Types of Ty Metro

There are two types of Ty Metro: Express Train (purple) and Commuter Train (blue). The passengers of the commuter train are mostly locals since the train stops at all stations. The express train, however, stops at only five stations: Airport Terminal 2, Airport Terminal 1, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, New Taipei Industrial Park, and Taipei Main Station, respectively — heading to Taipei.

I’ve tried the blue commuter train once when I went to the National Central University at Zhongli District, Taoyuan City. It runs slower than the purple express train, though, and it will take you approximately 50 minutes to arrive at Taipei Main Station from the airport. The express train, on the other hand, takes only 35 minutes for the same route.

For the luggage space, the commuter train has 252 compartments for 20-inch luggage, while the express train has 122 compartments for 28-inch luggage and 604 compartments for 20-inch ones. Also, each compartment has a safety belt so you won’t have to worry about your bags even if your seat’s a bit far from them.

Inside Ty Metro Commuter train. I’d like to highlight how clean it always is inside the Metros (both Ty and TPE). Also, the compartment is on the left.

Another thing good thing about the express train is that they have wireless charging spaces in each row. Each charging space has its own receiver with three different connectors: USB type C, lightning, and micro USB. This is so convenient as you won’t have to rush to the compartment and open up your luggage in public just to take out your phone chargers.

My Taiwan Mobile charged up for the trip at the Express train

Unfortunately, though, you won’t enjoy this perk on the commuter train. Although I’ve heard they do have charging areas with USB docks, it’s very limited, and I haven’t actually tried it. I suggest you make sure to fully charge your devices at the airport before boarding the commuter train. There are many charging spots just about everywhere — and it’s free!

Lastly, for this part, one of the important things to note about these Ty Metro lines is that they both the same time interval between each boarding: 15 minutes.

Location of the Ty Metro trains

The Taoyuan International Airport (TIA) has two terminals with each having a Ty Metro line at their respective Basements 2. I usually take the one at Terminal 2 because it’s livelier and has more people than at T1, which has more of a “nature” feel and is more spacious. But either way, you’ll still feel safe.

If you wish to transfer from your current terminal to the other, take the Skytrain, which is technically your only way to transfer. Skytrain service between terminals is provided for passengers and workers; hence, it’s free. The Skytrain is located on the second floor of each terminal. There are directions indicated in the hallways, so you won’t get lost, or you can ask a TIA staff you can see around the area.

For terminal 1, you’ll have to pass through the Basement 1 Food Court to the south and take the escalator down to A12 Airport Terminal 1 Station or Ty Metro Airport Terminal Station. You can find the A13 Airport Terminal 2 Station at the side of the Basement 2 Food Court by the pathway. You may take either the capsule elevator or the escalator going down from the top floors.

• Taipei Metro

Taipei Mass Rapid Transit or Taipei Metro, compared to its single-line cousin, Ty Metro, has five lines — designated with different colors. These are red, orange, green, blue, and brown lines.

Once you arrive at the Taipei Main Station, you can only find the MRT lines red and blue. So, if your destination is near a line other than these two, you’ll have to transfer from station to station.

Following these routes can be a little confusing, especially if you don’t have experience with MRT rides. Though I’ve frequently visited Taiwan, I still use a railway app to guide me on my trip. The best one yet for me is World Transit Maps (previously Taiwan Rail). It’s a railway app that doesn’t only guide you around Taiwan, but also in Japan, the UK, Thailand, Hong Kong, and other countries on its list. It’s really handy.

Taipei Metro — Tamsui Station (edge station for the red line) at 1 AM taken on January 1, 2019.

Taipei Metro is the most preferred mode of transportation by tourists, mainly because it’s cheaper than taking a cab. It’s also safe, reliable, convenient, and clean. It makes roaming around Taipei City fun. Feeling like a local is a bonus!

Boarding the MRT

How to board the Ty Metro

To board any train, you’ll need a ticket. Ty Metro has many types of tickets to choose from. The most important ones are the single-journey tokens and the EasyCard. If it’s your first time in Taipei, try this type of ticket before venturing out to the other options.

