Driving in Taiwan

Driving in Taiwan
Updated 2023-05-20 19:53

To drive any vehicle in Taiwan, you are required to have a license. This includes renting a car or scooter. All drivers must be over the age of 18 to be able to drive legally. For residents of Taiwan, there are separate licenses for driving cars and motorbikes and scooters. Residents must have a license to be able to purchase a vehicle.

Using an international driving license in Taiwan

International driving licenses are accepted in Taiwan when renting a vehicle. However, you may be denied the ability to rent a scooter if you do not have a motorcycle endorsement on the license. Some rental agencies may bend the rules for you, but you would be responsible if stopped by the authorities.

Citizens from the US, for example, can obtain an international driver's license valid for one year from AAA. The license costs $20 in cash, and you must present your valid driver's license and two passport-size photos. There is also an application to fill out, which you can download, or an AAA office can provide.

Technically, an international driving license is only valid for the first 30 days that you live in Taiwan. After that, you must obtain a Taiwanese license to continue driving legally.

Reciprocal licenses in Taiwan

Taiwan has reciprocal driver's licenses with some US states and a few other countries. Check the updated list of all nations and US states that have reciprocal licenses with Taiwan.

If your state or country is part of the reciprocal license scheme, you must have the following documents along with NT$200 to obtain your Taiwanese driver's license:

  • A valid ARC
  • Your domestic license, authenticated by a Taiwan representative office in your home country
  • A Chinese translation of the license if it is not in English. This must be notarized by a Taiwan representative office
  • Two recent passport photos (size 3cm x 2.5cm)
  • Driver's license application form (No.21), which is available at the Motor Vehicles Office or online (Car and Motorcycle)
  • A medical checkup certificate from any public hospital, not older than a year

Obtaining a driver's license in Taiwan

Foreign residents with an ARC or APRC are eligible to take a driver's license exam in Taiwan.

The process to apply for a car driver's license involves a physical exam, an eye exam, obtaining a learner's permit, and either training on your own for 90 days or 35 days with a driving school, taking a 'driver knowledge test' (written test) and then the road test.

For a motorbike/scooter license, the process is a physical exam, registration, written test, and road test.

For more information regarding how to obtain a driver's license in Taiwan, visit the Motor Vehicle Office website.

Taking driver's test in Taiwan (Motor Vehicle)

If your country is not one of those which has a reciprocal agreement with Taiwan, or if your motor vehicle license from your home country lapses while you are in Taiwan, then if you want to drive, you will have to get a Taiwan driver's license.

Before you can take the written examination to acquire your license, along with the driving test, which is done on a course, and then the final road test, you must have held a learner's permit for not less than three months, and provide proof of what is known as “driving experience.”

The learner's permit can be acquired from the DMV. When applying for the permit, you will need to produce the following:

  • A valid photo ID (your ARC or APRC)
  • Three one-inch passport photos taken within the last two years
  • A driving license registration form
  • A completed medical evaluation record from a local hospital

For most, the proof of driving experience comes via enrolling in a local driving school. There are many competing schools in the country, but only some will offer instruction in English. Before registering, ensure that the driving school you will attend can provide instruction in your language of choice.

Driving schools in Taiwan focus on a mix of classroom work, practice on a closed course, and practice on the road. The classroom work comes first, focusing on the rules of the road, memorizing road signage, and other practical matters.

On the closed course, instructors take their students through the motions of the various tasks and skills they will need on the open road, practicing such maneuvers as navigating turns and curves (following a painted line), driving in reverse, parallel parking, stopping and starting, and so on. For most of these closed-course practice sessions, the instructor will (and should) be in the car with the student, manning a secondary wheel and brake in case of emergency. At some schools, however, instructors are known to move between two or more students at once, getting in and out of different vehicles at different points of the course.

From there, students move on to practice on the road, often starting in more out-of-the-way areas, such as mountain roads, where traffic is usually lighter than it is in the city. Most driving schools in Taiwan are already located in such areas, so students don't have to go far from the school to get their roadwork in. Much of the same skills that were practiced on the closed course are gone through again, and some skills will also focus on the different set of skills required for navigating the windy and narrow mountain roads of Taiwan.

