Taipei (台北 or 臺北; Tâi-pak in Minnan, Táiběi in Mandarin) is the national capital of the Republic of China, otherwise known as Taiwan. Sitting in the northern part of the island in a basin between the Yangming Mountains and the Central Mountains, Taipei serves as the island's financial, cultural, and governmental center. The city is a tantalizing mix of Chinese, Japanese and Western influences, vibrant in its own right yet unhurried by global standards. Besides the architectural and cultural landmarks like Taipei 101 and Longshan Temple, the xiaochi (small snacks) in bustling night markets are an experience not to be forgotten by your stomach. The capital is also a great jumping off point for day trips to hot springs, old mining towns and national parks around the Northern Taiwan area.
Taipei is a fast-growing city, but despite the pressure on land, a park is never far away, especially in the suburban areas. The downtown area is culturally divided into East and West. The west side, with its narrow streets and road side vendors, is considered the bastion of old Taipei life, whereas East Taipei, with its bustling supermalls, chic boutiques, stylish restaurants and classy cafes, reminiscent of those found in Tokyo, Seoul, Paris or New York City represents its metamorphosis.
The Greater Taipei metropolitan area beyond Taipei City boundaries includes the surrounding New Taipei City (新北市) and Keelung (基隆市), representing the largest urban cluster in Taiwan with nearly 7 million people, though run by three different government authorities.
The city's architecture again suffered a major onslaught when the KMT government arrived from mainland China in 1945. In order to cope with the influx of millions of mainland refugees, temporary housing estates sprang up all around the city. Later, these were replaced by Soviet-era style (or 'no-style') concrete apartment buildings, which characterized Taipei's landscape for decades. Many of these building still survive, but as Taiwan's economy took off and people became more affluent, a brighter and bolder city began to emerge from the 1980s. New districts were established, tree lined boulevards were laid, high quality apartment blocks constructed, and chic and stylish cafes and restaurants opened.
The Taipei of today is rated as one of the planet's wealthiest and most innovative cities, and is characterized by its friendly people and safe streets. While it is not usually high on the list of tourist destinations, in reality it is a fascinating place to visit and live, and Taipei's local cuisine has deservedly earned its place among Asia's finest. Furthermore, despite its size, Taipei does not have any rough areas that are considered unsafe, even at night - which in itself is attractive.
Taipei has a semi-tropical climate characterized by hot and humid weather. The most comfortable season to visit is the fall, when the rainfall is at its lowest and the temperatures average a pleasant mid 20 °C. February to April are particularly damp with little sunlight, while the summers can be very hot, but often punctuated by heavy thunder showers. Taipei is prone to typhoons from May to October, though the highest concentrations are in August and September. Winters can be quite chilly, with temperatures occasionally falling below 10 °C at night, though snowfall has never been known to occur except on very rare occasions at higher elevations in Yangmingshan National Park.
- Taiwan Tourism Bureau – The official Tourism Bureau website.
- Taipei Travel Net – The official travel guide from the Taipei City Government.
Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport
Taiwan Taoyuan International AirportThe primary international airport of Taipei. The airport is about 30 km from the city and freeway buses ply the route, picking up and dropping off passengers at most of the five-star hotels. They also stop at the Taipei Main Station and the smaller Songshan Airport. There are bus services connecting the airport to nearby cities and Taichung in central Taiwan.
The Taoyuan Airport MRT rail is the fastest travel option fo/from the airport.
- Between 06:00 and 23:00, two trains run every 15 minutes in each direction, one Express, one Commuter. The journey to Taipei by the Express Train takes roughly 38 minutes and the fare is NT$160 for either train type (NT$150 if paid by EasyCard). The train terminates at Taipei Main Station (on the red and blue MRT lines), and there is also an underground walkway to Beimen MRT Station (on the green MRT line). For passengers heading to Taipei, it is best to wait for the Express Train, as the Commuter Train stops at every station.
- At Taipei Main, some airlines (China Airlines, EVA Air and their subsidiaries) allow you to check-in and check your bags ahead of time, which are also then sent to the airport on the MRT. However, you must do this between 6 hours and 3 hours before your flight departure time. Follow the signs for “In-Town Check-in” on the upper levels of the Taipei Main Airport MRT station.
- The platform at Taipei Main Station is some 300 meters from Taipei MRT platforms.
- Express airport buses cost between NT$120-150 depending on the bus company, 50–70 minutes depending on traffic and there are stops at both terminals. Most Taipei routes are divided into West and East, with each company operating a service every ten to fifteen minutes on each route. The western line bus terminates at Taipei Main Railway Station and also makes a stop at Yuanshan MRT Station on the Xindian line. (The Airbus company buses on the western line meander through local towns before joining the freeway and therefore take much longer than the blue and white Guoguang buses which enter the freeway directly.) Buses plying the eastern route terminate at the Taipei Grand Hyatt Hotel and make a stop at Zhongxiao-Fuxing MRT Station on the Nangang and Muzha lines. There is also a bus connecting to the domestic Songshan Airport. Ticket counters display route maps showing all stops. In addition, there are some non-express buses which are slightly cheaper, but pass through towns such as Taoyuan (桃園), Nankan (南崁) or Kueishan (龜山) before arriving in Taipei.
