10 Reasons Why Taiwan Should Be the Next Country You Visit
If you have been googling lists of most visited countries in Asia by Filipinos, chances are you won’t find Taiwan on any list. Most people, especially Filipinos, don’t know much about Taiwan — except, of course, for the fact that it is where the hit Asian TV Drama Meteor Garden originated which took the Philippines by storm. Going to Taiwan, you’ll surely realize that it offers a variety of experiences for different kinds of travelers… and so much more.
Taiwan, officially known as The Republic of China, is an amazing country nestled in the middle of the ocean just off the coast of mainland China. Their official language is Mandarin, so you might want to dust off that Mandarin to English book. There’s also a noticeable Japanese influence that persists to this day, and it comes from the period when Taiwan was under Japanese rule.
Here are the top 10 reasons why you need to book a trip to Taiwan stat!
- VISA-FREE ENTRY SOON FOR PHILIPPINE PASSPORT HOLDERS
Taiwan will soon offer visa-free entry to Philippine Passport holders. It will be on a one-year trial period which will give Filipinos a chance to enter and stay in Taiwan visa-free for 30 days.
Although this was supposed to be implemented starting June 1 this year, it will be postponed to September due to technical problems that the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs are having.
Offhand, tourists who has an existing or used visa from Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, any of the Schengen countries, the United Kingdom, or the United States may also enter Taiwan visa-free.
For more information about the Philippine Passport Holders’ visa exempt policy, please visit the website1 of the Taipei Economic and Culutral Office in the Philippines.
If you are not a Philippine passport holder, you can check if your country is included in the visa-free list on the website2 of Taiwan’s Bureau of Consular Affairs and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
- AIRFARE IS CHEAP
Taiwan is only a 2-hour plane ride from the Philippines. Budget airlines, such as Cebu Pacific and Air Asia, usually offer cheap airfares going to Taipei. During seat sales, average cost of a back and forth trip from these airlines would cost around Php 2,800 to Php 3,500 excluding Travel Tax Fee. Regular airfare costs around Php 5,000 and up depending on which airline you’re taking and when you book your trip.
- FOOD IS DELICIOUS
Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, is home to one of Asia’s most exciting street food scenes. According to Gothamist Getaways, street food is the hallmark of Taiwanese dining, and night markets are the quintessential Taiwanese experience.
Never pass on the opportunity to visit the original Din Tai Fung, a Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant known for its delicious Xiao Long Bao (steamed dumplings with soup); or eat the famous black pepper pork buns (Hu Jiao Bing) at Raohe Night Market.
With the number of food choices available, you will never run out of options from breakfast to midnight snack.
Here are some of the amazing food that you should try when you visit Taiwan:
Din Tai Fung’s Xiao Long Bao (NT$ 220 for 10pcs)
Black Pepper Pork Bun at Raohe Night Market (NT$ 50)
Pork Fat Rice at Jiufen (NT$ 50)
Flame Grilled Ribeye Cubes at Raohe Night Market (NT$ 150)
Peanut Ice Cream Roll at Jiufen (NT$ 50)
Fresh seafood at Addiction Aquatic Development
Some other food to try:
- Taiwanese Breakfast
- Stinky Tofu (only if you can tolerate the smell)
- Taiwanese Beef Noodles
- Oyster Omelets
- Braised Pork Rice
- Cheese Potato
- Deep Fried Octopus, Squid, Crablets
- Flame Grilled Oyster and Scallops
- Small Sausage wrapped in big sausage
- Muah Chee (Mochi)
- Pineapple Cake
- Taiwanese Fried Chicken
- EXCHANGE RATES ARE NOT STEEP
Taiwanese Dollar (NT$ or TWD) is the official currency of Taiwan. As of writing, 1 TWD is roughly equivalent to 1.64 PHP. Not bad, right? Compared to other top tourist destinations in Asia, Taiwan’s currency doesn’t sway that far from the Philippine Peso. This means you’ll most likely get the most bang for your buck during your trip, especially if you’re carrying currencies stronger than the Philippine Peso.
That being said, an average daily spending in Taiwan for food would range from NT$ 300 to NT$ 600 depending on where you want to treat yourself.
Conversion rate as of June 6, 2017 via www.xe.com
- VIBRANT NIGHT MARKETS
A trip to Taiwan is not complete without a visit to its night markets. It is a common fixture in the country, operating from around 5 p.m. until midnight. There are more than 10 night markets in Taiwan but for starters, you might want to visit Raohe Street and Shilin Night Markets.
Raohe Street Night Market is one of the oldest and most traditional markets in Taiwan. It is located just outside of Songshan Station (MRT Green Line 3) and it stretches nearly 2,000 feet. It is packed with various kinds of food, shops and stalls that will keep you busy the entire night.
Shilin Night Market is one of the largest in the country. It is also one of the most popular points to experience Taipei’s night life. Located in Taipei’s Shilin District, just a few meters away from Jiantan MRT Station, the narrow lane is filled with various kinds of merchandise as well as local cuisine for both foreigners and locals.
- YOU GET THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
If you want a country that can satisfy your curiosity for both traditional and modern culture, Taiwan is the place for you.
Take a whiff of Taiwan’s amazing culture when you visit Lungshan Temple of Manka in Wanhua District, Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, National Palace Museum, Martyr’s Shrine, Maokong Tea House, Jiufen and Shifen Old Street.
Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall
Jiufen Famous Tea House
Shifen Old Street
Jiufen narrow street
For a more modern take on the city, visit the Ximending Shopping District which is located just outside of Ximen Station in Wanhua District. Ximending is like a miniature Times Square that gets even busier at night when the street begins to fill up with street performers and tourists.