◦ Single-journey ticket

As you can see in the photo, the single-journey ticket looks like a purple coin. Unless you already own an EasyCard (which we’ll talk about later), you can’t leave the airport without it.

How to purchase Single-journey ticket

The single-journey ticket issuing machines do not accept bills other than New Taiwanese Dollars, so make sure to have already exchanged your cash into NTD before heading to these machines.

I usually exchange mine at the currency exchange at the Terminal 1 Baggage process center (first floor), just beside the exit door to the departure hall. It’s one of the few exchange centers within the TI airport that are open 24/7.

Using the machine is easy peasy. Just follow the English translation of the step-by-step instruction indicated, and you’re good to go! Note that these tickets are for “leaving” the airport only, so you won’t be able to take some as a souvenir.

How to board the Taipei Metro

Unlike Ty Metro, Taipei Metro doesn’t provide you a single-journey ticket, and you’ll have to use an EasyCard for entering and exiting the stations. EasyCards can also be used in Ty Metro, though. Basically, single-journey tickets are only for trips from the Airport Stations to Taipei Main Station. So, you’re going to need these cards unless you already have passes and other special travel tickets.

  ◦ EasyCard

front
back

The great thing about EasyCard is that it’s not just for MRT rides; you can also use it to pay for your bus rides and is required for you to use a YouBike. Basically, it’s the (almost) universal means of payment in Taiwan.

Moreover, there are four types of EasyCards: Regular (Adult), Student, Concessionaire, and Co-Branded. Take note, though, that each type has an eligibility standard and a certain percent of discount per usage.

Student CardStudents over age 12 with their status recognized by the Ministry of Education are eligible for student cards.
Concessionaire Card • Children over age 6 but under 12
• Seniors over age 65
• The disabled having a disability card (certificate)
Regular/Adult CardGeneral public
Co-Branded EasyCardGeneral public

I didn’t know the importance of passing the eligibility standards for each type of EasyCard until the time when I got into trouble with a bus driver one time. What I understood from what he said (in Chinese; I don’t speak the language) was that I’m not allowed to use my card, and he asked for cash.

I don’t usually carry cash with me, so it was a kinda-difficult and awkward situation. I was exiting the bus, and many people were waiting for me to get done with my payment and get out. I only had a few coins in my wallet that was so short of my original fare price, and I obviously didn’t have a split second to withdraw cash somewhere. I didn’t know what else to do but show what’s inside my wallet to the driver and tell him “no cash.”

We were both stressed out at the situation and were in a hurry, so he finally decided to ask all of the NTD coins I have left in my wallet, then he let me out of the bus. It was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, and I still laugh whenever I think about it today.

There actually have been many almost-the-same cases that happened before that, but I didn’t understand at the time, because of the language barrier—I guess? Maybe the drivers just allowed me to go because I’m a foreigner. I honestly don’t know.

Well, to avoid the situation, always make sure to buy the proper card for you.

How to purchase an EasyCard

EasyCards come in different colors and designs. Some have Hello Kitty, Rilakkuma, and Gudetama designs, among others. You have a wide variety of options. You can find them in all MRT stations and convenience stores including 7-Eleven, SimpleMart (美聯社), OK, Family Mart (全家), and Hi-Life (萊爾富).

I bought my Concessionaire card at a Family Mart in Zhongzheng district when I wasn’t educated yet about the eligibility standards of the EasyCard. I didn’t know it’s a concessionaire type as I did not bother about it at all. Also, the cashier must have forgotten to check it, so that’s where it all started. LOL. So, don’t forget to check the card yourself before buying it.

I don’t know if EasyCards are available in convenience stores at the airport. But you can try to ask the cashier in one of them. Use the Google Translate app for better communication and less hassle.

An empty card itself costs 100 NTD (non-consumable). As soon as you pay for the card, you can ask the cashier to add money to it for a minimum of 100 NTD. You can also add later at any Card Vending Machine located just before you enter an MRT gate and inside the stations.

