Your essential guide to Travel Taiwan

Taiwan has gained popularity over the years and it is easy to see why. In this 5 minutes read, I will tell you why I love Taiwan, how to travel around in Taiwan, where to go and what to eat.

Guide table of contents

  1. Why I love Taiwan
  2. How to get around in Taiwan
  3. Where to go in Taiwan
    • Yangminshan National Park
    • Jiufen, Shifen Old Street and Houtong Cat Village
    • Miyahara Ice Cream Shop
    • Cingjing
    • Taroko National Park
    • Fo Guang Shan Monastery
  4. What to eat in Taiwan
    • Stinky Tofu
    • Traditional Taiwanese breakfast
    • Fruits
    • Any local eatery
    • Bubble Tea
  5. Conclusion

Why I love Taiwan:

Taiwan has the perfect blend of city life and natural scenery. A short drive out of the city centre and you will find yourself immersed in Taiwan’s mountains and beaches. Locals are friendly and they do not hesitate to help you find your way. Not to mention, their food and bubble tea are… to die for.

Something different that I noticed about Taiwan is how eco-friendly they are. After speaking to a few locals and my Airbnb host, I found that Taiwanese practice separating their recyclables from trash.

One of the safest country in the world with kind-hearted locals, it is no wonder why many, including I, sing praise about Taiwan.

I explored Taiwan for 10 days, starting from Taoyuan International Airport to Taipei, Taichung, Nantou, Chiayi and finally Kaohsiung.

How to get around in Taiwan

High-speed rail (HSR). The HSR only operates on the Western Coast of Taiwan. The best way to book your tickets is to do it on their website because the earlier you book your tickets, the greater the discount you get to enjoy! To pay for your ticket, you can use your credit card or you can use cash to pay at the convenient stores when you collect your tickets.

Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA). The TRA operates in the whole of Taiwan and there are multiple trips that take place from one place to another. Some train rides are longer because it takes a different route so you should choose wisely. Same with the HSR, you can pay and collect your tickets at convenient stores.

Within each city, they have their own public transportation. Only Taipei and Kaohsiung have Metro networks that are reliable. Each city has bus services but I found them to be quite unreliable based on my own experience.

Taxi. Some taxi run on the meter but most taxi drivers are happy to negotiate a flat rate for the whole journey.

Private hires. It is difficult to find private drivers in Taiwan unless you know of people who have travelled to Taiwan before and therefore have connections with the driver. Of course, I would recommend using OWNRIDES as you can create your preferred itineraries where you can plan your trip to your liking. Once you have keyed in all the places you would like to visit, you will get a quote instantly which will save the hassle of negotiating the price with the driver.

Tips

  1. Get an Easy Card. The Easy Card is the most widely accepted around the country, be it for the metro or buses. What I did before going to Taiwan was to collect EasyCards from my friends/relatives who have been to Taiwan before. This saved us NT100/Person! Not only did getting the Easy Card saved us the trouble of buying train tokens every time, we also got to enjoy discounted fares!
  2. I highly recommend getting a private hire if you are travelling in large groups or your stay in Taiwan is limited. 
  3. Bring an umbrella along with you. Whether you go in the Summer or the Winter, an umbrella is a must to shade you from the sun or shelter you from the rain.
  4. Don’t pack so many socks, buy them when you are visiting the night markets. There are several stores in the night market selling good quality socks. At Raohe Night Market, we found a stall that sold a pair of socks for NT50 each. What a bargain! 

Where to go in Taiwan?

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Yangmingshan National Park – Taipei

Tranquil and pristine, Yangmingshan National Park offers a different landscape than the bustling Taipei did. Since Yangmingshan is quite a popular attraction, I expected it to be crowded but to my surprise, there were not many people! In fact, it was quiet and peaceful, perfect to relax and unwind. The gentle slope and the low temperature makes it perfect for people of all ages to enjoy a stroll around this park. Yangminshan is a must-go when you are in Taipei.

For anyone going to Yangmingshan, I recommend bringing a  jacket and an umbrella just in case the weather takes a turn. At such high altitudes, exposure to the sun rays can harmful to your skin so remember to get protection against the UV rays.  

