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Beep, Beep, Mmmm, Beep, Beep Yeah!
OK - so, you want to be able to drive once you get to Taiwan. And, before you left, you went down to the CAA and got your International Driver’s License. But you’re a little unsure - International License, Local License, Driving Visa, Endorsement, Scooter, 50cc, Regular Heavy, Super Heavy, Heavy Metal - ok, I threw that last one in but - what does it all mean??! Well, here’s what you need to know to be able to drive immediately when you arrive in Taiwan.
Let’s begin with an examination of the two basic groups of people who find themselves foreigners in Taiwan and wanting to drive.
Arriving in Taiwan for the first time most of us find ourselves with just a 30-60 day visitors’ visa. Then, we often find ourselves heading out of the country a few times to get a new 30-60 day visitors’ visa before making any long-term decisions. If the visa you have is for any duration less than one year, you can’t get a Taiwan driver’s license and you need to use your international drivers’ license to drive.
Not to worry: the local system is set to accommodate you. When you get your International Driver’s License, be sure it allows you to drive both cars and motorcycles. (In most cases, this requires an extra written test at your back-home DMV before you apply.) Then, you can drive in Taiwan from the time you touch down for up to a full year using your international driver’s license.
However, most of us find ourselves in Taiwan beyond that year - so, it also pays to get a local license.
Using your international driver’s license
Ownership & Insurance
When you are using your International Driver’s License you won’t be able to own a scooter or car. If someone loans you a scooter or car, as long as you have a valid recognized international drivers license, their insurance would carry over to you.
Most scooters you’ll borrow will carry just the compulsory Taiwan insurance. This required-by-all
Am I Covered?
Until you have a job / resident visa / ARC you can’t be enrolled in the National Health Insurance and so you can’t get medical care at the subsidized rate. If you got in an accident, you would still receive up to NT$200,000 toward any medical expenses. But, at the unsubsidized rate, that NT$200,000 would probably not go as far as you would want it to if you were hurt. If you think you’ll be driving for a while before getting a job, you may want to consider getting some kind of supplemental traveler’s insurance for yourself. Locally, these types of policies are known as 人身意外險 Individual Personal Accident, 傷害醫療保險 Personal Accidental Medical Reimbursement and 旅遊平安保險 Travel Accident.
The compulsory insurance does not cover any property damage: such as if you get into an accident with a BMW, etc. The people in Beemer would get any medical payouts, if necessary, from the compulsory insurance, but getting the car itself fixed would be up to the owner of the scooter you had borrowed, who’d probably come looking to you.
It is possible for the owner of whatever scooter you are borrowing to significantly beef up their insurance for property damage & medical payments to other people for very little cost - we’re talking like NT$1,500 a year for millions of dollars of extra protection. This can be a nice option just as peace of mind for the person whose scooter you are borrowing - and for you, especially if it’s a long-term sort of borrow. This type of policy is known locally as 第三人責任險, third party liability insurance.
Using a recognized International Driver’s license, for the first 30 days of your stay you can drive any class of non-commercial vehicle that your license states you can drive without doing anything at all. Your IDL is all you need.
At 30 days of being here if you want to continue driving you are required by law to go down to your local DMV and have your license endorsed by the state. If you go into day 31 without the endorsement it would be illegal to drive.
In translation this is called getting a driving visa, 國際駕駛執照簽證. When you reach your 30th day, go down to your local DMV & take this explanation of what you are trying to do and this form and give them to the counter dude or dudette.
I want to apply for an IDL Visa
List of necessary documents.
- Your International Drivers License. If you are from the USA you’ll need to show your local license also.
- Your passport.
- 1 photo taken within 6 months. Black and white or color, no hat.
- The form for a driving visa.
They will endorse your International Drivers’ License for the balance of time left on your visa, up to one year. So, if you had a 60 day visa and came in on the 30th day they’d stamp you forward to use your IDL for 30 more days.
When your 60th day comes around, if you leave the country and choose to return, you start over: using a valid IDL, you’d be allowed to drive for 30 days from the 1st day of your new arrival without having to do any other paperwork. At 30 days, would need to go in and have your IDL endorsed forward for the balance of your new visa’s stay.
Getting a local license
OK. So, now, you’ve decide to teach / model / engineer... you’ve gotten a job. So, at this point, you’ll wind up getting (in most cases) a one-year resident visa and ARC. Now that you have that one-year visa, you could get a local Taiwan driver’s license.
However, often times your International Driver’s License will not have expired by the time you have gotten your Resident Visa and ARC. So, you can go into the DMV and have them endorse your IDL forward for the remainder of its duration. If you have 8 months left on your International Driver’s License and a 1 year visa, they’d endorse your IDL forward for those 8 months. If your IDL sanctions you to drive a car, a 50 scooter and a regular heavy 51-250cc motorcycle, then there you go - you could continue to drive those vehicles for the next eight months.
You can use that time to decide what kind of local license you’ll want to get and bone up on those rules and regs. Some are easier to get than others.
