A Wheelchair-Friendly Trip Created with You in Mind

Natalya from the Philippines reached out to us in March, 2017. She mentioned that her mother was not able to walk for a very long time and needed to rely on wheelchair to move. This made it difficult for the travel consultant to create a suitable trip for them. Of course, she hoped that this limitation would not affect the great opportunity for the family to travel and explore Taiwan together.

Natalya’s travel consultant was Shirley. Since Shirley’s mother relies on wheelchair to move as well, they had a lot to talk about. First of all, Shirley carefully checked Natalya’s requirement based on her own experience, including the need to book a wheelchair-friendly room, the daily necessities, and the things to pay extra attention to when going out. For example, Shirley’s mother always runs into an issue; that is, the car’s chassis is too high for her to get in and out of the vehicles easily.

After checking the details over and over again, Shirley recommended suitable destinations according to the condition of Natalya’s mother. For instance, the Erzihping Trail of Yangming Mountain, the Chung-Shan Building, and the Yehliu Geopark are all touristic spots full equipped with wheelchair-friendly facilities. In the beginning, Natalya wished that Sun Moon Lake could be included in the 4-day trip, but Shirley was worried that the family might be too tired due to their flight schedule. Therefore, she recommended them to stick with Taipei and the cities nearby. In the end, Natalya agreed on Shirley professional advice.

What’s more interesting was that not until after a few e-mails did Shirley know that Natalya’s parents had come to Taiwan for their honeymoon. Visiting here with new family members definitely will create new meaning for them.

On their first day setting foot on Taiwan, Shirley visited Natalya’s family personally in order to understand the real condition of Natalya’s mother. This way, she could make sure that the wheelchair, crutch-chair, and other equipment that we had prepared are suitable for them. In addition, Shirley also bought the famous dessert, taro balls, from the NingXia Night Market as a treat for the customers.

After the trip, Natalya also shared her experience on TripAdvisor. She mentioned that Taiwan was not their first choice; however, after visiting here in person, she was moved by the beauty of Yehliu and the cultural atmosphere of Jiufen. Even the National Palace Museum alone was enough for them to come back to Taiwan for a few more times. More importantly, because the tour guide took good care of them and introduced Taiwan in an interesting way, they were relaxed and able to enjoy every single spots at their own pace.

Seeing Natalya bringing her family to Taiwan regardless of the difficulties inspires Shirley to try to bring her mother abroad. This mutual inspiration is not what the travel consultant expected but is the most precious memory for the both.

Wheelchair Travel in Taiwan – Public Transportation

In the last few years, Topology Travel had provided tour service to more families who traveled to Taiwan with elders or some wheelchair users. We got more experienced and learned from our customers by understanding their needs and finding out what we can do better when arranging a tour for wheelchair users, and how to make an accessible travel become possible.

Perhaps you just thought of a friend in a wheelchair, and he/she might want to travel abroad but might be still hesitating where to go considering the accessibility. Why not encourage him/her to visit Taiwan as the first try? Follow the instructions below, and with Topology’s supports, we believe he/she will be more confident for the Taiwan trip.

In the following paragraphs, we will point out the pros and cons of taking flight, MRT (subway/metro in Taipei City), HSR (High Speed Rail on west coast of Taiwan), and TRA train (railway system all around Taiwan) in Taiwan with wheelchair. Indeed, there are still some space for improvement regarding to wheelchair accessible environment in Taiwan, but we do our best to provide you enough information or alternative solutions to make your trip smoother.

[Flight and Airport]—-from your home country to Taiwan

1. Take full-service airlines.

When traveling abroad with your wheelchair, it’s better to take full-service airlines rather than budget airlines, based on the following two reasons:

i) Normally you would need to check-in your wheelchair, but this might trigger extra charge if you are taking the budget airline.

You might need to use a lift when getting on the flight with the wheelchair.

ii) Sometime there is no jet bridge for boarding if you are taking a budget airline, then you might need to take stairs or ask for a lift service (and this service itself might be more expensive than your flight ticket :P).

2. Request the airline company or flight attendant for wheelchair service. If you are using a motorized wheelchair, contact with the airline company in advance to make sure your battery fits their standard for carry-on into the flight.

When your flight lands at Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) in Taiwan, let the flight attendant know your need, they will prepare a thinner wheelchair which can pass through the airplane cabin’s aisle for you, and the staff will take you pass through the immigration (usually with the VIP channel), until reaching the baggage claim belt for collecting your luggage so that you may change to your own wheelchair afterward.

