Taoyuan Airport to Taipei: How to Get from Taipei Airport to City Center

So, you’ve booked that Taiwan trip, decided where to stay, picked out all the best things to do in Taipei: now it’s time to figure out how to from Taoyuan Airport to Taipei city center.

Frankly, I was a little nervous about how I was going to get from Taipei Airport to the city center, because it was my first time going to a country that uses Chinese script in its signage.

I had been to Japan before, so I wasn’t altogether unfamiliar with a character-based alphabet, but then again, Japan is renowned for its organization. I wasn’t quite sure how I’d fare in Taiwan with the language barrier and not even being able to read basic signs.

Luckily, it was actually pretty easy to get from Taoyuan Airport to Taipei Main Station, where I then was able to take the MRT to my hostel in Shilin.

Taipei is a modern city with fantastic infrastructure, and there are multiple ways to get from Taipei Airport to the city center without any hassle or fuss – and yes, they also have Uber!

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Planning to travel Taiwan? Whether you’re coming for its beaches, night markets, photography and Instagram spots, or city culture, you’re likely to be flying into Taoyuan Airport. Here’s how to get from Taipei Airport to the city center easily and hassle-free. Taipei airport | Taipei public transit | Taipei Airport to Downtown Taipei | Taipei Airport to City
Planning to travel Taiwan? Whether you’re coming for its beaches, night markets, photography and Instagram spots, or city culture, you’re likely to be flying into Taoyuan Airport. Here’s how to get from Taipei Airport to the city center easily and hassle-free. Taipei airport | Taipei public transit | Taipei Airport to Downtown Taipei | Taipei Airport to City

One thing to note before leaving the airport: in Taipei, it is important to always bring cash with you, which you can withdraw from ATMs at the airport (best rate) or exchange currency (much worse rate).

I found that my credit card and debit card often didn’t work in Taipei, even at some convenience stores, as many systems only accept local cards… plus, you’ll want cash on hand for buying any street snacks that catch your fancy!

In terms of how to get from Taipei airport to your hotel, your options depend on your time of arrival. Depending when your flights lands at Taipei Taoyuan Airport, you’ll have to decide the best mode of transportation to take, which could be either a train, bus, taxi/Uber, or a Taipei airport transfer.

Taoyuan is a rather large airport. Originally there was only one passenger terminal at Taoyuan, which was Terminal 1, but the huge number of passengers streaming into Taipei Airport made them decide to build Terminal 2.

They are actually planning to open a third terminal by 2020 due to the huge volume of passengers, as Taipei both increases in prominence as a tourist destination and Taiwanese take advantage of the budget airlines serving their city. Taipei Taoyuan International is a large airport for such a small country: T1 hosts 18 boarding gates and T2 hosts 20 boarding gates. It is also the main hub for airlines like China Airlines, EVA Air, and Tigerair Taiwan.

Getting from Taoyuan Airport to Taipei Main Station by MRT

A simpler way to get to Taipei City Center is to take the Airport MRT, which started its operation in 2017. It took 20 years of work to finish, but it was worth the effort as it’s made getting into Taipei city center a breeze compared to previous options and significantly reduced travel times during peak periods when buses would experience delays. They have spacious areas where you can place your luggage and it is accessible for passengers with disabilities.

It takes about 15-20 minutes of walking from immigration, but once you arrive at the station, it is all a breeze. It is one of the fastest and most convenient ways to get to the city center from the airport. The cost of the fare is NT$ 160 (around US$ 5) to Taipei Main Station.

Quick note: the trains are not available 24/7, so this is not an option if you arrive late at night and don’t want to wait at the airport until the morning. The MRT only operates from 6 AM until midnight and takes about 35 minutes on the express line. You can prebook a one-way or roundtrip ticket here and get a free surprise!

Getting from Taoyuan Airport to Taipei by High Speed Train

If you want to get to the city center in the fastest way possible, the MRT is the slightly better choice, as it takes only 35 minutes vs. 40 minutes (20 minutes for the bus to the HSR station, which is a few kilometers away from the airport, plus 20 minutes on the high-speed train).

However, some people get excited to experience a high-speed train, and it’s quite easy to take without much of a price difference (and if you’re staying in Banqiao, it’s the fastest way to get there).

From the airport, you would need to ride the U-Bus to the THSR, which takes 20 minutes. If you’re traveling during a busy season, this can be a good way to avoid the crowds on the MRT, though it is slightly more expensive. Then you can board the THSR which will bring you to Banqiao or Taipei HSR station.

If you are looking to experience the THSR, first you need to purchase U-Bus tickets for around NT$ 25 (less than $1 USD) so you can board the bus that takes you to the THSR Taoyuan Station. From there, you’ll need to buy a ticket on the THSR for around NT$ 180 (around $5 USD). All in all, you will spend about NT$ 185 (around $6 USD) for the total trip via high speed rail!

Getting from Taipei Airport to City Center by Bus

It is very easy to get to the bus station from the airport (just a short walk from the arrival hall) and it is also the cheapest option to reach the city center, making It is the best choice for light travelers and budget-conscious ones. This is how I personally got into Taipei when I visited, as I didn’t want to walk all the way to the MRT!

Make sure that you carefully note the bus numbers, because each one has different stops. I will list the ones that can drop you near the heart of the city, Taipei Main Station. It will take you about an hour or more of travel, due to traffic and several stops made along the way.

Two buses can drop you near the Taipei Main Station – Bus 1819 and 1961. Only the Kuo Kang Bus 1819 is available 24/7, making it one of the two choices you have between midnight and 6 AM. There are 15 to 20-minute intervals between each bus. Bus 1819 has a fare of NT$ 140 (around $5 USD). You can prebook Kuo Kang bus tickets online here.

If you arrive after midnight and are wary of taking public transit alone, I would suggest that you take an airport transfer instead, so you can be sent straight to your hotel’s door.

Meanwhile, CitiBus West Bus 1961 only operates until 1 AM. The West Bus 1961’s last stop is in the Ximending area, which is one of most popular areas to stay in Taipei. Bus 1961 has a fare of NT$ 100 (around $4 USD), so it’s the cheapest way to get from Taipei Airport to the city center.

If your final destination is in Xinyi District, East Bus 1960 is a good option, especially if you are staying near the Taipei City Hall area and Taipei 101. The fare costs NT$145 (around US$ 5) and the last bus is at 1 AM, but it only departs every 20-40 minutes.

Getting from Taoyuan Airport to Your Taipei Hotel by Airport Transfers

For someone who wants a smooth arrival option on a budget, airport transfers are easily the best choice. You have the convenience of having privacy in your own ride and also the efficiency as you reach your hotel — with a cost that is less than that of an airport taxi!

A regular airport transfer will just cost you around NT$ 800 (around $25 USD) so you can save NT$ 200 (around $6 USD) from the typical airport taxi fare. It’s a little pricier at night, closer to NT$ 1,000 (around $33 USD). Check out rates and pre-book a cheap airport transfer here.

If you opt for a luxury airport transfer, it would be around NT$ 1200 (around $39 USD). That’s already close to the cost of a regular airport taxi (which is around NT$ 1000-1200 during the day), but way more stylish, as you will arrive in a Mercedes Benz 320/350 which can accommodate up to 4 passengers, or a Volkswagen T5 or Hyundai TQ for up to 8 passengers. See prices and pre-book a luxury transfer here.

Aside from that, they actually have insurance coverage included (something we do not wish to use, but at least we know we have something to resort to should unexpected things happen!) So, you don’t only get convenience, but security and comfort as well!

Getting from Taoyuan Airport to Taipei City Center Hotels by Taxi

Airport taxis are available just outside the arrival halls, and you can also ask the Tourist Service Center if you have trouble finding it. Taxis are available 24 hours and this is one of the only methods of transportation if you arrive later than midnight, because most of the buses (except Bus 1819) and the trains are no longer available.

Just a reminder, that taxi prices usually cost around NT$ 1000 (around $32 USD) if reserved via phone, but during night hours it can go as high as NT$ 1500-2000 (around $48-64 USD). They can be found just outside the arrival halls of both terminals. The fare is based on the meter, and there is also 50% surcharge. Highway toll fees are also not included in the fare.

 Generally, taxi drivers in Taipei are pretty honest, but I always recommend you find the actual taxi line-up rather than going with someone trying to get you to their taxi. Uber is also an option. The price depends on demand and destination, but generally, it should cost around NT$ 1200-1400 ($38-45 USD).

I would recommend a taxi or Uber only if you didn’t plan in advance to book an airport transfer, which is cheaper, if any of the following apply: are arriving late at night, are traveling with a family, have heavy luggage, are stressed about navigating the transit system, or are traveling for business. Otherwise, the MRT or bus is your best budget bet. On average, it takes around 45-60 minutes to arrive in the city from the airport.

Getting Portable WiFi or SIM Card at Taoyuan Taipei Airport

If you are the type of person who always likes to book their Uber anywhere, then the best thing I would suggest is to either get their portable WiFi or a local SIM card at the Taipei airport.

Not only will you be able to experience Taiwan’s ultra-fast internet (no Great Firewall of China here!), but you can also upload your travel photos instantly and keep aware of your surroundings on Google Maps.

Even though Taipei has free WiFi in some locations, the speed and coverage of getting a portable WiFi or SIM card will not fail you – it is really fast! To speed up the process, just pre-book here for a portable WiFi or SIM card. A SIM card is generally cheaper, but if you don’t want to take out your home SIM card or want to be able to switch back and forth, a WiFi device may be better.

Once you have booked, all you need to do is claim at the arrival hall either in T1 or T2 (there are instructions on the website, so it’s pretty self-explanatory). They will request you to fill out a form once you claim and that’s it. The stalls are open 24/7 so it does not matter what time you arrive.

Just make sure to take good care of the WiFi device, or you will be charged with damage fees. All in all, it is a hassle-free experience, and I was happy I got my SIM card at Taipei Airport before making my way into the city so I could surf the internet on my phone while I rode the bus into the city.

Where to Stay in Taipei: The Ultimate Neighborhood & Hotel Guide

If you’ve landed on this page, you’re probably a bit overwhelmed when it comes to deciding where to stay in Taipei, Taiwan. It’s a huge, sprawling city of over 7 million people, and there so many different neighborhoods in Taipei, each having its own personality. There’s sparkling Ximending with its neon lights, Shilin with its famous night market, Xinyi with its classic sights like Taipei 101: each Taipei neighborhood offers something different than the next.

However, choosing the best area to stay in Taipei is a little less daunting when you consider the fact that nowhere in Taipei is really that far away. Thanks to the excellent and ridiculously efficient MRT system (seriously, it makes this girl who survived a decade of NYC’s MTA want to cry, it’s so good) you can get to all of the best Taipei districts in minutes, for around 50 cents a ride. This perfect transportation system makes traveling between neighborhoods easy, making every location in Taipei honestly a pretty good one.

So, if you haven’t quite figured out where to stay in Taiwan’s vibrant capital city? I’ve got your back. I’ve done the research, culling reviews of the best hotels in Taipei from various sources and checking maps to make sure my suggestions for where to stay in Taipei are in good locations. I’ve picked the best Taipei hotels and hostels in each neighborhood, culminating in this ultimate guide to my top recommendations of the best places to stay in Taipei.

I’ll break this post down by neighborhood, giving a quick preview of the different districts in Taipei and why you’d want to stay in each Taipei neighborhood, what sights are there, and what kind of traveler it’s good for. This way, you can pick the best district to stay in Taipei for your interests and desires. Then, I’ll give you three options for Taipei accommodations in that neighborhood, so you can find the best place to stay in Taipei for your budget.

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Where to Stay in Taipei: Neighborhood by Neighborhood

Xinyi

Best for: luxury seekers, people who want to stay in the heart of Taipei, business travelers

If you’re looking for the best place to stay near Taipei 101, you’ve got to pick Xinyi. This is where you’ll find the hottest restaurants and hotels to stay in Taipei. Though of course, with the near-perfect location comes higher prices, so if you are on a strict budget, this may not be the best Taipei neighborhood for you.

From Taipei 101 to Elephant Mountain, Xinyi offers a bit of everything, from soaring skylines to nature escapes. From the metro you can be up Elephant Mountain mere minutes, with some of the best views of the Taipei area at your doorstop. Meanwhile, there are plenty of world-class restaurants just a short walk from wherever you end up staying in Xinyi, so you can rest assured that an excellent meal is never more than a few minutes’ walk away. For first timers, it’s the best location to stay in Taipei, in my opinion.

Budget

While Xinyi isn’t exactly the best neighborhood to stay in Taipei for budget travelers, that doesn’t mean there aren’t deals to be found. Space Inn Xinyi is one of those exceptions! With male, female, and mixed dorms, this is the perfect place to stay in Taipei for solo travelers who want to be in the heart of the action. Just a few minutes’ walk from the metro, all of Taipei is at easy reach, and Taipei 101 is a short walk away, as well as the Tonghua Night Market for foodies on a budget!

Guests love the large shared bathrooms – with plenty of toilets and showers (9 of each for the ladies, at least) plus several sinks and hair dryers. As someone who used to live out of a hostel, I can see how this would be a huge perk as a traveling woman – I hated always having to wait for an empty bathroom! The rooms are clean and comfortable, offering warm blankets, comfortable pillows, plenty of sockets for each bed (at least 2), reading lamps, shelves next to each bed, and lockers. There are complimentary tea and coffee and a 24/7 front desk to help with all needs and provide security. Check out reviews, photos, prices, and availability here.

Mid-Range

For an affordable Taipei lodging option near the Xiangshan (Elephant Mountain) metro and within easy walk of all of Xinyi’s best sights (just a 10 minute walk to Taipei 101!), I’ve got your back. There are plenty of good hotels in Taipei City Center, but it’s hard to find something on a budget. If that’s you, you’ll want to consider Place X Hotel if you want an affordable private room in Xinyi without spending a fortune. With a vibrant, colorful lobby, the hotel offers a wide variety of room configurations ranging from doubles, triples, quads, and family rooms. All rooms have A/C and en-suite bathrooms, so it’s a great option for travelers who want a little bit of privacy.

However, there are a few downsides to note: the rooms do not have windows as it’s a basement-level hotel, and many guests complained about the breakfast. If neither of those things bother you, guests loved the cleanliness, location, and price enough to consider Place X Hotel a good place to stay in pricy Xinyi. Check out reviews, prices, photos, and availability here.

Luxury

While mid-range and budget options are slim in Xinyi, you’re spoiled for choice in the luxury department! But if I had to pick one, I’d pick the W as the best hotel to stay in Taipei near the Taipei 101 building, specifically the Xinyi district. I’ve stayed in W Hotels twice and always loved my experience, especially since I love how they blend luxury and quirky in a way that feels unique, not stuffy – and with the W tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, they definitely don’t give off that vibe.

W Hotels are artsy, trendy, colorful, and chic, and The W Taipei is no exception. With 5 star amenities, including the WET outdoor pool with poolside bar, the luxe AWAY spa, and the hip on-site bar Woobar, the 400-square-meter FIT gym with state-of-the-art equipment, the chic restaurant YEN… you basically would never need to leave your hotel, but of course you will, because you’re in the best area of Taipei. Check prices, reviews, photos, and availability here.

However, if you prefer a more classic take on luxury, there are some perfect options for you as well. The Grand Hyatt in Taipei offers prestige and unparalleled 5-star service, and Le Meridien Taipei is a perennial favorite among luxury hotel lovers and is widely considered to be the best hotel in Taipei.

Da’an

Best for: people who want a quiet place to stay in Taipei, a more residential side to the city

Da’an is right next to Xinyi but the vibe couldn’t be more different. Long a favorite with the expat community in Taipei, Da’an has a nice blend of residential buildings and quiet businesses catering to a foreigner-friendly crowd. The biggest part in the city, Da’an Park, is right in the heart of the neighborhood, offering a buffer between the business of Xinyi and the peacefulness of Da’an.

Budget

There are no hostels in Da’an so if you are traveling on a shoe-string budget I would not recommend this neighborhood. However, if you’re looking for a cozy yet cheap hotel in Taipei, Chaiin Hotel is a great option with plenty of affordable rooms on offer. With easy access to the Dongmen MRT and a 5-minute walk away from happening Yongkang Street, it’s a fantastic location.

All rooms have A/C, private bathrooms, desk areas, and flat-screen TVs, although note that the most basic budget rooms do not have windows. rooms. Perks like bathrobes and slippers, an electric kettle, and a mini-fridge all make this budget hotel feel more luxe. Check out reviews, prices, photos, and availability here.

Mid-Range

For a glamorous yet affordable place to stay in Taipei’s quiet Da’an district, I recommend inhouse residence. Just a few minutes’ walk from the lovely and non-touristic Shida Night Market, and a short walk away from Da’an Park, inhouse is a great option for travelers who want to see a less touristic side of Taipei. Rooms are well-designed, with large and cozy beds, plenty of warm wood tones to give a comfortable vibe. The en-suite bathrooms are sleek and modern, with soaking tubs as well as showerheads.

However, one thing to note is that it is a bit of a walk from the nearest MRT station – about 1 kilometer or 10 minutes away. If you don’t mind a brief walk to access the metro, then this is a wonderful hotel for you if you want to stay in one of the coolest parts of Taipei without spending a fortune. Check reviews, prices, and availability here.

Luxury

For a glamorous place to stay in Taipei not far from Da’an Park, I recommend Chez Nous. This gorgeous, trendy hotel is just two stops away from Taipei 101 and a short walk from one of my favorite streets in Taipei, Yongkang Shopping Street (where you’ll find the original branch of Din Tai Fung), one of my favorite Taipei shopping districts. There’s also an on-site bar and restaurant if you don’t feel like exploring the neighborhood or just want a lazy meal in after a full day of exploring Taipei.

Rooms feature A/C, hardwood floors, flatscreen TVs, and basic kitchen amenities like coffee and tea makers and a mini-fridge. All rooms have a seating area (some even have a duplex, two-story option!); some rooms even have a gorgeous private terrace area. Rooms are beautifully furnished with lovely wood accents and vibrant blues, creating a calm oasis away from the bustle of Taipei. Bathrooms are the true epitome of luxury, with marble floors and even soaking tubs with gorgeous brass accents on the knobs, as well as walk-in showers. For the quality and the price, it’s one of the best hotel deals in Taipei. Check out reviews, photos, prices, and availability here.

Zhongzheng

Good for: staying in the heart of the action, young people and Instagram lovers

The heart of one of Taipei’s most attraction-filled areas, Zhongzheng is a great area to stay in Taipei if you are after its most photogenic sights. Home to the complex which houses Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and the National Concert Hall, this square is iconic Taipei and it’s a must-visit on any Taipei itinerary.

Budget

I included Space Inn on the Xinyi section of this post, and so it’s perhaps no surprise that I’m also recommending their other branch, this time located in Zhongzheng near Ximending. With A/C, self-service laundry, soundproofing, and cooking areas, this hostel has anything you need for a short or extended stay. Dorms are available in separate sex or mixed sex options.

Each bunk has a privacy curtain and outlets so you can have your own little oasis in your bunk. Guests have reported very clean rooms and common areas, especially the bathrooms, and that it’s a nice and peaceful place to stay (not a party hostel by any means). If you want a convenient place to stay in Taipei at the crossroads of the major transportation hubs and cultural sights, and NOT want to pay a fortune, check out prices, reviews, and availability here.

Mid-Range

For a relaxed yet elegant place to stay in Taipei near Zhongzheng’s main attractions, I’d recommend Midtown Retreat. Keep in mind, though, that this is a 2nd-floor apartment converted into several rooms and as such, there are not many of the standard hotel amenities like a receptionist or elevator, and not every single room has a window. It’s one block from the Shandao Temple metro, and close to both Taipei Main Station and Liberty Square

With spacious rooms with comfortable beds, A/C in every room, private bathrooms, and basic kitchen amenities, it’s a really great place to stay when you’re on a budget as long as you don’t mind the more apartment/Airbnb style set up and don’t need the hand-holding of a concierge/receptionist. Check prices, photos, reviews, and availability here.

Luxury

For one of the fanciest hotels in the Zhongzheng area, I highly recommend the Sheraton Grand Taipei Hotel. While it has great name recognition as part of the Sheraton brand, it’s also just a dang nice hotel in a lovely neighborhood midway between Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and the Taipei Main Station MRT. It’s right next to the lovely Shantao Temple and its accompanying MRT station, so it’s truly a lovely location.

The hotel offers 5-star luxury in the heart of it all, with great amenities like a day spa, fitness room, outdoor pool, and literally nine dining options (not like you need them in a city as fun to eat in as Taipei, but y’know, options are sweet!). There’s a helpful concierge desk who can help you with any pressing Taipei questions and with making needed bookings.

While the facilities throughout the hotel are great, the rooms offer next-level luxury and privacy. The rooms themselves are inspired by both Chinese and modern elements, providing ample workspace in the spacious rooms. The bathrooms have a bathtub (holler!!) excellent toiletries, and bathrobes for you to feel like a baller in. Check out prices, reviews, photos, and availability here.

Datong

Good for: travelers who want a slightly off the beaten path place to stay in Taipei close to their favorite sights

Just north of bustling Wanhua district and its Ximending neighborhood, Datong is relatively quiet by comparison and in that lies much of its charm.

