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Mountains, canyons, beaches and amazing food – this delightful island has it all. Get ready to embark on your Taiwan trip and explore this spectacular East Asian destination.
As a travel blogger, I many people ask me about my favorite destination. “So, which place on Earth did you like the most? Where should we go?”. My answer is always the same: “Just visit Taiwan“.
And still people are surprised. They might have heard of Taiwan – but how could such a tiny island be anybody’s favorite place to go? Especially if you have hundreds or thousands more impressive choices?
It’s time that I show you why. This post is dedicated to my friends in Taiwan and all the people who are thinking about visiting Taiwan in the future. I do have experience in Living in Taiwan for more than two years and I am happy to share!
So – get ready to book your ticket! It’s time to travel to Taiwan!
Things to know before visiting Taiwan
Where is Taiwan located?
Just to be clear: you wouldn’t believe how many people have mistaken the location or the name of this little island. It often gets confused with Thailand. Believe me, this place is really nothing like Taiwan!
Taiwan is an island in the Pacific Ocean located off the southeastern coast of China. It’s north of the Philippines. Well, just check the map below.
What’s the best season for visiting Taiwan?
My personal favorite is autumn, from mid-September to mid-November, when summer in Europe is already over but Taiwan still offers nice temperatures above 20 degrees.
Spring is another great alternative: you will experience the blossoming of cherry trees and other gardens. It’s a nice time to do hikes as well.
Is there time to avoid when visiting Taiwan? Definitely the summer, due to frequent typhoons. Being stuck at the hotel for the whole weekend due to typhoon approaching the island is no fun, trust me.
Do I need visa to visit Taiwan?
Although many western passport holders are eligible for visa-free entry for 90 days, it is always good to check the specifics for your country to avoid complications. This map provides a good overview and other information can be found on this website.
In order to be approved for visa-free entry, make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months (3 months for Japanese). Also, you should have proof of onward travel from Taiwan, such a flight ticket back. They simply want to know that you are not planning to stay.
I had to show it once before traveling to Taiwan and I had a hard time in the airport where to get such a proof (in the end I showed reservation in Czech language, which was enough. It wasn’t the actual purchased flight, but was good enough. )
Is it safe to visit Taiwan?
Definitely: speaking out of personal experience, I felt more safer in Taipei than for example back home in Czech republic and it’s capital – Prague. In Taiwan, you will be safe even as female solo traveler.
For more than two years, I never experienced any violence or theft. Of people find some items not belonging to them, they generally try to find the owner. I forgot a handbag at one public ceremony, and the founder tied to call all people from my contact list in the phone, until he found out whom it belongs.
What you have to take care is the traffic: frequently, I saw people driving dangerously, especially on the scooters. If you want to stay on the save side, use one of many public transportation options instead. If you still want to try, at least avoid riding scooter in Taipei.
Taipei is really great city when it comes to moving around. The local metro system is the most reliable way to get around. You can pay the ticket it cash, credit card or a contactless Easy Card. If you are planning to stay more than just a couple of days, I recommend you to get one as you get discounted on all public transportation Taiwan.
For traveling around the island, car rental could be a good choice. Since I am not much of the driver, I have usually used a train to travel to the other parts of Taiwan.
One of my most extreme experiences was making around trip on bicycle. Cycling Taiwan was indeed a special experience. But of you are not into doing 900 kilometers in 9 days, you can consider taking some smaller day trips during your stay.
Prices in Taiwan
Unfortunately, you can’t expect Taiwan to be as cheap as some of the south east Asian countries. Still, travelling in Taiwan is much more affordable than in Japan or Hong Kong.
The biggest part of your budget will definitely go on accommodation. For instance, nice private rooms with shared bathroom facilities ranged from 950 NTD to 1100NTD (~US$28 to $36). Especially in Taipei, it can happen to you that the room is just very small and without window, so definitely check the reviews before. I have stayed in Taipei for 3 months testing various budget places and I have shared a list of Best Hostels in Taipei here.
What is quite affordable in Taiwan is the food: street food in Taiwan is both yummy and inexpensive, so don’t worry to experiment. My advice is to sick to the local food during the time you visit Taiwan: the western food (such burgers or pizza) are much more expensive compared to rice and noodles.