- It is also easy to get to from the airport. You can take the MRT rail line there (previously, you had to take a bus). From there, you can catch one of the HSR trains to Taipei Main Station (where it is easy to take a taxi or MRT to your final destination). The bus is NT$30 and the train is NT$165. The total journey time takes 5–15 minutes waiting time, 18–25 minutes on the bus, and 19 minutes to Taoyuan HSR; roughly 1 hour in all. On the way back, there are check-in counters at the station for China Airlines, EVA Air flights.
- A one-way taxi fare between the airport and Taipei will cost at the minimum NT$900 (generally NT$1,000-1,200 from the airport). In Taipei, don't make the mistake of asking a taxi driver to take you to the Taipei airport (Songshan) if you actually mean Taiwan Taoyuan Airport. The international airport is actually about an hour's drive from Taipei, while Songshan is in downtown Taipei.
- A one-way pre-arranged car fare between the airport and Taipei will cost at the minimum NT$1,300-1,500. Generally these sedans are pre-arranged through your hotel and the car company or driver will meet you as soon as you exit baggage claim. Since the price is not much more than taking a taxi, it is usually recommended that you ask your hotel if they offer this service. This is a more comfortable half-hour ride to the hotel.
- Direct bus connections between the airport and other cities in Taiwan are also available. U-bus also runs shuttle buses every 15 min from both terminals to THSR Taoyuan station (15 min away), from where you can continue your journey by high-speed train.
In addition to the transit hotel within the airport terminal, there are several hotels near the airport if you want more comfortable quarters for an extended transit or would rather lodge by the airport than in Taipei. The Novotel Taoyuan International Airport, next to the China Airlines headquarters building, is mere minutes from both terminals and has commanding views of the airport's runways. Also nearby is the CitySuites Gateway Hotel, 10 minutes from the Cing-pu High-speed Rail Station and three minutes away from Taoyuan International Airport.
There is a night service, although it's really hard to find information about it. Best source is the airport website. As of February 2012 there is overnight bus service to Taipei Railway station at the following times 01:30, 03:00 for Terminal 1 (exit B5), add 10 mins for Terminal 2 (bus station, 1819 stand). Ticket can be purchased from the driver - NT$165. Another bus at 04:00, Wednesday & Saturday at Terminal 2, is unconfirmed. From the Taipei Railway you can take overnight train to connect to other cities or bus from the adherent bus station. It takes about 55 min from the airport to the city (at night).
Songshan AirportIt serves a few domestic destinations as well as select international routes to regional destinations. There are numerous daily flights arriving and departing for the outlying islands and cities on the east coast of the island. The airport also serves flights to various destinations in mainland China, as well as "city shuttle" services to Tokyo-Haneda, Seoul-Gimpo and Shanghai-Hongqiao. The airport is served by the Taipei Metro Brown Line's (officially labeled the Wenshan-Neihu Line) Songshan Airport Station and can be reached in about 15 minutes from Taipei Main Station. Many city and long-distance buses also connect to the airport.
There are also three other train stations in Taipei city. Wanhua Station (萬華車站) is in the south-western part of the city and is within walking distance of MRT Longshan Temple Station and is only served by local trains. Songshan Station (松山車站) is close to Raohe Street Night Market and all trains operated by the Taiwan Railway Administration stop at the station. Nangang Station (南港車站) is on the eastern end of the city and is served by local trains and some express trains. It is directly connected to Nangang Station on Taipei Metro's Bannan (Blue) line and the Taiwan High Speed Rail is expected to operate into the station by the beginning of 2015.
All train stations in Taipei city accept Easy Cards to enter the station in addition to tickets bought at the vending machines or counters.
The THSR stations and platforms are wheelchair-friendly and all trains include a wheelchair-accessible car (wider doors, ample space, accessible bathroom). The official English guide for online reservations distinguishes between "senior or disabled tickets" and "handicap-friendly seats"; while it's possible to buy a ticket for the former online ("correct passenger ID" required), a ticket for the latter has to be reserved by calling the ticketing office on the phone.
- Lockers of different sizes are available at the Taipei Main Station. NT$20-50 per 3 hours, maximum 3 days.
Taipei Railway Station carry-on baggage center
Intercity buses arrive and depart from the , which is on Chengde Road, behind Taipei Main Station. Generally speaking, the buses operated by private companies are more comfortable and sport such amenities as wide reclining seats and individual game and video monitors. The government run buses are blue and white and are called guóguāng hào (國光號). All intercity buses are known as kèyùn (客運) and can be distinguished from the local city buses called gōngchē (公車) by the fact that they do not have a route number, but only the name of the destination.
By boatCSF operates fast feries (about 3 hr) from Pingtan in mainland China to Taipei (actually Bali District in New Taipei) and back. As of Feb 2019, the Taipei-Pingtan-Taipei route runs Tu W F and Sa (full schedule). Adult fares for non-Taiwan citizens start at NT$3,000/5,300 one-way/round-trip if purchased in advance (fare table), a couple hundred more if purchased at the pier (fare table). Fares are cheaper for Taiwan/ROC citizens (advance / pier).
Women and/or children traveling at night can benefit from the Safe Zones - sections of platforms that are under heavy surveillance - in some of the subway lines. Stations and trains (including the monorail) are wheelchair-friendly, but when there are multiple exits from a single station, usually only one of these is equipped with a lift.
