Taiwan is a true pleasure to travel around as it is a country that still feels unique and untouched. If we were to make a list of undiscovered destinations that beg for more international attention Taiwan would be at the top for the list.
The original idea of Taiwan had been suggested to us by fellow digital nomads in a forum online. We’d been seeking a country in Asia that was developed, had natural beauty, an interesting culture, and was affordable to live.
The one place was repeated again and again to us was Taiwan. Truth be told it was not a “country” that had ever popped up on our radar. I never daydreamed about travel in Taiwan nor given it much thought. The funny thing about Taiwan is that it’s not your typical travel destination that elicits envy or desire.
I’m not going to push this as if I know everything about Taiwan because we know very little. However, we’ve been to a lot of places in the last year and few piqued our interest as much as Taiwan. Here are the reasons we absolutely loved traveling Taiwan, and you will too!
16 Reasons to Travel in Taiwan
Taiwan has More Artwork than China
I bet you did not know that the sixth most visited museum in the world lies in Taiwan because neither did we! The National Palace Museum just outside of Taipei sees almost 6.1 million visitors every year and hosts nearly 700,000 exhibits. The massive museum sights on the side of a lush hillside with views over the city of Taipei.
The majority of the collection is ancient Chinese artwork and relics that date back over 8,000 years. Much of the collection once lied in the Forbidden Palace in Beijing. However, it was moved into hiding during WWII and after the war was returned to the Nationalist Government of China. As the government was forced from the mainland they fled with a wide collection of Chinese historical artifacts.
It’s Probably Safer Than Your Home
There is a lot of uncertainty in this day and age. A lot of this has to do with sensationalism from the media; however, there is no denying horrific travel stories recently in places like Morocco, Costa Rica, and Kenya.
In Taiwan, you can rest assured and we think it’s a tremendous place for solo female travelers. The island’s crime levels are on par with Japan and violent crime is extraordinarily low, so much so that if you’re from an English speaking nation it’s definitely safer than your home. Crime rates are less than half than that of the U.S., Australia, Canada, or the U.K!
“Welcome To Taiwan!”
To drive home that point even more we found the Taiwanese people extraordinarily friendly. We had multiple instances of locals stopping us and saying “Welcome t0 Taiwan,” some even asked for a photo together.
We’re not alone as fellow travelers have shared similar stories with us and the Taiwanese are well known for their openness and manners. Chances are if you’re traveling around Taiwan you’re going to have a good time with good people who make you feel right at home.
Taiwan has Buzzing Cities
Taipei is a long swath of urban sprawl with countless high rise buildings, apartments, and shops. However, it doesn’t feel like many cities we are familiar with in the West or other parts of Asia. The cities here are extremely livable with good public transportation, bike lanes, not too loud, manageable traffic, and a plethora of public spaces.
It only takes a few blocks to find a park or garden. Even our Airbnb in Taipei overlooked a small local park with a coffee shop to enjoy the beautiful weather outdoors in November.
Don’t think the cities here feel whitewashed though because they’re still alive with Taiwan’s unique culture. Come rush hour you’ll find an onslaught of motorbikes, easily the most popular form of transportation to remind you that you’re still in Asia.
There are Teahouses to Drink Away Your Worries
Taiwan is full of mountains, enjoys temperate coastal weather, and plenty of precipitation that produces some wonderful tea fields. With the influences from China and Japan, the tea drinking culture is pervasive. This is evident with bubble tea in the cities, but head into the countryside and beautiful landscapes of the country to find intoxicating teahouses. Tea here has long prized as the weather and varying mountain temperatures makes for wild tea leaves.
You Can Bask in a Hot Spring
Taiwan sits along the famed Ring of Fire and a tectonic joint so it’s full of natural hot springs. It wasn’t until the modern era they really became a part of popular culture, but now the Taiwanese thoroughly enjoy their relaxation time. They have all types of hot springs from resorts to public pools and natural pools to the unique saltwater hot springs along the coast.
It should be noted that if the hot springs are separated by gender, like in Japan, you’re expected to bathe nude. It makes for a really clean and relaxing environment that Tasha and I have both come to enjoy. No need to be scared of nudity it’s common all over the world like in Finland, Austria, and. Japan.
Taiwan INVENTED Bubble Tea
Full stop. Taiwan is indeed where the bubble tea craze began. It won’t take long to figure that out either as bubble tea stands are on almost every block in the main cities like Taipei and Taichung.
The traditional tea is an iced oolong tea with tapioca bubbles. Now they have every flavor imaginable from watermelon to taro and green tea to brown sugar. Lucky for us most places had a menu in English that we could point to even if the counter clerks could not speak English. Get a reusable bubble tea straw before you go!
