An important part of travel is knowing how you’ll get from one place to another, which is why this entry will be devoted to the transportation system in and out of Taipei.
I will begin with a confession: I hate the TTC… most of the time. Then again, who doesn’t? However, after riding the Taipei subway system, I lament the fact that I have to go back to the dingy, late, inefficient, ugly, annoying subway system back in Toronto. Anyways, instead of going on a huge rant on how the TTC sucks, I’ll point out a few features that make the Taipei subway system amazing.
When you walk in the station, one of the first things you see are electronic signs overhead telling you if the subway trains are coming in x number of minutes, approaching, arriving or already departed. (Contrary to what’s shown in the picture, the signs alternate between Chinese and English announcements.) Very handy since it lets you know when to rush instead of relying on the rumbling of the subway cars like in Toronto.
Which would not help you anyway, since the entire system is rather new compared to the TTC, and is therefore more technologically advanced. Another great thing about the subway cars is that they have announcements at each stop with information about transfering from line to line in Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka and English, so it’s a very visitor-friendly transit system!
If you’re ever bored while waiting for the subway to arrive, there are little screens, usually showing movie previews and commercials, but they also show times until the train arrives.
When coming out of the subway, be sure to get very very very clear directions as to where you’re going. Often, subway stops have multiple exits – at least two per stop, and maximum… let’s just say there are a lot of exits at the Taipei Main Station (shown above). On the surface, exits can be really far apart from one another, especially if they are connected to underground malls or tunnels.
If you don’t want to mess with multiple exits, there are of course buses that go all over the city. Just make sure to actually flag your bus down or they won’t stop. Also, ask if you need to pay the fare when you get on or off the bus. Another tip about the buses: if you can, SIT. For some strange reason, buses in Taipei rock as if there’s a severe earthquake going on within them. I actually dread seeing seniors get on the bus with the thought that I should yield my seat to them if there aren’t any more seats.
Also, fares and ticketing differ in the Taipei transit system. While you can dump your change as you do on the TTC on a bus, the subway system only has two ways to pay your fare: a one way token and an Easycard. One way tokens can be bought at vending machines in the stations, but you have to affix the right fare onto the ticket because fares aren’t fixed like in Toronto: the further you want to go, the higher the fare. No worries if you change your mind midway on where you want to go, you can change the amount of money affixed to your token at service booths at all stations. (I also apologize for the cut off picture, but the fares wouldn’t be clear if I took a photo of the entire map.) Also, although we associate images of small coins with tokens, the Taipei subway token is usually a plastic disk, very much like a thick gambling chip that must also be put on the sensors seen in the picture below.
If you plan to use the subway extensively, an Easycard is the the way to go. You buy a card, put a certain amount of money on it and the ticket machines at the station will automatically take the right amount of money off your card on each subway trip. I think you also get a small discount for using the Easycard.
Travelling outside of Taipei has also become easier in recent years. In the past, there were buses and trains very much like the Greyhound bus and the Go transit system in Toronto, but just last year, Taiwan installed their High Speed Rail system (HSR). If you don’t know what that is, think of the “bullet train” or Shinkansen in Japan. On this trip, I was lucky enough to ride it. Here are some pictures.
Ticket from Taipei to Hsinchu (Xinzhu in the pinyin romanization)
Map of the HSR stations
The HSR train at Taipei Main Station. It was a really long train so I couldn’t take a picture of the front with the characteristic “pointy nose”.
Hsinchu HSR station. This is such a terrible picture because it was taken from the window of a moving car. It’s actually a gorgeous building with a very sleek and modern design.
That’s all for now, hope you enjoyed this!
Pictures by Jess