Michael A. Turton
I want to come. What should I do? Crime and Safety
What to Bring Health
Finding, Renting, Housing Money
Water Posts and Telecommunications
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Keeping a Pet Living in Taiwan, Returning to America
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The free bus that ran to Taipei 101.

Getting Around in the Cities

Taiwan's transportation net has become strained in the last ten years, though new roads are constantly coming on line. Consequently, getting around in Taiwan is easy but time-consuming.  Cars whip down the Chungtou expressway between Nantou and Taichung.
Buses and taxis are reliable and plentiful in Taipei and bus guides are available in English for Taipei at the major English bookstores. 

Taxis are found everywhere throughout the island, but naturally are easiest to find in the big cities.

The train station in Kaohsiung.
There are plenty of intercity buses, but the rest of the island is not well-provided with local transportation facilities, a situation which has strained relations between Taipei and the other cities. Taichung has only a few city buses that run only to a handful of major destinations, and Kaohsiung is even worse. The bus stand outside Kaohsiung next to the the main north-south highway. The signs read "Taipei-Taichung." The entrance ramp heading north is the next block up.
 In Taipei you can pick up intercity buses down by the train station. In Taichung you can get them on Taichungkang Rd near the highway, and on Chungching Rd near the Daya highway exit. In Kaohsiung, you can get intercity buses near the train station, and near the Chienkuo Rd. highway interchange.  A side street.
All the major cities have intercity buses, but the minor satellite cities such as Fengshan or Fengyuan do not. Most intercity buses run every half hour, and seats are sold on a first-come-first-served basis. The cost of a typical Taichung to Taipei run is between $250 and $350, depending on which line you take. A small local bridge near Taiping.
A bus route sign at a bus stop. If you don't read Chinese, getting around is no simple task. But be reassured: tens of thousands of people have lived here successfully without ever speaking much Chinese.
The main road from the airport into the city of Kaohsiung. That ghostly tower on the left is one of the ten tallest buildings in the world. It is only a couple of kilometers from this point.  City buses run on a simple system. Watch the other riders. In some areas you pay as you get on, in others, as you get off. If you travel through two areas, you will have to pay as you get on, and again as you get off.
Vehicles run a red light in the small town of Tanzi. Lights at T-intersections are especially dangerous for red-light running. The train system is good, but packed. There is a system of express trains that connects the cities, while slow trains link the towns. Purchasing tickets is a godawful pain due to high demand on weekends, so have a Taiwanese friend or the secretary at your school do it for you. Weekdays the trains are empty and you can get tickets at the counter. Taiwan also has a high speed rail system, like Japan, but tickets are pricey.
Oysters await pickup in front of a wholesaler. It is easy to get hold of motorcycles and scooters, as well as to rent or purchase cars. A new 50cc motorcycle costs between $28,000 and $35,000. Used motorcycles are available everywhere. Check bulletin boards where foreigners hang out. Also, the people at your school can help you find one too.
A helmeted woman takes her helmetless daughter to school in the morning. Helmeted parents riding with unprotected children are a common sight. Helmet laws are in effect and are often enforced, though not on side streets like this one. Conseuently, despite the numerous violators, most people wear helmets. Important: It is painfully difficult to live outside of Taipei without a motorcycle or a car. Most foreigners here for any length of time get a scooter if they live outside of Taipei (licenses are necessary for scooters over 50cc, although many foreigners ignore the rules and drive without a license).
A local gas station. With each fill-up, bonus gifts like bottled water, kleenex, detergents, and soaps are offered. We own an electric scooter. Although good for short trips, its limited range makes it useless as a vehicle for English teachers riding from one part of the city to another on jobs. Sad though it may seem, stick to gasoline power for the foreseeable future.
A parking lot tucked into a back alley. Parking fees are usually $40-60 per hour in the cities. The silver van is ours.
The downside of motorcycles and scooters is that they  are unsafe.  Accidents are inevitable and merely a question of time.  Everyone I know has had accidents on their scooters, including this writer. 

Fortunately due to the low speeds caused by high traffic densities, most are minor.  Because of the mad traffic of Taipei you are better off using the wonderful public transportation system.


Cars jockey for position on a crowded side street in downtown Kaohsiung.  The dearth of defined parking, the routine lack of law enforcement, the indifference of Taiwanese to the needs of others and the reluctance of the government to clamp down on the size and quantity of vehicles makes for anarchy.
If you get ripped off by a taxi, there isn't anything you can do about it. However, you can minimize the possibility of taxi rip-offs by picking drivers from particular companies. Look at the driver. If he or she is well-dressed or in a uniform, chances are he works for a company that enforces driver discipline. Get his business card or his company phone number, and call them when you need a ride. This is especially useful in smaller towns. My wife is a frequent taker of taxis, and we always use the same three drivers (this year the company had an internal struggle over her business and changed its districts to accommodate demands that she take other drivers!). The business is competitive, and they will be happy to get your business on a reliable basis.  A seat on the luxury Aloha bus line. Aloha buses feature wide, comfortable seats, stewardesses, snacks, and in-seat television that shows Chinese movies, English movies, kids movies, and of course, video games. They cost about 25% more than other lines, but the difference is well worth it!
Tip:Outside of Taipei it is frequently possible to get the taxi driver to turn the meter off. You can then bargain down the price of the drive to an agreed-upon cost. Of course, you have to know the actual cost of driving from your location to your destination! The inside of a typical taxi. The card on the dash identifies the driver and must be present; if there is none, do not get in the taxi. The meter next to the glove compartment is off; we agreed on the price before setting out.
TIP: Do not take taxis from in front of the various train and bus stations, especially if the meter is turned off. In that case, there will almost certainly be an overcharge of at least 30-50%.  It is best to walk out of the train or bus station a block or so and pick up a taxi passing by on the street. Take only metered taxis in unfamiliar areas.
A car blocks half the road. Taiwanese feel no discomfort in blocking roads. The prevailing ethic is that so long as there is just enough room for one vehicle to pass, it is OK to take over public space. 
Biking is a sane alternative in the cities. In heavy traffic bikes are faster than any other vehicle, and even in light traffic they are faster than a bus. I recommend helmets and masks if you bike in the cities.  A friend takes a break on a bike ride down the east coast.
Taiwan is a world leader in bike manufacturing and high-quality bikes are cheap and plentiful across the island, as are places to get them repaired. Many locals and foreigners take extended bike trips around the island. Motorcycles parked near the intercity bus stations in Taichung.
I want to come. What should I do? Crime and Safety Recreation and Travel Bringing Kids?
What to Bring Health Learning Chinese Keeping a Pet
Finding, Renting, Housing Money The Social Side Living in Taiwan, Returning to America
Water Posts and Telecommunications Food in Taiwan
Transportation Personal Services Driving in Taiwan Back to Teaching English in Taiwan home page