Your Travel Guide to Taipei
The Island of Taiwan was previously known as Formosa, or Ilha Formosa (beautiful island). It is beautiful to say the least. The mountains, ocean, skyscrapers, old streets, creative parks, night markets, street food, and shopping districts came together to create a very convenient itinerary. We stayed within 2 hours of Taipei and even though we didn’t make it further south, I feel like we experienced a lot of what the area has to offer. However, I still have a lot to see - Sun Moon Lake, Hualien, Taroko Gorge, etc.
I would recommend reading some history on Taiwan so that you don’t make any cultural mistakes, such as calling it “China.” Also, don’t over think the language barrier - it’s minimal. Download Mandarin for offline use on Google Translate and you’ll manage. Google Translate also has a great feature that allows you to scan text with your camera and it will translate either from Mandarin to English or vice versa (or any language).
The people were willing to assist the confused foreigner. The queues at the train and the bus stops were rather orderly. I’m not used to that. Usually it’s ready, set, go! The elderly were happy to help us line up correctly. They were nice and we obliged. The train stations and airport are laid out well so that even the non-native speaker can easily maneuver to their destination. The bus, train, train station, and the bathrooms at the train stations were all clean. I would like to emphasize “clean.”
Cultural Tip: Eat with the locals and initiate conversation with them. Many people speak several languages so be courageous and talk! You never know what they are willing to share.
Things to see and do
Click on the link below to see the map of my itinerary for easy traveling. Feel free to email it to yourself and share with others. I will be adding to this list as time goes on. You can also click to view their websites and ratings.
Check out the full itinerary.
I went with Air BnBs for this trip. I found one really interesting place with a great view for the first two nights. I paid $89USD (2 nights, 2 adults – 1 Queen bed, kitchenette, w/d, 1 bath). The MRT was right across the street and it was central to the sites I wanted to see. I moved to another Air BnB location down the street which felt safer and was super cozy. Still convenient to everything. It was much cheaper at $49USD a night and offered a full size bed in the loft and a couch comfy for sleeping.
If you are more of a hotel hopper, then you won’t have any trouble finding a great place in Da’an. I loved this district and won’t hesitate to stay there again. There is no shortage of hostels or hotels. A few hotels our host recommended were Nihao Cafe Hotel , Chez Nous Hotel, and Chaiin Hotel. These are within a range of $35-$135USD a night.
Average Food Costs
You can expect food prices to be similar to what you might find in Bangkok. Nice restaurants will cost on average $10-$15, whereas street vendors, or dive places, will cost $1-$5 for a snack or a nice meal depending on the dish.
I purchased an Easy Card for $500NTD at the airport. That will get you far on the MRT! We also used Uber a bit because I wanted to enjoy my whole vacation and not be sore from too much walking and carrying my backpack. We (two American ladies, who speak zero Mandarin) did not have any trouble getting to where we needed to go. But that one Uber drive got lost. See the travel tip regarding Uber.
Suggested daily budget: If you’re a smart spender, I recommend budgeting for about $30USD a day. If you like to shop, use taxis, and eat at the fancier restaurants – expect to spend more. Visiting the tourist spots like Taipei 101 will run you about $20USD per person.
The currency is New Taiwan Dollar (NT$/TWD). Today, 11/11/2018 the exchange rate is 30.86NT$ to $1USD.
A lot of people speak more than one language in Taipei, especially among the younger generation. Keep in mind as you venture from the city less people will speak English and less romanization.
Menus often have pictures and a numbering system for ordering. If not, point. Do the best you can. Ask (nicely) some young person nearby if they can help you.
Taipei Main Station will allow you to check-in, check luggage, and get boarding passes at least two hours before the flight’s departure time when travelling with carry-on baggage only, or three hours prior to departure with luggage to check-in. It is limited to certain airlines (China Airlines, Mandrain Airlines, EVA Airways, Uni Air) so please read the rules beforehand. Look for signs that say “In-Town Check-In” once you arrive to the main station.
UBER TIP: Occasionally the internet is delayed because of all the tall buildings, so your location or your driver’s location may not be totally accurate. Double check where the pin is placed for your location so the driver shows up on the right side of the road.
Be sure to pick up a SIM card and exchange money after you go through customs, before heading to the MRT. I got unlimited data for 7 days for $16USD. It worked great! I will never use Verizon Int’l plan - I tried it once. Cost a fortune.
Also, remember to catch the purple, Express Train, to Taipei (not the blue commuter train).
Leave a comment letting other readers know what you enjoyed while in Taiwan or what resources you found to be useful for traveling.