Receiving over 20 million tourists last year in 2023, Taiwan is a popular destination in East Asia that is known for its vibrant night markets, centuries-old temples, and lush mountains.
Having spent an incredible week in Taiwan, I share must-know travel tips that are especially useful for first-time visitors.
This Taiwan guide is also informed by my local friend, Ella Park-Chan, who lived in Taipei for three years.
Disclosure: Lists By Lukiih is readers-supported. If you buy through an affiliate link on this post, I may earn a small commission. Thanks!
1. Best Places To Visit in Taiwan
Taiwan has incredible places to visit ranging from modern cities to stunning mountains made out of marble.
Below are Taiwan’s most popular destinations and the top things to see and do in each location.
Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan, is a modern, progressive city integrated with culture and tradition. It’s often visitors’ first stop and sometimes the only stop if they’re traveling to Taiwan for the first time.
There are many things to do in Taipei, ranging from hikes and temples to night markets and museums. Top attractions in Taipei include:
- Taipei 101, the former tallest building in the world and an architectural icon
- Night markets that sell delicious street food for cheap. Taipei’s best night markets are Raohe and Shilin Night Market.
- Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, a stunning significant historical landmark. The memorial hall is also near the National Theater and Concert Hall.
- Elephant Mountain, a metro-accessible hike with amazing views of Taipei city
- Beitou Hot Springs, a metro-accessible hot spring
- Maokong Gondola, a scenic cable-car ride
- National Palace Museum, a world-renowned museum
- Longshan Temple, an intricate 300-year-old temple
Taipei is also cyclist-friendly and one of the best ways to explore it is by biking through it. Taking a Taipei cycling tour is one of the most efficient ways to see both popular and less well-known attractions.
📍 Taroko National Park in Hualien
Taroko National Park, also called Taroko Gorge, is a beautiful park known for its marble canyons, towering cliffs, and lush forests. It’s a popular destination with many visitors taking a day trip from Taipei or spending a night in Hualien City just to visit Taroko Gorge.
Top attractions in Taroko Gorge include:
- Shakadang Trail, a popular hiking trail well-known for its scenic beauty
- Eternal Spring Shrine, a landmark shrine commemorating the workers who lost their lives while carving tunnels in the marble mountain
- Swallow Grotto, a unique part of the marble canyon where swallows nest
See how to plan a trip to Taroko National Park.
📍 Sun Moon Lake
Sun Moon Lake, located in the center of Taiwan, is the country’s largest lake and another popular tourist destination. It’s known for its scenic backdrop and various activities.
Top attractions in Sun Moon Lake include:
- Cycling around the lake, a common way to sightsee and explore the area
- Wenwu Temple, a palace-styled temple offering breathtaking views of the lake
- Xuanzang Temple, a Buddhist temple featuring panoramic views
- Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village, an amusement park that introduces the diverse culture of Taiwan
Although a bit far, Sun Moon Lake can be visited as a day trip from Taipei.
📍 Other Amazing Places in Taiwan
Taiwan has another endless number of places to visit.
- Kenting National Park, located in the south, is popular for its beautiful beaches with crystal-clear waters.
- Jiufen, a small picturesque village perched on the side of a mountain, is famous for Jiufen Old Street and traditional teahouses. It’s the village that people claim inspired the movie, Spirited Away, although the director has denied this.
- Tainan, called the “City of Temples”, is one of Taiwan’s oldest cities and is celebrated for its culinary scene and ancient temples.
- Alishan, located in central Taiwan, is renowned for its stunning natural landscapes, breathtaking sunrise views, and hiking trails.
- Yehliu Geopark is popular for its unique rock formations.
- Lukang, located on Taiwan’s west coast, is known for its traditional architecture dating back to the Qing Dynasty.
🍀 My Experience in Taipei, Jiufen, and Taroko Gorge
I generally find Taiwan amazing. I find it incredible that it’s not a more popular, south-after destination. During my Taiwan trip, I visited Taipei, Jiufen, Taroko Gorge, and Hualien City.
- Taipei as a city has everything I like: hiking trails, nature getaways, hot springs, ancient temples, a modern city center, and amazing food.
- Jiufen, which is about a 40-minute drive east of Taipei, is worth a day trip. It’s a bit touristy, but I love the charming atmosphere.
