We recently spent 10 days exploring Taiwan and wanted to share some tips and tricks for getting around the country. The only thing missing from our list are the National Parks — we'll be sure to visit next time!
1. Buy a Joint Ticket for the Taoyuan Airport MRT / Taipei Metro
If you're flying into Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, I recommend buying the 72-hour MRT pass + roundtrip airport MRT pass, which includes a coupon book for discounts at shops around Taipei.
You can find the passes at the airport information center or the airport MRT station.
2. Get an iCash or EasyCash card
Similar to the Octopus card in Hong Kong, the EasyCash card can be purchased at the MRT station booths. You can refill the EasyCash card and use it on the MRT, buses, and select retail stores like Starbucks.
The iCash card is like the EasyCash card and can be found at 7 Eleven. iCash cards cost $100 NTD; they cannot be used on the buses.
3. Take the high-speed rail (HSR) to other cities in Taiwan
If you're planning on visiting cities outside of Taipei, take the High Speed Rail (HSR) to save time. The HSR runs from Taipei to Kaohsiung at a maximum of 186 mph.
The HSR comes every 15-30 minutes depending on the time of day, and it stops in most major cities. Be sure to reserve a seat if you're riding the HSR during peak hours.
4. MRT is great for getting around Taipei and Kaohsiung
Taipei and Kaohsiung are the two largest cities in Taiwan with great public transportation routes. If you have an iCash or EasyCard, you access any MRT system in Taiwan.
5. Taxis for Tainan and Taichung
Tainan and Taichung are harder to get around without a car. The attractions are spread throughout the city and hard to get to by foot. The base fare for taxis usually starts at ~$100 NTD.
Most taxi drivers do not speak English, so be ready to show your destination on a map.
6. Ubers are available in larger cities
If you don't want to call a taxi, Uber is available in larger cities like Taipei, Taichung, and Kaohsiung.
7. Withdraw cash at an ATM
Most food establishments do not take credit card. Be sure to have a debit card that does not charge ATM fees like the Charles Schwab card.
8. Visa is preferred
Visa is the most widely accepted card. It's harder to find merchants that will accept American Express, Mastercard, and Discover.
9. Night markets open on different days of the week
Before you venture out to a night market, check online to see if it's open. Certain night markets are only open on select days of the week.
10. Tip is usually included in the price
It is not customary to tip at restaurants in Taiwan. Most establishments will include a 10% tip in the price if they accept tips.
11. Addiction Aquatic Development
If you love seafood, you MUST visit the Addiction Aquatic Development. The Addiction Aquatic Development is an extension of the Taipei Fish Market and has fantastic fresh seafood at reasonable price points.
The seafood center has 10 different areas, each which operate separately so you cannot bring outside food into another area. There is an aquatic center to pick out live seafood, a sushi bar, bento boxes, oyster grill, and much more.
All areas in the Addiction Aquatic Development center are cash only.
12. Bubble tea is affordable
Bubble tea in Taiwan costs $1.00-2.50 USD. Enjoy it while you can! The best bubble tea comes from Taiwan; fresh, affordable, and good quality!
13. Visit SunnyHills for pineapple cake
Escape the busy bustle of the city and enjoy the serenity of SunnyHills. Each guest can enjoy a complimentary cup of tea and pineapple cake before shopping.
SunnyHills sources their ingredients directly from farmers and the pineapples used in the cakes are from Bagua Mountain.
14. Visit the original Din Tai Fung
Trust me when I tell you that Din Tai Fung tastes better in Taipei. The prices are lower, the customer service is better, and the food is amazing.
Be sure to visit when it first opens, or be prepared to wait.
15. Use the American Express Platinum Concierge for reservations
For restaurants that take reservations, try using the Amex Concierge. They were able to snag last-minute dinner reservations at a popular restaurant during Chinese New Year.
16. Taiwan has a wide range of food options
You can choose to eat frugally at the night markets or splurge at high-end restaurants.
17. Costco membership works worldwide
Taiwan has Costcos throughout the country. If for some reason you find yourself at Costco, your U.S. membership is valid at the Taiwan locations.
Costco is great for buying Taiwanese snacks and alcohol.
18. Book boutique hotels on Hotels.com
The average hotel in Taipei costs ~$150 USD. I didn't see outsized value in booking with points, so I used hotels.com to reserve 4-star boutique hotels for ~$100/night.
The hotel prices are even more affordable when you visit cities like Taichung and Kaohsiung ($40-$70/night).
Places to Visit
19. Many places are closed during Chinese New Year
We were expecting to find Chinese New Year celebrations in Taipei but were surprised they take place in Kaohsiung.
Most shops were not open or closed early for the New Year because the employees traveled back to their hometowns.
20. Visit Taipei 101
If it's your first time in Taipei, the best time to visit Taipei 101 is right before sunset so you can see the view during the day and night.
Get 10% off one admission ticket when you use the coupon from the Airport MRT pass.
21. Elephant Trail
My friends recommended that we hike the Elephant trail for the best view of Taipei, but we didn't have time. The hike is only 15-20 minutes and easily accessible from the city.
22. Taroko Park
If you need a break from sightseeing, Taroko Park in Kaohsiung is the largest shopping center with an amusement park Taiwan. The park features a ferris wheel, race track, and many amusement park rides.
23. 7-Eleven is everywhere
Some 7-Elevens in Taiwan are more than just a convenience store. You can find quality food, buy an MRT card, mobile cards, and even do laundry at select locations.
24. Google Translate
Download the Google Translate app for speech translations. Picture translations will work 50% of the time.
25. Download Google Maps
In case you're in an area that doesn't have good cell phone reception, be sure to download a copy of Google Maps on your phone.