Friday, June 27, 2014

Matsu transportation

Planing a trip to Matsu was a lot more difficult than I would have imaged. There are 11 round-trip flight services operated by Uni-Air as well as the Taima ferry operated by Shinhwa Navigation Corp. that transports passengers between Taiwan and Matsu on a daily basis. It’s difficult to imagine that transportation could be an issue when planing a trip to Matsu.

Matsu is an archipelago of 36 islands and islets, among these islands, only Nangan (the main island of Matsu), Beigan, Dongyin, Xiju and Dongju islands are opened to tourists. There is no problem to hop around the islands by boat once you are in Matsu, except for Dongyin island. The only way to go to Dongyin island is by Taima ferry, of course you might consider to take a helicopter, and the schedule of Taima ferry during November to April could be a problem for travelers who wish to stay in Dongyin for just one day. On odd dates, the ferry embarks from keelung harbor and en route to Nangan then Dongyin and back to Keelung. On even dates, the ferry takes a different route to Dongyin first, then Nangan and back to Keelung. The ferry sets sail once a day at 22:50 from Keelung harbor and doesn’t operate on Tuesdays. It is very important to pay attention to the schedule to save traveling time if Dongyin is one of your destinations. Given the schedule, if you are smart enough to avoid to take the ferry on Monday then here are some scenarios:

  1.  Take the ferry on odd dates: arrive in Dongyin at noon, and leave on the next day at 06:00 (only half day for the trip and have to sleep over for 1 night) or take the ferry in 2 and a half days later at 06:00 ( sleep over: 3 nights). 
  2. Take the ferry on even dates: arrive in Dongyin at 06:00 and leave the island 2 days later at 06:00 (sleep over: 2 nights) 

There is no way to pull off a full day trip only in Dongyin during November to April. However, during May to October, the schedule changes to odd dates, the ferry goes to Dongyin first, then Nangan and back to Dongyin and finally back to Keelung; the even dates remain unchanged. This schedule makes a trip to Dongyin island much more flexible.

Taima Ferry ticketing service:
  1. Make a reservation: Passengers can reserve tickets up to 7 days in advance by internet (00:00-16:00 daily; ) or by phone (08:30-17:00, 886-2-24246868 for Keelung office; 10:00-17:00, 886-836-26655 for Nangan office; and 14:00-17:00, 886-836-77555 for Beigan office).  Be aware, unless you have a Taiwanese ID number, the internet booking system won't accept ARC ID or passport numbers. You can ask the host of your B&B to book the tickets for you when you are on the islands.
  2. Purchase ticket and checkin: The Keelung office opens for number drawing at 17:30. With a reservation or not, passengers must take a number and follow the call for purchasing the tickets. With a reservation, take the number from the smaller number machine; take the number from a bigger number machine if you didn't make a reservation. Between 20:00-21:30, the staff start selling tickets to those who made reservations. For those who didn't make reservations they can start purchasing tickets at 21:30.  The boarding starts at 21:30. 
*All schedules depend on weather conditions, and may change accordingly. In case of inclement weather, sailing announcements made daily at 11:00AM. Check the website for schedule chances (

Except for Taima ferry, boats that commute between Nangan and Juguang (Dongju and Xiju) also change routes on a monthly basis. In principle, the boat will dock at Xiju first in odd months then Dongju in even months. Checking with the operator to confirm the schedule is advised.

Other information:

The Matsu National Scenic Area website has a detailed transportation information. Also, this interactive animated map (Chinese only) shows transportation between Taiwan and Matsu (left button on the top), between Matsu islands (middle button on the top) and the bus routes on Beigan (top) and Nangan (bottom) (right button on the top).