Taiwan is a small island off the coast of China, which we traveled to for 4 days to visit some of my family friends who live in Taipei. We were able to drive around and explore the surrounding area of Taipei with our hosts, as well as explore the city of Taipei on our own by foot and metro.
One of the greatest programs that Taipei has to offer is the EasyCard. I didn’t know about it before I came and didn’t buy an EasyCard, but now I realize I should’ve. It is a single card that you can purchase at any 7-11 or Metro station and you can use it for the Taipei MRT, the bus system, bike-share system, public parking, convenience stores, and more. EasyCard officially launched in 2002 and since then more than 60 million cards have been issued. Their goal is to create a “cashless life, unlimited east travel” for the people.
The Taipei MRT is Taiwan’s first metro system. It began in 1996 to help combat Taipei’s traffic congestion problems, similar to Bangkok. Since then, it has built 117 stations and moves two million people a day. After using it for 4 days I can understand why some people say it’s the best system in the world, it is always on time, clean, and very easy to use. Everyone uses it, even our host who lives outside of the City and uses the the park and ride stations to get to work everyday since parking downtown is scarce and expensive.
I didn’t use the Bus Rapid Transit system, but we walked across the corridor while making our way to a restaurant across town. Taipei has only had one Bus Rapid Transit corridor which opened in 1998. Even with the one corridor it transports more than one million passengers a day, almost half the amount as the Taipei MRT does. To read more about the Taipei BRT system and a great resource for other BRT systems around the world check out https://brtdata.org/location/asia/taiwan/taipei
Public Bus System
Buses are all around Taipei and are another great way to get around the city. We took the bus only once from the National Museum to the Shillin Train Station. We looked up the route on google maps and found there were a number of buses that went that route but we couldn’t’ read the map at the station because it wasn’t in english. Thankfully, the bus driver spoke English and was very helpful. The bus was very clean and was mainly filled with women who were kind enough to tell us that we only needed to use our tickets when we left the bus, not when we entered the bus.
To and from Airport
We arrived at the airport at 5:25 in the morning. Once we passed airport security and collected our bags it was 6am. We decided against taking a taxi to our hosts because it was $50, so instead we took the Taoyuan Airport MRT into the main station and took an Uber from there. Once you exit the airport, there are many signs advertising the train. The express train stops at both Terminal 1 and 2 and takes about 35 minutes to get into the Taipei Main Station. The express train runs every 15 minutes There is free wifi at all the stations and trains, as well as free wireless charging stations at the seats and luggage racks.
We purchased the Taoyuan Airport MRT Round Trip Ticket and Taipei Metro 72 Hour Pass for NT$600.
We used Uber twice in Taipei. Once to get from the main train station to our hosts house out of the city and once from the center of town to the hosts house. Both times were very easy to use even if the drivers didn’t speak English, thank you Google Translate.
We stayed with my family friends outside of the city and they had two cars, which meant we were able to explore the areas outside of the city by car. We drove around the national park just behind their house, which is a beautiful park on a hill with incredible views filled with both tourists and locals. There wasn’t much parking at the national park, but the parking that was available you could pay with the EasyCard. On the weekends you can only drive through the hilled area to get to the national park if you live there because they want to limit congestion.
Taipei has a population of 2.7 million people and there are an estimated one million motorbikes. When you walk and drive around Taipei you see motorbikes everywhere. They are loud and drive everywhere and hardly stop for you to cross the street. Sometimes there are dedicated lanes on roads and even highways, but mostly they share the road with cars. Because of the amount of motorbikes it is uncomfortable to share the road with them as a cyclist, therefore the city of Taipei is trying out new ways to improve the city for cyclists.
Taipei used to be called the “Bicycle Kingdom” because it was the largest exporter of bikes around the world. Now they want to become a cycle-friendly city, but “we’re not trying to be like Amsterdam or Copenhagen” says the Transport commissioner for Taipei Anne Chung. Taipei is planning on extending their cycle network over the next few years by adding miles of bike lanes, both protected and unprotected. They already had a large bike share system, but not many people use it because of the limited bike network.
Bike Share System – YouBike
In 2009 the YouBike bike-share system was launched. Now it has locations in other cities and in Taipei it has almost 7,000 bikes with 200 stations, many of which are strategically placed near train and bus stations. You can use the EasyCard for free for the first 30 minutes in and around the New Taipei City, or you can pay NT$10 for 30 minutes.
After walking around, I did not see many people on YouBikes, I saw many stations (which were always full) and a few people using the bikes in the area around tower 101 where there were designated bike lanes. I hope in three years after the bike lane expansion there will be more people using the bikes.
During our 4 days in Taiwan, we spent two days walking around Taipei. It is quite a large city and some areas are more walkable than others. In the area around tower 101 there are many large sidewalks with easy to cross intersections.
In other areas there are no sidewalks, sometimes there are quick-build sidewalks with green paint and yellow bollards for protection.
Taipei is very famous for their night markets, and during our visit we went to 2 of them. We visited the Shillin Night Market and visited at 6 PM when it started. By the time we left at 7 it was packed and you could barely walk around. The market had incredible food, dumplings, fried squid, grilled mushrooms and of course some stinky tofu.
The other night market was only on certain nights so we missed the night market, but the pedestrian area was still open and we visited shops around.