Read This Before Renting a Car and Driving in Taiwan!

Nick Kembel wearing black and pink cap, black long sleeved shirt, taking selfie while leaning on the hood of a white rental car, with mountain vista in the background

For my first five years in Taiwan, I was very happy that I didn’t need to drive. I love walking. Taiwan’s public transportation is incredible. Once in a while, I would rent a scooter for small solo trips around the country, and that was always a blast.

Then I had kids.

A young boy toddler in a car seat wearing large sunglasses
Welcome to my new life after having kids in Taiwan.

Getting the car just made sense. But in the end, we mainly only used the car for trips out of the city. Driving in Taipei or New Taipei City is such a pain that we often still chose to take a taxi, MRT, or our scooter instead.

Recently, I tried renting a car in Taiwan for the first time. So on this article, I’ll be sharing my experience renting the car and driving in Taiwan in general. I’ll explain why I choose to rent the car on Klook, what you’ll need to rent one, and some tips and tricks for driving in this country.

I WON’T be making a detailed comparison of the many different car rental agencies in Taiwan or their insurance policy details, because that is beyond the scope of what I know. In addition to what they provide, I always recommend getting additional travel insurance in Taiwan.

What You’ll Need to Rent a Car in Taiwan

The front cover and picture page of Nick kembel's International Driver's Permit, with his personal info and face blocked out and an arrow pointing to his A stamp (motorcycle endorsement)
My IDP (note the “A” stamp – often needed for renting scooters in Taiwan)

There are only two things you’ll need to rent a car in Taiwan: your passport with Taiwan entry stamp (or ARC if you live there) and an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) (or Taiwanese driver’s license) under the same name.

Your local country’s driver’s license will be no use in Taiwan. You may also need to present the credit card which you used to make the booking.

IDPs are super easy to get but can only be issued in the country where you have a normal driver’s license. Be warned about websites claiming to issue IDPs online to anyone, no matter where you are – I’ve looked into these and concluded that they are not legal or valid.

In Canada, I got my IDP at AMA (Alberta Motor’s Association, in the US it’s AAA) – you may just need to Google which association issues IDPs where you live.

The IDP is issued on the spot – I just showed my normal driver’s license, paid the fee, had my photo taken, and had it ready in minutes.

An IDP is a little booklet with pages in multiple languages explaining that you are licensed to drive. It includes a page in traditional Mandarin characters, so people in Taiwan can read it. It will have stamps for which types of vehicles you can drive.

Note that my IDP above has an A stamp for riding motorcycles, which is often (but not always) needed to rent a scooter in Taiwan.

Also note that IDPs from a few countries won’t be accepted in Taiwan, such as Estonia. This is due to a bilateral lack of agreement – Taiwanese drivers also can’t drive in Estonia.

Why I Rented a Car (Despite Having One)

A white toyota car parked on the white stripes on the side of a highway with metal railing behind it and misty mountaintops in background
My rental car on the way to Hehuanshan

Even though my wife and I have a car and scooter in Taiwan, I still frequently rent scooters in Taiwan (even with my kids), and in this recent case, I also rented a car.

Taiwan’s public transportation is just so good and fast. Sometimes it makes more sense to take the train or High Speed Rail to another city then rent a scooter or car from there. This also avoids the hassle of driving through rush hour traffic to get out of Taipei.

For example, you can reach Hualien City in 2 hours by train, while driving takes 3-4 hours. Similarly, you can reach Kaohsiung in 2 hours by HSR, while driving can take 4-5 hours or even longer on holidays, long weekends, or Lunar New Year.

Two kids on a scooter on the coast of Xiaoliuqiu
Riding a scooter with my kids on Xiaoliuqiu

Another example is Taiwan’s offshore islands – you can’t take a car on the ferry (or airplane!) I always rent scooters for exploring Taiwan’s small islands, but some people opt for a car. Driving on these small islands is one of my favorite things to do in Taiwan.

My family and I actually no longer live in Taiwan. We now live in my hometown in Canada and make regular trips back to Taiwan. My wife’s family still has our car, but I can’t always use it. That’s why I recently rented a car for the first time, and plan to do it again on my next trip.

Renting a car can be cheaper than taking public transportation, especially for a group of people. For example, a whole day’s car rental (usually around TWD 1000 to 2000) is cheaper than booking two HSR tickets from Taipei to Zuoying (Kaohsiung).