If you want a more local and quiet feel, without the crowds that come with Ximending or Xinyu, then this is the choice for you. Many of the best attractions are still within a short walk, but you can also easily escape the noise.

Budget

The best place to stay in Datong, Taipei on a budget is LuckyOne Hostel, which offers a fantastic location as well as lovely aesthetics at an affordable price that will make any backpacker very, very happy. This is one of the better cheap accommodations in Taipei and should be on the short list for any budget traveler.

The hostel is very well-designed in a way that I wish more hostels were — simple things like the top bunk being high enough that the person on the bottom bunk can sit comfortably, reading lights and outlets next to each bed, etc. have all been considered in the design. Check rates, availability, and reviews here.

Mid-Range

For an affordable yet private place to stay that’s a big step up from a hostel (without costing much more) I recommend Bayman Hotel in Datong. It’s still close to the Taipei Main Station MRT (about a 10-minute walk) but it’s in a more residential and relaxed neighborhood where you can unwind and get a feel for the real Taipei. There’s a great night market nearby if you’re curious to try one of the most essential things to do in Taipei!

The location is great and the price is fantastic for what you get: private rooms and modern bathrooms (some even with bathtubs) and comfy beds with reading lights next to each bed, plenty of outlets to charge overnight without inconveniencing yourself. The furnishings are simple but for the price it can’t be beaten. Check out prices, reviews, and availability here.

Luxury

This isn’t the fanciest neighborhood of Taipei, but that does mean that you can get an excellent luxury hotel for a fraction of the price of the more upscale ones you’ll find in Xinyi and Songshan. I love the quirky, unique Play Design Hotel, which won the iF 2018 award for hotel design, so it has serious claim to being one of the best hotels in Taipei, Taiwan. There are only 5 rooms, so it is a really small and unique property, yet it’s reasonably priced for the quality and scarcity of rooms.

The concept is the intersection of design and hospitality, connecting travelers to local designers. Each room is furnished by Taiwanese designers, who make the space unique. Even better, there’s an on-site gallery where you can buy unique design works created by the designers who collaborated on this hotel! The rooms are really spacious, with seating and living areas as well as sleeping areas, each uniquely appointed with local designer touches. It’s simply too hard to describe how cute and unique this place is, so check out the photos and reviews here.

Songshan

Photo by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas

Best for: people who love design hotels, business and luxury travelers, artsy people

Songshan is the area roughly above Xinyi and its skyscrapers and to the side of the fun shopping district of Zhongxiao. It’s a great choice for business travelers and people looking for a slightly more creative variety of options when it comes to where to stay in Taipei.

There are lots of design hotels in this neighborhood as it’s inspired by the Songshan Creative and Cultural Park which is at the heart of this neighborhood. In fact, one of my top Taipei hotel recommendations for Songshan is in the park itself! It’s also close to other essential sights like Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall and it’s not far from Raohe Night Market, which is often considered one of the most ‘authentic’ local night markets.

Budget

This isn’t the cheapest area of Taipei, but there are some hostel options, namely Hostel Jiizu. There’s a range of options from dorm beds to economy doubles and deluxe quadruples, so there’s something to suit virtually all budgets and group sizes.

It’s a little bare bones, especially in the dorm and economy rooms, but it’s clean, well-located, safe, and quiet. For the price and location, it’s hard to find anything that offers similar quality at this price point. Check out reviews, prices, and availability here.

Mid-Range / Luxury

For a super unique place to stay, check out arTree hotelwhich is essentially the world’s classiest treehouse meets a 5-star hotel. With the greenest lobby and dining area you can imagine, completely inspired by a canopy of trees, this hotel is designed beautifully while still being in the center of Taipei just a few minutes’ away from an MRT station.

Meanwhile, the rooms are entirely modern, with all the luxury amenities you’d expect: deep-set bathtubs, air conditioning, epic city views, delicious in-restaurant dining options, an upscale bar, a fitness center, a spa, the works! For how creative and high-quality his hotel is, the prices are really quite affordable. Check rates, availability, and reviews here.

Luxury

Want to stay in one of the most creative Taipei neighborhoods with tons of luxe perks at your fingertips? Look no further than Eslite, which offers up luxury meets a dash of artsy creativity. Located in Songshan Creative & Cultural Park, this 5-star hotel is one of the best hotels in Taipei, beautifully appointed with tons of amazing details like unending shelves of books in the lobby (swoon!).

With perks like private balconies, enormous beds, sunken bathtubs, in-room sound systems, you can stay in style at Eslite without paying an insane amount. Check rates, availability, and reviews here.

Ximending (Wanhua)

Good for: young people who want to stay in the heart of the action in Taipei, people who love bright lights and buzzy areas

Often compared to Shinjuku in Tokyo or Dotonbori in Osaka, this is where the young people in Taipei come to walk around, eat, and hang out in the neon-light glow of Ximending.

The larger district is called Wanhua, but people are generally more familiar with the Ximending area which surrounds the Ximen MRT station. This is a great option for being centrally located in the heart of the action, but it can be a little crowded.

Budget

If you can laugh off the name, the best place to stay in Ximending, Taipei is the affordable Ximen Duckstay Hostel. It has an amazing central location in Ximen, one of the most bustling neighborhoods of Taipei in the evening.

The rooms are small but well-designed, with designated places to keep your luggage to keep the floor clear, privacy curtains, reading lights, etc. There’s also a hostel bar so it’s good for solo travelers who want to socialize, as Taipei doesn’t have the best bar scene. Check rates, availability, and reviews here.

Mid-Range

The trendy Cho Hotel has one of the best locations in Taipei, a two-minute walk from the Ximen MRT and the Red House theater. It’s a design hotel, so expect a fun and aesthetically pleasing environment. There are lots of lounge areas where you can relax and enjoy the creativity of the space. It almost feels like a very artsy friend’s house with all the different rooms to lounge in and explore.

There are a variety of rooms, ranging from basic double (windowless) for a very affordable price all the way up to luxury quadruples which are great for families or groups of friends traveling together. No matter the room type, the rooms are clean and cozy, feature cool murals, and have modern en-suite bathrooms. For the price point, it’s a great choice in Ximending/Wanhua. Check out prices, reviews, and availability here.

Luxury

Another arm of the inhouse hotel family, the Ximen location of inhouse Boutique Hotel is an excellent choice for people looking for a luxury place to stay in Taipei’s Wanhua district. Just 300 meters from the Red House, it’s in a prime location, and the hotel is incredibly funky and cool, perfectly designed for lovers of unique places to stay rather than standard cookie-cutter hotels.

Tucked away in an alley off of the main road, you won’t have to deal with the noise pollution of Ximending which can admittedly be quite loud sometimes. The theme of the hotel is inspired by the Red House Theater which it’s near, so the hotel tries to recreate the glamor and nostalgia of the 1940s and 50s, featuring gorgeous marble flooring from India as well as hand-crafted mahogany furniture. The rooms are really large and spacious with high ceilings and lovely lighting, bringing you back to a bygone era. It’s definitely a unique choice for where to stay in Taipei. Check prices, photos, reviews, and availability here.

Taipei Main Station

Best for: people who want to be at the heart of Taipei’s transportation options and are planning multiple day trips, people on a short stay to Taipei

While not in and of itself the most fun neighborhood in Taipei, for its ease of access to virtually everywhere in the city and beyond, Taipei Main Station is unparalleled.

Perfect for people who plan to take advantage of the city’s many day trip options, or just for people who are doing a quick visit to Taipei and want to stay central, I love Taipei Main Station’s convenience as it’s rarely more than 20 minutes away to anywhere I want to be in Taipei city center.

Budget

For a budget-conscious yet fun place to stay near Taipei Main Station, I highly recommend the funky Morwing Hotel – Culture Vogue. It has extremely affordable private rooms with A/C just a 5-minute walk from the Main Station, perfect for all travel opportunities.

The rooms are quirky and colorful, with themes that veer a bit on the strange side of things (room designs encompass everything from Milan to Le Petit Prince to anime characters to Santorini…), but hey – for the price and the location, it’s hard to find fault! Guests agree, giving it high points for its location, cleanliness, price, and friendly staff. If you value location and comfort over aesthetics, it’s a great choice. Check prices, reviews, photos, and availability here.

Mid-Range

If you’re looking for an affordable yet beautiful and trendy place to stay in Taipei Main Station’s vicinity, I highly, highly recommend citizenM North Gate. That’s because Taipei is home to one of my favorite affordable hotel chains, citizenM (I stayed with them in Shoreditch, London and loved it!).

I love booking rooms with citizenM because I know that I’m going to get a well-designed room at an affordable price, without having to pay for a bunch of luxuries I won’t use. The design is fun and quirky, with a real sense of personality that is missing from many hotel chains. You always know when you are stepping into a citizenM and I love that. The location is also great. Check rates, availability, and reviews here.

Luxury

To be as close to Taipei Main Station as possible without, y’know, actually sleeping in it, I recommend Caesar Park. This glam 4-star hotel has all the amenities you need in the perfect location. There’s an on-site restaurant and spa, so it’s a great place to unwind after a long flight to Taipei when you need to recover from jet lag, as it’s only one hour door to door from Taoyuan Airport.

The room decor isn’t super modern (think carpets and bland curtains), but it’s quite comfortable and spacious. If you want a super design-focused hotel, there are better options (check the offerings in Songshan) but if you just want a clean, luxurious stay in one of the best locations in Taipei, Caesar Park is a great choice. Check prices, reviews, photos, and availability here.

Zhongshan

Best for: hipsters and nightlife seekers

Bordering Songshan and Datong, the Zhongshan neighborhood is the perfect place to stay for trendy travelers who love funky boutiques (and fast fashion), quirky and Instagrammable cafés, trendy restaurants, and sleek bars and nightlife options.

Whereas Taipei can generally be a bit of a quiet city after dark, Zhongshan is the exception as this is where many of the city’s best bars can be found as it’s sort of the unofficial nightlife district. It’s also the most LGBT-friendly neighborhood in the city (side note: the country of Taiwan just celebrated marriage equality, yay!) so this is a great place to stay in Taiwan for LGBT travelers as well as anyone hip, fun, and tolerant.

Budget

There aren’t too many hostels in the area, but if you want to stay in a budget-friendly place in Zhongshan I recommend 4Plus Hostel. Housed in a quirky mint-green building, on the inside the hostel is quite comfortable. The lounge areas aren’t anything special but the rooms are really well-done.

Each bunk in the female dorm and 4-bed dorm has a privacy curtain, USB charging ports, outlets, and reading lamps: the recipe for a perfect hostel set up. Note that the 6-bed mixed dorm doesn’t have quite the same nice setup, so keep an eye out and check the photos of your room type before booking. Check out reviews, prices, photos, and availability here.

Mid-Range

If you want to stay in affordable luxury in Taipei’s fun Zhongshan district, I’d pick Green World Grand NanJiang. With a straight-up glamorous lobby that will make you shocked at how affordable the hotel is, this is one of the best options in the trendy nightlife and shopping district of Zhongshan.

We’re talking spacious rooms, huge bathrooms with bathtubs included, and a fantastic breakfast spread including dumplings…. brb, booking myself in now. With a fantastic location close to the MRT, it’s a wonderful place to stay in Taipei. Check rates, availability, and reviews here.

Luxury

The Hilton brand is synonymous with luxury everywhere, and that’s definitely no exception for the lovely Doubletree By Hilton Taipei Zhongshan. With everything from twin rooms to king suites, there’s something for everyone in this hip hotel.

The rooms are your standard luxury hotel offering – crisp white sheets, comfortable beds with fluffy linens, great views, TVs, the works. Some rooms have extra perks, like the corner king suite with a soaking bathtub with incredible views of Taipei. But even the standard rooms are quite lush and welcoming. The hotel has all the amenities you’d expect from a four-star hotel, including a fitness center, on-site restaurant, and concierge service. Check rates, availability, and reviews here.

Shilin

Best for: foodies and budget-savvy travelers who don’t mind spending a few more minutes on the MRT to get more bang for their buck

The biggest (and in my opinion, best) night market in the city can be found in Shilin, and the neighborhood has basically become synonymous with its night market. But even by day, it’s a great area to stay in Taipei: quiet as it’s away from the main hustle and bustle of downtown, but bursting with businesses and shops at all hours of day. It’s also close to the the buses to Yangmingshan National Park, one of my favorite city escapes from Taipei, which leave from the Jiantan MRT.

This was my first stop where I stayed in Taipei, and I highly recommend it to foodie travelers who want to have one of Taipei’s best night markets literally on their back door. Yes, it’s touristic, but that means you won’t have issues communicating with vendors and you’ll be able to try all the Taipei must-eats all under one (non)roof.

Budget

If you want an affordable place to stay near Taipei’s best night market, Mono Hostel is the best choice for sure. It’s located in between the Jiantan and Shilin MRT stations, so there are plenty of transportation options nearby.

The dorms are well-designed with reading lights, outlets, and shelves dedicated for each bunk, as well as nearby lockers. All have privacy curtains too, which is a great touch. The bathrooms are huge and spacious – not the dingy hostel bathroom of your nightmares. Generally, it’s an incredibly clean and inviting place to spend your time and it’s a great choice for where to stay in Taipei if you’re traveling alone or on a budget. Check out prices, photos, reviews, and availability here.

Mid-Range

For a nice place to stay near Shilin Night Market, just 600 meters away, check out Uinn Business Hotel. While the name suggests a boring business hotel, stepping into the lobby will shake all the mental images of dull cookie-cutter hotels away as the design is really colorful and ultra-modern.

The rooms are well-lit and colorful, with funky wallpaper and white linens to give the room personality without clutter. The rooms are spacious and the bathrooms are modern. Each room has a flatscreen TV, kettle, and private bathroom, as well as bathrobes and slippers to use in the hotel. The soundproofing is excellent so it is a really quiet place to stay despite being in a busier part of town – great that you can be near the night market, but that it won’t keep you up all night! Check out reviews, photos, prices, and availability here.

Luxury

Just a few steps from the Jiantan MRT station, a short walk from the Shilin Night Market, this is the best place to stay in Shilin. The Tango Hotel has a few locations around Taipei but it’s the Shilin location that catches my eye. The hotel has a lot of perks that other top hotels in Taipei don’t have, like an outdoor swimming pool (great in summer when Taipei gets crazy hot). And if you’re visiting in a season when using the outdoor pool is a no-go, there’s also a jacuzzi!

The rooms are gorgeously designed, minimalist without being too bare. Mostly done in shades of white, neutral, and black, there is a very elegant look that complements the hotel’s location with views of the greenery outside perfectly. Some rooms even have terraces with mountain views of Yangmingshan National Park, and some rooms have jacuzzi bathtubs (can this be a thing in every hotel from now on, please?). For the quality of the hotel, it’s a fantastic price, and all because you’re just a few more stops out of Taipei city center on the MRT. Check out reviews, photos, prices, and availability here.

Beitou

Best for: people who really want to relax and not feel like they’re in a city, people who want a spa and wellness experience

If you’re looking for a wellness-inspired getaway while in you’re in Taipei, Beitou is the obvious choice: it’s one of the best places to stay in Taiwan for health and relaxation. While easily connected to the rest of Taipei by MRT, the neighborhood of Beitou offers plenty of spa hotels all boasting natural mineral-rich waters which come from geothermal activity from the volcanic landscape of Taiwan. The best example of said activity can be seen at the incredible (and incredibly foul-smelling!) Hell Valley, where water so hot it nearly boils as it meets the air floats beautifully into the sky above.

Budget

A hostel in the middle of a luxury hot springs destination? It surprised me too! But the On My Way Hostel in Beitou looks amazing for travelers on a budget who still want to get their feet wet and enjoy the Beitou hot springs area without spending a fortune on a luxury hotel.

With lots of shared common space including a lounge area and kitchen and bright, clean, cluttered dorm rooms, On My Way provides a social atmosphere in a less touristic part of town that is conveniently close to some of Taipei’s hot springs, which can be enjoyed for free or for a small fee. Check out prices, reviews, and availability here.

Mid-Range

If you don’t want to stay in a hostel (same) bud don’t have the budget for the 5-star Grand View Resort (same), there’s definitely plenty in the middle for you to enjoy in Beitou! The 4-star Beitou Hot Spring Resort is a fantastic option for travelers who are on a bit of a budget, but also want to splurge a little bit on a one-of-a-kind experience. I mean, how often can you stay in a hotel where you have your very own steam room and hot spring tub in your room (for under 200 dollars a night, no less)?

To me Beitou Hot Springs Hotel strikes the perfect balance of luxurious yet attainable, great for a special stay if you’re not someone who typically splurges on luxury experiences. There’s a hot spring bath, jacuzzi, and massage center on site so you can relax in or outside of your room. The on-site Chinese restaurant serves up incredible dishes, including a complimentary breakfast with dim sum! As a budget-savvy traveler, who knows when to save and when to splurge, It’d be my personal choice for where to stay in Taipei’s Beitou area. Check prices, reviews, availability and photos here.

Luxury

By far the best hotel in Beitou, Taipei is Grand View Resort. It is the only five-star resort in the Beitou area, making it a no-brainer for a luxury wellness stay in Taipei. It’s located a 10-minute drive from the Xinbeitou MRT, but there is a free shuttle that can bring you there and back as needed.

Located in the heart of Taipei’s hot springs area, this beautiful resort was designed by the same architect as the Taipei 101, Li Zuyuan – yup, that’s some pretty baller accolades and reason enough to stay there in my mind. The on-site restaurant is run by a chef trained in culinary arts in Paris, who can prepare both Chinese and French cuisines with a skillful hand.

Despite how luxurious the hotel is, it keeps a restrained hold on its aesthetics with a focus on natural touches and neutral colors. The interiors are framed with timber and there are gorgeous cypress trees on the property. You can relax in the white sulfur hot springs, the spa, or at the pool, or work up a sweat at the fitness center. But best of all, every single room has its own private hot and cold spring so that you can bathe in total privacy. It’s not a cheap hotel in Taipei, but it is truly world-class luxury. Check photos, reviews, prices, and availability here.

15 Ultra Instagrammable Places in Taipei (With Free Map)

If you love Instagram and you’re planning a trip to Taipei, this is the Taipei photography guide for you!

I’ve combined my two weeks of knowledge of traveling around Taipei and scoured Instagram for some of the best and more unique Instagram places in Taipei. I’ve included addresses and tips for how to get the best photo in each!

While there are 15 Instagram spots in Taipei on this list, I’ve included an additional 3 spots at the end which are easy day trips from Taipei as a bonus!

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Map of the Best Taipei Photography Spots

Best Instagram Spots in Taipei

Elephant Mountain

One of my favorite Instagram places in Taipei is the beautiful Elephant Mountain Hike which takes you to a wonderful viewpoint above the Xinyi district of Taipei, home to many of the city’s most distinctive skyscrapers.

To get here, take the MRT to Xiangshan, follow the signs for Xiangshan/Elephant Mountain which will take you past a park to a long staircase. It takes about 20-25 minutes from the metro to reach the top of the stairs to the viewpoint.

There are several areas where you can take a great photo here at Elephant mountain, I’ll share the two most popular.

First, there is a wooden viewing platform with railings which you’ll come across first in your hike. You’ll always see plenty of locals and tourists there, taking selfies with the gorgeous Taipei 101 in the background. If you want an unobscured photo of the Taipei 101 without anyone in it, this is your best choice.

Second, if you keep going up the stairs, you’ll encounter a big rock. Usually there is a line of people patiently waiting to climb this big boulder so they can get themselves in the best Instagram shot of Taipei. It’s a bit difficult to scramble up here, so be careful, and I definitely recommend wearing some sort of sneaker (I was wearing my Birkenstocks so I had to take them off before I climbed the rock). It’s lovely at sunset or after dark, but it is also more crowded then. I’d estimate I waited about ~15 minutes for this photo.

Location: Xiangshan, Taipei City, Xinyi District, Taiwan

Cost: Free!

Stairs near Taipei City Hall

For one of the more unique angles of Taipei 101, I highly recommend this area. We got super lucky, as we stumbled across without even trying! In fact, for the longest time I couldn’t remember exactly where I took this photo but when I decided to write this post I wanted to put a little more research into it, and with some brain-digging and some Google Maps street-viewing, I was able to find the exact staircase where I took this shot!

It’s located right near the MRT Taipei City Hall Station, near the Starbucks there, just around the corner from my favorite Taipei hotel, the W.

Location: near Taipei City Hall MRT, Taipei City, Xinyi District, Taiwan

Cost: Free!

Taipei 101 Observatory

Of course, while you’ll want a few snaps of the Taipei 101 from the outside… nothing beats the view from the top!

The lines can be a huge pain here, so I recommend a priority skip-the-line ticket which is a little extra money but worth it if you’re on a short time crunch while you’re in Taipei. If you don’t mind waiting a bit but paying less, you can still buy a discounted e-ticket online, which is cheaper than buying them at the actual ticket desk in Taipei! It also allows you to skip the ticket queue (but not the lines to the elevator).

