Planning a trip to Taiwan? If you’re just getting started, this article will save you many hours of research. After running the Taiwan Travel Planning group for years, I’ve answered the same questions about Taiwan again and again. To make things easier, I’ve compiled this list of the most common questions and other Taiwan travel tips.
You can also find links to the 100+ articles I’ve written about Taiwan here on TaiwanObsessed and my nickkembel site.
Please use the table of contents below for quick navigation!
Before Your Trip FAQs
Do I need a visa for Taiwan?
Many countries don’t need a visa for entering Taiwan for 14-90 days, depending on your passport. Find out of your country is on the list in my guide to Taiwan’s visa requirements.
Because visa exemption is not a visa, it’s not possible to extend it without leaving Taiwan. If you’re not on the list, it’s best to consult the Taiwan office your place of residence for the most current info.
China/HK passport holders have different rules, which are best explained on Taiwan’s Mandarin language immigration site.
When is the best time to visit Taiwan?
In terms of weather and crowds, fall is the best time to visit Taiwan. My personal favorite months to visit Taiwan are October and November, while December is the most popular/busiest month of the year due to Christmas holidays in other countries and NYE celebrations.
Summer is extremely hot and humid, so it is the low season. Typhoons can also strike from July to October. Summer is actually the sunniest season in terms of total hours of sunshine, but also the rainiest in terms of total volume of rain, so you’ll definitely experience both.
I have an article for every month of the year in Taiwan, and I summarize them all in my guide to the best time to visit Taiwan.
When can I see cherry blossoms in Taiwan?
The cherry blossom seasons usually starts in January (Northern Taiwan) and lasts until early April (in the high mountains). The exact times vary every year depending on the weather. The best months to see cherry blossoms are usually February and March.
Which tour provider is the best?
I recommend Life of Taiwan for fully curated luxury tours of Taiwan.
To see a lot in a short time, try this 5-day tour of Taiwan (Taipei not included).
For most travelers, I recommend visiting Taipei on your own, which is very easy by MRT. Ride the TRA train or High Speed Rail around Taiwan, which is faster than driving. Then take individual day tours (see below) or hire private drivers in each place only when necessary.
What are the best day tours in Taiwan?
Some of the most popular day tours include this one from Taipei (including the wildly popular Jiufen Old Street and sky lantern releasing at Shifen), this day tour of Taroko Gorge, this day tour of Taichung, and this day tour of Sun Moon Lake.
You can find many more like these on Klook, my most recommended platform.
How can I find a private driver in Taiwan?
If you can’t find one there, you can also try Tripool, which offers point-to-point or hourly driver service. Most taxis in Taiwan can also be hired out for a half or full day if you ask.
Hiring a private driver that doesn’t have a commercial driving license, or a guide that doesn’t have a tour guide license, is illegal in Taiwan. All the drivers and services I recommend above are licensed.
Read more in my guide to finding private drivers and guides in Taiwan.
Do I need a vaccination for Taiwan? What are the current COVID rules?
No, vaccination has never been a requirement for entering Taiwan, even during the pandemic.
Virtually all COVID rules are finished in Taiwan. There are no more tests, quarantine, etc. You can now stay in any hotel you want when you arrive in Taiwan, including hostels.
Mask are no longer mandatory except in hospitals and other medical facilities. Many locals still wear masks all the time in public, though.
What is the best itinerary for Taiwan?
The latter one includes different itineraries for slow travelers, fast travelers, a nature-focused itinerary, and a culture-focused itinerary.
If you’ve already made your schedule and want feedback on it, feel free to share it in my Taiwan Travel Planning group.
What are the best apps for Taiwan?
Below are some of the apps that I consider essential for traveling in Taiwan. For more details about each, download links, and several other apps you might want to use, see my guide to the best apps for traveling in Taiwan.
- GoogleMaps: I use this A LOT in Taiwan, for finding places, restaurant/attraction/hotel reviews, traveling times, bus and train times, and more. It is generally very accurate but doesn’t always give the best routes for public transportation.
- LINE: This is the app that virtually everyone in Taiwan uses for communication. It is Asia’s answer to Whatsapp. Many hotels will ask for your LINE info for communicating with you. You can also use it to make free calls to other users.
- Klook for tours, discounted tickets, drivers, scooters, cars, hotels, HSR tickets, and more. I find the desktop version better than the app. Sign up here to get a free credit in your account.
- T Express: the only way to get digital HSR tickets so you don’t have to pick up physical ones after booking.