Often limited-edition cards are issued by the transit authority depicting artworks, famous characters, landscapes, etc. These are quite collectible and are perfect souvenirs for your trip. Single-journey tokens are recycled when you exit the stations, so if you want to keep a particular one you should purchase an extra.
As of July 1st, 2019, riders paying by cash must always pay when boarding the bus, and riders paying by EasyCard must tap both on and off when entering/exiting the bus. Prior to this change, there was a somewhat confusing system where riders would sometimes pay when entering the bus, and other times pay when leaving the bus. The EasyCard system will automatically calculate the number of zones travelled and deduct this from your card balance. Starting on February 1, 2020, failure to tap your EasyCard upon exiting the bus will not lock your card; however, you will not receive the MRT, bus, or YouBike transfer discount.
Taxis are the most flexible way to get around, and are extremely numerous. They are expensive in comparison to mass transit, but are cheap compared to taxis in the rest of the world. Taxis are metered, with the meter starting at NT$70 (an additional NT$20 is added at night). Most taxi drivers cannot speak English, and non-Chinese speakers will need to have their destination written down in Chinese. Tipping is neither necessary nor expected.
Since 2012, all passengers are required to buckle their seatbelt. Women and/or children traveling at night are advised to use one of the reputable taxi companies. The toll free taxi hotline is 0800-055850 (maintained by Department of Transportation).
Taiwanese taxi drivers tend to be more honest than in many other countries. They are notorious for their strong opinions on politics. A large majority of them support Taiwan independence as they spend all day listening to talk radio. They will probably be unable to share any of this with you if you do not speak Chinese. Avoid any potential political discussion.
It is not advisable for lone women at night to hail a random taxi from the street - it is best to have the number of one of the bigger taxi companies and to call for a cab. Taking a taxi at night in Taipei is more dangerous than walking.
Taipei has a great bike sharing system - YouBike. It is very cheap if you register through their site or via large touch panel screen at major parking stations but you need a local mobile number to have a 4 number code sent to it to prove its yours. The first half hour is NT$5, which is enough for most every ride you need, then additional half hours are charged at NT$10. You use EasyCard or iPass (the same as for the subway and buses) to rent them. It's all very easy and the bikes are modern and convenient. Check each bicycle for defects before you use them; bike seats are turned backwards to signal some form of maintenance is required. You can't take another bike from the same parking station for 15 minutes after parking. A very useful smart phone app called bikefriend shows where each Youbike bike station is located and how many bikes or parking spots are available.
By carRenting a car is not only unnecessary, but not recommended in Taipei unless you are planning to head out of the city. Traffic tends to be frantic, and parking spaces are expensive and difficult to find. Most of the main tourist destinations are reachable by public transport, and you should use that as your main mode of travel.
Address systemThe Taipei address system is very logical and user-friendly. The hub of the city is the corner of the east-west running Zhongxiao (忠孝) and north-south running Zhongshan (中山) Rds, however while the north/south divide is made at Zhongxiao here, further east it is made instead at Bade (八德) Rd, something which confuses even people who have lived in Taipei for years. All major roads are identified by their direction in relation to these roads. For example, all sections of the north-south running Fuxing (復興) Rd north of Bade are called Fuxing North Rd (復興北路). Likewise, those sections to the south are called Fuxing South Rd (復興南路). Those that cross Zhongshan road are similarly identified as either east or west. Section (段; duàn) numbers begin at 'one' near the two defining roads and increase at intersections of major highways. For example, Ren'ai (仁愛) Rd (which has only an east location and therefore does not have a direction suffix), Section 1 will be close to Zhongshan South Rd. The section number will increase as one moves further away from Zhongshan Rd. So, for example, when Ren'ai Rd reaches Dunhua South Rd (敦化南路) far in the east of the city, a typical address could be: 7F, 166 Ren'ai Rd, Section 4. The house and lane numbers begin at zero every section. Lanes (巷; xiàng) lead off roads (路; lù) and streets (街; jiē), while alleys (弄; nòng) branch off lanes.
Taipei is a city of people from many different origins, and you can find a good mix of mainland Chinese (people whose families migrated to Taiwan from 1949 onwards) and native Taiwanese (people whose families had been in Taiwan since the Qing Dynasty). While Mandarin is the lingua franca, and is spoken and understood by most people under the age of 60, other Chinese "dialects" are commonly heard as well. Among the native Taiwanese, while speakers of Minnan form the majority, there is also a significant number of Hakka-speaking native Taiwanese living in Taipei.
English is compulsory in all Taiwanese schools, and most people under the age of 40 will have at least a basic grasp of English, though few are fluent. Learning some Mandarin and/or Minnan will make your trip much smoother.
LandmarksSeveral memorial halls like the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Zhongzheng District and Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Xinyi commemorate the most recognized leaders of the Nationalists to the lesser known war dead in the Martyrs' Shrine in Zhongshan District. All three have honor guards which change at set hours, demonstrating military precision and solemn respect for the ROC leaders and soldiers before them. Built in the middle of large parks, the memorial halls are also good places for some quiet reflection.
Museums and galleriesAnyone with even the slightest interest in Chinese history should visit the National Palace Museum in Shilin, which holds the singular best collection of historical artifacts from China, expertly curated by its staff. It is large enough that only one percent of what it owns is displayed at any one time, chief among them ancient paintings, scrolls, books and ceramics that span over 5000 years. The National Museum of History in Zhongzheng also holds valuable relics. Unfortunately, the National Museum of History is closed for renovations until 2021. There are other quirky little private museums such as the Miniatures Museum (Adult NS$200) and Museum of Drinking Water for more off-beat exploration.