It took me around 1.5 hours to travel from my airbnb (Located at Songjiang Nanjing) to Yangmingshan. To fully utilise your time at Yangmingshan, I suggest picking out 2-3 locations that you want to visit and plan ahead. Check the map here to plan your route. Within Yangmingshan, there are 3 busses (108,124 and 125) that are in operation, making it easy to get from one attraction to another. Bus 125 goes to the flower Clock while 108 and 124 and 125 goes to the other side of the National Park – Qingtiangang and Xiaoyoukeng. However, do note that the busses (108,124, 125) can only fit up to 20 people so if there are no more seats, you will have to stand on the bus. 

Tip: If you are at Yangmingshan National Park, you can head to Beitou Hot Spring for some fun! Tamsui Old Street is also a good place to watch the sunset and have dinner at. 

Check out a 1 day tour of Yangmingshan, Beitou hot spring and Tamsui here.

Bus routes within Yangmingshan National Park – 108, 124, 125

Jiufen Old Street, Shifen Old Street, Houtong Cat Village

Typical Jiufen shot

Located on the Pingxi Line, Jiufen Old Street is a popular destination that tourists frequents. Many opt to take the TRA from Taipei Main Station to Ruifang station, and then take another train on the Pingxi Line. However, the tricky part is that the train on Pingxi Line comes every hour. This means that if you miss your train, you will be stranded at the station for an hour before the next one arrives! Make sure to wake up early and be on time for your train! 

At Jiufen Old Street, there are plenty of souvenir stores, snack stores, bubble tea stores and eateries. What I like about Jiufen Old Street is the anticipation of what might be around the corner – One turn and you might end up at a temple or a famous food store. One thing you must absolutely try when you are there is the peanut ice cream roll with coriander leaves. The fresh coriander leaves compliments the sweet ice cream and the peanut adds a crunchy texture to it.

Don’t be fooled if you think Jiufen Old Street and Shifen Old Street are near each other… they are not! In fact, they are 1 hour apart if you use public transport. At Shifen Old Street, the most popular thing to do is to release the sky lanterns for wealth, luck or health. 

Other than Jiufen Old Street on the Pingxi Line, Houtong Cat Village is perfect if you are a cat lover. There are many cat-themed items that you can get such as notebooks, t-shirts, eye mask, wallet etc. 

Tip: Book a private hire so you can see more within the same time! OWNRIDES’ most private tour package is the 1day tour to Yehliu-Jiufen-Shifen. 

Miyahara Ice Cream – Taichung

The array of flavours presented at Miyahara Ice Cream shop was enough to make me drool. The selection ranged from chocolate to tea to fruity flavours. The staff offered to sample numerous flavours which made the experience a comfortable and easygoing one. 

Fortunately, it was not crowded when I went there and only needed to wait for roughly 30 minutes! However, during my research, I found that the queues at Miyahara can be notoriously long. After receiving your ice cream, take some Instagram-worthy shots and head to sit along the river just outside Miyahara to enjoy your ice cream. 

Cingjing

Cingjing is another popular destination amongst tourist and it is not difficult to see why. As Cingjing is about 2000m above sea level, the temperature in Cingjing will be significantly lower than the rest of Taiwan so do pack for the cold weather!

For a full experience, you should stay overnight at Cingjing. Most of the accommodation there provide services to go to Hehuanshan to see the sunrise in the morning, which is rather popular. An activity not to be missed in Cingjing is to feed the sheep, take pictures with them and watch the sheep-shearing session at Green Green Grasslands. Honestly, I found the sheep to be pretty intimidating as they run towards you at the sight of the food but younger children found them to be cute. The food pellets can be bought at NT50 at food dispenser machines located around Green Green Grasslands.

The winding, uphill terrain to go Cingjing can cause motion sickness so it is important that you are comfortable on the ride. If you are going Cingjing, I highly recommend you to get a private hire because you will be sent to your accommodation directly. An option to consider is to take the shuttle bus from Cingjing but, you will have to drag your luggage from the bus stop all the way to your accommodation. If it starts raining, good luck!

Tip: You can check out our one-day Cingjing Day Tour or our Taichung one-day tour to Sun Moon Lake and Cinjing. Our 2 day Hehuanshan and Cingjing tour is also an option to consider.

Tip: Pack your jacket in your day pack.