- Just a 50 cc scooter - written test only
- A regular-heavy scooter 51-250cc - same written test as a 50 and a driving test
- A car, also allows you to drive a 50 - requires unique car written test and a driving test
Local license for a 50cc scooter
Getting a 50cc scooter license requires only a written test. That’s it. No driving test, just a 40 test question test given at a computer screen - 10 Multiple-choice on Regulations, 15 True-false on Regulations, 10 Multiple-choice on Road signs, 10 True-false on Road signs.
You’ll want to study. 85% is passing. They ask you to wait seven days before you can retest if you get a score lower than 85. Except for the signs, about 80% of the questions are much what you'd expect or be able to figure out from your driving experience back home. Practice test here - center button gets score.
From walking in the door to finishing all the paperwork & whatnot, getting a license for a 50 takes less than 30 minutes. And then, you’re on your way.
Depending on who you are, a license to drive a 50 may be all you need. For the most part, you’ll find your 50 can do the job on paved roads. (In some cases you’ll see them ridden locally by families of 4.)
And, the 50s are by far and away the most popular form of transportation on the island. As of Dec. 2005 there were 690,000 of them registered in Taipei city, compared to 337,000 regular-heavy 51-250cc and just 2,600 super-heavy 251+. That no-driving-test bit may have something to do with this.
Total cost is under NT$700.
By the time your IDL has expired you’ll no doubt know if the 50 is all you need or want.
Local license for a regular heavy scooter / motorcycle
Then there’s the regular-heavy 51-250cc. Cozily co-ridable along most romantic mountain getaways. You’ll take the same written test as a 50 - 10 Multiple-choice on Regulations, 15 True-false on Regulations, 10 Multiple-choice on Road signs, 10 True-false on Road signs (Practice test here - center button gets score) - but you’ll have a driving test as well. In the driving test they’ll ask you to:
- Drive on a straight sidewalk-width strip 15m in seven seconds without your feet touching the ground and without hitting sensors that outline the path.
This is basically a kind of slow crawl balance test - can you drive a short distance slowly, balancing with your weight alone. They’ll give you two chances to do it.
If you can’t do it after two tries you don’t pass. In the driving test a passing score is 70% This part is 32%. Test diagram.
- Ok you got past part one. Cruise around a little curve and come to a traffic signal - red, yellow or green. Do what you should do at a red, yellow or green light. Sensors on the edges here, too. Width about alley wide.
- Come to a railroad crossing. Stop if its signaling. Sensors along the pathway. Also about alley width.
- Come to a pedestrian crossing. Stop if its signaling. Sensors along the pathway. Continues at alley width.
For parts 2, 3 & 4, failing to obey the signals correctly, or stopping past the designated line will get you your 32% deduction.
Putting your feet down for balance costs you 8 points each time, per foot.
Hitting the sensors, 16pts each time.
Falling over, 32 points.
In many locations you won’t even need a bike to take the test. They’ll rent you one for under NT$50.
From getting in the door to finishing everything the whole process usually can be finished within 45 minutes.
If you don’t pass, you can re-take the test in seven days. Total cost is under NT$700.
At the main Taipei city DMV, the passing rate is 48% among all first-time test takers for the regular heavy 51-250cc driving test.
That rate rises to 65% if you take their free practice course offered every Wednesday from 8:30 - 9:30am when participants are 40 or less. (It’s popular.)
Local license for a car
Now, finally, there’s the car. On long trips, or on long nights, you may find yourself in a group, or with your significant other, and needing to drive a car - her car, his car, their car. After having been able to drive a car with your IDL, you’ll know how often or if ever you’ve had the chance or need to drive a car.
The advantage of getting a car license is that from the get-go it allows you to drive BOTH a car AND a 50cc. For a license to drive a car, you’ll take a car-specific written test and road test. The written portion is a 40 question test given at a computer screen - 10 Multiple-choice on Regulations, 15 True-false on Regulations, 5 True-false on Road signs,5 Multiple-choice on Road signs.
You’ll want to study for the written test. They ask you to wait seven days before you can retest if you get a score lower than 85%. As with the Regular Heavy Scooter test, except for the signs, about 80% of the questions are much what you'd expect or be able to figure out from your driving experience back home. Practice test here - center button gets score.
The driving test you get at the DMV for a car licenses is quite challenging, but do-able - if you practice. It is important to note that among locals, taking the driving test for a car license AT the DMV is very unusual. The vast majority of people, 90% by most estimates, take their driving tests with local private schools. The schools are licensed by the government to administer the driving portion of the test. Pass the car driving test at your local driving school, and then take proof of such down to the DMV. Finish by taking the written / on-computer test at the DMV and collect your license there.
At the DMV the car road test procedure is:
- Back into a parking space, and come out. Space is outlined with sensors.
- Parallel park. Spot is outlined with sensors.
- Go forward and reverse out of an S-shaped curve. Curve is outlined in sensors.
- 30meter steady-driving test: a straightaway and stop at the entrance of remaining battery of test.
