Taiwan Travel Guide – Everything You Need to Know

Welcome to Taiwan, an island nation that seamlessly blends modern innovation with rich cultural heritage. Nestled in the heart of East Asia, Taiwan offers travelers a diverse array of experiences, from bustling cities to lush landscapes, ancient temples to cutting-edge technology. Explore bustling night markets, hike scenic mountains, soak in natural hot springs, and savor a cuisine that reflects the island’s multicultural influences. With its friendly locals, efficient transportation, and a fusion of tradition and progress, Taiwan is a destination that invites you to discover its unique blend of history, nature, and contemporary vibrancy.

What’s the Best Time to Visit? 📅

The best time to visit Taiwan as a tourist depends on your preferences and the type of experiences you’re seeking. Taiwan experiences a subtropical climate with distinct seasons. Here are the main seasons and their characteristics:

  1. Spring (March to May):
    • Spring is a popular time to visit Taiwan due to the pleasant weather and blooming cherry blossoms and other flowers.
    • Temperatures are comfortable, making it ideal for outdoor activities and sightseeing.
    • This season is especially popular for hiking in Taiwan’s beautiful national parks.
  2. Summer (June to August):
    • Summer brings warmer temperatures and higher humidity, especially in July and August.
    • This is the typhoon season in Taiwan, and heavy rain and strong winds are possible. However, it’s also the time for festivals and beach activities.
  3. Fall (September to November):
    • Fall is another great time to visit Taiwan, with milder temperatures and less humidity compared to summer.
    • The weather is comfortable for exploring both urban and natural attractions.
  4. Winter (December to February):
    • Winter is the high season for tourism, especially in southern Taiwan where the weather remains mild.
    • Northern areas can be cooler, and higher elevations might experience frost or even light snowfall.

Considering these seasons, the best time to visit Taiwan for most travelers is during the spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) when the weather is pleasant, and outdoor activities are enjoyable. However, keep in mind that peak tourist seasons can result in higher prices for accommodations and crowded attractions. If you’re interested in festivals and events, summer also offers vibrant celebrations like the Dragon Boat Festival. Be sure to check weather forecasts and local events when planning your trip.

What’s the Best Way to Get Around? 🚌

Taiwan has an efficient and well-connected transportation system that makes it easy for tourists to explore the island. Here are the best ways to get around Taiwan:

  1. High-Speed Rail (HSR):
  • The Taiwan High-Speed Rail connects major cities, such as Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung. It’s a convenient and fast way to travel long distances.
  1. Trains:
  • Taiwan’s railway system covers both high-speed and regular trains. The regular trains are an economical way to travel between cities and also offer scenic views.
  1. Taipei Metro:
  • The Taipei Metro is a reliable and efficient subway system that covers the city and its outskirts. It’s a convenient way to navigate Taipei’s attractions.
  1. Buses:
  • Buses are a common mode of transportation within cities and between towns. They are an affordable option and offer extensive coverage.
  1. Public Bikes:
  • Many cities, including Taipei and Kaohsiung, have public bike-sharing systems. Renting a bike is a great way to explore these urban areas.
  1. Taxis and Ride-Sharing:
  • Taxis are widely available in cities and towns. Ride-sharing services like Uber are also present in some areas.
  1. Domestic Flights:
  • If you’re traveling long distances, consider domestic flights. They are available between major cities and can save you time if you’re on a tight schedule.
  1. Scooters:
  • Renting a scooter is a popular option for exploring more rural or scenic areas, especially in places like the Hualien region. However, this is recommended only if you’re experienced with riding scooters and aware of local traffic rules.
  1. Walking:
  • Many cities have pedestrian-friendly areas that are perfect for leisurely walks. Exploring on foot allows you to discover hidden gems and experience the local culture up close.

For most tourists, a combination of trains, buses, and the Taipei Metro is sufficient for getting around the major cities and attractions. The transportation system is user-friendly, with signs and announcements in English in most places. Keep in mind that while English is spoken to some extent, having a translation app or basic knowledge of Mandarin can be helpful, especially in more remote areas.

What’s the Official Language?