* You may take a look of this blog (Chinese) with pictures demonstrating how’s the whole process of the wheelchair service at Taoyuan airport.

* For more information about taking the flight with a wheelchair, you may also refer to this website (English) with a very clear video instruction.

3. Don’t take bus, please take TAXI or MRT from airport to the down town (such as Taipei City). Currently, there are no low-floor buses from airport to the down town, so it could be a nightmare for wheelchair users when taking the bus.

For calling wheelchair accessible TAXI, you may make a phone call to +886 3 3982832 for reservation, or find the TAXI service desk at the airport for help. The fare for TAXI from airport to Taipei City is around 1,200-1,500 TWD per ride.

Taoyuan airport TPE providing wheelchair accessible TAXI service

[MRT]—-the most convenient way to travel around in Taipei City

Taking the MRT (metro in Taipei City) to transfer around Taipei with a wheelchair is “almost” barrier-free accessible.

ramp to MRT station (metro/subway in Taipei)

1. All the MRT stations have the lifts and gentle-sloped ramps for wheelchair users get into / out of the station.

it is barrier-free to get on/off the MRT (metro/subway in Taipei))

2. The level difference / gap between the platform and MRT carriage is well designed for wheelchair users easily getting on/off the train.

3. Inside all the MRT stations, there are ticket gates for the disabled, and also toilet facilities for disabled and elderly passengers. You may refer to the MRT official webpage of Facilities for the Disabled (English) for more information with pictures.

[MRT]—-some unsolved problems for wheelchair passengers

The only unsolved problem is that, before you entering a MRT station from the ground floor, you would need to know which exit has the elevator.

For instance, at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall station, there are 7 exits in total, but only Exit 1 & 5 have the elevators for disabled access.

CKS MRT station has 7 exits but only 2 of them are wheelchair friendly.

To get this information in advance, visitMRT official website for the MRT route map, and you may click the certain station for checking its exit information.

Or try to use this app: Friendly Metro Taipei. When GPS is turned on, this app will show you the nearest exits of a metro station with accessibility information and pictures that help you quickly reach an accessible exit.

* If you still have difficulties of taking the MRT with your wheelchair, contact with Topology and we can help to design the travel itinerary and arrange a tour guide accompanying with you to solve the problem.

[HSR]—-the fastest transportation on the west coast of Taiwan

Although the level difference / gap between the platform and HSR (High Speed Rail) carriage is well designed for wheelchair users easily getting on/off the train, there are still some tips we would like to share with you, to make your HSR journey and experience smoother.

it's barrier-free to get on/off the HSR (High Speed Rail in Taiwan)

1. You may call HSR’s customer service line: 4066-3000, for reserving the guiding services. You may reach the passenger service counter 20 minutes before your HSR train departure time, to meet with the staff and he/she will lead you to the platform on the wheelchair accessible route (with the elevator). It will save your time from getting lost in the big station for finding the correct route with elevators.

The same service applies on the case when you arrive your destination HSR station for getting off the train. If you had reserved a guiding service, there will be a staff waiting for you on the platform, leading you to the nearest elevator and help to “unlock” the elevator so that you may use it and get out of the station. (At some stations, the elevators were locked to avoid being abused by general passengers.)

2. For each HSR train, on car number 7, there are 4 conveniently accessible seats for passengers in wheelchairs. Two seats are available for parking electric wheelchairs, and two seats are available for parking folding ones. There is also one accessible restroom on the train. Take a look of this HSR official webpage of Accessibility Services (English) or this blog (Chinese), as well as the below pictures then you will have a clearer idea.

You may choose to stay on your motorized wheelchair or shift to the seat next to you on HSR.

2 seats for motorized wheelchairs and 2 seats for folding wheelchairs on HSR

[HSR]—-some unsolved problems for wheelchair passengers

There is one very big unsolved problem that it’s not able to book the accessible seats online currently. You can only purchase the accessible seat ticket at HSR station or reserve it by making a phone call in advance.

* If you prefer to book the accessible seats and confirm your travel time schedule in advance, contact with Topology and we can help to pre-book the accessible seats and also reserve the guiding service for you.

[TRA train]—-all around Taiwan including Pingxi and Yilan

The TRA train system is older than the HSR train system, and it makes taking TRA train more challenging for wheelchair users. Anyway, here are some tips for you, and if you can speak some Mandarin Chinese and have the courage to talk to TRA staffs at spot, that will be very helpful.

TRA train staffs help to arrange the ramp for wheelchair users getting on/off the train.