Art in classical and contemporary forms can be appreciated too, in the Taipei Fine Arts Museum and the Taipei MOCA. Local artists have gathered in various artist villages to find inspiration and cultural centers like Huashan Cultural Center are interesting informal spaces for a creative spark. Taiwanese auteurs dream of becoming the next Ang Lee, displaying their independent films in the Spot-Taipei Film House. All these can be found in Zhongshan.
Parks and outdoors
Visit the Taipei Zoo in Wenshan to see giant pandas, brown bears and gorillas for a low, low price. It's more akin to a walk in a leafy park, where animals are free to roam around in their open enclosures. Combine it with a ride up on the Maokong Gondola, which has a few special glass-floor carriages, to relax further in the hilltop teahouses.
The law in Taiwan states that for safety reasons, individuals are not allowed to bathe in the private rooms, and there must be at least two people. Etiquette requires that bathers thoroughly wash and rinse off their bodies before entering public baths, do not wear clothing (which includes swimwear, though this is not the case for mixed-sex public areas) and tie up their hair so that it does not touch the water. Finally, people with high blood pressure, heart disease or open wounds should not enter the baths.
Yangmingshan National ParkA favourite destination, particularly during spring when thousands of calla lilies, peonies and cherry blossoms bloom in the valleys. Besides that public hot springs, as well as hot sulphur blow holes and sources are equally worth the visit. There are dozens of hiking trails in the park, most marked out on maps from the visitors centre. Qixingshan is the highest peak in Yangmingshan, and looks out over the Taipei Basin and the north coast.
Festivals and eventsTaipei hosts numerous festivals throughout the year, but as many follow the lunar calendar the dates according to the Gregorian calendar are inconsistent. Check the Taiwan Tourist Bureau's events section before planning to attend an event.
- The Lantern Festival is a dazzling display of lanterns and lasers which runs for several days around the fifteenth day of the lunar new year. While the main city event is held at the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall and Taipei City Hall grounds, Renai Road perhaps offers the most elegant display, with the whole tree-lined boulevard transformed into a delicate tunnel of lights. Pingxi in New Taipei City celebrates the festival with the release of huge lanterns that float serenely across the night sky, carrying with them the dedications and aspirations of those who release them.
- Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the death of the Chinese patriotic poet Qu Yuan (born 340 BC), who drowned himself in a river out of despair that his beloved country, Chu, was being plundered by a neighboring country as a result of betrayal by his own people. The festival is marked by races of colorful dragon boats held at various locations throughout the island, with one of the best places to view a race in the Taipei area being the Bitan River in Xindian. Special sticky rice balls called zongzi (pronounced like "dzongdz") are also eaten on this day. The festival falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.
Golden Horse Chinese Language Film FestivalOften referred to as the Oscars of the Chinese film world, while films in the awards section are all in Chinese, they have English subtitles and there is also a large non-competition foreign language section.
Taipei Film FestivalAn international festival with two award sections – Taipei Award Nominees and International New Talent Nominees. Films are shown at several venues throughout the city.
Taipei Pride Parade
Electronic goodsAs the sales headquarters for many homegrown multinational electronics manufacturers (including Asus, Garmin and Acer among others), good bargains and unique models can be found in Taipei. Those interested in picking up inexpensive electronic goods and cameras should wander the lanes and alleys around Kaifeng Street and Zhonghua Road, as well as the malls connected to Taipei Main Station.
Computer buffs will enjoy a visit to Guanghua Digital Plaza (光華數位新天地). Specializing in computer and electronic goods, this market has the largest number of stalls selling hardware and software under one roof in Taiwan, and all at very competitive prices. K-Mall, in the former Asiaworld department store on the east side of Shinkong Mitsukoshi, specializes in electronics of all kinds and is a location for large companies such as Asus, Samsung, Benq, and Acer to showcase their newest products. The Taipei Zhongshan Metro Shopping Mall (Easy Mall) is a long underground shopping area that houses several stores selling all manner of items, not necessarily limited to electronics. A few stores in the Easy Mall carry current and vintage video games, hardware and software.
Specialty itemsFor jade, flowers and jewelry in one central location, check out the Jianguo Holiday Market in Daan. There are actually three different markets, the Weekend Jade Market, Weekend Flower Market and Weekend Handicrafts Market in this same location. As the names suggest, they are open only on weekends until 18:00. The Chinese Handicraft Mart in Zhongzheng is also good for handicrafts.
Wanhua's Dihua Street, Bopiliao Old Street and Snake Alley night market are throwbacks to the older days of Taipei, back when herbal remedies and aphrodisiacs were extremely popular. Pottery enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to Yingge in New Taipei City. Its old street is a crescent of beautiful pottery shops interspersed with coffee shops and tea houses.
Zhongshan North Road (中山北路) is a tree-lined boulevard featuring numerous international and local brands. Gucci and Louis Vuitton are among the brands who operate stores along this street. This road, particularly along the second section, is also famous for its numerous wedding picture studios and gown boutiques. It is possible to find a great deal for wedding portraits here as competition is stiff.