The language in Taiwan
Let’s be honest: you have to be prepared for a bit of a language barrier when visiting Taiwan. In Taipei, you will be more or less be able to get around with English. But: despite the fact that most local people have spent an incredible number of hours learning English, they are pretty shy to speak it. It needs some patience, indeed.
When it comes to smaller cities and villages, the language barrier deepens. In Taiwan, the official language is Mandarin while a majority of people also speak Taiwanese Hokkien. The writing and signs (including the restaurant menus) are pretty tricky, as they are written in traditional Chinese.
Despite English being not that common outside Taipei, you will definitely find your way around. Taiwanese people are extremely helpful and friendly to foreigners. You will manage!
10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Taiwan
Let’s get this started. Here is my list of all the fantastic tourist attractions and places to visit on the delightful island of Taiwan!
01 | The Scenery
Taiwan is incredibly green. No matter where you are, there is always a lush tropical forest around the corner. Therefore, the amazing sceneries are definitely a reason to visit Taiwan.
The capital is surrounded by mountains with Yangmingshan National Park is situated just 12 kilometers from downtown Taipei. If you are interested in half-day Yanmingshan tour combined with hot springs, I recommend this tour.
The landscape changes dramatically across the island. Central Taiwan is dominated by impressive summits, while the southern tip of Taiwan – Kenting – is famous for its sandy beaches.
02| Colorful festivals
Taiwan’s calendar is packed with fascinating celebrations and holidays.
These are my favorite:
- Taiwan Lantern festival – thousands of paper lanterns are released in Pingxi. (Jan/ Feb)
- Matsu Pilgrimage – annual massive folk fest. 300 kilometers in 9 days. (Mar)
- Dragon boat festival – boat races on local rivers across the country. (Jun)
- International balloon fiesta – colourful balloons rising in Luye Gaotai near Taitung. (July-Aug)
List of all festivals is to be found here.
03| The Aboriginal Culture
There are 16 officially recognized tribes in Taiwan.
They lived on the island long before the Han settlers arrived from China. Nowadays, their population is only 500,000 (2% of the total population of Taiwan).
A great place to learn about the various tribes is Sun Moon Lake area where the oldest tribes come from. It is hard to get so I recommend you visit it as part of this tour showing the best of Taiwan in just 5 days.
04 | The Beauty of the East Coast Will Leave You Speechless
The biggest part of Taiwan’s 23 million population lives on the west coast, while the east coast remains pristine and wild. To me the east is actually the most beautiful part of Taiwan.
These are the must-see places:
Taroko National Park – Taiwan’s most stunning national park, with 16 kilometres limestone canyon cutting through it. It is little hard to move around, so I strongly recommend to visit it on this tour including transport and guides.
Mugumugi – A lagoon with crystal clear turquoise water located 30 kilometres north from Hualien city. You are actually allowed to swim in it! Yay! I wrote about it here.
Qingshui Cliffs– spectacular cliffs rising dramatically from the Pacific Ocean up to over 800 meters above sea level.
East Rift Valley – A pretty area flanked by mountains. Lots of unique plants can be found there. The land is totally flat – perfect for cycling!
My blogger friend Nick wrote a detailed post about traveling to the East Coast: Yilan, Hualien and Taroko.
05 | The Mysterious Outlying Islands
Taiwan consists of more than just one island! Are you surprised?
The little know outlying islands are peaceful and not yet damaged by mass tourism. Green Island (Ludao) features unique saltwater hosting, Orchid Island (Lanyu) amazes its visitors with it’s volcanic landscape and mystic atmosphere.
If you are into history, you should visit the oldest villages of the islands, head to Kinmen and Matsu, lying in the Taiwan Strait. If you are more into sunbathing and first class windsurfing, head to the west coast’s Penghu archipelago.
06 | The Hiking Paradise
Hiking in Taiwan is one of the best in East Asia. The mountains cover two-thirds of the country’s terrain.
Hardcore hikers usually want to tackle one of the two highest Taiwan mountains – Jade mountain (Yushan 3,952 m) or Snow mountain (Xueshan 3,886 m).
The best alternative for beginners is Hehuanshan (3,422) within Taroko National Park. It’s easily accessible and the view is stunning!
Overnight camping up there was one of my best experiences in Taiwan. There are at least 5 adventures you should try in Taiwan.
