How to (really) drive in Taiwan

After the rather serious thread on “How to pass the Taiwan driving test”, I got to thinking how those of us who have lived here for a while could help educate nubies and others about how to really drive here… perhaps we can collect some favorite manouvers?

Let me get things started:

Right turn to major street without looking
Description: Make a right turn onto a major street without checking to see if there is traffic coming. Other cars will need to brake or swerve to avoid you, but that’s okay.
Method: To do this successfully you need to check just far enough down the street to check for anything that couldn’t avoid hitting you. Took me quite a while to resist the temptation to take a glance back - try to focus on knowing you will get there first if you do not hesitate.

Red lights don’t apply at night or holidays
Description: A traffic law you might have missed is that red lights can be viewed as ‘light green’ when you are in a hurry or it is quiet.
Method: This can get messy if you don’t get it right. Base you decision on: Are you in a hurry? (Taiwanese always are), will you get caught?, does the traffic look light?, is the street you are about to cross usually empty at this time? Slowing first to take a glance and then flooring the gas is okay for beginners.

Right turn is quicker from left lane
Description: Why wait in line on the right lane, when you can pass the queue on the left and make the turn from there.
Method: Pretty straightforward, just avoid eye contact with other drivers.

Higher points for a smooth ride
Description: Manhole covers are uncomfortable to ride over on a scooter. You will get 5 points for every one you miss.
Method: Try to drive from Hsin Dian to Nei Hu without driving across any manhole covers. Swinging around is okay. It gets harder as you go faster, but you loose points if you are late. Unfortunatly the points can’t be redeemed for anything useful.

On motorcycles, don’t waste time and money on crash helmets for the kids
Description: Why bother putting crash helmets on your child (under 100cm height say)? They won’t complain, they trust you explicitly.
Method: Pretty easy, just don’t supply a helmet. You will save at least NT$200 (US$7), not to mention the time and bother. Babies can be carried by the parent on the pillion. They are immune to injury as we all know.

When traffic is conjested, cars should use all the available space
Description: When traffic is conjested try to use all available road space. This means driving your car into the center of junctions, using the shoulder and the motorcycle lanes. You will get stuck, but you will be (slightly) nearer your destination.
Method: Make sure you have a phone available or a TV in your car. This can help avoid you being distracted by angry drivers that you have cut off. This particularly applies when you are blocking the bike lane at night in the rain.

A few more.

Don’t park your car unless you are absolutely sure you can’t double park first. Double parking is much more convenient.

When reversing in or out of a car park, be sure to hit the car parked in you front and rear as many times as possible. If able, try to set off their alarms too.

Make sure you have a ciggy in one hand, mobile in the other, and be watching a dvd or tv show on the screen hanging from your sun visor. Only watch the road when it’s an add break.

I have several theories about traffic in Taiwan. Certain indications are that smoking while riding a scooter makes you safer, and the whole “legs akimbo” makes you even more invulnerable, perhaps leading other drivers to believe you are a gangster and therefore cannot be injured. Same goes for everyone in black benzes.

Also, don’t look at the lights. Just go when everyone else goes, and stop when hell freezes over.

How about this one then:

Those stupid white lines.

Lines separating lanes are painted all over the place. Those are a waste of taxpayers money. Boycott them and drive wherever you want in what way you want. You’ll go much faster that way.

Drive in the left lane on the freeway. That stupid foreign invention of letting slow cars drive in the right lanes and reserve the left lane for overtaking is imperialist and we don’t want it here. Drive 70 km/h in the left lane and amuse yourself by watching all the fools overtake you to your right. Or even better… Get together with a couple of friends and drive side by side down the Sun Yatsen freeway at 60 km/h.

There is one simple rule - AVOID AN ACCIDENT -think ahead - no matter if you think you are right or wrong - if you have an accident it takes at least 2 hours to sort it out - major incentive to have no accidents.

After a year of driving a car here - I am pretty sure that this is how it works.

People claiming “right of way” as expected in most Western countries will have lots of accidents. Cool it! Go with the flow!

Yup, it took me a while to figure out that when two cars meet on a narrow road, they’ll both stop and wait for the other to make the pass. The reason for this is that whoever is moving is to blame for any scratch that might occur. Especially funny when neither car has made any attempt to pull into the side, therefor leaving no room to pass. Of course, its vital not to make eye contact with the other driver and to refuse to budge either forward or backward until at least 10 cars and buses are backed up on each side of the jam.
Such fun!