Location: Taipei 101, Taipei City, Xinyi District, Taiwan

Cost: Roughly $15 for normal tickets (book here to get the Klook discount) or $32 for skip-the-line tickets

Psst: you can also go to the Din Tai Fung here!

Pro tip: Of course, as the most famous soup dumpling spot in the city’s most famous tourist attraction, waits here can be ridiculous, often an hour or more. But you can reduce your waiting time significantly by using a Klook voucher which allows for a massive set of soup dumplings and other favorite dumplings and cuts your wait time down to about 30 minutes, as opposed to showing up and waiting 1-2 hours! Be sure to print your voucher to avoid issues. Book your Din Tai Fung experience at Taipei 101 now!

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial

Located at the head of Liberty Square, one of the most important places in Taipei, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to visit the Chiang-Kai Shek Memorial Hall (and snap a few photos along the way).

This is a really beautiful square, and I can think of several distinct spots that would make for unique Taipei Instagram photos. You have the serene blue-and-white pagoda of the Chiang-Kai Shek Memorial Hall (pictured) but you also have the stunning riot of colors of the twin National Theater and National Concert hall, as well as the Liberty Square Arch (one of three gates which flank the memorial hall).

This area is always packed with people, so I do recommend getting an early start one day in this area as you can get quite a variety of photos in one small area, so it offers a good bang for your early-rising buck.

Location: Liberty Square, Democracy Blvd, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan

Cost: Free!

Liberty Square Arch

One of the classic Taipei IG shots is the view of the main arch gate that begins Liberty Square. Luckily, there almost always seems to be water on the ground so you can get those lovely reflections that really elevate the photo.

In peak Instagram-ness, I saw some people with a hose spraying water on the ground and a photographer scaring pigeons away at the ‘perfect time’ to get shots of birds flying mid-air. It’s a little contrived, not exactly the most serendipitous of shots, but dang, is it pretty.

Location: Liberty Square (south entrance) Democracy Blvd, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan

Cost: Free!

2/28 Peace Park

This lovely park not far from CKS Memorial Hall is definitely worth a photo stop while in Taipei.

I’ve seen a lot of photos from it all over, usually from far away so you can see how it’s sort of ‘floating’ in the middle of a pond, but I love this shot which zooms in on the details of the door – it’s so colorful!

Location: 2/28 Peace Park (north side), Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan 100

Cost: Free!

The Grand Hotel Taipei

A famous Taipei landmark, this gorgeous hotel is one of the world’s tallest buildings done in the Chinese classical style. It was completed in 1973, after taking 21 years to finish.

The building was built by Yang Cho-Cheng and reflects the vision of former president Chiang Kai-shek to have a 5-star hotel that would be suitable for foreign ambassadors to Taipei, after he and the Kuomintang (KMT) were forced to flee to Taiwan to avoid the communist party’s ire after the KMT lost the Chinese Civil War. His goal was to give legitimacy to the KMT government despite being displaced from Mainland China, as well as attract foreign guests and promote Chinese culture through its architecture.

Today, it’s still a much-loved Taipei hotel, and while you can definitely stay there (for quite an affordable price, in fact!) it’s also a popular Taipei photography spot.

Location: No. 1號, Section 4, Zhongshan North Road, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan

Cost: Free to visit the outside, rooms around $80 per night and up (depending on time of year)

Longshan Temple

One of the most visited temples in Taipei, you really shouldn’t miss Longshan Temple when you visit the city – not just for the ‘gram, but for how unique it is.

You’ll encounter people praying in a way specific to Taiwan, using a blend of Buddhist tradition and folk practices. There are some interesting customs that the Taiwanese observe when praying that I’ve never seen elsewhere. For one, there are small, painted pieces of wood that are shaped somewhat like a segmented orange which can be found all over the temple. It’s common for people to pick up the painted crescent-shaped wood, hold it in their hands, toss it to the ground, and pick it back up again. They’re apparently called “jiaobei blocks” or “moon blocks”, which are thrown in pairs and used as a way of telling the future!

Besides that, it’s just really freakin’ pretty, and there’s also a lovely garden in the front area which would make another nice Instagram spot in Taipei – two for the effort of one!

Location: No. 211, Guangzhou Street, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan

Cost: Free to enter (note to dress respectfully)

National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine

Located not far from the Grand Hotel Taipei (so easy to get snaps at both and cluster together), the beautiful National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine is one of my favorite underrated Taipei photography spots.

It doesn’t get nearly the same attention as other places like the CKS Memorial Complex and Elephant Mountain, yet it is so distinctly and uniquely Taiwanese to me. I love the beautiful bright red popping against the lush green background and the symmetry is also really eye-pleasing.

Location: No. 139號, Beian Road, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan

Cost: Free!

Yongkang Shopping Street

Home to the original Din Tai Fung, the Yongkang Shopping Street is one of my favorite places to stroll in Taipei. Chock full of cute ice cream shops, cafés, umbrella stores (seriously, the Taiwanese love their umbrellas so much they have entire stores dedicated to them), and Instagrammable foods, Yongkang Street is a must-visit in Taipei for photography enthusiasts and Instagrammers everywhere.

My favorite spots on this street are Elephant Machine Coffee and the ultra-colorful Soyo shopfront!

Location: Yongkang Street, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 

Cost: Free to walk, but you’ll likely want to shop!

Beitou (Hell Valley + more)

The hot springs of Beitou are a wonderful escape from the business of Taipei. There are a number of cool photography spots near the Xinbeitou area, but I loved visiting so-called “Hell Valley” with its nearly boiling waters where the steam rises off the teal-blue like something out of a movie.

There are also a number of wonderful hot spring hotels you can enjoy, either as an overnight guest or by buying a day pass, that would make great Instagram spots.

The nicest hotel in the area is Grand View Resort Beitou, and it was designed by the architect of Taipei 101. Rooms can be had there for an exorbitant price (click if you’re curious!) but you can visit on a day trip and enjoy the spas for much, much less.

Location: Depends, but the area around the Xinbeitou MRT is where most spa hotels are.

Cost: Around $45 for a day pass to the nicest spa hotel in Beitou, or free to walk around the Beitou area

Jingshan Suspension Bridge

Did you know Taipei had a national park, complete with volcanoes and hot springs, right in the city limits? Yangmingshan National Park is a fantastic place to spend a day in Taipei, and I highly recommend visiting it on your trip if you have the time.

This suspension bridge was one of my favorite places in Taipei (it’s located near the Lengshuikeng Creek) and it’s just insanely photogenic, but it is often crowded so a shot like this will take some patience.

There are a number of Instagram-worthy spots in Taipei’s Yangmingshan National Park. While this post will by no means list all of them, I’ll share a few of my favorites!

Location: Jingshan Suspension Bridge, Yangmingshan National Park, Taipei City, Shilin District

Cost: Free (though you’ll need to pay for the bus to the park)

Juansi Waterfall

Yes, Taipei’s Yangmingshan National Park has its own waterfall, too – who says you have to go out to Shifen to get a wonderful waterfall snap?

I didn’t learn about this place until after I left Taipei, so I recommend reading this guide to getting to Juansi (it’s about a 1 hour, 3 kilometer hike) if you have it on your photographing Taipei itinerary.

Location: Juansi Waterfall, Yangmingshan National Park, Taipei City, Shilin District

Cost: Free, though you’ll need to pay for the bus to the park

Lover’s Bridge, Tamsui

I loved taking a trip out to the end of the MRT at Tamsui Old Street, where there are so many lovely walks to be had.

The Old Street area where you can sample all sorts of Taiwanese delights is a must, but the draw for Instagram lovers is Lover’s Bridge, which is gorgeous either during the middle of the day when you can really capture all its white geometrical wonder or at sunset when you can get some beautiful silhouettes of it.

Location: No. 199, Guanhai Road, Tamsui District, New Taipei City, Taiwan

Cost: Free

Ximending

The Ximending area is the place you want to be in Taipei at night, when the lights all turn on and the area gets a really special buzzy vibe that can only be compared to Shinjuku in Tokyo or Dotonburi in Osaka.

Play with portraits with a low f-stop number to get some good bokeh to really capture the brightness of the neon around, though you’ll want a tripod to get the best shots at night!

Location: near the Ximen MRT, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan

Cost: Free!

Best Instagram Spots Near Taipei

While none of these spots are in Taipei proper, they are all nearby and many of them are included on my Taipei day trips guide. I’ll share a few of my favorites belong, but there are so many I don’t have room for!

Rainbow Village (Taichung)

A zippy hour away on the high-speed rail, it’s quite easy to pop into Taichung for a day trip while in Taipei.

And while Taichung is full of Instagram-friendly places (Miyahari Department Store definitely being one of them – I have a Taichung itinerary you may want to steal!), the most obvious is Rainbow Village. Not actually created for Instagram, this is the life’s work of an old man to transform and save the community he grew up in through art. The story behind it is quite poignant, and “Grandpa Rainbow” is often sitting in the gift shop watching everyone admire his work, so if you see him, be sure to say hello and make a small purchase or donation to support him!

Location: Rainbow Village, Taichung City, Nantun District

Cost: Free to enter, though you’ll need to take the train to Taichung

Jiufen

If you go by public bus to Jiufen, the very first thing you will see is this gorgeous temple with views to the coast below. Not bad, eh?

It’s certainly a warm welcome to lovely Jiufen, which is gorgeous but can be extremely crowded with tour groups.

Location: Jishan Street, Ruifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan

Cost: You can get here for a few $ by public bus (crowded) or by organized shuttle bus for about $20 roundtrip (recommended)

Shifen Waterfall

With beautiful turquoise-green waters, the trip to Shifen Waterfall was one of my favorite days in Taipei.

There are several great photo spots in the Shifen Waterfall park area – the park with its elephant statues covered in red flags, the suspension bridge, so much more – but I’ll leave that for you to discover.

Location: Shifen Waterfall, Taiwan, New Taipei City, Pingxi District

Cost: ~$2 entrance fee, plus transit. It’s possible (but a bit complicated) to go by public transit, or you can do this combined Jiufen + Shifen + Keelung shuttle bus for about $20 (highly recommended)

13 Incredible Day Trips from Taipei

Taipei was one of my favorite cities I visited in 2018. Bustling with life yet manageable to navigate, sprawling but incredibly efficient to get around, Taipei feels made for a big city lover like myself. With incredible (and cheap) eats at all the night markets, boutiques galore selling uniquely Taiwanese handicrafts, interesting museums and markets, and tons of parks and green spaces, you’d be forgiven for never wanting to leave the Taiwanese capital that seems to have it all.

But one of the best things about traveling to Taipei is that there is such a varied abundance of day trips from Taipei all within easy distance. The excellent public transportation network around Taiwan makes day trips form Taipei to even the most farflung places actually quite feasible, and as a result, it’s possible to take a day trip from Taipei to places nearly 200 kilometers away without much time or effort.

I did several day trips during my time in Taipei, including my personal favorite to Shifen Waterfall, but I’ve also included a few picks from other bloggers who have down their own day trips from Taipei.

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Planning to travel Taipei, Taiwan? There are so many great day trips from Taipei that you can do: here are 13 ideas to add to your Taiwan itinerary - just in case you run out of things to do in Taipei. These Taipei day trips include everything from hot springs to national parks to big cities which you can easily access via Taiwan's high speed trains! Rainbow Village, Taichung, Taroko Gorge, Shifen, Jiufen, and beyond.
Planning to travel Taipei, Taiwan? There are so many great day trips from Taipei that you can do: here are 13 ideas to add to your Taiwan itinerary - just in case you run out of things to do in Taipei. These Taipei day trips include everything from hot springs to national parks to big cities which you can easily access via Taiwan's high speed trains! Rainbow Village, Taichung, Taroko Gorge, Shifen, Jiufen, and beyond.

Here are my top Taipei day trip choices!

Shifen Waterfall & Old Street

The small village of Shifen is definitely one of the best day trips from Taipei that you can take! The best part is arriving in the middle of Shifen village – literally, as the train splits the main “Old Street” in two!

All up and down the streets along the Old Street, people are selling delicious traditional Taiwanese treats such as fried squid, xiao long bao, and fish balls. Definitely follow your nose and sample as much as you can up and down this main street.

Another common thing to do on Shifen Old Street is to paint your own lantern and set it off into the sky, making a wish along the way.

You can select your colors of the balloon (each color has a special significance) before painting it with well-wishes, then lighting it off into the sky! It’s quite a touristic activity to be sure, but I loved it all the same. It doesn’t come close to the magic you’d experience at, say, the lantern festival in Thailand or the annual lantern festival in nearby Pingxi, Taiwan, but it’s fun and worth doing all the same.

After lighting off your lantern and watching your wishes reach skywards, you can make your way to Shifen Waterfall. The traditional way to get there is with a (very weakly powered) electronic scooter; however, it is actually perfectly easy to walk if you so chose. We opted for the electronic scooter because it seemed a little more fun. There’s no need for insurance or even a deposit – they literally just give you the keys and off you go! It’s about a 5-minute ride by scooter or probably a 30-minute walk.

Shifen Waterfall is about a 20-minute walk from the entrance. Here, you’ll find some areas to rest and relax as well as more food if you get hungry (however, the food on Shifen Old Street looked a whole lot fresher and tastier). Keep walking down the path and soon enough you’ll encounter the beautiful Shifen Waterfall viewpoint!

Shifen Waterfall is 40 meters tall and 60 meters wide, in a horseshoe formation that has given it the nickname “Little Niagara”. Be sure to walk around a bit to avoid the crowds (it’s a popular day trip from Taipei, so you definitely won’t be alone!) and get the best photo. I recommend bringing a travel tripod and some neutral density filters to get the ideal “blurry water” photo like I shot below.

How to Get to Shifen from Taipei: It’s quite easy to get from Shifen to Taipei; I’ve explained it in detail on this post here. I’ll recap it here.

First, take the MRT to Taipei Main Station. From there, you can board any northbound train except a Keelung-bound train to Ruifang (the express trains are called Tzechiang). A ticket cost 78 Taiwanese dollars, or about $2.50 USD. The signage can be a little confusing here, so ask a local to be sure if you’re getting on the right train: the stop you want is Ruifang (瑞芳). It may help to have the Chinese written out on your phone to show someone if needed.

At Ruifang, transfer to the Pingxi line and ride that all the way to the end. Best is to buy a day pass for the separate Pingxi line, which costs 52 Taiwanese ($1.76 USD), since you’ll have to return this way.

However, what a lot of people do is book a shuttle bus ticket that goes from Taipei to Shifen to Jiufen then back to Taipei. It’s a whole lot easier and not much more expensive than figuring out the whole thing via public transport, and you get to see two of the top Taipei day trip spots in one day. It’s not guided, so you can visit independently while you are in the cities; it’s purely group transportation.

There are two departures daily, one at 9:30 AM and one at 1:30 PM. Both give you two hours at Jiufen, one hour at Shifen Waterfall, and one hour at Shifen Old Street. Check out more information, prices, & reserve your spot here.

Jiufen

Contributed by Elaine & Dave of Show Them the Globe

The charming old town of Jiufen, once famed for its prosperous gold rush and gold mining activities, is located just under 40 kilometers east of Taipei. The picturesque mountain town offers a vibrant mix of tradition and culture and is a lovely contrast to the chaotic streets of Taiwan’s capital city.

Jiufen’s old street is a maze of souvenir shops and eateries and is the first stop for most visitors on a day trip from Taipei. Glutinous rice cakes, peanut ice cream, meatballs, Taiwanese sausages, and fish balls are among the many delicious snacks which must be tried along the way! Made famous by the movie Spirited Away, the A-Mei Tea House is one of Jiufen’s most prominent landmarks and is hugely popular with visitors who stop by the beautiful building and indulge in both the tea and the views. Jiufen is also home to the picture-perfect Shengping Theatre which is considered the first modern theatre in Taiwan.

Other great sightseeing options include the nearby Gold Ecological Park in Jinguashi and a hike to the top of Keelung Mountain for some amazing views.

How to Get to Jiufen from Tapei: Jiufen can be accessed by public transport: take the #1062 bus which departs frequently from Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT and travels to Jiufen Old Street or, alternatively, ride the train to Ruifang Station and switch to the Golden Fulong tourist shuttle bus. Other options for traveling to Jiufen include renting a private taxi for the trip or joining a group tour from Taipei.

Editor’s Note: However, note that returning back on this bus is incredibly difficult due to the crowds! Once, I actually tried to return via public bus but several went by without stopping because they were already full. I ended up taking a shared taxi back to Taipei for 300 Taiwanese per person (about $10 USD). For this reason, I think a shared Taipei-Shifen-Jiufen shuttle is actually a great value as doing it independently will cost about the same but be more hassle.

There are also tours which will take you to Jiufen as well as some off the beaten path places that are hard to get to with public transport, such as the Bay of Two Colors, Nanya Rock Formations, and Bitou Cape before ending in Jiufen for the evening. Check out more details on the tour here.

The Northern Coast

There are some amazing places on the Northern Coast of Taipei, however as a day trip they can be hard to visit without either your own car/motorbike or a private tour.

A few of the highlights of the Northern coast include Bitou Cape, Sandiao Cape Lighthouse, the stunning Nanya rock formations, Fulong Beach, and Beiguan Tidal Park.

How to Get to the Northern Coast from Taipei: Public transportation in this region is limited and takes quite a while to travel independently, when it exists at all. As a result, I only recommend doing this as part of a guided tour unless you have your own transport sorted; it would simply be too difficult to see all these places as a day trip from Taipei without it.

You can check out more details on the Northern Coast tour here, which runs from 9 AM to 5:30 PM each day and includes all of the above destinations plus some extras.

Pingxi

Contributed by Cerise of Enchanted Vagabond

If you’re looking for a bucket list experience on a day trip from Taipei, make your way to Pingxi. Twice a year, this mountainous area welcomes thousands and thousands of visitors for the popular Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival held two weeks after the Chinese New Year and again for the Mid-Autumn Festival. During this time, mass ascensions of glowing sky lanterns dot the sky in a magical display of color. 

Most people don’t realize, however, that lighting and releasing a sky lantern is possible any time of year. Vendors and shops sell paper lanterns almost as large as a person that can be personalized with blessings or wishes for the coming year. Nearby shops sell delicious snacks, and during the festival, the entire main street is busy with an active night market selling treats and dumplings. 

How to Get to Pingxi from Taipei: You can book a day trip with a private driver easily, or get to Pingxi on your own by taking any northbound train (except those going to Keelung) from Taipei Main Station to Ruifang station. From Ruifang, you will need to transfer trains and purchase a ticket to the Pingxi District on the Pingxi rail line.

During the festivals, trains are very crowded and lines form for both bus and trains. Another option for going on a day trip to Pingxi from Taipei is to take the Muzha Pingxi Route (bus No. 795), which departs from Taipei’s MRT Muzha Station and stops at 5 – 6 popular attractions in the area.

Visiting Pingxi is a must for any visitor to Taipei, especially if you are here during Taiwan’s Sky Lantern Festival. Beautiful lanterns twinkling in the sky are a wonderful memory from a visit to Taiwan.

Taroko National Park

Contributed by Chris of CTB Global (Chris Travel Blog)

Taroko National Park is Taiwan’s most iconic park and should be on any Taiwan itinerary. The park is easily reached from Taipei for a day trip to do most of the unique short hikes. Longer hikes logical require an overnight stay. Taroko National Park is all about magnificent views of gorges, mountains, waterfalls, and forest. If you’re lucky you can spot some wildlife too. In case you might run out of time, then remove the Meandor Core Scenic Trail and the Baiyang Trail from the below suggested itinerary.

This Taipei day trip is full of relatively short hikes over good accessible paths. They are all quite flat although the area is very mountainous. These hikes are perfect for anyone who wants to enjoy the number one park in Taiwan. After getting the entrance ticket at the visitor’s center, start with the 2-kilometer Shakadang Trail. Continue to the Changchun Shrine and Changuang Temple. They are both worth a look. The next trail is the Meandor Core Scenic Trail, which is best in spring when flowers are in full bloom. 

Now go to Swallow Gorge (Tunnel of Nine Turns) and have a look at the magnificent geological formations and, as the name says, the swallows. There is a restaurant there too where you can stop for lunch. Continue further down the road for the Lushui Trail, but just do the short hike that doesn’t require a permit. One kilometer further is the last stop: Xiangde Temple. If you have time left and the trail is open, you can finish the day with the Baiyang Trail where at the end is a beautiful waterfall. 

How to Get to Taroko National Park from Taipei: Getting to Taroko National Park for a day trip is best done by car as driving in Taiwan is easy. Alternatively, you can go on an organized tour too, which gives you less flexibility since you have to stick to the planned itinerary. However, if you don’t have a car, it’s the only way to visit Taroko in a day trip, so check out tour details here.

If driving yourself, keep in mind that the drive takes about 2 and a half hours, so it’s best to leave Taipei at 6 AM so you can start at 9 AM when the park opens. Start at the visitor’s center to buy your ticket and map and go from there to each spot. Parking is available everywhere, and keep in mind you will be driving back in the dark as you need all the daylight hours to explore the park.

Wanli Beach & Yehliu Geopark

Contributed by Emily of Wander-Lush

Both located on Taiwan’s northeast coast, Wanli Beach and Yehliu Geopark can easily be combined to make a quirky day trip from Taipei.

