A First Timer's Travel Guide to Taiwan

by - Monday, December 10, 2018

Hello! I’m back with another travel chika. Last month, I decided to treat my mom to a much deserved vacation in Taipei.

Why Taiwan?
My mom hasn’t been anywhere else abroad and I thought of doing this as a daughter’s gift to mom.

I’m partial to countries as familiar as Japan for easy navigation, efficient modes of transportation, safety (for we’re both females), must have winter (yes haha), and most of all, cheap and visa-free! 

Taiwan proves to be the best choice! It’s clean, people are warm and friendly. Furthermore, I find that Taiwanese people are more comfortable speaking English compared to other non-English speaking places I’ve been to.

Staying connected
I don’t know what would I do without this! I booked a pocket wifi through KLOOK. It was fast, affordable, and reliable. It made all the commuting in Taiwan a breeze!

Currency Exchange
Taiwan’s currency is ‘New Taiwan Dollar’. Upon searching, I found it’s more convenient to just exchange money right in Taiwan, particularly at the airports, as the rate is pretty decent. Most people say withdrawing money from Taiwan ATMs is your best bet, just be sure to inform your local bank before you travel to Taiwan.

Taoyuan International Airport Terminal 1 to Taipei Main Station

With the Airport MRT Purple Line, it takes around 43 minutes for NT$ 150 to reach Taipei. In case your flight arrives later than Airport MRT operating hours, you may also ride the Kuo-Kuang 1819 Bus for NT$ 125 for 50 minutes.

Clearly, cabs are expensive in comparison to trains but cabs in Taiwan are relatively cheaper compared to taxis in Japan. Minimum charge is NT$ 70.

Most taxi drivers cannot speak English but a workaround here is showing your hotel’s Chinese address or using google translate.  We rode a cab on our first day when we realized we were already wasting an hour searching for our hotel. 

Riding trains is by far my favorite part of commuting. Taiwan’s trains are mostly made in Japan so you can expect nothing but efficiency. Fares would usually start from NT$ 20.  We got lost on our first day but I’m thankful that we never once hopped on a wrong train or got delayed.

I love that Taiwan’s railway system is as efficient as Japan’s railway but not as confusing. I was already playing pretend veteran commuter the second day! Haha

Train tickets come in the form of a token, pretty cute right? They also offer top-up commuters card called ‘EasyCard’ (Yoyoka) available in all MRT stations and convenience stores for NT$100. This card comes with zero balance so be sure to charge some amount after purchasing.

We stayed in Taipei M Hotel located right in the middle of Taipei Main station and Ximen station. I heard tons of good reviews about this hotel plus it’s smack in the middle of the city so it would be easier to move around or so I thought.

Taipei Main Station Location Map and Transfer Information

Funny enough, it took me an hour navigating through Taipei Metro’s intricate underground malls to reach the hotel. Lesson learned: always ask your hotel’s nearest train station exit.

But everyone was nice. The room was much more spacious than I expected. The breakfast was nice to boot. Plus there’s always free coffee, tea, and water outside the lobby area. Yasss to free coffee!

Exits near Taipei M Hotel
Taoyuan Airport MRT Exit 4 or 5
Station Front Mall Z10 (10 mins)

Weather and Seasons
Taiwan also has 4 seasons. December and February is winter, March to May is Spring, Summer is from June to August, and September to November is Fall. It was the end of Fall when we visited Taipei, it was already cool at 20 to 17 degrees but not as cold as Japan’s autumn temperature which could drop as low as 9 degrees cold.

For the 4 days that we were there, it was drizzling for 3 days. Luckily, it would usually stop late in the afternoon-evening perfect for some night market shopping!

One thing I noticed about weather and seasons is, while Spring and Fall are usually the best time to travel, the transition week from one season to another is usually one of the worst times to travel. This transition week is usually gloomy and rainy even in Japan.

Rainy day in Taipei? What to do:
When I found out it’s gonna rain on our first day my first instinct was to stay in our hotel room. Then I thought it’s a shame to just spend the whole day in our room so...

* Taipei 101
It’s the best place if you wanna go to one of Taiwan’s famous landmarks while being safe and dry. Entrance is free of charge (except for the Observatory). If you’re into retail therapy, Taipei 101 is also home to many luxury brands like Gucci, LV, Chanel, Versace to name a few.

* ATT 4 FUN Mall
If Taipei 101’s shopping mall is too spendy for you, come swing by ATT 4 FUN Mall just across Taipei 101. It has Japan’s stationery heaven TOKYU HANDS, fashion brands like Pull & Bear, Bershka, GU, Guess, and GAP.

I heard ATT 4 FUN Mall also houses one of the cutest STUDIO GHIBLI STORES in Taiwan (wasn’t able to find it though, because we got to leave early). The 4th floor, called FOOD KINGDOM, is also a huge revelation. There’s an Alice In Wonderland-themed café complete with pretty teacup-shaped seats!

* Taipei Main Station’s Underground Malls
A mishap turned good luck! This is where we got lost right? But hear me out, Taipei Main Station’s underground is a hidden gem. It can get really confusing at first (think of Divisoria) but the trick here is to take note of the underground map, take a photo and familiarize yourself with the mall codes and colors. (Example: Pink Z is Station Front Metro Mall, Orange K is K Underground Mall, while Yellow Y is the famous Taipei City Mall)

Can’t go to night market? This is the perfect place to kill time while also squeezing in some cheap shopping. This is where we got most of our souvenirs, and even my mom’s emergency shoes and extra luggage! And since we’re in for some authentic Taiwanese cuisine, this is where we’d usually eat for dinner too!

That’s it for my first timer’s guide to Taiwan, in my next post I’ll share the fun things we did during our stay. Thank you so much for reading! :)

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