Go to just north of the junction with Zhongxiao West Rd on Zhongshan North Rd, sec 1 (west side of the road) for trekking and backpacking stores selling a wide range of high quality equipment, and you'll be ready for all the outdoor hiking that Taipei and Taiwan offers.
Taipei has great book shops, and roads such are Chongqing South Road are packed with stores specializing in Chinese language books. The Station Front Area (站前) is a section of downtown Taipei just south of the Taipei Railway Station. It is a bustling area filled with shops and stores of all kinds, but it is particularly well known for its high concentration of bookstores due to the bloom of bushibans (also known as cram schools).
The following book stores all have good selections of English titles:
Eslitephone: +886 2 2775-5977(誠品) – Eslite offers a good selection at most of their branches, although the 24 hour flagship store (2F, 245 Dunhua South Rd. has the best selection. Eslite Book Store and shopping mall (11 Songgau Road), which incidentally is the largest book store in Taiwan, have the greatest selection. The Songgau Rd branch is next to MRT Station 'Taipei City Hall'.
- Caves Books (敦煌) has two branches (54-3 Zhongshan North Road, Sec 2, near Yuanshan MRT Station. tel +886 2 2599-1166). This is a temporary location, while the old store is demolished and rebuilt. The other branch (5, Le 38, Tianyu St, Tianmu. Tel: +2 886 2874-2199) is one of the original book stores in Taipei specializing in English titles. And, although it has been surpassed by the newer arrivals, it is still a good place to pick up a popular novel and English language textbooks.
Lai Laiphone: +886 2 2363-4265address: 4F, 271 Roosevelt Road, Sec 3This shop has a small but interesting selection of English material.
phone: +886 2 2393-4497address: 200 Section 2, Jinshan S Rd, Da’an DistrictSpecialists in English language textbooks and teaching material.
phone: +886 2 2368-7226address: Room 5, 2F, 88 Xinsheng South Road, Sec 3This is an excellent collection of English literature books, albeit a little expensive.
Mollie Used Booksphone: +886 2 2369-2780address: 12, Alley 10, Lane 244, Roosevelt Road sec 3You'll find a reasonable selection of English titles here.
NB: In order to protect the environment, a government policy rules that plastic bags cannot be given freely at stores in Taiwan, but have to be bought (NT$1) - bakeries being an exception as the items need to be hygienically wrapped. Re-usable canvas and nylon bags are sold at most supermarkets.
Taipei probably has one of the highest densities of restaurants in the world. Almost every street and alley offers some kind of eatery. Of course, Chinese food (from all provinces) is well-represented. In addition, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean and Italian cuisines are also popular. Basically, East Taipei, especially around Dunhua and Anhe Roads, and also the expat enclave of Tianmu are where to clash chopsticks with the rich and famous, whereas West Taipei offers more smaller, homey restaurants.
A lot of Taiwanese street food hasn't actually originated from Taipei, but any popular xiaochi (small snack) eventually makes their way up to the capital. Some of the best known night market snacks are: oyster vermicelli (蚵仔麵線; ô-á mī-sòa), oyster omelet (蚵仔煎; ô-á-chian), fried chicken fillet (雞排; jīpái), stinky tofu (臭豆腐; chòudòufǔ) and aiyu jelly (愛玉冰; ài-yù-bīng) among a long list of others. Because of the vast selection, the recommendation is to go with a few people and share the food. Otherwise, honestly the best way to eat is to join the longest queue in the market, or just buy whatever catches your eye! Vendor food is generally safe to eat, but use common sense though if you have a sensitive stomach.
RestaurantsWhile it might be possible to spend all your dinners at night markets, Taipei also has plenty of sit-down restaurants with more substantial dishes. For upmarket Taiwanese cuisine, which revolves around the mild yet flavorful trio of basil, garlic and chili, in addition to white rice or sweet potato congee (no wheat-based products for example), try Ching-yeh Aoba in Zhongshan or Shinyeh Table in Daan. But for more down-to-earth experiences, don't forget to go to one of the many "hot fry" (熱炒) restaurants in Taipei where the locals go to eat Taiwanese food and drink beer and kaoliang. Be prepared for a noisy atmosphere, tiny seats, lots of empty beer bottles and excellent food at a low price.
The influx of KMT migrants perhaps makes Taipei one of the easiest places to sample a quality spread of Chinese provincial cuisines. Xiaolongbao (小籠包) or soup dumplings is a Shanghai dish made famous by Din Tai Fung, whose first storefront at Xinyi Road remains heavily patronised by fans of the world-wide franchise. They have many branches all over the city too, though their branch at Taipei 101 is also extra crowded. Around the corner from Xinyi Road is Yongkang Street, which boasts quite a mix of old and new restaurants like Kaochi or Jin Ji Yuan. Both serve xiaolongbao, along with other dishes such as fried chicken, good alternatives for when the queue to Din Tai Fung is an hour long.
Beef noodle soup is a national icon; Taipei even holds a yearly judging event every September to appraise competitors. There are two main types: hongshao (紅燒牛肉麵), a strongly flavored dish derived from Sichuan spicy bean paste and soya sauce braised beef, and qingdun (清燉牛肉麵), a clear light broth, although there are even tomato varieties popping up around the city. On Yongkang St alone, there're already two beef noodle shops, Yongkang Beef Noodle and Lao Zhang, which have their own regulars. Those more game to get to hard-to-find places can reward themselves at Lin Tung Fong in Zhongshan or the one at Taoyuan Street near Ximending.