- Taroko Gorge is a beautiful part of Taiwan and I highly recommend it as a two-day trip. The nearby Hualien City is more residential than Taipei, but still has great things to see and do.
This 7-day Taiwan itinerary features my trip’s highlights.
2. When To Visit Taiwan
Taiwan has a subtropical climate and is a great place to visit year-round, as it has mild temperatures almost all time of the year.
☀️ Best Time to Visit Taiwan
The best and most popular time to visit Taiwan is during its spring and fall seasons.
- The spring season, which runs from March to May, has mild weather, averaging 60 to 75 °F, which makes it ideal for being outdoors. Like Japan (although less famous for them), the cherry blossoms in Taiwan bloom in late March and April.
- The autumn season, which runs from September to November, is another popular time to visit. During this time, the weather is warmer, averaging 68 to 85 °F, making it a great time to swim, hike, and admire the lush landscape.
🍃 Taiwan’s Seasons
Taiwan has four seasons. Here’s a quick overview of its seasons:
Here are some things to keep in mind about the seasons and climate in Taiwan:
- Taiwan has a rainy season from June to September, but compared to other Asian countries, the rainfall is not heavy.
- Typhoon season is from May to November. About a dozen typhoons hit Taiwan per year, but rarely do they make landfall and cause widespread damage. Most typhoons only lead to road blockages and landslides.
- As is true with many island destinations, the temperature and weather in coastal vs. inland regions of Taiwan can be different. Inland areas are always warmer.
The Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year, is on February 10th, 2024, and it’s not a popular time for tourists to visit. Many students and employees take days to weeks off around this time, so attractions, shops, and even transportation are limited or closed.
🍀 My Experience With Taiwan’s Weather
I traveled to Taiwan in mid-October and early November and found the weather mild.
I primarily wore summer clothes and threw on a hoodie or light jacket around nighttime. I experienced two days of brief rain and had a few cloudy days, but it was overall pleasant.
3. How Long To Spend in Taiwan
Taiwan is a medium-sized island nation where visitors typically spend seven to ten days traveling.
🗓️ How Many Days Do You Need in Taiwan?
First-time visitors should spend at least five days in Taiwan to explore Taipei and have enough time to see one other destination for a more complete trip.
- With three to five days in Taiwan, you’ll have enough time to visit the capital city of Taipei and do a day trip outside of it. This would be considered a short visit and you won’t have much time for anything else.
- With one to two weeks in Taiwan, you can visit several of the top places in Taiwan, including Taipei, Sun Moon Lake, and Taroko National Park. You may also get to drive along the eastern side and see Tainan.
- With more than two weeks in Taiwan, you can head all the way south to Kaohsiung City and spend more time seeing parts of the country that are off-the-beaten-path.
🍀 How Long I Stayed in Taiwan
Having been to a dozen destinations in the past year, Taiwan is at the top of my list of destinations I plan to return to, as I felt like I hardly got to see a lot of the island and there are so many beautiful places to visit.
4. Entry Requirements for Taiwan
The entry requirement for Taiwan is straightforward for US citizens.
🛃 Taiwan’s Visa and Passport Requirements
A tourist visa is not required for United States citizens visiting Taiwan for up to 90 days.
Also, your US passport must be valid during your Taiwan trip, but there’s no requirement for it to be valid before or after.
🍀 My Experience Entering Taiwan
Being an American citizen comes with the privilege of holding one of the world’s most powerful passports, so I had no issues flying into Taipei, Taiwan.
5. Budgeting and Cash in Taiwan
Taiwan is a semi-affordable tourist destination for Asia.
💰 Expected Budget in Taiwan
Here’s approximately how much you can expect to spend when visiting Taiwan:
|Budget per Day
|Mid-Range Budget Travelers
While a round-trip ticket to Taiwan from the United States will be expensive at around $1,000, Taiwan has many free attractions and places where you can eat a meal for less than $10.
🏧 Do You Need Cash In Taiwan?
Credit cards are sometimes accepted in Taiwan, but the economy is still largely based on cash transactions, so make sure to bring cash.
You’ll find ATMs widely available at convenience stores, like Family Marts and 7-Elevens.
💵 Are US Dollars Accepted in Taiwan?
Taiwan’s local currency is the New Taiwan dollar (NT). The US dollar is not widely accepted, so make sure to exchange currencies.
