Your trip in Taiwan has come to an end, and you have one last day to buy a little something for your friends and family back home. But there is a problem: there are way too many things to choose from!
So we decided to make it easier for you. Here are a few must-buy souvenirs that you would only find in Taiwan and nowhere else in the world.
First on the list is pineapple cake, no surprise there; it is the most famous and popular snack that tourists buy when they visit Taiwan. Its sweet pineapple filling is appealing to most, but they also come in other flavors like mango and blueberry.
Best brands: SunnyHills, Shun Chen Bakery, Chia Te Bakery
2. Fine tea leaves
Tea has always been Taiwan’s main agricultural product, and of the many tea varieties Taiwanese Oolong is one of the best in the world, and Ali Mountain tea is a must-try as well especially for tea lovers. You can even buy some of those cute fish-shaped tea bags (the brand is called Charm Villa)! When you make the tea, it’s as if a goldfish is swimming in your cup. It will be a huge hit!
Best varieties of tea to buy: Teiguanyin, Alishan Hight Mountain, Dongfang Meiren
3. Kavalan whiskey
Bring a bottle of Kavalan whiskey for your coming-home party! Known for its tropical-fruit style (with hints of grape, green apple and sweet pineapple), it has been named the 2015 world’s best single malt, and was even featured in Time Magazine.
4. Oilpaper umbrellas
Why not buy something a little bit more special? For Taiwan’s 4.2 million ethnic Hakka people, the brightly colored umbrella symbolizes good fortune and prosperity. Originally used for protection from rain and sun, and in wedding ceremonies as a rite of passage, they are now mainly bought as decorations.
Best places to buy: Huaxi Street night market, Meinong Prosperity Paper Umbrella Store
Enjoying a Japanese bath (known as onsen) is a unique cultural experience and a must-try when visiting Japan. Bathing in an onsen is known to be relaxing and therapeutic, and while it may be a bit intimidating at first, most tourists will end up considering it as the best highlight of their visit.
However, there are some quite strict rules to follow when using an onsen. Continue reading this article, you will become an onsen master in no time!
Undress completely and put all your belongings and clothes in your locker. At any onsen, they will provide you a large and small towel; only bring the small one with you.
Shower first: this is probably the most critical step, always wash yourself before entering the onsen.
Put your small towel to the side or on your head (like most locals do), and tie up your hair so that it doesn’t touch the water.
Watch your body temperature and try not to get too hot. If you start to feel dizzy, get out slowly and take a few minutes to cool down.
No cameras, food or drinks are allowed.
No swimming or shouting.
Use your small towel to dry off, and go wash yourself again.
Wipe off as much water as possible before re-entering the changing area.
Remember to drink water after you bath, it is important to rehydrate!
There are generally relaxing rooms outside for visitors to lay down or sit after onsen.
Something you should know…
Tattoos are very often forbidden in onsens, as they are uncommon in Japan and are usually associated with the Yakuza mafia. You could be refused for having even the tiniest tattoo… But you can always try to hide it with a waterproof bandage.
Japan is an amazing country, with endless fun activities to do and beautiful places to see. But we all know one thing: eating there can be very expensive...
So, we’re giving all you fellow backpackers a secret tip on how to eat cheap in Japan: visit a local supermarket just before its closing time!
Not only do Japanese supermarkets sell groceries, they also sell proper food like bento boxes, sashimi and side dishes. Those kinds of ready-made products usually go on sale after 8pm, when closing time draws near. When you see the staff going around sticking discount stickers, that is your call to start shopping!
Different kinds of ready-cooked rice for you to pick,
Side dishes such as fried tempura, potato salad, vegetables…
Even the meat gets discounts!
And don’t miss the delicious bentos!
The discounts can get as high as 50% off, and sometimes even up to 70%. And don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe to eat, just make sure you don’t leave it overnight.
Now that you know our secret tip, next time when you visit Japan, remember to keep an eye out for those yellow discount stickers in supermarkets!
