Taiwan is overlooked by international travellers who often opt for destinations like China, South Korea, and Japan. Though dwarfed by its famous neighbours, Taiwan is in its own right a top travel destination. It competes with Thailand for hospitality, China for cuisine, and Japan for variety in landscape. Though two days is enough to get an impression of the city, it’s by no means enough to see everything it has to offer. Three days minimum is recommended to really get to know Taipei. But if two days is all you have then make the most out of it. Remember, travelling is about focusing on what you can do to the fullest, not what you feel you should. So, let’s jump right in and start our journey into Taiwan’s capital, the gateway to all this island has to offer.
Your first introduction to Taipei will most likely be Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. Taipei has a second airport, Taipei Songshan, which is an amazing 15-20 min drive to from the city centre. Most international flights, however, come through Taoyuan airport. But don’t worry, Taoyuan airport is just 40 minutes to Taipei Main station, the area you’ll likely be staying in if you’re new to Taipei. As a first-time traveller to the city, this location is highly recommended. Here, you are well-positioned to access most parts of the city via public transport. As well as sites that lie just outside Taipei, like the famous town that inspired the film Spirited Away, Jiufen.Once you’ve cleared immigration and collected your baggage, follow the airport signs directing you to the metro. You’ll be taking the Jichang line (purple line). A one-way ticket will cost NTD150, roughly 5USD. If you experience any trouble purchasing a ticket, there are very helpful Taiwanese airport staff ready to help. If your flight arrives when the subway has stopped running (12:30am), you can always take a taxi. This will set you back NTD1200 (40USD). There are also late-night buses available, but these could take up to two hours to reach the city centre.
First, sim cards
Once you’ve arrived at Taipei’s Main Station, purchase a sim card. You can buy one at the airport as well, though I recommend buying them in the city just in case airport prices are inflated. There are three cellphone providers to choose from FarEast, Taiwan Mobile and Chunghwa. Thankfully their prices don’t differ, so you don’t need to waste time shopping around for the best price. Depending on the length of your stay, pick a mobile plan that suits your needs. You’ll need your passport to register for a sim card, hence buying it as soon as you arrive from the airport.
After getting connected, head to a 7Eleven. Purchase an Easycard (Yōuyóu kǎ), Taipei’s metro card, and load money on to it. It can be used in various places such as Family Mart, 7Eleven, Hi-Life, OK, SimpleMart, some drink shops. If that wasn’t enough, it can also be used for certain trips around Taiwan. Consider how long you are staying in Taiwan and load money accordingly.
There are hundreds of budget and luxury hotels available around this area. Pillow Talk hostel is highly recommended for affordable prices, location, and cleanliness. If you prefer a private room, Yi Su Hostel provides a central location and extra amenities. Whatever your budget, and preferences, there’s a place for you in Taipei. Check out booking sites such as Agoda and Bookings.com, they tend to have the best deals available.
Got the munchies?
It’s finally time, time for the thing that Taiwan is known for: food! If there’s one thing travellers come to Taiwan for, it’s the mouthwatering dishes and street food. You’ll be bombarded with places to eat around Taipei Main Station, but if you’re looking for something authentic, head to Din Tai Fung. I recommend trying their oyster omelette.
Getting there: Just hop on to the subway at Taipei Main Station and take the Tamsui Xinyi line to Zhongshan station. Take exit 1 to Nanjing West Rd and turn right. The restaurant is on 12 Nanjing West Rd. If you have energy after your flight you can check out Shilin Night Market. The energy in the market is palpable, and the winding alleys are mesmerising. Don’t worry if you don’t have the energy after your flight though, you can save this for day 2 in Taipei.
Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening, Taipei
It’s time to venture out into Taipei. First, Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall and Liberty Square. Take the red line to Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall station and explore the square for free! From there walk south down Nanhai Road or take a short taxi ride to the Botanical Garden. This lush area is a respite for locals and tourists alike with a unique variety of flora and fauna to admire. If you’re feeling like you need a pick me up after gazing through the garden, head down to Nameless Coffee & roaster. This unique spot is a great way to get in touch with Taipei’s robust coffee scene and take a quick break between stops. It’s a 3 minutes walk from the gardens, so you won’t have to wander far. Just remember to exit the gardens at Heping West Rd. It’s time to take a quick taxi ride to Bopiliao historical district. This historic city block features traditional 18th Century architecture, and an educational centre if you’re interested in the history of Taipei. It’s also a great area for a photo-op. From here head over to Langshan Temple and take in its Buddhist and Taoist deities. It’s a colourful place and quite loud unlike most temples in Asia. That being said, it’s worth seeing the tables loaded with offerings, and locals lighting incense and praying
Your next stop should be Dinhua Street! This amazing location shows off Taipei’s historical buildings and courtyards. It also has plenty of stalls to choose from if you feel like snacking your way up the street instead of having a sit-down dinner. There are also plenty of restaurants to choose from further up the street where it’s quieter.
For those of you that have a sweet tooth, finish your snacking or dinner with gelato at The nineS Gelato. This boutique ice-cream shop has mouthwatering flavours and is a great way to end your busy day of wandering through Taipei. Getting there: Enter the subway opposite Longshan Temple (Longshan Temple station) and take the Bannan line (blue line) to Xinmen station. Transfer to the Songshan-Xindian line (green line) to Beimen. At Beimen station take exit 3, cross Civic boulevard to Tacheng Street. Continue walking down Tacheng Street and you will reach Dinhua Street.
With day 1 complete it’s time to head back to the hotel and catch some shut-eye for a jam-packed and fun day 2.