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Taiwan Guide for First-Timers: What You Need to Know

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Are you planning a trip to Taiwan? Here’s a Guide to Taiwan for First-time Tourists!

Personally, I find Taiwan to be one of the most underrated places in Southeast Asia. Its capital Taipei City is modern & colorful, but more laid-back compared to other places like Hongkong. It has numerous shopping malls, night markets, and temples so you won’t run out of things to do. Moreover, the country has a lot of nature attractions including mountains, farms, and even hot springs.

P.S. You can also read my 5 Days Itinerary in Taiwan.

What are the visa requirements

Taiwan has various visa regulations depending on your nationality. Make sure to check with the embassy first.

Filipinos are visa-free up to July 2020. Here are the requirements:

  • Passport validity of 6 months before expiration date
  • Return ticket
  • As applicable, proof of accommodation, tours, itinerary, etc.
  • No criminal record in Taiwan

Take note that visa is required for more than 14 days of stay.

I have a Philippine passport and in my case it was easy to get past the immigration in Taiwan. I filled out an arrival card and gave it to the immigration officer. There were no additional questions asked and I was not asked about proof of tourist stay.

What is the language spoken in Taiwan

People praying in Lungshan Temple in Taipei City

The official language is Mandarin Chinese. It’s spoken by 70% of the population.

Locals also speak English particularly in Taipei City and other major tourist areas, but it isn’t very good so there is still a language barrier. I noticed this when transacting in convenience stores and local eateries and even when speaking to tour guides, but nothing that pointing or use of translation app won’t solve.

I suggest learning a few basic phrases for your trip to Taiwan. Just like in other countries, the locals appreciate it if you can greet them in their language. Here are some helpful phrases:

  • Hello – Ni hao!
  • Thank you – Xie xie
  • You’re welcome – Bu keqi

When is the best time to visit Taiwan

Taipei 101
Taipei 101.

Taiwan has a subtropical climate, with four seasons.

  • Spring: March to May
  • Summer: June to September
  • Autumn: October to November
  • Winter: December to February

The best months to visit are November to March. Winter in Taiwan is mild, so it’s actually a good time for sightseeing. Spring also offers pleasant temperature.

Avoid summer since it is hot & humid — it is also the typhoon season, so it is sometimes very wet and you may get inside your hotel. If you still want to go in summer, you can visit beaches and outlying islands such as Penghu Islands, Green Island, or Orchid Island.

What is the currency in Taiwan

Taiwan uses New Taiwan Dollar (NTD).

Where to exchange money

For best exchange rates, bring USD and then have it changed to the local currency in Taiwan. There are money changers in the airport and the city.

Avoid bringing Philippine peso because few money changers accept this currency for exchange.

I brought USD and had it changed at the airport. While there are better rates outside the airport, I didn’t really want the additional hassle of looking for a money changer when I can spend my time enjoying my trip.

Where to withdraw money

If you need to withdraw money, you can find ATMs in banks and convenience stores such as 7-11 and Family Mart.

Others

In Taiwan, cash is king. There’s a lot of establishments that only accept cash. If you need to pay via credit card, remember to pay with local currency so you can enjoy the best rate.

How to stay connected online

To get connected anytime, get a sim card or pocket wifi.

  • A sim card comes with one-day or multi-day internet data. You can also use it to text or call local numbers or register for use of YouBike (public bicycle rental).
  • A pocket wifi is cheap and convenient for groups because you can share a single device. However, it can be draining on your mobile phone and you need to take care of the device to avoid paying damage fees.

You can buy a sim card or pocket wifi in the airport. You can also buy them online via Klook to get discounts and then claim them at the airport.

Can you survive traveling to Taiwan without an internet? Actually, yes. Taiwan has one of the fastest wifi connections in Southeast Asia and free wifi is available in the airport and train stations. For security of mind though, I still recommend securing your own mobile data in case you need to google something or you get lost.

I bought a sim card with 5 days internet usage for 290 NTD at the airport.

How to get around the city & nearby areas

Road in Taipei City

The public transportation in Taiwan is very good.

  • It has a train station called Metro Taipei that connects the major city areas and even the north and south areas in Taiwan. Fare is 20-25 NTD.
  • It also has numerous bus lines in the cities. Fare is 15-35 NTD.
  • For those who are in a hurry or traveling late at night, you can get a taxi or Uber.

To get around via public transport, I recommend buying a Taipei Pass or Easy Card. This way, you don’t have to worry about cash or get in line at the train station everytime.

  • A Taipei Pass offers unlimited train & bus rides within a specified period in Taipei City. This is useful especially if you plan on a jam-packed city tour itinerary. A 1-day card starts at 180 NTD.
  • An Easy Card is a reloadable card which can be used in buses and train stations (even purchases up to 3000 NTD) anywhere in the country. You can buy an Easy Card at the airport, train stations, or 7-11. The card costs 100 NTD plus top-up amount in multiples of 100 NTD.

Again, you can buy these on the spot or via Klook.

I bought an Easy Card since I find it more flexible. I even used it in places outside Taipei City such as Jiufen. I topped it with 500 NTD for a 6-day stay and I still had about 100 NTD remaining on my last day.

To know your way around public transportation, you can simply use Google Maps which lists the train and bus lines with their departure schedules.

When & where can you see cherry blossoms in Taiwan

Cherry blossoms in Taiwan

If you want to see the cherry blossoms in Taiwan, schedule your trip as early as January to April.

The flowers only last 7-10 days and specific blossom period differs on each location, so do your research accordingly. Taipei City experiences the earliest blossom period, which starts at mid-January and continues to March. Alishan has a late blossom period that lasts up to the first week of April. If you arrive in mid-April, it may be too late to see any cherry blossom.

If you’re staying in Taipei City, you can visit Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall and Yamingshan National Park. Other great places a bit farther from the city include Qingjing Farm (Nantou), Sun Moon Lake (Taichung), Wuling Farm, and Alishan.

Cherry blossoms in Qingjing Farm in Nantou
Cherry blossoms in Qingjing Farm.

How long should you stay in Taiwan

For first-timers, 5-6 days stay which includes Taipei City and nearby day trip(s) is good enough.

You can explore Taipei City in 1-3 days, depending on what you want to see and do. This is enough time for you to get a taste of what Taipei City is like.

Rainbow Walk in Ximen
Rainbow walk.

For the rest of your stay, you can explore day trips to nearby cities and towns. Taiwan has gorgeous mountains, coastal lines, and other landscapes such as farms and plantations. You can hop on a train to visit Kaohsiung, Tainan, or Taichung. You can also book a joiner tour to the Northcoast, Taichung, Nantou, Shiding, and more.

Amei Teahouse in Jiufen Old Street
Amei Teahouse in Jiufen Old Street.

Mountains in Taiwan

 

Has this Guide to Taiwan for first-timers been helpful to you? If you have questions or suggestions, let me know in the comments section below!

 

What to read next:

Planning your trip to Taiwan? Here are other articles we’ve written about Taiwan:

Day trips from Taipei City:

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