- 臺鐵e訂通 for TRA trains, but I find this app terrible and recommend you use the desktop version.
- Bus+: for more reliable bus times than GoogleMaps.
- Uber: Alternative to taxis, but only in big cities. There is no Grab or other such services in Taiwan.
- FindTaxi – Taiwan Taxi Finder: for ordering taxis in English
- GO! Taipei Metro for the Taipei MRT, but all you really need is a good map of the lines saved on your phone
- GoogleTranslate or Naver Papago: for translating when talking to people and scanning menus for instant translation
A few of these apps will require you to have a Taiwan phone number to register. This is one of the beneifs of getting a SIM card in Taiwan (see below).
Arriving in Taiwan FAQs
How can I get a SIM card for Taiwan?
You can order a SIM card for pickup when you arrive (note the opening times), or you can just buy one from one of the booths in the arrival hall or in the city. See my guide to getting a SIM card in Taiwan for all the details.
Tourist SIMs for Taiwan range from 3 to 30 days. Internet speed is very fast in Taiwan and you can access it almost everywhere.
Should I get a SIM card or WiFI device?
SIM cards are more convenient for individuals. They will also give you data for making phone calls, for example to make restaurant reservations, emergency calls, or call Taiwan’s free 24-hour tourist hotline. You also need a local number (SIM card) to register for YouBike so that you can connect an EasyCard to it for easy bike rentals.
A WiFi device like this one is useful for sharing among multiple people. However, it’s an extra device to carry around, charge every day, and return at the end of your trip. Also, you’ll need to be close together to be able to use it.
If you are a couple, consider to just get one SIM card and share the data with the other phone – essentially what you can do with a WiFi device.
What about eSIMs?
eSIMs are the latest trend for traveling, and if you have a new iPhone, it may be your only option. The main advantages of eSIMs is that they are cheap,f fast, and will work as soon as you land in Taiwan.
On the downside, they have limited data – unlimited is possible but quite a bit more expensive. Also, they are a little complicated to sign up for.
Read my guide to using an eSIM in Taiwan for all the details.
What is EasyCard and how can I get it?
EasyCard is a reloadable smart card. It is the most convenient card for traveling in Taiwan and all locals use it.
You can swipe EasyCard to ride all MRTs (including Airport MRT, Taipei MRT, Taichung MRT, Kaohsiung MRT and LRT), local trains between cities, local buses in all cities in Taiwan, a few long distance buses, some ferries, taxis (only some), some food stalls, and most convenience stores.
The card costs TWD 100 (non-refundable deposit) + however much money you load onto it. You can order an EasyCard for pickup when you arrive, or buy one at any MRT station/convenience store. In Taiwan, they can only be purchased and topped up with cash.
For more FAQs about this card, read my EasyCard guide.
Is there an EasyCard for kids/seniors/disabled?
Kids under 6 can ride the MRT or buses and trains in Taiwan for free.
Kids age 6-12, seniors, and disabled can buy a concessionaire card (available at stations only), which only offers some small discounts when transferring. Only Taipei city students can get a student EasyCard.
What is a Taipei Unlimited Fun Pass?
Taipei Unlimited Fun Pass is for tourists only. It gives you 1-3 days of unlimited MRT and bus rides, some tourist shuttle buses for day trips outside Taipei, and entrance to 25+ attractions.
It’s only worth the money if you use it a lot. Here’s an amazing calculator to help you decide if the pass is worth the money. Read my review of the Taipei Fun Pass here.
Do I need cash for Taiwan?
Even with your hotels and tours booked and paid online, you will still need cash for buying food, souvenirs, and other things while traveling in Taiwan.
Most food stalls, small restaurants, and small shops only take cash. Yes, you can use EasyCard sometimes, but EasyCards can only be loaded with cash.
Even at bigger places that take credit cards, foreign ones sometimes don’t work. If purchasing a larger item, such as electronics, most shops have a surcharge for using credit card and prefer cash.
What’s the best way to get cash?
Withdrawing cash from an ATM once you arrive in Taiwan is the best way, in my opinion. There are ATMs at the airport, on the street, most MRT stations, and almost every convenience store in the country except on some small islands.
The withdrawal limit is very high in Taiwan (TWD 20,000 at most, or 30,000 at Post Office ATMs). This is probably higher than your home bank’s withdrawal limit, so make sure to check that first and don’t try to take out too much at once or it will decline the transaction – do this too many times and your bank might even freeze your card.
Try an international travel card like Wise card for lower fees. Some visitors report that their bank card doesn’t work at some or most ATMs in Taiwan, so it’s good to bring a few different cards. Others have no issues at all.
