How to get around Taiwan
How to move around Taiwan:
In our Taiwan Travel Route we will indicate for each excursion and trip what is the best way to do it.
In general, in Taiwan you can move without problems by rental car, train, bullet train and in some cases by bus. Even the towns closest to Taipei can be reached with the same metro network from the capital. In each case we will tell you the best option.
Taiwan is a very special island from an orographic point of view that determines the way of moving.
Two tectonic plates collided creating a vertically elongated island with a large north-south mountain range with more than 100 peaks above 3,000 meters. Taipei is to the north and the most important cities are arranged on the west side, one after the previous one, all linked by a high-speed train and by highways. All major cities have airports with connections to Taipei, but you will see that if you are tourists it is more practical to get around by rental car. On the east coast, despite having the country's main attraction (Taroko park), there is no major city. That is why there is no high-speed train and, as the mountains reach to the sea, there are no highways either.
The central mountain range causes that crossing from one side of the island to the other is a nightmare of curves and more curves. That is why the best way to go around it is to go all the way around the outer perimeter. And for all this too, the best way to get around is with a rental car.
You will have more freedom, you will not depend on the complicated combinations of public transport to reach some parks and you will be able to reach some more unknown waterfalls that we will find on our Route to travel to Taiwan.
Of course, for some of the islands that we will recommend you visit on our Taiwan itinerary, it will logically be necessary to go by boat or even by plane. In each case we will explain the best option and how to book the tickets at the best price.
Here we give you our recommendations for touring Taiwan by car and, on the first day of the route where you need a vehicle, we will indicate the best car rental company and also the cheapest one.
How to buy bullet train tickets in Taiwan:
High-speed train tickets in Taiwan sell out early, especially on weekends and holidays. That is why we recommend you buy them in advance through the official website of Taiwan High Speed Rail. You can do it up to 1 month before departure. These tickets can be cancelled or changed up to 30min before the train departure (the cancellation/change fee is ridiculous).
They have a very simple form in English where you basically put the departure and arrival station, class (standard car is perfect), seat preference (window or aisle), day and time of departure, and number of passengers. Children 6-11 years old pay half. And children under 6 travel for free, but they have to go on top of an adult, they do not have a seat. If you want them to have a seat, you have to buy them a child seat.
After choosing the train you want and filling in your personal information, they will tell you that the reservation is made and take you to a payment gateway. They give you two days to pay, but better to do it at the moment.
The confirmation email they send you is not the tickets. With it you have to go to the station window on the day of departure (arrive at least 45 minutes in advance), and there they will exchange them for the tickets with which you can enter the train.
TIP: if you can't get tickets for the day you want, you still have a chance. They always reserve 3 cars of each train for non-reserved tickets. These tickets are bought the same day at the station (machines or booths). If the train is very crowded, you can stand or sit in the area of the doors, as long as the passage is not obstructed. Although if it is a very busy day, it is usually best to skip that train and catch the next one. If you go with children or elderly people, you can opt for the preferential seats, which are rarely occupied.
How to travel and how to buy train tickets in Taiwan:
In addition to the high-speed train that passes through all the major cities on the west coast, Taiwan has an extensive network of trains that reach remote corners of the country and for very little money. These trains can be:
Local trains: are the slowest, make countless stops and you cannot reserve a seat. The seats are subway type (you are looking inside the train, not forward) and on weekends they are very full. In return, they are very cheap. You can pay directly with the EasyCard at the entrance of the platform and when leaving it. As if it were the subway.
Express trains: these are much faster and more comfortable trains than the previous ones (many stops are skipped and the seats are very comfortable). The problem is that on these trains the seats are reserved, and they sell out super fast. It is very difficult to get to the station and get a seat (especially on the weekend). What is possible is to buy a ticket without a reserved seat, which means that you have to find a free seat yourself (sometimes you have to change if someone arrives at another station with your seat already reserved), or go standing up (you can sit on the floor in the entrance area as long as you do not block the way). If you want a reserved seat on one of these trains, it is best to buy the tickets 4 weeks in advance (which is when they go on sale and sell out very quickly). To do so, open the official website of Taiwan Railway (note that it does not work in browsers like Safari, better to do it with Chrome). Fill in the departure and arrival data, and it will give you all the train options. You will see that some have a drawing of a ticket in the last column (Order Tickets). Those are the express trains that you can book in advance. If you click on the ticket icon, you can make the purchase if there are tickets available. Children under 6 years old can travel for free if they do not occupy an additional seat. If you prefer that they have their seat, or they are already over 5 years old, then on the first screen, where they ask you how many â??Regular Ticketsâ? you want, you have to include them. Then on the purchase screen, it will ask you if they are adults or children, and it will apply the 50% discount.
To easily know which trains (local or express) are available for each day and route, we recommend that you download the Taiwan Railway app (iOS version, Android version). Here you can quickly see for each route and day all the trains that are available and the duration of the journey (when a train is crossed out, it means that it is a few minutes late, not that it is canceled). We remind you that on local trains you can board directly and pay with the EasyCard. For express you have to buy a ticket online or at the station ticket offices.
Basic Driving Rules in Taiwan:
In Taiwan you drive on the right and the rules are the usual with a speed limit on highways of 110 km / hour. The signs are in Chinese and English, so no big problems.
One surprising thing is that it is legal - or at least it is accepted without problems - to overtake on the right using the motorcycle lane (something interesting in Taiwan) or the shoulder itself. Actually you will see that, if there are two lanes, the cars usually go on the left even if they are slow. It is something that we have only seen in the Dominican Republic and that has its origin in avoiding accidents with the entrances to the highway.
The main difficulties in driving in Taiwan are torrential rains in typhoon season (caution, reduced speed and patience if you have to stop until it stops) and trucks especially on the east coast highway (just let them pass).
The permissiveness with alcohol is zero so don't drink if you have to drive (not a single beer, the limit is 0).
Apart from all this, you should keep in mind that the general rule in Taiwan, contrary to what happens in most western countries, is that the "big" has preference over the "small". That is, buses have preference over cars. The cars over the motorcycles. The motorcycles over the bicycles. And the bikes over the pedestrians. If you are walking and a bicycle overwhelms you or if a car does not stop at a pedestrian crossing when it sees you, you can complain ... but you will be the only one!
Parking in Taiwan
In general, if the ground is marked with a white line you can park without problems, the yellow line is for unloading and the red line is prohibited. They do not usually issue fines and there are no cranes, but as finding parking space is not difficult, better respect the rules.
In Taipei and some other major cities, parking spaces are drawn on the ground and in those cases they are paid. But the operation is very peculiar. There are some guards who move around on a motorcycle. They will leave you a paper on the windshield and with it you will have to pay at a 7-Eleven or a FamilyMart (there are everywhere). The quantities are minimal. In very central areas it is quite difficult to park on the street, but there are always private parking lots available. Here the prices are much more expensive, could reach 100NT $ per hour. Normally it is paid at the exit in the typical machines (you will have to insert the ticket that they give you at the entrance or the license plate number of the car), although sometimes a fixed fee is paid at the entrance. If so, the price is well indicated on a sign that can be seen from the outside.
In very central areas or near tourist attractions, it is usually quite difficult to park on the street, but there are always private parking spaces available. Here the prices are much more expensive, it could reach 100 NT $ per hour in the center of Taipei. Normally it is paid at the exit in the typical machines: you will have to insert the ticket or token that they give you at the entrance, although sometimes they do not give you anything and you only have to enter the number of the car registration plate. In this case, when you exit the barrier, it automatically lifts. Other times a fixed fee is paid at the entrance. If so, the price is well indicated on a sign that can be seen from the outside.
Find parking space in tourist areas:
In some attractions, however, there will be no parking and you will have to park on the same road. You will see that Asians are very long-suffering and those who see cars on the verges park there even if they are hundreds of meters from the entrance (sometimes even kilometers ...).
We recommend that you always go to the end. In a year of traveling around Taiwan and visiting all its attractions several times, not once did we find a place near the entrance. Sometimes you will have to put a little creativity but, even if it costs you, you will be the one-eyed in the kingdom of the blind. Their formality prevents them from parking if they do not see it clearly and, for that reason, there are not many police officers fining or tow trucks taking cars.
Tolls in Taiwan:
Most of the highways in Taiwan are toll roads but they are very cheap. They all work with a teletac that all cars incorporate. That is, you will never have to stop and you will only notice it at night by the violet light that you will notice when you pass under the payment arches. Of course, when you return the car they will make you pay the corresponding amount (usually in cash).
In the case of all highways near Taipei, you will see that there are HOV lanes (high occupation vehicles), which you can take advantage of if you are 3 or more people in the car. It's worth it because big traffic jams are common at peak times or on weekends. So much so that on those occasions it is "allowed" to go down the shoulder!
Gasoline in Taiwan:
There are two gas station chains, the most frequent CPC, recognizable by its blue color and the logo of an Olympic torch, and Formosa, with rainbow-like colors. The prices are very similar and vary little from one city to another.
In urban centers it is easy to find gas stations and they always appear on Google Maps. On the other hand, pay attention to the motorways because the frequency is lower than in Europe.
Also be careful before entering the national parks because inside there are no gas stations and, in some cases, you can drive many kilometers inside.
You can always pay with VISA and gasoline is served by the staff. The price is around NT$ 20-25 per liter (€0.70).
Car accidents in Taiwan:
Car accidents are not very common in Taiwan, but if you do, the first thing to do is always call the police (110). They will take care of everything, even calling the ambulance if necessary, tow truck or whatever.
When they arrive, call the phone number that the car rental company will have given you and pass the phone on to the police (that's how they understand each other).
You will see that in general Taiwanese are charming and will always help you even before you request it.
The police by procedure will test you for alcohol (remember that you are not allowed to drink even a drop of alcohol if you drive). When finished, they will make you go to the police station. Do not worry because it will only be to do the part. They will not give you a copy of it, but rather a kind of receipt that you must deliver to the rental company.