Different Car Rental Companies (and why I chose Klook)

Screenshot of a page on Klook for rental a car, with "Taichung HSR station" selected as the pick up and drop off location and dates set
Klook car rental page

There are two main ways you could book a car in Taiwan:

  1. Directly from one of the many small local car rental agencies in Taiwan like CarPlus, GoodCars, HLC, Chih Hang, IWS, or Chailease.
  2. From an international agency with a presence in Taiwan or a 3rd party website which searches all the local rental agencies for you, like Avis, Budget, RentalCars, Hertz, Qeeq, or Klook.

The main concern for option 1 is that most Taiwanese companies don’t have English-speaking staff or websites (Chailease and IWS do, though, and have been recommended by my members of my Taiwan Travel Planning group. IWS even provides a handy English guide to driving in Taiwan).

International 3rd party booking platforms may take a cut, but at least they have good English websites, service, policies, and won’t ask you to communicate with them on the LINE app (as many small local companies in Taiwan do).

You could spend some time comparing the prices for your car rental on all these different platforms. I didn’t.

I booked my car here on Klook simply because I am already familiar with this platform and like it.

For this trip, I was already booking several other things on Klook, like discounted HSR tickets and tickets to famous attractions like Taipei 101. So it was nice to have all my bookings together on the same platform.

Another plus of booking with Klook is that they have various promo codes (for example, sign up for Klook with my link and you’ll get one). After you sign up, you can invite your friends to get even more promo codes for yourself and for your friends.

Also, every time you book something, you get Klook credits, which can be used to save even more money on future bookings.

Full disclosure: I am a full-time travel blogger and make a living my recommending things like Klook. If you click my affiliate link to book your car rental, I’d get a commission. But that’s not why I chose them for my car rental.

If I chose any other platform, I’d use an affiliate link for that one, too. I chose Klook for the reasons I mentioned above.

My Experience Renting the Car

A parking lot shot from slightly above, with clouds and mountains behind it
Kunyang parking lot is over 3000 meters above sea level

For this trip, I planned to ride the HSR from Taipei to Taichung then rent a car there for driving to Cingjing Farm, staying here for one night, then driving to Hehuanshan, where I stayed at Songsyue Lodge.

When I searched Klook for cars by inputting my pick-up/drop-off locations (extra fee if they are different) and dates, it gave me a list, starting with the smallest and cheapest ones. Since I was traveling by myself, I chose the smallest and cheapest car, a Toyota Yarris (which happens to be the same car my wife and I have in Taiwan!)

I also knew from my research that even such a small car is enough to drive up to Hehuanshan, which is the highest navigable pass in the whole country (Wuling Pass, 3275 meters).

Note: a small car like this is also perfect for squeezing through the super narrow road to Eryanping, a famous sunrise and sunset viewpoint in Alishan region!

Screenshot of a page on Klook with some insurance and price details about a rental car
Insurance details and price

By clicking on the car I wanted, I could see the price per day, insurance details, find out who the local provider was (Chih Hang / 直航租車) and find their location at Taichung HSR station on GoogleMaps.

After selecting, I could see more details, reviews, and the total price. On the final booking page, I entered my personal info (note: most providers won’t rent to age 70+).

This is also where I could use one of my Klook promo codes to get a discount. Under the add-ons section, you may also find the option to add a child car seat. If you don’t see it, you have to contact the provider directly to ask for it or try a car from a different agency.

I also noted that free cancellation was offered until 24 hours before my booking time.

Screenshot of the final page for booking a rental car on Klook, with total price, picture of car, pick up details, add-ons, and so on.
Final page with pick up info, add-ons, promo codes, etc.

Make sure to check the the agency location carefully after you make your selection. Even though their drop down list has many locations in every city, just because you choose a specific location, it doesn’t mean the car provider they match with will actually be in that exact location.

For example, you might click the TRA station in the city center, but it will match you with a provider at the HSR station (outside the city center).

After making the booking, I didn’t receive any messages from the car rental agency, but some travelers do. The agency may ask for a copy of your IDP in advance to make sure you have one.

The store front of a car rental agency
Chih Hang car rental agency at Taichung HSR station

When I arrived at Taichung HSR station, it was a five-minute walk from the station to the Chih Hang rental agency office here. I can speak passable Mandarin, so the staff member was very happy that he wouldn’t have to try to speak English with me.

After checking my documents, the staff showed me some insurance documents which were all in Mandarin (other agencies may have English ones). I admit that I didn’t check them carefully and I don’t have a good understanding of car insurance.

I just took photos of the forms in case I needed the info later and signed my life way…If you care more than I do (and you probably should), I suggest that you use a translation app to scan and translate the documents on the spot.

