The Outpost mini-guide to travel and adventure in Taiwan: from bustling high-tech capital to forests, festivals, temples and beaches, here’s a mini-guide to get you started!
Capital: Taipei, population 2.6 million
Country Population: approximately 23.5 million
Major Cities: Taipei, 2.64 million; New Taipei, 3.9 million; Kaohsiung, 2.77 million; Taichung, 2.66 million; Tainan, 1.87 million
Government: Democratic, defined as “unitary semi-presidential constitutional republic (elected representation)”
Religion: Buddhism, 35%; Taoism, 33%; Yiguandao, 3.5%
Time Difference: UTC+8 hours year-round.
Currency: Taiwan uses the New Taiwan Dollar (or TWD, approximately 1 TWD = 0.044 cents CDN). Credit cards are widely accepted.
Language: Mandarin is the official language of Taiwan. English is not widely spoken, though it’s possible to get by in major cities and most tourist destinations, where you’ll also find signs in both Mandarin and English. Away from major centres, English is uncommon.
Trade Office of Canada, Taipei, Taiwan
Provides full consular, emergency and passport services. Address is 6F, Hua-Hsin (Citibank building), No. 1 SongZhi Road, Xinyi District.
Phone: 886 (2) 8723-3000
Email: [email protected] (note this is the correct spelling)
EVA Air has direct flights running several times a week from both Toronto and Vancouver to Taipei. In addition, direct flights to Taiwan from Canada are offered from Vancouver by other carriers, as are connections via the U.S. and Asia. Air Canada flies directly to Los Angeles, where you can hop on Eva Air direct to Taipei. Think about flying Deluxe Class, one up from Economy, where they give you a hot towel to wipe your face and slippers to keep your feet warm before you hit Taiwan’s city streets. Flying time is approx. 19 hours.
Taiwan, an island, is just larger than Vancouver Island and offers a wide range of transportation options. There are two main railway lines operated by the Taiwan Railway Authority—the Western Line and Eastern Line—which connect with branch lines and local lines, offer comfortable express trains, as well as high speed train service, THSR.
There are a number of private bus companies with large networks, including intercity long-distance buses that offer reclining seats and movies, and city buses and 5 metro rapid transit systems. Despite the small size of the country, there is also an impressive network of domestic flights. Finally, as Taiwan’s highways are well maintained and the country drives on the right, it’s easy to rent a vehicle to drive yourself, to find a charter tour. You can also check out Taiwan Tourist Shuttle services.
When To Go
Taiwan straddles the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere and its seasons match our own. Summers are generally hot and humid. And while Taipei and the country’s north can be cool and damp during the winter months, the country’s south remains warm year-round. Typhoon season runs from June to October, the Chinese New Year is usually every February, and July and August are the high season and therefore subject to higher rates.
Female travellers: Taiwan is regarded as being one of the safest countries in the world for women travellers, with neither crime, harassment nor unwanted attention generally a problem.
A Few Must-Sees:
In Taipei: Din Tai Fung is famous for its dumplings, with several restaurants in Taipei alone. Check out their story here.
National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium: Coral reefs, sting rays and whale sharks greet visitors to this marine museum. Floor to ceiling aquariums are home to a multitude of ocean and lake life representing the ecological environment around Taiwan. Underwater blue tunnels that encircle visitors as they wander through giant cylindrical tanks are the highlight. Located in Checheng Village, Ping-tung County.
Taroko National Park: Taroko Gorge is a 19-kilometre canyon in Taroko National Park, one of six national parks in Taiwan. It’s known for its sheer marble cliffs, deep gorges, winding tunnels and the Liwu River, which flows through its classic watercolour-mountain landscape. The best way to see the Gorge is by hiking its many trails. The more adventurous can bike along the road, just be careful of the many tourist buses.
