In this post I’m going to try to explain everything about my experience hitching around Taiwan.
Having never hitchhiked before, I had read that Taiwan was one of the best countries for it. Hitchwiki is a helpful resource, but only has advice for Taipei and Kaohsiung. We followed the advice for those areas and had no trouble, but had to find our own way elsewhere.
As far as hitchhiking goes, we are two foreign white guys. Generally speaking I think single women will have an easier time getting rides, followed by two women, a mixed couple and then two guys. Having said that, we had no trouble. We always made sure to have a sign written in Chinese of our destination city/town, as well as a sign saying ‘South’ (or North).
Our route of travel was from Taipei, along the East Coast and then back up the West Coast returning to Taipei.
Taipei to Hualien
We followed the advice on Hitchwiki for this leg and took the MRT to Taipei Nangang Exhibition Centre. From there we walked about 10 minutes to just before the onramp heading southwest towards Yilan/Hualien.
After only 5 minutes we were picked up by a couple heading to Yilan. They didn’t speak much English but we sang Karaoke with them in the car and it was a good first ride.
We were dropped off in Yilan at the entry to the highway south. While Matt went and found a bathroom somewhere, I stood with the sign. After 3 minutes, a car pulled up and told me to turn the sign around – I was holding it upside down. After turning the sign up the right way, a car pulled up after 1 only one minute! It was two old guys who couldn’t speak English, and just in time as some feral dogs were approaching and getting quite aggressive!
These guys were happy to just give us a ride and didn’t seem too interested in talking to us, they were just doing us a favour and giving us a ride. I made the most of it and had a nap and then they dropped us right at the hostel in Hualien, perfect!
Hualien to Dulan
After a few days in Hualien we were on the move again, this time to Dulan. To get to Dulan, there is two main routes. One is a highway that follows a valley slightly inland down to Taitung, which would mean doubling back up the coastal road about 30 minutes. We were pretty keen to take the coastal road the entire way though.
We took the train from Hualien Centre to Ji’an Station on the outskirts of town. From there we walked about 15 minutes to a large intersection. We set ourselves up on a corner with our signs for Dulan, but weren’t having much luck early on. Then the woman working in the shop behind us was kind enough to bring us water, rice cakes and a bigger sign!
In the meantime, a couple of 15 year old boys rode past on their bicycles, stopped for a bit, and then moved on. 10 minutes later, they returned with their English speaking friend, who was wearing a Nazi SS hoodie (I’m guessing/hoping he didn’t understand the significance). He was asking us our plans and relaying them to the woman who owned the shop, and she offered to drive us further down the road to the service station, which would be a better spot to get a ride!
In the end, she actually insisted on driving us all the way to Dulan, visiting a couple of tourist attractions and also her mother along the way. Her kindness was unbelievable, she was quite religious and considered it her duty to help us, despite our protests. She dropped us off at 7-Eleven in Dulan, right by our hostel.
Dulan to Taitung
This was a VERY easy leg of the journey. Taitung is only 30 minutes south of Dulan, so we spent most of this day relaxing in Dulan and hitched a ride around 4pm. Dulan is basically clustered around the main road that runs through the town, so you could hitch anywhere on the main road there. We started walking south from our hostel, to set up outside the Sugar Factory. As we walked the 50 metres we held our signs up, and had a woman who worked at Dulan High School (but lived in Taitung) pull over and offer us a ride after walking 30 metres!
Again she dropped us off right at our hostel!
Taitung to Kenting
Taitung to Kenting was to be the longest leg of the trip. We started out by catching the train to Zhiben Station on the southern end of Taitung, and walked to 7-Eleven on the highway south.
Here it only took about 5 or 10 minutes for two older guys to stop and offer us a ride as far south as Daren, where the road cuts inland to approach Kenting from the west (on the east side the road ends before Kenting).
In Daren we got a ride in a BMW to Fengang, then while I was in the toilet in 7-Eleven in Fengang and Matt was waiting outside (not even holding the sign or trying to get a ride) a couple stopped and offered us a ride to Hengchung. In Hengchung it took us only 5 minutes to get another ride all the way to Kenting town with a couple of girls who were going that way for a holiday. I haven’t included descriptions of these locations because it really depends where your first (and subsequent) rides out of Taitung drop you off. But the trick is to find a spot by the side of the road that a) is in the direction you want to go, b) is easy for you to be seen by passing traffic and c) has space for a car t safely pull over.
Kenting to Kaohsiung
Kenting is a bit similar to Dulan in that the town is clustered around the main road. We decided to walk west past the main intersection and past the McDonalds and waited for about 20 minutes before a wedding singer heading to Hengchung stopped to pick us up.
Unfortunately, the wedding singer didn’t quite understand our plan, and we had trouble communicating with him. In Hengchung he dropped us off at the bus station. From there we decided to walk 20 minutes towards the main road out of town, again holding our signs as we walked.
Just as we began to approach a reasonable spot to hitch from, a flatbed crane truck stopped for us, awesome! The driver Abu was a legend. He was going all the way to Kaohsinug, and shouted us lunch on the way at a roadside stall. He called up his sister who spoke English and explained to Abu where we were staying, and he dropped us off right at the hostel!
Kaohsiung to Tainan
After three or four days in Kaohsiung, we were on the move again, this time to Tainan. These two cities are very close, only about 45 minutes apart. So while there is plenty of intercity travelers, finding the ‘outside’ of Kaohsiung tO hitch a ride isn’t so straightforward. Hitchwiki recommends a busy highway onramp basically in the middle of the city. We weren’t so confident with this spot because it appeared a bit difficult for vehicles to stop safely, but we gave it a go anyway, and caught the subway to Martial Arts Stadium and walked to the spot. After ten minutes a car stopped for us. This time it was a Kaohsiung City Council worker who lived in Tainan an was on his way home. He pulled over (not very safely) and the first thing he said to us was “It’s dangerous to stand here, quick get in”. So although it’s not the safest spot, it did work. He was also kind enough to take us all the way to our hostel!
Tainan to Taichung
In Tainan we caught a bus from 77 Hostel to the main station, and then a train to Yongkang Station. From Yongkang Station we walked to a place called ‘Love Wedding Castle’, which was just next to the onramp onto the highway North.
After abou a 20 minute wait in this spot, an older couple pulled over for us. They had hardly any room in their car, I’m amazed they thought they could fit two big foreigners with big backpacks. But after playing some Tetris and shuffling everything around, and our backpacks on our laps, we were away. On the way to Taichung they stopped at the service station for fuel. We took the opportunity to buy them a gift for giving us a lift. When we tried to give them the gift (Mochi sticky rice sweets) they had actually bought lunch for us at the same time! Then as we approached Taichung they insisted on taking us to the womans brother’s restaurant for stinky tofu. I hadn’t tried stinky tofu yet, but it smells horrible and tastes like a horse stable smells. I tried to be polite and ate most of it, but I won’t be eating it again. After the tofu, they took us to Taichung station where it was just a short walk to our hotel for the night.
Taichung to Taipei – The Final Leg
We only stayed in Taichung for one night. In the morning, we caught bus No. 61 to Zhong Qing Zhan bus stop, and from there walked to the CPC petrol station just before the entry to the highway back to Taipei.
After about 20 minutes of waiting a Porsche SUV stopped to pick us up! The driver was Joey, a Taiwanese guy going to Taipei for a business meeting. We jumped in and Joey dropped us off at the MRT in Taipei, and with the entire trip complete we all took a photo together!