Traveled in: December 2016
Visa type: Tourist visa applied from Korea. If you live in Korea, it is very easy to apply for a visa. Fill an online application and Taiwan visa is permitted instantly. There is entry on arrival for many countries listed on website.
Transport: Transport within the country is easy and affordable. Public transport is super economical and safe. Do buy an easy card soon after you reach Taiwan. It is a rechargeable transport card used for metro, bus services, car parks and at few stores throughout Taiwan.The subways are clean and very well maintained. However, drinking or eating beyond the yellow line from every subway entrance is strictly prohibited. Finding local bus numbers and bus stops might be tricky so It is good to find out at the information centers on bus routes.
I would suggest express trains to travel within Taiwan to enjoy countries panoramic views . however, Taxis are also easy to locate in the city and ideal for day tours. Taxi drivers would speak little English other wise they have customer care info to phone and interpret us.
Place not to miss: If i have to pick one, i would recommend Taroko Gorge National Park for its gorgeous landscape and breath taking views. I was aw-struck by its beauty. It would be amazing to spend couple of days or more in the national park. There are many hotels offering hot springs and great views. If you love mountains, Taiwan is the one for you. There are approximately 250 mountains that are above 3000 feet high.
Food recommendations: Food is great and reasonably priced either in night markets at Taipei or at restaurants that serve a mouthwatering variety. Traditional Taiwanese cuisine as well as Chinese/Japanese food is available in these night markets. The Best Street food i ever tasted is at Taipei night markets. It was quite hard to make a choice from many food markets but we finally made it to three of them in Taipei. Each food market is different with respect to food and activities. The best we had is at Shilin and Raohe food markets.
Do try Sea food (Oyster noodles, Grilled oysters),Beef noodles soup, dumplings and Pastries.
Taiwan also has an interesting Tea culture. They have unbelievable varieties of Tea. Esp, Bubble tea. On recommendation, I tried bubble tea with Grass Jelly. It wasn’t great but it is said to be good for health. I was so surprised to see many different flavors of Oolong tea too.
Day tours from capital: Taiwan’s Capital, Taipei offers beautiful day trips just an hour away from the city. Some cities to be visited include Xin beitou, Yangmishan, yehliu, shelin, Jinguashi, jiufen, keelung, Wulai. They are easily accessible by subways and buses yet note that some are only reached by buses . Taxis are available for travelling within cities for a day. If you have planned Taiwan for a week or so. It is better to hire a taxi to visit places around. You might even join other travelers to save some bucks. Drivers are very friendly and often be like tour guides too. Even though they speak very little English they will try their best to guide you. Our ideal recommended day trip destinations are:
Yehliu, shelin ,Jiufen in a day on taxi or by bus
Jinguashi, jiufen, keelung in a day on taxi or by bus
Xin beitou, Yangmishan by subway
Best seasons to travel: Spring and Winter
We traveled during the Christmas holidays. Temperatures in winter vary from 9 to 19 degrees centigrade. It was quite a surprise to see the sun shining bright on winter days. The First few days are absolutely like summer, later on we had to carry our coats yet we were happy with Taiwan weather in winter. In fact, It was lovely to experience natural hot springs in winter. I guess Summers are quite warm to travel however Spring is also a great season to be here. Some places have beautiful cherry blossoms that are worth visiting in spring.
Personal Insights: Taiwan was a memorable trip for me as it holds many ‘Firsts’ during my travels. My first visit to National Park, my first natural hot spring experience, my first Volcano visit and my first ever food markets in Asia. I had no clue that Taiwan lists wide varieties of activities to explore. Best part is we visited most places than in any other country because of affordable transport and geographical distance.The Taiwanese are friendly and helpful people. Most of them speak English in Taipei unlike some other East Asian Countries. From our personal travel experiences, Taiwan is definitely a safe country. During our travels, we forgot an envelope of Taiwanese dollars in a restaurant. We weren’t sure where we left it but went back to the restaurant next day and were surprised to find the money. The Staff were very kind to help us.
I also found Taipei to be a tourist friendly city as the temples give free entry. Temples here are so colorful and impressive. You are free to spend as much time as possible admiring the craftsmanship. Even the local temples which are not included in tourist destinations are as large as three storey and so beautiful. Please note that almost every temple in Taiwan also have toilets.
Altogether with affordable prices, easy transport and friendly people, Taiwan makes a good travel destination for travelers around the world.