Although there is no railway connectivity between Jiufen and Taipei, it is easy to get there due to Taiwan's efficient transport system. For the traveler, traveling to Jiufen is both affordable and convenient and can be done as a day trip from Taipei. Known for its labyrinth of old-world streets lined with red Chinese lanterns and with stunning mountain views, Jiufen is one of the most interesting and magical places you could visit in Taiwan. Here is how you can get there.
Taipei - Ruifang station by train, and Ruifang - Jiufen by bus. (54 min)
This is probably the most popular route.
At Taipei Main Station purchase a TRAIN ticket to Ruifang Station. You can catch any northbound train from Taipei Station to Ruifang Station (just not trains going to Keelung). A regular train ticket is around NT$49 (about 49 min) and NT$76 for the express Tze-Chiang (which is much faster).
From Ruifang station you need to catch a bus to Jiufen. Jiufen is located uphill from Ruifang and you have two options:
Catch a regular bus (If you are on a budget) .
To find the bus stop in Ruifang on weekdays, turn left after exiting Ruifang Train Station and find the Wellcome store across from the station. You can catch a bus from here. Make sure you have the change or an Easycard
If it is the weekend or a public holiday, facing the Wellcome supermarket turn left and walk 200 meters down the road. The Local Residents Plaza, is where you need to go and is next to the Ruifang police station. (don't go across the street). You will also need the exact change or an Easy card to board here.
Catch the Keelung Bus # 1062 or Jiufen bus 788 (slower) from either point. It takes about 15 minutes and the bus stops at Jiufen Old Street Stop charging you NT$15.
Wellcome Store .
The Land Office in RuiFang.
In Jiufen , there usually are a lot of people getting off the bus so you won't miss the stop. If there aren't, you can always ask the bus driver. Taiwanese are very friendly!
From the stop, you will have to walk back about a minute and to get where you need to be (look for the Seven-Eleven, the entrance to the market is here).
On the return journey, the buses use the same number and will stop in front of the train station square
Jiufen old street bus stop
Go by the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle Bus-Golden Fulong Route
Outside of Ruifang Station, take "Gold Fulong" tourist shuttle. Which will bring to you Jiufen directly and is far more enjoyable.
The bus departs once every hour during weekdays and every half hour during weekends. Between 8:00 and 18:00.
Taipei - Jiufen by bus. ( about 1 hr)
Take a bus directly from Taipei. Public buses depart every 20 minutes from the MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing station, at the intersection of Zhong Xiao and Fuxing Roads. Leave from Exit 2, the bus stop is outside Sogo department store. Catch Keelung Bus #1062 which goes straight through to Jiufen old street stop. It costs around NT$ 102, make sure to have the exact fare in cash or an Easycard.
Taipei - Songshan by MRT and Songshan- Jiufen by bus. ( 1 hour)
A very easy way to Jiufen is to take the green MRT line from Zhongshan Station to Songshan Station. Exit from the main Songshan exit and the bus bay is across the road. Board the Taipei- Jiufen bus #1062.
Bus stop in Songshan.
Get off the bus at Jiufen old street stop. The fare is NT$98.
A suggestion if you can't board bus #1062 back to Taipei (if it is too busy), take the conventional train from Songshan Station to Keelung Station and then take a train back to Taipei instead. It will take a little longer (unless you take the express from Keelung to Taipei) but it will beat waiting in lines or standing on a bus.
If you’re planning a trip to Japan, specifically to Tokyo, you most likely have been stuck with the following question: Which airport should I pick as my destination, Narita or Haneda?
Well this article is here to help you make the decision. Let’s compare a few things between those two airports.
Distance to central Tokyo
HANEDA: only 15km away from Tokyo and takes about 30 minutes.
NARITA: it isn’t in Tokyo at all, 65km away and takes an hour.
2. Transport options and costs to Tokyo
HANEDA: It offers cheaper transportation, but a transfer is required. Most people take the Tokyo Monorail to the JR Yamanote Line, by transferring through Hamamatsucho Station first. Or, you can take the Keikyu Airport Line and transfer through Shinagawa Station. The total cost should be under ¥700.
