Long Distance Coaches in Taiwan
If you are travelling between cities in Taiwan, long distance coaches can be a good mode of transport, and also good value. The green coaches of U Bus are a familiar sight every few minutes on busy Taiwanese highways, but there are in fact many other operators too.
Timetable information and booking tickets
As there are many competing bus companies, it can be hard to find a single overview. The best place to start if you are passing through Taoyuan airport is there – the tourist information booth can help, and most long distance bus operators also have manned booths in both terminals where staff can assist you.
In Taipei, the main bus station close to the main railway station contains a host of bus operators and timetables are clearly displayed – for prices, you normally need to ask. Be aware that the bus station has two terminals, so be sure to check out both if you are hunting for the soonest possible bus, or cheapest one.
In addition, some local travel agents can help you book bus tickets.
Coaches tend to leave not from communal stations but individual stations. This can be annoying because it makes it harder to compare times and prices, and you need to find the coach station of a specific operator. Normally, however, the coach stations cluster together on a particular street, often quite close to the train station where there is one. The main coach station in central Taipei is a large affair like coach stations in many countries. Elsewhere, however, the station is basically a shop front with a few benches inside and often some outside on the pavement. In short, it isn’t a very comfortable place to spend a prolonged period of time.
One of the main benefits of Taiwanese coaches is how nice they are. Some other Asian countries, such as Korea, also have very comfortable long distance coaches, but if your prior experience of coach travel is in north America or Europe, you are in for a treat.
Instead of four abreast seating the coaches tend to have three abreast, meaning that the seats are larger and more comfortable. They recline well and have more legroom. Some luxurious coach operators such as Aloha offer only two seats per row, so each has window and aisle access and is large and deeply reclining.
They usually feature seatback televisions. On some you can select from a menu of entertainment (mainly in Chinese) while on others films are played on all screens, sometimes with the audio track on the bus’s speakers.
Most buses do not serve food and drink, although you can pick these up on stops en route. Some, however, such as Aloha, do have an onboard stewardess. As well as giving free warm drinks, cookies and water, they provide other amenities free, such as a blanket.
Coaches tend to be cheaper than the high speed trains in Taiwan, although they are usually significantly slower. The prices on each route vary by company – Kuo Kang and U Bus are cheaper, whereas Aloha is more expensive.
Still, ticket prices are reasonable. For example, a one way trip from Taipei to Kaohsiung starts at around four hundred NTD (HK$100).
In terms of safety, Taiwan has quite a bad road safety record. Statistics are hard to come by but seem to be more on a par with China (around 18 per 100,000 residents) than, say, Japan (4) or northern European countries, which are lower. There have been some high profile tragedies involving coaches in Taiwan although they tend to involve charter buses rather than intercity coaches.