Taiwan is a vibrant nation with incredible natural wonders, rich culture, and friendly locals. And with very few visa restrictions, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be your next holiday adventure. KKday is brings you a series of quick and easy guides to traveling in Taiwan. Here’s a few things you have to know before you hop on the plane.
Taoyuan International Airport
Most flights from US to Taiwan will take you to the Taoyuan International Airport, Taiwan’s largest and busiest airport. There are many direct flights, but the cheaper ones usually include a short Hong Kong layover.
Direct flights from cities like Los Angeles are roughly 13 hours, while those from New York and Chicago are around 15 hours. Once you land, the airport is just an hour away from Taipei.
Since most budget flights tend to be at odd hours of the day, it’ll be difficult to navigate the roads to your hotel or Airbnb via taxi or commute. Book a direct airport transfer instead. It’s easy, saves you a ton of stress, and is especially convenient for large groups, if you find yourself traveling with your family or several friends.
Internet access in a foreign country with a language barrier is practically a survival necessity. Not all places have free public wifi, and even then the connection can be choppy. A pocket wifi device will make sure you have constant access to updated maps, weather forecasts, and foreign exchange rates.
But if you don’t want to carry around another device, opt for a local SIM card. As long as your phone isn’t locked onto a specific network, you’ll have guaranteed cellular service without the criminal data roaming charges. Most pre-paid SIM cards will give you unlimited 4G internet access.
Up your game by learning the local language. ChineseSkill turns the process into a game, where you’ll be able to learn simple phrases such as, “nǐ hǎo” (hello) and “xie xie” (thank you), familiarize yourself with the writing, and even keep score with your friends.
Ol’ reliable Google Maps. It’s fairly accurate, regularly updated, and allows you to save the particular addresses for offline use. The app also displays street names in both English and written Chinese. This useful feature makes finding yourself lost in a foreign place more manageable. Thanks to the dual translation, you can show the address to a friendly local and working out your directions together.
Alternately, if you’re impatient with translations (or just too shy to ask a stranger), use Google Translate. Not only does this feature churn out quick and useful survival phrases, but it’s also handy for interpreting road signs, menus, and other images—just take a picture of what you need translated, and the app will provide you with an English version.
Taiwan has an enviable public transport system that’ll take you far and fast. Transit TW gives you a simple but comprehensive map of all the train systems: the Taipei MRT, the Taiwan Railways Train (or TRA), and the Taiwan High Speed Rail. The app also includes the Taipei bus system. Other useful features include the offline map and route search which you can save, and multiple language support.
You can use any kind of messaging app when you’re there—it’s a great way to call and text for free—but LINE is the one that’s most used in Taiwan. Use it to stay in touch not just with your travel buddies, but also with your Airbnb host, tour group, and other locals you may have to contact.
Exchange rates fluctuate on a daily basis, so it can be hard to keep track of how much you’re actually spending. XE Currency updates in real-time, and lets you compare rates across multiple currencies.
As of writing, the exchange rate is: 1 USD = 30.21 NTD
Airbnb is a trendy new way of hotel booking, allowing you to filter through a variety of choices and find accommodations perfect for your needs. Luckily, most of the options are located in Taipei, Taiwan’s most popular city. If you’re heading to the capital, try booking rooms near any of the MRT train stations, for easy city exploration.
If you want to travel cheap and backpacker-style, opt for the hostels—especially if you’ll be traveling outside of Taipei. There’s Kaoshiung Backpackers Hostel (Kaoshiung), Liwu Inn Youth Hostel (Hualien), and An Lan Jie Hostel (Chiayi).
Need a relaxing staycation after a long day? There are several luxury hotels nearby to cater to your every whim. You can enjoy more elegant rooms, go for a quick dip at the pool, or soothe your tired body with spa services. Big names include W Taipei, which is right smack in the middle of the commercial district; and Grand Hyatt Hotel, which fronts Taipei 101.
That’s it! Keep following KKday for more travel guides. Up next in our Taiwan series: Travel by Train to Taipei.