First impressions of Taipei almost always reveal a city that’s a little more chaotic than expected. Fortunately, getting around Taipei isn’t nearly as difficult as your first loco moments would predict.
In fact, using public transportation in Taipei is the best way to dig in for an action-packed trip. Most of the top Taipei attractions are within earshot of an MRT station, and are easy to find with far less hassle than you’d imagine.
Make the most out of your trip, and learn how to get around Taipei like a pro with this complete Taipei public transportation guide for travellers…
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Public transportation in Taipei: An introduction
Few cities in East Asia are easier to traverse than Taipei. As much as Taipei’s culture-shocking façade scares uninitiated travellers, public transportation in Taipei won’t. Getting from point A to B in the sprawling capital of Taiwan is actually a cinch with minimal preparation.
The key is the wonderful and efficient Taipei Metro. Also known as the Taipei MRT (mass rapid transit), this world-class subway system covers much of the city centre, and zips travellers between all of the best things to do in Taipei quickly and easily.
In addition to the metro, there’s an extensive network of buses in Taipei. Although a little more difficult to navigate than the subway, the bus fills in gaps for travellers looking to venture beyond the usual urban tourist routes and into more far-flung destinations like Yangmingshan National Park or Jiufen.
Transportation cards & passes
One of the huge advantages to using public transportation in Taipei is the easy-to-use payment system. Unlike in other cities where you might need exact change or tokens, Taipei has a couple different payment options that are hugely convenient for travellers:
- EasyCard: A contactless payment card that can be used on all forms of public transportation in Taipei as well as in participating shops throughout the city. Simply scan the card on your way in and on your way out to have the fare deducted from the card. The EasyCard offers a 20% discount on single rides over regular tokens. Cards can be purchased for NT$100 and topped up at metro stations and convenience stores like FamilyMart and 7/11.
- Taipei Pass: Offers unlimited rides on the Taipei MRT and Taipei City buses. Several different durations are available including one day, two days, three days, and five days. You can purchase the passes at all MRT customer service counters.
Taipei Metro (MRT)
Undoubtedly, the best way of getting around Taipei is with the Taipei Metro. The Taipei MRT system covers 107 stations throughout the city centre and beyond over five colour-coded lines:
- Wehhu Line (Brown): Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center to Taipei Zoo
- Tamsui-Xinyi Line (Red): Tamsui to Xiangshan
- Songshan-Xindian Line (Green): Songshan to Xindian
- Zhonghe-Xinlu Line (Orange): Huilong/Luzhou to Nanshijiao
- Bannan Line (Blue): Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center to Yongning
The metro system features both underground and elevated sections throughout the city, linking up all the best places to stay in Taipei with the top Taipei attractions. One-way tickets cost between NT$20 and NT$60, increasing based on the distance between stations.
What’s great about the metro is that it runs from 6:00am to midnight, giving you plenty of chance to explore including a late evening visit to the best Taipei night markets. All announcements and signage are in both Chinese and English, making it, by far, the easiest way to get around Taipei.
Another excellent option for getting around Taipei is the extensive bus system. Buses in Taipei cover sections of the city and surroundings that aren’t well serviced by the MRT, although most areas of interest to travellers are more easily reached by the metro and walking than by bus.
Like in other East Asian destinations, buses in Taipei are, in general, a little more confusing than metro trains. Even though most signs and announcements are in both English and Chinese, you may run into a situation, particularly in the outskirts of town, where bus stop names aren’t so obvious. Bus drivers also rarely speak English, adding an extra layer of difficulty to the situation.
Compared to the metro, bus journeys are slightly cheaper. Most fares are just NT$15, paid either upon entering (上) or upon exit (下). The most you’ll pay for a bus journey in Taipei is NT$30. Paying with an EasyCard is the simplest and quickest method.
Even easier than the public buses for travellers is the hop-on-hop-off Taipei Double Decker Bus Tour. Although it’s more expensive than a regular one-day Taipei Pass, this one-day tour stops in front of 23 of the top Taipei tourist attractions and features free on-board WiFi to share all your favourite moments with your friends and family at home in real-time.
Taxis in Taipei
Taking a cue from the cabs of NYC, the yellow taxis of Taipei are plentiful wherever you venture in the city. Taxis are naturally the most expensive way of getting around Taipei, but still cheap compared to most major cities around the world.
The starting rate for taxis in Taipei is NT$70 for the first 1.25 kilometres and NT$5 for each 0.25-kilometre segment after that. There’s an NT$20 supplement for late-night rides.
Overall, taxi drivers in Taipei are honest and do not generally take advantage of foreigners or set special “tourist” prices. Most drivers won’t speak English so knowing your address in Chinese (or having it written down) is a good idea. Tipping taxis in Taipei isn’t common although drivers will certainly appreciate the gesture.
For travelling outside of the city to destinations further afoot, there’s a standard flat-rate set by the government. Be sure to check the rate card to ensure you’re getting a fair price.
Cycling in Taipei
One of the best ways to get that extra mile (literally) out of your Taipei trip is to ride around the city on bike. While I can’t say that Taipei is friendliest city in the world for cyclists, it’s hardly the worst either. Some areas of the city, particularly the boardwalks around the Tamsui River and Keelung River, are lovely to check out on a biking trip.
Outside of most MRT stations, you’ll find stations for YouBike, a local bicycle rental service operating within the city. Bike rentals can be returned to any YouBike station around Taipei. The rental fee is determined by the amount of time used and can be paid for conveniently using an EasyCard.
Driving in Taipei
Of all the options of getting around Taipei, none is less appealing than driving. Within minutes of arriving in Taipei and battling for supremacy on the city streets, you’ll discover just how ill-advised it would be!
If you absolutely must rent a car in Taipei, you’ll need an International Driver’s License. Many hotels can help you arrange a rental.
Another less expensive (although, to many, probably even more nerve-wracking) option for driving in Taipei is to hire a motorcycle. It’s as a quick and cheap way of getting around, but not one I would necessarily advise!
Dead set on driving in Taipei? Don’t leave home without an good travel insurance policy!