Transportation - Get In
Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport
Taipei's international airport is officially called Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport(IATA: TPE). However, the name was changed only in September 2006 and the old name, Chiang Kai Shek International Airport (often abbreviated as CKS), is still commonly used. Many airlines fly to the Taoyuan International Airport. The airport is located about 30 km from the city and freeway buses ply the route, picking up and dropping off passengers at most of the five star hotels. It also stops at the Taipei Main Station and the domestic airport (Songshan Airport), which is in downtown Taipei. There are also bus services connecting the airport to nearby cities and Taichung in central Taiwan. Travelers to other destinations need to change transportation in Taipei.
There are four transportation options at the airport: bus, high-speed rail, taxi, and pre-arranged car. An MRT line is under construction, but it will not be operational until early 2016. Here are the options from cheapest to most expensive forms of transportation:
- Express airport buses cost between NT$120 and NT$150 depending on the bus company, 50-70 minutes depending on traffic and there are stops at both terminals. Most Taipei routes are divided into West and East, with each company operating a service every ten to fifteen minutes on each route. The western line bus terminates at Taipei Main Railway Station and also makes a stop at Yuanshan MRT Station on the Xindian line (NB: The Airbus company buses on the western line meander through local towns before joining the freeway and therefore take much longer than the blue and white Guoguang buses which enter the freeway directly). Buses plying the eastern route terminate at the Taipei Grand Hyatt Hotel and make a stop at Zhongxiao-Fuxing MRT Station on the Nangang and Muzha lines. There is also a bus connecting to the domestic Songshan Airport. Ticket counters display route maps showing all stops. In addition, there are some non-express buses which are slightly cheaper, but pass through towns such as Taoyuan (桃園), Nankan (南崁) or Kueishan (龜山) before arriving in Taipei.
- When returning to the airport, express buses can be caught at various stops throughout the city. One major one leaves every 15–20 minutes from 2 Taipei West Bus Station adjacent to Taipei Main Railway Station (near MRT exit M5 and underground mall exits K12 and Z3). Another is at the terminal at the Songshan Domestic Airport (松山機場). Other stops are outside major hotels and also in front of Minsheng MRT Station. For people taking early morning flights, the earliest available buses to the airport leave at around 4AM from the Far Eastern Plaza Hotel (台北遠東國際大飯店) (201 Dunhua South Rd Section 2).
- It is also easy to get to Taoyuan High Speed Rail station from the airport. There is a bus that runs approximately every 15 minutes from the airport to Taoyuan HSR station, slightly less regularly later in the evening. From there, you can catch one of the HSR trains to Taipei Main Station (where it is easy to take a taxi or MRT to your final destination). The bus is NT$30 and the train is NT$165. The total journey time takes 5-15 minutes waiting time, 18-25 minutes on the bus, and 19 minutes to Taoyuan HSR; roughly 1 hour in all. On the way back, there are check-in counters at the station for China Airlines, EVA Air flights.
- A one-way taxi fare between the airport and Taipei will cost at the minimum NT$900 (generally NT$1000–$1200 from the airport). In Taipei, don't make the mistake of asking a taxi driver to take you to the Taipei airport (Songshan) if you actually mean Taiwan Taoyuan Airport. The international airport is actually about an hour's drive from Taipei, while Songshan is in downtown Taipei.
- A one-way pre-arranged car fare between the airport and Taipei will cost at the minimum NT$1300–$1500. Generally these sedans are pre-arranged through your hotel and the car company or driver will meet you as soon as you exit baggage claim. Since the price is not much more than taking a taxi, it is usually recommended that you ask your hotel if they offer this service. This is a more comfortable half-hour ride to the hotel.
- Direct bus connections between the airport and other cities in Taiwan are also available. U-bus also runs shuttle buses every 15 min from both terminals to THSR Taoyuan station (15 min away), from where you can continue your journey by high-speed train.
In addition to the transit hotel within the airport terminal, there are several hotels located near the airport if you desire more comfortable quarters for an extended transit or for some other reason would rather lodge by the airport than in Taipei. The Novotel Taoyuan International Airport, located next to the China Airlines headquarters building, is mere minutes from both terminals and has commanding views of the airport's runways. Also nearby is the CitySuites Gateway Hotel, 10 minutes from the Cing-pu High-speed Rail Station and three minutes away from Taoyuan International Airport.
There is night service, although it's really hard to find information about it. Best source is the airport website. As of 21Feb2012 there is overnight bus service to Taipei Railway station as follows: 1:30AM, 3AM for Terminal 1 (exit B5), add 10 mins for Terminal 2 (bus station, 1819 stand). Ticket is purchased from the driver - 165 NT$. Unconfirmed - one extra departs at 04:00, Wednesday & Saturday at Terminal 2 Without Detouring Terminal 1.From the Taipei Railway you can take overnight train to connect to other cities or bus from the adherent bus station. It takes about 55 min from the airport to the city (at night).
