Double-Decker Sightseeing Buses Brighten the Streets
Taipei Viewing – New Heights & Breezy Rides
Article ｜Xu Kaisen
Photos ｜Shi Chuntai, Xu Yirong, Department of Information and Tourism, Taipei City Government
There’s now a new way to play when you come to Taipei – take a ride on a double-decker sightseeing bus, and see all the popular hotspots in a single outing! During the city sightseeing-bus tour, scenic and architectural highlights are introduced, providing visitors with a quick outline of Taipei’s contours. Travelers who have already crossed the sea to visit Taipei will surely be willing to put on light rain gear and risk a bit of the wet stuff, in order to experience the city’s real atmosphere and ambience. To the intrepid voyager, this is the true meaning of travel!
Taipei is a friendly tourist city that the American social media website BuzzFeed included among the “53 Beautiful Cities Everyone Should Visit At Least Once.” For a ticket costing just NT$300, visitors can board a brightly-designed, highly e-oriented double-decker bus for a tour of Taipei from a novel high-up perspective.
Taipei is like a richly melodious symphony that allows visitors to explore her at many different tempos. “Lento” travel involves slow, leisurely explorations on foot; “andante” means unhurried wandering on YouBike rentals; “allegro” travel is energetic scooting about, hither and thither, on Taipei Metro jaunts. “Moderato” travel has now been added – comfortable, fun double-decker sightseeing bus rides, viewing the city from a high perch fanned by cool breezes. This is surely the easiest and most relaxing way to tour Taipei.
8 Buses Hit the Road – A New Page in Sightseeing Launched
Jenny Han, from South Korea, hopes to move to Taipei as an exchange student next year. Taking advantage of winter vacation, she has come to Taipei now to check out the school she wants to attend, and is touring the city while here. While she is standing on a Taipei street, trying to figure out how the local public transit works, a red bus stops right in front of her. Speaking to the attendant in halting English, Han learns that this is a sightseeing bus. She buys a ticket on board using her VISA card, decides on an upper deck window seat, and then downloads a dedicated audio guide using the special bus-service App. Taipei’s winter weather is not as biting cold as in Korea, and she feels comfortable. As she listens to the guide introduce Taipei’s character and culture in her native Korean, she imagines the time she’ll spend here studying, and looks forward to experiencing Taipei’s gentle breezes again next year.
In 2016, Taipei was included in MasterCard’s Global Top 20 Top Destination Cities Index for the first time, placing 15th, ahead of Osaka, Shanghai and others. Also in 2016, from January through November, the number of foreign visitors to Taipei reached 8.88 million, an increase of approximately 220,000 over the same period in the previous year. Around the globe, leading international metropolises such as New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong, and Singapore all have sightseeing buses specially designed for tourists, with routes connecting major attractions. It can well be said that this is the optimal type of transportation for providing visitors with a good understanding of a city’s profile. Thus, seeking to provide Taipei tourists with a sightseeing experience wholly different from that of the past, the Department of Information and Tourism, Taipei City Government has unveiled 8 purpose-built double-decker buses for use this year. In line with the standards of other global metropolitan areas, the service provides travelers with a convenient, time-saving choice.
Launching these buses was an important component in Mayor Wen-je Ko’s (柯文哲) “Tourism ABC” (觀光ABC) promise in his election campaign; the buses are the “B” in “ABC.” After the mayor took office, the Department began promoting the sightseeing-bus project, but because there were no precedents in Taiwan double-decker safety inspection, it was necessary to overcome many regulatory issues. But, after a series of testing-process twists and turns, the vehicles were at last ready for the road!
At the press conference introducing the service, Mayor Ko said that, “In the past, exploring Taipei usually meant taking the metro or a public bus, on which there was no chance to view the Taipei skies. With the formal launch of the Taipei Sightseeing double-decker bus service, the future offers new ‘heights’ in seeing Taipei.”
Sophisticated Service – Departures Adjusted to User Flow
The Taipei City Government also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Japan’s HATO BUS, which operates more than 100 routes under its banner. This will open a new page in Taiwan-Japan double-decker sightseeing-bus cooperation and will stimulate reciprocal visits between the two countries, enhancing travel convenience on both sides. The Taipei service will echo the operational approach used by HATO BUS i.e. each vehicle will have just one service attendant to provide tourist information and safety instructions, sell tickets, and attend to other traveler needs.
“Hop on, hop off” service is offered, meaning that during the validity period of a user’s ticket, he/she can get on or off at any stop, with no limit on the number of trips. Visitors can tailor their rides to personal preference – free to disembark and visit any attraction they wish!
GPS positioning is used on-board to provide synchronized real-time information. Just download the Taipei Sightseeing App (饗樂趣台北App) using your mobile phone and receive audio-guide service in any of the four languages – Chinese, English, Japanese, or Korean – with introductions to local attractions, businesses and more. While on the move, visitors enjoy Taipei’s pleasing views while gaining a deeper understanding of the city’s customs, history, and culture through the audio. As well, before the bus arrives at each stop, the stop name is announced over the broadcast system in the four languages named above.
Another matter worth mentioning is that a dedicated bus station has not yet been established for the service, so a user-flow detection system has been specially set up. As passengers get on and off, the system uses an image recognition function to automatically tally user numbers, with real-time relay of the information back to operations control. Control personnel can then refer to the data and adjust vehicle frequency, and users can use the App to check real-time status of seat availability. User-flow detection on buses is a pioneering initiative – the first time ever in Taiwan!
