travelling in taiwan - taxi / cab

Taiwan Bus stop Taipei

Taxis are a dime a dozen in Taiwanese cities. You don't need to look for a taxi - they'll be looking for you. The standard yellow cabs scour roads looking for potential riders such as lost foreigners. It is possible but generally unnecessary to phone for a taxi. To hail one, simply place your hand in front of you parallel to the ground. But they'll often stop for you even if you're just waiting to cross the street or for a bus.

Drivers generally cannot converse in English or read Westernized addresses (except for special CKS airport taxis). Have the hotel desk or a Taiwanese friend write out your destination in Chinese, and also take a business card from the hotel. Show the driver the Chinese writing of where you are going.

Taxis are visibly metered, and cab drivers are strictly forbidden from taking tips. A maximum of four people can ride in one cab, and for the price of one. Relative to American taxicabs, Taiwanese cabs are inexpensive.

Although taxi drivers in Taiwan tend to be more honest than in many other countries, not all are trustworthy. An indirect trip might cost you half again as much. A cab driver using night-time rates during the daytime will cost you 30% more (make sure he presses the large button on the left on his meter before 11pm). Avoid the especially overzealous drivers who congregate at the exits of train stations. Also, stand your ground and insist on paying meter price only if any driving on mountain roads is involved - some drivers like to tack on surcharges or use night-time rates if driving to places like Maokong or Wulai. Such attempts to cheat are against the law.

From CKS Airport (TPE), buses are a much more economical option but if you want a direct route CKS airport drivers are the best choice. They're quite comfortable and get you to your destination as quick as possible. All the CKS taxi drivers are interlinked by radio so they could be forwarned if there are police. Sometimes, if there are traffic jams and no police around, the driver will drive in the emergency lane.

The badge and taxi driver identification are displayed inside and the license number marked on the outside. You must also be wary that the driver turns on his meter, otherwise he might rip you off - in such a case, you aren't obliged to pay; but make sure you can find a police officer to settle the matter. If there are stories of passengers boarding fake taxis and being attacked by the driver, it is best not to be paranoid about it. Drivers may be more worried about passengers attacking them!

If you do call a taxi dispatch center, you will be given a taxi number to identify the vehicle when it arrives. Generally, dispatch is extremely rapid and efficient, as the taxis are constantly monitoring dispatch calls from the headquarters using radio while they are on the move. This is also the safest way to take a taxi, especially for females.

Taxis are also a flexible although relatively expensive way to travel to nearby cities. They have the advantage over the electric trains in that they run very late at night. Drivers are required to provide a receipt if asked, though you might find them unwilling to do so.

Taxis, as elsewhere in Asia, are not keen on exchanging large bills. Try to keep some smaller denomination bills on hand to avoid the hassle of fighting with the driver for change.

Taxi drivers are known for their strong political opinions as many spend all day listening to Taiwanese talk radio. Be careful about your opinions on the cross-strait relations. In addition, if you see what looks like blood spewing from the driver's mouth, or him spitting blood onto the street - not to fret, it's merely him chewing betel nut (see box).

Taxi drivers are generally friendly towards foreigners and few of them take this opportunity to try their limited English skills. They would most likely ask you about yourself and are a patient audience to your attempts at speaking in Mandarin. If you are traveling with a little kids - don't be surprised if they get candy as a gift when you get off.



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