How to get around Taipei
The best way to get around Taipei:
The best way to get around the city is to use the metro (MRT). It's super fast, convenient and cheap (from NTD 20 one way), and it reaches most of the tourist attractions. Sometimes you will have to combine it with a bus (15 NTD), and we already warn you that these are not so comfortable... the drivers drive quite fast and are very rough. But they are quite frequent and fast, so they can be convenient. To see the best combination of metro / bus to choose, it is best to do a search in the Google Maps app.
If you have no budget problem and / or you are a group of 4, then it can compensate you to move in Uber. The routes through the city usually cost around 150 NTD (about € 5), it is available throughout the city, with a few minutes of waiting, and you will always be clear about the route and the price from the beginning. They are a little more expensive than taxis, but it solves the communication problem with the taxi driver (sometimes it is difficult to make them understand where you want to go). Of course, at peak times and especially if it rains or is a weekend, prices can skyrocket up to 350 NTD or more (about € 10), with 8 or more minutes of waiting. In that case, when you see the estimated price that the Uber application gives you, we recommend you first try to take a taxi or public transport.
Taking the subway and bus in Taipei:
Both the bus and the subway work perfectly in Taipei and, even at rush hours, you can travel without large crowds.
The metro network (MRT) is rather scarce but it covers the large areas of the city and even the closest towns such as Beitou or Tamsui (in our Route to travel to Taipei we will tell you how to do these fantastic excursions, with the best Hot Springs or spas and where to eat in each case).
The bus perfectly complements the metro network. The stops are easily identifiable on the street, most of them with a cover to protect you from the rain and with a marker to know how long it is until the bus arrives. At each stop you will also find a QR code, if you scan it with your camera, it will take you to a web page where you will see the waiting times for that stop in real time.
How to pay for Taipei public transport: Although you can pay in cash every time, it is much more convenient and cheaper to buy an EASYCARD. It is a kind of electronic purse in which you put money and they give you a discount when taking public transport. It serves both for the bus and the metro. Also to use the Youbike (shared bike in Taipei).
- Where to buy the EasyCard: you can buy it and recharge it at any 7-11 or metro stop. You have to buy one card per person and there is a children's version that offers greater discounts. Children under 6 years old do not pay on public transport in Taiwan. Buying one EasyCard costs NT$ 100, but given the discounts they make and the convenience, it is worth it.
- How much money to put in the EasyCard: calculate 4 trips a day in Taipei at 20 NTD per trip, so about NT$ 80 per person per day. Do not worry if you put too much money, because you can also pay in many places with it, such as supermarkets and convenience stores. To recharge it, you can go to a 7-11 or in the machines in the metro stations (you can choose English to follow the process).
- How to use the EasyCard: both when getting on-entering and getting off the bus and metro, you must pass the card through the readers. On the bus you can go up and down through either of the two doors, there are reading machines in both.
- How much each trip costs: it will depend on the distance, but most bus trips around the city cost NT$15 with the EasyCard and those of the metro cost NT$ 20 (NT$ 30 to the airport). When you pass the ticket when getting off / leaving, the reader tells you the cost of the journey and the balance you have left on the card.
How to know which bus / metro to take: if you search for the routes on Google Maps, it will perfectly indicate the best combination and the waiting times in each case. But beware: Google Maps does not always have the exact time of the buses passing by each stop updated in real time. In general it is not a problem but some lines have a very low frequency, up to half an hour, so you can die of boredom at the stop.
That is why we recommend downloading the Bus + app (Android version, iOS version. You also have Bus Tracker Taipei but Bus + is more friendly). There you can see the times of passage of each bus for each stop. Once Google Maps gives you the route to reach your destination, open the Bus + application. Put in the search engine the number of the bus, above you choose the direction in which you are going and at the moment the whole route will appear. Look for your stop and you will see how long it will take for the bus to arrive.
Another easier way to have it on hand, at least for the stop that is closest to the hotel or apartment, is to scan the QR code at each station. A website will be opened directly where you will see the time of passage through that stop of all the buses.
You can also use Bus + to search directly for the route but it usually costs more to find the address. That is why it is better to always combine Google Maps with Bus +.
Bus + also serves to see the availability of YouBike public bicycles around your situation. And it works better than the YouBike app itself.