VegetarianVegetarian food (素食) is also common fare, with the city boasting more than two hundred vegetarian restaurants and vendor stands. Another Taipei specialty is vegetarian buffets. They are common in every neighborhood, and unlike the 'all-you-can-eat' buffets listed below (which charge a set price, usually ranging from NT$250-350 including dessert and coffee/tea), the cost is estimated by the weight of the food on your plate. Rice (there is usually a choice of brown or white) is charged separately, but soup is free and you can refill as many times as you like. NT$75-120 will buy you a good-sized, nutritious meal. Many of these veggie restaurants are Buddhist in nature and so meals do not contain garlic or onion (which traditionalists claim inflames passion).
- Minder Vegetarian. This is a restaurant chain offering the above-mentioned vegetarian buffet. Aside from the usual line of vegetarian dishes, contemporary cuisine such as rice rolls, tempura and a range of desserts, all entirely vegetarian, are offered as well. Major branches in Taipei are available at Taipei Main Station 2F, Breeze Taipei Branch, No. 3, Beiping North Road, Eslite Bookstore B2, Xinyi Branch, Xinyi District, No. 11, Songgao Road and Eslite Bookstore B1, Dunhua South Branch, Da-an District, No. 245, Dunhua South Road, Sec. 1.
phone: +886 2 2703-5612address: 153-155 Xinyi Rd B1, Sec. 4An upscale all-you-can-eat buffet.
phone: +886 2-2701-3225address: No 18 Shin-Wei RdTraditional Chinese setting.
- For a special Taipei street experience, check out the veggie vendor outside No. 30, Lane 216, Zhongxiao East Road Sec. 4 (in the alleys behind the Dunhua South Road Eslite Mall and book store). The rice noodles are especially delicious and cheap and a plate of their dougan (dried tofu) makes a great side dish.
Bars and clubs
Cover charges are usually required for entry, but these will include a free drink at the very least, with some places even offering free flow of house pours for the whole night after payment. Wednesday nights are ladies' night in most venues.
Tea housesTaiwan's speciality tea is High Mountain Oolong (高山烏龍, a fragrant, light tea) and Tieguanyin (鐵觀音, a dark, rich brew).
The mountainous Maokong area of Muzha in the Wenshan district of the city has dozens upon dozens of teahouses, many of which also offer panoramic views of the city. Its especially spectacular on a clear evening. A Maokong Gondola (cable car) system services the Taipei Zoo MRT station to Maokong. The S10 bus comes up from the Wanfang Community MRT station.
CafesWhile traditionally a nation of tea drinkers, the Taiwanese have really embraced the cafe culture, and all the usual chains can be found here in abundance. For cafes with more character, roam the back streets near National Taiwan University between Xinsheng South Road and Roosevelt Road in Gongguan. More cafes are in the area around Renai Road, Section 4 and Dunhua South Road. There are also some interesting and characterful places between Yongkang Park and Chaozhou Street, and in the alleys around Shida Road. However, for a particularly impressive range of styles, visit Bitan in Xindian, where all the cafes offer restful views over the river and mountains beyond (though can be noisy during weekends).
Tourists sleeping one night in Taipei might want to stay in Zhongzheng, near the Main Train Station, where many budget accommodations can be found. Hostels can be found in the old Taipei area. Hotels around the Ximending area would be convenient for those wanting to eat, shop and party all in one area. Business travelers would probably prefer to stay in Xinyi, the financial district, where many luxury hotels are found. The Grand Hotel in Zhongshan, built back when Chiang Kai-shek decided there wasn't a suitable hotel in which to welcome foreign dignitaries, may appeal to those interested in classical Chinese architecture and history. 10% service fee and 5% VAT are usually not included in the top end hotel rates.
If you're staying a bit more long-term in Taipei, do as some daily commuters do and get cheaper rooms outside city boundaries, in places such as Xindian and Yonghe, which are still somewhat accessible through the Taipei MRT network.
- The internationally acclaimed Chan (Zen) Master Sheng-yen (who passed away in Feb 2009) has a monastery in Beitou where there are regular meditation meetings with instruction given in English. See Beitou page for more information.
- Tibetan Buddhism has become very popular in Taiwan, and the Taipei area alone boasts more than fifty centers. So, on any given night there will be teachings and rituals being held in the city. Taipei has become a regular port of call for many of the well known rinpoches. While most teachings are given in Tibetan with translation into Chinese, some are given in English. For information on teachings, check notice boards at vegetarian restaurants. (For purchase of Buddha statues and other Buddhist artifacts, see 'Potala' under listings for 'Buy')
- The international Buddhist foundation The Corporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation has its headquarters in Taipei. The foundation publishes books on Buddhism in various languages (including English) which it offers for free. For detailed information check the foundation's web site.
- National Taiwan University (國立臺灣大學) – Taiwan's uncontested number one university. Colloquially known by the shortened Taida.
- National Taiwan Normal University (國立臺灣師範大學) – Colloquially known by the shortened Shida, one of the oldest universities in Taiwan. NTNU runs the Mandarin Training Center, an excellent program teaching several levels of Mandarin Chinese in semester-long segments.
