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Things to do in Taiwan: Taiwan Travel Guide 2023

Alevin Chan

Alevin Chan

Last updated 17 February, 2023

Taiwan offers easygoing holidaying filled with understated charm. Here are five recommended activities all travellers should try for the quintessential Taiwanese experience.

Among inbound visitors to Taiwan last year, Singapore took the sixth spot with nearly 70,000 of us paying a visit between Jan and Dec 2022.

Clearly, the island-nation is popular among Singaporean travellers, a fact you may find surprising if you have yet to experience Taiwan for yourself.

It’s true, Taiwan is somewhat underrated as a holiday destination, perhaps because there are so many competing choices in its vicinity – Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Thailand, just to name a few.

But as anyone who's fallen under Taiwan’s spell – often unknowingly – will tell you, the country offers an understated charm that becomes more appealing and rewarding the more you give yourself over to it.

Here are five recommended activities that will give you a broad sampling of what holidaying in Taiwan might be like, but of course, there is so much more to explore and experience beyond them.

Related to this topic: Full Details: Taiwan Plans Tourism Reopening from October


1. Visit the night markets

The quintessential Taiwan experience, night markets offer up an addictive mix of delicious food, budget prices and an up-close look at local life.

The main focus is food and beverages, although you may occasionally come across the odd game stall or kiosks selling clothes, accessories and household items,

Makeshift stalls – some festooned with foldable tables and plastic stools – hawk everything from all-time favourites to regional specialities and whatever snack or dessert that’s trending on social media.

It’s an excellent way to sample popular Taiwanese cooking, especially for the uninitiated. But even foodies will find plenty to enjoy; some of the best renditions of popular dishes are found tucked away at night markets, as the locals will tell you.

Where to go: You’ll find night markets practically all over Taiwan. Besides the “officially” designated spots marked on Google Maps, you can also find small groups of food kiosks near areas with high foot traffic, especially on weekends.

Cost: S$10 to SS$15 will get you plenty to eat and drink. Take your time and survey what’s on offer before jumping in, and don’t be afraid to go for smaller portions if you want to sample more stalls.

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2. Soak in a hot spring 

Taiwan’s history includes a 50-year occupation by Japan. During that time, the Japanese introduced bathing culture to the island after learning of the abundant hot springs dotting the island.

This paved the way for the establishment of Taiwan’s hot spring culture, which has since been woven into the local way of life.  

Experiencing Taiwan’s hot springs for yourself is easy, just take your pick of numerous independently run communal bathhouses.

Or for a more elevated experience, book a stay at a hot spring hotel; many are modelled after their Japanese counterparts, and the high-end ones even offer your own private pool, fed by water straight from the source.

Really, the most challenging part is choosing among the mind-boggling array of pools with different temperatures, and mineral mixes that sometimes differ between regions.

But trial-and-error is an acceptable – and enjoyable – way to find your favourites.

Where to go: Over 80% of hot springs and bathhouses are found in northern Taiwan. For the most abundant and accessible options, head to Beitou, Taipei.

Cost: From S$8 per entry, depending on the establishment you go to. Some hot springs have on-site restaurants and you can get a preferential rate if you eat and bathe during your visit.

Related to this topic: Travel Insurance Guide: Five Things All Travellers Must Know

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3. Go hiking

Hiking is a great way to take in Taiwan’s abundant natural beauty, with breathtaking views waiting to be discovered along every trail. Surprisingly, some of the best hiking trails can be found in and around the country’s bustling capital, Taipei, and most are easy and manageable even for beginners.

The most well-known hiking trail is undoubtedly Elephant Mountain (Xiangshan), which is easily accessible thanks to the nearby MRT station. A short ascent is all that’s needed to attain postcard worthy views of the city below, with Taipei 101 so near it feels like you can almost reach out and touch it.

There’s more to explore. Elephant Mountain is just one of four interconnected parks, colloquially known as the “four beasts”. You can find your way to the other three locations – Lion Mountain, Leopard Mountain and Tiger Mountain – by following the signposts along the trail.

Other options that are easily accessible from Taipei include the Scissors Mountain (Jiandaoshan) in Neihu district, and Fuzhou Mountain Park in Da’an district. These offer similar views of Taipei 101 and the city below, but from different cardinal directions.

For a proper challenge, head out to Yangmingshan National Park, which sits partially in Taipei and in New Taipei City. You’ll need to travel out of the city proper to reach the hiking trails there.

Where to go: If you want to stay close to the city, Taipei’s Elephant Mountain (Xiangshan) and Scissors Mountain (Jiandaoshan) will be your best choices. More serious hikers will want to explore Yangmingshan National Park, which offers more challenging hikes.

Cost: Entry to the various parks are free. You need only pay for your own transport, and any refreshments you may need.

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4. Visit a tea plantation

Among its many exports, Taiwan’s oolong teas are perhaps the most well-known. The island’s unique terroir, mild climate and home-grown tea roasting style has resulted in a characteristic brew beloved the world over.

The prime tea-growing areas in Taiwan are in the mountainous northern, north-eastern and eastern regions, and one of the best ways to experience the country’s tea culture is with a tea plantation tour.

These tour packages range from breezy day trips to week-long odysseys (for serious scholars only!), and offer a first-hand glimpse into the history and culture of Taiwan’s tea industry, as well as demonstrations on the tea cultivation process.

Of course, you’ll get to sample the plantation’s products and also make purchases if you wish.

If an actual plantation visit seems like too much of a commitment, try dropping into any teahouse or tea shop you happen to wander across and strike up a conversation. The shopkeeper will be more than happy to brew up a cup or two for you to sample and find your favourite tea, while telling you more about Taiwan’s tea culture.

Where to go: Nantou, in central Taiwan, is among the most renowned tea planting regions in the country. It is also where the popular Sun Moon Lake is located, so you can combine two attractions in one trip.

For teahouses, try Maokong in Taipei – the glass-bottomed gondola is the most fun way to get up there. Jiufen also has many dreamy teahouses perfect for lazing the afternoon away.

And as for tea shops, literally any one you come across will do.

Cost: Plantation tours will run you around S$70 to S$100 per day, but multi-day itineraries will cost more due to accommodation and meals.

A typical teahouse will cost around S$7 to S$15 per pax for a group of four, depending on the type of tea you buy. (You have to purchase an entire pouch of tea leaves, but may take the unused tea with you). More if you plan to have a snack or a meal there.

As for tea shops, you can find pretty decent oolong teas starting from around S$30 for 150gm.

Related to this topic: Here Are the Best Family Travel Insurance Plans in 2023

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5. Eat hotpot

The Taiwanese love their hotpot so much that you can literally find a hotspot restaurant around every corner in the country. If you have a local friend, ask them to meet for a meal and chances are they’ll suggest a hotpot restaurant!

You’ll be spoilt for choice, with chain restaurants, street-side stalls and even high-end hotels offering this ubiquitous dish.

But despite the high degree of saturation, there is an astonishing variety of hotpot styles you can find, conjured up from inventive use of meats, spices and herbs, and even presentation styles.

Both a la-carte and all-you-can-eat buffet formats are offered, and the best part is, prices are generally lower than you’d expect.

Where to go: Literally anywhere, just ask anyone.

Cost: Expect to spend around S$15 to S$20 per pax at streetside restaurants and chain outlets. Buffets with premium ingredients can go up to S$40 or S$50. If you’re feeling baller, go for the high-end options (with seafood so fresh it’s still wriggling) which will set you back S$200 or more.

Read these next:

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An ex-Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin’s mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He’s also on an ongoing quest to optimise happiness and enjoyment in his life.