Hitch hiking in Taiwan

Does anybody have any experience hitch hiking in Taiwan? I don’t think it would be possible on the freeways but definitely on some of the smaller roads, especially in the mountains and where there is no regular bus service.

Any experiences, advice, warnings or funny stories appreciated.

I’ve never heard of anyone hitching on the freeways, although I suppose if you waited near the on-ramps …

On other roads, especially in the mountains, its usually really easy – the only thing that’ll stop you getting a ride is traffic scarcity.

Generally, if you stick out a thumb to a passing truck, it’ll stop for you. Tourists don’t tend to stop, in my limited experience, but locals nearly always do, sometimes without even being hailed.

I haven’t done it for years, but my last trip was from Taipei down to Nantou County and around through Hualien, etc.

My best ride was the guy who picked me and a friend up, soaking wet, without our asking (we were smoking a large blunt at the time and would have preferred him to have passed on by) and took us where I asked him.

Then he bought us dinner and, much beer and kaoliang later, it transpired that he didn’t even LIVE in the village we’d asked to go to. We’re talking at least a 60km detour for Ah Pang (for that was his name) on twisty mountain roads.

We thought that was pretty damn nice of him. HA! We hadn’t seen nuthin’ yet. Eventually it came out we were headed toward Ilan via Lishan. So he hung with us all that evening, slept in his truck while we camped, took us next day to Lishan (best part of half-a-day’s drive) drank much more beer with us, took us to his mate’s place and asked him to take us to Ilan, which he did without a second thought.

That was a cool trip.

I was back there with the wife a few years later and found the mate in Lishan. Ah Pang, however, had died of cancer a year or two before.

… and this is why I love Taiwan.

Thx Sandman.

my first week in Taiwan 5 years ago, I fled Taipei after 72 hours looking for green. I hitchhiked with a foreign friend and no Chinese towards Hualien where we’d heard there was some gorge or something.

It was a hitchhiker’s fantasy. We soon realised we could stop any car we wanted, started waiting for nice spacious ones to come along, listening for the approaching engine noise before deciding whether to ride in it (“nah, it’s got a bit of a rattle. We can do better…”). We were fed, given drinks…

After a time though I began to feel guilty. This wasn’t hitchhiking. Where was the chase? At home, I’d juggle to draw attention to my bedraggled self. Hitchhiking you expend immense psychic energy willing cars to slow, your heart jumps as a car begins to brake (but then you realise it’s just changing gear to get past you faster). In Taiwan, it was like hitchhiking at the pick n’ mix – 2 BMWs and, um, yes, a minivan, why not?

As far as I could tell with no Chinese, people didn’t really get it. They thought we were lost and on a number of occasions would deliver us to a train station where we’d thank them, wait for them to leave, then start the walk out of town again.

After a few hundred kilometers of this I felt awkward amd embarrassed hailing another car.

with that, and the realization from that first week’s trip that Taiwan is far more beautiful at the speed of a bicycle, I never did it again.

Here is a sequence I have played many times: take several busses to
get to some on-ramp, e.g. Zhonghe, freeway 3, S.W. of Taibei. Then
stand there for an hour when 1 million cars go past me while I think
I am such a big fool. And they are only going 5 km/h at that spot
too. Finally break into a conversation with someone who has stopped
to buy snacks and ok, he’ll give me a lift.

Anyways, when you add all the local busses needed to get to the on/off
ramps, and the hours spent standing there “like a fool”, you see why
the locals think you must be nuts, so don’t pick you up, as with the
cutthroat intercity bus competition, rates are real low, perhaps less
than all those local busses you just took to get to the on/off ramps,

Perhaps in the country it is different, however I tried all the poses,
background settings, baseball hat positions, backpack on/off
indicating tiredness, the whole array of facial expressions, etc. but
still I am a “no sale” item in general.

Anyway, it is clear that you are out for fun and games and not trying
to get anywhere to them, as for a few pennies you could be on an
intercity bus. That you are instead hanging around the on ramps with
the stray dogs indicated that you are just out for fun and games today
– not something the average driver has in mind.

Anyway, that is my on ramp story. As far as actually hitchhiking on
the expressway itself, that is sure to cause an accident and you will
then be front page news.

As far as hitchhiking in the country, well, I do admit pleasure in
finally having a road atlas to accidentally show the driver, that has
lots of pictures of me in it, explaining my miracle electric utility
pole number navigation system, as you see plastered all over my web
pages. The only problem is the atlas is too big.

One time near Zhongli on this secondary road this old man was telling
me the only way I was gonna get a ride was to hold up a motor oil
container indicating distress. Things were looking down, when all
the sudden this chick on a motorbike zooms off with me, to the
amazement of the old timer, still holding the motor oil container.

Hope you didn’t marry her too, Dan!

I think you’re right about the freeway hitching, though – what would be the point?

I’ve only hitched once in Taiwan – and that was just for a few km to get into Jiufen before the temperature dropped any more. No problem getting a ride for me and the others I was with.

The interesting part is that even though we got picked up by off-duty taxi drivers, they wouldn’t take any money.

If you want to go to Daxi beach but don’t want two hours on the slow train (or miss the last one in the morning), get the fast train to Fulong and stick out your thumb (make sure your facing South). Dead easy.


You guys are right - hitch hiking in the countryside and mountains is supereasy if you’re a foreigner. If there’s heavy traffic, say late on a Sunday afternoon when everyone’s heading back to the city, people are usually more reluctant to stop (because they don’t want someone to crash into their back). Also, on weekends and holidays, a lot of vehicles are too full to take hitch hikers - kids, granma, the lot are already inside. This means who end up getting picked up by locals (often farmers in those ubiquitous small blue trucks), who are often not going very far. Occasionally I’ve been picked up by people who want to show off their English/show off their driving skills/annoy the hell out of me, but all in all Taiwan is a hitcher’s paradise. Do chose your hitching spot with care, though, for your safety and the safety of those stopping to pick you up!

Happy hitching!

Steven Crook

When I did the Typhoon Tour from Hell last summer, I spent a whole dy in Taroko gorge. I started out at 8am and had walked along a few trails and stopped to sit in the river for a little while, but around 2pm while I was hiking to the Baiyun Waterfalls with it being the middle of August, I decided that while I had enough energy to keep walking (without realizing just how far away I was), I should save my energy and try hitchhiking. I wasn’t really seriously trying…I just stuck my thumb up non-chalantly whenever I saw a car going my way. Two cars passed before a car stopped for me with a young couple inside. It turned out that they were going to go see the same waterfalls and asked if I wanted to join them. They blasted the air con for me to help me cool down while the girl, Teresa chided me for walking in the heat. It was easily 85+ degrees out that day and very sunny. I wound up spending the rest of the day and part of the early evening hiking with them and then we exchanged phone numbers. Later in the fall, I went out for lunch with Teresa a few times.
Overall, I don’t regret hitchhiking in Taroko Gorge and it’s fairly safe there, even for a girl like me who prefers travelling alone as long as you’re smart about it.

  1. Go from places that have people around but not crowds where in the worst case, no one will remember you.
  2. Call someone from your cell phone while in the car with the driver and have them speak to your friend.
  3. Never hitchhike at night.
  4. Do it in a place where there is little chance to stray from the main road. In Taroko Gorge there’s not many places for a car to go. I wouldn’t hitchhike along a highway unless I was with a larger male or with at least two other people.