NARITA: It offers more transportation choices but more expensive as well. The fastest rail connection to the city center would be Narita Express to Tokyo Station, costing ¥3,020 per ticket.
Note: if you are planning to stay in Japan for a longer period of time, you may consider getting a JRP (Japan Rail Pass), for either 7, 14 or 21 days. For instance, a one-week JRP for an adult will cost ¥29,110. It can be used both for both Narita Express and Tokyo Monorail.
3. Flight options
HANEDA: It mainly serves as a domestic airport, so if you have a connection within Japan this would be a better choice. However, it is one of the busiest airports in the world, so check-ins and immigration will definitely take longer!
NARITA: It has a larger selection of international airlines and less domestic ones, so everything goes faster here.
Regardless of whether you are in Taiwan for business or for leisure, you will find UBER lives up to its name, offering a convenient, inexpensive and safer way to take a taxi. Its services are more reliable than hailing a cab, as the app has a record of the driver, the passenger, and the journey. What's more, UBER Taiwan offers you three ways to ride, with an additional option called UberTAXI, which is cash only. Prefer to pay with cash, use UberTAXI; prefer to pay by credit card, choose UberX or UberBLACK. All it takes is the push of a button on your phone, with the APP, and you'll have a taxi in a matter of minutes. No phone calls, no pick-up schedules and with twenty-four-seven availability, UBER Taiwan is back and better than before.
UBER is a smartphone application that pre-calculates the fare and estimates the time it will take for the taxi to arrive. Instead of having to call a cab to come and fetch you and not knowing how much it will cost, you can get a correct estimate using the app when you select your destination. You can even follow the driver on-route to collect you and share your location with friends and family, making Uber both convenient and safe to use.
In Taiwan, UBER services are offered in Taipei, Taichung, and Kaohsiung. To start using Uber as a passenger you must first signup to create an account.
UBERTaxi, Charges for service according to the distance on the meter and only accepts cash. service include Crown Taxi and Q Taxi. Because of this option, everyone can now register for an Uber App account, no credit card required.
UBERX/UBERBlack, Only payment method available is through credit card. The credit card used must be tied to the mobile phone where the ride is requested.
Multiple Destinations: This new feature allows you to set up to three drop-off locations. Great to for sharing a ride with family and friends. You can also add extra stops along the way, and your driver’s route will be updated accordingly.
Tap “+” to add a new destination.
You can enter up to three stops in a single trip and can make changes before the trip or in the taxi.
If you enter all stops before your trip you can see the trip’s fare before submitting your request. if you add new stops while you’re on the way your fare may change.
Tap Send Status to share your route info in real time, so everyone knows you’re safe and when to expect you.
Split Fare: Share the cost of your ride with a friend who uses Uber. Before and during the ride, swipe up from the bottom of the app. Tap your selected payment method and select 'Split Fare'.
How to catch an UBER from Taiwan Taoyuan International (TPE) Airport.
The Free Wifi service available at the TPE airport makes it very easy to log onto the Uber site and book a taxi from the airport. If you are a tourist, using UBER can be especially convenient if you don't have any Taiwan dollars on hand, as you can use your credit card. All you need to do is simply request a cab when you are ready to go and choose a taxi that will suit your group size and luggage. You can also request the cab up to thirty days in advance.
If you are in Terminal 1, meet your driver at meeting Point 21 or 23.
If you are in Terminal 2, meet your driver at Meeting Point 28 or 29.
The pickup points are conveniently displayed on the app for both users and the Uber drivers so if you have trouble finding your driver, you can reach out to them via the Uber app.
While each ride is limited to a distance of 100 miles (160 km), there are no restrictions on where UBER can take you from the airport. Logging onto their system is not a problem either as you can input your own mobile number and country of residence and still use UBER in Taiwan.
A suggestion is to register online before you travel. Download the app onto your mobile device, log in, and input credit card details before you leave home. Once you arrive all you'll need to do is to open up the app and request your ride.
