Travelling by bus is probably the easiest and cheapest way to get around not just in Taipei, but on the island as a whole. Taiwan has a long-established system of private bus companies and their services range from regular to the more expensive vehicles with bigger seats and entertainment on board, usually in the form of motion pictures. Most of the buses provide information in English and Chinese but don’t count on it between some of the smaller cities.
The major downside of using buses is traffic jams. If you encounter them on the motorways it can mean that a five-hour trip from Taipei to Kaohsiung can easily stretch to a 7-10 hour endeavour for instance.
The Taipei Joint Bus System in the Taiwan’s capital is very well developed. It serves passengers in the greater metropolitan area of Taipei and the New Taipei City. Despite the fact that it is operated by 15 different private companies both bus systems (Taipei and New Taipei City) have a coordinated numbering and fare system. Most buses are in both Chinese and English but exceptions can be found in addition to the fact that translations and even Romanization of names isn’t always standardized and can cause confusion for an unprepared traveller. City buses are commonly referred to as公車 (gōngchē).
Be warned that the buses only stop upon signal so if you’re waiting on a bus stop you need to wave at the incoming bus in order for it to pick you up. Concordantly, if you’re on the bus you have to push one of the buttons to indicate to the driver that you want to get off. It usually doesn’t matter if you enter at the front or the back, but when required to pay you need to use the front entrance. If you follow the crowd you’re unlikely to make mistakes but in case you do the driver will surely let you know.
Taipei is using a fare zone system. You can pay with coins or use the EasyCard. Most buses have three distinct fare zones. Be mindful of the fact that when crossing a zone you will be required to pay again. Currently, a single journey ticket full fare is NTD $15 whereas the student fare is NTD $12.
If the bus is showing the Chinese character for “on/up” ? (shàng), it means that passengers pay their fare upon boarding the bus. If the bus is showing the Chinese character for “off/down” ? (xìa), pay the fare upon leaving the bus.
When you’re crossing between zones the ? character will change into ? indicating you need to pay again when getting off. Using the EasyCard is more convenient as the reader will reject any inappropriate payments.
Because the Bus System is a composite of a number of different companies each company has a different time schedule for different routes. This makes using buses somewhat unpredictable but every bus stop sign provides the information for each day’s first and last bus and the time intervals between buses. Generally speaking, the buses operate from 05:00 to 24:00.
MRT Shuttle Buses
These buses shuttle passengers between areas without MRT to MRT stations. Their routes are identified by the MRT lines they connect to.