I also noted that this particular agency had a surcharge for excess mileage per day. There was a small surcharge for driving more than 250 km (single day return) or 400 km per day (multi-day rental). I never reached it on my rental. This may vary by agency.

Next, we went out to thoroughly inspect the car and note any damage, just like they would do in any country. He also took a photo of the gas meter and asked me to return the car with the same amount of gas, otherwise there would be a surcharge.

A white car parked on the side of a road with mountain view behind
Driving past epic views in Nantou

In some cases (same with renting scooters), the car may be almost empty when you get it and you need to fill it right away, then any amount left in it when you return it is essentially your loss. Others will be full when you get them, and you’ll need to return the car full.

They will tell you what kind of gas to ask for at gas stations – 95 is the most common, but it could also be 92 or 98. I’ll cover how to fill up at gas stations below.

And just like that, I was off with my car rental! Driving from Taichung to to Cingjing Farm and Hehuanshan was a breeze, especially with GoogleMaps, which works very well in Taiwan. Because the HSR station is outside the city center, I never had to drive through busy city areas.

Make sure to ask them for a mobile phone holder which will attach to the dashboard – I had to ask for it, but there was no charge for it.

Things to Know about Driving in Taiwan

Driving in Taiwan may be easy or challenging for you, depending on where you come from and what you are used to. The traffic in Taiwan is a little wilder than North America, Europe, or Japan, but not as bad as some parts of Southeast Asia, India, or many other parts of the world.

See here if you’re planning to buy a car in Taiwan.

Which Side of the Road Do They Drive On?

People standing at the side of a mountain ride taking pictures of motorcycles as they pull up to the mountain pass
Drivers arriving at Wuling Pass, the highest navigable pass in Taiwan

In Taiwan, cars drive on the right side of the road and the driver sits on the left side of the car.

This is the same as America, Canada, and most of Europe, but opposite from Singapore, Japan, Australia, and the UK.

General Driving Behavior in Taiwan

Looking down a long major road in taiwan at night, with streaks from the lights of driving cars and some cars parked at an intersection
Be prepared to see some crazy things on the road.

The most important rule to follow in Taiwan is to drive carefully, defensively, and expect anything. Local drivers regularly break the rules, drive erratically or aggressively, pass in dangerous ways, and do totally unexpected things.

Taiwan is known for its many scooters on the road. They will run red lights, merge or turn without signalling or shoulder checking, shoot out from hidden alleys, drive on the wrong side of the road, and so on.

There seems to be very limited enforcement of traffic rules in cities in Taiwan and I almost never see police checking for violations.

Generally, you will find driving more stressful in big cities, and much easier in rural areas, smaller towns, the East Coast, and on the small offshore islands. Mountain roads are fine but can be very winding, with lots of sharp, switchback turns.

Driving in Taipei

A very busy road in Taipei, with many buses, cars, and scooters, in the early evening
Typical traffic in taipei

Taipei city is the hardest place to drive in Taiwan due to the heaviest traffic, especially at rush hour.

The city also has many raised overpasses traversing the city – get on the wrong one and you may not be able to get off for a long time, ending up at some other end of the city. Sometimes, GoogleMaps even gets confused about which road you are on when there are roads above other roads.

Parking is the worst in Taipei. Many attractions, restaurants, and hotels don’t have parking lots. Parking lots can be hard to find or payment methods may be confusing for visitors.

For these reasons, I often advise people not to rent a car in Taipei. Instead, rent a car on your way out. Or better yet, take the train or HSR to your next stop (like Hualien or Taichung) and rent your car from there. That will be much easier and stress-free.

Renting at the Airport

Glass roofed entrance to Taoyuan Airport at night, with flowing red lights of a car driving up the entrance
Taoyuan International Airport

There are car rental agencies at Taoyuan Airport and all other major airports in Taiwan (see my guide to finding budget flights to all of Taiwan’s airports).

You can show up and get a car rental, but I recommend booking it in advance. At peak travel times, they may not have any cars left or won’t have the kind you want.

Since most travelers go to Taipei first, I generally don’t recommend renting a car for Taipei. Taking the MRT or Uber around the city is much easier and stress free.

Here’s how to get from Taoyuan Airport to Taipei or to Ximending.

How Does Parking Work?

Watch someone using a parking elevator in Taipei

A general rule is that if a curb is painted red, that’s for emergency vehicles so you can never park there. If a curb is painted yellow, you can’t park there from 7 AM to 8 PM.

