Two colleagues and friends are travelling to Hong Kong, Taipei and Beijing in May and asked me to give some tips on Taipei, as I was there in December 2017.
1: It’s all about the money
First things first: exchange cash. You really need cash money in Taiwan. Most shops don’t accept cards and certainly street food stands want cash. Also for topping your EasyCard you need cash.
Luckily as soon as you land in Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) you’ll encounter a bureau de change where you can exchange your euros, dollars or pounds. It’s located even before the immigration desks. Taipei and Taiwan are not that expensive, but try to calculate how much you need per person per day.
Next to the bureau de change there’s a counter where they sell sim cards for your smartphone. Buy one. They have a couple of options depending on how long you stay in Taiwan. You. Need. It. You need mobile internet to navigate the streets, for TripAdvisor, for Google Translate.
The EasyCard is the Oyster Card (London, United Kingdom) or Myki (Melbourne, Australia) of Taiwan. It’s your key to public transport. Buy a card, top it up. Cash, by the way.
But! The EasyCard is also a payment method in many shops. So make sure you have enough money on the card.
4: The MRT
The MRT or Mass Rapid Transit is a combination of metro and train. It gets you around town, from and the the airport and from and to the coast, the mountains. It’s very easy to use. The lines have names and colours and every metro station has a number. You can’t fail.
5: The right exit
When using the MRT, make sure you know which exit you need. They’re numbered. You’ll get lost if you take the wrong exit.
6: No trash
In a city fueled by street food, you won’t find trash cans and waste bins. So what do you do with your rubbish? Keep it until you get to an MRT station. There you’ll find waste bins.
7: To the loo
Finding public toilets is also an issue. But there again the MRT station comes to the rescue. Restrooms are clean and available there.
8: And when the rain begins to fall
Don’t go anywhere in Taipei without an umbrella, a raincoat and/or a hat to weather the weather. You’ll get rain, it’s a guarantee.
9: Mind the pedestrians
Taiwan is a mix of Japanese discipline and organization and Chinese chaos. Be careful in traffic and when crossing the streets. Mind the bikes and scooters.
10: Crystal clear
Do you feel like hiking a bit? Escaping he city buzz? Take the Maokong Gondola into the mountains. Make sure to take a Crystal Gondola for an epic view of what passes beneath you!
11: Eat dumplings
Every guide tells you how great the food is in Taiwan. Because it is. Go have dumplings. Taiwan is the home of Japanese and the very diverse Chinese cuisine. Make the best of it.
Enjoy Taiwan! I did.