Should I exchange money at the airport or in the city?
In many countries, changing money at the airport is a bad idea. This is not really the case in Taiwan.
If you decide to bring some cash from your country to exchange to Taiwanese currency (instead of just using ATMs to withdraw money in Taiwan), the rate offered by banks at the airport is the same as in the city. The airport kiosks only add a small fee per transaction.
Going to a bank in the city, or one of the very few currency exchange booths there, is less convenient. It can take a long time, and most banks only carry a few major currencies. If you’re bringing a less common currency (for example, Philippines pesos), definitely do it at the airport.
Do I need to fill in the online arrival card?
No, you don’t need to fill in the online arrival card before you come to Taiwan, but you can if you want to.
After you submit it, you should receive an email (but there’s no QR code). If you get the email, you don’t need to do anything else.
When you arrive and go through immigration, they will have you on file. Some people have reported that they didn’t even receive the email, so they didn’t think it worked. But when they arrived in Taiwan, the immigration officer said it had been received.
If you don’t do the online arrival card, just fill out the paper one on the airplane or when you arrive in Taiwan, as normal.
Taiwan Transportation FAQs
How do I get from Taoyuan airport to Taipei?
From Taoyuan International Airport, the fastest and easiest way is to ride the Airport MRT, which is operated by Taoyuan City.
The ride takes 35 to 50 minutes (every second train is express) to Taipei Main Station. The cost is TWD 150 per person, which you can pay in cash or with an EasyCard. The Airport MRT doesn’t run from around 11:30 PM to 6:00 AM.
It is safe and easy to take a taxi (45 min to 1 hr) from right in front of the airport. The metered ride usually costs around TWD 1200 to 1500 to anywhere in Taipei. You can get a cheaper rate (around 1000 to 1200) if you book a private transfer here.
How do I get from the airport to other cities in Taiwan?
There are also direct buses from the airport to other cities in Northern Taiwan (departure times are quite limited, though).
If you want to go to Yilan or Hualien, ride the airport MRT to Taipei Main Station, then transfer to a regular (TRA) train. For Taichung, Tainan, or Kaohsiung, ride the Airport MRT in the opposite direction from Taipei, to Taoyuan HSR station, then take the High Speed Rail.
If you want to take the regular (cheaper, but slower) TRA train to those cities, then take a taxi from the airport to Taoyuan TRA station, which is in a different location than the HSR station, and doesn’t have MRT access.
What’s the best way to get around Taipei?
The Taipei MRT will be your best friend. It goes almost everywhere you will want to visit in Taipei. It is fast, clean, and frequent.
Every MRT station has maps of the neighborhood around it, toilets, and an information desk. Buy a token with cash from the machine or window, or swipe your EasyCard to ride. The MRT is wheelchair accessible. At least 1 exit of every station has an elevator. Search the Wikipedia page of the station to find out which exit. MRTs run from around 6 AM to 12 or 1 AM, depending on the station.
There are a few places in Taipei where you might need to take buses, for example National Palace Museum or Yangmingshan National Park. Enter at the front or back door, and swipe your EasyCard when boarding and again when getting off.
You may also ride Maokong Gondola or a ferry from Tamsui to Fisherman’s Wharf). Both take EasyCard.
Taxis are widely available and reasonably priced, but driver’s English may be limited. Always show your address in Mandarin to avoid getting taken to the wrong place. Uber is also available in Taipei and other major cities in Taiwan, but not smaller towns or rural areas.
How should I travel around Taiwan?
For day trips from Taipei, you will likely be taking local TRA trains and/or buses. All accept EasyCard. Taiwan Rail Administration (TRA) trains do a full circle around Taiwan and you will probably use them most. TRA stations are usually in the city center.
The High Speed Rail (HSR) travels from Taipei to Kaohsiung (Zuoying station) on the west coast only. These trains are twice as fast but twice as expensive. Besides Taipei, all HSR stations are somewhat inconveniently located outside of city centers, so you’ll have to find your way into the city once you get there.
In Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung, you can connect to local trains or MRTs for getting into the city center. Other stations usually have a free shuttle bus to the city if you’re holding an HSR ticket for that day.
You’ll need to ride buses for getting to a few popular places in Taiwan, including Sun Moon Lake, Alishan, Lukang, and Kenting. Getting to Alishan is particularly complicated and a lot of travelers struggle figuring out this part of their trip, so please see my guide to getting to Alishan.
