Taiwan Travel Tips
When the first ever Westerners to visit Taiwan saw this sweet-potato-shaped island situated in the east, they were mesmerized. The phrase that came to mind and out of their mouths was translated as “beautiful island.” With vibrant cities pulsating with life, majestic mountain sceneries, gorgeous basalt cliffs, and some of the earth’s most remarkable hot springs, those Portuguese sailors sure had it right. Do you want to see for yourself what all the fuss is about? Then, here’s everything you need to know to plan a trip to Taiwan:
Getting to and Around Taiwan
Before you get too excited and leave for Taiwan tomorrow, you must first ensure that you have all the necessary travel documents to enter the country legally. If you are a citizen of the United States, then thank your lucky stars because you can visit the country without a Taiwan visa as long as the length of your stay doesn’t exceed 30 days. You must also have a passport that is valid for at least another 6 months after you arrive in the country. Other tourists who can enjoy the same benefits include the citizens of the following: all 27 member states of the European Union as well as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore, and Israel.
Aside from a passport with 6 months validity, the Bureau of Consular Affairs (BOCA) also expects any Taiwan visitor to have a clean criminal record and requires you to present your ticket for departure or seat reservation as proof of the duration of your stay. Tourists from countries which aren’t listed above can also consult the bureau for more information on how to apply for a Taiwan visa.
Flying to the country’s well-connected main airport, the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport or TPE, remains the most hassle-free method of entering the country’s gateways. Also known as the Chiang Kai-shek (CKS) Airport, the TPE in Dayuan is comparatively near to Taipei, approximately 50 kilometers to the capital city. Immigration procedures are relatively easy to manage, and the guards there are quite efficient at their jobs. Other possible points of entry include Kaohsiung’s Siaogang Airport and Taichung’s Cing Cyuan Gang Airport, both of which handles mostly flights from and into Hong Kong and other Southeast Asian countries. If you’re planning to make a stop at other Asian destinations before you head to Taiwan, you can also take advantage of the numerous ferry services that can transport you from the nearby islands to the country. Of course, if you have a tendency to be sea-sick, this isn’t a viable option as some of the routes can get pretty rough, particularly when the weather decides to be a bit unruly.
Once you’ve set foot in Taiwan, getting around is pretty much achievable. There are various ways to travel from one place to another. Domestic flights can easily be booked, and most of the time, you won’t need to do so in advance. Mandarin Airlines, TransAsia Airways, and UNI Air are the names to look for when you’re considering Taiwan’s domestic carriers. Flying remains your best alternative if you plan to go on a trip to Taiwan’s smaller islands. It might even be the only sensible choice of getting to Matsu, Penghu, or Kinmen. The reasonable air fares are an added bonus.
Another viable means of traveling, and one that is fast becoming popular, is to make use of the country’s excellent train system, which has stopovers in each and every major Taiwan city. The advantage of choosing this transport method over all the others is that you get to avoid the highways, which are exceedingly packed on major holidays as well as the weekends.
You also have the option of taking the bus to your intercity or county destination. Although privately-owned buses afford a lot more luxury, government-owned buses aren’t too bad. They’re quite comfortable and are good at being on time. Taipei and Kaohsiung also boast outstanding subway systems that could be just what you need to get around the cities. Taxis are also practically everywhere, waiting for you to grace their interiors with your presence. Scooters, motorcycles, bicycles, and cars conclude the list of vehicles you can opt to use to get around.
The Best Time to Visit Taiwan
Although some people who’ve been to the country think that there are no seasons, you must still carefully consider the time of year you’ll be visiting Taiwan. Generally, it’s best to visit the nation from the months of September to November. These months comprise the autumn season, when the weather has a tendency to be dry and warm. You’ll also discover that air pollution, along with rates, is at its minimum during this period of time. If you visit anytime between March and May, which encompass spring, you might find yourself enjoying an initially dry and clear weather only to be shocked by grey and wet conditions, or worse, a sandstorm all in a single day.
If you wish to travel to the east coast and engage in some outdoor fun, you’ll find the months of June to August (Summer) agreeable. However, you should be aware that typhoons may decide join your trip anytime within the months mentioned. The outer islands are particularly crowded during Summer, and accommodations and flights may be hard to get your hands on. It’s more practical to hold off on your trip until October or November arrives; that’s when you can enjoy good weather conditions without going bankrupt on travel and hotel room costs.
Generally speaking, the high seasons of Chinese New Year and the months of July and August aren’t the best time to go on your Taiwan journey. The costs of accommodations can be pretty steep, with some reaching levels that are twice the off-season fees. However, the rates of less touristy areas don’t change much regardless of the month. If you don’t want to miss out on experiencing a Taiwanese festival, then your trip should be scheduled around the Lantern Festival, the Matsu Pilgrimage, or the Dragon Boat Festival.
Popular Cities and Tourist Attractions
Situated in a basin flanked by the Central and Yang Ming Mountains, Taipei serves as the nation’s hub for all cultural, financial, and governmental matters. Taiwan’s capital city is home to a plethora of modern-day sights as well as poignantly historic and gorgeously scenic attractions. Here are a few of these tourist spots worth your while:
Yangmingshan National Park
If attractive and vivid landscapes warm the cockles of your heart, then you should definitely not miss stopping at the Yamingshan National Park. Conveniently located near central Taipei, it will only take 30 minutes of your time to drive to the park and enjoy the sight of tranquil lakes, majestic mountain meadows, and rock-strewn cliffs. For an even greater experience, it’s best to visit the park from February to March. You’ll find yourself at a loss for words as you gaze upon all the magnificent cherry blossoms and flower beds.
