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In this Destination Guide you will find information for : Taipei

Essential Country Information:

taiwan flag


♦Capital: 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: 2

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, London 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 high speed trains and local trains reaching every town across the island. Even from the airport it's possible to reach other districts by fast speed rail and bus. Busses 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 kinds of food to 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.
Suggestion: Try this modern favourite, the Hot Star, large Fried Chicken. The first Hot-Star location opened at Shilin Night Market. Today, the restaurant has chains across Taiwan and across the globe. It's famous for the slabs of the juicy fried chicken breast, which comes spicy or normal. It can be eaten anytime of the day and its a popular option for takeaway by locals and visitors!

Stinky Tofu
Stinky Tofu
"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. 
bubble tea
A very sweet brown sugar, Bubble Tea

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 drink is Taiwan Beer, while something stronger is the local firewater, gaoliang jiu, which is made from sorghum.

Suggestion: Try the best cold drink in Taiwan, "Bubble Tea"! This is the most typical and renowned drink in Taiwan, and now is available to buy worldwide as it has become so famous. The tapioca pearls at the bottom of the drink are often mistakenly referred to as the "bubbles." However, bubble tea is another term for milk tea. Bubble tea (also known as pearl milk tea, bubble milk tea). It was invented in Tainan and Taichung in the 1980s. It contains many different flavours of tea which you can choose, milk, as well as sugar and ice (optional). The toppings are also many, such as chewy tapioca balls (the most typical to have in Bubble tea), also known as pearls, fruit jelly, grass jelly or agar jelly. The two most popular varieties are black pearl milk tea and green pearl milk tea. Best drank cold, with some ice during the hot months (May to September). 

Taiwan food
"Hot Star" Large Friend Chicken
Stinky Tofu
Stinky Tofu Stall
Oolong Tea
Oolong Tea

Author's Comment:

Taiwan surprised me the most out of the Asian region, in all positive ways. It's a very well developed region, with a modern approach on traditional values and habits but not forgetting their ancient customs. It's major city, Taipei, offers so much to see and do, both cultural and for entertainment. Nights in the city are just amazing, night markets, full of LED lights, shops, loads or eateries and with a buzzing night life. If this wasn't enough there is also abundant natural scenery with great view points around the city. It also helped a lot to be with locals who are fluent in English and can show you around and explore much more this incredible city. Definitely a recommended destination not to be missed on this side of the world! 

Taipei tourism information: 

Taipei skyline
Taipei Skyline from "Elephant Mountain"
Introduction:  The capital of Taiwan has a lot to offer to the traveller, in recent years the city has modernised tremendously making it more accesible for tourists, easier to navigate around the streets, more international and the creation of many new attractions and points of interest for the visitor. The capital offers great sights, both from natural mountains and hills sorrounding the city to impressive skyscrapers! 
It's also a mecca for food lover's, where to find every kind of asian dish and cuisine. Nightlife is also popular in Taipei, every scene is represented, bars, clubs and relaxation hot-spring saunas are also popular! Definitely a city where you can't get bored! 

Transportation: Taipei is a very advanced and modern metropolis where public transportation is well developed, 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.(Price is 135 TWD). The busses are big enough for luggage and provide free WiFI. 
If you are travelling in hurry, there is also the MRT Airport line, (Purple Line) part of the Taoyuan Metro system, which can take you directly to Taipei Main station and then you can interchange with the Taipei Metro. Tickets cost 160 TWD one way and there is a stop at Terminals 1 and 2. There is also high speed rail, if you are connecting to other cities in Taiwan. But you need to take the MRT first from the airport to Taoyuan HSR Station, and transfer to the High Speed rail.
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. Below you will find the metro map for Taipei available to download. 
You can buy single tickets, day tickets for 150NT or 24/48/72 hours tickets (180/280/380 NT respectively). As well as the Easycard if you stay longer in Taipei. (see below). There is also a good network of local busses around the city, organised by numbers and with sings in English. 

Tip, buy the "easycard": It's the Taipei multi-use card. You can use it on the metro, busses and the Gondola to the Maokong Gondola (next to Taipei Zoo). As well you can pay with the card on convenience stores and other shops. It costs 100NT plus the balance you want to load it with. It will save you a 20% versus single tickets (tokens) on the metro.  