07 | Taiwanese food
You will love this combination – Taiwanese food is incredibly tasty and really affordable! There are countless night markets across the island. Each one is different which makes it exciting. In Taipei, Shilin night market is the largest. Wanna know my favorite? It’s Raohe Street Night Market.
Taiwan dishes you should try:
Mango shaved ice: a pile of mango ice shavings that will make you experience a food orgasm. My favorite desert!
Stinky tofu: fermented snack that assaults the nose but pleases the palate. The smellier, the better. Ouch!
Beef Noodle: noodle soup made of stewed or red braised beef, beef broth, vegetables and Chinese noodles.
Braised pork rice: order “Lurou fan” and you get a bowl or rice with braised pork slices on the top. Humble but very traditional.
Flaky scallion pancakes: Chewy, flaky, and savory scallion pancakes are one of my favorite snacks in Taiwan. So addictive!
08 | Cosmopolitan Taipei
Taipei offers a thrilling mixture of European and Chinese culture as well as the old and new.
Taipei offers a lot of sights, these are the highlights:
- Elephant mountain
- Taipei 101
- National Palace Museum
- Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
- Longshan Temple
09 | The People in Taiwan
I have been to over 30 countries and never met people friendlier than the Taiwanese. They always offer to help and love talking to foreigners.
You will notice that they are extremely shy. Their English is often perfect but you need to give them time and encourage them.
If you stay a bit longer around the island, chances are, you will make really good friends over there.
10 | The Hotspring Addiction
People in Taiwan love hot springs. Some people visit them every day!
There are public hot springs in Beitou, about an hour from Taipei city center. And you should definitely try the wild hotsprings, too! An excellent choice is BaYan Wild Springs, in Yangmingshan National Park (this is also where I took the photo above). This tour takes you there and I know you will love it.
Soaking in the hot springs is a must-do experience. Make sure you are not leaving without it!
Travel tips for visiting Taiwan
Traveling in Taiwan is really easy: especially thanks to efficient transportation system and also the friendliness of people, who are always ready to help you (especially to the foreigners).
- Water: The tap water in Taiwan is not drinkable. However, there are often water fountains with filters on public places: in hotels, hostels, MTR stations, in the train, and in the museum. You can carry around a bottle and use it every time to refill.
- Electricity: Bring an adapter for 110V AC. Taiwan wall sockets are made for standard American two-pin flat plugs. Normally, you can borrow one at your accommodation. You can also buy your own in any electronics or hardware store (they frequently have them in 7/11 shops as well).
- Money: Taiwan’s currency is called The New Taiwan Dollar, or NT for short. Generally speaking, credit cards (Mastercard, Visa, American Express and Diners Club) are accepted at hotels, better restaurants and even most supermarkets. There are still many occasions you will need cash: for example for buying the street food.
- ATMs: Most ATM machines on the island have an English language option, but only about half accept foreign cards. Your best bet to get cash from a foreign account with your debit card is to hit any Bank of Taiwan Branch, or any branch of a non-Taiwanese bank (HSBC, etc). If you hit a machine that doesn’t take your card, you won’t be charged; just move onto the next one.
- Tipping: is virtually non-existent in Taiwan. Don’t be surprised: Most people will insist on giving you back exactly.
Resources for visiting Taiwan
- Accommodation: I prefer to use Booking.com to search for my accommodation. Follow this link to Booking to see the best hotels and hostels in whole of Taiwan, along with reviews.
- Tours: Do you prefer visiting Taiwan with guide? There are so many different day trips and sightseeing tours available around Taiwan.
…So, are you ready for the trip now? See you in Taiwan!
Have you visited Taiwan?
I wonder how was your experience like – honestly, so far I haven’t encountered a person who didn’t like this tiny island!
Thanks a lot for reading – and please share the article with your friends. Let’s spread the news about Taiwan’s beauty!
Photo credit and special thanks
Big thanks go to photographers who cooperated with me on this post. I used their photos since they had a better picture of the same place.
Title cover picture: stunning panorama by Guillaume Bouvier. Follow him on Instagram @Yohmi.
Picture of Qingshui Cliffs: by Jeff Chao, guide from Taiwan Vista Tour.
Picture of Taiwanese food: by Chia Cheng Su, food photographer who runs Facebook The Beauty of Taiwan.
Picture of Taipei panorama: by Martin Kaalund Pedersen from Denmark.
The post was edited by Joanna Beata.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]