There are reasonably priced domestic flights, often departing from Songshan Airport in the Taipei city center (MRT accessible). These include flights to Hualien, Taitung, and Penghu islands.
What are the different types of TRA train?
When you search for TRA train times, you’ll usually see a list with many different train types. Local trains are the slowest and can’t be reserved because they have benches along the sides, not numbered seats, just like an MRT. Just swipe your EasyCard or buy a ticket from the window to board these trains.
Trains called Tze Chiang or Chu Kuang have numbered seats which you can book in advance on the official site. These trains also allow standing, so even if the seats are sold out, you can still buy a standing ticket, or just swipe your EasyCard to board them. Except beware of one new train, Tze Chiang Lmt. Express 3000 (see below), which doesn’t allow standing.
For three Express trains (Puyuma Express, Taroko Express, and Tze Chiang Lmt. Express 3000), standing tickets are not allowed and a seat reservation is necessary. These trains are fastest and tend to sell out first.
Do I need to book TRA trains in advance? How?
You can book and pay for your TRA train tickets on the official site up to 28 days in advance. I don’t recommend the Taiwan trains app because it is not user-friendly, full of bad English, and doesn’t seem to list all trains.
If you are planning to travel on a weekend or holiday, or if you want to ride the express train to Hualien (one of the most high-demand routes), then I highly recommend booking your train tickets in advance for longer journeys. If it’s a local train, you can’t even book it. And for shorter journeys or off-peak times, you can usually jut show up and buy a ticket (standing if necessary) for the next possible train.
After you book and pay for your tickets online, you’ll need to pick up the physical ticket from any convenience store in Taiwan (small surcharge, ask the clerk to help with the iBon (7-11) or FamiPort (FamilyMart) machine because the interface is in Mandarin) or any TRA train station in Taiwan. Make sure to get to the station early enough if you plan to do it right before you catch the train, as there may be a line.
If you book seats on the website 3 times without completing (paying for) the order, the system will blacklist you for one month.
When should I choose the High Speed Rail?
HSR trains are faster, but also pricier and inconveniently located outside of most city centers. However, here are some cases where I would recommend it:
- You want to make a long trip (for example Taipei to Chiayi/Tainan/Kaohsiung) as quickly as possible. For shorter trips, like Taipei to Taichung, or Kaohsiung to Chiayi, it’s hardly worth it, since the time you save is wasted getting to the city center once you arrive.
- You want to go from Taichung or the south of Taiwan directly to Taoyuan Airport. Ride the HSR to Taoyuan station then transfer to the airport MRT (20 min). Then you don’t need to go back to Taipei again.
- Even though HSR stations are outside of cities, it’s worth nothing that there is a direct bus from Taichung HSR station to Sun Moon Lake, a direct bus from Chiayi HSR station to Alishan (only a few per day, so check the times), and a direct bus from Zuoying HSR to Kenting or Xiaoliuqiu. So for these cases, the HSR is pretty convenient and allows you to bypass going into those cities.
- If TRA train seats are all sold out, and you don’t want to stand or squeeze onto one, you can always get a non-reserved HSR ticket and sit anywhere in cars 10-12, even on the busiest days.
- The HSR is very clean, spacious, and fun to ride. You might want to ride it at least once on your trip simply because it is awesome!
Do I need to book HSR tickets in advance? How?
High Speed Rails tickets are easier to get than regular TRA train tickets. HSR trains don’t sell out as often due to the higher cost (mainly this only happens on holidays), and you can always buy non-reserved tickets for cars 10-12, even at the last minute, and often still get a seat.
You can book and pay for tickets on the official site up to 28 days in advance or you can get e-tickets using the T Express app.
Early bird tickets (up to 28 days in advance) on the official HSR site start at 35% off, then go to 20%, 10%, and finally no discount – they speed they run out depends on demand.
If you buy HSR tickets on Klook, they usually have a 20% off deal or a 2for1 deal (see below). If you don’t want to book your ticket in advance, you can just show up at the HSR station and buy a non-reserved (full price) ticket or reserved seat (if available) and get on the next train, even on the busiest days of the year, like during Lunar New Year.
How do I buy HSR tickets or passes on Klook?
Klook usually offers HSR tickets with a 20% discount, even when the early bird ones are finished on the official site.
However, all of these Klook tickets and passes can be a little annoying to book, with lots of steps. Just buying the voucher on Klook doesn’t guarantee you a seat.
First you select and pay for the voucher. You need to use the voucher to make your seat reservations before it expires (usually around 90 days). Even though you have to choose a date when booking on Klook, do you don’t have to use the voucher for that date. You’ll receive the voucher by email.