Just half-an-hour by bus from the city, Wanli is a resort destination with a white sand beach. It’s also known for its ‘UFO Village’. The collection of futuristic Futuro and Venturo houses were designed by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen and constructed in the 1970s.

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Most of the UFO-shaped dwellings and pod houses now lie abandoned (the exact reason why the village was vacated is still a point of conjecture), making Wanli a paradise for urbexers. Inside, some have original 1970s furnishings, homewares and possessions (including VHS tapes) still lying about. Take care when exploring, especially if you go inside any of the pods.

After spending a few hours wandering around Wanli, continue north along the coastal road. You can either re-board the same bus, or walk like I did, stopping in at fishing villages and lookout points along the way. After 4km you’ll reach Yehliu (Yeliou) and its famous geopark.

Yehliu is crowded with odd rock formations, many of which resemble human or animal forms. The boardwalks and pathways that lead visitors along the cape are usually jam-packed, especially on weekends. Entrance to the Geopark costs around 2 USD.

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How to Get to Wanli from Taipei: Take bus 1815 from Taipei City Hall and get off when you see the Howard Greenbay Resort Hotel. The UFO Village is tucked just behind the hotel on the beachfront. From Yehliu, you can take a bus 1815 back to Taipei City Hall.

Tamsui Old Street

Contributed by Constance of The Adventures of Panda Bear

Tamsui has a super interesting history and is one of the best places to visit as a day trip in Taipei, especially if you’re spending a long weekend in Taipei. The town of Tamsui, sits at the mouth of the Tamsui River, for which it is named. It began as an aboriginal settlement, but in the 17th century, the Spanish arrived and built the first non-aboriginal settlement at and around Fort San Domingo.

In the mid-1600s, the Dutch arrived and expelled the Spanish. They renamed Fort San Domingo to Fort San Anthonio and encouraged settlement by Han Chinese from mainland China and about 30 years later, the Dutch were defeated and left the area. After this, the population of Chinese continued to grow and it became a major fishing and trading port with mainland China.

Aside from its remarkable history, Fort San Domingo has also become a tourist site in Tamsui. The complex is located on the hillside of Tamsui, it is one of the most recognizable buildings due to its red brick facade. Today, the main building is a museum and there are cannons placed around the property. There are also Dutch clogs you can stick your feet in for the perfect Dutch photo-op.


Be sure to also check out Tamsui Old Street. This street is similar to a boardwalk where you can shop for souvenirs, grab amazing street eats, and also explore more of the town. Some of the most famous foods from Tamsui can be found here, such as the iron egg (a preserved quail egg), “ah gei” (tofu fishcake filled with mung bean vermicelli), and freshly made fishballs.

How to Get to Tamsui from Taipei: Part of the greater Taipei City, Tamsui can be easily reached by the MRT subway system. Simply take the Tamsui-Xinyi (Red) Line to the last stop, Tamsui Station.

Wulai

While not far from Taipei since it’s technically part of New Taipei City, Wulai takes about an hour to get to from Taipei so I’m considering it a day trip. Wulai is famous for its hot springs and indigenous culture, all set along a brilliantly turquoise river bisecting the town, so it’s a fascinating and incredibly relaxing day trip from Taipei.

The primary reason to visit Wulai is to relax in the natural geothermic waters at one of the many beautiful spas (the most highly recommended is Volado Urai). You can either enjoy just the hot springs or also add on an afternoon tea or meal to your experience.

If you’re on a budget, there are also free public hot springs you can access. Cross the bridge after Wulai Old Street, turn right, and walk up the road until you reach a stairway down to the river and signage for the outdoor public hot springs area.

Besides enjoying a natural thermal spa, you can check out the Wulai Atayal Museum, which tells the history and present of the indigenous Atyal people, who perform traditional songs from their culture. Admission is free.

Don’t miss the beautiful Wulai waterfall, a 20-minute walk from Wulai Old Street. At a whopping 80 meters, it’s one of the tallest and most beautiful waterfalls in Taiwan.

How to Get to Wulai from Taipei: If you book with a hot spring resort, there are shuttle buses every 1.5-2 hours from Taipei to Wulai and vice versa. For example, Volado Urai Resort runs their own shuttle buses included in the ticket price, which leave from the centrally-located Xindian MRT stop in Taipei. You can also take this shuttle (schedule here) for 50 Taiwanese dollars (less than $2 USD) even if you are not a guest of their resort.

Alternately, from Xindian Station, there is a bus to Wulai which takes about 40 minutes and costs 15 Taiwanese dollars, about 50 cents.

Qiandao Lake & Pinglin Tea Plantation

If the hustle and bustle of Taipei is getting to you, then just a mere __ minutes away, you’ll be able ot unwind at the gorgeous Qiandao Lake. It’s nicknamed “Thousand Island Lake” because the rolling green hills surrounding the lake give it the illusion of having a handful of floating miniature islands.

This part of Taiwan is the heart of Taiwanese tea culture, so aftewards you can explore Pinglin Tea Plantation and learn about the history and cultivation of tea in Taiwan. The mountains combined with the beautifully terraced tea plantations are a perfect respite from the city vibes of Taipei.

There’s also the educational Pinglin Tea Museum, where you can taste several local teas (some of the most famous teas in Taiwan!) and learn from a tea expert about the exact specifics on how to brew the ideal pot of tea.

How to Get to Qiandao from Taipei: A guided tour of Qiandao & Pinglin is probably the best way to visit Qiandao, but there is a public transportation option. From the Xindian MRT station, you can take the #12 bus to Shiding to the Shisangu bus stop, and walk down the hill from there. However, I haven’t tried it, so I’d probably book a tour instead.

Keelung

One of the closest cities to Taipei, a day trip to Keelung is an easy addition to any Taipei itinerary. Keelung is a port city most famous for its delicious seafood as well its vibrant night markets and fish market. Whereas many of the night markets in Taipei have become a slightly touristy affair, the night market in Keelung is mostly frequented by locals.

There are a few interesting things to do in Keelung, including the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial in Zhongzheng Park, the abandoned Qingyu Hall, and of course, the Night Market for which it is best known. I recommend doing a walking tour of Keelung in order to get to know the city, its sights, and its history better.

And of course, if you’re a foodie, you won’t want to miss a night market food tour while in Keelung!

How to Get to Keelung from Taipei: It’s quite easy! Simply take any Keelung-bound train from Taipei Main Station, which will cost about 41 Taiwanese dollars (less than $2 USD). They leave about once every 20 minutes all throughout the day. You can also take the Kuo-Kuang Bus outside of Taipei Main Station (exit 3) for 55 Taiwanese dollars, which will also take you to Keelung.

Yangmingshan National Park

While also part of greater Taipei, getting to Yangmingshan takes a bit of effort and definitely feels like a true day trip from Taipei.

I visited using public transportation which I actually don’t recommend -.getting to the park was easy, but figuring out the shuttle bus that goes throughout the park was pretty inscrutable as a non-Chinese reading tourist. If I did it again, I would definitely go on a guided tour or shuttle to make the most of my time.

A few highlights of Yangmingshan include the hike to Mount Qixing, the highest volcano in all of Taiwan at 1,120 meters. It’s not for the faint of heart – we started this hike but because we started too late in the day in th emiddle of winter, we had to abandon the hike about halfway up as otherwise we’d be ascending in total darkness.

A few other points of interest are the Milk Lake, the sulphur fumaroles, and the many thermal hot springs that dot the volcanic area around Yangmingshan.

How to Get to Yangmingshan from Taipei: In my opinion, the best value option is the shuttle bus. This shuttle takes you from downtown Taipei to the following locations: the geological park Xiaoyoukeng, the stunning valley of Bamboo Lake, the pleasant hot springs at Lengshuikeng and the unique lava field landscape of Qingtiangang Grassland.

Other options include taking a tour that includes a private hot spring and nature walk, or taking a day of luxury to relax in the white sulphur hot springs at Tien Lai resort in Yangmingshan National Park, shuttle included.

If you just want to explore the park independently, you can take the MRT to Jiantan stop (1 before Shilin) then take the red bus #5 or small bus #S15 or #S17 to Yangmingshan. However, once in the park, I found it kind of confusing to get around, so leave early in the day and allow yourself plenty of time to figure out the transportation or walk between destinations.

Taichung

While of course, I’m of the opinion that Taichung deserves a few days of its own, it still isn’t a bad idea to make a day trip from Taipei using the high speed rail if you have a limited amount of time in Taichung. Using the high speed train, you can get from Taipei to Taichung in a mere 55 minutes. Just know that the high speed train station is a bit outside of Taichung City in Wurih, so you will want to use a taxi or public bus to get into Taichung proper.

A few things worth seeing in Taichung: eating pineapple tarts from Miyahara, walking around the Taichung Cultural and Creative Industries Park (close to the regular train station), visiting the calm Taichung Park, the Fengjia Night Market, and of course — Rainbow Village, located about a 20-minute cab ride outside the city.

How to Get to Taichung from Taipei: Take the high speed train from either Taipei Main Sation or Banquiao. The train will take less than an hour and cost around 670-750 Taiwanese dollars, around $21-24 each way. I actually recommend getting a 3 Day THSR Tourist Pass, as it’s not much more expensive and will enable you to visit Taichung as well as Kaohsiung, Chiayi, Taoyuan, and many other places along Taiwan’s densely populated West Coast. If you have more time, a 5 Day TR/THSR Pass may be an even better value if you are planning on visiting a lot of places from Taipei! Do the math on where you want to go and check that it’s worthwhile.

Kaohsiung

Even though this city is nearly 400 kilometers away, it’s actually only 90 minutes by high speed rail, making this an easy day trip from Taipei!

Kaohsiung has so much to offer: the beautiful, photogenic Lotus Pond, the delicious Liuhe Night Market, the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas, the Takao Consulate, the Chimei Museum, the 85 Sky Tower, and so much more. You definitely could spend a. few days in Kaohsiung, but it is also quite doable as a day trip if you have limited time in Taiwan and want to use Taipei as your base.

If you love colorful places, don’t miss the Formosa Boulevard MRT Station, one of the most beautiful subway stops in the world.

How to Get to Kaohsiung from Taipei: Go to Taipei Main Station or Banquiao to take the High Speed Train to Kaohsiung, which will take about 90 minutes and cost around 1500 Taiwanese dollars ($48 USD). Because it’s an expensive ticket, I recommend just buying the 3-day unlimited pass which will already save you money on just the roundtrip high-speed train ticket, as well as giving you another two days to explore other cities on the high speed network — a fantastic deal.

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Vietnam Packing List: What to Wear & Pack for Vietnam in All Seasons

Vietnam can be a bit tricky to pack for. As a long, thin country with both mountains and beaches, the weather is quite different in the North and South, and on the beach versus in the highlands.

It’s worth remembering that the North of Vietnam borders China, which has downright frigid winters. Add altitude to that and you may be shocked at how cold Vietnam can get at times compared to other Southeast Asian countries, which are pretty much perpetual summer.

I visited Sa Pa in August a few years ago, and even in the middle of summer, it was freezing cold at night and I found myself seriously wishing that my hotel had heating.

Central Vietnam does not get so cold in the winter like Hanoi and Sapa do, so if you’re planning on cities like Hue, Da Nang and Hoi An, you’ll be spared somewhat of the winter cold. Generally, the temperatures in Central Vietnam are somewhat in between North and South. Generally, it will be hot year-round in Central Vietnam, with a rainy season from September to January.

Meanwhile, Saigon (aka Ho Chi Minh City) is pretty much hot and sweltering at any time of year, with the only fluctuations being the likeliness of rain and just how ungodly the humidity levels are (hint: they’re the worst in April, but it’s humid all year round).

Rainy season runs, roughly, from May to October with drier weather from November to April. However, having just come back from a trip to Vietnam in November, there were definitely quite a few thunderstorms and downpours even in the purported “dry season” – so you’re going to want to be prepared for rain no matter what.

Don’t freak out if you see that it’s supposed to rain for every day of your Vietnam trip. Typically, rain storms in Vietnam last about 1-2 hours and feel like a dam is bursting in the sky… and then the sun comes out to dry everything up freakishly fast and the humidity level is actually lovely for a few wonderful hours before it gets soupy again. That said, you never know – when I was in Sa Pa it was raining buckets every day in August, which made for some fun hiking experiences. Plot twist: It was not fun.

Basically, I would advise packing for as many contingencies as you can without overburdening your bag. This packing list is assuming you’re spending at least a week in Vietnam, traveling North to South.

If you are spending the majority of your trip up North in the winter, throw in a few more long sleeve T-shirts and maybe an extra pair of pants. On a similar token, if you’re only visiting South and Central Vietnam, you can skip some of the layers I recommend, though do bring at least a cardigan or something as the air conditioning in a lot of Vietnam can be… aggressive.

If traveling in the North, mountains, or winter months, be sure to throw in a few extra lightweight layers – and waterproof the hell out of everything.

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Wondering what to pack for Vietnam? I've got you covered with these Vietnam packing list for winter, summer, wet season and dry season. From the cool rainy weather of Sapa to the warm beaches in the south to the buzzy humid cities of Hanoi and Saigon, this is what to wear in Vietnam for women and men .
Wondering what to pack for Vietnam? I've got you covered with these Vietnam packing list for winter, summer, wet season and dry season. From the cool rainy weather of Sapa to the warm beaches in the south to the buzzy humid cities of Hanoi and Saigon, this is what to wear in Vietnam for women and men .

What to Pack for Vietnam

What to Pack Everything In

I’ve been traveling for the better part of three years and my packing gear is always the same – a carry-on sized backpack from Tortuga organized with packing cubes, as well as a daypack with all my electronics and smaller items. However, I know that for some people, carrying a backpack is neither desirable nor practical, so if that applies to you, feel free to skip past my backpack recommendation.

However, let me just say that a backpack is ideal for Vietnam for a few reasons. For one, sidewalks in Vietnam are not always a given. If you try to walk with your luggage in Vietnam, you may find yourself dragging a rolling suitcase through a street as motorbikes zoom past you. The streets can also be a bit dirty because of litter and bike exhaust, so I don’t know that I’d love to roll my bag with all my clothes through it, especially if it is raining and the streets get particularly grimy.

However, most of these issues can be avoided by just taking a cheap taxi – just make sure you ask your hotel to call you a taxi or learn the reputable companies and how to spot a fake so that you don’t get taken for a fool. I got scammed a few times my first time in Vietnam and not at all my second, so partly it’s knowing what to look for and partly it’s luck of the draw.

Supposedly, Hanoi is the worst for taxi scams and my experience certainly supports that. I took Mai Linh taxis in Hanoi with no problems, and Vinasun Taxi in Saigon (and the occasional Mai Linh), and had good experiences. Grab is an app that works like Uber and is also great for avoiding scams – just hire a Grab Car instead of a Grab Bike if you are traveling with luggage, obviously.

Trust me – you don’t want to try crossing a street in Vietnam with a suitcase!
  • Travel backpack (carry on size or check-in size): I always use my Tortuga Setout Backpack so that I can avoid checking in my luggage, both to avoid fees and long waits for my luggage after a flight when I’m antsy as hell and just want to get to my destination/bowl of noodles. I’ve had this bag of a version thereof for several years and absolutely recommend them – they’re the only backpack I’ve used over the last 3 years of extremely frequent travel, including several month-long backpacking trips.
    • Why do I recommend Tortuga so much? Here’s why: this bag is 45L and has got three main compartments: one for a laptop and other flat objects, one giant rectangular compartment perfect for packing cubes stuffed with clothing, and one smaller compartment with pockets for passports, pens, odds and ends, etc. that I stash all my extras in – plus one small outer zipper pocket for anything you want quick access to. It also has a water bottle holder on the outside as well as buckles so that you can strap something like a yoga mat to the outside. Plus, it’s quite comfortable to wear, with a padded hip belt and comfort-molding shoulder straps complete with a chest strap so that you can distribute weight perfectly across your body in the event that you need to wear your backpack for longer than usual. Check out more specs and details here.
    • However, if you are planning a longer trip and want a bigger backpack, I’ve heard only positive things about the Osprey backpack , so if I were going to upgrade my backpack capacity, that’s the brand I would go with. Of course, you could always just bring a suitcase as well. I don’t travel with a suitcase anymore for the reasons I listed above, but I have on occasion used hard sided luggage with spinners and I much prefer that to the older two-wheel suitcases that you have to drag behind you.
  • A rain cover for your backpack: I’ll be honest, I actually don’t have one of these because I am a horribly irresponsible person, but every single time I see a person with a backpack proudly trudging through the rain with a rain cover on, clearly not frantically panicking about the state of their electronics the way that I am, I vow to get one. Be like them, not like me. I’m a failure of an adult. This rain cover looks to have good reviews but again, terrible at adulting, 1/10 barely remember to feed myself, so do your own research if you’re so inclined. Alternately, the Outbreaker Tortuga Backpack is water-resistant, so that’d also be a good choice for rainy Vietnam.
  • Packing cubes: Whether you pack for Vietnam with a suitcase or a backpack, I definitely recommend packing cubes. Most people who visit Vietnam visit several cities during their trip or make their way from North to South via the excellent train system (seriously, guys, their trains are the best) or vice versa. Since you’ll need to pack and repack your bag several times if you do this, packing cubes make the organization so much easier. Plus, as it keeps your clothes rolled neatly, it prevents wrinkles and makes sure you’re utilizing your space the best way possible.  I use these packing cubes and love them, but packing cubes are pretty much idiot-proof – they are just a bag with a zipper, really – so anything will do.
  • Laundry bag: In addition to packing cubes, I also like to bring a laundry bag to separate out my dirty clothing from my clean clothes. Laundry in Vietnam is insanely cheap – about $1 USD per kilo – so do it and do it often, and save yourself some room in your suitcase or backpack. While you could certainly just reuse a plastic bag for this purpose, I do like having a cute one like this travel-themed one from Kikkerland though, because I’m impractical.
  • Hanging Toiletry Bag: I tend to pack a lot of toiletries with me because this is one area where I find it hard to claim my “light traveler” status. I can’t help it, I’m vain. I use a hanging toiletry bag to pack them in an organized way that takes up minimal space. It has the perfect number of separators, organizers, and pockets without taking up any excess space. It’s kind of a magical Mary Poppins bag – you’d be amazed at how many travel-sized toiletries you can fit in it and unlike other bags, it zips up flat like a bulky manila envelope, so it is really easy to slide into your backpack or suitcase without being a weird bulky shape that makes bags annoyingly hard to close. Love!
  • Backpack with locking zippers: To me, this is a non-negotiable for Vietnam, as my daypack was nearly pickpocketed in broad daylight walking around the popular Turtle Lake in Hanoi – luckily, my friend caught the would-be thief and slapped his prying hand away!! In a funny plot twist, the thwarted thief then walked briskly in front of us, whipped out his junk, and peed on a tree, because I guess that’s a way to make it seem like you had no intentions of pickpocketing someone? Sigh. Anyway, I bought this exact backpack after my trip and I’ve brought it to 30+ countries ever since because it is the best thing ever. I used it again on my most recent trip to Vietnam and was so thankful I had it. While I didn’t have any close calls in Saigon like I did in Hanoi last time, I think it’s because my backpack’s locking zippers make it clear to a potential thief that I am not a target to be f#*&ed with. It’s visibly quite difficult to get into this backpack with its double-locking zipper (the zippers interlock, and then you can place them through a gold clasp that is not only super cute but also insanely secure). Plus, it’s slashproof and since it’s worn on your back, it’s not as susceptible to the dreaded motorbike snatch-and-grab tactic that unfortunately is quite common in Vietnam. I swear by PacSafe for the combination of functionality and cute aesthetics, and I love their PacSafe Citysafe backpack. It’s actually cute in addition to having all the baller security features that make you feel pretty much impervious to theft (though still, you should definitely be careful with your belongings everywhere!). If you’re curious to learn more, I have a full review here – not sponsored, just irrationally obsessed.
Me and my lovable travel daypack in the Faroe Islands

Essential Things to Pack for Vietnam

I find Vietnam a bit more difficult to shop in than other countries. While there are certainly malls and convenience stores, the majority of shopping takes place on the street and in informal markets. While this is a cool cultural experience, it also makes simple things like restocking a shampoo you forgot to buy a little more difficult. Other things, like lightweight clothing (long live elephant pants?) and accessories like bags and sunglasses, are much easier to stock up on.

