Five Things First Time Travellers To Taiwan Should Know
- Credit cards aren't widely accepted. At most convenience stores and small restaurants, you won't be able to pay with your card. Make sure you keep some cash on you, and if forget it, you can find an ATM in any 7/11 store.
- If you have allergies, wear a surgical mask. Due to air pollution in Taiwan, the PM 2.5 particles make allergy-prone people sneeze a lot. If you're sensitive to dust and pollution, do yourself a favour and buy a mask for when you go out.
- Tipping is not expected in Taiwan. Most restaurants include a service charge on the bill, so you don't need to worry about adding one yourself. Taxi drivers also don't expect tips unless they help you with your luggage.
- English is not spoken by everyone. Even though it is a mandatory subject in schools, most Taiwanese hardly use the language. This means that there will be a bit of a language barrier and you might struggle to find someone who can understand you.
- Pack an umbrella. The weather in Taiwan is often unpredictable and a clear day can quickly become a torrential downpour.
Best Time To Visit Taiwan
The best time to visit Taiwan is during its dry season. From October to April, the rain is scarce, and temperatures are warm making it perfect for exploring the country's many outdoor attractions.
If you can, plan your visit for either April, May, September or October. You'll find lower hotel prices without having to sacrifice on the good weather. But that doesn't mean the country is devoid of tourists. March to May is peak season for Chinese tour groups.
High season in Taiwan is from July to August. Hotel rates increase by 50% in some places, and all the top tourist destinations are packed. But if you want to experience the country's culture and don't mind putting up with the searing heat, it's a great time to visit. Plan your visit around cultural festivals like the Harvest Festival of the Amis Tribe or go mainstream at the iconic Hohaiyan Rock Festival.
For budget travellers, the best time to visit Taiwan is between November and March. Crowds are at their thinnest except for Chinese New Year when prices once again double. If you want to experience this event, make sure you book everything well in advance and brace yourself for the mass influx of people into Taiwan's cities.
Taipei is the capital city of Taiwan. It's famous for its skyscrapers, delicious street food and sprawling night markets.
Its highlights include the National Palace Museum, which houses more than 650,000 artefacts as well as Taipei 101. This building was once the tallest in the world and boasts the best panoramic views of the city. The nearby Elephant Mountain is welcomed escape into nature that only takes a 20-minutes hike to the summit.
Taichung is one of the best destinations in Taiwan for culture vultures. It's full of cultural landmarks, delicious restaurants and bustling shopping districts.
Make sure you visit the Rainbow Military Dependents Village and grab a glass of original bubble tea from Chun Shui Tang Teahouse.
But it also has a lot to offer for travellers who want to explore the country's natural beauty. Some of its top attractions include Taroko National Park and Shei-Pa National Park that are home to a plethora of wildlife and dramatic landscapes.
Kaohsiung is Taiwan's largest port city, but that doesn't mean it has nothing to offer. It's packed with traditional architecture, massive shopping malls and lively night markets.
A stop here wouldn't be complete without screaming your lungs out on the rollercoasters of Taroko Park, gliding past the city on Love River and indulging in the street food at Ruifeng Night Market.
Top Attractions in Taiwan
Taroko Gorge is one of Taiwan's top natural wonders and one of the country's nine national parks. It's made up of towering limestone cliffs, lush vegetation and dramatic landscapes. It stretches over 1,200 square kilometres and is a sanctuary for most of the island's plant and animal species.
Once the home of the indigenous Truko people, it became a national park in 1986. Today, it boasts some of the best hiking trails; its most famous being the ruins of the 120-year-old Tupido Tribe Trail.
The park is easily accessible as a day trip from Taipei. One of the best ways to get there is a scenic coastal train ride that takes about two hours each way.
Maolin National Scenic Area
Located in the south of Taiwan, Maolin National Scenic Area is an eclectic mix of natural beauty and culture.
It's home to forests that boast some of the best hiking trails, including a tribal warpath and the Purple Butterfly Valley. Here you'll find an estimated one million Euploea butterflies whose wings change to a purple hue under the right light.
Nearby is the Meinong Folk Village, where you can buy traditional Hakka crafts like the famous handmade paper umbrellas. It's a great way to support the local community as they were hard hit during the 2009 Morakot typhoon.
Sun Moon Lake
Sun Moon Lake is the largest alpine lake in the country and is rich in both natural beauty and cultural heritage.
Located two hours away from Taichung, it's one of the top tourist destinations. Visit the beautiful temples and pagodas dotted around the area. Chi-En Pagoda offers some of the best views, and the lake is often visited by newlywed couples.
One of the best times of year to visit Sun Moon Lake is during spring. At night, the trail leading up to the pagoda is ignited by fireflies, and it creates a truly magical atmosphere and sight to behold.
Grand Matsu Temple
The Grand Matsu Temple was built in honour of the goddess Matsu, one of the most important deities in Taiwan. While there are close to 500 temples dedicated to her, this is the most sacred temple in the country.
Located in Tainan City, the temple was once a royal palace. Today it contains many rooms with shrines to various gods, with the most prominent one for Matsu. She is flanked by two monsters who represent her servants Qianli Tuan and Zufong Er. It's believed that she tamed these creatures and convinced them to help her patrol the seas and keep sailors out of harm's way.
Once the tallest building in the world, the Taipei 101 skyscraper is the city's most prominent landmark. Construction started in 1998 and was completed six years later in 2004.
The best way to experience this architectural wonder is to take the elevator up to the 88th-91st floors. The elevator takes about 30 seconds to go from top to bottom, and a screen shows you how fast you are moving.
Once at the top, you'll be able to see how beautiful Taipei is from above. If you head to the 91st floor, you can even go outside if you can handle the gushing wind.
Major International Airports in Taiwan
- Taoyuan International Airport
- Kaohsiung International Airport
- Taipei Songshan Airport
- Taichung International Airport