The official language of Taiwan is Mandarin Chinese. Here are some basic words and phrases in Mandarin that can be useful for tourists:

  1. Hello: 你好 (nǐ hǎo)
  2. Thank you: 謝謝 (xiè xiè)
  3. Yes: 是 (shì)
  4. No: 不是 (bù shì)
  5. Please: 請 (qǐng)
  6. Excuse me / Sorry: 不好意思 (bù hǎo yì si)
  7. Goodbye: 再見 (zài jiàn)
  8. How much is this?: 這個多少錢? (zhè gè duō shǎo qián?)
  9. Where is…?: …在哪裡? (…zài nǎ lǐ?)
  10. I don’t understand: 我不懂 (wǒ bù dǒng)
  11. Help!: 救命! (jiù mìng!)
  12. Water: 水 (shuǐ)
  13. Food: 食物 (shí wù)
  14. Bathroom: 廁所 (cè suǒ)
  15. Hotel: 飯店 (fàn diàn)
  16. Bus: 公車 (gōng chē)
  17. Train: 火車 (huǒ chē)
  18. Ticket: 票 (piào)
  19. Street: 街道 (jiē dào)
  20. Market: 市場 (shì chǎng)

Learning a few basic phrases can greatly enhance your interactions with locals and make your travels in Taiwan more enjoyable. Even attempting to speak a few words in Mandarin will likely be appreciated by the people you meet.

Where to Stay? 🏨

Taiwan offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit different preferences and budgets. Here are some popular places to stay for tourists in Taiwan:

  1. Taipei:
  • The capital city offers a diverse range of accommodations, from luxury hotels to budget hostels. Ximending, Zhongzheng District, and Da’an District are popular areas for tourists.
  1. Kaohsiung:
  • The largest city in southern Taiwan offers a variety of hotels, boutique guesthouses, and serviced apartments. The Love River area and Cijin District are popular choices.
  1. Tainan:
  • Tainan, known for its historical sites, has charming boutique hotels, guesthouses, and traditional courtyard-style accommodations.
  1. Hualien:
  • Hualien is a gateway to Taroko Gorge and offers a range of hotels, hostels, and guesthouses. It’s a popular destination for nature enthusiasts.
  1. Sun Moon Lake:
  • This scenic area has lakeside resorts, boutique hotels, and guesthouses offering beautiful views and tranquility.
  1. Alishan:
  • Alishan National Scenic Area offers accommodations ranging from guesthouses to more upscale options, allowing you to experience the stunning mountain landscapes.
  1. Kenting:
  • Kenting National Park, known for its beaches and natural beauty, offers beachfront resorts, budget hostels, and guesthouses.
  1. Jiufen:
  • This charming mountain town offers unique guesthouses and tea houses with stunning views of the coastline.
  1. Yilan:
  • Yilan County has hot spring resorts, cozy bed and breakfasts, and accommodations surrounded by lush landscapes.
  1. Penghu Islands:
    • The islands offer accommodations near the beach, ranging from resorts to smaller inns.

When choosing where to stay in Taiwan, consider the attractions you plan to visit, the type of experience you want, and your budget. Booking in advance, especially during peak seasons, is recommended to secure the best options. Additionally, reading reviews and checking the amenities and services offered by accommodations can help you find the perfect place for your stay.

What to Eat? 🍽️

Taiwan is renowned for its vibrant culinary scene, offering a plethora of delicious and unique dishes that reflect its diverse cultural influences. Here are some must-try foods for tourists in Taiwan:

  1. Night Market Snacks:
  • Visit one of Taiwan’s famous night markets for a variety of street food delights such as stinky tofu, oyster omelets, grilled squid, and bubble tea.
  1. Beef Noodle Soup:
  • A Taiwanese classic, this hearty dish features tender beef, chewy noodles, and a flavorful broth enriched with spices.
  1. Gua Bao (Pork Belly Bun):
  • A fluffy steamed bun filled with tender, fatty pork belly, pickled mustard greens, crushed peanuts, and cilantro.
  1. Oyster Vermicelli:
  • A noodle soup featuring vermicelli noodles, oysters, and a savory broth seasoned with black vinegar and garlic.
  1. Scallion Pancakes:
  • Crispy, flaky pancakes filled with chopped scallions and sometimes minced meat or other fillings.
  1. Dumplings:
  • Both steamed and pan-fried dumplings filled with various combinations of meats, vegetables, and seasonings.
  1. Taiwanese Hot Pot (Shabu-shabu):
  • Enjoy a communal dining experience by cooking your own meats, seafood, and vegetables in a bubbling hot pot of broth.
  1. Sticky Rice Dumplings (Zongzi):
  • A traditional snack made of glutinous rice stuffed with various fillings, wrapped in bamboo leaves, and typically enjoyed during the Dragon Boat Festival.
  1. Lu Rou Fan (Braised Pork Rice):
  • A comforting dish of tender, braised pork belly served over steamed rice and topped with a soy-infused sauce.
  1. Mango Shaved Ice:
    • A refreshing dessert made with shaved ice topped with sweet mango slices, condensed milk, and sometimes other fruits or toppings.
  2. Dan Bing (Egg Crepe):
    • A popular breakfast item, dan bing is a thin, savory crepe filled with ingredients like egg, scallions, and often a crispy cracker.
  3. Pineapple Cake:
    • A delectable pastry filled with sweet pineapple jam, enjoyed as a snack or souvenir.
  4. Bubble Tea:
    • Taiwan is the birthplace of this iconic drink, featuring a variety of flavors, teas, and add-ins like tapioca pearls or fruit jelly.
  5. Braised Snacks (滷味 Lǔ Wèi):
    • A selection of soy-braised meats, tofu, and vegetables that you can mix and match to create your own meal.