Card Vending Machine / Add Value Machine
Cons

The problem with purchasing an EasyCard only comes when you want to use a UBike. You’ll need to register your card online or at a kiosk in any UBike station using a Taiwanese mobile number under your name. Note that unlike most other countries, you can purchase a maximum of 2 sim cards in Taiwan as every mobile number is registered to a name.

In my case, I bought a new Taiwan Mobile phone (because a strong breeze flew off my postpaid nano sim card when I took it out from my phone — in the open. Lesson learned. Never do what I did). Along with the phone, I also bought a new temporary prepaid Taiwan mobile number and had it registered.

I had to because, well, we all need an internet connection during our trips. Also, Taiwan is one of the top countries in the world with the fastest internet connection, so why not savor that perk too? Overall, it’s not really a “con” for me.

Pros

As I’ve mentioned, EasyCards are very useful for your rides. It helps you pass-through stations with less hassle. Even if you don’t plan to buy a Taiwanese sim card, you can still use the card and enjoy all the perks except the YouBike.

EasyCards also allow for a negative balance. That means if you forgot to add value to your card before a ride and unintentionally extended your MRT trip, which led to a higher fare than your current balance, you can still leave the station. The automatic gate will show your negative balance, so as soon as you’re out, you can add money to your card whenever you want. But make sure to add the value before your next ride.

There is, however, a certain amount of allowed for a negative balance. Some say it’s -50, though I’ve never tried going that far down. It’s always best to keep your card balance positive.

Can I refund the money from the card?

Yes and No. There are government rules for refunding the amount from EasyCards. Yes — if your card is name-registered (with mobile number) and has at least 3,000 NTD. You can submit a refund application to issuance agencies or the EasyCard Corporation, then wait for a short while for the processing. No — if you don’t pass the requirements for refund application (as stated above).

If you don’t have time for refunding, you can still use your card when you come back to Taiwan. If not, you can consider it as a souvenir. It’s best to use up all its stored amount before leaving, though. Otherwise, your money is doomed until your next advent.

More uses of EasyCard

Aside from its use for most public transit on the island, EasyCard can also be used for a Maokong Gondola ride, convenience stores, drink shops, street parking meters, and parking garages.

Other tickets

Tickets other than EasyCard and Single-journey are made for tourists, such as Periodic Ticket and MRT Round Trip Tickets. These are temporary tickets, or more like “passes,” that have expiration dates. They can be used the same way as EasyCards but with a time limit and sometimes, only for a certain number of rides.

Automatic Gates

I know this may sound a little off-topic, but I’d like to brief you on what you’ll do with your tickets. You’ll be using them differently on each side of an automatic gate.

When exiting, you’ll need to insert your token (single-journey ticket) or touch your card on the sensor at the Leave Paid Area. When entering back inside, you can use your card or another token at the Enter Paid Area by simply touching either of which at the sensor. Here are photos for reference:

If you still have questions before boarding a train, you can ask an agent at a Passenger Agent Office. They can also provide you with other types of tickets such as iPass or Group Tickets and manually add value to your EasyCard if you’re having trouble with the card vending machine. Their office is located between the entrance and exit automatic gates. Here’s a photo for reference:

Airport Terminal 1 Station Passenger Agent Office

2. High-Speed Rail (Bullet Train)

If you think only Japan has bullet trains, think again. Despite being popular for pioneering the “bullet train,” Japan’s little sister, Taiwan, has its own too!

There are two types of bullet trains in Taiwan, namely, Puyuma Express and Taroko Express. Puyuma Express is famous for being TRA’s fastest train. It runs at 150 kilometers per hour. Taroko Express, on the other hand, is your best option if you want a speedy ride from Taipei to Hualien. It takes you to the location in just two hours.

The High-Speed Rail, though the fastest mode of transportation, is also the most expensive among other choices. Unlike others, its sole priority is to take you to your location as fast as possible, but still, you get to enjoy a scenic view when above ground.

