HOW TO GET TO XIAO LIUQIU ISLAND (小琉球, LAMAY, LAMBAI) from ANYWHERE!
The ultimate guide to making your way to Taiwan’s freediving paradise from anywhere in the world
GETTING TO LIUQIU IS EASY …
Xiao Liuqiu Island (pronounced a bit like ‘shao lee-o cho’) is a beautiful little island in the tropical south of Taiwan. Located about 14km from the port town of Donggang (東港) on Taiwan’s southwest coast.
Liuqiu is a coral island, famous for its coral reefs which surround the entire island and its huge population of sea turtles. If you want to swim with sea turtles, I don’t think there is any easier or better place in the world!
Xiao Liuqiu is a water-sports paradise, with year-round warm seas and amazing sunny weather most days of the year. It’s an excellent diving location, for both scuba and freediving, especially for the beginner who is looking for a safe place to learn.
Liuqiu was still a relatively undiscovered gem only a few years ago, but has recently exploded in popularity. Thousands of travellers arrive every month to dive, kayak, SUP, snorkel and explore the traditional Taiwanese culture of the island with its many colourful temples.
Whether you are coming to attend your freediving course at Freedive Taiwan, you’re living in Taiwan and still haven’t visited this amazing little corner of the country, or are visiting from overseas and want to find the easiest way to get to the island, this is the guide for you!
Xiao Liuqiu is famous for its underwater environment. Freedivers and scuba divers flock here every week to enjoy the warm, clear waters and underwater life.
GETTING TO LIUQIU FROM INSIDE TAIWAN
There is a basic 3-step process to getting to Xiao Liuqiu from anywhere in Taiwan:
1. Train/Bus to Kaohsiung City
2. Taxi/Bus from Kaohsiung to Donggang
3. Ferry from Donggang to LiuQiu
1. GETTING THE TRAIN or BUS to KAOHSIUNG
In taking the train or bus to Kaohsiung you have three options, depending on how much time you have and how much money you have to spend!
BUS TO KAOHSIUNG
The bus is the cheapest option and they run all day and night. Having taken the bus myself I must say I was very surprised by how comfortable the buses are! The seat is big and has lots of leg room. I found the air conditioning a bit too cool for my taste so I would recommend having a warm top or a light blanket with you, especially if you are taking the bus through the night.
A single ticket from Taipei to Kaohsiung costs around 550 TWD (20 USD) and the journey takes 4-5 hours. Other cities on Taiwan’s west coast are closer to Kaohsiung and so will take less time and will be cheaper.
There are several bus companies operating. Here is a handy site in English that will help you book your train, just change the departure location at the top of the page if necessary:
The main company is UBUS, here is their website (Mandarin only):
NOTE: There are no direct bus routes from the east coast cities of Hualian and Yilan. There IS one from Taitung, but it is cheaper and faster to take the train. You can also take trains directly from Hualien and Yilan.
The famous green UBUS can be seen all over Taiwan. They are cheap, punctual, comfortable and very affordable.
TRAIN TO KAOHSIUNG
Taiwan has two options for the lover of trains. There are the ‘slow’ trains run by Taiwan Railway and the amazing HSR ‘bullet train’.
The slow trains are actually quite a bit more expensive than the bus and take just as long, and sometimes much longer. As far as I remember they were also not as comfortable as the bus!
The slow train goes directly to Xin Zuoying Station (新左營) and you can take the bus from there to Donggang.
I will link to the Taiwan Railways site here, which is also in English, and you can explore the options for yourself.
HSR (High Speed Rail) to KAOHSIUNG
The HSR is an amazing experience in Taiwan and if your budget allows it this is definitely the best way to travel between the cities of Taiwan’s west coast.
The trip from Taipei to Kaohsiung takes only 2 hours or less on the HSR! The only downside is the price…
It costs about 1500 TWD (55 USD) for a one-way trip, which is quite pricey. However, if you can afford it, this is definitely the most efficient and comfortable way to travel. And of course, HSR journeys from other cities on the west coast will be less expensive.
To book the HSR to Kaohsiung here is the website in English:
The Taiwan HSR is modern, comfortable and extremely fast!
2. KAOHSIUNG TO DONGGANG
OK, so now you’ve arrived in Kaohsiung it’s time to get yourself to Donggang so you can catch the boat. Donggang is a port town located further down the coast, about 45m – 1hr drive from Kaohsiung.
TAXI and MINIBUS
There are a few options here. The most expensive but a comfortable and stress-free option would be to simply take a standard yellow taxi. I have had students come from Kaohsiung in the yellow taxi and it cost them less than 1000 TWD (30 USD), however you should make sure to agree the price in advance with the driver. This is a good option if you are travelling with more than one person as you can split the cost with your companions!
The second option is to call one of the minibus/taxi companies that are specifically in service for the journey between Kaohsiung and Donggang. You should call the driver and ask them where they can pick you up. Generally, they will pick you up from Kaohsiung Main Station (where trains and buses arrive) or Zuoying Station (where the HSR arrives).
To book a minibus you can call 東琉計程車 0986-908622. They speak a little English and the fare from Kaohsiung to Donggang is only about 150 TWD (5.50 USD)
Also this number 黃小姐 (Miss Huang) 0930-380-228. She doesn’t speak English but perhaps a Mandarin-speaking friend can help you. A regular taxi will cost only 700 TWD (25 USD) and a minibus only about150 TWD
NOTES: I haven’t looked into how much it would cost to take an UBER but that could also be an option for you.
For the minibus you may need to wait until the driver has enough customers, but this shouldn’t take long.
From Kaohsiung city you will travel south down the coast to the town of Donggang. From Donggang you can easily take the ferry to Xiao Liuqiu.
DAPENG BAY LIUQIU EXPRESS BUS
If you arrive on the HSR at Zuoying Station (左營) or on the train at New Zuoying (新左營, both stations are essentially in the same building) the most convenient way to arrive at Donggang harbour is to take the Dapeng Bay Liuqiu Express (#9127D ) from outside HSR Exit 2 which goes directly to the ferry terminal in Donggang. The fare is 120 TWD (4.20 USD).
Timetable for the Express Bus (Harbour Circled in Yellow):
You can buy the ticket before you leave the building here:
BONUS (CAR or SCOOTER/MOTORCYCLE)
Of course, the best way to travel to Donggang would be in your own vehicle. The trip from Kaohsiung is especially fun by scooter, and you can even take your scooter on the ferry with you for only 100 TWD (3 USD). Finding a place to park your car in Donggang might be a bit trickier though, and it is not possible to bring your car to this tiny island!
The drive from Kaohsiung by scooter/motorcycle takes about an hour or less, depending on which part of the city you leave from.
The drive by motorscycle from Kaohsiung takes less than one hour!
FERRY to LIUQIU!
OK, now for the easy part! The ferry is fast and affordable and it’s easy to get a ticket.
When you have arrived at the ferry terminal in Donggang you now have to choose your ferry company.
My recommendation is to choose one of the 3 private ferry companies. They are Taifu (泰富), Lanbai(藍白), and Dongliu(東流).
They operate roughly between 7am and 5pm each day and the ferry will arrive in the main port of Liuqiu, right in the town.
All three ferry companies have fast boats that get you to the island. After many years travelling this stretch of water I would, however, recommend Taifu and Lanbai companies over Dongliu, if you have the choice.
Taifu staff are friendly, professional and clean and the boats are well maintained. Lanbai is a new line and the boats are brand new and clean, the staff are also very friendly. The Dongliu company gets the job done but I have often found the staff to rude and difficult to deal with, and the boats are more tired and less-well maintained, it seems.
All companies charge the same 230 TWD (8.30 USD) for a one-way trip and 410 TWD (14.80 USD) for a return.
The ferries always depart right on time and the trip takes between 20 – 30 minutes, depending on the water conditions. If you are prone to motion-sickness be aware of the sea conditions and pack sea-sickness medication accordingly!
Schedule for Taifu Ferry Company
Schedule for Lanbai/Leuco Ferry Company
Schedule for Dongliu/Tungliu Ferry Company
NOTES: Upon arriving at the ferry terminal you may be approached on the street by one or more older Taiwanese ladies apparently screaming at you to buy something or other. It might be a bit off-putting but these ladies are actually selling legitimate tickets, usually with a small 10TWD discount. There is nothing wrong with buying their tickets but I don’t think any of them speak English. You can always just smile, say ‘bu yong, xie xie’ and move towards the ticket counter if you are intimidated by the lovely old rascals.
In my many years of making this trip I can say that, unless you are coming on an exceptionally busy day it is very easy to walk straight up to the counter and buy the ticket without booking in advance. Often the lines to collect booked tickets are longer than the regular line! In any case you can use the websites below if you wish to book in advance.
The private ferry companies stop operating at 5pm so you should plan to get to Donggang comfortably before that time. There IS the ‘public’ boat, which runs a little later, but it is a little less convenient, takes longer and the boat arrives at another part of the island away from the town and scooter hire etc.
If you desire to take this public ferry the ticket counter can be found in the same bulding as the Taifu ticket counter, over on the south side.
If you need to spend the night in Donggang before taking the ferry in the morning, see below…
Location of the ticket counters for each ferry company.
COMING FROM OUTSIDE OF TAIWAN
If you are coming to Liuqiu from outside of Taiwan, it’s actually very simple! You will be flying into either Taipei Taoyuan Airport (in the north) or Kaohsiung Airport (in the south).
If you fly into Taipei, you can take the MRT (Rapid Transit) to the HSR (High Speed Rail) and proceed from there. That takes about 20 minutes. Alternatively you can take a bus from the airport, all the way to Kaohsiung.
If you are coming to Taiwan especially to come to Liuqiu for your freediving course, we highly recommend you fly into Kaohsiung Airport, if possible.
This means you can jump in a taxi at the airport and come directly and quickly to Donggang to take the ferry. It will only take an hour or less!
If you would like me to arrange a taxi for you from the airport just let me know. You can use the Contact Page on this website or call me directly on +886 0909452409.
Kaohsiung International Airport is conveniently located in the southern part of Kaohsiung City making it very easy to travel to Xiao Liuqiu Island.
Image: David Webb
STAYING THE NIGHT IN DONGGANG
It is often the case, if you are coming to Liuqiu to attend a freediving or scuba diving course and need to start your course early in the morning, that it’s a bit too long to make the trip to Liuqiu in one day, especially if you are coming from the northern cities like Taipei.
In this situation I highly recommend making your way to Donggang in the afternoon/evening before your course starts and spending the night there, then take the ferry early in the morning.
Donggang is a bit of an unexciting place, frankly, with not many good options for lodging, but there is one very nice hostel there.
The Way Hostel and Bar is run by Sofia and it’s really very comfortable and friendly. The beds are fine and the price is right, only 450 TWD (16 USD) per night for a dorm bed!
I highly recommend you stay with Sofia for the night (especially if you like fine whisky!)
The Way Hostel and Bar is my top pick for a great place to lay your head down for the night in Donggang!
So that’s all folks! Hopefully this guide has been useful to you in making your way to our wonderful island home.
If you have any questions or need any advice on making this journey, or help with anything regarding freediving in Taiwan and your stay on Liuqiu island, please feel free to email me through the contact page or just call Donny on 0909452409, any time.
If you would like to contribute to the information on this page, adding updates or new numbers for taxis etc, shoot me a message!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Donny is the founder of Taiwan’s first English language freediving centre, Freedive Taiwan, and host of the
Freedive Cafe Podcast.
He has lived in Taiwan for 8 years, much of that time on Xiao Liuqiu Island.
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