  • Travel insurance: Travel insurance isn’t mandatory for Vietnam, but in my book, it is. My friend got a particularly bad strain of food poisoning in Sa Pa when we visited several years back and ended up checking herself into a private hospital to rehydrate and check that it wasn’t anything more serious. Without insurance, that would have been a $500+ bill, but as she had travel insurance she was entirely covered. Road safety is also not fantastic in Vietnam, with 45 million motorbikes in the country all vying for space on busy streets and overnight buses with questionable safety standards. Crossing the stret in Vietnam is a Frogger-esque mission and I’m always glad to have insurance for peace of mind. While I haven’t had any problems in Vietnam personally, I would never travel there without insurance. I used World Nomads on my most recent trip to Vietnam, as I do with all my trips, and highly recommend them. You can get a free quote here.
  • Lonely Planet Vietnam: While obviously, I do a lot of research on blogs, I also like to have a digital copy of a Lonely Planet loaded up on my Kindle. It is more comprehensive than blog posts, which often give good information and firsthand experience, but sometimes don’t go beyond surface depth or top 10s. I like planning with a balance of both.
  • Kindle loaded with e-books: If you are traveling between cities in Vietnam by train or bus, you’ll find yourself with a lot of spare time. For travel, my Kindle Paperwhite is my best friend. Buy several books before you go so that you won’t run out of things to read and get bored! It’s not easy to find English language books in Vietnam, generally, so a Kindle is the way to go.
  • Contact lenses and solution, if necessary: It is not easy to restock contacts or even contact lens solution in Vietnam outside of major cities, so I recommend bringing more than you need for your stay. I’d also bring glasses as back-up, because all the exhaust from the motorbikes can irritate your eyes if you are a contacts wearer.
  • All your toiletries and cosmetics: It is unpredictable what international brands you will be able to find in Vietnam so I just say assume you won’t be able to find anything you need and bring all you need from home. While you can find things like sunscreen, shampoo, etc. if you are in any way particular about what brands you like to use, I’d bring it from home. In particular, Vietnam loads nearly all their beauty products, including sunscreens and moisturizers and deodorants, with toxic whitening agents as the country (similar to many other Asian countries) has a huge obsession with skin bleaching. So, bring what you need for your trip!
  • Sunscreen: The sun in Vietnam is no joke and sunscreen is not always the easiest thing to find. Vietnamese people tend to physically cover themselves from the sun with long sleeves and pants rather than wear sunscreen. Plus a lot of the sunscreen you will find has nasty whitening agents in it. To find the kind of sunscreen you’re after, you’ll have to find sunscreen in touristic areas and it likely will be overpriced. Personally, I love this  solid sunscreen stick from Neutrogena because I always max out on my liquid toiletry allotment…  but also need SPF 70 because I’m half ghost.
  • Mosquito repellent: Vietnam has seriously persistent mosquitos, especially in the rainy season and the time immediately afterwards. I definitely recommend bringing some strong mosquito repellent from home as again, it’s not the easiest thing to find in Vietnam. Vietnam has an extremely low chance of malaria (mostly in the Mekong Delta – cities are safe) but there is definitely a big problem with dengue fever, which is definitely NOT enjoyable according to my friends who have contracted it in Southeast Asia over the years. Be safe and don’t slack on the mosquito repellent. Dengue mosquitos bite during the day, so you’ll want to wear repellent pretty much all day and not just at dusk or night when other, less-diseasey-but-still-annoying mosquitos come out to play. I bring a bottle of spray, but I also like to keep a few of these super-handy mosquito repellent wipes with me if I need to reapply on the go. I also highly recommend bringing some After Bite mosquito bite treatment since it’s inevitable some of those buggers will get you at one point and this will take some of the sting out of the itch, though this won’t prevent any potential illnesses or infections as a result of bites.
  • Water bottle with built-in filter: Vietnam’s tap water is definitely not drinkable, so if you are concerned about plastic consumption – and you should be – I recommend purchasing a Lifestraw water bottle with a filtration system inside of it that gets rid of 99.9% of nasty bacteria and viruses. Another option is the Steripen, which uses UV light to sterilize tap water. The bonus of a Steripen is that you can also use it in juices or smoothies that you aren’t sure are made with safe water, though I never got sick from drinking any smoothies or juices or drinks with ice during my time in Vietnam.
  • Bandana or face mask: If you are sensitive to constant exhaust, a bandana or face mask will come in handy – you’ll see people with face masks pretty much everywhere in Vietnam. I didn’t use it often but it was nice to have my bandana a few times when I rode motorbike taxis with Grab – the air quality especially in Saigon is not great and you get hit with the brunt of it when you’re on the back of a motorbike zipping through the city.
  • Basic medicine: While Vietnam will likely have most medicine you need, I still always stand by having a basic first aid and medicine kit for common travel woes – especially stomach medicine, as I find a lot of countries don’t have my preferred medicine (salicylate bismuth, aka Pepto) and instead have things like activated charcoal which work okay but not nearly as well as Pepto for me, personally. Here’s what’s in my arsenal for every trip and what I brought to Vietnam:  Pepto-Bismol tablets for standard stomach troubles, Imodium as a nuclear option for diarrhea or severe food poisoning, some sort of painkiller like ibuprofen for headaches and minor pains, and some sort of motion sickness tablets. Of course, if you have any specific medical needs, you will want to bring that as well, especially anything that may require a prescription.

What to Wear in Vietnam (For Women)

This part of my Vietnam packing list is specific to women, so men, feel free to skip this part and go on to the next section, where I attempt to guess what you should bring.

Vietnam is culturally a bit conservative, despite the heat, so I try to wear slightly longer dresses and skirts in general and nothing too skimpy. Leave your tiny tank tops, short shorts, and minidresses at home and opt for cool fabrics that are slightly longer but still thin and breathable. I actually find that I feel cooler when I am wearing longer, loose skirts and

Saigon is a little less conservative than Hanoi, but still, people tend to cover up even in the heat.
  • 3-5 lightweight summer dresses: Dresses are great for Vietnamese weather, plus they pack up small, so bring as many as you can get away with. Aim for something that hits around the knee (a few inches shorter is fine, but avoid tiny mini dresses). I love maxis and midi dresses for this climate.
  • 5+ tees & tanks: You will sweat a lot, so opt for black, navy, and other dark colors. Yes, they attract heat, but they also avoid the telltale yellow pit stains that seem to be my constant vibe whenever I attempt to wear white.
  • 1 pair jeans: If you travel in northern Vietnam in the winter months (November to February, roughly) you may want jeans for cooler days and nights. And if you visit the highlands (Da Lat, Sa Pa) at all, jeans will come in handy. I also recommend picking up a few pairs of loose cotton pants when you arrive in Vietnam, which can be bought for around $5 USD a pair or less.
  • 1-2 pairs thin cotton leggings: Great for making yourself less appetizing to mosquitos at night and also for cooler nights up north or in the mountains
  • 1-2 long-sleeve tees or thermals, if traveling in the north’s winter, or in the mountains.
  • 2-3 skirts: I suggest bringing one black skirt and one printed skirt for flexibility. I especially love having midi or maxi length skirts, which feel great and coincidentally look nice in photos! As a bonus, the extra fabric around your legs traps some cool air, making you feel less hot.
  • 1 pair sneakers: Vietnamese streets are generally quite dusty and dirty, so I found that I liked having a pair of lightweight closed-toe shoes that were comfortable to wear for long stretches when I planned to walk a lot. I usually wear a pair of black Nikes as I find they look cute even worn with my dresses and I’m all about having options.
  • Moisture-wicking socks, preferably made of wool or something that is odor-absorbent like these ones from Smartwool
  • 1-2 pairs sandals: I suggest bringing one pair of rubber flip flops like these Havaianas and another pair of more stylish or dressy sandals. I’m obsessed with my Birkenstocks and will never go back. These are great for when it’s just too hot to put on sneakers, and rubber flip flops are great for days when rain is in the forecast.
  • 1 rain jacket: Even if you don’t plan on traveling in the rainy season, trust me, the rain in Vietnam often has other plans – namely, ruining yours. I love my Marmot rain jacket and bring it with me on every trip because it packs up small and offers pretty much complete waterproofing. Plus the underarms have zippers underneath which you can open, making the jacket more breathable, which is a must in humid Vietnam.
  • 1 cardigan: Great for if you travel in the winter months in the North or anywhere in the highlands, and also good for buses with overzealous air conditioning in summer. Trust me, even though it seems like the weather in Vietnam would make a cardigan ridiculous, you’ll use it at least once on your trip. And in a pinch, it makes an awesome travel pillow.
  • 1-2 bras: I personally brought 1 regular bra and 1 sports bra and switched between the two, but the cleaner people amongst us may object to that and want to bring more. You do you.
  • 7+ pairs of underwear: Laundry is so cheap in Vietnam that it’s silly to bring too much, but I like having about a week’s worth of underwear so I don’t always have to plan out my laundry days.
  • Bathing suit: If you plan on going to Da Nang, Nha Trang, the islands, or anywhere beachy or with a pool, you’ll definitely want a bathing suit. If a lot of your trip is on the beach, you should bring two bathing suits so one can dry overnight and you can use the other the next day. High humidity means that wet things often take a while to dry out, and nothing is grosser feeling to me than putting on a wet swimsuit, so having 2 is key.

What to Wear in Vietnam (For Men)

Full disclosure, I am not a dude. But if I was, this is what I would bring, I guess.

  • 1 pair jeans
  • 1-2 pairs thin, lightweight travel-friendy men’s pants
  • 2-3 pairs shorts
  • 7+ pairs underwear
  • flip flops
  • comfortable walking sandals
  • sneakers
  • a few pairs of moisture-wicking socks
  • sturdy waterproof rain jacket
  • swim trunks
  • sweater for colder weather + too much AC

What to Pack for a Hostel in Vietnam

If you’re backpacking through Vietnam, there are a few extra things that you should bring that you might not need if you were staying in hotels.

  • 1 pair flip flops: For communal bathrooms, you’re definitely going to want a pair of flip flops to avoid funky foot issues!
  • 1 travel towel: Some hostels will provide a towel, but it’s not always a given. You can usually rent one for a small fee, but I find it handy to carry my own XL quick-dry travel towel – they fold up quite small, are great for beach days, and are generally just a nice thing to have.
  • 1 eye mask: Great for when you want to sleep but your roommates don’t!
  • Some earplugs or good noise-canceling headphones: Vietnam is a LOUD country, even – especially – in the mornings, when the motorbikes start to roar to life around 5 AM. I love Hearos — they’re the gold standard for ear plugs.

What Toiletries to Pack for Vietnam

Basically, anything you use on a daily/weekly basis you will need to bring with you, as Vietnam is not the easiest country to stock up on familiar brands in. I went into a little more detail above in the “essentials section,” but here are a few more ideas.

Hand sanitizer is always a good idea when you travel, especially in Vietnam!
  • Hand sanitizer: I sometimes found that bathrooms in restaurants or cafés didn’t have soap, so I was glad to have hand sanitizer.
  • Kleenex packets: Like above — public restrooms may be lacking in the toilet paper department, so having some Kleenex in a portable sleeve is always a good move. Vietnam is also land of the “bum gum” – aka, a water gun that you use to er, hose yourself down, rather than use toilet paper. While this is definitely more eco-friendly, I find it hard to go without toilet paper, having grown up with it. For that reason, I bring some Kleenex with me as a replacement for TP if I need it.
  • LUSH solid shampoo: Life-changing. Just trust me.
  • Sunscreen: Vietnam is sunny AF and sunscreen without whitening agents can be hard to find. My skin is really sensitive on my face, so I use this fancy Japanese sunscreen to prevent acne, and a general sunscreen for my body.
  • Travel medications: I listed them above, but just to reiterate — stomach medicine, motion sickness pills, and some sort of painkiller are my standards.

Electronics to Pack for Vietnam

Vietnam is generally safe for travelers, but you’ll want to really mind your smartphone if you bring it. Motorbike thieves who target tourists using their smartphones on the street are a big problem in the major cities. At the guesthouse that I stayed at in Saigon recently, a girl had her phone snatched from her hand two days prior.

Never get out your phone to use while facing the street! Instead, walk back from the curb quite a bit so that it’d be hard for anyone on a bike coming through to snag it, and just keep your wits about you. Yet another reason to have travel insurance. World Nomad (the company I use) has two levels of coverage, one which protects you at up to $500 per item and one at up to $1500 per item, so if you have an especially pricey smartphone (looking at you, iPhone X users who I am endlessly jealous of) or camera you may want to go for the upper tier of coverage due to the relatively increased threat of theft. Again, you can get a free quote here.

Never get out your phone on a busy street, especially night, unless you are a few feet away from the bike traffic!
  • Laptop, if necessary: I bring my Macbook Air everywhere but other people may prefer a tablet or an inexpensive netbook. I work on the road so a user-friendly, lightweight laptop is a must.
  • Unlocked smartphone: Despite my warnings about phone snatching, I still think that’s no reason to leave your phone at home. I loved having a SIM card in Vietnam – they are insanely cheap (I paid about $5 USD for a month of basically unlimited data, 4 gigs of data per day!) and allow you to look things up on the road, hire a cheap taxi via Grab, order delivery, etc.
  • Kindle Paperwhite: Books are heavy and often hard to find exactly what you want on the road. I love the Kindle Paperwhite because the screen is glare-free, making it easy to read at the beach or in direct sunlight.
  • Travel camera: I use a Sony A6000 because it’s lightweight for a professional caliber camera, inexpensive, and a HUGE step up from a smartphone. You may want to replace this or add a GoPro if you are doing adventurous activities on your trip.
  • Portable charger: I like to carry a portable charger everywhere I travel and Vietnam is no exception.
  • Adaptor, if necessary: Vietnam is super convenient for plugs, actually, as their outlets accept both US + European prongs – I tested both as my electronics are a mix, and both worked fine. If you are from the UK you’ll need adaptors. If you have an adaptor, bring one anyway, just in case!

***

Well, nearly 5,000 words later, I think I’ve finally exhausted all the things you need to bring for Vietnam. While this sounds like a lot, I was able to fit it all into a 44L backpack (carry-on size) and daypack because I chose lightweight fabrics and packed carefully.

Is there anything I’ve forgotten? Is there anything else you’re wondering if you should bring to Vietnam? Let me know in the comments!

15 Interesting Things to Do in Saigon (AKA Ho Chi Minh City)

Saigon (also called Ho Chi Minh City) is a vibramt, dynamic city that is the heart of Southern Vietnam. While Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and the most important city of the north, Saigon is the largest city in all of Vietnam and also the busiest and most bustling.

Saigon is a city people either love or hate. There’s a lot going on there – the constant motorbike traffic and the ever-present smog accompanying them, the litter on the streets and the general loudness of the city, especially in the morning. But in spite of Saigon’s flaws, I found myself loving the city, enthralled by its constant hum and rhythms.

In Saigon, I loved how sunset didn’t mark a time of quiet and people hurrying indoors off the streets but rather a time of renewed energy and focus. The punishing sun finally down, the humidity slackening just a bit, Vietnamese people of all ages would grab a plastic chair, sit in an alley, and laugh and drink into the late night hours. Contrast this with the winter in Bulgaria that I was escaping, and you’ll see why I found Saigon such a treasure.

Meanwhile, the people of Saigon are in my opinion its greatest asset. I had some challenges on my first visit to Vietnam, particularly in Hanoi. I was nearly pickpocketed in broad daylight walking in a city park – mere hours after I was scammed by a taxi driver, overcharged nearly 20 times the amount the ride should have been. While of course you can’t judge a city of millions by the actions of a few assholes, I did find Saigon people to be far more pleasant to tourists – less bent on fleecing tourists, more friendly and free with their smiles, more honest. I spent three weeks solely in Saigon with not one issue, taking a few minor precautions which I’ll go into detail on shortly. 

One quick word on the city’s name: The city is officially known as Ho Chi Minh City, but many people still call it Saigon, and locals typically still call it Sài Gòn when speaking about their city. For stylistic purposes, I’ve primarily chosen to use the word Saigon, but I call the city by its official name (Ho Chi Minh City) at times in this post, in order to respect both points of view. Thanks for your understanding.

Get acquainted with the city on motorbike

Getting thrown headfirst into the crazy flow of Saigon traffic on the back of a motorbike is hands down one of the most fun things to do in Saigon! I booked a combination sightseeing and street food tour by motorbike, and it was a fantastic experience.

We tried bun bo hue (a spicier and more flavorful take on Vietnamese soup), visited the oldest apartment block in Saigon, ate banh xeo (an enormous savory Vietnamese coconut pancake), visited a flower market and the Cambodian market, tasted a banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich) and headed to District 4 for some seafood BBQ.

It was a fantastic evening and despite the complete madness of Saigon traffic, I felt very safe with my experienced and very funny, friendly driver. Seriously, these guys drive in this traffic every day – you are in good hands! If you don’t have the money to spend on a street food/sightseeing tour, you can always just do as the locals do and hire a motorbike taxi for as little as 50 cents using Grab Bike! It was my primary way of getting around the city and while some of my drivers were a little less cautious than my driver was on my motorbike tour, it was always a lot of fun!

Take a cooking class at M.O.M. Cooking School

Salty, sweet, sour, full of umami, and a hint of spice:  it’s no wonder that Vietnamese food is some of my favorite in the world. So obviously, one of the top items on my list of things to do in Saigon was to take a cooking class! I took a class with M.O.M. Cooking School and had a fantastic experience – I’d highly recommend taking a class with them if you have any interest in cooking or bringing home some Vietnamese recipes, or just learning about Vietnamese culture in a hands-on way and getting a break from the relentless Saigon heat in an air-conditioned and comfortable kitchen.

Each cooking class lasts about 3 hours and covers 3 dishes. I learned to make pork and shrimp summer rolls (goi cuon) with a hoisin-peanut dipping sauce, fish-stuffed pumpkin blossoms with a fiery fish sauce-infused nuoc mam cham sauce, and the most delicious lemongrass and chili chicken stir-fried to be impossibly soft with the addition of coconut water. Most of the prep work was done for us, so we were able to focus on technique – so the fun stuff, basically!

The menu changes daily so if you have any dietary preferences or restrictions (or just want to know what you’ll cook in advance!) be sure to check on Klook. They’ll give you a sample menu of what dishes will be prepared on each day. If you’re a huge fan of Vietnamese cooking you could even go for more than one day and learn even more dishes as all 3 dishes you prepare change daily.

Pay your respects at the War Remnants Museum

While not an easy or light thing to do in Saigon, visiting this museum about the Vietnam war is essential viewing in my opinion — especially if you are American or are from a country that was allied with the Americans in the war. No matter what side of the ideological divide you fall on, you can respect the senseless loss of human life and the ongoing tragic impact this war has had on generations of Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians, Americans, and other victims of this brutal war.

The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City is an excellently laid-out museum, full of photographs and articles documenting the worst abuses of the Vietnam War. As an American, visiting this museum was hard, knowing the pain that my country inflicted on this country that is now welcoming me, but I know that the pain I felt in bearing witness to the awful acts my country committed is nothing compared to the pain of those who lost their limbs, their homes, their livelihoods, and their loved one as collateral during this war.

For me, it was particularly heartbreaking to see the effects of Agent Orange and dioxin on the population of Vietnam, and the effects it continues to have, causing birth defects and severe illnesses even in the fourth generation of survivors. There’s no doubt that the U.S. committed serious war crimes in Vietnam and that the war here was one of the biggest tragedies of the 20th century. It’s hard; it’s heavy; it’s essential to see in Ho Chi Minh City.

Seeing this museum then going into the streets of Ho Chi Minh City – where the locals welcome guests openly and proudly – can be a bit of a shock to the system, making you wonder if you deserve their kindness. It’s a dose of humility and an important reminder of the power of forgiveness and the human ability to survive.

Get lost in beautiful smells at the Ho Thi Ky Flower Market

Another stop on my motorbike tour, I loved visiting the Ho Thi Ky Flower Market in District 10. Our stop here was brief but definitely worth it, and if you’re a huge fan of flowers or want to bring something home to decorate your hotel room, it’s definitely worth a visit all on its own.

I learned that white and purple flowers together symbolize death and are the appropriate gift for a funeral – so don’t make that mistake when buying flowers if you’re trying to woo a Vietnamese girl or make a good impression on a host family!

My guide explained to me that many of the flowers come in daily from Da Lat, a mountainous region about 6-8 hours away by truck. Seeing the effort that these markets put in to constantly have fresh flowers, despite the punishing Saigon humidity, is really beautiful.

Walk over to the Cambodian Market

Just a short distance from the Ho Thi Ky Flower Market, you can find a local Cambodian market (Le Hong Phong Market), which is a little different than all the other markets in Saigon.

This was also a stop on the motorbike tour I did as it’s literally right next to the Cambodian Market – we walked over from the flower market. So if you’re traveling by Grab Bike or taxi, this is a great way to see two outer-district sights in one if you’re not going as part of a tour.

There’s a ton of delicious Cambodian food offerings here, as there is large Cambodian population living in Saigon, who fled the country during the genocidal reign of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. The market has been here since not long after, as the heart of the Cambodian refugee community, and it is now a spot for Vietnamese, Cambodians, and curious tourists who make the trek out to District 10 to explore.

Explore the vibrant craft beer scene

When I first visited Vietnam 4 years ago, craft beer wasn’t even a thing – it was pretty much just Tiger or Saigon everywhere you went. Now, there’s a number of excellent craft beer bars and even microbreweries located in the heart of Saigon.

I got the chance to visit three during my stay in Ho Chi Minh City – East West Brewing Company, BiaCraft, and Pasteur Street Brewing. While all were lovely and had different vibes and atmospheres, my favorite by far was Pasteur Street Brewing – don’t miss their jasmine beer, it’s so fantastic and delicious.

I wanted to write a guide to craft beer in Saigon… but my low alcohol tolerance, especially in the hot humid weather, meant this was a job better left for professionals! Check this post out for a complete guide to craft beer in Saigon.

