Traveling in Taiwan: Car Rentals

Last Updated: 201601

photo by Nicholas A. Tonelli
photo by Nicholas A. Tonelli

Taipei is commonly recognized as the capital and the place to go for foreign travelers due to its convenient public transportation system and population density. However, for the adventurous spirit and advanced backpackers, the rest of the island is actually not as hard as imagined to be reached. Taiwan’s Highway system is rather complete and sophisticated, almost any sights and parks can be reached through the road system. With the added benefits of acceptable gasoline prices and well maintained surface, driving could be a good alternative when planning your travel to this beautiful island.

Who do I Find?

photo by Ille
photo by Ille

Unlike other developed countries, Taiwan rarely has international car rental companies that stick in the market, therefore online booking system isn’t as convenient as you might want it. But don’t sweat, the inconvenience might mean you can get more localized information on your tour. The companies below are the major car rental companies in Taiwan, they offer crystal clear information on their vehicles and your can always fill out a request form to have them contact you via email, avoiding the international calling fees. Another option for those who are spontaneous, finding a physical store when you land in the airport would also be a fair choice.

HOTAI  Carplus Pony Avis

What do I Need and How to Pay?

photo by Tony Webster
photo by Tony Webster

Different from the usual car rental policies you see out here, the majority of Taiwan’s car rental company puts the renter’s identity card on hold and sign a IOU, but obviously it wouldn’t really apply to foreigners as putting your passport on hold is a different deal than putting an ID card on hold. That’s why we recommend you the travelers the larger car rental companies above as they will be more open to major credit cards and pre-authorizations so you don’t have to exchange your dear passport to get a rental car. The Taiwanese government recognized majority of South East Asian countries’ international driver permit, but DO remember to bring your original driver’s license along with the permit otherwise it’s considered invalid with just one of them.

How and Where Can I Go?

photo by Cheng-en Cheng
photo by Cheng-en Cheng

There are currently ten national highways in the country. No. 1 and No. 3 are the two highways that penetrates the west side of the island, and No. 5 lies on the eastern side connecting from Taipei to Hualien. In order to achieve sustainable development, the Highways Bureau utilizes the user electronic payment system. Don’t worry about how you’re going to pay, the rental cars come with sensor sticker and all you have to do is pay at the counter when you return the car! Voila, and most companies won’t charge you extra for paying through them.

Aside from the Highway system, majority of the local roads are maintained at a high standard as well with no surcharge. Similar to Untied States and other countries, Taiwanese driver drive on the right side of the road (Sorry UK!).

Parking and Fines…

photo by Jackie Hsi
photo by Jackie Hsi

Okay, I know most of us aren’t terrible drivers, and none of us meant to break the law on purpose. But things happen, and we’re here to let you know some important rules beforehand and how to pay your ticket in case you do cross the line. Most of Taiwanese roadside are marked with red paint line on the side to prohibit parking or stopping, if you’re going to park, please find a roadside without red paint, street parking spots with white paint lines drawn, or a private parking lot. If you decide to go with street parking, the bill will be clipped on your windshield wiper (It’s not a ticket!) and all you have to do is go into any convenience store on the journey and pay for it. If you decide not to or forget to pay for it, the bill goes back to the car rental company and that’s where you see the skyrocket bill of street parking. So do yourself a favor and find a convenience store (there’s probably five down the street) and pay for the parking fees. And lastly, private parking lots have their staff or automatic payment system at the entrance/exit so go ahead and follow the instructions.

Illegal parking and speeding tickets have become a rising issue in the Taiwanese society, especially within the city limits. So please please don’t try to bribe the police or do anything else besides taking the tickets and paying for it at any convenience store.

How do I Spot a Gas Station?

photo by li-penny
photo by li-penny

Gas stations in Taiwan generally have the exact same price, so you don’t really have to drive the extra thirty minutes for cheaper gas. The unified gas price will be adjusted weekly at every Monday. Most cars use unleaded gasoline in grades of 92, 95, and 98, just follow what the notice your dashboard says and you’ll be just fine. However, don’t get out of your car immediately as most traditional gas stations have staffs to help you through the process. Some newer gas stations will have a few automatic stations, watch out for a different color code or the word auto if you’re looking to save a few pennies by doing it yourself. If you decide to let someone else service you, go ahead and just let them know how much gas you want to put on the car and they’ll let you know the price afterwards for you to either pay with cards or cash.

Road Condition and GPS

2015-12-22 15.29.24

Most of the car rental companies have the option of adding a GPS when you’re finalizing your rental details. That extra charge could come in handy when you are absolutely lost and doesn’t speak the local language. It’s really for the peace of mind if you’ve done your homework thoroughly, because a lot of the roads are off the radar of the GPSs. As of road condition, there isn’t really a crowded area besides the metro Taipei because that’s a nightmare really anytime of the day. Outside of the capital, if you are smart enough to avoid traffic hours, it’s going to be a lovely drive with lots of scenery packed in. From northern Taiwan to the southern tip of Kaohsiung through No. 1 and No. 3 is about four and a half hours; whereas if you drive through No. 5 and going down the Eastern coast to Ilan, it’s about a three hours drive.

Because of the population density in Taiwan, there're countless alleys and small paths specifically dedicated to each city or section. If you decide to be adventurous and close the GPS, you might ended up fifty miles away from where you were thinking. For travelers on a strict budget, we suggest you try the ultimate Google Map; or for those with a little more budget on this to use paid GPS devices or apps such as Papago or Garmin.

translated by Nasha

Mark Hsu

Used to dream of becoming a great engineer, but ended up a normal guy doing about daily task. Loves backpacking and is fascinated by LCC, he hopes to build a more convenient travel tool for all backpackers.

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