Taiwan may not be the hottest Asia destination like Korea or Japan, but those who have visited would know how underrated it is. Largely undiscovered by Western travelers but loved by neighbor countries, this island has more than just manufacturing plants— it boasts diverse culture, phenomenal delicacies (say hello to the best bubble teas and dumplings in the world!), hundreds of high mountain peaks, offshore islands and captivating coastlines.
If you’ve been meaning to explore Taiwan but don’t know where to start, this is your guide. Here’s everything you need to know before you go, including weather, transport, main attractions, important cultural events in 2019, local customs and more. Use it to draft up your travel plan and packing checklist!
The passport holders from Singapore and Malaysia are allowed a 30-day visa-free stay. For citizens of the Philippines, a 14-day stay is allowed until 31st July 2019. Citizens from USA, UK, Canada, and Australia can stay visa-free for up to 90 days.
Hong Kong and Macau passport holders would have to apply for Exit and Entry Permit either at the airport after landing, or in advance online. A 30-day entry is allowed with the permit.
For the latest information, check the Taiwan ministry of foreign affairs website.
The climate of Taiwan is split between the subtropical north and the tropical south. During summer from June to August, the weather can be very hot and humid around 30°C to 33°C, so prepare to sweat a lot. While the capital, Taipei, is expected to be hot and humid, in the south areas you may enjoy some pleasant tropical breeze.
From July to October, the whole island is subject to occasional typhoons. Therefore, you’ll have to be extra careful when traveling to the East Coast as that area often gets the first impact. The best travel period would be from September to November with cooler weather and less rains.
That being said, winter is also an ideal time to visit south Taiwan like Chiayi, Tainan, and Kaohsiung ‘cause it doesn’t get rainy and gloomy as in northern Taiwan. Spring is a nice time to visit too, although the “plum rain” season can bring rain to most part of Taiwan.
Taoyuan International Airport
It’s the biggest and busiest airport in Taiwan with two flight terminals. It is located 40 km away from Taipei, but thankfully there are a lot of convenient ways to reach the capital!
There are buses departing from and arriving at both terminals. Several buses are bound for multiple points in Taipei city, others are also bound for Taichung, Taoyuan or Taoyuan HSR station. The buses to Taipei takes about 40 minutes to 1 hour.
Another convenient way to go to Taipei is by MRT. By spending NT$160, you’ll reach Taipei Main Station within 40 minutes.
Voltage for Devices
We know how indispensable your phone and camera are when you travel, so make sure to put the power adapter on your checklist. In Taiwan, the power sockets are type A and B, and the standard voltage is 110A with 60Hz frequency. If you’re from a country using higher voltage, then bring a voltage converter with you.
Tourist Refund Scheme
Foreign travelers if spend more over NTD 2000 at a single TRS (Tax Refund Shopping)-labeled store can request a tax refund form. Then they are eligible for 5% VAT tax refund when leaving Taiwan. If the purchase is made within 90 days, you can go to the tax refund service at airports before checking in.
Some TRS-labeled stores also provide small-amount tax refunds for those purchase less than NTD 48000 at one store on the same date. For more detailed information, check the official tax refund website.
Wi-Fi and SIM Cards
Heavy smartphone addicts, fret not! All across the island, you’ll find free Wi-Fi at most of the public spaces. The following are the most available free Wi-Fi hotspots in Taiwan:
- iTaiwan: Covers most part of Taiwan (almost 10000 hotspots in total), including public transportation spaces, major tourist attractions, public institutions, public hospitals and so on.You can even find Wi-Fi coverage at the tip of Hehuan mountain, 3,150 meters above ground. Incredible, right? Register the free iTaiwan account here.
- Free AD WiFi: Covers the whole Taipei MRT, Carrefour stores and a few affiliate stores in most cities.
- WIFLY 4Free: It’s available in Taipei MRT stations, 7-11, Starbucks, MOS Burger, and other Taipei public facilities.
How to Get Around
Basically, Taiwan is well-connected all around, except there’s no easy way to commute horizontally between East and West because of the towering mountain strips standing in the middle. If you consider visiting beyond Taipei, here are some useful means of transportation:
Taiwan High Speed Rail (THSR / HSR)
Opened in 2017, High Speed Rail is the fastest train line passing each major cities along the west coast. Running at over 300 km/hr, HSR takes you from Taipei to Kaohsiung in a mere 96 minutes! For a complete guide on THSR, go to our article “Taiwan by Train: A Complete Guide to Taiwan’s High Speed Rail”.
Pro-tip: Book an unlimited HSR pass at a discounted price with KKday.
Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA)
If you have some spare time and don’t wanna spend that much, we suggest you take the slower Taiwan railways and drink in picturesque views along the way. You see more as you slow down your path, of course!
Railway journey is the locals’ most favored way to tour around Taiwan. The railway takes you along the seaside, rice fields, go deep into mountains and pass through small old towns. You can get the most authentic travel experience by train to Alishan, Pingxi, Shifen and Jingtong, or Neiwan.