Then you need to wait when day. Then go to this page (not the regular HSR home page!), click manage at the top-right, then key in your voucher “redeem code” (not any of the other numbers on it, and your personal info, to redeem it.
If you bought tickets for different people at the same time, then then passport number for each will have to go with the right voucher number for it to work.
Once you redeem the voucher, you’ll need to follow the instructions for booking your actual seats, which will be subject to availability. If you need a specific train, it’s best to make sure that one isn’t sold out before you buy your voucher. I told you, it’s complicated!
Are there train tickets for kids/elderly?
Kids under 6 can ride the TRA and HSR for free in Taiwan, as long as you don’t mind sharing your seat with them. If you want a separate seat for your child, or your child is age 6-12, you can buy a children’s ticket, which is 50% off.
Unfortunately only local residents can get can seniors discount.
Should I rent a car in Taiwan? How?
This will depend on your driving confidence level and what kind of roads you are used to. Taiwan’s traffic is a little wilder than Europe, North America, or Japan, but not as bad as some other countries in Asia.
I recommend renting a car here, with various options for vehicle size, pick up location, child seats (mandatory in Taiwan except when riding in taxis).
Taipei is the worst for driving and parking, so most people explore Taipei by MRT. Many also take the train to Hualien or Taichung (faster and easier than driving), then start their round-island car rental from there. An International Driver’s Permit (IDP) or Taiwanese license is required for renting a car in Taiwan.
Should I rent a scooter in Taiwan?
One of the fun facts about Taiwan is that there are almost as many scooters as people in the country. You’ll see what I mean when you get there!
Riding a scooter can be a really fun and convenient way to get around. I especially recommend it for exploring offshore islands like Penghu, Orchid Island, and Xiaoliuqiu, or for exploring the East Coast and Kenting National Park.
You can find scooters for most cities in Taiwan on Klook, such as Taichung, Taitung, Kenting, Xiaoliuqiu, Chiayi, Kaohsiung, Tainan, and Penghu. They can also be rented outside of most train stations in Taiwan.
In the past it was possible to rent a scooter without an IDP, but nowadays almost everywhere asks for it. A few shops even ask for proof that you have motorcycle endorsement on your home country license too, but not usually. Avoid riding in Taroko Gorge or high mountain roads during or after heavy rain or typhoons. Helmets are always provided.
Usually the scooter comes almost empty and you need to fill it with gas. Usually you have to say 95 (jiu wu or 九五) for the type of gas. A little gas goes a long way (TWD 50 or USD 2 will cover you for several hours of driving).
Can I drive from Taroko Gorge to Cingjing Farm/Sun Moon Lake/Taichung?
Taiwan has three Cross-Island Highways: North, Central, and South. These are high-mountain routes with slow, winding roads that can take many hours to drive, when they are even open. Bring car-sickness medication (暈車藥, available at all pharmacies) if you are prone. These roads are frequently destroyed by landslides during typhoons or heavy rain. They have limited or no public transportation and are sometimes closed for months or even years.
The Central one (Highway 8) starts in Taroko Gorge, goes up into the mountains, and connects to Highway 14. This highway then passes Hehuanshan (one of most accessible high mountains in Taiwan and a famous place to see snow in winter) and goes over Wuling Pass, the highest navigable pass in Taiwan. After that, it reaches the popular Cingjing Farm before descending to Sun Moon Lake and Taichung.
Highway 8 above Taroko Gorge was badly damaged by landslides in 3 different spots in 2022. Currently, the construction crews are still fixing them and they are only open to cars at three different times every day. Travelers have reported being able to drive though, but you can expect delays. The road could be damaged and closed again at any time (typhoon seasons is July to October). Details and updates about the road closures are regularly updated here on the Taroko NP website – click the small arrow beside Highway 8.
If you don’t want to chance it, it is better to take the express train from Hualien to Taipei (2 hrs), then HSR to Taichung (1 hr), and bus to Cinging (2.5 hrs) or Sun Moon Lake (1.5 hrs).
More Taiwan Travel Tips and FAQs
What should I do on a layover in Taipei?
If you have a stopover at Taoyuan International Airport, I only recommend leaving the airport if you have 6-7 or more hours.
In order to do so, you’ll need to make sure that you don’t need a visa for Taiwan (see my guide to Taiwan visa requirements).
Next, hop on the Airport MRT to Taipei Main Station and begin your explorations! I cover the best things to see depending on how many hours you have, things to do at the airport, best places to sleep, and more in my Taipei layover guide.
