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Thrilling Taiwan: The ultimate guide to adventures in Taiwan

Singaporeans love Taiwan for its affordable good food and great shopping, but why not spice your next Taiwan getaway with a few extra thrills on the side? Whether you want to work off those night market calories with a hike up one of Taiwan’s many mountains or appreciate the coastline from high in the sky, this guide is here to show you a different and more rugged side of this beautiful destination.

What’s in this guide:

1) Taiwan basics

If you’re planning a trip to Taiwan for the first time, here’s everything you need to know about Taiwan’s basics, from the best time to visit to nitty-gritty details like visa information and Taiwan-specific travel tips. Click the link for even more of our secrets to navigating Taiwan like a pro.

What currency does Taiwan use?

Taiwan uses the New Taiwan Dollar (NTD). As of July 2019, the exchange rate is about 1 SGD : 23 NTD. If that’s hard to process, just remember that 100 NTD equals to a little more than 4 SGD. If math is not your forte, get a currency conversion app like Units Plus to ensure you always get those prices right.

Do Singaporeans need a visa to visit Taiwan?

Singaporeans do not need a visa for Taiwan unless they love the place so much and intend to stay for more than 30 days. More details on MFA’s Taiwan Travel page.

When is the best season to visit Taiwan?

If you’re trying to escape Singapore’s perpetually hot and humid weather, spring (April – June) and autumn (September – November) are ideal months to visit Taiwan because of the natural aircon-like temperature and flower seasons. Summer (July to October) is great for outdoor activities, but do note that Taiwan is particularly prone to typhoons in July and August. Winters (December – March) are usually low season as it can get a bit too cool and damp and many activities are closed, but it’s a great way to save money with offseason prices.

Sky Tip: Depending on which season you go, packing your clothes is both an art and a science. No matter what you bring along, make sure you lug around your American Tourister Curio Spinner. It’s lightweight, sturdy, and is an absolute breeze when weaving through airports.

Do I need a power adapter for Taiwan?

Taiwan uses the 110V 60 Hz AC power standard, same as the USA and Canada, so Singaporeans will need an adapter to charge their many devices.

How do I stay connected in Taiwan?

You can easily pick up a SIM card or portable wifi device from the airport, convenience stores or telecom shops in Taiwan. Buy directly from the counter in Taiwan, or save some time (and sometimes money) by pre-booking online via sites like Klook or KKday. 

2) The best way to get around Taiwan

Public transport in Taiwan

Taiwan is pretty well connected by public transport which is usually punctual, clean and efficient. Major cities like Taipei and Kaohsiung have both an extensive MRT network, public buses and even bicycle sharing to help you get around the cities easily. 

More rural areas may require you to hire a taxi or arrange for a private car transfer as it is practically impossible to hail a ride randomly in those areas. Plan ahead by getting the driver’s contact or asking them to wait or return to pick you up at an agreed time. 

Getting between cities is also easy with the option of taking the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA or 台鐵) trains or inter-city coaches. In addition, Taiwan’s west coast is served by the High Speed Rail (HSR or 高鐵) that takes just two hours to zip you between the northern and southern parts of Taiwan.

A must-have for public transport in Taiwan: EasyCard

Taiwan’s EasyCard (悠遊卡) can be used on most of Taiwan’s public transport with some discounted rates as well. You can also use the EasyCard to pay for purchases at some convenience stores which is great if you run out of cash. See the detailed list on the EasyCard website.

3) Where to go in Taiwan

There is plenty to see and do in Taiwan, just perhaps not enough time for you to do everything you want. Adventures await in every part of Taiwan – here are a couple of ideas on things to do in Taiwan whether you only have time for a weekend trip or combine them for a longer trip. Click on the links below to jump to sections.

Taipei: For the city slicker

Taipei is Taiwan’s busiest city and most well connected hub, but all it takes is a short journey to find yourself leaving the city behind and surrounded by nature.

Where to stay in Taipei 

In terms of sheer convenience, anywhere around Taipei Main Station in the Zhongzheng district is ideal as you have direct airport train transfers. It’s also the easiest spot to hop to other parts of Taiwan through the bus, train and HSR stations all in close proximity. Ximen is another popular area to stay in because of the bustling Ximending shopping district and myriad food options.

What to do in Taipei

The iconic Taipei 101 offers the most spectacular views of Taipei and its surrounding area. It is also home to the world’s highest Starbucks that the public can access, though it’s so popular nowadays you need to make a reservation first. If you actually want to see Taipei 101 in your photographs, take a short hike up Elephant Hill at sunset, but go earlier if you want to chope a good timelapse spot. Book a Taipei motorcycle tour where you can zip around the city with all the other motorbikes and let a local guide show you their favourite spots in Taipei without the tourist hordes. 

