This post is in small part trip report and in large part informational. Public transportation in Taiwan is cheap, easy, and fairly straightforward – even when your kid is having a rough time. And regardless of how they’re feeling, Taiwan is super kid friendly and their public transportation system reflects that. Here are some quick tips for getting around.
Using the MRT (Subway)
Taipei’s subway system is called the MRT, and it’s very well designed. Not only can it get you almost all the places you’d like to go in Taipei (and beyond), it’s very intuitive, signed clearly in both Chinese and English, AND makes announcements in English, Mandarin, and other languages that I thought were Cantonese but were actually Taiwanese and Hakka.
Now I’m appreciative of our public transportation system in Boston, but the reality is it can’t hold a candle to Taipei.
First of all, my guess is Taiwanese people pay a ton of taxes – how else can you explain these prices? For NT => USD you basically divide by 30. We took a trip to the zoo and it only cost us a little more than a dollar in USD.
Secondly, there were trains every few minutes every time we rode the MRT – even on weekends.
Thirdly, there are 7-11s in many of the stations (they’re really everywhere) serving awesome stuff like this:
Using the system couldn’t be simpler. After noting your fare price on the map, just choose a single-journey ticket. Then click on your ticket price and number of tickets you want and pay (cash only as far as I could tell).
After that, the machine pops out a couple of tokens that have some kind of RFID in them (or some other sort of chip).
Tap the token on the picture as you are entering the gated area, drop token in slot on your way out. Easy as pie.
Be forewarned, if you are disabled or using a stroller (like we were), you’re going to have to take a lot of elevators. Generally it’s pretty intuitive where to go (well designed, remember), and there are even attendants at a lot of the stations who are a lot of help. Again, since Taiwan is so kid friendly, lots of people were yielding to us and letting us go first – I guess we do that in America too, so good for us! It definitely feels silly to go up an elevator, walk across a bridge, and then go back down – but that’s just train life.
Taking the HSR (High Speed Rail)
The HSR is just as easy to use as the MRT, though I was able to use a credit card (Barclays Arrival+ with my pin, not affiliate) to buy these. Buy tickets from machines, insert tickets (and take) when entering, insert tickets (and watch go bye bye) upon exit. The HSR can get you between a lot of different points in Taiwan quickly; we took a quick 1 hour 45 minute ride to Tainan to visit relatives.
Be aware that you can choose to reserve seats beforehand or sit in a car with unreserved seating. Buying from a machine, we couldn’t really choose our seats (they were just assigned to us) though my guess is you can if buying at the counter. There is a food card with all sorts of goodies that rolls through the train and they keep it remarkably clean.
Like I said in a previous post, M had a rough ride on the way home so I became very acquainted with the toilet cleaning lady due to my proximity to the lavatories.
One thing to note is that in the HSR stations (and I think I saw some in MRT stations as well) there are Breastfeeding rooms. Jess said you actually have to knock to go inside and they have it set up with boppy equivalents and all that – crazy kid friendly! There is also a baller changing table with a sink right next to it (great design). Didn’t take pictures of that though because I don’t like looking like a creeper.
Taking the Bus or a Cab
Again, the bus is very simple and very cheap. Jess took it once on her own, but I never ended up taking it on this trip because I didn’t want to deal with M on it.
Cabs are everywhere, but one thing to note – the culture around car seats is pretty different in Asia. Lots of babies are held by their parents a lot of the time, and cabs are no exception. Sometimes people look at you like you’re crazy if you ask for a car seat. So, be prepared to potentially hold your child in a car. Just a word of warning.
Public transportation in Taipei is cheap, well-designed, and efficient. There are even clean places where you can change your child. Best of all, it can be fun for the kids. Just watch out for rush hour…
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