1. There are some steps at the doorway of the TRA carriage. When getting on/off the train, call the station staff for providing a ramp for you.

Reach TRA duty office at the station for wheelchair service.

2. Unlike HSR, you are not able to reserve the guiding service for the TRA train by a phone call. If you need help, you have to reach staffs at spot. Find the Duty Office at the station before you taking the train.

[TRA train]—-some unsolved problems for wheelchair passengers

Same as HSR, it’s not able to book the accessible seats of TRA train online. You can only purchase accessible seat ticket at TRA station or reserve it by making a phone call in advance.

* If you prefer to book the accessible seats and confirm your travel time schedule in advance, contact with Topology and we can help to pre-book the accessible seats and also reserve the guiding service for you.

The above are the tips for taking public transportation in Taiwan for wheelchair users. You are more than welcome to forward these valuable information to whom that you think they would need.

If you’d already been to Taiwan before, how do you think about the above information based on your experience or observation when you were in Taiwan?

Or if you self is a wheelchair user, after having a brief idea about the accessible environment in Taiwan, what do you think we can do better or provide further assistance to make your trip in Taiwan smoother?

Please feel free to send email to topology.travel@gmail.com to share with us your thoughts. We appreciate your feedback and suggestions.

Warm regards,

Topology wheelchair travel team

Want to have your own travel story? Please fill the form out and your personal tour consultant will contact you ASAP.

Taipei City and Taiwan Wheelchair Trip 2015

We planned our Taiwan trip with 11 full touring days ( plus arrival and departure days ) initially by normal internet searches of attractions, then we searched for an ”accessible” travel company. We found Topology Travel and although they do not market wheelchair travel on their main website they were very responsive by email and understood the importance of all the wheelchair travellers questions I asked. Every question I asked was checked out including door widths in hotel, roll-in showers , handrails beside toilet etc and all the other normal wheelchair travellers queries. They selected the two hotels we stayed at and I had full photos of hotel rooms and bathrooms before we even finalized our trip details. The hotels were Taipei City Hotel and Sun Moon Lake Hotel. Jonathan Chen, of Topology, put together a full itinerary using the places I found then added his recommendations, with all accessible issues checked. The trip they offered included private guides throughout and also all meals.

The issue of meals turned out to be a trip highlight as the guides selected local interesting restaurants in all the areas we visited, with very diverse cuisine.

November seemed the best month for our trip with mild weather and minimum rain. On the only day it did rain our guides had raincoats ready for us.

On the internet it is surprising there are so few wheelchair travellers stories about Taiwan as it proved to be such an excellent place for wheelchair accessible travel. There was no place in Taipei city we visited that was not accessible.

The MRT, which we used for half the trip, had lifts and gentle sloped ramps everywhere. The platform level matched the train carriage level and the gap was very small.

In the mountains there was an old tourist train we used and that had two steps at the doorway. Our guide was essential in planning this, but the station staff were so fast in providing a ramp for me to get on and off this train.

There was one day we travelled on an accessible bus in Taipei and when the bus stopped for pick up the driver quickly came around and pulled out a sliding ramp at the mid length passenger door. Taipei is a very clean city . On some nights when we walked around we saw garbage collection trucks and immediately behind the main truck was second smaller truck for recyclable rubbish collection. In the city where there were rubbish bins they always had two bins together, one for normal rubbish and one for recyclable. On our trip down the west coast there was also many wind turbines.

Taiwan has a long mountain range north to south and we used a car for the longer travelling days and up into the mountains. ( Taiwan has 286 mountains with height above 3000 metres ). The only hiccup in the entire trip planning was Topology’s selection of vehicle which needed the seat to be at the same level as my wheelchair as I use a sliding board to get from my wheelchair to the front car seat. However on the discovery of the problem Topology changed the car type to another which was then ideal for the rest of the car use days.

Taiwan has a High Speed Rail ( 300 km/h ) which we used on a one day trip from Taipei to the south of the island. The carriage for wheelchairs has a location for four wheelchairs , two each side of the carriage and adjoining this was a large disabled toilet. Beside each of the seats was a designated space where you can place your wheelchair and this space has a “seatbelt” to restrain your wheelchair during the trip.

We had two guides during the trip. Samantha Wu for the first half and Spencer Chen for the second half. These guides were a critical part of the trip being so successful. They had to be knowledgeable about everywhere we went, in terms of wheelchair accessibility, and managing the itinerary. Prior to our departure, Topology had supplied our daily itinerary even including photos of the generally four places visited each day. We took lots of photos, but so did our guides. They downloaded their photos to our phone at the end of the trip and Samatha even downloaded her photos onto a flash drive we had brought with us. Samantha’s English was also very good.