You’ll find Influences from Around the World
The island is a wild mess of influences. At one point it was colonized by the Dutch and Spanish before falling under Japanese rule. You can find old shrines, ruins, and monuments spread around the country.
Chinese and Japanese influence can be seen throughout the island and the history they’ve left over centuries if not millennia is intriguing. You can consider Taiwan’s relationship with the People’s Republic of China listed as “complicated.”
A Wild Political History in a Nutshell
Just like Macau, Tibet, or Hong Kong, Taiwan’s political history with the People’s Republic of China is weird—perhaps, even more so.
Taiwan views itself as Chinese, but not as part of China we know today. It is the Republic of China or in other words the Democratic version of China. At the end of WWII and the Japanese invasion, China continued an ongoing civil war between the KMT (Republic of China) and CPC (Communist Party of China).
The war went on for about 4 years until the Communists gained control of mainland China forcing the Republic of China to retreat to Taiwan. It led to a standoff in 1950 that never ended. With the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the People’s Republic of China both claiming to be the legitimate governments of China.
To this day no armistice or peace treaty has been ever been signed. Mainland China views Taiwan as a rebellious province and has barred it from entering the United Nations. All while threatening to launch an invasion should Taiwan declare itself a nation as the Republic of Taiwan.
So, it’s a bit of a debate on whether Taiwan in a country or not. To us it felt like going and experiencing somewhere completely new. The culture we were in was completely unique and it’s own.
The Culture is Unique
The culture is what surprised us the most about Taiwan. It’s really unique as the island has seen influences from all over Asia so don’t come here expecting all of the usual Chinese cultural norms and practices. We arrived not knowing what to expect which was perfect.
Though Chinese culture is very apparent there are also large amounts of Japanese influence after it’s years under colonial rule. It’s a vibrant country full of fascinating people who are quick to smile, welcome you, and respect everyone.
Taiwan is Quirky
Speaking of culture we find Taiwan to have one of those quirky and interesting cultures where they just like to have a fun time. They take a lot of inspiration from the kawaii culture of Japan. It’s not unusual to find themed restaurants, especially in Taipei. Places like the Toilet Bowl restaurant (where you can eat hot pot from a toilet bowl) and the Hello Kitty cafe (where food is shaped like Hello Kitty) may not have the best food in the world, but they are fun to visit! It’s all in good fun and the Taiwanese and visitos alike love it!
Tantalizing Night Markets
A big part, a very big part, of travel in Taiwan and why people love it centers around the food. It’s a good blend of Chinese and Japanese with it being easy to find staples from both countries. That also means they eat some interesting things like every part of the animal imaginable.
The food church of Taiwan centers around the night markets. It’s beloved by almost all Taiwanese and it’s something they’re very proud to share with visitors. If it’s an Asian staple you’ll likely find it here. Since everyone likes sweets you have to try out the ice cream peanut wraps. A few of the popular night markets in Taipei are Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, and Ningxia Night Market.
There are 15,000 Temples in Taiwan
That’s not a typo – there are over 15,000 temples in Taiwan. They have one for nearly every god imaginable and even a famed temple for a dog. The Taiwanese are just as diverse in their religion as well because you can find Taoist, Confucian, and Buddhist temples around the island nation.
The temples operate as museums, marketplaces, cultural centers, houses of worship, and even recreation centers. It’s an essential part of Taiwanese culture and you must slip into a handful while traveling around the country.
Get Spirited Away Inspiration
Jiufen is a small town and former mining community just outside of Taipei. The little mountain town was built by the Japanese in the early 1900s in a gold rush. It’s now turned into a large attraction for tourists and you’ll find lovely street markets and tea houses transporting you back in time. It’s even been said to be the inspiration for the ghost town in the beloved Japanese animated film Spirited Away.
A short wander around the streets and it’s easy to see the similarities; however, the creator Hayao Miyazaki has since dispelled the rumors saying the film has a wide scope of places for inspiration. If you haven’t seen Spirited Away, it’s a classic and you should definitely watch it before heading up to Jiufen.
Taiwan has Breath Taking Landscapes
Taiwan is known for its large manufacturing industry, factories, and large cities; however, that’s not all the island is about. Most of the development has occurred on the West of the nation while East Taiwan contains large verdant valleys and towering mountains.
Some of the amazing highlights in Taiwan are the mystical Taroko National Park and Sun Moon Lake. Both of which are worthy of a trip to see them alone. It’s a great place to explore some new landscapes with a good hike. If you do plan on hiking check out our posts on what to wear hiking and what to pack for your hike.