Taroko Gorge National Park – Hualien

Credits to Toplu Bilgi on Flickr:

Sadly, nature was not on my side when we were visiting Taiwan as an earthquake hit the Eastern Coast days prior to our flight which made it dangerous to visit Taroko Gorge. Thus, we were left with no choice but to make different arrangements for our trip. Even then, Taroko National Park is on my top list simply because of how stunning it is through pictures. If given the opportunity to visit Taiwan again, I would go to Hualien just to see the Eternal Spring Shrine and Swallow Grotto in Taroko National Park. The most popular way to explore Taroko Gorge is through a private hire

Fo Guang Shan Monastery – Kaohsiung

Fo Guang Shan is the largest Buddhist complex in Taiwan. Upon arrival at the Fo Guang Shan Monastery, the only word I had in mind was – humongous. I spent approximately 5 hours at the museum, thinking that I explored the entire area but I was wrong. To my disbelief, we only explored one out of the three sections and we didn’t even explore the main temple! There are restaurants, snack shops, souvenir shops and even Starbucks so you do not have to worry about meal plans.

To travel to Fo Guang Shan, you should take the Kaohsiung metro to Zuoying station (Also where the HSR is located) and take a bus straight to Fo Guang Shan. The buses available and the respective timetable can be found here. I would suggest spending at least half a day here so that you have sufficient time to appreciate and look at the museum!

If you only have a day or two in Kaohsiung, I suggest hiring a private driver to take you to the popular places in Kaohsiung which are: Fo Guang Shan, Lotus Pond and Cijin Island.

What to eat in Taiwan

Stinky Tofu

The crispy skin and chewy texture of the tofu drizzled with a savoury sauce is definitely a winner for me. As you bite into the succulent pieces of the tofu, the fragrance of the tofu goes up your nose. Honestly, I don’t think stinky tofu is as stinky as some people have described them to be.

I have tried 3 stinky tofu on my trip – Raohe Night Market, Jiufen Old Street and in Kaohsiung. The one pictured on the right is in Kaohsiung (which is the best in my opinion) but unfortunately, I do not have the location of the stall. The one in Jiufen Old Street is comparable nevertheless.

Traditional Taiwanese breakfast

There is nothing better than to start the day with a Traditional Taiwanese breakfast. The smooth bean curd with the crispy egg roll really was astonishing. I could see why the Taiwanese love their breakfast so much.

Fruits

Guava Fruit juice @ Jiufen Old Street

This is not a typical suggestion but the fruits in Taiwan are exceptionally sweet and fresh.

Local eateries

These food were not expensive at all, in fact, very affordable.

Bubble Tea

Saving the best for the last – bubble tea! Taiwanese bubble tea is on a whole different level, I went crazy for them. Their tea is fragrant and the pearls were chewy and sweet. On average, the cost of a large-sized bubble tea is around NT60 (SGD $2.70). Now that I’m back in Singapore, I seriously regret not buying more. It is time for a review:

Xin Fu Tang: The roasted brown sugar coupled with the aromatic tea makes it a match made in heaven. 4.5/5.

Tea Top: The passion fruit tea was perfect to quench our thirst on a hot scorching day. 4/5.

Presotea: Presotea has several outlets in Taiwan. What impressed me the most is that they roast the tea leaves on the spot!

Mr. Bolo in Fengjia Night Market: Brown sugar milk tea paired with Grass Jelly. A twist in the content of the drink and a legendary drink is created. 4/5

Yifang Taiwan Fruit Tea in Chiayi: This milk tea changed my perception of what a bubble tea should be. The thickness of the brown sugar paired with the light milk tea makes the cut for the best bubble tea I have ever drunk. On my last day in Chiayi, I made the effort to walk 10 minutes back to the shop just to get a drink. It really is mouth-watering.

Conclusion

Taiwan is seriously an underrated country and I implore you to travel to Taiwan at least once in your life to experience Taiwan’s culture and enjoy their food.

If you are going to areas such as Taichung, Cingjing or Hualien, I highly recommend hiring a private hire to save time. Even to places such as Jiufen Old Street, Yehliu Geopark or Keelung, I would suggest hiring a private hire just so you can travel with ease. For families, I think this is a great option as you will have lesser worries in mind.

Thank you for reading and give it a like if this article inspired you to travel Taiwan!

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