Songshan Airport(IATA: TSA), officially Taipei International Airport (台北國際航空站) at the northern end of Dunhua North Road is the city center airport. It serves a few domestic destinations as well as select international routes to regional destinations. There are numerous daily flights arriving and departing for the outlying islands and cities on the east coast of the island. The airport also serves flights to various destinations in mainland China, as well as "city shuttle" services to Tokyo-Haneda, Seoul-Gimpo and Shanghai-Hongqiao. The airport is served by the Taipei Metro Brown Line's (officially labeled the Wenshan-Neihu Line) Songshan Airport Station and can be reached in about 15 minutes from Taipei Main Station. Many city and long-distance buses also connect to the airport.
All inter-city trains, operated by the Taiwan Railway Administration(台鐵) and Taiwan High Speed Rail (台灣高鐵), arrive at and depart from 5 Taipei Railway Station on Zhongxiao West Road, Sec 1 - opposite the 53 story Shinkong Mitsukoshi Building (新光三越). Taipei Main Station is a huge facility. Ticket counters are on the first floor and platforms on B2. There is also a food court on the second floor, several underground shopping malls, and directly connects to Taipei Main Station on the Taipei Metro which is served by Tamsui (Red) line and Bannan (Blue) line. In addition to ticket counters, the first floor also has a tourist office, a post office, stores selling aboriginal handicrafts and several booths offering head and neck and full body massage (NT$100 for every ten minutes).
There are also three other train stations in Taipei city. Wanhua Station (萬華車站) is in the south-western part of the city and is within walking distance of MRT Longshan Temple Station and is only served by local trains. Songshan Station (松山車站) is close to Raohe Street Night Market and all trains operated by the Taiwan Railway Administration stop at the station. Nangang Station (南港車站) is on the eastern end of the city and is currently served by local trains and some express trains. It is directly connected to Nangang Station on Taipei Metro's Bannan (Blue) line and the Taiwan High Speed Rail is expected to operate into the station by the beginning of 2015. All train stations in Taipei city accept Easy Cards to enter the station in addition to tickets bought at the vending machines or counters.
The THSR stations and platforms are wheelchair-friendly and all trains include a wheelchair-accessible car (wider doors, ample space, accessible bathroom). Note that the official English guide for online reservations distinguishes between "senior or disabled tickets" and "handicap-friendly seats"; while it's possible to buy a ticket for the former online ("correct passenger ID" required), a ticket for the latter has to be reserved by calling the ticketing office on the phone.
- Lockers of different sizes are available at the Taipei Main Station. $20-50 per 3 hours, maximum 3 days.
- Taipei Railway Station carry-on baggage center (台北車站行李託運中心) (leave Taipei Main Station by the Exit East 3, cross the road at the traffic light where the taxis wait, walk down the road and turn left into the alley just before the parking lot entrance, the building is on your right side). daily 08:00–20:00. $70 per bag.
Intercity buses arrive and depart from the Taipei Bus Station, which is located on Chengde Road, behind Taipei Main Station. Generally speaking, the buses operated by private companies are more comfortable and sport such amenities as wide reclining seats and individual game and video monitors. The government run buses are blue and white and are called guóguāng hào (國光號). All intercity buses are known as kèyùn (客運) and can be distinguished from the local city buses called gōngchē (公車) by the fact that they do not have a route number, but only the name of the destination.
Transportation - Get Around
Taipei City has a very clean, efficient and safe Mass Rapid Transit system known most commonly as the MRT, but also called Metro Taipei (台北捷運). Fares are between NT$20 and NT$65 for one-way trips around town. Stations and trains are clearly identified in English, so even for those who cannot read Chinese, the MRT system is very accessible. All stops are announced in four languages: Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka and English. All stations have information booth/ticket offices close to the ticket vending machines. There is no eating or drinking while in the stations or on the trains. There are priority seats. If you need a seat, there are stickers offered at the information booth that allow passengers to identify those in need. Trains generally run from 6AM to midnight, with convenient bus connections outside the stations.
Women and/or children traveling at night can benefit from the Safe Zones - sections of platforms that are under heavy surveillance - located in some of the subway lines. Stations and trains (including the monorail) are wheelchair-friendly, but note that when there are multiple exits from a single station, usually only one of these is equipped with a lift.
In addition to single journey tickets, the Taipei MRT also sells value-added cards/smartcards called EasyCard or youyouka (as in 'yo-yo-ka', also 悠遊卡). These cards hold amounts up to NT$5,000, and one only needs to "touch" (sensor) them past the barrier monitor to gain entry and exit from paid areas. Value-added cards can be purchased at station ticket offices or at vending machines, and can be recharged at the stations or convenience stores. To purchase a new EasyCard you will need to pay NT$500 (including a deposit of NT$100 and NT$400 usable credit).
One great advantage of using the EasyCard is that there is a 20% discount on all MRT rides, and if you transfer from the MRT to an ordinary city bus, or vice versa, within an hour, the bus ride is only NT$7. The discount is automatically calculated when you leave the MRT station. Student cards with even deeper discounts are also available for purchase, but only upon request at a desk and a student ID. Major convenience stores such as 7-Eleven, as well as various other retail outlets and parking lots also accept the card as payment. It is also possible to buy day cards just for the metro system for NT$200 (refundable deposit of NT$50) and for NT$180 you can buy a card that works on both the metro and buses. Alternatively, the Taipei Pass costs NT$250 (no deposit) and covers travel on the metro and Maokong Gondola for one day, which is cheap and convenient if you take at least six trips.
