Everything You Need to Know for your First Visit to Taipei
Taipei, Taiwan’s bustling metropolitan capital city literally has something for everyone – no matter your interests. Here you’ll find everything from buzzing night markets, centuries-old temples, museums and the former tallest building in the world. If you’re planning your first visit to Taipei, this guide includes everything you need to know. From practical travel tips on when to go, how to get around and even where to stay and eat. With these handy hacks you’ll have everything you need to make your first visit to Taipei beyond epic and explore the top things to do in Taipei hassle-free.
In this guide, we highlight 10 pro tips that will help you plan your first visit to Taipei. Get useful info and handy hacks to make your first visit to Taiwan’s capital city a success!
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Pro Tips to Make Your First Visit to Taipei Epic
If you’re planning a Taiwan itinerary, you’re probably going to spend a bit of time in Taipei. To fully enjoy your stay in this bustling hub, it’s a good idea to know the basics before you visit. Here are my top tips to help you plan the perfect first visit to Taipei.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Taipei is during the shoulder seasons, spring (Apr – Jun) and autumn (Sept – Oct). Not only will you save money as it’s cheaper to travel during these months, the temperatures are also much cooler and more bearable.
Although peak season is during summer (Jul – Aug), you definitely do not want to make your first visit to Taipei a sticky one. Summer in Taiwan is brutal and often unbearable for most people who aren’t used to humidity. Temperatures rarely reach above 40C, but the humidity is so high that you’re likely to feel sticky and uncomfortable 24/7. Summer also brings lots of rain and it is considered typhoon season.
Winter in Taiwan is cold and wet. Although it only snows on the mountain tops and you won’t see much more than a few snowflakes in Taipei (if you’re lucky) it does get pretty cold here. Temperatures rarely dip below 5C but it’s a different kind of cold. You won’t need a big winter jacket, but you’ll definitely need some thermal wear and a good down coat to stop the freezing winds. Especially, seeing that Taipei is quite windy during winter.
One more note to consider…
Chinese New Year (usually a couple of days in Jan/ Feb) is usually super crowded and costs increase greatly. Most shops and businesses are also closed for the first few days of this holiday.
Taiwan’s currency is the New Taiwan Dollar (NT$). There are a few coins starting at NT$1, 5, 10, 50 and the notes are in denominations of NT$100, 500 and 1000.
Visa and master card are widely accepted at most hotels, chain stores, department stores and fancier restaurants. However, cash is king everywhere else. Especially at places like convenience stores, night markets, bus and train stations and that quaint little Chinese restaurant that you spotted on the street.
As for getting cash, ATMs are widely accessible in Taipei (and the rest of Taiwan). Simply pop into any convenience store, and you’re bound to find an ATM. You can also keep an eye out for the ATM signs which are usually either on the windows or on the convenience stores’ signage. The ATMs dispense either NT$100 or 1000 bills. This most probably goes without saying, but there is a small international service charge to withdraw money from any ATMs within Taiwan. So, plan well and make sure to always draw enough money to avoid extra charges and have some cash on hand.
If you need to exchange currency, the best place to do so is at the airport. However, you can still change money at most hotels, banks and even some department stores. Just remember to take your passport with you.
Grab an Easy Card (basically a metro card) at any convenience store. You can use it on all public transport systems and even at convenience stores. Top it up at top-up machines in the subway station or at your nearest 7-11.
Arriving in Taipei
Taipei has two airports nearby, Taoyuan Airport and Shongshan Airport. Most commuters usually arrive at Taoyuan Airport, which is Taipei’s International Airport. Luckily, no matter where you arrive, it is possible to get into the city centre quite easily, either by bus, taxi or MRT.
Buses leave every 15 minutes from Taoyuan Airport and taxis take around 40-60 minutes to reach the city centre. Taking the MRT from either airport is also super easy and straightforward.
To save money and the hassle of tugging your luggage along, you might like to consider booking a private transfer from Taoyuan or Shongshan airport. They’re comfortable, reliable, and far cheaper than a taxi.
The great thing about Taiwan is its awesome internet connection. The connection is super fast, reliable and affordable. Getting by without a local SIM card is doable when visiting Taipei for the first time, but if you are like me and like to have internet on the go, Grab a pocket WiFi or a 4G SIM Card at the airport for hassle-free connection.
How to Get Around Taipei
Taipei is extremely easy to get around and the best way to get anywhere in Taipei is to take the MRT (subway) or walk. Transport is an absolute breeze, so there’s no need to worry about getting from A to B.
If you don’t feel like walking, either use the super easy MRT system to get around the city or see all the must-see sights by Hop On Hop Off Bus. And of course, the easiest way to get around either by subway or on foot is without carrying heavy bags. Many subway entrances have both stairs and escalators, but they are likely to be crowded. Luckily, there are plenty of storage lockers in both the MRT stations and the train stations where you can safely and securely leave your bags whether it’s for a couple of hours, the day or longer. Locker rentals go per hour, and start at NT$10. So, remember to carry some small change with you if you want to store your bags.
Taxis are also plentiful in Taipei and flagging down a yellow cab is hardly ever an issue, unless it’s raining of course. Day rates usually start at a base rate of NT$70 for the first 1.25km and then increase by NT$5 per 200m. Fares at night start at a slightly higher rate. Be sure to always have your destination’s address in Chinese with you, as most taxi driver’s won’t know the English names or addresses. You could simply just show them the Chinese address on Google Maps or ask your hotel to jot down the address for you in Chinese.
