Taiwan travel guide, including map of Taiwan, top Taiwan travel experiences, tips for travel in Taiwan, plus where to hike and eat
Taiwan has made a name for itself as one of the most diverse destinations in Asia. Pulsating cities – notably but not only Taipei – are proof of the country’s rapid economic growth, with Taipei 101 just recently overtaken as the world’s tallest building.
But leave Taiwan’s cities behind, and you’ll find a warm and affectionate country, inviting you to stay longer and take a closer look. Taiwan’s remote mountains offer great hiking and wildlife-watching opportunities.
Home to North-eastern Asia’s tallest peak, Yushan, and amazing hot springs like the ones at Nanao dotted all over the island, Taiwan maintains its aboriginal roots: Hakka culture and cuisine can be found everywhere.
For the full flavour of Taiwan, stay awake and visit the bustling night markets and sample local snacks. Religion plays a major role in Taiwan – visit temples and monasteries such as Chung Tai Chan amidst dense jungles and busy towns.
Taroko Gorge, just 15km north of Hualien, lies within Taroko National Park and is a hikers’ heaven. Walking trails and swimming spots are dotted around the park, with the Tunnel of Nine Turns trail being the most scenic of all, only open to walkers.
Taiwan is affected by two monsoons every year. The first hits the northeast of the country between October and march, while the southwest monsoon brings rains from May to September. The climate is subtropical, with wet and humid summers and short, mild winters. In the north and on the peaks, it can be several degrees colder than in the rest of the country. The annual ‘plum rain’ can bring two months of rain from early spring to early summer. Generally, autumn and winter are the best times to visit, but the early summer can also be nice. Bear in mind that the Taiwanese love to travel over weekends and on public holidays, so attractions and transport might be packed.
Taiwan’s main gateway is Taiwan Taoyuan International airport (TPE) 50km southwest of Taipei. The other international airport is Kaohsiung International (KHH) in the southwest of the country.
Train is the best way to get around Taiwan, with a western and eastern main line, and a short southern line, which connects them. Some narrow-gauge lines run inland. A high-speed train connects Taipei and Kaohsiung in 1.5 hours, but the stations are outside the city centres. Bus travel is a good alternative between the big centres. For remote areas, consider hiring a car or scooter. Bikes can also be hired; major cities have cycle paths. Boats and planes serve the outlying islands.
Camping is becoming more popular, and in remote areas it is usually the only option. Homestays (minsu) offer a glimpse into Taiwanese family life. In the cities, hostels and hotels range from dormitory style accommodation to hot-spring hotels. Single rooms are rare, as Taiwanese do not tend to travel alone.
Rice or noodles accompany nearly every meal, but that does not mean that Taiwanese cuisine is boring or repetitive. As an island nation, seafood is popular; fish stir-fried with peanuts and pickled vegetables is a local favourite. Hakka cuisine is generally rich and hearty, containing a lot of pork. Food in Taiwan can be anything from mild to extra hot, so take care when ordering. Snacks and some of the best local food can be found at the city night markets.
Yellow fever and cholera vaccinations are required if arriving from countries where these diseases are endemic. Hepatitis A & B, Japanese encephalitis and typhoid jabs are recommended; consult your GP or travel health clinic well before departure. Water should be boiled or sterilised before drinking.
Crime is low; even the larger cities are safer than most in Europe.