Walk around Ben Thanh Market

This is the most popular market in Vietnam, and while it is touristy and slightly more expensive than other markets in Ho Chi Minh City, I think it’s still worth walking around. That’s mostly because it’s so close to many of the other sights that you will see in the center of Ho Chi Minh City, rather than of itself being essential viewing.

It’s a great place to buy Vietnamese souvenirs, if you have friends or family back home who you’re thinking of shopping for. Rather than get a kitschy T-shirt or, god forbid, a pair of elephant pants, here are a few authentic Vietnamese souvenirs that I recommend: Vietnamese drip coffee pots and Vietnamese coffee from the highlands (Da Lat), any sort of specialty cookware or non-perishable goods if you have a friend back home who loves cooking (or for yourself!), and an ao dai, a beautiful Vietnamese traditional dress-like garment typically worn over trousers.

See a piece of history at Independence Palace

Independence Palace is also called Reunification Palace – you’ll find that like Saigon itself, many things in this city have two names, an indicator that the North-South divide is not merely a thing of the past.

Whatever you call it, Independence/Reunification Palace is a must-see in Saigon, as one of the most famous buildings in the city. Tickets cost 40,000 dong, less than $2 USD. I visited right after it reopened at 1 PM and thought that was perfect, as it was pretty peaceful when I was there and easy to snap photos without massive groups of people crowding it. By the time I left, huge groups were arriving, so I think I had good timing.

The building looks as if it is standing still in time – its 1960s architecture along with its kitschy vintage furnishings have barely changed since the tanks from the North arrived in 1975, when the city of Saigon officially fell. 

Personally, I regret not having an audio guide as I didn’t really know what I was looking at, even though it was visually interesting. I thought there might be more signage about why each room was important, and what was the general history of the place, but I didn’t find this to be true, so if I came back I’d spend the extra 50,000 or so dong on the audio guide. Alternately, you could visit it (alongside a lot of the other sights on this list, such as the Post Office Building and the Opera House, on a guided walking tour).

Notre Dame Basilica

Unfortunately under construction during my visit, I still think Notre Dame Basilica is well-worth a visit while in Ho Chi Minh City, especially given its prime location near Independence Palace and the beautiful Post Office building. In fact, it’d almost be harder to not visit Notre Dame than not!

Notre Dame has its roots in the French colonial period which is responsible for a lot of the architecture that you see in southern Vietnam, and it’s well worth making a small circuit when downtown to see the other French colonial buildings. I’ve included the Central Post office across the street, as well as the City Hall and Opera House in this post, but there are others – this can be done easily independently or with more context on a guided walking tour.

Saigon Central Post Office

I found this to be the most beautiful building in Ho Chi Minh City – but maybe it’s because my favorite color is yellow.

Located right across the street from Notre Dame Cathedral and truly in the heart of Saigon, Buu Dien (aka the Central Post Office) is so central that it’s almost impossible to miss.

Unfortunately, this gorgeous building has been thoroughly converted into a tourist mecca, with endless rows of booths selling tours and two souvenir shops. However, if you can look past the touristic angle and appreciate the beautiful architecture, I think it’s still worth visiting.

Admire the lovely Ho Chi Minh City Hall

Another colonial-era building from the early 1900s, it’s unfortunately not possible to go inside the City Hall as a tourist. While it’s still in use, it is strictly for civil servants and staff of the Peoples Committee in Ho Chi Minh City.

It was another one of my favorite buildings in Saigon and since it’s just a short walk from the Saigon Opera House it’s easy to tack on to your Saigon to do list.

See a show at the Saigon Opera House

One of the most essential places to visit in Saigon is the Saigon Opera House, which is both a prime example of the French colonial architecture but also one of the few colonial buildings still in use for its original function (or close to it) today.

The Saigon Opera House is home to the AO Show, a performance which combines elements of dance, circus arts, and a distinctly Vietnamese twist, as folk instruments, costumes, and bamboo are all utilized during the performance. Shows run just about daily at 6 PM so it’s a must-see in Saigon if you’re a lover of the arts.

You can see just a performance of the show or you can combine a showing with a dinner for an even more special night out! Whichever you pick, it’s a recipe for an incredibly memorable night out.

Drink some fantastic Vietnamese coffee

One of the most unmissable things to do in Ho Chi Minh City is indulge in the city’s coffee culture (though I have no idea if $nob Coffee is any good – I just thought it was hilarious).

The traditional way to drink coffee in Vietnam is over condensed milk either hot or cold – and in Saigon, you’re probably going to prefer cold, unless you’re a crazy person like my boyfriend who thinks iced coffee is the devil’s work.

I warn you, there’s nothing quite like the double-whammy of a shot of extremely concentrated coffee plus the sugar rush of all that condensed milk, so drink with caution or prepare to stay up all night!

Check out Saigon’s hidden Hindu temples

Vietnam is often associated with their own syncretic blend of religions that include Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism, with elements of folk religions mixed in.

But naturally, as Saigon is the most diverse city in Vietnam, there are plenty of religious buildings that don’t fall under the pagoda umbrella, such as Hindu Temples, Catholic churches, and even Islamic mosques.

There are actually a handful of Hindu temples right downtown. I particularly liked visiting Temple Goddess Mariamma, but Sri Thenday Yuttha Pani Temple is not far away, either.

Check out the Saigon City Museum (Gia Long Palace)

This museum traces the development of Saigon as a city, but in my opinion, the museum doesn’t quite reach its full potential. This is a city with so much history that it should be hard to tell a boring story about it – but the collection of artifacts inside don’t do justice to the tumult and changes that have marked Saigon since its early days.

So why am I even including this on a list of things to do in Ho Chi Minh City? Well, the building itself is absolutely gorgeous, and it’s super cheap to enter. The building was designed in 1887 by the very same French architect who designed the beautiful post office that’s now iconic of Saigon’s colonial style. However, its intended purpose (an exhibition hall) never came into fruition.

Instead, it was, at times, a lieutenant governor’s residence, the residence of Japanese occupiers, and then it was the residence of Emperor Bao Dai…. which promptly ended when the revolutionary Viet Minh, Ho Chi Minh’s crew, came in. Later, the British held it, then the French, and then eventually the South Vietnamese president…. before finally being part of the North’s sweep of the city during the fall of Saigon, and eventually being turned into a museum post-reunification.

Indulge in a spa day

Vietnam is one of my favorite places to indulge in a day of R&R and I took advantage of their affordable spa prices several times during my 3 weeks in Saigon.

Be cautious when booking a spa day – some spas are really, well, ‘massage parlors’, aka prostitutes. Always check the Google reviews and make sure it’s the kind of place you’re actually meaning to end up.

Another word of warning… many massage centers and spas offer insanely low prices when inviting you in (around $6-8 per hour for a foot massage, say) – then, after your massage, which may or may not have been satisfactory, demand tips of up to nearly 100%, therefore doubling the price!

I have no problem with tipping masseuses – they do hard work for little pay or security – but I do have a problem with being duped into paying double the expected cost disguised as a “tip,” when I generally tip 10-20% depending on quality of service.

Instead, I recommend going to a more reputable and slightly more expensive spa where you can be guaranteed you won’t get the tip hustle. I went to Cat Moc Spa several times during my stay in Saigon and loved it each time. The massages are reasonably priced, around $15-20 USD for an hour, and there is no tip hustle (though of course you are free to tip and tip well!).

I highly recommend them, as the atmosphere is a step above what you’ll usually find in Saigon and the quality of masseuses is extremely high. They’re very friendly and experienced, so it’s worth the extra expense in my mind (which doesn’t actually end up being that much extra when you consider that you are getting an honest price from the get-go).

Taiwan Packing List: What to Wear in Taiwan (In Winter and Summer)

Taiwan is a beautiful lush country with so much to do and see. With world-class cities like Taipei, beautiful hikes all throughout the country, and gorgeous beaches down south near Kenting, what you do in Taiwan will largely depend on the season.

Taiwan has four distinct seasons, so if you are coming to Taiwan in winter from another destination in Southeast Asia, expect a bit of a shock to your system. I visited Taiwan in January coming from Bali, and it was on the cool side in Taiwan but still rather pleasant. Average temperatures were around 50-65 °F, about 10-18 °C.

If you come from a cold climate, that may seem like a warm winter! However, many people combine a trip to Taiwan with Southeast Asian destinations, and Taiwan is definitely cooler than destinations like Indonesia, Singapore, or the Philippines in winter. I may have gotten lucky in my two weeks in Taiwan in winter, as it only rained one or two days of my trip. However, apparently the week before I arrived, there was nearly a week straight of rain. So pack accordingly, prepared for the worst but hoping for the best.

One lucky day, I was even able to wear a maxi dress I bought in Bali – in the winter!

Meanwhile, Taiwan summers are hot and humid with the potential for plenty of thunderstorms, usually in the late afternoon. You can expect temperatures around 80 °F during the day, about 27 °C, but heat waves can definitely hit and send the mercury rising up to 95 °F /35 °C with a sea of humidity to boot. Typhoons can also happen during the summer months, but this type of weather is unpredictable.

As I usually end up recommending for most destinations with four distinct seasons, spring and fall are the most pleasant times of year to visit Taiwan. The mild winter means that fall and spring are even milder, but you’re less likely to have truly cold weather and rain in these months. In April/May you may even be lucky enough to see the cherry blossoms, and fall will bring lovely orange and red fall foliage, so there are reasons to visit for every season.

What to Pack for Taiwan

What to Pack Everything In

I normally travel with a backpack, but I actually brought a big 2-wheel suitcase to Taiwan as I was staying in Bali for a month beforehand and wasn’t flying with budget airlines so I was actually able to bring a checked bag for not much extra.

However, I ended up really hating traveling with a suitcase. Even though Taiwan has excellent public transportation infrastructure, it just got annoying to move with my suitcase all the time, and when I took the train to Taichung it was quite bulky and annoying to have my suitcase with me.

I considered traveling more around Taiwan during my 2 weeks there but I ended up sticking to just Taiwan and Taichung because I hated lugging around my suitcase so much. Since that’s kind of ridiculous, I recommend instead just bringing a travel backpack that is comfortable that you actually like traveling with. Normally, I use the Tortuga Setout Backpack and found myself missing it dearly on this trip. Or, pack light and bring a rolling suitcase that isn’t too heavy and has 4-wheel spinners (I was dragging around an old 2-wheeler; do not recommend!)

Here are the products I generally use to organize my packing, and what I wish I had brought to Taiwan instead of my god-awful giant rolling suitcase.

All I packed for 6 months in Europe - Find out how here!
Packing cubes are bae <3

Travel backpack (carry on size or check-in size): When I’m not being an idiot and seriously overpacking, I always use my Tortuga Backpack  so that I can avoid checking in my luggage. I really regretted not having it with me in Taiwan and in the year since my Taiwan trip it’s all I’ve brought with me since.

Why do I recommend Tortuga so much? Here’s why: this bag is 45L and has got three main compartments: one for a laptop and other flat objects, one giant rectangular compartment perfect for packing cubes stuffed with clothing, and one smaller compartment with pockets for passports, pens, odds and ends, etc. that I stash all my extras in – plus one small outer zipper pocket for anything you want quick access to. It also has a water bottle holder on the outside as well as buckles so that you can strap something like a yoga mat to the outside. Plus, it’s quite comfortable to wear, with a padded hip belt and comfort-molding shoulder straps complete with a chest strap so that you can distribute weight perfectly across your body in the event that you need to wear your backpack for longer than usual. Check out more specs and details here.

Does it pass budget airline requirements? It depends on the airline. Personally, I’ve never once had to check it in on a budget airline flight, and I’ve taken probably 50+ Ryanair and Wizzair flights at this point. I’m not sure about Air Asia or Scoot. Usually, I just buy priority boarding so that I have a guaranteed spot on board for my bag (plus a second personal item bag), which adds a small amount onto my total flight cost instead of the $20-40 or so that a heavy checked suitcase or backpack would.

I brought a rolling suitcase and really regretted it on this recent trip. If I did still want to bring a lot, but didn’t want to deal with a giant rolling suitcase, I’d upgrade to the Osprey backpack.

A rain cover for your backpack: Taiwan is prone to lots of rain so it’s great to be prepared. I’ll be honest, I actually don’t have one of these because I am a horribly irresponsible person, but every single time I see a person with a backpack proudly trudging through the rain with a rain cover on, clearly not frantically panicking about the state of their electronics the way that I am, I vow to get one. Be like them, not like me. I’m a failure of an adult. This rain cover looks to have good reviews but again, terrible at adulting, 1/10 barely remember to feed myself, so do your own research if you’re so inclined. Alternately, the Outbreaker version of the Tortuga Backpack is water-resistant, so that could be a good choice if you’re in the market for a new backpack.

Packing cubes: Whether you pack for Taiwan with a suitcase or a backpack, I definitely recommend packing cubes. Many people who visit Taiwan visit several cities during their trip via the excellent train system (seriously, guys, Taiwanese trains are next level perfect, especially the high speed trains!) Since you’ll need to pack and repack your bag several times if you do this, packing cubes make a world of difference. Plus, as it keeps your clothes rolled and packed neatly, it prevents wrinkles and makes sure you’re utilizing your space the best way possible.  I use these packing cubes and love them, but any will do fine.

Laundry bag: In addition to packing cubes, I also like to bring a laundry bag to separate out my dirty clothing from my clean clothes. Laundry in Taiwan is affordable and can be done at most hostels, hotels, or guesthouses, so you don’t really need to pack everything you need for a long trip unless you really want to. While you could certainly just reuse a plastic bag for this purpose, I do like having a cute one like this travel-themed one from Kikkerland though, because I’m impractical.

Hanging Toiletry Bag: I tend to pack a lot of toiletries with me because this is one area where I find it hard to claim my “light traveler” status – and after falling in love with Taiwanese beauty products, I definitely left Taiwan with more toiletries than I came with. I use a hanging toiletry bag to pack my toiletries in an organized way that takes up minimal space. It has the perfect number of separators, organizers, and pockets without taking up any excess space. It’s kind of a magical Mary Poppins bag – you’d be amazed at how many travel-sized toiletries you can fit in it. Unlike other bags, it zips up flat like a bulky manila envelope, so it is really easy to slide into your backpack or suitcase without being a weird bulky shape that makes bags annoyingly hard to close. Love!

Backpack with locking zippers: Taiwan is one of the safest destinations in Asia in terms of petty crime, but that doesn’t mean that opportunist thieves don’t exist anywhere in the country. On all my travels, I swear by PacSafe for the combination of functionality and cute aesthetics, and I love their PacSafe Citysafe backpack which I use as my everyday bag, even when I’m not actively traveling. It’s actually cute in addition to having all the awesome security features that make you feel pretty much pickpocket-proof. Though of course, you should definitely be careful with your belongings no matter what you pack them in. If you’re curious to learn more, I have a full review here – not sponsored, just irrationally obsessed.

Essential Things to Pack for Taiwan

Taiwan, especially its cities like Taipei and Taichung, are ultra-modern and super easy to shop in. Whether you need more clothes, some toiletries you forgot, or some accessories, you’ll find plenty of stores in Taiwan. However, the language barrier in Taiwan can sometimes be a bit of an issue and a lot of signs and labels will be in Chinese, which is not always the easiest for shopping. Therefore, I recommend packing carefully anyway (that’s why you’re reading this, right?) so that you can buy things as desired rather than as needed.

neon lights in ximending - one of the best places in taipei to visit
Taiwan has fantastic shopping, but I still prefer to be prepared!

Travel insurance: Travel insurance is a must for any country, regardless of safety. Taiwan is basically as safe as it gets, but still, there are random acts of nature everywhere — typhoons are a regular occurence in the summer, and a 6.4 earthquake hit Taiwan just a few weeks after I left. Plus I like to be protected in case of illness, family emergencies, that sort of thing. I always travel with travel insurance and have been a paying customer of World Nomads for years. You can get a free quote here.

Lonely Planet Taiwan: While obviously, I do a lot of research on blogs, I also like to have a digital copy of a Lonely Planet loaded up on my Kindle. It is more comprehensive than blog posts, which often give good information and firsthand experience, but sometimes don’t go beyond surface depth or top 10s. I like planning with a balance of both.

Kindle loaded with e-books: If you are traveling between cities in Taiwan by train or bus, you’ll find yourself with a lot of spare time. For travel, my Kindle Paperwhite is my best friend. Buy several books before you go so that you won’t run out of things to read and get bored! It’s not always easy to find English-language bookstores when you travel, so I like having the option of using a Kindle.

Basic toiletries and cosmetics: While I love Taiwanese beauty products and defintiely stocked up on quite a few things in Taiwan, there’s no denying that the brands they have in Taiwan are different to what we have in the US, Europe, etc.  If you have a preferred product be sure to bring it. That said, if you’re a beauty fan, definitely pop into Watson’s or some similar beauty store in Taiwan and pick up some fun produts — I love Taiwanese sheet masks; they’re cheap and make an excellent souvenir!

Sunscreen: One major problem with buying sunscreen in Taiwan is that a lot of sunscreens have whitening agents – which is a problem in many Asian countries. These whitening agents can be really harsh, especially on sensitive skin, so I recommend avoiding them. I traveled Taiwan in winter but still liked having my solid sunscreen stick from Neutrogena because I always max out on my liquid toiletry allotment.

Mosquito repellent in summer: In winter, you won’t need mosquito repellent in most places in Taiwan but you definitely will in the summer or shoulder season months. Typically, I bring a bottle of mosquito repellent spray, but I also like to keep a few of these super-handy mosquito repellent wipes with me if I need to reapply on the go. I also highly recommend bringing some After Bite mosquito bite treatment since it’s inevitable some of those buggers will get you at one point in high mosquito season.

Water bottle with built-in filter: Tap water is safe to drink in most places in Taiwan but sometimes buildings have crappy old pipes and the taste or quality may not be as high as you are used to. While it’s not going to make you sick the way, say, drinking Bali’s or Thailand’s tap water would, it still is better to drink it filtered if you have a sensitive stomach. I typically use a Lifestraw water bottle with a filtration system inside of it that gets rid of 99.9% of nasty bacteria and viruses. Another option is the Steripen, which uses UV light to sterilize tap water.

Basic medicine: While Taiwan will likely have most medicine you need, I still always stand by having a basic first aid and medicine kit for common travel woes – especially stomach medicine, as I find a lot of countries don’t have my preferred medicine (salicylate bismuth, aka Pepto) and instead have things like activated charcoal which work okay but not nearly as well as Pepto for me, personally. Here’s what’s in my arsenal for every trip and what I brought to Taiwan:  Pepto-Bismol tablets for standard stomach troubles, Imodium as a nuclear option for diarrhea or severe food poisoning, some sort of painkiller like ibuprofen for headaches and minor pains, and some sort of motion sickness tablets. Of course, if you have any specific medical needs, you will want to bring that as well, especially anything that may require a prescription. That said, pharmacies in Taiwan are excellent – I had to buy a cream there because I got ringworm from a cat in Bali and the pharmacists were really helpful in finding what I needed and translating the Chinese on the packaging.

What to Wear in Taiwan in Winter (Ladies)

This part of my Taiwan packing list is specific to women, so men, feel free to skip this part and go on to the next section, where I attempt to guess what you should bring. Taiwan’s winter isn’t that harsh but you should definitely pack differently for Taiwan in winter than in summer, so use this post as a guideline but keep in mind the temperatures are about 50-65 °F, (10-18 °C) so you can also just bring what you’d be comfortable with wearing in those climates.

This packing list is assuming you’ll be in Taiwan for a week or more – if you’re only in Taiwan for a shorter trip, you can subtract from this list.

Light sweater, hat, skirt, and leggings – an easy Taipei in winter outfit!

2-3 long-sleeve dresses: I love dresses year-round, even winter, because I don’t have to match and they make me look a little more dressed up. Pair with leggings or bare-legged with a pair of boots on a warmer day.

5+ tees: I prefer darker colors as I’m able to hide the fact that I spilled soy sauce and xiao long bao juice all over my shirt.

2 pair jeans: Definitely a must for Taiwan – the weather is perfect for jeans.

1-2 pairs thin cotton leggings: Great for pairing with dresses or skirts to keep warm.

2-3 long-sleeve tees or thin sweaters:  Taiwan’s winter is perfect long-sleeve weather, so pack a few tees or thin sweaters (nothing too bulky)

2 skirts: I suggest bringing one black skirt and one printed skirt for flexibility. I typically wear mini-length skirts with leggings in winter.

1 pair sneakers: You’ll walk a ton in Taiwan, so be sure to bring some easy walking shoes. I love my black Nikes as I find they look cute even worn with my dresses and I’m all about having options.

Moisture-wicking socks, preferably made of wool or something that is odor-absorbent like these ones from Smartwool

1 pairs sandals: Even though it’s winter it may still be warm enough for sandals. Plus, many Taiwanese guesthouses and hotels ask that you remove your shoes when you enter, so having something that slips on easily is nice. I love my Birkenstocks and will never go back

1 rain jacket: Even if it looks like it’ll be a nice day out, the rain in Taiwan often has other plans – namely, ruining yours. I love my Marmot rain jacket and bring it with me on every trip because it packs up small and offers pretty much complete waterproofing.