What are the must-see attractions in Taipei?
Some of Taipei’s top sights include Taipei 101 Observatory, Elephant Mountain, National Palace Museum, Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Maokong Gondola, Beitou Hot Spring, various temples, and the city’s famous night markets. I recommend a minimum of two full days for exploring the city.
Where should I stay in Taipei?
Ximending is very popular because it is a cool neighborhood with lots of shopping, restaurants, and cheap hotels. Taipei Main Station area is also popular for sheer convenience.
Why does it seem like every hotel is sold out?
There are two possibilities. Either they really are, or you are checking too early. Many hotels in Taiwan only release their rooms 2-6 months in advance.
It is very common for every hotel at popular attractions like Alishan to sell out because the hotels there are limited. Make sure to book your Alishan hotel early, especially during weekends, holidays, Lunar New Year, and cherry blossom season (March to April). However, several rooms there only release their rooms 2-3 months in advance, and you never know when that will happen, so you just have to keep trying.
On long weekends and Lunar New Year, you may find that all the hotels are sold out at Sun Moon Lake and other popular places, too.
Big cities usually have more options. But even big cities can be hard to find what you need during peak times, and hotels are known to jack up their prices at popular times, like long weekends and around NYE in December. Also consider trying Airbnb (note: Airbnb is not technically legal in Taiwan, but it is still commonly used).
How can you know if hotels have released their rooms yet? You can find out if this is the case by clicking into the hotel on Booking dot com (just try this one).
Scroll to the bottom, and under “Availability”, click the dates and scroll ahead a few months in the calendar. You will see that this hotel only has rooms available to a certain date, usually about 3 months ahead. So the trick is to just keep checking back as your trip approaches.
Are many things closed on Mondays?
Yes, lots of small shops, food stalls, and a few bigger attractions close on Mondays. For example, in Taipei, the National Palace Museum, Maokong Gondola, Beitou Hot Spring Museum, and Beitou Thermal Valley are all closed on Monday.
However, night markets are open every day of the year, and popular places like Shifen Waterfall and Jiufen Old Street are busy even on Mondays. You can find the opening times for all places on GoogleMaps.
Is it a bad idea to visit during Lunar New Year or long weekends?
Lunar New Year can be a challenging time to visit Taiwan. Flights can be more expensive, all trains and most hotels sold out, highways clogged, and many attractions are closed for a few days.
Taipei can feel like a ghost town at this time. But it’s still possible to work around this. For all the details, see my guide to traveling during Lunar New Year in Taiwan. For long weekends, millions of locals go traveling around the island, so it’s the same story, except that everything will be open and busy as normal.
Should I travel clockwise or counter-clockwise around Taiwan?
It doesn’t really matter. Clockwise feels more natural to me, but others have said the opposite. One thing I like about clockwise is that at the end of your trip, you can take the High Speed Rail to Taoyuan station and get to the airport on the Airport MRT. The you don’t need to go back to Taipei again at the end of your trip.
How many days do I need for Hualien, Sun Moon Lake, and Alishan?
If you don’t mind to be super rushed, you could see these three places in 3 days. However, 5 days (2 nights in Hualien, 2 nights in SML, and 1 night in Alishan) is better.
Or, take this guided day tour from Taipei (warning: it involves LOTS of driving). Then take an evening train back to Taipei or spend the night in Hualien before going back.
Travelers with more time usually spend two nights in Hualien, so they can have a full day to explore Taroko Gorge and not have to take a long train before/after.
For the fast trip, go from Taipei to to Sun Moon Lake as early as possible on day 2 so you have a full day to explore there. For the slower trip, use one day to travel from Hualien back to Taipei on the train, then Taipei to Taichung on the HSR and ride the bus to SML.
After 1-2 nights at Sun Moon Lake, take the bus to Alishan. The bus departs at 8 AM only, so make sure you have enough time to explore the lake the day before.
For most people, I usually say that one night at Alishan is enough. Some people choose to spend 2 nights there to be less rushed and explore some of the lesser known trails.
My top recommendation is to spend 1 night in Alishan and 1 more night in Fenqihu or Alishan on the way down to the mountain to Chiayi. Read all about these villages and why I love them in my Alishan guide.
What are the best places for kids or teens in Taiwan?
Where can I see alpacas and capybaras in Taiwan?
These cute (and totally non-native) animals are having a moment in Taiwan right now, so travelers always ask about them. Below are the most popular spots, but you can find even more in my guide to seeing capybaras in Taiwan.
