A common question posed by foreign travelers with Taiwan on their horizon regards the viability of renting a car upon arrival. Are there reasonable rental options available to visitors? And if so, is it even a good idea to get behind the wheel of an unfamiliar vehicle in even more unfamiliar territory? Let’s find out.
5 Things Foreign Visitors Need to Know About Renting a Vehicle in Taiwan and What May Be a Better Option
You Need an International Driving Permit (IDP)
Before you can even check to see if there is an Enterprise (there isn’t) in Taiwan you need to make sure you have an International Driving Permit (IDP) to operate a vehicle. No trusted rental service will hand you the keys without one. You will need to obtain one from your home country. In Canada, you must apply through the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA). In the U.S., stand in line at the nearest American Automobile Association (AAA). In the UK and EU you will need to see your respective AA, and be sure to do so well in advance if you absolutely must rent a vehicle in Taiwan.
The IDP is only good for your first 30 days. If staying longer (and you want to keep renting) you must apply for an extension of the IDP at the Motor Vehicles Office at Taipei. This will allow you to continue driving in Taiwan until the end of your visa-dictated day of return.
Again, take care of this well in advance. Unlike many other global destinations, you can’t simply hop off the plane, hit the nearest car rental, and smile beside your driver’s license photo to the rental clerk and hope to hop into a Prius.
Car Rental Agencies in Taiwan
Assuming you have your IDP in tow, you know need to know if there are recognized names in the car rental biz before you hand over your credit card info and cough up for the insurance add-ons. For the most part, you won’t recognize car rental brands (compared to North America, the UK, and EU), but there are a few usual suspects. Below is a list of bigger car rental brands operating in Taiwan:
- AVIS (20 locations)
- Budget (6 locations)
- Chailease Auto Rental (33 locations)
- Hertz (25 locations)
- IWS (18 locations)
Just five? No, there are more, but to be honest you’ll be a little taken aback when walking up to some of the other lesser known rental facilities, and even their websites don’t adequately translate to english. If you must rent, stick with one of the above, but also keep reading.
Note: Rental costs are pretty consistent with rates around the world, and range between 2,000NT$ (~ $65 USD) and 8,000NT$ (~ $260 USD) per day, depending upon make and model (i.e. compact, luxury, etc.).
Reading the Signs
We’re not getting astrological on you with a statement about “reading the signs”, although you may wish to do so before tacking the at-times tumultuous roads of Taiwan on your own (more on this below). Instead, we’re referring to the street, road, and highway signs of Taiwan. Are they adorned by the common traveler tongue, or at least the same relative symbols?
Although major signs are in both English and Mandarin, critical road information (i.e. detours and construction, etc.) will typically only be in the latter, so you may take a wrong turn without a translator handy. Otherwise, Taiwan uses the same road traffic signs that are familiar in most American, Asian, Australian, Canadian, and European countries. For quick reference, check out the International Driver’s License Application page listing Taiwanese Road Traffic Signs.
Navigating the Chaos
One word is often used to describe the traffic to and from the major cities and tourist attractions in Taiwan – chaos, even if you’re used to driving along the right side of the road. If you’re uneasy behind the wheel on the freeway of your own metropolis, don’t drive here. If you have a bad sense of direction, don’t drive here. If you get agitated when motorcycles, scooters, motorized trikes, bikes, and pedestrians dart in and out of your line of vision, don’t drive here. If you exhibit any combination of these qualifiers – don’t even consider renting a car. Of course, once you hit the lush countryside and/or move through the coastal townships things get much less hectic. However, once in rural Taiwan the concerns switch from traffic to availability of gas stations. Be sure to fill up at every possible stop along the way because the next station may be too far for comfort.
Before you get turned off at the prospect of visiting Taiwan, thinking that even as a passenger you’ll be stuck in a perpetual queue instead of actually enjoying all that you came to see, take note that will the right driver, you will enjoy traveling along the best shortcuts, routes, and times of day to avoid the headaches that come from attempting to go at it alone. Keep reading.
Roll With a Local Guide Instead
Is renting a car to explore Taiwan a viable scenario for foreign travelers? Sure. Is it a pleasant one? That question doesn’t come with a clear cut answer, but more often than not it does come with some regret. But alas, you don’t have to miss out on the activities and attractions that you want to see and experience, even if there are no shuttles or other forms of public transportation available to take you to a given destination. With a local driver guide, you can experience all that a “Taiwanese road trip” can be, and you will enjoy the journey as much as the destinations you stop at along the way. When you use a Loci Amica local guide, you can dictate what you want to see, and what general schedule you want to follow. It offers you all of the freedoms of having your own rental vehicle, but without any of the concerns pertaining to responsibility for insurance, gas, and rules of the road.
Leave the stress of driving a rental car in Taiwan behind and instead hit the road with a local guide. Book the tour and connect to one before your next trip to our island state.