More adventures await just outside Taipei – why climb inside a gym when you can do a little rock climbing in Longdong on natural rock surfaces with a great coastal view to boot. Also along the Northeastern coastline, Fulong is famous for water sports and an annual summer festival featuring giant sand sculptures, but the highlight is kayaking along the scenic Shuangxi river. If you’re a real thrillseeker, sign up to bungee jump in Fuxing where you can leap off a 70m high bridge surrounded by mountains in the middle of a remote valley in Taoyuan. If you are on a budget, check out our budget guide to Taipei for more on how to travel around Taipei cheaply.

What to eat in Taipei

You can easily find Taiwanese food in Singapore these days, but somehow Taiwan’s street food just tastes better when you have it in one of its many vibrant night markets. Shilin Night Market and Raohe Night Market are some of the larger and most tourist-friendly Taipei night markets, with Ningxia Night Market as a less crowded alternative. Some examples of must-eat Taiwan street food snacks include the famous XL fried chicken cutlet which is as big as your face, the classic stinky tofu and or the silky strands of oyster mee sua.

If you prefer to sit when you eat, Yongkang Street is a good place to start with many eateries and cafes popping up, though it is most famous for its beef noodles and Xiaolongbaos. For a quirky option, the Modern Toilet Restaurant where you eat off urinal-shaped tableware and sit on toilet bowls is weirdly fun. Read our Taiwan Cafe Guide with our favourite unique cafes in Taiwan.

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Travelling from Taipei to Kaohsiung

Driving non-stop from Taipei to Kaohsiung takes around 4 hours depending on traffic and road conditions, but the fun in self-drive trips is being able to stopover whenever and wherever you feel like. Watch this video by ShawneyDepp about his journey from Kaohsiung to Taipei in 5 days.

Driving in Taiwan

If you plan to self-drive in Taiwan, you need to have an International Driver’s Permit to rent a car or the rental companies may refuse to rent you a car. They aren’t always a stickler for rules, but many have been hit hard by tourist accidents and subsequent fines. Get yours from AA for SGD 20 with validity for 1 year.

Taiwan drives on the Right-Hand side, i.e. same as the US aka the ‘wrong side’ for Singaporeans, so be very careful on the roads especially in busy cities where traffic can sometimes be a little chaotic, especially with the proliferation of motorbikes and scooters. Read our in-depth car rental guide for Taiwan for more information.

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Kaohsiung (Kaohsiung, Pingtung): For the chill hipster

Laidback Kaohsiung is perfect for those who want a modern city to explore with less of the hustle and bustle of Taipei. The industrial port city of Taiwan has become a surprisingly hip place to be in and is a great hub for exploring the Southern half of Taiwan. 

Where to stay

The Xinxing district or anywhere near the Formosa Boulevard MRT station is very convenient as you will have direct access to both MRT lines as well as the Kaohsiung Airport and train station. Further south and closer to the airport, the Qianzhen district is also popular for its proximity to Qijin Island as well as the gigantic Dream Mall.

What to do

Kaohsiung has some impressive photogenic sights, from the stately Dragon and Tiger pagodas standing tall at Lotus Lake where you can change your luck, to the mesmerising arc of colours of the Dome of Light at the Formosa Boulevard MRT station. The Pier 2 Art Centre is old warehouses converted into an art space and instagram-heaven, or hop on a bike and cycle around Qijin Island with its famous black sand beach. 

Head down south to Kenting and check out Eluanbi Lighthouse at Taiwan’s southernmost point. If you are comfortable riding an e-scooter, rent one to get around Kenting quickly and easily. Kenting is home to a well protected national park and some of Taiwan’s best white sand beaches, and especially popular in the summer for seasport activities and snorkelling in its clear waters. The more adventurous can go deeper underwater by scuba diving or learn to catch a few waves surfing at Jialeshui Bay.

What to eat

Kaohsiung’s Liuhe Night Market is centrally located as it is right next to the Formosa Boulevard MRT station, but it pays to head a bit further out to the much larger Ruifeng Night Market in the Zuoying district where you can find some unusual street eats like bubble tea toast filled with pearls, torched beef cubes, giant fist-sized Takoyaki balls and the famous thick Angel fried chicken cutlet.