Beitou Hot Springs
Although there are plenty of other places in the capital that can offer you a dip in hot springs, the Beitou area is the most renowned. Ever since the year 1986, hot baths resorts in Beitou have enjoyed a great number of tourists. Feeling cold and in need of some warmth? Take a break from all the traveling by delighting in Beitou’s hot springs.
National Palace Museum
Previously called the Sun Yet-Sen Museum, this magnificent and awe-inspiring museum was fashioned after the Forbidden City in Beijing, China. Constructed amidst the mountains in 1965, the Palace Museum offers visitors not only a stunning showcase of almost 700,000 historical artifacts, but also the heavenly views of the surrounding mountains topped with lusciously verdant forests. Plus, the museum itself is a sight to behold. Architecture lovers will absolutely die when they see this wonderful palace-inspired construction.
Taipei 101 Tower
While on the subject of architectural beauties, you shouldn’t also neglect to check out the Taipei 101 Tower, which is situated in the city’s downtown area. With 101 floors and a height of 509 meters, there’s no place better from which to contemplate the beauty of Taipei. You won’t even feel the minutes ticking by as you ride the elevator to the top floors, as the tower houses one of the fastest elevators in the world. In just under 40 seconds, you’ll be right where you need to be to enjoy the breathtaking panoramas.
Mengjia Longshan Temple
Renowned for its heartrending ancient Chinese poems, striking dragon poles, and multitudes of exquisite sculptures, Taipei’s Mengjia Longshan Temple is one of the reasons why travelers choose to visit the city. This age-old Chinese temple has seen a lot of damage and reconstruction over the decades and is a reminder of how perseverance matters in life. The most recent disaster that the temple faced was when American bombs destroyed it in 1945.
Shihlin Night Market
The Shihlin Night Market is the place to go if you’re on the hunt for inexpensive goods. It’s also the best place to be if you’re looking to satisfy your appetite for some real Taiwan cuisine. The range of food choices is simply mouthwatering. Filling rice dishes, luscious moon cakes, stomach-warming noodles, fried chicken, and tasty pancakes – you can find them all in the endless food stalls of the Shihlin Night Market.
The National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
This is a landmark that serves as a symbol of not only the vibrant city, but also the entire nation as well. Built in the memory of the Chiang Kai-shek, you’ll get to learn about the Taiwanese leader’s life as you traverse through the interiors of this hall. If you aren’t keen on getting to know him, the place is still worth a visit. The gardens that surround the memorial halls have Chinese-style ponds that are absolutely worthy of your attention. Plus, you’ll get to observe an age-old rifle-twirling ceremony as the guards who watch over the statue of Chiang Kai-shek are replaced hourly.
As Taiwan’s second largest city, a visit to Kaohsiung also deserves a slot in your itinerary. Kaohsiung has a lot of fantastic landscapes, picturesque parks, and other wonderful delights in store for you. Here are some of the city spots worth checking out:
Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts
If you’re looking to be impressed by works of art as well as be moved by historic artifacts, then there’s no place better for you than Taiwan’s third largest museum. Getting your fill of all the wonderful relics, sculptures, and paintings, you’ll be amazed to find that the museum has even more to offer in the way of its marvelous collection of calligraphic works. The latter may even be the highlight of your entire museum experience.
Fengshan Old City
Famous for its charming ancient architecture, this old city plays a major role in enticing tourists to head to the Zhou Ying region of Kaohsiung. Itching to immerse yourself in the history of the Ching Emperors? Then, alight at the Gao Hsiung district where you’ll find this 18th century piece of architecture.
Zuoying’s Lotus Lake
The Lotus Lake is another must-visit attraction of the city. Picture-perfect scenes along with all the water activities you can do at the beautiful lake will make for a great day trip. The nearby Confucian Temple, Dragon and Tiger Pagodas, and Spring and Autumn Pavilions will also be fantastic additions to your dreamy day at Lotus Lake.
Liouho Night Market
Taipei isn’t the only city where you’ll be able to enjoy the offerings of a fabulous night market. Kaohsiung has its very own Liouho Night Market where you can indulge in some serious shopping for souvenirs and handicrafts. Aside from gifts to bring home, you’ll also find a huge assortment of food choices and dishes that will please any glutton.
If you are the type to enjoy a well-organized trip across all that Taiwan has to offer, then you would do well to check out the various tours offered. One of the most comprehensive tours available is the 5-Day Best of Taiwan Tour, which will take you on a trip to see the country’s highlights. On this tour, you’ll get to visit an interestingly diverse collection of tourist attractions including historic shrines, temples, beaches, hot springs, and even busy modern districts. Another tour worth going on is the Wulai Aboriginal Village Tour, a half-day trip to the northern Taiwan mountain village. Not only will you be able to see aboriginal residents put on an entertaining show, but you will also be able to feast your eyes on the renowned 80-meter-high Wulai Waterfall. Lastly, while in Taipei, you might also want to hop onto a plane to Hualien and see one of Asia’s seven wonders on the Taroko Gorge Full-Day Tour.
Although it is a relatively small nation, Taiwan leaves nothing to be desired in the way of attractions to visit and pleasurable activities to engage in. Visitors will definitely find themselves wanting to return to this heavenly destination.