- National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (國立臺灣科技大學) , is the first technical university in Taiwan.
- Mandarin Training Center. National Taiwan Normal University (Shida), 162 Heping East Rd, sec. 1. Tel.: +886 2 2321-8457 & 2391-4248. Fax: 886 2 2341-8431, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. This school, which is part of Shi-da University, remains one of the most popular schools in Taiwan for serious students of Mandarin.
- International Chinese Language Program National Taiwan University (Taida) . This program, which used to be called the IUP program, has a long history of Chinese language training, especially for advanced learners and primarily targeting graduate students, scholars and professionals studying in China and Taiwan. It has very small classes, very high quality instructors and textbooks, but may be considerably more expensive than the alternatives. Only students who expect a very intensive experience, usually with a year or more of time to dedicate to study, should consider this program.
- Mandarin Daily News Language Center, more commonly known locally as Guo-Yu-Ri-Bau, 2F. 2 Fu-zhou Street. Tel: 886 2 2391-5134 & 2392-1133 ext. 1004. Fax: 886 2 2391-2008. Along with the Center for Chinese Language and Culture Studies, this is one of the most popular schools in Taiwan for serious students of Mandarin.
- Maryknoll Language Service Center Rm. 800, 8 Fl., Chung Ying Bldg. 2 Zhongshan North Rd., Sec. 1. Tel.: +886 2 2314-1833~5. Near a Taipei Station MRT stop exit, the Maryknoll Language Service Center offers Mandarin, Taiwanese, and Hakka classes. Mostly one-on-one tutorials although you may be able to arrange a group class.
- Unless you have a recommendation, the best way to find a good teacher is to visit a park at sunrise and check out the scene for yourself. If you spot a group that impresses you, approach one of the students and inquire about joining them. Most teachers will be happy to have a new student, though some old masters may 'play hard to get.' In the latter case, persistence is required. Most teachers will expect some sort of fee for their tuition. However, as it is considered impolite to directly ask the teacher this question, use a fellow student as mediator. Furthermore, when offering the money on the alloted day, place it in a red envelope (hongbao - available at all convenience and stationary stores) and slip it to the teacher subtly. Offering cash openly to a teacher of a traditional art or religion is considered undignified and demeaning. Most parks host tai'chi groups, but the most popular places are the grounds of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (nearest MRT station - CKS Memorial Hall) and Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall (nearest MRT station - SYS Memorial Hall) as well as 228 Peace Park (formerly known as New Park - nearest MRT station - National Taiwan University Hospital).
- The Coriander Cooking Studio, offers Taiwanese small eats cooking classes, Certificate of Excellence From Tripadvisor in 2019
- Jodie's Kitchen Cooking School offers Taiwanese and Chinese cooking classes. 2F, 29-1 Zi Yun St. Tel: +886 2 2720-0053
- Many community colleges, such as Zhongzheng Community College and Tamsui Community University offer weekly cooking courses. These include Chinese, Italian and Thai cooking, for example. The classes are in Chinese or Taiwanese language only. The prices are quite low because the colleges are government-funded.
Teaching English (or to a lesser extent, other foreign languages) is perhaps the easiest way to work in Taiwan. Work permits will be hard to come by and will take time. Consult your local Taiwan consulate/embassy/representative as far in advance as possible.
Anyone staying in Taiwan for an extended period of time can find English teaching work, albeit illegally. Many people teach English (or other languaged) for pay without a permit in Taipei and elsewhere in Taiwan.
Chung-shan Hospitalphone: +886 2' 2708-1166address: 11, Lane 112, Renai Road, Sec. 4A small hospital popular with expats
Buddhist Tzu-chi Hospitalphone: +886 2 6628-6336, +886 2 6628-9800address: Jianguo Road, Xindian CityA very friendly and efficient hospital with an especially caring environment..
phone: +886 2 2543-3535address: 92 Zhongshan North Road Sec. 2One of the best hospitals in Taipei
National Taiwan University Hospitalphone: +886 2' 2312-3456address: 1 Changde StreetOne of Taiwan's largest and most famous hospitals
Taiwan Adventist Hospitalphone: +886 2 2771-8151address: 424 Bade Road Sec. 2This hospital has English-speaking staff.
Yang-ming Hospitaladdress: 105 Yusheng Street, ShilinPopular with the Tianmu expat community
WiFiThe free iTaiwan is available all over the city – for more information read the country article. You need to (freely and easily) register to use it. Other WiFis like TPE-Free
Internet cafésInternet cafés are plentiful, especially in the maze of alleys between Taipei Main Station and Peace Park. However, you may have to wander around (and look up and down as many are on higher floors or in the basement) before finding one. Some computers are coin operated. Internet cafes are known as wang-ka in Chinese (a combination of wang, the Chinese word for 'net', and ka an abbreviation of 'cafe'). Below is a list of a few recommended internet cafes:
Aztecaddress: 2F. 235 Zhongxiao East Road, sec. 4
LHH Cyber Cafeaddress: 28 Guangfu South Road
Skywalker Multimedia Entertainment Centeraddress: B1, 119 Minsheng East Road, sec. 2.