There are plenty of famous food eateries in Kaohsiung that are worth checking out. If you only have time for one restaurant, Gang Yuan Beef Noodle is a must-try with generous portions and tender beef. Zhen Duck is a famous duck rice stall that doesn’t even have a signboard, just follow the crowds. If you have the time, head to the Meinong district to experience some true blue Meinong Traditional Hakka cuisine renowned for strong salty and sour flavours.  Kaohsiung is also home to the very first Wu Pao Chun bakery that is famous for its unique lychee-rose and wine-longan bread.

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East Taiwan (Yilan, Hualien, Taitung): For the nature lover

Taiwan’s east coast is much more rural and less built up compared to its west coast cousin, so it does take more time and effort to navigate. It contains the East Rift Valley known for spectacular mountains and coastal views. It may not be as exciting as other parts of Taiwan, but nature and wilderness lovers who want a taste of Taiwan’s agricultural lifestyle should definitely check out this region.

What to do

Spot some whales and dolphins on a boat tour around Yilan’s Guishan Island, and if you are lucky you might even see (and smell) the unusual colours of the sea caused by the underwater hot springs. You can ride an ATV along the beautiful beaches in Dong’ao and Nan’ao with amazing cliff views, but the waters there can be unpredictable and there have been some freak accidents in recent years.

The magnificent Taroko Gorge in Hualien is a must-see whether you choose to take a day tour or do some intensive hiking. River tracing where you walk, climb and canyon along a river is another popular outdoor activity during summer in Hualien. When the rainy season comes around, head to the Xiuguluan River for some intense white water rafting action. Luye in Taitung is surrounded by amazing pastures and views of tea plantations, making it perfect for a hot air balloon ride during the annual hot air ballooning festival, while the more adventurous can do some tandem paragliding when the weather is good.

What to eat

Luodong Night Market in Yilan is one of the more popular ones outside of Taipei with snaking queues for famous Yilan delicacies like mutton soup and anything topped with Sanxing scallions. Hualien’s Dongdamen Night Market is a sprawling complex with distinct sections for each type of food – challenge your tastebuds and try some of Taiwan’s aboriginal cuisine like bamboo rice and fried wild boar meat. Chishang is a town in Taitung is dedicated to producing high quality rice and a unique local bento box that they call Fanbao.

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West Taiwan (Taichung, Nantou, Chiayi, Tainan): For the cultural foodie

While Taiwan’s west coast does have its share of scenic attractions, most people come to Taiwan’s west coast to feast on traditional Taiwanese food and uncover more about its history and culture. West Taiwan is well-connected and the HSR makes zipping up and down this coastline quick and easy for those short on time. 

What to do

Take the train up to Taiwan’s highest railway line in Alishan for some awe-inspiring views and trekking in some of Taiwan’s most scenic mountains. Most tourists like to combine a trip to Alishan with the famous Sun Moon Lake in Pull, with a long scenic ropeway over clouds and canopy. This lake is considered one of the most beautiful places to cycle in the world, or you could stand up paddle your way across the lake. Puli’s Hutoushan is also an exceptional place for a spot of paragliding. Tainan is a great city to explore on bicycle – the famous Anping tree house with overgrown Banyan trees gradually overwhelming a house is great for some unusual photos. Also popular is the boat ride through the tree-lined canal known as the Sicao Green Tunnel, the first canal developed in Taiwan more than 200 years ago.

Stay in Taichung’s DiveCube Hotel in the Xitun district where you can scuba dive in man-made caves or learn to freedive without any breathing equipment in the 21m deep pool that spans the hotel’s four storeys and more. Seasport lovers keen to take it up a notch should take a ferry over to the offshore islands of Penghu and do a little windsurfing and kiteboarding in Beilao Bay.

What to eat

Taichung’s Fengjia Night Market is one of the best and largest night markets on the west coast of Taiwan. Some must-eats at Fengjia include Devil’s fried chicken, egg pancake and the rather unusual Taiwanese sausage wrapped with sticky rice. Head to the Second Market during the day to pick up Taiwanese breakfast essentials like braised pork with rice and black tea. Taichung is also home to Chun Shui Tang that many regard as the originator of today’s bubble tea, while the hipster Miyahara built in an old bank building is a favourite for pineapple cakes and other desserts.

Tainan is Taiwan’s oldest city and considered the best place to try some real traditional Taiwanese fare. Must-eats in Tainan include Danzai noodles, a savoury rice pudding known as Wagui, and milkfish. Rent a bike and cycle from eatery to eatery in Tainan’s Anping district during the day, and head to Huayuan Night Market, another very large night market with a huge selection of street food.

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