I’d like to see the look on a Taiwanese drivers face when he gets in an accident in America.

“What the hell are the police doing here? All we did was get in an accident and hit each other with various blunt objects a couple times!”

An addition:

Gasoline has become more expensive again. To save money, don’t turn on your lights at night, especially when running on the left side of the road. This way your head lights will not blind those mysterious ghost drivers approaching you, allowing you to do a serious contribution to traffic safety. And don’t worry, there will always be some rich guy who will light the surroundings for you - somehow…

The law demands you let people know you want to turn. To achieve this, overtake the vehicle almost passing the junction you want to take, get on the brakes and turn right in front of that vehicle - otherwise that driver might never have known you wanted to turn there.

Gosh all this discussion got me thinking of a few more stunts:

Drive on the wrong side of the road if more convenient
Description: You come to an intersection of a major street. The place you want to go is 200m down the major street on the right and the same side. Conventional logic says turn right (to the far lanes), drive past the place you want to go, then make a U-turn and drive back.
Method: Not in Taiwan, it is quite okay to turn right into oncoming traffic and creep down the wrong side of the street. If you get scared (=something big comes along) stop and pretend you are parked (or double parked) for a moment. Easier on a scooter than in a car.

Right turn at red via sidewalk
Description: You are on a scooter, stuck behind cars waiting at a red light. Exit road to the sidewalk, turn right on the sidewalk, then re-enter road.
Method: Pretty easy, try to drive quickly so pedestrians and cops don’t have time to stop you. There is no need to stop at the light and yield. Don’t forget you can ‘Turn left without looking first’ when entering the road again. This manouver is rarely attempted in cars, probably only due to restricted sidewalk space.

‘Right-of-way’ is a misconception of foreigners in Taiwan. The concept is not present in the road rules of this country. Arguing that you had right-of-way after an accident is a waste of breath. Factors that affect whether you can proceed appear to be:

    [*]Can you get there first?[*]Are there cops around?[*]Relative size and speed of vehicles (never wrestle with fast cement trucks)?[*]Is one of the vehicles a black Benz or taxi (since both are usually driven agressively)?[*]The time of day (rules change at night)?[*]Fear of the financial impact of an accident (Chinese hate to waste money on such matters)[*]Traffic lights (but not lane markings) seem to have some bearing on the issue, but exactly what is not clear.[/list]Don't worry about emergency vehicles, this is the only country in the world where police, fire, and even ambulance have to compete on equal terms.

Shop night markets from your scooter
Description: Best in food markets. Compare prices and get those groceries, all from the comfort of you scooter seat
Method: Pick a small scooter. With practice you can check the cabbage prices and weave through the crowds at the same time with ease. Won’t work in crowded places like Shilin, but okay otherwise. Try not to imagine what it would be like if everyone else was doing the same thing.

You can cross an intersection after waiting at a red light as long as the light is green by the time you reach the opposite side.

Indicating a turn is not necessary, but if you feel the need to, please indicate at least 30 seconds before your turn. Please note that you may use either sides indicator, or both, regardless of which direction you want to turn.

Motorcycles and scooters may drive the wrong way down lanes, small streets and footpaths. Note, for classification purposes a blue truch qualifies as a motorcycle.

Old ladies on bicycles need not ovey any road rules including stopping at red lights. ‘The Force’ will prevent anyone hitting them.

You may only drive a scooter int he ‘car only lanes’ if you drive at speeds exceeding 80KMPH thus redefining your vehicle as a ‘car’ for purposes of this regulation.

Although parking apces in lanes are open to all members of thepublic, ‘your space’ may be reserved with a potplant, chair or can of paint.

For convenience sake, please ensure that no space of more than 1 meter is left vacant betweent he front of your vehicle and the rear of any vehicle in front of you. This space could be efficiently used by other motorists.


Always drive as if you were the only car on the road. Or at least the only sentient being behind the wheel. It is well known that all other drivers are automatons who instinctively will react to your sudden manouvers no matter how disruptive or dangerous. If a car was 100 feet back last time you checked in the rear view mirror then it will always be in that same spot. This rule is especially important to remember when you want to cut across two lanes and there is only space between two moving cars. Remember, that space that is just enough, will always be enough becaue no one else changes their mind, speeds up, slows down, or does anything unexpected, except you.