1-2 cardigans: Great for layering if the weather is being especially finicky!

1-2 bras: I personally brought 1 regular bra and 1 sports bra and switched between the two, but the cleaner people amongst us may object to that and want to bring more. You do you.

1 hat: My ears get cold easily and Taipei can get windy!

7+ pairs of underwear: I like having about a week’s worth of underwear so I don’t always have to plan out my laundry days.

Bathing suit: If you plan on going to one of Taiwan’s hot springs, you may want to bring a bathing suit!

What to Wear in Taiwan in Summer (Ladies)

Generally, summer is quite warm in Taiwan, so you’ll want to wear lightweight, breathable clothing and leave anything synthetic or polyester at home. Opt for cool, natural fabrics like cotton and my personal summer favorite, linen.

That said, Taiwan can go a bit crazy with air conditioning and you’ll want some layers if you go hiking in the mountains, so be sure to bring a cardigan or two to layer with even if the forecast looks hot!

If you do any hiking in summer, you may want to bring a swear – it can get cool in Yangmingshan and other higher altitude places

3-5 lightweight summer dresses: Dresses are great for Taiwanese summer weather, plus they pack up small, so bring as many as you can get away with. Aim for something that hits around the knee (a few inches shorter is fine, but avoid tiny mini dresses) as Taiwan is a bit conservative with how they dress. I love maxis and midi dresses for this climate.

5+ tees & tanks: You will sweat a lot, so opt for black, navy, and other dark colors. Yes, they attract heat, but they also avoid the telltale yellow pit stains that seem to be my constant vibe whenever I attempt to wear white.

1 pair jeans: It’ll probably be too hot to wear these during the day, but I like having them to wear at night occasionally, or when I know I’ll be somewhere heavily air conditioned.

1 pair thin cotton leggings: Great for making yourself less appetizing to mosquitos at night and also for cooler nights up north or in the mountains if you go hiking in one of Taiwan’s gorgeous national parks

1-2 long-sleeve tees or thermals: For hiking and unexpectedly high air conditioning

2-3 skirts: I suggest bringing one black skirt and one printed skirt for flexibility. I especially love having midi or maxi length skirts, which feel great and coincidentally look nice in photos! As a bonus, the extra fabric around your legs traps some cool air, making you feel less hot.

1 pair sneakers: Even in the summer I often like to wear breathable running shoes for walking around. I love these black Nikes. Plus if you want to hike, and Taiwan has great hiking, you’ll want proper shoes for that.

Moisture-wicking socks, preferably made of wool or something that is odor-absorbent like these ones from Smartwool because your feet will sweat a lot in the summer.

1-2 pairs sandals: I suggest bringing one pair of rubber flip flops like these Havaianas and another pair of more stylish or dressy sandals. I’m obsessed with my Birkenstocks. These are great for when it’s just too hot to put on sneakers, and rubber flip flops are great for days when rain is in the forecast.

1 rain jacket: Even (especially) in summer rain is common and I need a jacket like my Marmot rain jacket which is pretty much completely waterproof and small when packed up. Plus the underarms have zippers underneath which you can open, making the jacket more breathable, which is a must in humid summer weather.

1 cardigan: In case of overzealous air conditioning

1-2 bras:  Maybe more if you’ll be really active

7+ pairs of underwear

Bathing suit: Especially if going down south to Taiwan’s best beaches!

What to Wear in Taiwan (For Men)

Full disclosure, I am not a dude. But if I was, this is what I would bring, I guess.

I don’t know what to put as a photo here…. so look, here’s Taipei 101

Winter:

  • 2 pair jeans
  • 5 T-shirts
  • 5 long-sleeve tees or thin sweaters
  • 7+ pairs underwear
  • flip flops
  • sneakers
  • a few pairs of moisture-wicking socks
  • sturdy waterproof rain jacket
  • swim trunks
  • 1-2 cardigans
  • 1 non rain jacket (denim jacket, hoodie, etc)

Summer:

  • 1 pair jeans
  • 1 pairs thin, lightweight travel-friendy men’s pants
  • 2-3 pairs shorts (in summer)
  • 7+ pairs underwear
  • flip flops
  • comfortable walking sandals
  • sneakers
  • a few pairs of moisture-wicking socks
  • sturdy waterproof rain jacket
  • swim trunks
  • sweater for colder weather + too much AC

What to Pack for a Hostel in Taiwan

If you’re backpacking through Taiwan, there are a few extra things that you should bring that you might not need if you were staying in hotels.

1 pair flip flops: For communal bathrooms, you’re definitely going to want a pair of flip flops to avoid funky foot issues!

1 travel towel: Some Taiwanese hostels will provide a towel, but it’s not always a given. You can usually rent one for a small fee, but I find it handy to carry my own XL quick-dry travel towel – they fold up quite small, are great for beach days or hot spring dips, and are generally just a nice thing to have.

1 eye mask: Great for when you want to sleep but your roommates don’t!

Some earplugs or good noise-canceling headphones: I love Hearos — they’re the gold standard for ear plugs.

What Toiletries to Pack for Taiwan

While you can easily replace most toiletries in Taiwan, here’s quick list of what I recommend bringing in addition to your typical toiletries that you bring with you on every trip (body wash, shampoo, etc.)

 
Be grateful that I’m not including a photo of me wearing a Taiwanese sheet mask.

Hand sanitizer: Nice for when eating street food etc. and you may not have a chance to wash your hands first

Kleenex packets: Just nice to have in case a restroom doesn’t have toilet paper – I always keep a Kleenex packet with me.

LUSH solid shampoo: Life-changing. Just trust me.

Sunscreen: Again, avoid the icky whitening agents and make sure you bring a sunscreen from home. You can find sunscreen without whiteners in Taiwan but it can be tricky sometimes.

Travel medications: I listed them above, but just to reiterate — stomach medicine, motion sickness pills, and some sort of painkiller are my standards.

Electronics to Pack for Taiwan

Taiwan is one of the safest countries in the world – the 2nd safest, according to this likely biased source. You can relax and bring what you normally would on any trip and know that, generally, petty theft is extremely rare in Taiwan.

Taiwan is one of the safest places on earth – I walked around solo all hours of the day and night without issue.

Laptop, if necessary: I bring my Macbook Air everywhere but other people may prefer a tablet or an inexpensive netbook.

Unlocked smartphone: Taiwan has affordable data plans and it’s easy to buy a SIM card upon arrival at the airport. I love being able to use Uber, Google Maps, etc. and other things while I travel so a SIM card is a must for me.

Kindle Paperwhite: Books are heavy and often hard to find exactly what you want on the road. I love the Kindle Paperwhite because the screen is glare-free, making it easy to read at the beach or in direct sunlight.

Travel camera: I use a Sony A6000 because it’s lightweight for a professional caliber camera, inexpensive, and a HUGE step up from a smartphone. You may want to replace this or add a GoPro if you are doing adventurous activities on your Taiwan trip.

Portable charger: I like to carry a portable charger everywhere I travel and Taiwan is no exception!

Adaptor, if necessary: Taiwan uses the same plugs as the US, Canada, and many other North American countries, as well as some other Asian countries. If you’re coming from the UK, Europe, or Australia you will need an adaptor.

***

Well, nearly 4,000 words later, I think I’ve finally exhausted all the things you need to pack for Taiwan in any season!

Is there anything I’ve forgotten? Is there anything else you’re wondering if you should bring to Taiwan? Let me know in the comments!

Am I The Only Person Who Didn’t Like Tbilisi?

Not every place you travel to can be a home run, but even I was surprised by how much I ended up not enjoying Tbilisi.

I had heard such great things about the Georgian capital that I was almost certain it was going to be the highlight of my month traveling the Caucasus.

I sandwiched a week in Tbilisi in between Azerbaijan (which I wasn’t looking forward to but ended up loving) and Armenia and found it my least favorite city of the trip by a good margin. When I returned to Tbilisi for a few days after a week in Yerevan – my favorite city in the Caucasus – I tried to give it a second chance. Still no dice.

Let me pop in a quick disclaimer here. I try to keep things fairly positive, or at least neutral, on my blog, especially when I discuss traveling to off the beaten path places where tourism would do great things for the economy.

I live in Sofia, Bulgaria, and I’ve read articles that slam Sofia as a shitty place just because the sidewalks are busted or someone wasn’t able to find the city center (which is, quite frankly, kind of shocking).

I’ve heard people call it bleak and joyless, and it bothers me. I’m defensive of this city because I love it so much, and I know that for some people, reading this article about Tbilisi will stoke the same feelings. And that’s okay – you have every right to be annoyed by this post, or to love cities that I just didn’t like. My opinion is not the be all, end all.

I can partly chalk this up to a bad first impression. Our first taxi experience in Georgia involved our driver racing through the pouring rain at 140 km/hour, splitting the middle lane as if it were nothing more than a silly suggestion, to the point where we were squeezing headlong between trucks.

We got pulled over by the cops and exited the situation suspiciously quickly (I have a feeling a bribe changed hands). Then he refused to take us to our final destination, trying to kick us out of his car in the driving rain, all the way on the outskirts of Tbilisi.

We finally got him to summon us a new cab (who then also didn’t want to take us to our destination, for reasons I still don’t understand – it was a very normal and central location in the center of the city).

This wasn’t an isolated experience – basically every taxi ride that we didn’t organize in advance with Yandex was a huge pain in the ass.

Terrifying drivers aside, Tbilisi still didn’t grow on me. One thing I value highly in my cities is walkability, and Tbilisi just doesn’t have that in my opinion. The sidewalks seemingly switch from one side of the street to the other at complete random, making you cross the street at the mercy of its insane drivers.

There are countless places where there are just no crosswalks or street signs and suddenly, you need to Frogger your way across several lanes going in both directions, except unlike in Vietnam, it actually feels like drivers are out to hit you.

Either that, or there are underpasses where you need to go underground in order to cross the street safely, something that as a woman I feel uncomfortable doing at night (important side note though: on the whole I feel like Tbilisi is very safe for female travelers).

I’ll be the first to acknowledge that my mental state in Georgia was not fantastic. I was over-traveled and seriously missing Sofia.

But I was able to push away my exhaustion to fall in love with Azerbaijan, particularly Nakhchivan and Ganja – neither of which are particularly ‘easy’ places to travel, given that so few tourists pass through these parts.

And after Tbilisi, I found myself head over heels with Yerevan, finding it super livable and bookmarking it for a longer stay in the future. So why couldn’t I do the same for Tbilisi?

As I found myself editing my photos of Tbilisi today, I found myself feeling such an overwhelming sense of blah. Despite spending a total of 10 days in Tbilisi and giving it a solid chance, I just didn’t get it.

I found the food uninspiring and dull, as if Georgians were ethically opposed to including more than one color on a plate (which is weird because I’ve really enjoyed Georgian food in Turkey).

The khachapuri that everyone raved about was just bland and salty. My friend ordered a mushroom dish and quite literally got served just unseasoned mushroom caps.

The prices for food in Georgia were expensive compared to other places in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. Georgian wine was fine, but it didn’t live up to the hype (I enjoyed wine in Armenia more).

Part of it, I think, is expectations. I had high expectations for Tbilisi and was strongly considering moving there at some point in the future, as Georgia has extremely permissive visa rules for Americans: a 365-day visa, in fact, meaning you can effectively move there without doing a single piece of paperwork. That appealed to me greatly, so it was extra disappointing when after visiting Tbilisi I realized I’d never be happy living there.

Meanwhile, having had low expectations for Azerbaijan, I was surprised by how much I ended up enjoying it. Most people only visit Baku and as a result, aren’t huge fans. I liked Baku but ended up loving the rest of Azerbaijan. Armenia also blew me away. I think Tbilisi suffered by being compared to its neighbors – had I only visited Tbilisi, perhaps I would have felt differently.

I have to give the city its credit: there are definitely some cool pockets of Tbilisi, and I can see why a lot of people enjoy the city — there are a lot of interesting things to do in Tbilisi, even if the city doesn’t rub everyone the right way.

There’s a thriving hipster scene centered around Fabrika, a combined hostel/workspace/creative hub. Shio Ramen has literally some of the best ramen I’ve eaten outside of Japan and New York. I would consider going back to Tbilisi for their bao buns alone.

I had a genuinely good day out at Turtle Lake and the Ethnographic Museum. 9 Mta has an excellent variety of craft beer and is located in a vibrant part of the city, and the city is clearly growing and changing quickly.

Things seem to be getting better for Georgians, or at least moving in the right direction. During my time in Tbilisi, young Georgians were protesting corruption and succeeded in ousting their Prime Minister mere weeks after Armenia’s more-publicized Velvet Revolution.

As a country that has seen war in the past decade (In the Russo-Georgian War in 2008, Tbilisi itself had Russian tanks roll up within 30 kilometers of the city limits) Georgia has done a great job recovering its image and promoting itself as a safe and desirable place for tourism in a way that other post-Soviet and post-Communist countries have not. That’s no small feat.

But I also feel like tourism may have come too quickly for Tbilisi, corrupting a city that wasn’t quite ready for the waves of tourists coming in on cheap flights. This is not meant to dissuade anyone from visiting and seeing for themselves — I think that every place deserves an opportunity to be experienced. As a travel blogger, I don’t take influence lightly, and I know that the words I say have an impact on how people perceive faraway places. To counter my opinion, I know that plenty of people number it among their favorite cities, and perhaps it was a confluence of bad luck, bad timing, and my own personal preferences in a city that left me so disappointed in Tbilisi.

I’m sure one day I’ll come back and give Tbilisi another chance – after all, there is so much more to Georgia than just one city. And I’m fully prepared that I’ll change my mind. I’ll just need some therapy to get over the driving first.

Ultimate Taipei Itinerary: 5 Days in Taiwan’s Lovable Capital

I spent two weeks in Taiwan in January and it was – and still is – one of my favorite new travel destinations of 2018. From the absolutely incredible street food to the mountain of wonderful day trips it’s possible to do easily from Taipei thanks to their excellent metro system, I was never bored in Taipei – and I stayed there for about 12 days.

Of course, most people have to maximize their vacation time, and so I’ve created this Taipei itinerary for 5 days traveling at a leisurely pace. However, if you only had 3 or 4 days in Taipei, you could certainly use this Taipei itinerary as a framework for planning the rest of your trip by picking and choosing what is most essential to you. Or, if you want to see even more, you can combine some of these days into one and then add a few of these excellent day trips from Taipei.

I’ve previously written about some of the best things to do in and around Taipei so feel free to substitute items out from this 5 day Taipei itinerary with other ideas from my list. Also, you can combine this with my 2 day Taichung itinerary in order to plan a perfect full week in Taiwan.

Taipei Itinerary, Day 1: Arriving & Eating

I’ve purposely kept day 1 of your Taipei itinerary quite light on activities as I’m assuming you’ll be tired from your flight or arriving in the afternoon or evening.

Get into the city

First, decide if you want to pick up a SIM card or pocket WiFi in the airport before you leave, to make life a little easier. I bought a SIM card because my phone is unlocked, but many people who don’t have SIM cards – or are traveling in a group and don’t want to buy multiple SIMs – find pocket WiFi devices far more convenient.

You can book it online and simply present your mobile voucher to pick it up 24 hours a day at Taipei Taoyuan International Airport, upon arrival, making it ultra-convenient!

Here is the pocket WiFi rental service I recommend!

Now, time to get into the city.

Normally I’m all about the MRT, Taipei’s lightning efficient and ultra cheap subway system, which is probably the best metro system I’ve ever used in the world. But if you are arriving at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, which most flights arrive into, the bus is actually the better option.

You will want to look for bus 1819, which runs 24/7 every 15-20 minutes or so (and every hour between 2 AM and 6 AM). The bus will take you all the way to Taipei Main Station, where you can easily catch the MRT to take you to wherever you are staying.

The airport bus cost 125 Taiwanese dollars, which works out to be about $4 USD, and it took about an hour to go from the airport to the center.

Need more info? I’ve written a full guide to getting from Taoyuan Airport to the city center here.

Alternately, if public transit stresses you out – especially where you don’t speak or read the language – you may want to opt for an airport arrival transfer. These transfers are highly rated and inexpensive for the quality of service. Book yours today here.

Check into your hotel or hostel

If you are staying in Taipei for 5 days, you’ll want to pick a location that is central. Here are my recommendations, broken down by budget.

I personally stayed in Shilin near the night market for my first 5 days in Taipei and then spent my remaining days in an Airbnb in Xinpu, which had a more local vibe. Honestly, the neighborhood you stay in doesn’t matter that much in Taipei because of how excellent the MRT is. So as long as you are close to an MRT station, it is pretty much impossible to go wrong!

I’ve broken down where to stay in Taipei into three budget ranges, which can roughly be defined as follows:

  • Budget: Under $25 per night for a dorm bed
  • Mid-range: $50-100 per night for a hotel room
  • Luxury: $150+ for a hotel room

Budget: For a super-affordable stay with excellent aesthetics and a good location, I recommend LuckyOne Hostel in Datong. The hostel is very well-designed in a way that I wish more hostels were — simple things like the top bunk being high enough that the person on the bottom bunk can sit comfortably, reading lights and outlets next to each bed, etc. have all been considered in the design. Check rates, availability, and reviews here.

Another great option is Ximen Duckstay Hostel (the name is hilarious, I know) which has an amazing central location in Ximen, one of the  most bustling areas of Taipei in the evening. The rooms are small but well-designed, with designated places to keep your luggage to keep the floor clear, privacy curtains, reading lights, etc. There’s also a hostel bar so it’s good for solo travelers who want to socialize, as Taipei doesn’t have the best bar scene. Check rates, availability, and reviews here.

Mid-range: Taipei is home of one of my favorite affordable hotel chains, citizenM ! I love booking rooms with citizenM because I know that I’m going to get a well-designed room at an affordable price, without having to pay for a bunch of luxuries I won’t use. The deisgn is fun and quirky, with a real sense of personality that is missing from many hotel chains. You always know when you are stepping into a citizenM and I love that. The location is also great. Check rates, availability, and reviews here.

Luxury: If you’re looking for luxury meets a dash of quirkiness, I highly recommend Eslite during your stay. Located in Songshan Creative & Cultural Park, this 5-star hotel is beautifully appointed with tons of amazing details like unending shelves of books in the lobby (swoon!). With perks like private balconies, enormous beds, sunken bathtubs, in-room sound systems, you can stay in style at Eslite without paying an insane amount. Check rates, availability, and reviews here.

Head to a local night market

What better way to introduce yourself to Taiwan’s foodie capital than by heading straight to a night market on your first night? While night markets can be a little overwhelming to the uninitiated, they are simply a must-do in Taipei, even if you are a picky eater.

The reason why street food is so much better than other types of food is that vendors truly specialize in one single dish, preparing it to perfection night after night until it is the best version of itself it can possibly be.

In my opinion, Shilin Night Market is a must on any Taipei itinerary – whether you’ve got one day or five. I actually strategically picked my hostel to be in Shilin during my first 4 nights in Taipei (I’d later stay near the Xinpu metro). This was perfect because I would take the MRT to central Taipei during the day, but when I’d go back to my hostel in the late afternoon to rest my legs before dinner, I wouldn’t have to get back on the MRT to get dinner – I could just stroll all the street stalls.

If you prefer a little guidance, you can take an affordable night market tour that covers 12 different tastings at a local, little-touristed market- this tour only runs on Sundays, however, so plan accordingly!

This Ningxia night market tour is offered three times a week, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and may be a good alternative.

While Taipei locals and expats will tell you Shilin is the most ‘touristy’ night market, I think that term is a bit overblown. I visited in January, which is pretty off-season, and the crowd seemed to be almost entirely locals.

There are definitely more ‘under the radar’ night markets such as Raohe (check out a complete guide to night markets by a Taipei expat here) which may be more convenient for where you are staying.

For your first night market, I’d say pick somewhere close by your hotel – if you have 5 days in Taipei, you’ll have time to sample more than one night market.

So, what do I recommend you eat at the night markets? While I’m far from an expert, here are a few of the dishes I enjoyed the most: suckling pork wraps, steamed leek buns, flame-grilled beef sprinkled with cumin, pepper pork buns, takoyaki (octopus ‘dumplings’ covered in Japanese toppings), and enormously long French fries dipped in wasabi mayo.

Oh, and if you think you smell a sewer leaking, don’t fret — that’s just someone cooking up some stinky tofu, Taipei’s most notorious – and nefarious – street food. I wasn’t brave enough to try it! Supposedly, it tastes better than it smells – which I would hope – but I never tried it.

One thing to note about the night markets is that there is not always a ton of English spoken, but there’s usually some English signage. If you’re worried about a language barrier — or just want some guidance on what the tastiest things to eat are! — a night market food tour would be a fantastic choice.

This is the night market & bike tour I recommend!

If you want a more in-depth and private food tour experience, I recommend booking a private food tour, which you can set for any day or time during your trip as it’s customized to your schedule!

This food tour includes eight tastings and two drinks and you can schedule it at any point during your trip.

Check tour itinerary, prices, and reviews here.

