Best known as the “Beautiful Isle”, Taiwan is a small island that will provide you with endless adventures as you travel between the colossal cliffs, tropical forests, and profound marble gorges. Providing an escape into a stunning natural landscape and bustling urban scene, Taiwan gives visitors an intimate view of tradition and religion.
You’ll also experience the blend and tolerance of multiple religions like Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, which have all left their mark on Chinese culture. With a unique political stance, Taiwan is an enigma that you’ll have to unlock for yourself.
歡迎光臨 – Welcome to Taiwan!
Taipei is the capital of Taiwan and is home to an odd mish-mash of Chinese, Japanese, and American cultures. There are many places where you can step back in time and look history in the eyes.
Many historical places have been preserved, which only adds to the odd architecture of the city as you’ll also see modernity slipping through the cracks in the form of skyscrapers, shopping districts, and busy traffic lanes.
Food lovers will also take great delight, as the city is known for eating out. With inexpensive restaurants and savory dishes, you can get to know Taipei better and entertain your taste buds.
- Culture and Language
- Spending Budget
- How to Get Around
- Top Cities to Visit
- Points of Interest
Culture and Language
Taiwan’s history began 6,000 years ago when settlers, likely from mainland China, moved to and began settling in the area. This was just the start of Taiwan’s relationship with China, which has only become more complicated and confusing throughout the years.
Many travelers today are often confused by the two names, the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China. China’s official name is the People’s Republic of China, and they believe that there is only one China in the world. However, Taiwan is officially known as the Republic of China.
There has been a struggle as to who actually governs Taiwan, but a large majority would say that Taiwan is a territory of mainland China due to their “One China Principle.”
In 1971, Taiwan lost its seat at the United Nations and was instead represented and replaced by the People’s Republic of China. This means that mainland China became the representative of all of China, which forced Taiwan to lose its independent identity.
Ultimately, mainland China does not control Taiwan, though they do like to say that the island is their territory. Taiwan does have its own government with 5 branches, which seek to operate independently from China. Taiwan’s close identity with mainland China still keeps the countries tied together.
You’ll often find that in the media or even by governments, Taiwan will be named as Taiwan, China. While the political identity of the country is still somewhat unstable, the culture and customs are closely linked to China and showcase many long-forgotten traditions.
Unlike mainland China, Taiwan has not fallen to Communism and has maintained many traditional religious practices that were once performed in mainland China. This makes Taiwan unique, as they have preserved an ancient part of Chinese culture while also accepting the influence of outside cultures.
Taiwanese culture is known for its big celebrations and festivals. There are multiple festivals throughout the year, and there are many events held around important holidays. One of the world’s biggest festivals and the most important for Taiwan is Mazu’s birthday, which is celebrated with a 218-mile trek across the island.
Tourists may also experience a unique blend of the indigenous culture with Chinese culture. Many of the original Austronesian tribes have their own festivals that show what life was like in Taiwan 6,000 years ago.
Language is another important part of the culture and one that brings back the bumpy relationship between mainland China and Taiwan. Mandarin Chinese is the official language of Taiwan, which is what is also spoken in mainland China. However, many people in Taiwan will speak multiple languages.
Taiwanese is also very popular among the country’s 23.57 million citizens (as of 2020), and it is a variation of Mandarin Chinese. You may also hear it referred to as Taiwanese Mandarin. Other languages spoken are Taiwanese Hokkien, which is the dominant native language, as well as local indigenous dialects.
Taiwan is also interested in opening up to the world more and is beginning to make English a top priority. While most English-speaking Taiwanese people will live in Taipei, the country is hoping to expand their education so that English is more widely spoken.
You should take the time to consider the budget for the rest of your trip so that you can be prepared. While Taiwan can be traveled on a budget, it doesn’t mean that it is the most affordable country to travel to either.
The most important considerations of your budget will be airfare, accommodation, food, drink, and transportation.
