Jul 31, 20226 min read
Taipei's excellent public transport system will get your around the city with ease © E+ / Getty Images
How to get around Taipei like a local
Jul 31, 20226 min read
Accessible routes on public services ensure anyone can get around in Taipei. If you get stuck, you’ll have no issue finding help from enthusiastic locals. Short of having someone to show you around, Taipei’s easy-to-navigate and uber-efficient public transport system is the next best thing, dual lingual and air conditioned throughout.
East to west, from Xiangshan to Ximen, Taipei city center can be traversed in around 40 minutes by bike, bus or MRT (subway). New Taipei City is broader still, with Tamsui to Xindian navigable in around 1 hour 30 minutes by MRT. A car or scooter will get you to your destination quicker but only when avoiding rush hours (early morning and early evening).
A resounding yes from me. Not only is Taipei public transport affordable, clean and convenient, but it is also very punctual. You could set your watch to the train and bus schedule and all information can be found on Google Maps, regularly updated with accurate timetables and transfer information for trip planning.
You’ll see a lot of advertising for the unlimited Fun Pass, but unless you are planning to do all of the big attractions (including the National Palace Museum and Taipei 101), then an EasyCard will suffice, cutting regular ticket prices for bus and metro services by 10 to 30%, plus discounts for multiple use in one day.
An EasyCard can be bought for 100NTD plus top-up amount in any metro station or at any 7-Eleven convenience store around town. You can also use EasyCard in place of a rail ticket on TRA (Taiwan Railway Administration) services.
The cheapest way to get from Taoyuan International Airport into Taipei City center is to take the 1819 Kuo Kuang bus service to Taipei Main Station, paying at the booth inside the bus terminal (135NTD; $4.60USD). The sleek new Airport MRT line is doubly quick but only slightly more expensive (at 160NTD; $5.50) taking just 35 minutes (compared to one hour by bus).
Those willing to splurge $30 to $40 after their long-haul flight can take a taxi from Taoyuan International Airport into Taipei City center within an hour.
Most international flights arrive at Taoyuan International Airport. Those looking for Taipei Airport should look into Songshan Airport which is rather closer to the city center but mostly serving domestic and regional airlines.
The Taipei Metro (aka MRT) is a comprehensive subway system linking the whole of Taipei and New Taipei City. There are accessible routes and elevators in all stations and excellent facilities for the disabled across the Taipei Metro map.
When the scorching temperatures outside threaten to overwhelm you, the 131 Taipei Metro stations offer respite, kitted out with toilets, snack stores and even underground malls between a handful of stations.
Be aware that drinking, eating and chewing gum are all banned on the Taipei Metro. Traveling during rush hour is best avoided where possible (7-9AM and 5-7PM weekdays) and you should stand on the right-hand side of the escalators when not walking.
To fit in seamlessly, refrain from loud conversations and avoid sitting in the dark blue priority seats (for elderly, pregnant or passengers with disabilities) unless you need them.
There’s a lack of sightseeing bus tours in the city but Taipei’s public buses are the next best thing. Most bus stops feature electronic screens that list the timings of upcoming buses, in English and Mandarin.
When taking the bus anywhere in Taipei, the usual process is to swipe your EasyCard once upon boarding and again when alighting, or put the correct change (usually 15NTD) in the silver box up front when you board.
You won’t get so far so fast, but, nevertheless, walking Taipei is a free and unassuming delight, offering lantern-lit alleyways and tiny temples at every turn.
If planning on doing lots of walking, make sure you protect your skin from strong UV rays (even on cloudy days) and drink lots of water to avoid dehydration, particularly in the summer months from June to August.
Combine the scooter streams of Vietnam with the driving regulations of Japan and you may be close to envisioning the chaotic good of Taipei’s traffic system.
At long range, Taipei has the rules of the road perfected; a grid system with a number of one-way roads and pedestrian crossings in full effect, traffic lights timed to make peak traffic flow as smooth as possible.
At close range, however, Taipei traffic is not without its surprises. Red-light-running trucks will fly in the face of your Right of Way and whole families balanced precariously on one scooter could round the curb at any moment, complete with a Shiba Inu puppy, with its tongue out, at the helm.
Be aware of these hazards when walking in Taipei or otherwise be brave and rent a scooter yourself (using WeMo if you read Chinese, SKRT if you don’t).
Similar to a scooter but without the carbon footprint, cycling is my favorite way to navigate Taipei. Newcomers to the city are welcomed to hop on a YouBike and explore for free (at least for the first 30 minutes, 10NTD every 30 minutes thereafter) traveling as far south as Yingge Ceramics Village and as far north as Tamsui along the Taipei Riverside Bikeway.
Designated cycle paths run sporadically through the city – both on and off the road – with docking stations almost always available outside MRT stations, and all over the city.
You will see locals cycling on the sidewalk to avoid the traffic fumes, but it’s not recommended to join them. Instead, enjoy a detour along the river, a long stretch made for pedestrians and cyclists, connecting top locations such as Dadaocheng Pier (Pier 5), Ximen, Gongguan, and Xindian.
If you want to rent a YouBike, you’ll need to either register your EasyCard with a local phone number for verification and an ID number for insurance purposes at the kiosk beside most docking stations. You can also use a credit card in place of an EasyCard if you don’t hold a local SIM.
There are currently two YouBike systems in operation in Taipei, YouBike 1.0 and YouBike 2.0. You can only dock your YouBike at the corresponding dock.
Heading out of Taipei for the day is easy and affordable with the Taiwan Railway. Use the TRA to head to Keeling, Yilan or Jiufen (transferring at Ruifang for the shuttle bus) for low prices. See our list of day trips from Taipei for options.
Destinations such as Hualian and Taichung are also made accessible on the TRA system but for west coast destinations further afield (such as Tainan and Kending), you may want to splash out on the High-Speed Rail (HSR) to get there faster.  
For places where the Taiwan Railway service doesn’t venture, the bus can be your next best option. Get the bus to Yangmingshan from Shilin or to Wulai from Xindian, using your EasyCard the whole way. Taxi pooling is another way to travel if you’d prefer not to wait in a queue. Simply wave at the taxi scouts hanging out around key bus terminals such as Xindian.
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