EasyCard Swiping – Instant Ticket Purchase Using App
The care and attention given to this project by the Taipei City Government can be seen in the fittings and equipment inside the bus. World-class intelligence systems have been incorporated; from ticket purchase to ride, the best in high-tech has been applied. Travelers can use the App to book tickets online, tap the App’s QR code when boarding and scan the ticket barcode to confirm. Tickets can also be purchased from the vehicle attendant after getting on. There is a complete on-board payment system, and, of course, both EasyCard and iPASS smart cards can be used.
Ken, who comes from Malaysia, is married to a lady from Taiwan. He says that the sightseeing buses in Malaysia only provide guide service in English, tickets can only be purchased from a counter, and there are no on-board USB charging ports. The Taipei double-deckers have audio-guide service in four languages; you can buy your tickets online the moment your plane lands; or you can buy your tickets overseas through a travel agency before even starting your trip – the ultimate in convenience!
Ken has also been on the sightseeing buses in Barcelona, London, Paris, and elsewhere, and says that tickets for all of them must be purchased on-the-spot, making them not as convenient as Taipei. A lover of DIY travel, he praises Taipei’s handy transportation. Now, with the double-decker sightseeing buses as well, he can ride with ease and comfort to Taipei’s tourism hotpots, and sometimes just decides to stay on the bus, happily taking in Taipei’s scenery from his high-up perch!
5 Ticket Choices – Flexible Popular Attraction Touring
According to the Visitors Expenditure and Trends Survey Report released by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau, Ministry of Transportation and Communications (交通部觀光局), the ratio of DIY travelers as compared to travelers overall increased by four percent to 75% in the first three quarters of last year. The visitor rate for such Taipei City attractions as Ximending, Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, and tourist night markets is on the rise. Accordingly, two routes were mapped out for the city’s sightseeing buses: Red and Blue. Both begin at Taipei Main Station, with buses on one headed for Xinyi District, on the other for the National Palace Museum. The tours cover approximately 20km in total and encompass about 2 hours of riding. There are 20 stops overall, including the favorite hotspots mentioned above.
There are 4 types of tickets offered. The one-day ticket is just NT$700, far less than what is charged in London (about NT$1,013), Paris (about NT$1,132), and Dubai (about NT$1,841). Globe-trekking Ken, who has experienced many countries’ sightseeing buses firsthand, thinks Taipei’s price is very reasonable and competitive.
“I often tell friends and relatives back home how convenient a city Taipei is,” he says, smiling. “With the sightseeing buses now added, the Blue and Red routes are entry-points for Taipei exploration. I’ve already posted the info on my Facebook page!” This friendly and convenient tourism environment is attentive to the needs of every traveler, reducing time spent running around, and making for a more in-depth experience of Taipei and its endless charms.
Taipei Double-Decker Sightseeing Bus Routes and Fares
Operating Hours: 09:10 ～22:00
Departures: around 40 minutes
Route: Taipei Main Station→MRT Ximen Station (The Red House) →Xinyi Rd.-Linsen Rd. intersection (Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall) →Xinyi Rd.-Yongkang St. intersection→MRT Daan Park Station→Xinyi Rd.-Tonghua Rd. intersection (Linjiang Street Tourist Night Market) →Songlian Rd.-Songzhi Rd. intersection (Taipei 101/Taipei World Trade Center) →Mouth of Songshou Rd. (Vieshow Cinemas Xinyi) →MRT Taipei City Hall Station→MRT Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall Station →MRT Zhongxiao Dunhua Station →Dinghao Market →MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing Station →National Audit Office (Huashan 1914 Creative Park)
Operating Hours: 09:00 ～16:20
Departures: around 40 minutes
Route: Taipei Main Station→MRT Ximen Station (The Red House) →Xinyi Rd.-Linsen Rd. intersection (Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall) →Ambassador Hotel (SPOT Taipei) →Tatung Co. →Taipei Fine Arts Museum (Taipei Expo Park) →MRT Jiantan Station (Shilin Tourist Night Market) →Shilin Official Residence →National Palace Museum
4 Hours Pass: NT$300 (unlimited rides before 18:00)
Day Tour Pass: NT$500 (Red Route 09:10∼18:00; Blue Route 09:00∼16:20)
Night Tour Pass: NT$400 (Red Route 18:00∼22:00)
One day Pass: NT$700 (valid during hours of operation on same day)
Two days Pass: NT$1,200 (valid during hours of operation on 2 consecutive days)
Unlimited rides during effective period for each type of ticket; multiple payment methods, including cash, credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, JCB and UnionPay accepted), EasyCard, iPASS Card, Alipay and WeChat Pay.
For more information, visit the official Taipei Sightseeing website: www.taipeisightseeing.com.tw
Taipei Double-Decker Sightseeing Bus Fact File
Length 12 meters, height 4 meters; body exterior painted with red base and images of Taipei 101, the North Gate, National Palace Museum, National Dr.Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, and other popular attractions; semi-open top.
Each vehicle cost approximately NT$15 million.
Volvo chassis imported from Sweden.
47 seats on upper deck, with 10 seats in front section, which is roofed and air-conditioned; rear section has 37 open-air seats; lower deck is equipped with obstacle-free facilities, and has seating for 10, including 1 wheelchair space.