5 More parks and wilderness areas to consider:
- Kenning National Park: Hengchun Township, Pingtung County
- Yangmingshan National Park: Beitou District, Taipei
- Taroko National Park: Sioulin Township, Hualien County
- Yushan National Park: No. 515, Sec. 1, Jongshan Road, Shueili Township, Nantou County
- Alishan National Scenic Area: Chiayi County
- Green Tunnel: Tainan City
Whitewater Rafting: Hualien County’s Xiuguluan River has long been Taiwan’s No. 1 rafting venue. The best time is during the wet season when massive rainfall flows down the island’s steep mountains, creating fast rivers. After getting fitted with a paddle, helmet and life-jacket, eight people sit with one leg in and one leg out the boat to begin the journey down the river. From the beginning point at Ruisui to the end at Rainbow Bridge, the rafting trip takes three to four hours, with a rest stop at the village of Chimei. You can raft here all year round, but the busiest months for rafting operators are May through October. The last rafting trip departs around 3 p.m. each day.
Temples famous temples, they are everywhere! Here’s Team Outpost’s take on the top 5 to consider seeing, but really, every city, every valley has one (…or several thousand!).
7 top attractions in Taipei:
- Taipei 101: No.7, Sec. 5, Xinyi Road, Xinyi District
- Elephant Mountain: a.k.a. Nangang District Hiking Trail, or Xiangshan, near Xiangshan MRT Station
- Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall: No. 21, Zhongshan S. Road, Zhongzheng District
- Peace Memorial Park: 3 Ketagalan Blvd., Zhongzheng District
- Formosa Vintage Museum Café: 3F, No.178, Section 2, Xinyi Road
- Shilin Night Market: near Dadong Road, Wenlin Road and Jihe Road, Shilin District
- Xinbeitou Hot Springs: Guangming Road, Beitou Distirct
6 top Taiwan treks to consider:
- Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail, Sandiaoling Station, Pingxi Branch Rail Line
- Batongguan Historic Trail, Dongpu to Nanan
- The Walami Trail, Yushan National Park: No. 515, Sec. 1, Jongshan Road, Shueili Township, Nantou County
- Caoling Historic Trail, Yuanwangkeng in Gongliao, New Taipei City
- Shakadang (Mystery Valley) Trail, Xiulin Township, Hualien
- Changchun Temple Trail, Xiulin Township, Hualien
5 fantastic cycling routes you can try:
- Around Sun Moon Lake
- Mugua River Gorge: Highway 14, Hualien County
- Taroko Gorge: Sioulin Township, Hualien County
- Along Highway 9, between Hualien and Taitung
- Guanshan Cycling Path
- Fulong Old Caoling Tunnel, Taipei
Taiwan is surrounded by shoreline—here are 7 of its many fantastic beaches:
- Hengchun and Kenting in Pingtung County
- Jialeshui in Manzhou Township
- Wai’ao and Nanao in Yilan County
- Shanyuan in Taitung County
- Fulong Beach in New Taipei City
Some of Taiwan’s fantastic festivals to plan your trip around:
Where/When: Taipei, usually sometime in autumn.
Where/When: Chiayi City, usually in December and January, but you must verify current date.
Where: Fulong Beach, Xinbei City; must verify date per year.
Where/When: New Taipei City; must verify current date.
Where/When: Keelung City, usually in August – September.
Where/When: Kinmen County; usually in September.
Where: Tainan City
Where/When: Lugang Township and Zhangbin Area, usually in June.
Where: Taipei, but also across Taiwan; usually in August – September.
Where/When: Penghu, usually every Monday and Thursday, April to June.
Where/When: New Taipei City, must verify current date.
Where/When: Kaohsiung City, October thru to February-March.
Where/When: Neiman District, Kaohsiang City, usually in March.
Where/When: The East Coast National Scenic Area, usually June to September.
Where/When: Sun Moon Lake, Nantou County, usually in September.
Where: Taichung City, often February to May.
Where/When: Luye Plateau, verify current date per year.
Where/When: Across Taiwan, often in November, but must verify current date by year.
Where: Chiayi County and Hualien County.
Where: Key sites throughout the country; usually October to February, but verify current dates by year.
Where/When: Taichung City, February – March.
Where/When: Tainan City, February – March
Where/When: Taoyuan City, usually in July.
Where/When: Yilan County, usually July – August.
Where/When: Yunlin County, usually in October.
By Simon Vaughan and Rachel Wu