Writing the theory test in Taiwan

Once three months of driving school have been completed, it is time for the written theory test. This must be booked at your nearest DMV, and on the day you write the examination, you will need to produce the following:

  • The completed application form
  • Your completed medical evaluation
  • Three two-inch color passport photos
  • An ARC with a validity of at least six months
  • Proof of driving experience (such as a certificate of completion from your driving school)
  • Your learner's permit

The theory test is computerized and consists of 50 questions in total. Of those 50 questions, 30 are multiple-choice, covering rules of the road, road signage, and various scenarios one may encounter on the road. The remaining 20 questions are True or False and focus again on rules of the road and road signage. Online practice tests are available, and one may write them as many times as one wishes in advance in order to prepare. The entire syllabus one will have during driver training is also available online via the DMV website. Passing the written examination requires a score of at least 85 percent. Those who score less than 85 percent may re-take the test seven days later.

Closed-course and road tests in Taiwan

The road tests in Taiwan are a little different in that they can be taken at one's driving school, first on the same closed-circuit practice course and then on the roads surrounding the driving school. Drivers begin the course and road tests with 100 points, and deductions are made for any infractions the instructor may observe. A score of 70 points or above is considered a pass. Those who fail must wait one or two weeks, depending on the policy of their driving school, to retake the test. Costs for retaking the test vary from school to school but can be as high as NT$2,000.

What is the driving environment like in Taiwan?

Drivers from Western countries, expecting the same conditions on the road that they are used to back home, may be in for a shock. In Taiwan, a country of 23 million-plus people crammed into an area just over 400 kilometers lengthwise and just over 150 kilometers wide at its widest point, the roads, particularly in the west of the main island, are crowded. In major cities, traffic jams at rush hour are a fact of daily life. And while there is no shortage of rules and regulations regarding conduct on the road, in many instances, those rules may look to outside eyes to be more suggestion than law.

As of May 2023, there are fines in place in Taiwan for drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians at crosswalks. Previously, although the right of way was supposed to go to pedestrians, it was considered rare for drivers to actually stop to allow them to cross safely first, only seeming to do so when forced by throngs of foot traffic. Now, however, if you fail to yield, you may be pulled over and fined.

Another major factor to be aware of in Taiwan is the lack of shoulder-checking, which often isn't taught at all in driver's education courses here. As a result, drivers on city roads tend to edge their way over into the next lane using only their rearview or side mirrors, sometimes doing so without checking at all. Never assume that another driver on the road here is aware of your presence.

Given the crowded conditions on Taiwan's roads, the prevalence of scooter traffic, and sometimes lax enforcement of the rules of the road by traffic police, Taiwan has a somewhat dubious record when it comes to driving fatalities. In the first ten months of 2022, Taiwan reported 2,560 driving fatalities, an increase of over six percent from the previous year. In 2020, Taiwan, which then had a population of 23.57 million, had 2,972 traffic-related fatalities, while neighboring Japan, with a population of nearly 126 million, had 2,839 traffic-related deaths, to give a general idea of road safety in Taiwan.

Drunk driving in Taiwan

Until 1999, driving under the influence of alcohol wasn't even a crime in Taiwan, which at that point experienced some 3,000 alcohol-related traffic accidents per year. At the time, the Taiwan government passed its first drunk driving legislation, making driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs punishable by up to one year in prison and/or a fine equal to approximately US$1,000. At first, however, the law did not even specify what blood-alcohol content constituted driving under the influence, and so the law was later amended to reflect a level of .55 mg/l being “unsafe to drive.”

Over the years, the Road Traffic Management and Penalty Act have been amended to reflect stiffer penalties for drunk drivers in Taiwan. DUI offenders who cause death or injury to others now face fines amounting to between NT$1-3 million, in addition to facing criminal prosecution and facing prison time. Repeat offenders have their names and faces made public and can have their licenses irrevocably revoked. Even those who drive drunk and do not cause an accident can face imprisonment of up to two years and a fine of up to NT$300,000. Passengers who ride in a vehicle piloted by a drunk driver can also be fined anywhere from NT$6,000 to NT$15,000.

If one is caught driving while impaired, their driver's license may be suspended for up to two years. If death or serious injury is a result of any accident caused while driving while impaired, the driver's vehicle may be seized. In addition, DUI offenders may be required to install an alcohol lock on their vehicle after they obtain a driver's license again. Failure to install the device can result in a fine between NT$60,000 and NT$120,000.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.