The world today is far more ‘connected’ to mobile devices than ever before. We use the internet everywhere we go and for those of us who like to travel, internet connection has become as important as finding accommodation and exchanging money.
If you are planning a trip to Taiwan, you will be pleased to know that data here is inexpensive, fast and can also be found for free. Whether you are interested in working while you travel, uploading blogs or your latest videos and photographs; Taiwan will keep you connected. Here are the ins and outs of mobile connection in Taiwan.
Taiwan's Free WIFI!
Taiwan offers free Wifi to all tourists! Awesome right! You can find free hotspot all over the country and on most public transport.
Be aware, however, that free connection can be slow and often allows only for light internet use, also you might not be able to access hotspots if you are outside the city. Also bear in mind, that when you use free wifi, private information on your phone is not considered safe.
Prepaid Data Providers, The Options?
In Taiwan, you will find mobile service rates to be amongst the world's lowest and networks to be very fast and efficient. If you are traveling mainly in the city you will find service is mostly consistent between the major providers. However, in rural areas, especially more mountainous parts, the coverage can vary.
The main providers in Taiwan, in terms of market share, are :
1. Chunghwa (Emome).
● Ranked third for 4G speed.
● Currently the biggest private carrier.
● Providing 3G(WCDMA)/4G services.
● Considered to have the best signal, covering mountains and more remote areas.
2. Taiwan Mobile (My Fone).
● Ranked second for 4G speed.
● Providing 3G(WCDMA)/4G services.
● Ranked number one for 4G speed.
● Providing 3G (WCDMA)/4G services.
4. T star.
● Ranked number four for 4G speed.
● Providing 3G (WCDMA)/4G services.
For a Short Stay: Unlimited Data Within Selected Days.
With all four providers, SIM cards can be purchased from their branches and at the airport when you arrive.
If you are only staying in Taiwan for less than 30 days, it is your best option to get an airport package, as these are specifically for visitors. However, you will not be able to top it up as you will have data use within a set time frame only. You can choose from one day to thirty days for unlimited 3D data and need to produce your passport to purchase.
If you are applying outside the airport you will be able to top up on your plan, but take an additional form of ID with you when you purchase the SIM. Top ups for most providers can be made in-store and at all major convenience stores
● Their 3G SIM card (NT$300), is called an Ideal Card.
● Airport packages are easily available and top-ups for data plans purchased outside the airport can be done online at https://www.idealcard.com.tw/
● Taiwan Mobile prepaid starter packs can be purchased in Myfone stores and at the airport.
● Their prepaid 3G SIM (NT$345 ) is for low data users, but cannot be purchased in store, instead, you have to order it online.
● For non-airport packages, recharge online using this link:
● TSTAR is Taiwan's smallest network and generally has a good connection but might not have coverage everywhere outside of the city.
● Their SIM card is available for free at their T-STAR branch at terminal 1 and 2 of Taoyuan International Airport, you will need to take two forms of ID with you.
Price comparison for day plans with unlimited Data.
*Taiwan Star offers airtime with packages.
*Currency is in Taiwan Dollars.
For a Longer Stay/Faster Speed: Data Usage Plan.
If you’re staying for a longer period of time or need a faster speed, we recommend you use the Data Usage Plan. These plans provide both 3G and 4G plans, but with the same data amount, 3G would be significantly more expensive than 4G plans.
● Chunghwa sells different 4G/LTE starter packs depending on your needs and you can add an additional ‘data volume plan’.
Unlike other currencies such as the US Dollar and Euro, Taiwan’s currency is something that most people may have never heard about, until they decide to plan a trip to our beautiful island. So here’s a quick intro and a few useful tips for you.
The currency name is New Taiwan Dollar, usually shortened as NTD or NT$. In Chinese, it is called “yuan”, but in our daily conversations, we just use the word “kuai”, meaning “piece” (of money).
The ISO currency code is TWD.
As of the writing of this article, the current exchange is approximately 1USD : 30NT.
