Driving in Taiwan
Driving in Taiwan can be a great way to explore areas of the island that are not served well by public transit. Although, due to the ubiquity and ease of public transit, along with very affordable taxi rates and relatively expensive rental fares, driving in Taiwan as a guest visitor may introduce inconvenience and stress to an otherwise great vacation.
Many visitors would like to drive motorcycles during their time in Taiwan, especially when visiting destinations such as Kenting or Hualien. Unfortunately, renting a gas-powered motorcycle may prove challenging due to enforcement of driving regulations with regard to license authorization. Although gas-powered vehicles may not be available for rental, electronic bikes are generally available without any requirement for licenses, and are usually powerful enough to scoot around within a limited range.
Taiwan has 2 major highways, numbers NH1 and NH3, that run north to south from Taipei to Kaohsiung. Other highways include Highway NH2 which connects Taiwan Taoyuan Airport (TPE) to Highways NH1 and NH3, Highway NH5 which runs from Taipei to the southern point of Yilan, which connects along to Hualien and Taroko Gorge, Highway NH6 connects Taichung to Nantou and Qingjing Farm, and other highways serve as connectors to different cities, all branching off Highways NH1 and NH3.
All highways in Taiwan are tolled electronically by either scanning an E-Tag prepaid account or scanning the license plate of the car and billing later. Those renting cars are expected to pay for these tolls when returning the car.
Taiwan's roads are notorious for having well-placed speed trap cameras along the sides. These cameras are very visible, however, with ample warning times and clearly marked signs (in Chinese only), and finding them can be a fun game for passengers in the car.
Traffic in Taiwan moves along the right side of the road, similar to the United States, and visitors from Singapore, UK, Australia, Hong Kong, and Thailand should be aware that traffic is on the opposite side of the road and should exercise caution.
Valid local driver licenses are only issued to legal residents of Taiwan, meaning those holding a resident certificate (ARC) or national identification card (身分證). Those visiting Taiwan by visa-free entry or short term visas are not authorized to apply for a Taiwan driver license, however, may be allowed to drive during their stay by usage of an international driving permit (IDP) issued in one's home country for the first 30 days of stay in Taiwan. Additional time may be granted after applying for an extension of this permission at the motor vehicle office.
To drive legally in Taiwan, please be sure to first apply for an International Driver's Permit (IDP) in your home country. In most cases, an IDP is sufficient to drive a car in Taiwan. Country-specific regulations can be found on government websites.
Driving in Taiwan can be a stressful experience at times for those used to more orderly traffic situations. An important point to remember is to always be aware of everything surrounding the vehicle at all times. It is very common for motorcycle drivers to suddenly appear, and, now with electric-powered bikes increasing in popularity, there is no sound to warn of their approach. When entering an intersection, always look both ways in case there is a driver driving through without paying attention, especially along small roads with no traffic lights. When turning right, be sure to check the way as there may be scooters trying to pass on the right side or simply driving in the opposite direction on the wrong side of the road. Always drive slowly and steadily, as motorcycle traffic will flow around your vehicle at all times. When exiting a car, always check if there is an approaching scooter or bicycle! Parking can be a major hassle in the cities due to limited space and expensive parking rates.
Riding a motorcycle may be a fun way to explore the crowded cities and sprawling countryside.
For foreign residents holding a valid ARC resident certificate, driver licenses may be applied for at a motor vehicle office. The process for both motorcycles involves a simple physical exam onsite (checking vision, physical motor skills, hearing, etc.), taking a written exam (available in English and other languages), and a road test. If the applicant is holding an acceptable license from a state which the Taiwanese government has a reciprocal agreement with (including Canada and many US states), the process of obtaining a local license is simplified, however, may require embassy authentication of the relevant documents. Those intending on obtaining automobile licenses are recommended to use their home license if possible due to the difficulty of exams in Taiwan. Motorcycle exams, on the other hand, are not as challenging and it may be easier to just do the process normally.