During my Japan trip I didn’t bother learning the Japan Rail system; where my companions go that’s where I go. I noticed that in some stations we were changing trains, but it didn’t really occur to me why and how to do it. That’s the thing with sponsored trips, you just go with the flow because everything is taken care of including a task as simple as taking public transportation. When you go on your own trip of course this is not going to be the case especially if you are alone. The responsibility of where you will eat, where you will go, and how you will get around lies on your shoulder. In short, I was forced to learn the Taiwan MRT system. I realized that it’s not as difficult as it may seem and because I am proud that I did learn it, I just had to write an entire post about it (celebrate little achievements y’all!). So here are some tips on how to take the Taipei MRT.
Get the Easy Card
You can buy a one-time ticket fare from the MRT stations but if you are going to Taipei for days and you want to save money by not taking a cab, then I highly recommend you buy an Easy Card. You can load up this card from the MRT stations or any 7 Eleven stores. This card can also be used when taking a bus or when renting a UBike.
By the way, card tapping work differently in Taiwan. In the Philippines you only need to tap once when you enter the train station or when you step inside BGC shuttle, in Taiwan, you tap the card twice; first allows you entry, second time happens when you exit. The easy card will only be charged during the second tap. I was constantly checking the balance of my card so I learned about this.
Get an MRT map
What I found to be real useful is using the MRT map, it’s usually printed on tourism guide pamphlets, which you can get from the place of your accommodation. This map has a list of all the stations.
If you are a Filipino I want you to forget about how our train works for a moment because it’s different from the one in Taipei. The first thing that you need to understand is the lines, they are indicated in the map in different colors. I didn’t know what’s the sense in it until I had to travel somewhere when I had to switch trains.
So this is how it goes, all lines are interconnected by a station. For example, let’s say you’re coming from Shilin (red line) and your destination is Linguang (brown line), then you have to switch train. First take the train from Shilin, the first interconnection is on the green line at Zhongshan station, but looking at the map it is still a bit far from the destination. Since there is an interconnection in the Daan station anyway, it’s best to remain in the red line until you reach that station. From Daan station, follow the signs until you reach the brown line. The ending stations of the brown line is Nangang and Taipei Zoo, looking at the map, you need to take the train that goes to the latter. So take the train, Linguang is only 2 stations away. After the Technology Building and Liuzhangli stations, you will reach Linguang station.
The same principle applies in all the other stations. The best way to do this is check the station closest to your destination so you don’t have to keep switching trains.
Check the signs
Inside the train there are digital signs just above the sliding doors that indicate the current station and the next station. You will also hear an audio announcement inside the train. The signs and the announcements are both delivered in Chinese and English so you don’t have to worry about translation. The same is true with all the signs displayed all over the MRT. By just reading and following the signs I didn’t have to ask locals anymore on my second day in Taipei.
Do not take the reserve seats
Unless of course you are old, pregnant, or disabled. I have much respect for the Taiwanese for following this rule even when the train is full with passengers. They keep those seats unoccupied and would stand on the train if they don’t fit the criteria mentioned.
Follow the escalator etiquette
When a major mall started implementing the escalator etiquette in the Philippines, many people criticized it. I honestly don’t get the complaints over something that bids for discipline. In Taiwan (as well as in Japan), they follow the stand-on-the-right, walk-on-the-left policy when using escalator. I truly believe this simple etiquette is useful and respectful of other people’s time. And it’s not hard to follow too so why complain? We Filipinos could learn a thing or two from our neigboring countries if we really want to improve ourselves. Part of the reasons they are progressive is because their citizens are disciplined so maybe we should start learning how they do it, and maybe just maybe we wouldn’t be so left behind.
Lastly, enjoy the ride! The MRT in Taipei is fast, efficient, and even on busy days doesn’t become as hellish as the Philippines’. Forgive me for all the comparisons that I’ve been making between Taiwan’s MRT and my country’s train system. If you’ve ever taken Manila’s MRT you would understand.
But yeah, the point is, if I —a self-confessed direction impaired— could learn the MRT system of Taiwan, then so can you. It’s the cheapest and most convenient way to get around Taipei and as you can see, it’s not hard to learn! I hope this guide will be useful to you when you find yourself in Taiwan soon.