The exchange rate was $1 USD = 32 NT at the time of writing.
🍀 My Taiwan Trip’s Budget
Taiwan remains one of my most affordable vacation trips to date. I share all my travel expenses and credit card usage in this Taiwan budget breakdown.
6. How To Get Around in Taiwan
There are several ways to get around Taiwan. While many areas have reliable public transportation, a rental car would make some places easier to get to.
✈️ Flying Into Taiwan
Taiwan has four international airports to fly into:
|Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TPE)
|Kaohsiung International Airport (KHH)
|Taichung International Airport (RMQ)
|Taipei Songshan Airport (TSA, serves flights to China, Korea, and Japan)
Most first-time visitors land at the Taoyuan Airport in Taipei. You can get to Taipei’s city center by bus, taxi, or train. The taxi and bus ride will take about 35 minutes while the train ride takes over an hour.
Once you land in Taiwan, there are several common ways to get around the country.
🚇 Best Way To Get Around Taipei: The MRT
If you’re staying in Taipei, the best way to get around is by public transportation. Taiwan’s metro, known as the MRT, is clean, well-maintained, and punctual. See the MRT map in English.
Here are some tips when riding the Taipei MRT:
- Buy a one-time token or a rechargeable card. At the metro station kiosks, you can either buy a one-time blue token or an EasyCard (aka IC Card) to ride the MRT.
The station kiosks only accept cash. I found that the station attendants are willing to break larger bills.
- Get an EasyCard. If you are going to be frequently riding the MRT like I did, I recommend getting an EasyCard for convenience, despite the 100 NT (about $3 USD) non-refundable fee. Any remaining balance on your EasyCard can be refunded at the end of your trip.
- Check Google Maps. The listed train times are accurate, so you can trust the listed times to plan your trip. However, I found the listed times for buses are not accurate.
- Follow the rules. Taiwan has a polite culture that tends to follow the rules. For example, the MRT tends to be very quiet as talking loudly is considered a nuisance to others.
MRT train stations are clean and have trash cans (public ones are not common in Taiwan) and bathrooms. It’s a good idea to bring toilet paper just in case.
🚆 Option 1: Train
Outside of Taipei, Taiwan also has an efficient train system run by TRA (Taiwan Railways Administration) that will take you to all parts of the country, including Sun Moon Lake and Hualien City.
There’s a high-speed rail that takes you from Taipei in northern Taiwan to Kaohsiung City in southern Taiwan in less than three hours.
You can buy TRA train tickets in two ways:
- Through a Taiwanese mobile app (iOS, Android). Booking a train ticket only reserves it, so you need to claim it as well. If you don’t claim your ticket (whether in person or digitally) within 20 minutes of departure time, they can give it to someone else.
- In person at the train station. Some train times are very popular (e.g., going from Taipei to Hualien City) and need to be booked in advance. When I booked a train to Hualien a week in advance, a few of the afternoon departures were sold out.
Most trains will depart from the Taipei Main Station. Google Maps has several “Taipei Main Stations” depending on whether you’re catching a train, bus, or the MRT. Double-check the “Subway services” section of the app to make sure it is the right place for your transportation needs.
🚌 Option 2: Public Bus
Another common way to get around Taiwan is by bus or shuttle bus. These are great options for shorter distances (e.g., anything that takes less than two hours to drive) or to reach places where the train won’t take you.
You can also take a shuttle bus from Taipei to popular destinations like Jiufen and Sun Moon Lake.
🚗 Option 3: Rental Car or Scooter
One common way for locals to get around Taiwan is by car and scooter.
Most foreign visitors do not rent a car or scooter in Taiwan, except to do a road trip on the east coast where the train infrastructure is lacking. Renting a car is not as straightforward in Taiwan as it is in other destinations.
To rent a car or scooter in Taiwan, you will need an International Driving Permit (IDP) and familiarize yourself with the country’s confusing rental laws.
🚙 Option 4: Taxi and Uber
Yellow taxis are readily available in Taiwan, especially in concentrated city areas, and it’s a common way to get around.
You’ll find Uber only in bigger cities like Taipei. Compared to taxis, they’re more convenient to use for tourists.
✈️ Option 5: Domestic Flight
Taiwan has several airports around the country. While you can get around by taking domestic flights, they’re typically not the most budget-friendly way to travel domestically.