How to board the High-Speed Rail

To board an HSR train, you will need to purchase a different type of ticket. You can purchase your ticket online or at the station on the day of the ride. Ticket machines are located outside the HSR entrance gates.

Furthermore, an HSR train has twelve carriages and four types of classes. This means you can choose a seat that is most convenient for you ⁠— much like your flights but on the ground, and even better.

Standard Class (Non-reserved seat)Least expensive.
Tickets are valid only for the specified date, and seats are not guaranteed.
Cars number 10-12 (north end).
Standard Class (Reserved seat)A bit more expensive than non-reserved but you can choose your seat as you purchase your ticket.
Cars 1-5 (south end), 8, and 9.
Standard Class (Accessible)Standard car with reserved seats.
It has an exclusive space for people with disabilities.
Car number 7.
Business Class Most expensive and most spacious among other types.
Car number 6 (also where the conductor room is located).
Non-reserved ticket for my Taipei-Nangang trip; my second HSR ride with my travel buddy.

Boarding the THSR

High-Speed Rail offers countless services that can be very useful to you (for more about Taiwan High-Speed Rail, government site links are down below). I’d like to highlight how useful their facilities and services are for me as a digital nomad.

I work just about anywhere I feel like working at, as long as I have a stable internet connection. As a traveler, I also struggle when it comes to submitting projects during a flight or a land trip, so I always have to make sure to schedule a work day-off, long before the trip. But I don’t have to with the High-Speed Rail.

I just learned during my bullet train rides how convenient this mode of transportation is for digital nomads and traveling businessmen alike. I love how I can place my laptop in the fold-down tray table (included in each seat) and work conveniently during the whole trip.

I also like the 180-degree swivel chair that allows me to talk to a friend without having to keep my head turned sideways and actively engage in business activities facing forward.

I usually take the bullet train for long trips like Taipei to Chiayi or Kaohsiung. The only reasons for me to not take this mode of transportation are as follows:

  • If my location is accessible via Taipei Metro
  • If my location is not accessible via THSR
  • When I’m not the one paying for my trip
  • If I’m too short of budget for a round-trip ticket. 😂

In-train Shop

Of course, a long trip is not good without food. Aside from snacks and beverages, the THSR also offers four different types of meals you can order at the in-train shop, and two of these are purely veggies. This is good news for vegans and Whole-Foods Plant-Based lifestyle enthusiasts ⁠— we won’t have to pack our own meals!

3. TRA

If you want to travel around the country of Taiwan, the local train, or better known as “TRA” (Taiwan Railways Administration), would be your best option. Being the oldest railway transportation, TRA, of course, pioneered the railroads of Taiwan, and it stops at all stations along its line.

Overall, the TRA is the least expensive mode of transportation, especially for long-distance travel. You won’t have to transfer from station to station unless your preferred stop is on a line from a different type of transit.

Though it’s not as modernized as High-Speed Rail and Mass Rapid Transit, TRA still serves you its best, especially when it comes to cleanliness and comfort.

A photo of Taiwanese locals who were with me inside the train.

I’ve taken the TRA several times, and one downside I still couldn’t quite tolerate until now is how sometimes it gets delayed. For “delayed,” I mean like thirty to sixty minutes delayed. It’s happened to me a lot, though it usually occurs during peak hours, especially in winter. Aside from that, I don’t have much to complain about the TRA since it offers a great ride for a fair price.

How to purchase a ticket for the TRA

When purchasing a TRA ticket at any station, you’ll need to head to the counter to pay for the ticket, either in cash or using your credit/debit card. The counter at Taipei Main Station is located at the entrance hall; or, if you’re in the rural stations, the counter is just beside the railway.

You will insert your ticket in the gate, then it’s punched and returned to you once you’re in. (hand not mine)

You can also book a ride online, be informed about the train regulations, and learn more about tour tickets you might want to try. I haven’t tried purchasing a ticket online, but it would be more convenient and could save me some time from falling in a long line for the counter.

Have you tried it? Share your experience in the comments below.