Our stay at Sun Moon Lake required our only overnight out of Taipei, because of the three hour drive each way. We planned to go on an accessible boat trip but there was a problem in that out of at least one hundred tour boats on the lake, only one was accessible and that was only available on weekends. We arrived on Monday. Fortunately with Spencer’s local connections he was still able to arrange this accessible boat tour for us.

We travelled to Taipei with EVA air which had premium economy so I could have a bit more space to move around without a high addition to economy cost. They also had my wheelchair at the plane door on arrival and departure as I did not want to have the risk of my chair going through normal baggage handling systems and potentially being damaged.

Day one: UNESCO listed Bao-an temple, Confucius temple, Thermal hot spring valley and Danshiu fishermans Wharf. The thermal valley was quite hilly and Samatha’s pushing assistance when I got tired was great.

Day two: Taipei zoo, Makong gondola and tea tasting. The Gondola ride up into the mountains enabled me to go from the platform and roll directly into the cabin. Samantha was able to select a cabin which had a glass floor which provided great views of the forest we travelled over.

Day three: Chaing Kai Shek memorial hall, Taipei 101, Longshan temple, Hua Shi Night market and Beijing Opera Show. The changing of the guard inside the main memorial hall was impressive and the view from the top of Taipei 101 was excellent. The night at the opera, even though it was in Chinese, had a screen at the side of the stage where the story of what was happening was projected in English.

Day four: Ying-ge Ceramin museum, Ying- ge old street and Sanzia zushi Temple. In the old street some shops have pottery wheels for customers use. Phitchaya was able to sit at a pottery wheel and have a try at turning a clay pot with helpful guidance of the shop staff.

Day five: The Shilin Presidential compound, National palace museum and shrimp fishing. The National museum, even though it was a weekday, was incredibly packed with tourists. Lunch this day was at the Goudy Architectural Style inspired restaurant called “Five Dime” and that was very impressive.

Day six: Yangmingshan national park, Zhongshan building, Erzihping area trail and Ban-yien village.When we visited the national park up in the mountains the area was nicely covered in cloud and had very lush vegetation. There was a hiking trail 1.8 km long to a viewing location. Adjacent to this trail there was amazingly a paved wheelchair accessible walkway on which we travelled to the end.

Samantha’s pushing assistance was however essential for some of the steeper parts.

Day seven: Yehliu geo park, Heping island, Golden waterfall and Juifen old street. The geo park is on the edge of the ocean and at the north east corner of Taiwan. It has impressive rock formations and again has an excellent accessible walkway out to the extreme end.

Day eight: Pingxi Sub railway, sky lanterns, cat village and Keeloung night market. We used a tourist train in the mountains starting at Jintong station then got off at Shifen station. The trip through the hills was great with deep valleys and turbulent rivers. At Shifen Old Street we were able to paint wishes on a large paper lantern and then send it into to sky. The following station was then Houtong (cat village) with old coal mining buildings. At Houtong station, for the return journey, we had to cross the rail tracks to get to the opposite platform. Within the platform they had a large plate lift which lowered me to the track level and I was then pushed across the rail area to the other platform.

Day nine: Wulai aboriginal tribe, Wulai waterfall and Bitan green lake.

Day ten: Sun Moon Lake , Wenwu temple, Syuentzang temple and Sun Moon Lake hiking trail. The trip out on the lake was by accessible boat about fifteen metres long. As another example of excellent accessibility in Taiwan, the entire huge lake in the many places we saw around the lake, had a wide relatively flat bike and walking path that was easily used in my wheelchair. It had handrails on both sides.

Day eleven: High speed rail to Kaoshiung station in the south of Taiwan, then transfered to local MRT and onto Siziwan at the extreme south. Crossed on a ferry over Takow port to Chaisan island. The short ferry ride was spent on the lower deck as that was level with the dock. However the local deck was also the place where all the motor scooters drove from the dock and squeezed in for the short trip across the harbor. After returning on the ferry we visited Dagou British Consulate and Siziwan beach. The consulate historical building was high on a hill overlooking both the ocean and the harbor. There was an external platform lift for wheelchair visitors to get to the upper floor of the two story building.

Want to have your own travel story? Please fill the form out below and your personal tour consultant will contact you ASAP.