- Zhang Mei Ama Farm in Yilan
- Dancewoods Japanese Garden also in Yilan
- Greenworld Ecological Farm in Hsinchu (alpacas only)
- Hobbit Valley in Miaoli, which also has Hobbit houses
- Kenting Paradise in Kenting even has a capybara shrine and swimming with capybaras, but no alpacas
Where are the best places to go shopping in Taipei?
- For the best Taiwan souvenirs: Ximending and the gift shops in Taipei 101 Observatory, National Palace Museum, Jiufen Old Street, and even at the airport
- For tea, teaware and traditional crafts: Dihua Street or Yinnge Ceramics Street
- For cheap clothing: Wufenpu Shopping District and night markets
- For trendy/teen/young adult clothing: Shida Night Market area, Gongguan MRT Area, Ximending, Chifeng Street near Zhongshan MRT, and the many small lanes north of Zhongxiao Fuxing and Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT stations
- For high end designer brands, try Zhongxiao East Road (between Zhonxiao Fuxing, Zhongxiao Dunhua, and Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall MRT stations, Taipei 101 Mall and others around it, and other big malls like Sogo, Breeze, and Shin Kong Mitsukoshi
- For electronics: Guang Hua Digital Plaza and Camera Street (for cameras, the street south of Taipei North Gate)
- For anime, manga, and K-pop supplies try Animate Café, Animate Store, Idol King, and more listed in my Ximending guide. There’s also a collection of shops in the underground mall below Taipei Main Station, around exit Y17.
- For Books: Eslite (誠品) is a popular local bookstore chain with award-winning design. One used to be 24-hours and was a popular late-night hangout, but that is no longer.
- For local snacks to take home: Taoyuan International Airport, HSR stations, bakeries, supermarkets
What are the best night markets?
Taipei’s top night markets are Shilin (the largest, most famous, but also most touristy), Raohe (many say the best), Ningxia (a close second), Tonghua (near Taipei 101), and Nanjichang (the most local).
See my Taipei night market guide for even more, and my food recommendations for each one.
Across the country, here are the best night markets in Taiwan.
What are the best restaurants in Taipei?
There are literally thousands of good restaurants in Taipei, so it’s hard to even know where to begin. In my Taipei restaurant guide, I break it down with around 5 recommendations for each style of food, including Taiwanese, dim sum, vegetarian, upscale, and more.
Din Tai Fung is Taipei’s most famous restaurant, but you can’t make a reservation .You can get in a little faster if you pre-order here. In my restaurant guide, I recommend several alternatives to Din Tai Fung which also have xiaolongbao (soup dumplings).
Foodies will also love Addiction Aquatic for seafood, Yongkang Street for shaved ice and various restaurants, Shenkeng Old Street for stinky tofu, all kinds of yummy food in Ximending, and Myanmar Street for Burmese food.
Breakfast shops are also a big deal in Taipei. Some of them are even open all night – see my guide to the best 24-hour restaurants in Taipei.
What are the best day trips from Taipei?
Shifen Old Street (where you can set off Sky Lanterns year-round and see Shifen Waterfall) and Jiufen Old Street are the two most popular day trips from Taipei. They are often visited together on one day. They are always crowded.
You can see both, and some other cool spots, on this very popular guided day trip. You can find out how to visit them on your own, plus many, many other day trip ideas, in my guide to the best day trips from Taipei.
Which hot springs should I visit in Taiwan?
There are dozens of major hot springs in Taiwan, so choosing just one or two can be tough. For more info, see my guide to the best hot springs in Taiwan. Here’s a quick breakdown:
- Beitou: most convenient because it’s right in Taipei and MRT accessible. Also has historic Japanese architecture. Spring City is the only kid-friendly hot spring in Beitou (the link has a great deal for adults, but kids tickets are cheaper if you just buy them there).
- Wulai Hot Spring: day trip from Taipei to a riverside aboriginal village with hot springs
- Tienlai Hot Spring: fancy hot spring resort just outside of Yangmingshan National Park
- Jiaoxi Hot Spring: day trip or overnight from Taipei, has some of the most kid-friendly spas in Taiwan, hot springs with cool colors, and little fish that tickle your feet
- Ruisui in Hualien county: convenient stop when traveling down the east coast
- Lisong in Taitung: the most beautiful wild spring in Taiwan, but requires a tough hike
- Guanziling in Tainan (but closer to Chiayi city): unique mud hot springs
- Zhaori: unique salt water hot spring on Green Island
Where can I see tea farms or buy tea in Taiwan?
