The city's advanced public transport system makes getting around in Taipei easy. Even frequent day trips out of the city are feasible with high-speed trains.
Maps in English are easy to come by but, due to a lack of consistency in adapting Mandarin words into the Latin alphabet (pinyin), maps and road signs often display different spellings of the same roads or areas.
Given the abundance of public transport options in Taipei, and the heavily congested streets, most expats find that driving a car is an unnecessary expense.
With an EasyCard, expats can pay for bus, railway and MRT tickets. They can also pay for YouBike rentals, parking and convenience store purchases.
Public transport in Taipei
MRT (Mass Rapid Transport)
An efficient subway system in Taipei takes commuters all over the city, with trains running from 6am to midnight. All stations and trains have English signs. Stops are announced in four languages, including English. Even those who don't speak Mandarin should be able to find their way around easily. Stations have ticket booths, vending machines and a smart card system for frequent travellers.
New arrivals may find that buses can be difficult to navigate at first because most drivers don’t speak English and destinations on the city outskirts may only be written in Mandarin. That said, once expats get the hang of it, the bus system can be incredibly useful.
Bus fares are charged according to fare zones – passing through some zones will incur a higher cost than travelling within one zone. Ticket payment is either by smart card or in cash. If paying with cash, exact change must be used.
Taxis in Taipei
Taxis are plenty and the most flexible way to get around in Taipei. They are considerably more expensive than public transport, but affordable by global standards. Taxis charge higher rates at night, and tipping is not expected. A taxi can either be ordered by calling a designated taxi company number or by using the taxi company's app.
Alternatively, ride-hailing applications such as Uber and FindTaxi operate in Taipei. Many expats prefer using these applications as they afford more control over routes and service prices while mitigating language barrier issues.
Driving in Taipei
Considering Taiwan's stressful driving culture and the city's excellent and affordable public transport network, most foreigners do not drive in Taipei. This is also because parking spaces are rare in the city, while rented spaces can be extremely expensive.
Expats looking to explore the rest of Taiwan by road tend to rent cars to do so. See Transport and Driving in Taiwan for detailed information on securing a driving licence as an expat in the country.
Bicycles and scooters in Taipei
Owning a scooter in Taipei is cheaper and more practical than owning a car, but expats should consider the high number of scooter accidents that occur in the city.
Bicycles are a common sight in Taipei, although not as popular as motorised transport. The city is devoted to improving the cycling culture in Taipei and this can be seen in an increase in cycling infrastructure such as dedicated bicycle lanes and bicycle sharing initiatives.
Expats can hire a bicycle from kiosks through the public bicycle-sharing service YouBike, which is run by Taipei City. Smart cards or smartphone apps can be used to hire bicycles, and, expats will find that cycling is probably the quickest, healthiest and least expensive way to move around.
Walking in Taipei
Taipei is an extremely safe city to walk around on foot, especially during the day. That said, foreigners should beware of pickpockets in crowded streets and markets, and of the occasional drive-by bag snatch in the city.