Getting To & Getting Around East Taiwan

Getting to Hualien and Taitung

The quickest way of getting to Taiwan’s east is by airplane. A handful of international charters link Hualien with Japan. Visitors arriving from nearby countries may want to book a flight that arrives at Taipei Songshan Airport, rather than Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, and then transfer to a domestic flight to Hualien (one flight per day; flight time 50 minutes; about US$56 one way) or Taitung (usually six flights each day; one hour 5 minutes; US$101). Both Hualien and Taitung airports are relatively close to the centres of those cities, and there are buses for those who don’t want to pay for a taxi into town. There’s also one daily flight between Kaohsiung and Hualien and three per week between Taichung and Hualien.

There are fewer flights than before because East Taiwan now benefits from much improved and inexpensive rail services. No bullet trains serve to this side of the island but the fastest expresses leaving Taipei reach Hualien in under two and a quarter hours at a cost of less than US$15 one way. Taitung can be reached in around four hours (fare from Taipei approximately US$25). Those who enter the region from the north may wish to leave via the south, and the line between Taitung and Kaohsiung has now been fully electrified and double-tracked, allowing for faster and more frequent services, some of which connect the southeast and the southwest in less than two hours (US$12 one way). Trains going this way cross 158 bridges and go through 36 tunnels, hugging the Pacific Coast and cutting through uninhabited valleys before emerging by the Taiwan Strait.

Roadtripping along the Pacific coast

Because there’s no railway line along the east coast, public-transport users who want to see the ocean should board one of the fairly frequent buses heading south on Highway 11. From Hualien, very few services go all the way to Taitung City, however, so changing bus — or maybe staying overnight — somewhere like Jingpu (two hours from Hualien; US$8 one way) or Chenggong (journey time three hours; under US$12) is necessary. Buses are also a reliable way to get from Hualien to Guangfu or Ruisui in the heart of the East Rift Valley, or from central Taitung to Zhiben’s hot springs zone. From the bus station very near Hualien Railway Station, there are frequent buses to various spots in Taroko Gorge, including some which use ecofriendly electric vehicles. Another intriguing option for bus travellers is the daily service from Hualien through Taroko Gorge and onto the high-altitude fruit-growing town of Lishan.

The very best way of exploring the east is, of course, to rent a car or motorcycle, or book one of our Taiwan private tours. Without your own vehicle, it can be very difficult to reach some of the region’s most attractive hotels and homestays, not to mention secluded scenic spots on the road between Taroko Gorge and Puli.

Hire cars can be arranged at the airports in Hualien and Taitung. Pre-booking is advised, especially during the busy summer months and around long weekends. Doing this can be tricky as many rental businesses insist on seeing a local, rather than international, license. Picking up a vehicle from an international rental company in west Taiwan is often more straightforward. This also makes it possible to enter and leave the east at a leisurely pace via any of these intriguing and visually-rewarding routes: The coast road between Suao in Yilan County and Hualien; from Sun Moon Lake; over Hehuanshan and down through Taroko Gorge; or from Kenting in the deep south on Road 199 or Highway 9.

Taiwan has been praised as one of the world’s best cycling destinations, and fit outdoors types may want to ride bicycles in the east. Short-term rentals can be arranged in a number of places, including Guanshan and Liyu Lake. For multi-day rent of quality bikes, panniers and other equipment, contact one of the shops operated by Taiwan-based (but world famous) bike manufacturer Giant. For a guided or self-guided bike adventure, contact Life of Taiwan today and we’ll help you make arrangements.

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