Kaohsiung is the largest port in Taiwan Province of China. Although the ranking has declined steadily over the last few years, Kaohsiung is still the world’s sixth largest cargo-container seaport.. Unlike Taipei, Kaohsiung is a planned city with wide streets and slightly less traffic congestion than the capital. In recent years the city has made great strides in transforming itself from a primarily industrial city into a modern Asian metropolis, and several areas of the city, such as along the banks of the River Ai (Love River), have benefited from major beautification projects under the tenure of former mayor Frank Hsieh. The city is often known as Taiwan’s “Harbor Capital” because of its close connection and heavy reliance on the ocean and maritime transportation.
How to get to Kaohsiung?
Kaohsiung International Airport (IATA: KHH) is about twenty minutes to the south of the city center. 1997 a new terminal was added dedicated to international connections and transfers to Taipei international airport . This airport is very small and cannot compete with other international airports around the world. International flights from Asia arrive daily, with frequent connections between Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and Kaohsiung. The airport is on the MRT Red Line and is also easily accessible by scooter, car or taxi.
Taiwan High Speed Rail line (HSR). Traveling by train is a viable option for getting to Kaohsiung, as the fastest trains from Taipei cover the distance in just 90 minutes. There are 3 types of tickets: Business Reserved, General Reserved, and Non-Reserved. Reserved are approx. NT$1500 ($50 USD) and non-reserved slightly cheaper at NT$1400.
Please note The HSR terminal is in Zuoying on the northern outskirts of town, and you’ll need to connect to the city center via the MRT Red Line(approximately NT$20-25), bus, ordinary train, or taxi (approximately NT$250-350). The MRT Red Line now extends to Kaohsiung Main Station (#R11) and the HSR Station (#R16) and beyond . Kaohsiung is also served by the Taiwan Railway Administration’s Western Line and Pingtung Line. The city is roughly 4 to 5 hours away from Taipei by normal express train.
Buses run the length of the island, with stops in major towns. They feature fully reclining seats, baggage transportation and, on most, video game consoles or televisions for each seat. Prices run around NT$1000 per trip, give or take, depending on the initial and final destination.
Most major bus companies have their office and stops close to the train station. They are located on the same road as the train station, about half a block down the street.
Because Kaohsiung is also a harbor, transportation by boat will bring you directly into the city.
Get around Kaohsiung
As the sidewalks double as scooter parking areas, caution and awareness are a must when walking through unfamiliar areas off of main streets. Generally, it is best to walk between the scooter parking row and store fronts, rather than between parked scooters and the road. Pedestrians should be especially aware when crossing a road as cars and motorbikes often run red lights. Exploring Kaohsiung on foot is highly recommended, as many of the distances between sites of interest are not far.
The long-delayed Kaohsiung MRT opened in 2008, with two lines. The Red Line runs from north to south, offering a handy route from both the THSR Zuoying station and the airport into the downtown core, while Orange Line runs across the city from the Port of Kaohsiung in the west to eastern suburb of Daliao. The Metro Line is very clean and offers a convenient way to quickly move within the city. However as the metro is rather young the network is yet not very dense and often you have to walk few minutes to the next station. Operation of the MTR stops as early as about 11:30 p.m. (at least an hour earlier as compared to Taipei).
Feeder buses are available to bridge network gaps and provide better access to the metro lines. The MRT stations are all well connected to the city bus lines for further transfers.
The city government has established Taxi English Service to allow travelers to search for English-speaking taxi drivers in chosen areas.
Taxis can be an easy way to get to somewhere unfamiliar, and are fairly common in the city. If you have the business card of a location, or the Chinese characters written down, they can easily get you there far faster than most other means.
It is best to get the price in advance, and, if possible, buckle up. Few taxi drivers speak English, and the majority ignore any and all rules of the road. Do not be surprised if they drive the wrong way, up a hill, through heavy traffic. Typically, going from one end of the city to the other should never be more than 400 NT$. This behavior of cab-drivers is rarely seen nowadays however may still happen more often on the country side.
Do not be surprised if they open the door and spit what looks like blood. In actuality, the taxi driver is chewing betel nut (binlang) This commercially available product is a mild stimulant and is used by many taxi drivers.
Bikes are also common in Kaohsiung, and the large number of locally produced bikes (often rebranded and sold overseas) means purchasing a new bike will often be cheaper relative to its counterpart in other countries (primarily Europe and America).
The city operates a bicycle rental service. Renting points are located at MRT stations and bicycles can be dropped off at any station, not necessarily the one from which it was hired.
Giant, a well-built, recognized Taiwanese brand, has shops throughout the city, and some of the store managers speak English. Bikes are street legal, even without a helmet, but theft is common for any bike over 3,000 NT$. Until recently, even serious violations of the traffic rules by cyclists are were not fined, however, government authorities are planning to change this in the not too distant future.
As Kaohsiung is predominantly flat, a great way to see the city is by bike. Riding along the Love River north towards the Art Museum area offers a pleasant ride and some scenery of the old Kaohsiung that is fast disappearing. Pleasant bike routes can also be found around Sun Yet-Sen university and on the coastal side of Shoushan mountain, but expect a few hills to climb. It is best to avoid this place on the weekends when hoardes of young Kaohsiung couples head to the mountain for some romantic sunset views of the city and ocean at one of the countless coffee shops. Cijin Island also offers some nice riding around the streets at the northern end of the island.
Scooters are the primary means of transportation within Kaohsiung. With a dedicated two-wheel vehicle lane on most major roads, and with frequent and varied scooter shops around town, renting or purchasing a scooter is very easy; however, see the Taiwan article for legal issues including licenses.
Scooters come in several engine sizes from below 50cc to more than 250cc. Most common in recent years are the 4-stroke 100 and 125cc models, which are also suitable to explore the surroundings of the city. The larger scooters, 150cc and more, often include a greater subset of amenities for a second passenger, including a backrest, wider seat, full windshield and footholds and can rival a motorcycle overall size, weight and fuel consumption. Often, they come with larger wheels as well.
All passengers on a scooter must wear helmets by law. Helmets are sold almost everywhere, and range in price from 100 NT$ to upwards of 2,000 NT$. A helmet with visor is strongly suggested.