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. For instance, one might encounter variations like 'Zhongxiao' spelled as 'Chung Hsiao' or 'Jhongsiao'. Familiarising oneself with common street and place names can help alleviate the confusion that might arise from this inconsistency.
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. Expats can purchase an EasyCard at most MRT stations, convenience stores like 7-Eleven and FamilyMart. They can top up their cards at the same locations, via an ATM or online through the app, and they can even use their phone as a Mobile EasyCard.
From public transport to taxis, bicycles and navigating the city on foot, this guide covers the various modes of transportation in Taipei, providing practical advice and insights for newcomers to the city.
Check out the EasyCard website for more information.
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 can find their way around easily. Stations have ticket booths, vending machines and a smart card system for frequent travellers.
During peak hours, which are generally from 7.30 to 9am and 5 to 7pm on weekdays, the MRT can get quite crowded. The average waiting time for trains is about two to four minutes during peak hours and up to seven minutes during off-peak hours. Unlike some other Asian cities, Taipei's MRT does not have women-only cars.
See the Taipei Metro for more.
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. For those unfamiliar with Mandarin, navigation apps like Google Maps can provide bus routes and estimated arrival times, significantly simplifying the process.
Read more about the Taipei City Bus.
Taxis in Taipei
Taxis are plenty and are the most flexible way to get around in Taipei. They are considerably pricier 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. Licensed taxis in Taipei are yellow and display a lighted taxi sign on top. They are metered, and expats should ensure that the driver turns on the meter at the start of their ride to avoid being overcharged.
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 exorbitant.
For those interested in driving, it's important to note that Taiwan follows right-hand driving. The local traffic rules closely follow international standards, but the high density of scooters can take some getting used to. Turning right on red is prohibited unless a sign indicates otherwise.
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 here.
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 incidence of scooter accidents 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.
For those who plan to rent a scooter, most rental shops require an International Driver's Permit with a motorcycle endorsement. Taiwan's law mandates helmet use for all scooter riders, so riders should ensure they are provided with one when they rent their scooter.
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.
Taipei is fairly walkable, with wide sidewalks in most areas. Areas such as Xinyi and Da'an are particularly pedestrian-friendly with many walking paths and parks. On the other hand, the older areas of the city may have narrower or obstructed sidewalks.