Taoyuan Metro Map
Taoyuan Metro Map
Bus 1819
Airport Bus 1819 to City Centre
Taipei busses
Taipei Local Busses
Taoyuan Metro system
Taoyuan Metro line inside
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, it's the tallest green building in 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).
  • 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.
101 building
Views from the 101 Tower
Elephant Mountain
Elephant Mountain views
Elephant Mountain
Elephant Mountain trails

  • The National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is a national monument, landmark and tourist attraction. The key attraction is the Bronze Statue Hall, where everyday between 9.00 and 17.00 takes place the change of the guards. There is also an exhibition hall about the history of the building and the events which have taken place here. Other impressive buildings around the area are the Arch of the Liberty Square, the National Theatre and the National Concert Hall. 

National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
Change of the Guards
Arch of the Liberty Square
Arch of the Liberty Square

  • Shilin Night Market, is one of the largest, most popular night markets in Taiwan with regard to food, and also one of the most popular points of Taipei's night life among visitors. Located in Taipei’s Shilin District,  70 metres from MRT Jiantan Station. The maze of alleyways is filled with a variety of local, traditional, and international merchandise that attract locals and foreigners alike. The night market consists of two major elements: general merchandise and local cuisine.

Shilin Night Market
Shilin Night Market
Shilin Night Market
Shilin Market Stalls
Shilin Night Market
Best to come at night to Shilin

  • 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, (Oolong tea specially) 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$100 each way with the easycard. 

Makong Gondola Entrance
Makong Temple
Makong Gondolas

  • Yangmingshan National Park: is one of the nine national parks in Taiwan. This National Park is famous for its cherry blossoms, hot springs, sulfur deposits, fumaroles, venomous snakes, and hiking trails, including Taiwan's tallest dormant volcano, Seven Star Mountain (1,120 m). The best time to visit is March for the cherry blossoms or late September and October for the change of the leave colours. To get there you can take the MRT to Jiantan station and then change to bus 127 to take you directly to Yangmingshan National Park. The park is free to visit. Along the trails you will find food stalls, water-falls, benches to sit, some statues and plenty of beautiful scenery to photograph. 

Yangmingshan National Park
Bus 127 to Yangmingshan
Yangmingshan National Park
Yangmingshan National Park
Yangmingshan National Park
Cherry Blossoms
  • Bitan Scenic Area, it's a p opular lake offering scenic cliffs, pedal boats, eateries and a suspension bridge for pedestrians to cross over and visit some of the temples hidden away in the greenery. You can visit the impressive Taoist temple with several levels (free access) and also a Buddhist temple nearby after crossing the bridge. There are also several walking trials around the area. To get there take the green line MRT to Xindian Station. 
  • Lungshan Temple of Manka is a Buddhist temple in Wanhua District.The temple was built in 1738. To get there take the blue MRT line to Longshan Temple Station. 
Bitan Scenic Area
 suspension bridge
Bitan suspension bridge
Lungshan Temple
Lungshan Temple
  • 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.

Tamsui Views
Tamsui, where to find Turkish Ice-cream
Tamsui at night

  • Ximending, a neighbourhood and shopping district of Taipei where you will find everything you need from gadgets to clothes. An interesting building you will find here is the Red House, built in 1908, this 8-sided structure features exhibits, a teahouse, markets & theatres. Also it's the mecca for entertainment and nightlife. (see below)

Ximending Area
Ximending for nightlife
the red house
The Red House
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.  

Suggestion, visit the Hot Springs: Taipei is not only 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 Shipai, on the red line). Walking there is all up hill so would be a good idea to get a bus or a taxi from the metro station. Taking the bus opposite the MRT station of Shipai, number 508, 8 or 536 all take you to Xing Yi Lu Si ( stop name 行義路三) where the hot springs are located. Note that busses finish around 22h. It's a recommended visit and a truly relaxing experience where both locals and visitors come to enjoy. 

AccommodationTaipei is more expensive to stay at than mainland China. 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 very good in Taipei,and there is hardly any crime. 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. 

Taipei Photo Gallery: