First-Timer's Guide to Taiwan

Advisor - Jessica Yeh
Curated By

Jessica Yeh

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  • International Travel

  • Taiwan

  • City Travel

  • Arts & Culture

  • Solo Travel

  • Foodie

  • Local Culture

  • Local Cuisine

Skyscraper during daytime
Curator’s statement

Taiwan is a small island in East Asia. It's often overlooked as a travel destination, but there's so much that the island has to offer! Taipei is one of the island's main cities and it is very well developed with one of most advanced rapid transit systems. There is truly something for everyone, whether you're looking for outdoor adventures or some city fun. The island is also filled with so much culture from various influences over history. If you're looking to experience a new destination, add Taiwan to your list! Plus, it's super budget-friendly!

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Where to stay

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Grand Hyatt Taipei

Taiwan’s first luxury hotel, this palace-like resort sits mid-mountain overlooking the Keelung River.

Fora Perks
  • $100 hotel / resort credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Welcome amenity

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Regent Taipei

Taipei luxury high-rise boasting a rooftop pool with expansive city views.

Fora Perks
  • $100 hotel / resort credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Éclat Hotel Taipei

Located in the trendy Da-An district of Taipei, this art-forward boutique hotel is city sanctuary.

Fora Perks
  • $100 hotel / resort credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & late check-out whenever possible.

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Advisor - Jessica Yeh

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Day 1: Arrive in Taiwan

Group of people standing in city during nighttime

You're likely to arrive at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (main airport in Taiwan) and it's a little short of an hour to get into Taipei city. It's fairly easy to get taxis in Taiwan and the airport rides will be the most expensive cost you'll come across. Transportation is typically very cheap here. Once you arrive at the hotel in Taipei, it will be very easy to get around the city. One thing to keep in mind is there are Family Marts and 7-Eleven stores everywhere you go! It's super cheap and convenient to pick up drinks or a snack any time. They also serve hot foods - soy sauce eggs and tempura are very popular! Also, boba drinks are roughly $1-2 anywhere you go!

Take the first day to relax and soak in the city. Everything starts to come alive in the evening as night markets prepare to open. I recommend checking out Raohe night market for your first night. It is a local favorite and not too overwhelming while still offering all the typical must-haves in terms of food and activities. Some of my favorite food stands include sweet potato balls, pork blood rice stick, tempura and custard buns. There is also a big hype around the hot-star fried chicken at various night markets, along with storefronts.

Day 2: Explore the city

Cityscape during daytime

Breakfast is huge in Taiwanese culture. If your hotel doesn't come with breakfast, I recommend Fuhang Soy Milk or Yong He Soy Milk King. These two are more well known spots and could have long lines during peak breakfast hours. Egg pancakes and soy milk with fried donuts are the main staples to try!

Spend the day exploring the city. Taipei 101 is a huge tourist attraction and beyond visiting the roof top observatory (you'll need to purchase tickets), there's a ton of shops and restaurants in the building. You could definitely spend a whole day here if you're a shopper! Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is also a popular attraction within walking distance.

Once the evening rolls around, this area transforms into a big party scene. There are so many restaurants to choose from, but I always go back to the basics and recommend trying Din Tai Fong or Haidilao - both located within Taipei 101. Although both have locations in the US and other countries, I still feel strongly that the food there is much better.

If you're feeling up for it, the building across Taipei 101 is a popular area for clubs or nightlife. The building is called Att4fun and there are multiple bars and clubs to explore, along with gaming areas.

Day 3: Elephant Mountain & Beitou

City view during sunset

Switching up the pace a bit, I recommend waking up a bit early to do the Elephant Mountain hike. The trail isn't too strenuous and gives you an incredible view of the city. This spot is definitely an "instagrammable spot", so wear the most flattering athleisure outfit you brought!

After the hike, take a quick train ride to Beitou for an afternoon of self care. Beitou is very well known for hot springs. There are public and private hot springs. I recommend the private one if you're looking for a more luxurious experience. Most hot springs will always serve food or afternoon tea. After your relaxing spa experience, explore Beitou a bit more before heading back to Taipei! The public library and Fagushan Nongchan Temple are popular attractions.

After returning to the city, I recommend heading to Ximending, where you'll find shops, food and games. You'll definitely notice that the crowd in this area is on the younger side. There's a famous store here called Ay-chung Flour Rice Noodle and I recommend trying it! It's a Taiwanese staple, basically a creamy vermicelli with pork intestines. There's also a pretty popular hotpot place called Mala (spicy) Hotpot (it's a chain and you can also find it in other areas). It's super cheap for all you can eat, but expect a wait. I recommend putting your name down as soon as you arrive in the area and they will let you know when to head back, so you can explore a bit while you wait.

To wrap up the night, check out Party World for some karaoke! Taiwanese people love to karaoke, which is why it'll be super easy to find this building as it is a huge tower with floors of karaoke rooms! You can also find amazing food on their menu and a great place to enjoy all night if you'd like! Yes, these places are open 24/7!!!

Day 4: Jioufen

Lanterns hanging at night

After a few days, you start to realize that people come out after 5pm. A big reason for that is the heat (especially if you go in the summer, so it's highly recommended to go in the cooler seasons). During the day time, you could explore the various temples in the city. Lungshan Temple is a popular one to visit.

Before the evening comes, I recommend taking a taxi to Jioufen. It's a bit removed from the city, but definitely worth visiting! If you've ever seen Spirited Away, you may see a familiarity to this magical place. The whole place is filled with narrow pathways up and down the mountain and lights up at night. You can even find stores there to make custom lanterns and light it up to the sky! It may be a bit scary and deserted at night, so I don't recommend staying too late there. Head out as soon as you're done exploring and hop in a taxi if you can find one.

Day 5: Taichung or KaoHsiung

people and cars on busy city street

If you have a few more days, I highly recommend venturing out to other cities in Taiwan. Taichung (middle of Taiwan) and KaoHsiung (in the south) are both worth visiting and requires a full day at least. If you head to Taichung, I recommend getting a car or hire a private driver/go with a tour. If you head to KaoHsiung, there's a place called Kenting, which is known for its beaches! Although Taipei and KaoHsiung seem far apart, you can easily travel between the two with Taiwan's high speed railway. Taipei to KaoHsiung shouldn't take more than 2 hours travel to.

If you decide to stay an extra day in Taipei, explore the city some more! There are lots of malls like Breeze Center to escape the heat or get your hair or nails done at a very cheap rate there! Photo studios are also super popular, especially amongst the foreign Taiwanese families. At a very cheap rate, you can take professional photos in any style by yourself or with friends/family! At night, you'll never run out of night markets to visit! Shilin and Shida are a couple more popular ones. You can't go wrong with any of them. Enjoy your visit to my family's hometown!

Need to Know

For more travel tips, check out my guide to Las Vegas: Best of Las Vegas: A Travel Guide for Every Traveler.

Advisor - Jessica Yeh

Travel Advisor

Jessica Yeh

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