In this Destination Guide you will find information for : Taipei
♦Currency: Taiwan Dollar (NT$) (TWD)
♦Zone: +8 GMT
♦Phone Code: +886
♦Best time to visit: Nov-March
♦Must eat: Stinky Tofu, if you can...
♦Must drink: "Bubble Tea"
♦Don't miss: "Elephant Mountain view"
Number of times visited: 1
Getting there and transportation: As Taiwan is an island, arriving is only possible by air. From Europe and America it can only be done direct by the local airlines, Eva Air and China Airlines. From Taipei Eva Air flies to a few destinations only in Europe and you will also have a transit stop in Bangkok on most flights. China Airlines only flies direct to Amsterdam, Rome and Frankfurt in Europe and also reaches direct from Australia and New Zealand. Other Asian airlines also offer flights to Taipei with a connection flight, sometimes this being cheaper. Also in recent years many Gulf carriers have started flying there including Emirates, Etihad Airways, Qatar and Turkish Airlines.
Within the country the transportation is very advanced and modern. There are plenty of busses and trains reaching every town across the island. Even from the airport it's possible to reach other districts by bus. They are well organised, by numbers for identification, and many of them now offer WiFi on board.
Attention!: In Taiwan it's not allowed to drink, eat and chew gum in the Mass Rapid Transit system (MRT) within trains and stations. It's actually considered disrespectful if you drink on-board, even if it's just water! You might get people looking at you strange if you dare to! Try to refrain from it as well on trains around the country and public transportation overall.
Weather and temperature: Taiwan has a moderate climate, and not so tropical as other Asian cities. However summer's can very hot and humid during April to June. Winter's are mild, (December to March) with an average temperature of 22C. Nights however will be fresher so take adequate clothing. Taiwan is also sensitive to tropical storms and typhoons, this happening during the rainy season (July to September) so expect strong winds, heavy rain and often a cloudy but humid sky).
Food and drink: Much of Taiwan’s culinary heritage comes from China. Culinary styles come from all over China including Canton, Hunan, Mongolia, Peking, Shanghai and Szechuan, with Taiwan itself contributing a considerable amount of signature dishes in its own right.The island’s cuisine has also been subject to Japanese influence, while seafood is unsurprisingly a speciality across the nation. It's popular to find street markets and stalls selling all kind of food on the go or to eat in, being a true local experience, dinning with the locals in these markets. Taiwanese eating traditions comes in the form of xiaochi (little eats), which in effect are a Taiwanese version of tapas. Buying various xiaochi dishes to make up a larger meal is a particularly common way of eating at night markets. For visitors, it’s also a great way of sampling a wide range of what’s on offer. They include spring rolls with peanut satay, sweet-and-sour spare ribs, bean curd in red sauce, oyster omelette, steamed pork dumplings and numerous excellent seafood's.
Specialities in Taiwan include:• Cantonese food: Fried shrimp with cashews and deep-fried spring rolls and tarts.
• Pekinese food: Peking duck, steamed prawns, eels with pepper sauce and ham marrow sauce.
• Szechuan food: Mother Ma's bean curd, aubergine with garlic sauce, fried prawns with pepper sauce, minced chicken with gingko nuts and fried breads.
• Shanghai food: Shark's fin in chicken, mushroom with crab meat, ningpo (fried eel), shark's fin soup and West Lake fish.As for drinks: Tea is a major component of Taiwanese culture, with the island producing many acclaimed varieties "oolong" being the most famous. Teahouses are found in great numbers, ranging from the traditional to the contemporary. Many teashops embrace modern innovation, as a result is the global popularity of bubble tea (a cooled tea-based drink containing small tapioca balls and drunk through a straw), which originated here.
Alcohol is easy to come by, although there’s not always a huge variety on offer. The most popular tipple is Taiwan Beer, while something stronger is the local firewater, gaoliang jiu, which is made from sorghum.
"Stinky Tofu": there is one smell that comes up immediately as intriguing when walking around Taiwan, it is the stinky tofu smell (chou doufu in chinese). Taiwanese people love it whereas most visitors find it horrible. The first time you smell stinky tofu, it doesn’t really makes you hungry. Surprisingly, it doesn’t taste as terrible as it smells. wouldn’t say that it tastes good either, but most visitors can at least find it , "eatable" or better say "swallow-able".
Stinky tofu is usually fried, boiled or served in a soup. It often comes with cabbages and sweet chilli sauce on the side. You will find it on most street markets and stalls.
Transportation: Taipei is a very advanced and modern metropolis where public transportation is well developed, so it's not a surprise that everywhere you go, is easy to reach by public transport.First, arriving to Taipei's main international airport, you can connect into the city centre by bus or high speed rail. The cheapest option is to take the direct bus link into the city centre. Bus 1819 goes to Taipei Main Station, with a frequency of 15min in either direction and the trip takes just under one hour. The busses are big enough for luggage and are comfortable with WiFI on most of them. If you are travelling in hurry the high speed rail, is a quicker alternative, but you need to take a bus first to connect to Taoyuan Station and then take the train, which can take you into the city or to other places in the country.
Within the city, the metro is the most popular transport system and is very easy to read and understand with English translation numbers and electronic panels which give you live information on the go. There is also a good network of local busses around the city, organised by numbers. Below you will find the metro map for Taipei available to download.
What to see and do? There is a lot that the city offers for the travellers, and every year you can find new attractions or shopping malls opening. It's a modern city which is constantly developing and growing. But also there is a lot of history and tradition in Taipei, if you investigate deeper into the city.
The main highlights to visit and see are: The Taipei 101 Tower,i t's the tallest green building the world at a height of 449m. The complex hosts a shopping mall, restaurants and the observatory which is open from 9am to 10pm. It has one of the fastest lift ever built, reaching the 89th floor in only 37 seconds! The views from the observatory are excellent at 382 meters. (tickets cost NT600 per adult). The National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is a national monument, landmark and tourist attraction. Another impressive building is The National Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. Lungshan Temple of Manka is a Buddhist temple in Wanhua District.The temple was built in 1738. Shilin Night Market, is considered to be the largest and most famous night market in the city. Ximending, a neighbourhood and shopping district of Taipei where you will find everything you need from gadgets to clothes. Also it's the mecca for entertainment and nightlife. (see below)
Tip: Visit Xiangshan, also known as Elephant Mountain. It is close to the Taipei Metro Xiangshan Station. It is 183 m high and from it's hiking trail you can see great views of Taipei city, the Taipei 101 Building and you can find the Six Giant Rocks which are a tourist attraction in itself here.
Nightlife: Taipei is great place to go out at night. There are plenty of venues for all tastes. From sport style bars, alternative pubs and a gay scene in a setting of neon lights, outdoor terraces and good music, open to everyone. You will find this area next to Ximen Station. As well there are plenty of restaurants, cinemas and bars along the area close to the station. It's worth to visit specially in the evening.
Tip: But not only Taipei is about partying, you can also relax and unwind in one of the city's top attractions, the volcanic hot-springs. Located out of the city centre, (closest metro station Xinbeitou, on the red line). Walking there is all up hill so would be a good idea to get a taxi from the metro station. It's a recommended visit and a truly relaxing experience where both locals and visitors come to enjoy.
Suggestion: Visit Makong, It's known as the most scenic spot in Taipei to drink quality, locally grown tea. There are many tea houses, offering high quality local tea, many of which you can sit inside and marble the sites. If you rather just go for a walk, it's also possible to do it around the mountain and discover the local beautiful scenery, and can snack along the way with plenty of food stalls along the streets.
The best way to reach Maokong is to take the Maokong Gondola scenic cable car up the mountain from MRT Taipei ZooStation, NT$50 each way.
Also another popular place to visit is Tamsui, located along the north coast about 40 minutes from Taipei by MRT. (Danshui station on the red line). The area is a must visit location for all visitors to the Taipei area. Most renowned for its amazing sunset landscape, Tamsui is home to a large array of restaurants, cafés, shops, hawker stalls, street performers, traditional cultural performances, and is the gateway to Taiwan's scenic North Coast.A special attraction ticket for tourists is available for NT$80, permitting access to Tamsui Museum, Hongmao Cheng, Tamsui Customs House Museum, and Hobe Fort.
Accomodation: Taipei is much more expensive to stay at than China, and many tourists will be surprised at this. The quality of the establishments are better and staff are able to speak better English. Hotels can cost around €30 per night whilst hostels are cheaper if you don't mind sharing (€12 per night). Safety is good in Taipei, however don't expose any valuables. However if you find very cheap Hotels, most often they will be locally run Hotels with poor front desk service and the conditions could be worse than on the pictures. Look up reviews before booking! Also it's possible to book private accommodation, with Airbnb as it becomes more popular in Asia!
Recommended duration: Taipei is bigger than it might seem at a first glance, therefore there is always something new to see or do. To see the city comfortably and in a relaxed mode 4 nights would be enough, with a weekend included, to enjoy the city's nightlife.