There are several excellent tea shops in Taipei for buying locally made tea and teaware or trying traditional kungfu tea ceremony. Yingge (30 min by train from Taipei) is Taiwan’s ceramics and pottery center, with loads of teaware spanning all budgets. I cover all of these places in my Taiwan tea guide.
The best places to visit tea farms are around Taipei (Maokong and Pinglin area – try this tour), around Antique Assam Tea farm near Sun Moon Lake, and especially Shizhuo area of Alishan. The latter is the best place to stay on tea farm in Taiwan.
See my Alishan guide for all the details.
What gifts should I bring for someone in Taiwan?
You don’t need to bring little gifts to hand out to kids in Taiwan – it is not a developing country, and this would be seen as unusual.
If you’re visiting family or friends, the most common and appreciated gift is a famous snack, food item, or souvenir from your hometown or country. This is what Taiwanese always buy for their friends and family when they travel. But heads up that many Taiwanese find Western treats too sweet, so avoid candy, fudge, or chocolate.
Some people bring vitamins or Tylenol/Advil (hard to find in Taiwan) or brand name products (like Coach, Lululemon, Kate Spade) for a fancier gift.
If you’re attending a wedding, bring cash (new, unfolded bills) in a red envelope (available at 7-11). TWD 2000 to 5000 is the norm (depending on how close you are), but avoid giving any denomination of 4, like 4000 or 3400 for example, because 4 is an unlucky number that sounds like death. It’s the same for funerals, but in a white envelope.
What are some things I should/shouldn’t do in Taiwan?
Here are a few things you should or shouldn’t do if you don’t want to stand out or disrespect local culture.
- On escalators, stand on the right side only, walk on the left.
- Don’t sit in the dark blue seats on the MRT – those are reserved for the elderly, pregnant, travelers with babies, or the disabled.
- Don’t eat or chew gum on the MRT (the cameras will really see you!) But it’s OK on the HSR, TRA trains, and long-distance buses.
- Never put your feet up on the seat on public transportation, including the seat in front of you or your own seat.
- Don’t speak loudly on any public transportation. Only whisper. Many locals like to take a nap while riding.
- Don’t leave tips, with a few rare exceptions. Here’s my guide to tipping in Taiwan.
- Don’t call out to servers or for the bill. Just take it to the front and pay.
- Wear you mask on all public transportation, taxis, and medical facilities. Consider also wearing it in busy/crowded places.
- Don’t leave chopsticks standing upright in a bowl of rice.
- Hand over and accept things with two hands.
- Don’t walk around with no shoes or shirt, unless on the beach. Going topless on the beach is not considered acceptable in Taiwan, like in most Asian countries.
- Most Taiwanese greet people with a small wave, smile, and/or nod. They only shake hands in business contexts. They don’t usually hug, and European-style kissing would be one way to really freak them out.
- Shouting or getting mad at staff in Taiwan is never appropriate and doesn’t help.
Where are all the bathrooms and trash bins?
To find a toilet in Taiwan, some of the go-to places are MRT stations, fast food places like McDonald’s or Starbucks (often on the 2nd floor), temples, and some parks.
As for trash bins, they often seem to be non-existent, and when you do see them, they are often overflowing. Night markets, convenience stores, and MRT stations have them, or just take your trash back to your hotel.
Is Taiwan safe to visit? How about for solo female travelers?
Taiwan is considered one of the safest countries in the world, and Taipei one of the safest cities in the world. It is safe to walk around any neighborhood in Taipei, even alone at night. Female visitors consistently report feeling very safe in Taiwan.
Taiwanese are famously polite, respectful, and welcoming to visitors. Tourist scams are very rare in Taiwan, and taxi drivers are trustworthy. It’s a common story to lose a valuable item, only to find later that someone has turned it in, or it’s still sitting there hours later.
Be careful crossing the street in Taiwan because cars and scooters don’t give way to pedestrians. Some visitors experience minor cases of food poisoning. Typhoons can strike anytime from July to October. Don’t visit coastal or mountainous areas during heavy rain. If an oncoming typhoon is very big and expected to hit directly, city/county governments may issue a stay-at-home order for one day – in that case, stock up on food (instant noodles always sell out!) and stay in.
The threat of a possible conflict with China is ongoing, but it is highly unlikely that this would happen suddenly without weeks of warning, if at all.
Well, folks, what did I miss? Feel free to mention any questions about Taiwan that you’d like to see answered in the comments below!