For example, taking a domestic flight from the northern to the southern part of Taiwan will cost at least $160 one-way, whereas the high-speed rail would be closer to $40 USD.
🚲 Option 6: Cycling
Taiwan’s infrastructure is cyclist-friendly. You’ll find many bike-sharing services in major cities and tourist destinations, including Sun Moon Lake, Taroko Gorge, and Kaohsiung City.
🍀 How I Got Around Taiwan
Like many visitors, I primarily relied on Taiwan’s trains, metro, and bus to get around. I called an Uber twice in Taipei when it significantly saved more time than taking the train. I also had a local friend drive me to Jiufen, which made me realize how driving in Taiwan can be confusing.
Overall, I found Taiwan’s public transportation reliable, clean, and pleasant although it can be occasionally confusing to navigate with just knowing English.
7. How To Stay Safe in Taiwan
Here are safety tips to keep in mind when traveling to Taiwan.
⚠️ Is Taiwan Safe to Visit?
Taiwan is considered a safe country to visit. Violence and even petty theft against tourists are very rare. Taiwan has one of the lowest violent crime rates in the world.
Taiwan not only has a travel advisory level of 1 per the US Department of State, but it is also ranked #33 out of 163 safest countries by the Global Peace Index (for reference, the United States is ranked #131).
🚖 Common Scams in Taiwan
Tourist scams are not common in Taiwan, but here are scams to watch out for:
- Some restaurants will overcharge tourists by hiding additional service fees or inflating the menu prices, so make sure to always check your receipt.
- Taxi drivers will also try to overcharge tourists, which you can avoid by using Uber. However, this is a rare occurrence.
- Once in a while, you might find that tour vendors are not legitimate. They may try to sell you a tour or a ticket to Taipei 101, but they’re not authorized to do so. Make sure to book tours with legitimate platforms like Viator.
💧 Is Tap Water Safe To Drink in Taiwan?
Tap water in big cities like Taipei and Hualien City is safe to drink, but many locals are still dubious of tap water safety. It’s a little less clear if tap water is safe in other places in Taiwan, especially in smaller towns.
I brought my reusable water bottle, which I refilled at restaurants, hotels, and vending machines with no issues.
🦟 Does Taiwan Have Mosquitoes?
Taiwan has disease-carrying mosquitoes (dengue virus is common), especially during the summer and rainy season, so protect yourself as best as you can.
While walking around in Taiwan, you’ll see several posters warning people of getting dengue.
🍀 My Safety Tips for Taiwan
I didn’t have any issues with theft, scams, or violence in Taiwan. Based on my experience, I recommend these safety tips:
- Be vigilant of your surroundings. While Taiwan is very safe, it’s a foreign country with a somewhat high language barrier, so asking for help can be difficult in certain scenarios.
- It’s a good idea to pack insect repellent. I didn’t have issues with mosquitoes in places like Taipei, but I wore repellent in places like Taroko National Park.
8. Language Barrier in Taiwan
Taiwan’s official language is Mandarin Chinese.
🗣️ Is English Common in Taiwan?
Roughly 30% of Taiwan’s population speaks some English, but you’ll find that the rest of the population speaks only Mandarin.
Major cities and tourist-friendly places will have some signs and menus in English, but Taiwan is largely not as English-friendly as some would expect.
Taiwan currently has a goal of becoming a bilingual nation by 2030.
Here are some common Mandarin words and phrases to know while visiting Taiwan:
|Common Word or Phrase
|How are you?
|“That one”. This is helpful to know when you’re trying to buy food at night markets and food stalls.
🍀 Traveling Taiwan With Just English
Although navigating Taiwan’s public transportation was relatively easy, I found getting around with just English a bit more challenging than I expected, especially in non-tourist areas.
Unlike Japan, Taiwan doesn’t have a lot of signs in English, locals who don’t work in tourism will not understand any English, and hand gestures are not as common. That said, if you mostly travel in touristy areas, you’ll have no issues getting around.
9. Cultural Differences in Taiwan
The Taiwanese culture has been heavily influenced by Chinese traditions, Japanese colonial rule, and indigenous culture.
Taiwanese people place special emphasis on politeness, social harmony, and respect, which is not very unlike Japanese people.
Due to the relatively recent 50-year Japanese occupation of Taiwan, you’ll find many Japanese influences on the small country. This extends to architectural style, education, railway infrastructure, and cultural practices.