Exploring Taiwan’s culinary offerings is an integral part of the travel experience, as you’ll discover the unique flavors and influences that contribute to the island’s vibrant food culture.

What to See? 🔍

Taiwan boasts a diverse array of attractions that cater to a wide range of interests, from natural wonders to cultural landmarks. Here are some must-see places for tourists in Taiwan:

  1. Taroko Gorge:
  • A stunning marble gorge in Hualien, offering dramatic landscapes, hiking trails, and the mesmerizing Eternal Spring Shrine.
  1. Alishan National Scenic Area:
  • Home to ancient forests, scenic train rides, and breathtaking sunrise views from Alishan Peak.
  1. Sun Moon Lake:
  • Taiwan’s largest lake surrounded by picturesque landscapes, temples, and the Wenwu Temple overlooking the water.
  1. Kenting National Park:
  • A tropical paradise known for its beaches, coral reefs, hiking trails, and diverse marine life.
  1. Yehliu Geopark:
  • Famous for its unique rock formations, including the iconic “Queen’s Head,” sculpted by natural erosion.
  1. Taipei 101:
  • An iconic skyscraper offering panoramic views of Taipei, upscale shopping, and impressive architecture.
  1. Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall:
  • A historical and cultural landmark in Taipei, honoring Taiwan’s former president with grand architecture and tranquil surroundings.
  1. National Palace Museum:
  • Home to an extensive collection of Chinese artifacts, including ancient artworks, calligraphy, and rare treasures.
  1. Jiufen Old Street:
  • A charming mountain village known for its narrow alleys, tea houses, and nostalgic atmosphere.
  1. Tainan:
    • Taiwan’s oldest city, rich in history and home to well-preserved temples, forts, and traditional markets.
  2. Tainan Flower Night Market:
    • A vibrant night market offering local delicacies, street food, and a lively atmosphere.
  3. Penghu Islands:
    • A group of islands known for their stunning beaches, water activities, and unique basalt formations.
  4. Beitou Hot Springs:
    • A natural hot spring area in Taipei, featuring public and private hot spring baths for relaxation.
  5. National Taichung Theater:
    • An architectural marvel in Taichung, renowned for its innovative design and cultural events.
  6. Ximending District:
    • A trendy shopping and entertainment district in Taipei, known for its lively atmosphere, theaters, and street art.

These are just a few of the many incredible destinations in Taiwan. Whether you’re drawn to natural landscapes, historical sites, or urban attractions, Taiwan offers a diverse range of experiences that will captivate and enrich your travel journey.

What to Do? 📸

In addition to exploring must-see places, there are several exciting and enriching activities that tourists can enjoy in Taiwan. Here are some must-do things to consider during your visit:

  1. Climb Elephant Mountain for Taipei 101 Views:
  • Hike up Elephant Mountain in Taipei to enjoy stunning views of the city skyline and Taipei 101.
  1. Participate in a Lantern Festival:
  • Experience the magical Lantern Festival, usually held around the Lunar New Year, where thousands of lanterns are released into the sky.
  1. Take a Scenic Train Ride:
  • Enjoy a leisurely train ride through Taiwan’s picturesque landscapes, such as the Alishan Forest Railway.
  1. Explore Jiufen’s Tea Houses and Markets:
  • Wander through the charming streets of Jiufen, visit traditional tea houses, and shop for unique souvenirs.
  1. Visit Tainan’s Historical Temples:
  • Explore Tainan’s rich history by visiting its many temples, such as the historic Chihkan Tower and Koxinga Shrine.
  1. Sample Street Food at a Night Market:
  • Indulge in Taiwan’s street food culture by trying a variety of dishes at bustling night markets like Shilin Night Market in Taipei.
  1. Take a Dip in Hot Springs:
  • Relax in the natural hot springs of Beitou or other hot spring areas throughout Taiwan.
  1. Experience Indigenous Culture:
  • Learn about Taiwan’s indigenous cultures by visiting museums, attending cultural events, or participating in indigenous village tours.
  1. Attend a Traditional Chinese Opera or Theater Performance:
  • Immerse yourself in Taiwanese culture by watching traditional performances like Taiwanese opera or puppetry shows.
  1. Explore Taroko Gorge’s Trails:
    • Hike the scenic trails of Taroko Gorge, surrounded by towering marble cliffs and lush landscapes.
  2. Cycle Along Sun Moon Lake:
    • Rent a bicycle and enjoy a leisurely ride around the picturesque Sun Moon Lake area.
  3. Take a Boat Trip to Green Island:
    • Discover the underwater world by snorkeling or diving off Green Island, known for its coral reefs.
  4. Experience the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival:
    • If visiting during the Lantern Festival, participate in the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival by releasing your own lantern into the sky.
  5. Join a Tea Tasting Session:
    • Taiwan is renowned for its high-quality teas. Join a tea tasting session to learn about and sample different varieties.
  6. Engage in Water Activities in Kenting:
    • Enjoy water sports such as snorkeling, diving, and surfing in the clear waters of Kenting National Park.

By participating in these activities, you’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in Taiwan’s culture, history, and natural beauty, creating lasting memories of your time on the island.

Culture and Safety 🦺

Culture:

Taiwan’s culture is a blend of traditional Chinese values, indigenous influences, and modern innovations. When traveling to Taiwan, it’s important to be respectful of local customs and practices:

  1. Etiquette and Politeness: Taiwanese people value politeness and humility. Greet people with a nod or a slight bow. Use both hands or your right hand when giving or receiving items.
  2. Shoes Off Indoors: It’s customary to remove your shoes before entering someone’s home, certain businesses, and even some temples.
  3. Temples and Religious Sites: When visiting temples, dress modestly and respectfully. Avoid wearing revealing clothing. Be quiet and respectful during ceremonies.
  4. Respect for Elders: Show respect to older individuals by addressing them with appropriate titles, such as “uncle” or “auntie.”
  5. Chopsticks: Don’t stick chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice, as this resembles a funeral ritual.
  6. Queuing: Taiwan is known for its orderly queues. Wait your turn in lines and follow the lead of locals.
  7. Tipping: Tipping is not a common practice in Taiwan, except for upscale restaurants and hotels where a service charge may already be included.

Safety:

Taiwan is generally considered a safe destination for travelers, with low crime rates and a welcoming atmosphere. However, like any travel destination, it’s wise to take some precautions:

  1. Health Precautions: Taiwan has high standards of hygiene, but it’s a good idea to drink bottled or boiled water and use hand sanitizer.
  2. Weather Awareness: Taiwan experiences typhoons during certain times of the year. Pay attention to weather forecasts and follow advisories if a typhoon is expected.
  3. Traffic Safety: Taiwan’s traffic can be busy and sometimes chaotic. When crossing the road, use pedestrian crossings and obey traffic signals.
  4. Personal Belongings: Keep an eye on your belongings, especially in crowded areas and on public transportation.
  5. Emergency Numbers: The emergency number for police is 110, and for medical assistance, it’s 119.
  6. Natural Disasters: Taiwan is in an earthquake-prone area. Familiarize yourself with earthquake safety procedures and follow local advice in case of emergencies.
  7. Scams: While scams are not common, be cautious of over-friendly strangers offering unsolicited help or services.

By being respectful of local customs, staying aware of your surroundings, and taking basic safety precautions, you can have a smooth and enjoyable experience traveling in Taiwan.

Conclusion

In summary, a trip to Taiwan promises an unforgettable adventure through a land of contrasts. From the towering skyscrapers of Taipei to the tranquil shores of Sun Moon Lake, and the historic temples of Tainan to the stunning Taroko Gorge, Taiwan offers a dynamic tapestry of experiences. By delving into its culture, sampling its diverse cuisine, and exploring its natural wonders, you’ll create memories that reflect the island’s warm hospitality and the harmonious blend of tradition and modernity. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a nature lover, or a tech-savvy explorer, Taiwan welcomes you with open arms to discover its myriad treasures.