Some attractions will have paid parking lots where you can simply swipe an EasyCard to pay as you drive in and/or exit. One example is the major parking lots in Yangmingshan National Park.

For private parking lots in cities, they may take EasyCard or cash. Some parking lots are not obvious from the outside – they will only have a car elevator at street level (see video above). After you park the car in it, the elevator will take it up and store it many levels above ground.

A street scene in Taiwan, with a food vendor, several parked scooters, and one parked car
Good luck finding parking on the street in big cities!

Other parking lots will have a machine where you need to pay. Last but not least, there are some cases where you park on the street and someone will come around and put a payment ticket on your window.

This is not a fine (unless you parked illegally) but simply a parking fee which you can pay later by showing it at any 7-Eleven or FamilyMart. If you do get a fine for parking somewhere you shouldn’t, you can take it to the rental agency when you return the car and they’ll handle it – you’ll need to pay for it, of course.

Use GoogleMaps to find parking lots in Taiwan. You can type in English, but searching 停車場 (parking lot) in Mandarin will pull up more results.

Outside of major cities, you will find parking at major attractions and scenic spots is much easier and may or may not have a fee.

Filling up on Gas

A gas pump at a petrol station in taiwan with four pumps for four different octane levels
Four octane levels of gas available in Taiwan

Gas (petrol) stations are all over Taiwan. Most of them are CPC (台灣中油) and you’ll quickly start recognizing the red, white and blue logo.

Taiwanese gas stations pretty much always have an attendant who will fill up the car/scooter for you. There are two things you need to tell them when you pull up: what kind of gas and how much.

The main types of gas (octane level) available in Taiwan Octane 92, 95, and 98. When you rent the car, they should tell you which one to put. I find that 95 is the most common, but I have also been told 92 for scooters.

To indicate which one you need to the gas station attendant, simply say the number as two single digits. 九二 (jiu er) for 92, 九五 (jiu wu) for 95, and 九八 (jiu ba) for 98.

Next, say 加滿 (jia man) to fill until full or say something like 加兩百 (jia liang bai) to say “add two hundred” dollars worth, or jia + any other number.

Don’t make it confusing by saying any more words. Locals don’t. Just pull up and say the words 九五、加滿 (“jiu wu, jia man“) meaning “95, fill up”. That’s it!

The gas price in Taiwan is around USD 1 per liter. When I rented the Yarris, the staff member told me that it cost about TWD 200 to fill up one section on the gas meter (i.e. from line to line). With 8 sections on the meter, that would be TWD 1600 from empty to full.

Speed Limits

Some cars blurred with motion as they drive past a 100 km/hr sign on a highway
100 is the most common speed limit on highways in Taiwan

Speed limits in Taiwan are posted in km/hr. Most commonly, the limit is 50 km/hr in cities, 60 km/hr on non-express roads outside of the city, 80 km/hr on freeways in the city, and 100 or 110 on freeways/highways outside the city.

Like most countries, people tend to go a little over, and yes, there are many speed cameras and red light cameras in Taiwan. If you get a ticket on a rental car, it will be sent to the agency and you’ll have to pay it.

You can get to know Taiwan’s freeway signs here.

A gray speed camera box on a pole pointed at an intersection in Taiwan
A speed camera in Taiwan

Other Traffic Rules to Know About

A traffic signal with red light and an attached sign that indicates no right turns.
Don’t turn right on red lights.

Generally speaking, I find the traffic rules in Taiwan to be very similar to my own country. One notable exception is that in Taiwan, you aren’t allowed to turn right on a red light (in my country you can, after making a complete stop).

Because there are so many scooters on the road in Taiwan, they sometimes have their own lane on the right side. Scooters also have their own way of turning left at major intersections – they can’t do it directly. They have to do it in two stages, but this is slowly being abolished.

An intersection in Taipei, with taipei 101 visible in the background, and some scooters parked in areas denoted by white lines, waiting to drive.
Note the special boxes for scooters who are one stage into turning left.

If you’re in a car and waiting at a red light at a smaller intersection, you may notice that when the light turns green, oncoming scooters which are turning left will zoom in front of you to make their left turn right away. For this reason, it’s best not to take off too quickly when the light turns gree, so they have time to pass.

In Taiwan, an unwritten rule (which they are trying to change) is that pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way. Anyone who has tried crossing the street as a pedestrian in Taiwan will be familiar with this. Cars just won’t stop for you most of the time, although this is slowly changing.