Also make sure to visit the following destinations:
- Taipei 101. Named as the tallest building in the world from 2004 to 2010, it has served as an icon of modern Taiwan ever since it opened.
- Huashan or Songshan Creative Parks. These are open spaces where you can appreciate Taiwanese art and design.
- Fujin Street. It’s a tree-lined street considered as one of Taipei’s best kept secrets. This neighborhood boasts of a mix of eclectic hipster cafes and boutiques.
Ximening Youth Shopping District
- YOU CAN GO BACK IN TIME
Go back in time when you visit Shifen and Jiufen Old Street, which is only an hour away from Taipei via bus or by train through Ruifang Station.
Jiufen (Chiufen / Jioufen) is a small town north of Taiwan originally built by the Japanese. Its maze of lanes and alleyways boasts of the town’s rich history and culture. Jiufen started as an isolated town until the discovery of gold deposits during the Japanese occupation. A lot of structures in the town remain unchanged reflecting the Japanese influence on both the architecture and culture on the island. It is known for its distinctive red lanterns and cobblestone stairways. In 2001, it became the inspiration for the popular Japanese animated film Spirited Away.
Quick Fact: Jiufen literally means “nine portions.” It is said that a long time ago, there were only nine families living in this town. Each time someone took a trip down the mountain to purchase supplies, all the purchased goods would be split into nine portions, one for each family; hence the name Jiufen.
Jiufen narrow alleys
A popular Jiufen staircase
Ah Mei Tea House’s cold fruit tea
Ah Mei Tea House’s view
An old style restaurant façade
Shifen Old Streets, located at Pingxi District, is a collection of lanes and alleys around the area of the Shifen Railway Station. The railway was originally built to transport coal during the Japanese era. Nowadays, both sides of the railway are mainly filled with sky lanterns, souvenir shops and restaurants. Releasing of colorful sky lanterns is a popular activity for tourists. People write their wishes on the lanterns and later release it into the sky as it is believed that it is a way to pass on your wishes to the gods above. Each side or color of the lantern corresponds to a person’s desire. For example, yellow is for money and wealth while pink is for happiness.
Shifen Railway Station
You cam write your wishes on the sky lantern
- AN EFFICIENT MASS TRANSPORT SYSTEM
Taiwan probably has one of the most efficient public transportation systems in Asia. The country is connected by trains and buses, which makes it easier to visit places even outside of Taipei. Subways are probably the most reliable and convenient way to go around Taiwan’s urban areas: Taipei and Kaohsiung. There are five different lines in Taipei alone and you won’t need to go out of the station to transfer to another line.
The trains and buses are clean and nice, which makes it such a breeze to travel from one point to another. Taxis and Ubers are also available; just watch out for surge prices during peak hours.
Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport is at least an hour away from the Taipei area. It serves as Taiwan’s only entry point with direct flights from nearby Asian countries.
For tourists coming from the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, taxis, trains, Sky Trains and buses are available for the taking. After 12 midnight, you can choose to ride either a bus, taxi or rent a car going to Taipei. Taking the bus going to Taipei Main Station is the cheapest option at NT$ 125 especially if you are travelling with less than 4 people.
Rental cars outside the airport are also available if you want a hassle-free trip straight to your accommodation. This is priced at around NT$ 1000 for 4 passengers.
- CONVENIENCE STORES ARE ON EVERY CORNER
There’s literally a 7-Eleven and Family Mart store on every corner of Taipei. If you want a quick meal in the morning or late at night, head on to the nearest 7-Eleven or Family Mart and try their hot packed food ranging from NT$ 35 to NT$ 100. The variety, quality and taste of food they have in these stores will surely impress you!
- THE PEOPLE ARE GREAT
One of the best reasons why Taiwan is such a beautiful country is because the locals are very disciplined and polite. You will be amazed that no matter how packed the trains or buses are, no one will sit on seats designated for elders, pregnant women or persons with disabilities. The bus drivers won’t even check how much cash you put into the fare box because they trust you to be honest. They value hard work, patience, humility and respect for others.
- INTERNET: If you are taking a red eye flight to Taiwan, note that the Sim Card or Internet rental counters at the airport opens at 5:30 a.m. and closes at 1 a.m. Catering to tourists, these are the only stores that sells cheap unlimited internet service. If you know that you are arriving after 1 a.m., it’s best to bring your own internet or find the nearest Chunghwa Telecom or FarEasTone Telecommunications store in the city. Chunghwa sells unlimited 3-day internet access for NT$ 300 while FarEasTone sells 2.2GB internet per sim card for about NT$ 600.
- GETTING AROUND: You can always rely on Google Maps to help you get around the city. It provides you with the best options to go from one point to another. Aside from indicating the exact fare you need to pay on public transportation, it also lets you know how much time before the bus or train arrives in the station.
- TAIPEI 101: Want to see the whole city of Taipei at the Taipei 101 Observatory but don’t want to spend NT$ 600 per person for the view? No worries! Make your way up to the famous Starbucks on the 35th floor and see the spectacular view that’s almost as good as going up to the observatory. Note that you cannot enter Starbucks if you do not have an appointment. It is recommended to call them at least 2 days in advance to book a slot. Ask your hotel receptionist or Airbnb host to call on your behalf since some of the Starbucks crew don’t speak English. Every guest is obliged to spend at least NT$ 200 upon arrival at the store. Not bad for a view and good coffee.
Article and photos by Diane Valbuena
Additional photos by Pat Cordova
Links: 1 Philippine Passport Holders’ Visa Exempt Policy, 2 Taiwan’s Visa-Free List