You can purchase the tickets easily at Taipei Main Station, or any other train stations. Another bonus for taking TRA: You get to taste the cheap but delicious railway bento served on the train!
It’s basically the cheapest public transportation available. Taking buses is a nice option for travelers on a budget and don’t mind the possible traffic jam on the highway (alhough it seldom happens unless you travel during Taiwan’s national holidays).
The Taipei Bus Station is located right at Taipei Main Station. The station could be as confusing as a maze, but just follow the sign as you hop off the from MRT and you’ll get there.
Overview of Attractions
In northern Taiwan sits the capital city Taipei, and Yangmingshan National Park reachable by bus from the city. Other well-known attractions near Taipei includes mountain towns Jiufen and Pingxi, or Yehliu for bizarre rocks at the coast.
Yilan is a less explored area for foreign visitors, a buffer between modern Taipei and natural Hualien in the East. It boasts some secret beaches by the seashore, hot springs or cold springs, traditional attractions in the city.
Head to the center of Taiwan for an excursion to mountainous ranges, and the second biggest city, Taichung. Sun Moon Lake, Cingjing Farm are two major destinations located at the Central Range for nature lovers. On the other hand, Taichung is praised as the most livable city in Asia. Why not find out why by yourself?
At the tropics of Taiwan, you can explore Alishan, the mountain with cypress trees over a thousand years old, cherry blossoms and characteristic forest trains built from the Japanese colonization era. Historical city Tainan is home of best delicacies and many temples and fortresses.
Kaohsiung, the sunny port city, welcome those looking for the biggest night market, mixed cultural heritage formed by Hakka, Hoklo and the aboriginals, and vibrant city life by the seashore. Tropical sandy beaches and sea activities in Kenting, the southernmost point of Taiwan, are top choices for your summer holidays.
For the best natural getaway, venture to the East coast to see Taiwan’s original beauty less touched by human development. Taroko Gorge, the East Rift Valley, Sansiantai, Sixty Stone Mountain, to name a few, are awe-inspiring sights to fulfill your nature-loving heart.
So here’s the secret: offshore islands are the most beautiful places to visit in Taiwan. Green Island and Orchid Island near Taitung are one-of-a-kind small islands for bluest and clearest sea water and richest sea life to observe. Penghu also has several breathtaking white sand beaches, not to mention their own unique sea culture distinct from the main island.
Taiwan’s Major Events
Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival (February 19 and September 13, 2019)
Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival is a magical fairytale in real life. It is praised by the U.S Discovery Channel as the second biggest New Year’s celebration in the world! Every year at the Lantern Festival, people from near and far gather at Pingxi, write down their New Year’s wishes on paper lanterns, then launched thousands of fire-lit lanterns into the night sky. This cultural event has been in practice for about 200 years, reflecting people’s aspirations, wishes and dreams at the start of the year and at every moon festival.
Song-Jiang Battle Ritual in Neimen, Kaohsiung (March 30 – April 7, 2019)
Song-Jiang Battle Ritual is a miniature of the religious root culture of Taiwan. It was originally organized to strengthen and defend the town. With time it has developed into a theatrical parade combining traditional martial arts and Chinese classical fiction novel, performed to give thanks to God. If you attend the event, remember to not walk into a ritual or stand in the middle of the road while the ritual is approaching, as these behaviors are regarded as a big taboo.
Mazu International Festival（Late March to April, date not decided yet)
This is undoubtedly Taiwan’s most important and largest religious practice, which usually last for 9 days and 8 nights. Mazu, the goddess of the sea that protects the island, patrols south and back to Dajia Jenn Lann Temple for 300 kilometers. More than 5 millions of worshippers follow Mazu’s palanquin on foot. They carry flags and playing traditional instruments to announce the approaching of Mazu’s blessing from one town to the next.
HO-HAI-YAN Gongliao Rock Festival (July 26 – July 28, 2019 )
Taiwan’s yearly rock festival by the beach sounds like a blast! Gongliao Rock Festival has been elected the top music festival in Asia, and that says a lot. It takes place at the seashore near New Taipei City each year, combining the peaceful sea environment with independent rock music. Dance and feast on music from both indie rock bands from Taiwan and international groups. Discovering cool new bands and partying with passionate fans on the scenic coast will definitely make your summer unforgettable.
As we travel to an unfamiliar country, there are always some different local customs or etiquette that we might not be aware of. We here provide some little tips to help you become a respectful and mindful traveler!
- Line up properly. Taiwanese love to stay organized and this applies everywhere— like waiting for the MRT.
- Don’t eat or drink anything on the MRT. Yep, not even water. That’s why their MRT is always so clean and tidy.
- Be on time. If you have an appointment with Taiwanese friends, don’t be late! Taiwanese tend to inform the others even if they are only late for 5 minutes.
- Wear a face mask if you have flu. During your first time in Taiwan, you might be wondering why people are wearing face masks everywhere. It’s because they prone to be polite by not infecting others with their illnesses.
Other articles for your trip to Taiwan: