28 Nov Public Transportation in Taiwan
Getting lost is a part of the journey and can often lead to unexpected discoveries. However, as someone who still sporadically gets lost in her home city, doing some serious homework on the public transportation system has always been the first thing to tick off my list. Finding your way around can be challenging while venturing out in a foreign country, especially when you don’t speak a word of the local language. Luckily, Taiwan has an impressively convenient public transportation system that provides coverage to most of the notable destinations, making it easy for you to get from point A to point B.
Purchasing an Easycard is a MUST in Taipei as you can use it to tap in and out all MRT stations at a discount rate. You can also use it to pay for all of your bus rides in and out of the city. Furthermore, there are some train stations that will accept Easycard as a form of payment as well. Getting an Easycard will spare you from the long ticketing lineups and save you loads of time.
MRT (Mass Rapid Transit)
If you are spending the majority of your time in Taipei, then the MRT is going to become your best friend. I dreaded taking the subway in North America, but surprisingly I rather enjoy taking the MRT in Taipei.
The transit system here is rapid, clean, well-maintained and for the most part, very orderly. There are clearly marked waiting lines in front of each platform screen doors and the locals would line up accordingly in a well-behaved manner. I definitely haven’t experienced much shoving and elbowing getting on and off the MRT, which really just makes the entire trip much more pleasant (Oh, and they play this incredibly soothing and pleasant music when the MRT is about to enter the station which really helps to set the mood). Do remember that you cannot eat, drink or chew gum in the MRT stations or while riding the MRT. If you have unfinished drinks and you don’t want to just gulp it down like a madman before entering the MRT station, make sure you request for a bag from the drink vendors to carry your drinks in.
If this is your first time in Taiwan and have a long list of attractions you’d like to visit, I’d highly recommend that you stay around the central part of Taipei where it’s convenient to transfer between the connecting MRT lines – trust me, it will save you lots of commuting time.
There are 5 MRT lines in Taipei, connecting to most of the top destinations to see in Taipei. See Taipei MRT Map & Top Destinations Explained for full details and where these destinations are located on the map.
I actually don’t find myself taking the bus all that often when I’m roaming around Taipei. The MRT system still remains the most convenient and efficient public transportation to get around the city.
Taking the bus becomes very important if you are looking to venture out of the Taipei city. These long distance buses go as far as all the major cities located in Southern Taiwan, such as Pingtung, Kaohsiung and Tainan. Traveling by bus is the cheapest way to venture out to other parts of Taiwan; it’s a great option for those traveling on a budget.
Here is a complete list of all the buses that will take you outside of the Taipei city. You can find most of these buses at the Taipei Main Station MRT station (It connects to the Taipei Bus Station, the largest bus transfer station in Taipei).
Below are some of my blog posts with info on how to get to some amazing scenic spots in Taiwan by bus.
- North Coast Trip: Yehliu Geopark & Keelung P.1
- New Taipei City Day Trip: Jinguashi & Jiufen P.1
- Pingxi District Day Trip: Sky Lantern at Shifen Old Street
- Exploring Tamsui, Baisha Bay & Fisherman’s Wharf
- Nantou Day Trip: Sun Moon Lake
- The Museums in Taipei
- Hiking the Yangming Mountain
High Speed Rail (HSR)
I took the HSR when I went on a trip to Sun Moon Lake with my bestie and I quite enjoyed the experience. The HSR connects the entire Taiwan all the way from Taipei to Southern Taiwan, allowing you to explore the other parts of Taiwan with ease. It’s the fastest but the most expensive way to travel long distance by public transit.
You can purchase your HSR tickets online using a credit card no more than 28 days prior to your trip, or you can purchase them at the Taipei Main Station in person. If you purchase your tickets 5-28 days before the departure date, there are discounts for early birds ticket. HSR tickets get pricey on the day of your travels, so make sure you do take advantage of the early birds pricing.
Taiwan Railways (TRA)
There are some destinations where you must take the Taiwan Railways to get to (such as a day trip to the Pingxi District for releasing sky lanterns). TRA trains make frequent stops in areas that would otherwise be hard to get to.
There is an online ticketing system for purchasing TRA tickets but I find the site extremely hard to navigate. I would highly recommend that you head to the Taipei Main Station and purchase your ticket in person. Ticketing opens up 14 days prior to trip date. If you were to go to a popular destination such as Hualien, make sure you get your ticket early!
Do note that the following train routes take Easycard as a form of payment. This completely eliminates the need to purchase a physical train ticket:
- Pingxi Line
- Shen’ao Line
- Neiwan Line
- Liujia Line
- Jiji Line
- Shalun Line