Taipei Itinerary, Day 2: The Top Sights

If you have 5 days in Taipei, luckily, you don’t have to rush to see all the tourist musts in a quick manner. Rather, you can explore the city leisurely at your own pace.

I’ve included just a few of the main places to see in Taipei on today’s itinerary, so spread it out leisurely and feel free to walk between sights to get to know the city better (or hop on the MRT if your feet are getting tired!)

Not keen on walking? Alternately, you can opt for a private guided tour of Taipei by car or a hop-on, hop-off bus to make getting around even easier.

Otherwise, this day of your Taipei itinerary is mostly walkable (I’ll make note of where you may want to hop on the MRT), so put your most comfortable shoes on and let’s get to it!

Start in Taipei’s most famous square

Start the day at the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall MRT station, which is a great place to start the second day of your Taipei itinerary with some of the most important sights in the city. Take exit 5 to The massive Liberty Square is the nexus of several buildings, all of which are beautiful and crucial to understanding the history of Taiwan.

Standing tall above the square, you can’t miss the beautiful, imposing Chiang-Kai Shek Memorial Hall.

The square’s most famous building – the eponymous Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall – is a stunning marble-white building standing 76 meters tall, towering above Liberty Square. This building’s construction incorporates Chinese symbols, hence the reason for its unique shape. For one, the white building is shaped like an octagon, as the number 8 has symbolism within Chinese culture as being associated with good fortune and wealth. There are two sets of stairs, each with 89 steps – Chaing Kai-Shek’s age upon death – leading to a large statue memorializing Chiang.

Below the Memorial Hall, there is a small museum that shows the development of Chiang Kai-Shek’s life and political career, as well as information on Taiwan’s history and Chiang Kai-Shek’s role on the development of the Republic of China (ROC).

There are some other buildings that are also important to take note of (and are also quite photogenic) in Liberty Square. You won’t be able to miss the ornately adorned National Concert Hall and National Theater, standing across from each other as if mirrors.

Lastly, you’ll want to stop by to photograph the scenic DaXiao and Dazhong Gates, located on the side entrances to Liberty Square. Each is composed of 5 arches – the middle arch which frames the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall perfectly – these gates are popular amongst photographers and Instagrammers. You’ll want to dedicate at least 1 hour to exploring and photographing this area, more likely 1.5 hours.

Have pork braised rice for lunch

One of the most traditional and beloved dishes in the Taiwanese kitchen, you can’t miss trying braised pork rice during your time in Taipei. One of the most well-known places in central Taipei to try pork braised rice is Jin Feng near Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. Usually packed with a combination of locals and tourists, a bowl of pork braised rice costs around 30 Taiwanese dollars, about $1 USD.

You may have to wait, or you may get lucky and arrive at a time when there are no lines. If you don’t want to wait in line or you don’t eat pork, there are several other restaurants in the area.

Get some peace and quiet at the Taipei Botanical Gardens

I’m a huge fan of botanical gardens in cities. Back when I lived in NYC, I used to spend at least one weekend a month enjoying the peace and quiet of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The great thing about Taipei’s Botanical Gardens is that it’s completely free to enter, and since it’s a mere 20-minute walk from Liberty Square and Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, it’s a nice detour.

I visited in January, so understandably, nothing that exciting was blooming in the middle of Taiwan’s winter (even though it being Taiwan, its winters are relatively mild). That said, even with the lack of blooming flowers, I still felt like it’s totally worthwhile to visit the botanic gardens. My favorite part was the pond in the middle of the park – Lotus Pond – which has a great view of the water and the National Museum of History (which you can definitely add to your Taipei itinerary if you want – I didn’t personally check it out as I’m not a huge museum fan).

Marvel at the 18th-century Longshan Temple

There are several traditional Chinese folk temples in Taipei, but Longshan Temple is one of the oldest and most famous. It was built in 1738 by Fujian settlers, who arrived in Taiwan during the Qing dynasty. However, it has been reconstructed several times: fires, earthquakes, and most recently WWII-era bombings have all done considerable damage to the original structure of Longshan over the centuries.

To this day, Longshan Temple is extremely active with locals who make prayers according to the local customs.

One unique custom I noticed is that Taiwanese people were throwing small painted pieces of wood to the ground repeatedly. As it turns out, they were using something called jiaobei or “moon blocks”, which are small, painted pieces of wood that look almost like sections of an orange. They are thrown in pairs and the way they fall to the ground as a unit is used to divine the future.


In addition to the jiaobei blocks, I saw people lighting candles in prayer and making offerings. It was a really unique experience for me as someone who has never experienced Chinese folk religion firsthand before. Entrance for visitors is free, but please dress respectfully as you would with any place of worship.

Hang out in Ximending

Take the MRT to walk to the Ximen metro stop to get to the heart of Ximending. Bustling, bright, and just a tad chaotic, Ximending is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Taipei. Nicknamed “the Harajuku of Taipei,” this is where Taiwanese come to walk, shop, and eat. In reality, it really reminded me of Osaka’s Dotonbori district, but that’s beyond the point!


If you’re hungry, follow the queues for a hint. You’ll likely see a line at Hot Star Fried Chicken or T.K.K. Fried Chicken, which are two of the most-loved foodie spots in Ximending.

This is also the neighborhood where you’ll find some of Taipei’s… quirkier eating options, like Modern Toilet. I ate there purely for the novelty of eating out of a fake toilet bowl – and I was surprised that, for a gimmicky restaurant, my meal was actually not bad. The ice cream, however, was another story – and seriously, how can you mess up ice cream?

If you’re not hungry, this is still a great place to stroll around and people watch, especially in the pedestrian area that is car-free.

Enjoy tea and scenic views on Maokong Mountain

For this next place, you’ll need to hop on the MRT and make your way to the Taipei Zoo station.

To get there independently, just take the MRT to Taipei Zoo (last stop on the brown line) and then catch the Maokong Gondola to the top, which will cost 120 Taiwanese dollars (about $4 USD) each way.

Pro Tip: I actually recommend buying your ticket online here – it’s cheaper, allows you to skip the line, and includes a free night sightseeing bus if you would like.

At the top of the mountain, you can have your choice of famous Taiwanese teas (no, not bubble tea!) as well as try dishes that have been seasoned with tea – certainly something unique you won’t find in the rest of Taipei. Meanwhile, you’ll have amazing views as Taipei’s lights – including the beloved Taipei 101 – come to life after dark.

Taipei Itinerary, Day 3: Explore Taipei’s offbeat side

This day is all about immersing yourself in what Taipei has to offer by making the most of the city’s sprawling MRT system. While it looks like you’ll be bouncing all over the map today, in reality, the MRT makes everything super fast and easily accessible.

Today is all about hot springs, boardwalks, street food, and creative parks!

Start the day at Songshan Creative and Cultural Park

Creative parks are a uniquely Taiwanese phenomenon. Somewhere between pop-up market, nature park, and selfie wonderland, you simply must put one of Taipei’s creative parks on your Taiwan itinerary.

Songshan Creative and Cultural Park is located on the grounds of a former tobacco factory, and in its place a sprawling arts complex has arisen. In the heart of the complex is Eslite, which hosts a trendy luxury hotel, a large bookstore, vinyl shops, and creative workshops.

There is also a huge garden at the heart of Songshan which is great for strolling around and enjoying Taipei’s usually-mild weather. We had a spate of a lot of sunny, warm days despite traveling in January so it was a really lovely space to walk around.

One thing we noticed all over the place in Taipei is that dog owners love to carry their dogs in what look like baby carriers – apparently, this is because dogs are not allowed on the floor of many shops, but all that is moot when you carry the dog in a stroller!

See the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall

A brief walk from Songshan Creative Park, you shouldn’t miss the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, one of the most important buildings in Taipei. Similar in style to the National Theater and Concert Hall, this building commemorates the “National Father” of the Republic of China (the formal name of Taiwan). 

Stroll around trendy Zhongxiao

Zhongxiao is one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Taipei and it’s a great place to stop if you need to shop a bit while you’re in Taipei. The area around Zhongxiao Dunhua is great for people with an eye for designer fashion, and there are also several delicious restaurants in this area. I opted for delicious Korean fried chicken at Cheogajip but of course this being Taipei good food is never hard to find!

Make your way slowly through Zhongxiao, stopping to shop, sip of coffee, or snack on your way over to Huashan 1914 Creative Park (or hop on the MRT if your feet get tired).

Oh, and if you’re obsessed with Hello Kitty, right by Huashan 1914 is where you’ll find the Hello Kitty themed café. But remember that like many themed cafés, there is a minimum – the minimum here was 300 Taiwanese dollars, about $10 USD, so I gave it a pass as I’m not really a Hello Kitty person. In fact, it’s pretty much antithetical to my personality, but I’m a good sport.

Check out Huashan 1914 Creative Park

Overall, Huashan was really cool, but I was a bit sad to see that their upside-down houses display that was so beloved by Instagrammers had been dismantled! So if that is one of the reasons why you want to go, be prepared that it is no longer there, as the parks rotate out their displays frequently.

However, we did stumble across a Canada-themed (I know, I’m confused too) pop-up craft beer bar with a lovely, super friendly bartender who kept us full of samples of different craft beers!

The creative parks are always changing their pop-up shops and featured galleries, so don’t go expecting any one particular thing or you may be disappointed. They’re a uniquely Taiwanese experience though, so be sure to visit at least one.

Hop on the metro to Beitou Thermal Valley

Taipei is unique in that it is a capital city with actual volcanoes right in the city limits, including the largest volcano in Taiwan (Mt. Qixing). Alongside those volcanoes are volcanic hot springs, which are beloved by locals and fun for tourists to experience.

To check out some hot springs without ever having to leave the comfort of the MRT, head out to Beitou on the red line. There, you’ll find plenty of geothermal activity to take part in. For a local experience, head to Beitou Park and soak your feet in the free hot springs with all the locals (be sure to wash your feet first or you will rightfully earn their ire!)

From there, it’s a short walk to the aptly-named ‘Hell Valley’ where you will most definitely not want to rest your feet in – you’ll see what I mean when you see it! The water is so hot it is on the verge of boiling, about 90 C, so it’s more of a geological curiosity than an actual hot spring to enjoy. The smell is also quite hellish, so be prepared!

From there, you can visit the cheap (about $1 for entry) public Beitou Hot Springs or check the local hotels in the area to see if they have any day passes available to their spas and springs.

The best hotel in town is Grand View Resort Beitou and they have a fantastic day pass deal (book online here) which includes full use of outdoor their mineral water pools, traditional sauna, steam rooms, and stone spa – plus a shuttle service from the MRT metro. It’s a great way to squeeze in some relaxation into your 5 days in Taipei!

End the night at Tamsui Old Street

From Xinbeitou metro, take the MRT back to Beitou, then take the red MRT train to the end of the line at Tamsui. From there, it’s an easy walk along the waterfront to enjoy the historic neighborhood of Tamsui on the edges of Taipei City.

All along the boardwalk, you’ll find classic Taiwanese street food on offer, from bubble tea to all the fried goodnness. The boardwalk area is also extremely beautiful at sunset, overlooking the beautiful bridges and mountains in the area. My favorite bridge is the Tamsui Lover’s Bridge, which looks beautiful silhouetted against the sky as it gets dark.

bridge at sunset - Tamsui lover's bridge is one of the best things to do in Taipei

Taipei Itinerary, Day 4: Take a day trip to Shifen and Jiufen

If you have a whole 5 days in Taipei on your itinerary, it’s not a bad idea to use at least one of them to do a day trip outside of the city to see some of Taiwan’s beautiful nature right at your doorstep. 

I’ve written a complete guide to visiting Shifen Waterfall and Shifen Old Street here, and I’ve also written a guide on how to get between Shifen and Jiufen using public transit.

Shifen Old Street - the train goes through the center

While I found it all pretty easy to DIY, I know sometimes taking public transportation can be overwhelming in a foreign country, especially when there is a language (and reading!) barrier.

For people who prefer to take a guided tour, this private tour covering Shifen, Yehliu, and Jiufen will take you to all the top sights without the hassle and make sure you don’t miss anything along the way.

Save stress and time! Check out this private Jiufen, Shifen, and Pingxi tour here.

Alternately, this guided bus tour is similar, allows time for Shifen Old Street, Jiufen, and Yehliu Geopark, and is quite affordable to boot – check it out here.

However, do note that neither of these tours includes Shifen Waterfall, and instead swap out Yehliu Geopark, which I didn’t have a chance to visit on my trip.

Since I’ve covered these sites in more depth on the pages linked above, I’ll just give a quick overview of today’s sights if you wanted to DIY it.

Take the adorable Pingxi Railway

The Pingxi line is famous for its railway that goes right through the center of several towns. Pingxi is also the location of the famous lantern festival that takes place each fall. There are several stops along the Pingxi line, which connects Ruifang with Shifen.

While I didn’t stop in Houtong, this village is easily accessed by the Pingxi line and is home to hundreds of cats that the town people take care of! This small village has become somewhat of a tourist attraction so if you’re a cat fanatic I’d recommend a quick stop there. Since you buy a day pass for the entire Pingxi line, it won’t cost you any extra to stop, and trains come about every 30 minutes.

Eat on Shifen Old Street

There are plenty of delicious places to stop for a snack on Shifen Old Street, which is full of vendors. There were lots of fried bits and bobs that I couldn’t recognize, as there usually are, plus other standards like grilled squid and sausages.

But of course, as usual, my eye was drawn to the bamboo steamers and the delicately-skinned xiao long bao that I am completely addicted to.

Let off a lantern for luck

One of the most touristy things to do in Shifen (but secretly also the most fun), I think you can’t miss a visit to Shifen Old Street without letting off a lantern for good luck. To get a lantern, pick your colors (each represents a different meaning) and then paint your wishes on the sides of the lantern. Or, if you’re a narcissist like me, you can paint your blog name in a desperate bid for new Instagram followers.

Admire the marvelous Shifen Waterfall

Aptly called the “Little Niagara,” Shifen Waterfall is not nearly as large as the U.S.’s most famous waterfall – but it is insanely impressive nonetheless. It earned the nickname for its distinctive, beautiful horseshoe shape that mirrors Niagara in miniature. At 20 meters high and 40 meters high, it is quite a powerful and awe-inspiring sight to behold!

The waterfall is certainly the main draw, but the walk to the waterfall is also beautiful – you pass two beautiful suspension bridges, a super-blue river against a backdrop of beautiful green mountains, and endless photo opps.

It’s common to rent a little electric scooter for $200 TWD (about $6 USD) for the hour, but it’s actually not that far and you definitely could walk from Shifen Old Street if you didn’t feel comfortable riding a scooter or you prefer to save money and walk.

The gorgeous Shifen waterfall

Head to Jiufen

I’ve explained how to get to Jiufen from Shifen in depth in a dedicated post, so head over there to plan it out using public transportation if you’re not going on a guided tour.

Jiufen is supposedly famous for being the inspiration for Miyazaki’s famous anime movie Spirited Away, although I recently learned that that was just a rumor! Still, visit Jiufen and you’ll see why the comparisons abound.

Jiufen is a haven for foodies and strolling along Jiufen Old Street you’ll likely be completely overwhelmed by all the delicious street food on offer here. A few of the most famous offeirngs are the peanut ice cream rolls and the fish ball soups, but you can check a complete guide to the foodie must-eats of Jiufen here.

Other than snacking on all the food, Jiufen has beautiful temples to photograph and a gorgeous coastline where you can see a beautiful sunset from one of many of the teahouses up on the hill.

Be warned though that Jiufen can be very crowded at night. Even when we visited in January – not close to peak season at all – we got stuck in a very slow-moving line of people descending the narrow streets, which was not fun for this claustrophobe.

Day 5: Finish off your Taipei musts

Eat xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung

One of the most famous dishes in Taipei is xiao long bao, aka soup dumplings. These delightfully fun-to-eat dumplings can be found everywhere in Taipei, but nowhere are they more famous than at Din Tai Fung, a Michelin-starred restaurant in central Taipei.

While there is a Din Tai Fung in the Taipei 101 tower, the original branch is supposedly the best – you can find it on Xinyi Road near the Dongmen MRT.

Some inferior soup dumplings, because I suck at waiting and following my own advice and didn’t actually wait for Din Tai Fung!

The wait at Din Tai Fung is always really long – usually at least an hour, unless you start your day there when it opens at 10 AM.

Pro Tip: If you don’t want to go right when it opens, I recommend purchasing a fast-track restaurant voucher, which can reduce your wait time from about 2 hours to closer to 30 minutes!

Alternately, you could do this in the evening with a Din Tai Fung dumpling & night tour alternative!

Explore Yongkang Street

The intersecting street, Yongkang Street, is also really cute and well-worth strolling around after you’ve stuffed yourself silly with dumplings… and there are also plenty of places to eat here if you’ve saved room after your dumplings or if you have a superhumaly-large stomach capacity.

There are several cute cafés serving quality coffee, street food vendors serving up fresh-to-order snacks, and plenty of cute accessory shops, including a perplexing number of umbrella-only shops (how that is a viable business model I have no idea…).

Walk over to Da’an Park

Da’an Park is the largest park in Taipei and it’s worth visiting here to rest your feet for a bit and allow your stomach time to digest all the lovely dumplings you just force fed it. Taking up 64 acres in the heart of Central Taipei, it’s a welcome respite from the at times relentless activity of the city.

Da’an Park (also called Daan Forest Park) was created with the intention of serving a similar function to NYC’s Central Park or London’s Hyde Park. It’s supposed to be the “lungs of Taipei,” offering locals a break from the hustle and bustle of downtown.

If the weather is nice, you can sit by the Ecological Pool and forget that you’re even in the heart of a metropolis of some 7+ million people!

Near the park, you can find the Grand Mosque of Taipei, the largest mosque in Taiwan. It was completed in 1960 by Chinese Muslims who came over to Taiwan from mainland China and lacked a place of prayer. In a country with tons of traditional Chinese temples, it’s quite unique to see!

Head up to the top of Taipei 101

I like to spread out some of the more touristy things over a couple of days, and to do some of the can’t-miss stuff last: which is why I’ve waited until the final day of this Taipei itinerary to tell you to go up to the top of Taipei 101.

It’s also close to your next stop, Elephant Mountain, where you’ll hike for an incredible view over the city (and of Taipei 101 itself).

The Taipei 101 was the world’s tallest building for six years – until the Burj al Khalifa in Dubai, currently the world’s tallest building, came along. While I generally find massive skyscrapers to be not that awe-inspiring, I was insanely impressed by the Taipei 101. It is unique and beautiful, inspired by Chinese pagodas yet uniquely Taiwanese. Some people say it looks like a stack of Chinese takeout boxes, others, like a stick of bamboo – I saw a massive layer cake.

One of the most interesting things about the building is how green it is: it has a platinum certification in environmental-friendly design. Even more interestingly, it was built to withstands the typhoons and earthquakes that often rattle Taipei.

To give the insanely tall building structure, a massive 728-ton pendulum damper is inside, which allows the building to rock and sway in the event of strong winds and earthquakes.

Entrance to the Taipei 101 costs $600 NTD (about $20) so it is definitely one of the pricier activities in Taipei!

I suggest booking the ticket online via GetYourGuide. You can purchase the standard admission ticket for the same price as buying it in person, which allows you to conveniently collect your ticket at the self-service ticket machine and skip the ticket-purchasing queue.

Book your standard entrance ticket here and skip the ticket desk

However, you will still have to wait for the elevators, which can be up to an hour or so of waiting — some past guests have even said 2.5 hours!

For that reason, I’d strongly, strongly recommend a skip-the-line ticket, which allows you to skip all queues for about an extra $20 USD. I don’t know about you, but I’d happily pay 20 bucks to not wait two hours on my vacation!

Save time on your trip! Book your fast-track ticket easily & hassle-free here!

Whichever ticket you book, your entrance ticket allows you to go up to the impressive viewing platform on the 89th floor, using the world’s fastest elevator! At 37.7 mph, this elevator takes an incomprehensible 30 seconds to go all the way up to the 89th floor – truly insane (and a bit stomach-dropping to be honest!).

If you’re a Starbucks fan, the world’s tallest Starbucks is here, but you have to apparently make a reservation.

Visit Elephant Mountain for a sunset hike and amazing view

If you’ve seen iconic night shots of Taipei all lit up from above, there’s a 90% chance those photos were taken from Elephant Mountain, Taipei’s very own mini-mountain hike right off a metro line.

Simply take the MRT all the way to the beginning of the red line (Xiangshan). Try to time your arrival so that you get to the MRT station about 1 hour before sunset, as the walk to the hiking trail takes 10 minutes plus about 20 minutes to get to the viewing area at the top of Elephant Mountain (so about 30 minutes total).

This hike is extremely popular with tourists and Instagram lovers. It’s become quite popular to get a shot standing on one of the boulders overlooking Taipei, so if you want that Insta photo you’ll have to queue up (we waited about 20 minutes for our turn for a photo).

Hit one final night market

Of course, on your last night in Taipei, you can’t miss visiting a night market!

There are so many to choose from, but Shilin was my favorite, so I’d either head back here or check out a new one from your list. I found that even though I went back to Shilin several times, I never got bored, as I was always trying new things each time!