Navigating Taiwan's Public Transport
A Fantastic Bus Travel App for International Backpackers
I recently found myself in a situation similar to many international backpackers in Taiwan. First, I usually travel to small towns or rural areas. Second, I do not have a driver’s license for scooters or motorbikes—public transport is all I can depend on when traveling.
In cities other than Taipei (台北), Taichung (台中), and Kaohsiung (高雄) in Taiwan, public transport is limited to railway (台鐵) and buses (公車). In more rural areas, one is only left with buses. Buses arrive infrequently in these areas, and it is quite often to have only 2 or 3 arrivals per day at a particular stop. Consequently, it is necessary to plan ahead when traveling to these places. The hard part though, is that bus schedules are difficult to find on the internet (even for local people), and even if you manage to find one, it might still be outdated.
Luckily, there is a mobile app Bus+ (https://busplus.app), available in both Andriod and iOS, that integrates public transport information (including bus, MRT, Railway, and Ubike) across all cities and counties in Taiwan. It provides real-time updates for the bus waiting time as well as the route, the stop locations, and the full schedule. In addition, an English interface is available. Personally, I use the app daily and find the bus waiting time highly accurate.
When traveling to unfamiliar places, using Google Maps in combination with Bus+ can be extremely helpful. The route-planning information given by Google is correct for the most part, but the bus arrival time is often inaccurate. Simply search for the bus in Bus+, and you can retrieve more accurate information. Take a while to first explore the app though, there are many hidden gems to be discovered, and it could take some time.
Taitung’s Bus Travel
I often travel to Taitung (台東) and find bus travel there quite convenient. Here, I’ll share some of my experiences.
The main traffic routes in Taitung County are primarily divided into two sections by the Coastal Mountain Range (i.e., Hai’an Range 海岸山脈). There is the so-called ‘Mountain Line (山線)’, located in the Huadong Valley (花東縱谷), and the ‘Coastal Line (海線)’ on the other side of the Coastal Mountain Range, facing the Pacific Ocean. The railway traverses the Mountain Line but not the Coastal Line. Thus, individuals relying on public transport can only travel to towns situated along the Coastal Line by bus.
Despite not being well-known, Taitung possesses a reasonably well-developed bus network. Passengers can conveniently settle their bus fare using an EasyCard, and the cost is notably economical.
- To travel between Taitung Station (railway station) and Taitung Bus Station (downtown Taitung), one can take:
- 8101 / 8103 / 8109 / City Tour Circular (市區循環) / Train-Harbor-Airport Line B (陸海空線B)
- Note that for ‘City Tour Circular’ and ‘Train-Harbor-Airport Line B’, you need to search them by their Chinese names (just copy-and-paste) to find them in Bus+
- To travel between Taitung City (railway station or downtown Taitung) and the towns along the Coastal Line (e.g., Fugang Harbor 富岡漁港, Dulan 都蘭, Chenggong 成功), you might take (depending on the destination):
- 8101 / 8102 / 8103 / 8109 / 8120