Getting To & Getting Around Tainan

Tainan martial rites templeAt the time of writing, Tainan’s airport handled just a few flights per week to destinations outside Taiwan, so visitors are far more likely to arrive in Taiwan’s former capital by road or rail.

Each hour at least two and usually three trains from Taipei and two more from Kaohsiung arrive at Tainan’s High-Speed Railway (HSR) station. The station is inconveniently located far from the downtown. Bullet trains take one hour 40 minutes to/from Taipei (US$44 one way at the time of writing), while Kaohsiung is just 15 minutes away (US$5 one way), but travelers should allow another half hour to reach the city centre. For the final leg of the journey, shuttle buses and a commuter train service are alternatives to taking a taxi, but don’t go anywhere near some popular hotels.

Conventional trains and long-distance buses link Tainan with all of Taiwan’s major cities. Of the former, the fastest are the Puyuma expresses (three and a quarter hours to Taipei; US$24). By coach, Taipei is around four and a half hours away; one-way tickets sometimes cost as little as US$9, peak periods being pricier than midweek and journeys inevitably taking longer.

Excursions north and south

The best way to get to Kaohsiung to the south is by regular train, with most of the very frequent services making the journey in under an hour and costing less than US$3. Chiayi— from where it’s possible to travel on to Alishan — lies to the north and is slightly further away; express trains require 40 minutes (US$6 one way). Tourists heading to the east coast can bypass Kaohsiung and board one of the six trains per day to Taitung. On most of these services, the travel time is below three hours; one-way tickets cost around US$15 but should be booked a few days in advance, especially if you aim to go on a weekend.

Tainan doesn’t yet have a metro or rapid-transist system and the city’s bus system isn’t as comprehensive as that in Taipei. That doesn’t much matter because many of Tainan’s historical attractions are within walking distance of one another. Getting to Anping, however, means either hailing a taxi (it shouldn’t cost more than US$7 from the city centre) or boarding the No. 2 city bus (services every 20 minutes; journey takes around 25 minutes; less than US$1 one way). Once in Anping, it’s possible to rent a bicycle or simply walk from one relic to the next.

Renting a car in Tainan makes some sense — not for the city itself, but for exploring sights within the Siraya National Scenic Area like Moonworld and Xinhua. If driving oneself, the Buddhist complex at Foguangshan, Pingtung County’s indigenous communities and Taijiang National Park come within striking distance. Rental companies have offices inside the HSR station and close to the conventional railway station.

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