4. Bus

“Taking the bus can save you bucks” is such an understatement. The most dreadful mode of transportation for me has always been buses in my home country, and I honestly couldn’t remember a time when I didn’t almost barf during a bus trip ⁠— but not in Taiwan.

What I love about taking buses in Taiwan doesn’t only encompass the low-expense I get to enjoy but also the beautiful landscapes and busy streets to see, and the convenience, clean environment, and comfort no matter how long the trip is.

Not to tell you that it’s the best in the world whatsoever, but I would rate Taiwan’s bus system five stars if I could. They’re very organized, and the buses are usually on-time when they arrive at their stops. I mean, I often take the bus for almost the same amount of times I take the MRT when I’m in Taiwan, and I’ve tried those in the city, the mountains, and those in the countryside. So far, I could say they’re the best, especially if you want to live like a local.

There are a lot of attractions in Taipei that will need you to take either a bus or an expensive cab ride to get there. Moreover, taking the bus can save you a lot of money, allows you to see the amazing views along the way, and makes your adventures more fun.

Also, as I’ve mentioned, the convenience you get from taking the bus extends to having just to tap your EasyCard and take a seat. No cash or coins. If you don’t have an EasyCard, however, you can still pay the driver in cash. Just make sure you always have them in your wallet ⁠— and some pennies for easy change.

Lastly, make sure you’ve memorized the bus routes and refilled your card (if you have one).

5. Cab: Uber and Taxi

If you’re not a fan of preparing earlier and walking to the station or bus stop, a cab ride is just a tap away.

Booking an Uber ride would be the most convenient and easiest option when you’re in a hurry, unfamiliar with your destination, or you missed the last trip since you won’t need to stress yourself out during the trip nor wait in line. The driver will just come to pick you up. All you need is the Uber app.

As for the taxi, you can also book it by calling their hotline ⁠— though the process would be so much easier if you can speak Mandarin. I’ve had a few taxi rides booked via call by Taiwanese friends, and sometimes, it’s way cheaper than Uber because they can haggle with the fare, especially my trips to the airport.

If you don’t have local friends or prefer not to call the taxi hotline, I suggest you take an Uber since their prices are fixed, you’ll feel safer, and you won’t have to go through the hassle of language-barrier upon telling the driver your destination.

6. YouBike

YouBike or Ubike is the cheapest mode of transportation, among others. All other perks, such as safety and convenience, depend on you since you’ll be the one holding the handlebars.

Is it safe?

These public bicycles are regularly checked for maintenance and changed from time to time. Also, before you can rent a bike, you will need to activate your membership by completing a data registration process provided by the YouBike services. Once you’re registered, you are guaranteed free public bicycle injury insurance.

How to rent a YouBike

As I’ve mentioned, a registered EasyCard is required for you to rent a Ubike.

The registration is quick and easy – you can do it online or in any YouBike Station kiosks. Once you’re formally registered, you can then tap the card on the sensor of your bike of choice and take it off wherever you want. Your fare will depend on the time of usage, so make sure to check your EasyCard balance and your destination for its nearest YouBike station before hopping on a YouBike.

For a step-by-step guide on how to rent a YouBike and things to do before riding, the links are down below.

YouBike rides are fun

Almost all of the locals in Taiwan use bicycles for their day to day transportation, so why not try it out too? After all, it makes a more fun tour around the city ⁠— strong joints are a bonus.

Explore Taiwan Yourself!

There are many other means of transportation you can choose in Taiwan and ways to take the ones I’ve mentioned. Try them yourself as you explore the heart of Asia.

Mind you, though, that this guide is solely based on my experience and may have a few obsolete information as you’re reading this. Anyhow, I wish you safe travels and enjoy your trip to Formosa!

Reference

NOTE: Make sure to add the Google Translate Chrome extension before opening the links ☺️

Taiwan High-Speed Rail

Taxi Hotline

  • Taipei
    • 0800-055850
    • 55850 (cellphone)
  • Taoyuan:
    • 03-4499178
    • 55178 (cellphone)

YouBike

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