B. Just so that you get a general idea of what price levels are like in Taiwan:
a bottle of water= 15NT (US$0.50)
a movie ticket= 250NT-350NT (US$8-$10)
a pack of Marlboro cigarettes= 125NT (US$4.00)
a bowl of beef noodle soup (one of our must-try street foods!)= 150NT (US$5.00)
an all-day metro pass= 180NT (US$6.00)
C. How to make payments in Taiwan?
We mostly use cash when paying for anything (unlike the US or Europe, where you can pay with a card for even just an apple!)
But of course, credit cards are still widely accepted (Visa, MasterCard…), especially in malls and most restaurants.
Easy Card! Super convenient for taking metros, buses, but also for paying at places like convenience stores, bookshops, cinemas, and even Starbucks! You can get one easily at 7-11 or any metro station.
D. How to get cash:
There are no moneychangers on the streets, but there are plenty of other easy ways to get cash.
At the airport, there are always a few money exchange counters and banks on your way out.
At any ATM, they are everywhere (and bilingual)! On the streets, in shopping malls, in front of banks and even in convenience stores like 7-11. However a withdrawal fee will be charged every time, so it is best to get enough cash for the whole trip at once.
At banks, they normally open from 9am-3:30pm and are closed on weekends, so remember to go early! You will be asked to fill out a form requiring a valid local address and phone number, just write in all the info of the hotel you’re staying at.
In big shopping malls (such as Taipei 101 or Sogo), however, the rates are usually not so friendly.
REMEMBER! Always bring your passport when you want to get cash at either of these places (except for ATMs). Oh and another thing: exchange what’s left of your cash before leaving the country, because NTD is not an easy currency to exchange especially once out of Asia!
Built nearly three centuries ago in the old part of Taipei (a district called Wanhua), Longshan Temple is the most renowned temple in Taiwan, and a must-visit for those who are fascinated with Eastern religion.
There are a variety of deities in Longshan Temple that people may pray to, depending on their needs. For instance, there is the god of wisdom, god of business, goddess of childbirth… there is even a god for matchmaking!
Worshipers come from all over the island to offer fruits and delicacies to their gods, and in return, they ask for guidance. But unlike western religions, they don’t communicate through figures like priests; instead, they use signs, which in this case are two crescent-shaped wooden blocks. Basically, like a telephone to the gods!
This ritual is known is bwa-bwe, where people with questions toss the two pieces onto the ground in front of the statues of the gods; the way they fall is the answer. If one piece is facing up and the other is down, it’s a YES. If both pieces are facing down then it’s a NO, and if both are up it means NOT CLEAR.
See, simple. If ever you have a question that’s been bothering you, here is a guide on how to properly ask the gods for help.
Before entering, you must pray to the “host” god of the temple, in order to get permission for asking questions: state your name, birthday and address to the host, which in this temple is the goddess of compassion and mercy, Guanyin.
Once in the temple, pray to the rest of the gods, starting from the right. Then you may go to the god you would like to talk to.
Ask “Are you there?”, because he/she might be busy. You need a YES to move on to your question; if not, wait for another few minutes and ask again.
Ask your YES/NO questions, and be precise. If your question involves a person, give details on who he/she is.
Now, if you want to have a more in-depth answer, you can also pull a wooden stick out of a bucket close to the altar. Each stick has a number on it, corresponding to an ancient Chinese saying.
State your question, and ask whether he/she is willing to give you a stick; you need three consecutive YES answers to pull out one stick.
Once you have a stick, ask if it is the one he/she wants you to have; same with the three YESes rule.
If the god gives you three YESes for the stick, you can get a piece of paper with your Chinese saying, and go to a member of the staff at the temple for further interpretation.
Taken from the Rough Guide to Southeast Asia on a Budget, these are our top 11 tips for backpacking Southeast Asia.
With its tempting mix of volcanoes, rainforest, rice fields, beaches and coral reefs, Southeast Asia is one of the most stimulating and accessible regions for independent travel in the world. You can spend the day exploring thousand-year-old Hindu ruins and the night at a rave on the beach; attend a Buddhist alms-giving ceremony at dawn and go whitewater rafting in the afternoon; chill out in a bamboo beach hut one week and hike through the jungle looking for orang-utans the next.
In short, there is enough here to keep anyone hooked for months. Here’s our advice for getting the most out of backpacking Southeast Asia for the first time.
Plan around the weather
Southeast Asia sits entirely within the tropics and so is broadly characterized by a hot and humid climate that varies little throughout the year, except during the two annual monsoons. Bear in mind, however, that each country has myriad microclimates; for more detail see our “when to go” pages for Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
Get off the beaten track
Though Southeast Asia has long been on the travellers’ trail, it doesn’t take too much to get off the beaten track – whether it’s to discover that perfect beach or to delve into the lush surrounds of the rainforest. Think about visiting the overlooked city of Battambangin Cambodia, taking the railroad less travelled in Thailand or exploring Myanmar’s unspoiled southern coast.
Try the street food
This is the home of the world’s tastiest cuisines, and the really good news is that the cheapest is often the best, with markets and roadside hawkers unbeatable places to try the many local specialities. Night markets, in particular, are great for tasting different dishes at extremely low prices – sizzling woks full of frying noodles, swirling clouds of spice-infused smoke and rows of glistening fried insects all make for an unforgettable gastronomic experience.
Budget carefully – but have the odd splurge
Your daily budget in Southeast Asia depends on where you’re travelling and how comfortable you want to be. You can survive on as little as $20 a day in some countries, but for this money you’ll be sleeping in very basic accommodation, eating at simple food stalls, and travelling on local non-a/c buses. Think about where paying a little more will really enrich your trip.
Learn from the locals
Tribal culture is a highlight of many visits to less explored areas, and among the most approachable communities are the tribal groups around Sa Pa in Vietnam, the Torjan of Sulawesi in Indonesia, known for their intriguing architecture and ghoulish burial rituals, and the ethnic minority villages surrounding Hsipaw in Myanmar.
Embrace the great outdoors
Up for getting active? There’s plenty to keep you busy. You can tackle world-class surf at G-land in Indonesia, take a mountain-bike tour of Vietnam’s far north or discover your own lonely bays and mysterious lagoons on a sea-kayak tour of Krabi in Thailand. And that’s just for starters…
Make time for temples
Southeast Asia’s myriad temple complexes are some of the region’s best-known attractions. The Hindu Khmers left a string of magnificent monuments, the most impressive of which can be seen at Angkor in Cambodia, while the Buddhists’ most impressive legacies include the colossal ninth-century stupa of Borobudur in Indonesia and the temple-strewn plain of Bagan in Myanmar.
No, not that kind of high. Every visitor should make an effort to climb one of the spectacular mountains, whether getting up before dawn to watch the sun rise from Indonesia’s Mount Bromo or embarking on the two-day trek to scale Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia.
Hit the beach
The beaches here are some of the finest in the world, and you’ll find the cream of the crop in Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia, all of which boast postcard-pretty, white-sand bays, complete with azure waters and wooden beach shacks dotted along their palm-fringed shores. The clear tropical waters also offer supreme diving opportunities for novices and seasoned divers alike.
Take local transport
Local transport across Southeast Asia is uniformly good value compared to public transport in the West, and is often one of the highlights of a trip, not least because of the chance to fraternize with local travellers. Overland transport between neighbouring countries is also fairly straightforward so long as you have the right paperwork and are prepared to be patient.
The vast majority of travellers to Southeast Asia suffer nothing more than an upset stomach, so long as they observe basic precautions about food and water hygiene, and research pre-trip vaccination and malaria prophylactic requirements – but it’s still vital to arrange health insurance before you leave home. Some of the illnesses you can pick up may also not show themselves immediately, so if you become ill within a year of returning home, tell your doctor where you have been.
For a complete guide to backpacking Southeast Asia, check out The Rough Guide to Southeast Asia on a Budget. Compare flights, book hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.