Oftentimes limited-edition cards are issued by the transit authority depicting artworks, famous characters, landscapes, etc. These are quite collectible and are perfect souvenirs for your trip. Remember single-journey tokens are recycled when you exit the stations, so if you want to keep a particular one you should purchase an extra.
Taipei City has a very efficient bus service, and because all buses display information (destination and the names of stops) in English, the system is very accessible to non-Chinese speaking visitors. Payment can be made by cash (NT$15) or EasyCard (see "metro" listing) for each section that the bus passes through. For local buses (all local buses have a number, so do long distance buses) the maximum will be two sections with a total cost of NT$45. The confusion, however, arises by not knowing where the section boundaries are located and the fact that there is often a buffer zone to prevent people who get on one stop before the boundary from overpayment.
When to pay Above the driver, there is an electronic red sign. If the Chinese character for "up" (上) is lit, then you pay when you get on. If the same sign is lit when you get off, you do not need to pay again. However, if the sign is displaying the Chinese character for "down" (下) when you are getting off, then you will need to pay a second time. Finally, if the character for "down" is lit up when you get on, then you need to pay only when you get off. Until you get the hang of the system, just let the locals go first and follow their action. It's really not as complicated as it sounds, and bus drivers won't let you forget a second payment if you owe one!
Besides, if you are transferring from the MRT to a bus within one hour, there is a discounted bus fare when using the Easycard, vice versa.
Taxis are the most flexible way to get around, and are extremely numerous. They are expensive in comparison to mass transit, but are cheap when compared to taxis in the rest of the world. Taxis are metered, which meter starts at NT$70(an additional NT$20 is added over the meter for the taxi rates at night ). Most taxi drivers cannot speak English, and it will be necessary for non-Chinese speakers to have their destination written down in Chinese. Tipping is neither necessary nor expected.
Since 2012, all passengers are required to buckle their seatbelt. Women and/or children traveling at night are advised to use one of the reputable taxi companies. The toll free taxi hotline is 0800-055850 (maintained by Department of Transportation).
Taiwanese taxi drivers tend to be more honest than in many other countries. They are notorious for their strong opinions on politics. A large majority of them support Taiwan independence as they spend all day listening to talk radio. They will probably be unable to share any of this with you if you do not speak Chinese. Avoid any potential political discussion.
It is not advisable for lone women at night to hail a random taxi from the street - it is best to have the number of one of the bigger taxi companies and to call for a cab. Taking a taxi at night in Taipei is more dangerous than walking.
Even though motorized traffic is very heavy in Taipei, bicycles are still legitimate vehicles to get around. There are long cycle paths beside most rivers in the city. Bicycles can also be carried on the Taipei metro but only at Saturdays, Sundays, and National Holidays and via certain stations - bicycles aren't permitted in larger interchange stations such as Taipei Main Station and Zhongxiao Fuxing, and bicycles are only permitted in the first and last carriages. Properly packaged folded bicycles are exempt from the restrictions upon ordinary bicycles. There are not many segregated bike lanes but on some busy streets cycling on the pavement (US English: sidewalk) is permitted where signed or marked, as in Japan.
Taipei has a great bike sharing system - YouBike. It is very cheap if you register through their site - first half hour is NT$5, which is enough for most every ride you need. You use EasyCard (the same as for the subway and buses) to rent them. It's all very easy and the bikes are modern and convenient. Check each bicycle for defects before you use them; bike seats are turned backwards to signal some form of maintenance is required.
Renting a car is not only unnecessary, but not recommended in Taipei unless you are planning to head out of the city. Traffic tends to be frantic, and parking spaces are expensive and difficult to find. Most of the main tourist destinations are reachable by public transport, and you should use that as your main mode of travel.
The Taipei address system is very logical and user-friendly. The hub of the city is the corner of the east-west running Zhongxiao (忠孝) and north-south running Zhongshan (中山) Rds, however while the north/south divide is made at Zhongxiao here, further east it is made instead at Bade (八德) Rd, something which confuses even people who have lived in Taipei for years. All major roads are identified by their direction in relation to these roads. For example, all sections of the north-south running Fuxing (復興) Rd north of Bade are called Fuxing North Rd (復興北路). Likewise, those sections to the south are called Fuxing South Rd (復興南路). Those that cross Zhongshan road are similarly identified as either east or west. Section (段; duàn) numbers begin at 'one' near the two defining roads and increase at intersections of major highways. For example, Ren'ai (仁愛) Rd (which has only an east location and therefore does not have a direction suffix), Section 1 will be close to Zhongshan South Rd. The section number will increase as one moves further away from Zhongshan Rd. So, for example, when Ren'ai Rd reaches Dunhua South Rd (敦化南路) far in the east of the city, a typical address could be: 7F, 166 Ren'ai Rd, Section 4. The house and lane numbers begin at zero every section. Lanes (巷; xiàng) lead off roads (路; lù) and streets (街; jiē), while alleys (弄; nòng) branch off lanes.