A plane ticket will be a large portion of your budget, with most tickets costing hundreds to thousands of dollars. This price can change though, depending on how early you book your ticket.
The tourist season in Taiwan is at its highest in the fall and winter, and there’s also a peak during the months of May to July. Due to Taiwan’s more temperate climate, many people are happy to visit throughout the year.
However, it’s during these peak months that plane tickets will be the most expensive. But you can also save money by not waiting and booking your plane ticket in advance.
Once you have booked a plane ticket, you should look into booking your accommodation for the duration of your stay. Dorm beds will be the most affordable accommodation option with guesthouses and private rooms costing a bit more.
If a hotel is more your style, you should expect to pay a high price. An affordable hotel in Taiwan will be more expensive, meanwhile, luxury options will be even more pricey.
Really nice resorts or luxury accommodation options would cost hundreds to thousands of dollars, particularly for a private resort.
You should also be wary of using Airbnb because it is technically illegal within the country, though that doesn’t stop people from listing their places for rent. The danger with Airbnb is that you could get in trouble with local law enforcement or have issues with an unreliable host.
While getting some rest and relaxation is always important, you’ll also need to eat, and many people are eager to try Taiwanese food. The cuisine in Taiwan has a few different variations, with the majority being called Hoklo. Taiwan is also diverse, and they have a few different cultural influences on their various dishes.
Beef noodle soup is one of the most popular dishes, which has slow-braised beef and noodles. Hot pot is also widely popular and is almost a savory version of fondue. A pot will sit in the middle with a strong broth, and you can then dip anything in to make for a tasty meal.
Most food is affordable if you know where to look. Taiwanese street food, like many Asian countries, is the most affordable, with dishes usually costing a few dollars.
Restaurants can also be well-priced if you stick to local places, meanwhile, any Western-style establishment or touristy restaurant will be more expensive, and you should expect to pay something similar to US prices for a meal.
If you want to drink in Taiwan, you can also do so affordably by drinking local beverages. Keep in mind that, if you want to spend time in touristy areas, you should be prepared to pay for drinks that match the price.
For those not interested in alcohol, consider trying bubble tea, a popular option that’s become a global sensation, and coffee, which are also affordable because they are local.
How to Get Around
How you choose to travel around Taiwan can also affect your overall budget. Most people will look for affordable transportation options, which means using local methods.
Trains and Buses
Taiwan has a high-speed railway, which is a great way to travel and is affordable. The high-speed train is more expensive than the normal train but will take much less time.
Buses are another option to travel around Taiwan, and they will be the most affordable way to travel. Most bus tickets are fairly priced and are a reliable way to see more of the country.
Within the city, there may also be a local metro or bus available. Localized transportation is more affordable, with most tickets costing a few dollars.
You can also fly, however, you should be aware that domestic flights in Taiwan are not as safe as in other countries, and there have been numerous accidents. While flights are the fastest way to travel, they can be expensive.
Taxis are another way to travel that can be a better choice than renting a car. Roadways can be a little hectic in Taiwan, and most tourists will want to avoid car rentals. However, when you’ve got a lot of luggage and need to get to your hotel, a taxi is the best option.
Moderately priced, short rides will cost minimally, while longer treks will add up based on the distance.
Finally, walking is a great way to explore concentrated parts of Taiwan, and it’s free. Tourists are safe to walk around, and you can experience more local life. However, you should still always be aware of your surroundings and avoid walking alone at night for your safety.
Top Cities to Visit
Taiwan has a lot of cities that tourists can visit, though many tend to stay near Taiwan. Home to different attractions, it’s worth your time to plan to visit a few locations during your stay. Here are some of the most popular cities to visit in Taiwan among travelers.
Most famous for the Taipei 101 tower that stands out against the skyline, the capital of Taipai is an energetic city that has endless entertainment for its visitors. While it is the central hub for all of Taiwan, Taipei is also popular with the arts and culture.