- Railroad crossing - stop if signalling
- Pedestrian crossing - stop if it is signalling
- Going up a hill, stopping, and going down. Even your tire tracks are outlined with sensors.
- Come to a traffic signal. Do what you should do if it is red, yellow or green.
From that signal, follow a roundabout to the end of the test track
1 & 2: Back into a Parking Space & Parallel Park
In the main, the hardest part is no doubt the first two segments of the test. You think you can back into a parking space or parallel park, but doing it with sensors outlining the spaces is tricky. You can fail one of these first two parts, but not both - 70% is passing and each of these items is 16 points. Test Items.
3 S-shaped Curve
The third segment is the S-shaped curve. Drive forward without hitting the sensors - no mean feat, but doable. Back out of the same curve. Don’t worry about the sensors. Just without hitting the curb. The sensors are deactivated when you are reversing.
After the first three tests, its all downhill from there in terms of challenge level. Items 4, 5, 6, 7 & 8 are relatively easy to get through.
4 30meter Steady-driving
A 30 meter straightaway and stop. Basically a test of steady driving. No difficulty here.
5 & 6 Pedestrian & Railroad Crossings
Pedestrian & Railroad crossings: stop if signaling, don’t go over the lines you should stop at. Drive normally.
7 Up a Small Incline
Have to climb a small hill, stop and then go down. The only trick - your tire tracks are outlined with sensors.
8 Traffic Signal
If you are woman enough, or man enough ;), to take and pass the car driving test, you’ll be able to drive BOTH a car AND a 50cc scooter. A car license enables you to drive both with no additional tests.
If you also want to be able to drive a 51-250cc regular heavy scooter, once you receive your car license you could get a regular heavy scooter license by passing just the regular heavy’s driving test. Getting your car license eliminates the need for the written test for the regular heavy.
From the time you walk in until when you finish, Including the driving test, getting a car drivers license takes just about 90 minutes. Total cost is under NT$700.
Ownership & Insurance
With your local license, you can now own your ride - it would be in your name. No more borrowing.
Am I Covered?
Whenever you buy a vehicle - scooter or car - it must be sold with the compulsory insurance in effect. This compulsory insurance does not cover you, just someone you hit, or if someone hits you - NT$200,00 per person / per accident medical. NT$1,500,000 per person / per accident death or dismemberment.
Once you have your one-year resident visa and ARC, you’ll be enrolled in the National health Insurance and get health care at subsidized really low cost. So, in theory, you can consider yourself covered - if you were hit, you would get up to NT$200,000 toward covering any medical expenses, and that would go pretty far in the subsidized healthcare system.
However, that’s in theory. You can get banged up pretty good in a scooter accident. And, most of us are here for - a year? Or, two? So, it’s a sort of a gamble: whatever happens to me can be fixed, in Taiwan, in a year, for NT$200,000, or less. However, that’s the gamble most of us take.
None the less, you can both locally and from back home buy extra insurance that would follow you from Taiwan and pay out for extra medical treatment for an accident if it was bad enough to necessitate that. Locally, this kind of insurance is called: 人身意外險 Individual Personal Accident / 傷害醫療保險 Personal Accidental Medical Reimbursement.
Do I have to take a physical to get a local driver’s license?
Not as in blood test, what they do is:
- Record your height and weight
- Check your hearing - tuning fork sounded left and right, ask if you hear it.
- A color blindness test.
- Check to see if you have all 4 limbs.
- Ask you to produce both your hands.
- Get you to squat down and rise up one time.
Not all DMV offices have places to perform the physical on site. Both the Taipei City & Taichung County offices do. Most of the DMVs that do not offer the health checks have hospitals nearby that they send people to for the tests. If your local DMV does not offer the physical, you can go to any public hospital and get it done there. Give the hospital folks this so they’ll know what you want. The costs vary, but range from NT$90-160. The health check costs have been figured into all the total license prices mentioned previously.
Does my home country have a special agreement with Taiwan that enables me to drive using my own local license alone, needing nothing else?
Among English speaking countries, only two countries have this right, and just one has it totally unrestricted. That country is Papua New Guinea; you can drive on your local license if you are from here. The other has limited rights: South Africa - only for people immigrating toTaiwan. If you are actively in the process of emigrating from South Africa to Taiwan permanently, you could use your local license to drive.
Are there some American states whose residents are not allowed to use an IDL to drive in Taiwan?
Yes. People whose local licenses are from the states of Florida, Oklahoma or South Carolina cannot use their International Drivers Licenses to drive in Taiwan.
Do Americans need to bring anything special with them to use their International Driver’s Licenses in Taiwan?
Yes. Americans need to bring their local license with them and present their local license when getting the endorsement to drive beyond 30 days on their IDL and when applying for a local license.
Are unlicensed drivers responsible for the insurance payouts if they cause accidents?
Yes. For example, if an unlicensed driver caused an accident & NT$800,000 was paid out, the insurance company would sue the unlicensed driver to collect the payments.