Some pedestrians crossing a crosswalk at night in the rain, holding umbrellas, and some taxis driving by
Cars don’t always stop for pedestrians, even at crosswalks

Thus, as a driver, it’s best not to be try to be too polite and stop every time you see a random pedestrian at the side of the road (unless it’s a pedestrian crosswalk – then you legally have to stop, and they are finally trying to enforce this – other cars can even catch you on camera and report it!)

Most pedestrians still don’t EXPECT you to stop, because many local cars won’t, so they may even be surprised if you do.

Also watch for lanes which are meant for buses only.

A small street in a residential area in taiwan with no cars or people, and no lights or signs to indicate the intersection
Residential intersections often don’t have lights or stop signs

One of the most common places where car accidents occur in Taiwan are the many small intersections with no traffic lights or stop signs in residential and rural areas.

Many local drivers will just rip through these intersection without slowing or checking for oncoming traffic, so be especially careful. Scooters may suddenly shoot out from hidden alleys, driveways, or sidewalks.

When driving on winding roads in the high mountains, at blind corners, there will be a large mirror so you can check for oncoming cars. It’s also courteous to give a little beep on your horn to let possible cars around the corner know you are coming.

Car Accidents or Problems

If you get in a car accident, take lots of photos of the vehicles and surroundings and call 110 (police) for minor accidents or 119 (fire/ambulance) for serious injuries. Also inform the car agency and bring the police report to them.

If you have a flat tire or need other roadside assistance, can your rental agency and they will send it for you.

Highway Tolls

Looking down on the middle of a multi-lane national freeway in Taiwan, which raised overpasses on either side
A national freeway in Taiwan

Off-numbered national freeways in Taiwan have electronic tolls. On GoogleMaps, national freeways are indicated with a number inside a flower symbol. Note: scooters cannot drive on national freeways.

The national freeways which have tolls are National Freeway 1 and National Freeway 3 (both from Keelung & Taipei to Kaohsiung), National Freeway 5 (Taipei to Yilan), and National Freeway 3A (Taipei to Shenkeng).

The fee for these is free for the first 20 km per day and TWD 1.2 per km after that. More details about the fees are here.

If you rented a car, you will need to pay these tolls to the rental agency when you return the car.

Highway Passenger Limits

The entrance of Xueshan Tunnel in Taiwan, with a car driving out of it
There’s a passenger minimum for this tunnel at peak traffic times (image is licensed under CC By 4.0)

To prevent congestion on Taiwan’s highways, there are sometimes high occupancy vehicle (HOV) rules for certain highways. This means you can only use the highway if you have a certain number of people in the car.

The most notable one is for the super-long Hsuehshan Tunnel (Xueshan Tunnel or 雪山隧道) on National Freeway 5 from Taipei to Yilan. When in effect, cars must have at least three passengers when going from Taipei to Yilan (start of long weekends) and Yilan back to Taipei (3 to 8 PM every Sunday and last day of long weekends).

During Lunar New Year, which is famous for highway congestion, a complicated schedule of HOV rules is put into effect across the country, mostly around major entry and exit points of national freeways.

The exact times and locations vary by day, location, and year, and are usually only released in Mandarin in the weeks leading up to New Year. It’s best to simply avoid driving during Lunar New Year holiday if you can.

4 thoughts on “Read This Before Renting a Car and Driving in Taiwan!”

  1. Thanks for all this info! Fellow Canadian returning to Taiwan in the Fall hopefully and toying with having a car to do a few things that I found inconvenient with public transport last time.

    Do you find it pretty obvious to avoid situations like a road only being for public transit or being only one way? The thing that gives me the most pause is how much signage seems to be Mandarain only and whether or not Google Maps might tell me to do something illegal, and I can’t tell because the notice is in a sign that is all text and no symbols.

  2. Hi Nick. Firstly, thank you for this post (and all your other posts about Taiwan). It’s been massive help for us as we come up with our own itinerary. I just want to ask if you know where we can rent a carseat for my 1yo. I checked your Klook link to car rental but didn’t find any add-on for carseat.

  3. The option to add child seat can be found on the second page, after you click on the car you would like, under the section “Choose add ons”. If that isn’t being offered for your selected car, then try others. And if it’s still not possible, then try some of the other providers I link to in the article. Good luck!

  4. I never had that issue, and GoogleMaps was generally very reliable. The only exception would be when driving in Taipei city, where the roads are more confusing and complex. There, when driving around with my wife (I always let her drive in the city), I found that sometimes when there are multiple layers or road, like an overpass above another road, then GoogleMaps gets confused about which one you are on and tells you to go the wrong way. Outside of the big city, I’ve never had this problem.

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