Understand how to get around Taipei by bus, MRT, taxi, bicycle, and foot
The central nervous system of Taipei’s public transit is the MRT, or Mass Rapid Transit. The Taipei subway is my favorite way to travel in Taipei and get to the city’s attractions.
The Taipei MRT is fast and cheap, but it is a young piece of infrastructure and is not as comprehensive as I would like it to be. To supplement it, the peripheries contain Taipei’s widespread bus network, which can take you within striking distance of nearly any location in Taipei City and the surrounding boroughs. Read more about the MRT in Taipei here.
Travel Around Taipei by Bus
Traveling in Taipei by bus has lots of advantages…
Taipei buses have a reputation for being confuse and foreigner unfriendly. However, if you take a bit of time and effort to understand what they’re all about, they can be hugely convenient and take you just about anywhere for super cheap. Unlike the MRT, buses in Taipei are flat-rate regardless of distance. Also, transferring from the bus to the MRT gives you a discounted fare.
The normal fare to travel by bus in Taipei is 15NT$.
Bus stops in Taipei will have several maps for the buses that stop there, along with the entirety of their routes. These are mostly in Chinese though increasingly there are English translations of some or all of the stops.
Many people simply use buses in Taipei to travel to some MRT station or another, and that’s a pretty straightforward application. Learning the Chinese on how to ask a bus driver if his or her bus goes to this or that MRT stop can be a great tool.
Payment on buses in Taipei is a bit tricky. You will pay in change or swipe your EasyCard, either when you get on or when you disembark the bus. A red sign above the bus driver’s head will indicate UP or DOWN. The Chinese character UP means you pay when you get on. The character DOWN indicates that you pay when disembarking.
Travel in Taipei by Taxi
Taipei Taxis are nothing special – like anywhere else, they are mostly yellow, take you where you want to go for a price that is considerably more expensive than public transportation. Still, taxis in Taiwan are very cheap by international standards, and traveling across Taipei City won’t be much more than NT$250 (around US$8). There is no tipping for taxis in Taiwan or Taipei, but if you’re feeling generous nobody will refuse your money.
Taxis in Taipei operate all through the night, though women should opt to call cab services at night instead of hopping into a random car. Generally speaking though, flagging down a cab in Taipei will be no problem during the day. Cabs with a red light reading indicates that the car is vacant and soliciting passengers.
Cycling and Walking in Taipei
OK, I lied at the beginning of this article – the MRT is not my favorite way to travel in Taipei… it’s actually walking!
By standards of world cities, Taipei is geographically quite small, making cycling and walking particularly useful modes of transportation. Biking in the city can get a bit dangerous unless you have a lot of city riding experience; Taipei drivers tend to think nothing of cyclists.
Bikes can be rented in Taipei at a number of locations. In XinYi district around the Taipei 101 area there is a bikeshare system, where you can use your MRT EasyCard to check out bikes for a period of time and return them to any location. This is great for checking out Taipei 101, Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall and the surrounding areas. Similarly, Taipei’s numerous riverside parks allow bike rental for a coast along the water.
Walking is, well, I’m sure you’re familiar with walking. The only thing to keep in mind here is that many smaller streets and alleys in Taipei have small to non-existent sidewalks, and scooters and cars still blast through regardless. So, be careful.
Driving and riding in Taipei
Scooters and cars can both be rented in Taipei. Make sure to bring an International Driver’s License (IDL) with you if you plan on traveling in Taipei by car or scooter. Some shadier places will accept a foreign driver’s license as well.
Riding a scooter in Taipei
Renting a scooter in Taipei is pretty convenient and will run you about NT$500 for a day. (Note: We highly recommend that if you want to rent a scooter, you buy your own helmet. Rental places give you helmets that are basically loose-fitting baseball caps that will probably do more harm than good if you get in an accident. You can buy decent, effective helmets for around NT$500, so, yeah, do it.)
Driving a car in Taipei
Car rental for travel in Taipei is possible but not recommended as driving conventions and etiquettes in the city seem to be as difficult to learn as Mandarin Chinese.
Anyway, if you want to do it, the easiest (and most expensive) place to do so will be at the airport. Otherwise, renting a car in Taipei will be a matter of asking around and Google Mapping. Fancier hotels will have car rental offerings for you set up in advance.
Another convenient place to rent a car in Taipei if you can’t speak Chinese is Chailease Auto Rentals. The big advantage with them is the location of their Taipei office. It’s very close to the highway so you can be on your way to your next destination in minutes without having to go crazy trying to find your way around the capital. Really, finding your way around Taipei City can be almost impossible if it’s your unfamiliar with the city. I’m quite familiar with Taipei and I still get lost sometimes.
Chailease Auto Rentals Taipei
No. 3, Sec. 7, Chengde Rd., Beitou District, Taipei City
Another option is VIP Car Rental. If price is the most important thing for you, then you’ll want to contact these guys – they have very good car rental deals!
VIP Car Rental
No. 148, Section 3, Min Chuan East Road, Taipei City – Map
If you travel in Taipei by car or scooter, don’t ever get mad at other drivers. Well, of course you will get mad, but don’t show it. Don’t yell at anyone, don’t show your middle finger and don’t use the F word. You never know who you’re dealing with.
If you drive or ride in Taipei and have an accident, DO NOT MOVE YOUR CAR OR SCOOTER, even if you block an entire intersection. Simply call the place where you rented your vehicle and ask them what to do. You don’t have to call the police, it’s already on its way, the other driver has already taken care of that part.
Good luck with your travel in Taipei!