The streets are a mix of old and new, where you can experience fine dining, shopping, and top attractions. The Hsing Tian Kong Temple is a big hit amongst tourists, and the zoo is also famous. The National Palace Museum is also a great place to learn more about Taiwan.
Once the capital of Imperial Taiwan, Tainan is now famous for the Anping District, which regularly draws in tourists and locals. The district is the heart of Tainan and has a lot of historic sites like temples and Fort Zeelandia. The city is also close to Taijian National Park, which is a big hit with nature lovers.
Lukang is filled with amazing architecture with well-preserved temples that are over 200 years old. The bright colors of the temples draw in tourists, while the local cuisine stops them from leaving. The area is also famous for its local cuisine, and you can try dishes like ox tongue cakes.
The hot springs of Wulai are famous for being the place to go to relax and bask in a stunning landscape. The local Atayal people are also very welcoming and are happy to offer their indigenous art and crafts for sale.
The nearby mountains also make the perfect setting for plenty of thrilling outdoor activities.
The large statue of Buddha is what makes Kaohsiung famous, however, it’s also an important hub for the countries’ maritime and industrial businesses. The local area is also diverse, with a mix of cultures coming together to form a community.
The city also has a more temperate climate, which means that you really can’t find a bad time to stop by for a visit.
Hualien is the town closest to the Taroko Gorge, which is Taiwan’s gem. The gorge is absolutely stunning and has a vibrant blue river running through its core. With amazing marble walls and lush greenery, you’ll be eager to snap a few photos.
The town of Hualien is also popular for the Dong Da Men market with plenty of local dishes.
Taiwan’s famous Rainbow Military Dependent’s Village is located in Taichung, as well as the original Chun Shui Teahouse, which makes bubble tea. Other popular places in the area include the Miyaharu and pineapple tart store. With picturesque scenery, Taichung is also just a beautiful place to visit.
Points of Interest
While cities are filled with points of interest, there are also many places that stand out on their own as popular tourist attractions in Taiwan. Home to gorgeous outdoor locations, those looking to spend time in nature will have plenty of options. Here are the top destinations for visitors in Taiwan.
Discover the best of Taiwan’s thermal springs to add to your itinerary, on our sister site, Top Hot Springs.
These islands are located between mainland China and Taiwan, and they were once the battleground between Nationalists and Communists. Now, the area has turned into a peaceful place to visit with beautiful temples and the Kinmen National Park.
Kenting National Park
Often called Taiwan’s oldest national park, the Kenting National Park has idyllic views, clean beaches, and a warm climate. There’s a lot to explore in the park, from the wildlife to the Eluanbi Lighthouse. The Spring Scream Festival is also a popular music attraction that draws in thousands of tourists each year.
Alishan National Scenic Area
With 25 mountains, it’s safe to say that the Alishan National Scenic Area will make you audibly gasp. The trails will lead you to the best viewpoints, where you can watch the fog roll in over the landscape.
The Alishan Forest Railway is a popular activity that is also an easy way to explore more of the area.
Sun Moon Lake
Now a resort destination, Sun Moon Lake is Taiwan’s largest body of water. The area has become increasingly popular with local and foreign tourists who flock to the hotels, restaurants, bars, and shops that sit on the shore.
There are plenty of outdoor activities to keep you entertained, and you can also get out on a lake with a calm boat ride.
Yushan National Park
The unique rock formations of Yushan National Park make it one of the most beautiful in Taiwan. The tall peaks of bare rock are covered in lush green fauna, which only adds to the mysterious beauty.
“Formosa” (“Beautiful Isle”)
While Taiwan may find itself trapped between identities with China, the island can safely say that they are one of the most beautiful in all of China.
The breathtaking landscape is enough to draw people in, but history buffs will also be interested to see an ancient world preserved by culture, architecture, and tradition. In Taiwan, you can experience pure Chinese culture.