If you are looking for a cheaper option, Uber is very popular in Taipei. Simply use the Uber APP to get your taxi.
Don’t have WiFi? Just pop into any convenience store and use the Ibon machine (only in Chinese though) to get a taxi or simply ask the staff to help you.
Bike rentals are plentiful. And, a great way to combine sightseeing and transportation. Riding a bike in Taipei is safe, as most sidewalks are wider and some streets even have bike lanes. You can grab a bike at any of the u-bike stations dotted across the city. You’ll need a Taiwanese SIM card (which can receive calls/messages) to register and an Easy Card to release and pay for the rental. When you’re done exploring, simply return your bike to any u-bike station and remember to tap your Easy Card to complete your payment.
Whether your spending 48 hours in Taipei or planning an extended stay, the city packs the perfect mix of activities. That said, a change of scenery is always nice. If you are thinking of exploring the outskirts of the city, check out this guide on the best day trips from Taipei which you can easily reach by either train, MRT or shuttle services. Also, consider getting a Taiwan Unlimited Fun Pass if you plan on using public transport a lot or simply want to save a few bucks.
If it’s your first visit to Taipei, you might be worried about the language barriers. Luckily, you don’t need to worry too much. Most locals can speak some basic English. Especially, in the more touristy spots. Finding your way around is relatively straightforward as most signs in the stations and street signs are in both English and Chinese. When you venture out of the city, knowing a few basic phrases in Chinese will go a long way. Plus, the locals really appreciate the effort.
Start with a few easy phrases like…
nǐ hǎo – hello,
nǐ hǎo ma? – how are you?
duōshǎo qián? – how much? and,
xièxiè – thank you.
You can also check out our complete guide on handy Chinese phrases that will make you look like an absolute pro on your first visit to Taipei!
Tap Water – Yay or Nay?
Whatever you do, do not drink the tap water in Taiwan. Unless you want to spoil your entire trip and stay in bed. You can, however, brush your teeth with it. Just be sure not to swallow large amounts of it. If you don’t want to buy water every day, most hotels or hostels have water coolers to make refilling your water bottle easy. If you haven’t invested in a reusable water bottle yet, check out these Best Reusable Water Bottles. Not only will you save money, you’ll also help reduce our plastic footprint on the earth.
Ice in drinks at bars, hotels and reputable restaurants is usually safe, too.
Food and Tipping
Taipei is a foodie’s dream. You might be wondering why I think it’s important that you know that before you go to Taipei. But if you’re a foodie like me you might want to do extensive research on the restaurants and coffee shops you want to try. I always spend hours going through blog posts, Pinterest and Instagram before a trip – reading reviews, looking at photos and making lists of what I want to try.
But, although Taipei has many trendy restaurants, hipster cafes, and weird themed dining spots, don’t forget to eat at the night markets and try some of the local delicacies. The local food is delish, even though some dishes, like stinky tofu and pig’s blood rice cake, are still too weird for me.
But, whatever you do decide to feast on, don’t leave Taipei without trying bubble milk tea, beef noodles, dumplings and steamed buns!
As for tipping, it is not required in Taipei and pretty much the rest of Taiwan. If you are dining at a nicer-looking restaurant, a 10% service charge will often be added to your bill.
Where to stay
Taipei is most probably one of the easiest destinations to find excellent accommodation options. No matter your budget. This guide highlights the best hotels in the city and exactly where to stay in Taipei.
However, I always like to stay close to the city center and tourist spots to make getting around easier. Here are some of my favorite districts to stay at:
Da’an: If you’re looking for more of an artsy vibe, whilst still being within walking distance from Taipei 101 and Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall, Da’an – the cultural district of Taipei, is an excellent choice.
Xinyi: Those seeking to stay in the financial district, head to Xinyi. Not only will you be close to Taipei 101, but there are tons of trendy cafes in the area. Not to mention, upscale bars and clubs.
Ximending: Budget travelers can head to Ximending – Taipei’s shopping district, which boasts with plenty of cool options.
Taipei Main Station: If it’s your first visit to Taipei, you might be looking to stay a bit closer to the train station. Especially if you plan to travel onwards from Taipei. If so, there are plenty of budget-friendly options.
One thing that I always spend hours researching when I’m considering my next adventure is safety. If you’re planning your first visit to Taipei, you might be doing exactly that, too. But, fortunately, you can stop stressing. Taipei (as well as the rest of Taiwan) is extremely safe.
For female solo travelers, it’s safe to walk around at night. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be aware of our surroundings and make silly choices. As a rule of thumb, always choose well-lit streets and don’t walk down dodgy alleys alone. And, always remember to keep your valuables, such as passports and credit cards safe, whilst only carrying the essentials with you.
All that’s left now is to pack! You’re ready for your first visit to Taipei!
So, have you traveled to Taipei? What tips do you have for the first visit to Taipei? Feel free to comment below! Don’t forget to connect with us on Instagram and Facebook or subscribe to our mailing list to get all the good stuff delivered straight to your inbox!
To learn more about living and traveling in Taiwan, be sure to also check out this great resource guide.
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