When changing lanes on the highway, never check your blind spot. In fact don’t even admit that you have a blind spot. This will only bring trouble to you should you hit the car beside you. After all, you wouldn’t want to admit that the accident was in any way avoidable.

When accidents do occur, always be friendly because it is well known that they were caused by angry, vengeful gods whom you or the other driver have lost fortune with. Don’t listen to your foreign friend who tells you he saw it coming a mile away for this and that reason. “Are you clairvoyant? Can you see the future?” are two possible responses to his impertinence.

Make sure you get really dark tint on your windshield, and don’t let them cut out a viewing hole on the driver’s door window. You dont want to see what’s coming on a dark, rainy night.

Most important driving rule of all:

It isn’t the skill or defensiveness of the driver that matters in preventing acccidents but the number of times you bai bai in a month, and the general lucky feeling that you have about yourself.

Right of way

I think I finally figured out how even bikes could be granted such right - if only I could find a garage that would fit those nice little missiles James Bond had on his car in “Living Daylights” onto my bike…

Make sure to drive your car down the middle of a bustling busy night market (Yunghe in particular). There’s always two or three idiots a weekend who think inconveniencing 1000 people to get to a destination 30 minutes longer is an idea.

Well I drive (a car)like a slightly less agressive local - I drive slowly thru red lights - cannot yet bring myself to honk someone in front if they are stopped at a red light - but it used to often happen to me, till I joined them. But this is part of the size rule - 4 lanes each way - never disobey the red light. Narrow street - traffic lights are decoration, especially at night.

Little aside - there is a one way street near my gym that has traffic lights for people going the wrong way ) and another set on the other side of the major road that you could not get to unless you had one of those monster vehicles that could climb 1 metre barricades. They still seem to be connected some sort of traffic program - maybe like the ones in the tunnels that have daytime lighting at night and nightime lighting in the day.

Another trick to learn:

The premptive honk
Traffic lights about to turn green?.. worried the scooters in front are not going to start moving as soon as the lights on the cross street go red (never mind waiting for green)? Give a good honk to make sure they are awake, if you are lucky it may shock one or two into starting immediatly.

Originally posted by amos: There's always two or three idiots a weekend who think inconveniencing 1000 people to get to a destination 30 minutes longer is an idea.

Don’t forget driving in Taiwan’s prime directive: Think only of yourself. Incoveniencing others does not matter, since you are the only one who counts.

This philosophy does have one logical weakness however, in a cooperative system the optimal strategy can be shown to be ‘tit-for-tat’… meaning if you do it to me, I’ll do it to you. So if you slow down others, they will slow down you when they get a chance. Since one selfish move usually delays 10 other cars, it does some way to explaining Taipei traffic speeds. Clearly this concept is beyond the grasp of the average driver, so faced with such a system, your best policy is to follow tit-for-tat also.

Is this state of affairs inevitable (given crowded conditions, bad roads etc.), or is it a side effect of currently held societial values (such as views of self importance)? Do we have a sociologist in the house?

New problems demand new solutions:

As long as it fits
Ma Ying Jiu in his wisdom is reorganizing motorcycle parking in Taipei by constructing boxes cut into the sidewalk that will park 5-6 bikes each. Since this drastically reduces the number of spaces, you will need to use drastic measures to get parked.

Assuming you have tried and failed shuffling the bikes up to make more space. Don’t forget you can try to force yours in as hard as possible, especially if it is a 10 year old messed up 50cc model. Use the engine to help. Don’t worry about scratching paint on other bikes, they are someone else’s property. If that fails then try shuffling all the bikes back a bit and put yours in parallel to the kerb at the back of the box. Really hard to get in and out, but it can work if you are late for bu xi ban.

Another great Taiwan driving strategy:
To prevent tailgaters, just mount a few strobe lights on the back of your car or scooter to blind anyone who gets too close.

Time for a joke?

Do you know why Formula One racing has no Chinese racing teams?

Too much double parking in the qualifying rounds!

Please forgive me if you think this has anything to do with racial issues, it is purely a cultural observation.