👟 Proper Etiquette in Taiwan
Here are a few cultural norms and Taiwanese etiquette to keep in mind when visiting:
- It’s impolite to speak loudly in public spaces as it can be a nuisance to others, so make sure to keep your voice at a low to medium volume.
- Waiting in line in an orderly manner is a social norm as it creates social harmony. Line cutting and disorderly lines are not common.
- Family-style dining is typical in Taiwan. When eating in these situations, it’s polite to sample and taste all dishes, even if you don’t end up eating a lot of everything.
- Taiwanese people respect their elders, so it’s important to show respect towards them and to address them with the proper titles.
Taiwan is an open-minded and progressive nation and you’ll find this reflected in its culture. For example, it’s the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage.
🍀 My Experience With Taiwan’s Culture
I love many aspects of Taiwan’s culture, particularly the ones around orderliness, politeness, and cleanliness. Taipei is incredibly clean and peaceful, which deeply contrasts against the many large cities I’ve lived in the United States.
Note that like in Japan, street trash cans are uncommon in Taiwan, so be prepared to hold onto your trash. You can find trash cans at the metro stations.
10. Taiwanese Food To Try
Taiwan is internationally known for its street food culture and unique dishes. When visiting Taiwan, try some classic Taiwanese food:
- Beef noodle soup (niú ròu miàn) is one of the most iconic meals in Taiwan. The dish features chewy noodles with slow-cooked, tender beef.
- Boba or bubble tea (zhēn zhū nǎichá) is a flavored tea base with chewy tapioca ball. They’re now globally available and popular, but boba tea originated in Taiwan.
There are many great boba tea shops, but some of the best ones in Taipei are CoCo, DaYung’s Tea, Ten Ren’s Tea, and Chun Shui Tang.
- Stink tofu (chòu dòufu), which is fermented tofu, is a beloved dish in Taiwan. I like natto and durian, but I can’t get behind stinky tofu. It’s part of the experience to try one!
- Pork rice bowl (lǔ ròu fàn) is a comforting dish with minced pork belly served with five-spice seasoning and often topped with a boiled egg.
- Pineapple cake (fènglí sū) is a Taiwanese pastry that has a buttery crust surrounding a pineapple jam. This is a very popular souvenir gift to bring back from Taiwan.
SunnyHills is a popular pineapple cake cafe in Taipei, but I personally love the ones at Chia Te Bakery.
- Oyster omelet (òa-á jiān). There are many Taiwanese street foods worth trying, but one of the most famous ones is the oyster omelet served with eggs and potato starch.
Din Tai Fung is one of Taiwan’s most globally recognized restaurants and one of my favorite places to eat. If you haven’t been to one yet, you can visit the original restaurant in Taipei and try their world-famous soup dumplings.
If you’re unfamiliar with Taiwanese street food or want to learn more about the cuisine’s history, you can also go on a five-star backstreet food tour.
11. DIY vs. Guided Trip in Taiwan
Given the island’s relatively small size and high language barrier, Taiwan is a popular place to travel with an organized tour. Here’s my take on guided vs. DIY trips for Taiwan:
🚐 Guided Taiwan Trip
If you have less than a week in Taiwan and want your trip to be super efficient, you can book all-inclusive guided tours that take you to the best places to visit.
The organized tour will take care of everything (i.e., transportation, accommodations, attractions, food) for you, but they’re not as flexible and will not be as budget-friendly.
🗺️ DIY Taiwan Trip
If you’re planning a Taiwan trip on your own, you can focus your planning efforts on Taipei and then take guided day tours to the top places.
🍀 My DIY Taiwan Trip
I spent a week in Taiwan on a DIY trip, but I had a local friend help me and provide a lot of helpful Taiwan travel tips.
I plan to keep traveling to Taiwan on my own, but I will occasionally book a guided tour for specific attractions, national parks, and food tours.
Taiwan Trip Planner
To make your travel planning easier, download the trip planner below and use it as a starting point. The planner has country-specific travel information, an itinerary, a packing list, and a map with key places pinned.
The trip planner is built on Notion, which I use for all my travel planning (I genuinely love this tool). If you don’t have Notion, creating an account is free.
If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave a comment below.
Taiwan Travel Guides
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