Taking a taxi in Taipei:
Taking a taxi in Taipei is safe and easier than it sounds. All taxis are official and painted yellow. You will quickly see when they are free because in this case they have a couple of Chinese symbols illuminated in red on the front glass.
Once you get into the taxi, show the taxi driver the address you want to go to on Google Maps, better if the name appears in Chinese. In general they are honest and will take you there directly. In addition, they usually set the route on their GPS so you can see that they follow the indications. Only once in a year did they try to rip us off without turning on the meter. It is always in view, it starts at NT$ 70 (year 2020) and when it works the green screen turns on.
You can pay by credit card but in some cases they will not accept it. They will give you a receipt without problems if you ask for it, (say "fa piao" as it sounds to ask for it).
The cost of a trip in the city is usually around NT$ 150-200 (€5-7), from the international airport it can cost between 1300-1500 NTD (€30-40).
Ride a bike in Taipei:
Both in Taipei and in the main cities of Taiwan you have Youbike, a system of shared bicycles. If the weather is good (it doesn't rain and it's not too hot), it can also be a fun alternative! In the city there are many bike lanes and when there are none, you can go quietly on the sidewalk or on the road (locals tend to go on the sidewalk in the main avenues and on the road in the small streets).
How to use Taiwan YouBike shared bikes:
Bicycles are so cheap that if you want you can keep them for a few hours (they won't charge you more than € 2 in total). They have a padlock that comes out of the basket of the bicycle, you pass it through the front wheel and anchor it in a little hole in the wheel (on the other side you take out the key). Be careful not to lose the key!
- To use them you need the same EASYCARD for the metro and bus. The fare is really ridiculous, cheaper even than the bus.
- Before using it, you will have to activate the Easy Card on the Youbike website. Once you enter the web, at the top right you can change the language to English and access the registration form. It is just a moment to do it.
- A Youbike application is available to be able to see where the stations are and if there are free bicycles, but Bus + works better, an application that will also be useful for the bus. In Google Maps you can also find the stations with the availability of bikes. The application is only valid to see the stations and bikes, but the rest of the process is done with the same bike.
- When you arrive at the station, go to a bike that is available, and pass the EasyCard through the reader that you will see at the anchor point.
- You will hear a beep and you can remove the bike without problems by pulling it back.
- To return it to that station or any other, you simply have to place it in the same way (put the front wheel between the two iron tracks and make sure that the iron bar on the right of the bicycle enters the side slot of the post) and swipe the card again.
- If everything is OK, you will hear a beep, the light will appear in green and you will see the cost of the trip on the scoreboard.
Along the river there are bicycle lanes but in this case it is more for walking than not for moving. Also in those cases there you will always find rental bikes at really low prices.
Driving around Taipei:
Taipei has a fantastic urban design, with a grid like Eixample in Barcelona or Manhattan in New York but better. Every 5 or 6 blocks there is a large two-way avenue where most cars circulate. The rest of the streets are very narrow, only to finish arriving at the point to which one goes. This combined with very long traffic lights and a couple of avenues that go through a higher level makes it possible to reach any point of the city in practically 20 minutes.
Apart from this, the only thing different from the basic and usual rules is if you go by motorcycle (for example, if you use the WeMoo shared motorcycle system, the easiest to register if you are foreigners). To speed up traffic, motorcycles have some specific rules for them:
In exchange to all these bans, at most traffic lights, motorcycles can go ahead of everything and have a preferential space to wait for the light to turn green. Also in some avenues, the right lane is reserved for motorcycles or in some sections of ring roads there are exclusive lanes for motorcycles.
- Some of the sections of semi-highway that go above normal ground level are not open to motorcycles. You can only enter these overpasses if you see a specific lane for motorcycles.
- On large avenues, they usually have the two lanes on the left reserved only for cars (you will see that they have Chinese characters painted on the ground in yellow and you will immediately notice that motorcycles do not circulate there).
- Finally, there is a ban on turning to the left on the main avenues. Cars can do it in their reserved lanes, but motorcycles instead have to go to the right and at the crossroads, stop in front of those who are waiting for the traffic light on the crossing street. You will see that everyone does it and in fact there is a space painted on the floor and reserved for it. When that traffic light turns green, you can move forward with the rest of the cars.