You Can Take a Epic Train Journeys
Those beautiful landscapes also give way to some amazing activities. One of those could be a great train journey in the world with the Alishan Forest Railway that opened in 1912. It’s a narrow old railway that snakes through the mountains and it still operates with a steam engine and dozens of small tunnels and wooden bridges. On the train, you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time and entered another world.
What Does it Cost To Travel in Taiwan?
Taiwan is an affordable country to travel around with a healthy budget averaging from $40 – $50 a day for budget conscious travelers. A midrange budget that includes dining out, shopping, a quality hotel, and activities should come in around $100 a day per person. If you would like to stay in nice hotels, drink, shop till you drop, and dine in higher end restaurants around $200 a day should be adequate.
Asides from a select few spots and experiences Taiwan is a great value for travelers. It’s cheaper than nearby Japan, but more expensive than Southeast Asia. Furthermore, Taiwan is a developed nation so some of the inconveniences of developing nations are not found here.
Accommodation in Taiwan
If you want to save money as much as possible you’ll have to stay in some of the numerous hostels across Taiwan. This is a great option for backpackers as the average room rate is around $10 a night for shared accommodation and the hostels are generally good quality with immaculately clean rooms.
As an adult couple, we typically opt for private rooms and utilize smaller guesthouses and hotels. Prices for a private room in Taiwan are moderate in expense not as cheap as Southeast Asia, but much less than North America or Western Europe. Expect to pay around $40-100 a night for a private room based on quality and location. Cities like Taipei push the average up as you can expect to pay about double per night compared to other destinations in Taiwan.
You also have the option of Airbnb if you like a bit more space as a group or couple. Rates for Airbnb is on par with private hotel rooms so it’s up to you on which you prefer. If you’re looking to save a bit more money cook your own meals to save with a private kitchen. However, food in Taiwan is generally affordable and delicious so you’ll likely not cook much.
Food Costs in Taiwan
Aside from restaurants in the major city centers, street food in Taiwan is cheap. If you don’t mind eating the local food and enjoying the fantastic night market in the streets it’s a fantastic destination for foodies. Street food here is not only safe, but a cultural experience where you rub shoulders with locals as they try to squeeze into the table next to you.
Expect to pay around 1-2$ a small dish in the local markets, while restaurants cost anywhere from $10-30 a person. We had some amazing meals in the restaurans of Taipei, but it did cost us much more than eating in the local markets. If you’re looking to save cook your own meals with an Airbnb and eat at the night markets. The good news is you can find amazing food from various cuisines like Chinese, Thai, and Japanese. There are also 7-11’s on every corner to get a snack or basic cooking essentials.
Transportation in Taiwan
Taiwan has a wide range of transportation. With a pretty extensive public transport network, you don’t need to rent a car. We recommend sticking to public transport and taxis in the city centers. The average taxi ride we took was under $10 and each ride on the MRT was around $0.50.
It’s also a great idea to pick up a bike to get around the cities as they do have a number of bike paths and sidewalks in the cities. It’s even easy to find a bike as they have a public bike program.
In between cities and major towns you can use a mixture of long distance buses and an extensive train network. Costs are generally pretty affordable. A long-distance train between major cities should cost around $10 – 30 and all depends on distance.
What to pack for Taiwan
Travel Water Bottle
The tap water in Taiwan is clean so there is no need to buy plastic water bottles and contribute to our world’s plastic problem. We like to use an insulated aluminum water bottle as it handles the hot sun well and also keeps drinks warm when need be. See all of our favorite water bottles here.
If you’re visiting during the summer you will definitely want sunglasses in Taiwan. My favorites are made by Smith. The Chromapop lens technologyis like seeing the world with a fresh set of our eyes. They enhance contrast, reduce glare, and reflection for superb vision while driving, walking around town, or out on the water. We also love the style of the glasses for anyone who likes to live an active lifestyle.
It is considered rude to wear your shoes inside in Taiwan so most places will give you slippers to walk around with once you take your shoes off at the door. However, I never found these slippers comfortable and would rather have my own from home.
Chances are you’ll want a camera for your trip to Taiwan. Our favorite pocket-sized point and shoot camera for quick trips are the Sony RX100V. It takes fantastic photos and video and is the size of your palm. In fact, a number of street photos in this post came from the discreet camera.
To up your photography game a bit consider the Fuji X-T3. We just bought that camera and find the images out of unbelievable. Check out our other travel cameras here.
We never travel without travel insurance with World Nomads. Natasha is a bit of a worry wart and would rather stay safe than sorry. Travel insurance gives us that piece of mind that someone has our back should anything go wrong. World Nomads offers incredible flexible and great plans!
Sometimes it’s nice just to have a real book in your hands when traveling. We recommend the Lonely Planet Japan guidebook.
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