- Cathay Pacific (國泰航空) – +886 2 2715 2333
- China Airlines (中華航空) – +886 2 2715 1212
- EVA Airways (長榮航空) – +886 2 2501 1999
- KLM Asia (荷蘭皇家航空) – +886 2 2711 4055
- Delta (達美航空) – +886 2 2772 2188
- Singapore Airlines (新加坡航空) – +886 2 2551 6655
- Thai Airways (泰國航空) – +886 2 2509 6800
For up-to-date information on cheap flights, check the advertisement pages of one of the three local daily English newspapers (see 'Media' section below).
Taiwan has a very free and liberal press. There are two daily local newspapers available in English, The China Post and Taipei Times. A third English-language newspaper Taiwan News (formerly China News) is no longer available on paper but continues to exist online Most media in Taiwan has a political slant; The China Post is more pan-blue while Taipei Times is more pan-green.
Free news and information are available from the following:
- Centered on Taipei is a free monthly designed for expats living in Taipei, but it is also very useful for visitors. It can be found in many of the major hotels throughout Taipei, and also in many businesses in the Tian Mu area.
- This Month in Taiwan is a free magazine that lists events and has an exhaustive directory of useful numbers in Taiwan. It can be found at tourist offices and major hotels.
- FTV English Edition – This show is an hour of English news shown on Channel 53 (2005) on the local TV station Formosa TV (FTV) at 23:00 every night. The program features 30 minutes of local news, as well as cultural events. The show is archived online.
- ICRT (short for "international Community Radio Taipei") is an English-language radio station available across Taiwan on FM 100. The programming consists mostly of popular music with hourly news bulletins throughout the morning, afternoon and early evening.
Mobile phone coverage is relatively good in Taipei. Among the major providers are Chunghwa Telecom (中華電信), Taiwan Mobile (台灣大哥大), Vibo (威寶電訊) and Far EasTone (遠傳電訊). Taipei has both GSM 900/1800 and 3G networks and roaming might be possible for users of such mobile phones, subject to agreements between operators. Most payphones work with telephone cards (電話卡) which are available at all convenience stores. Prepaid 1GB SIM cards can be purchased for about 500NT with a passport.
Tourist and emergency numbers
- Tourist Information Office: 9F, 290 Zhongxiao East Road., Sec. 4. TEL:2349-1500 – There is also a branch tourist office next to the ticket purchasing counters at Taipei Main Station, and near exit 16 in the Metro Mall underground shopping plaza that runs between MRT the Zhongxiao-Fushing and Zhongxiao-Dunhwa Stations.
- Tourist Information (emergency number) - Tel:+886 2 2717-3737.
Printing documentsAll 24-hour convenience stores, such as 7-11 and Family Mart, have a flat screen monitor. With a USB, this monitor can be used to print documents on the store's photocopy machine.
ReservationsAll 24 hour convenience stores offer a reservation service. A flat screen monitor (usually near the check-out) has lists of trains, theater, and movie screenings. Once a reservation has been confirmed, payment can be made at the check-out in exchange for a ticket.
Local police are a resource you can turn for help, and many officers speak at least basic English.
- Central Weather Bureau – In addition to giving a seven day forecasts for Taipei, this website also has detailed maps showing the path of an approaching typhoon and up-to-the-minute information of earthquakes, giving their location and magnitude.
- English-speaking police: +886 2 2555 4257 / 2556 6007
- Emergency numbers:
- Police: 110
- Ambulance, Fire brigade: 119
phone: +886 2-23889393, +886 2-23899983address: No.15, Guangzhou Street, Zhongzheng DistrictVisa applications/extensions for foreign residents of Taipei City should be made at this agency.
Foreign missionsAs the People's Republic of China (PRC) does not allow other countries to have diplomatic relations with both itself and the ROC on Taiwan, many of the world's nations do not have official embassies or consulates in Taiwan. However, as the PRC allows recognition of Taiwan as a separate economy, many nations maintain a "Trade Office', "Institute" or something of a similar name in Taipei. These missions usually perform limited consular activities, such as issuing visas.
EmbassiesThe following countries maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan and have embassies in Taipei.
- Tamsui, an old port town northwest of Taipei, is the main scene of the Taiwanese movie-Secret by Jay Chou. It's very popular with tourists.
- Jiufen is a former gold mining town on the northeast coast is now a popular tourist destination.
- Banqiao is a town and administrative capital of the other city in the Taipei Metro Area, New Taipei City.
- Fulong is in the eastern coast of Taipei County. There you will find a coastal town with an excellent beach. Every July, don't forget to attend the three day Ho-hai-yan Rock Festival.
- Yingge is famous for its high concentration of potters and ceramic makers.
It's even possible to travel to anywhere along the west coast of Taiwan all the way to Kaohsiung and back within a day, although at the price of a high-speed rail ticket. The eastern parts are a little harder to get to, and Taroko Gorge warrants more than a night's stay anyway.
- Taroko Gorge – Here, the Liwu River cuts through 3,000-foot marble cliffs. The area around the gorge is also identified as Taroko Gorge National Park.
- Hsinchu is a city with an old heritage and modern science park.
- Shei-pa National Park spans mountains and rivers and is in Hsinchu County has great hiking trails. Hsinchu County is also home to Leofoo Village Theme Park, Taiwan's most popular amusement park.
- Sun Moon Lake in Nantou County is a crystal clear lake embedded into lush mountains.
- Tainan for a laidback atmosphere and in-depth look into the history of Taiwan.