Last Updated: 3 Jan 2021
For more information on just about anything here, a quick Google search on the English name for any of these recommendations will probably give you more blog posts than you really want.
- General Rule— People in Taiwan are very friendly and will try hard to accommodate a nice foreigner. Many people in Taipei do speak a little English.
- Almost every restaurant has an English menu. Point and smile.
- IF you use Google Translate for anything, keep the message EXTREMELY simple for best chance that something understandable will come out the other end.
- Google Maps is the best option to get info/routing for all public transportation options.
- 高鐵 HSR High Speed Rail or 捷運 MRT Underground Metro systems are great. Everything is in English, and very easy to understand.
- Buses and regular trains (台鐵 TRA) are absurdly cheap, but an elementary understanding of the language will clear some confusion. English assistance not always guaranteed.
- When in doubt, take a TAXI or UBER. Both are very cheap in Taiwan (flag down $2, + about $1 /mile) and readily available, and their drivers are very trustworthy.
- The American Institute is functionally a US embassy. There are locations in Neihu Taipei and in Kaohsiung.
- Any hospital will accept and treat you, but I have heard that there is a “VIP” department up a few floors at 台北長庚紀念醫院 Taipei Chang Gung Memorial Hospital that takes cash (very inexpensive), speaks English well and sees patients very quickly.
- 中正紀念堂 CKS Memorial Hall is a massive memorial hall and park dedicated in part to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. It it an incredible monument including an hourly changing of the guards ceremony, a beautiful park, museum, the National Theater and National Concert Hall. Mr. Chiang is a controversial figure in modern democratic Taiwan and as a result it is likely that this memorial will be changed significantly in the near future.
- 國立故宮博物院 National Palace Museum has tons of amazing Chinese art and history that was imported by the Nationalists to Taiwan when they fled China after losing the civil war to the communists. Take a cab from anywhere in Taipei, just a few minutes north.
- 象山 Xiangshan is a mountain offering the most famous views of the city. If you like walking huge staircases up mountains, this place has your ticket. Bonus: at the top look for the little outdoor gym areas where older local congregate to socialize and live their best life. Take MRT red line to Xiangshan follow the signs through the park to the walking path.
- 西門町 Ximending pedestrian district, IMO best at night, tons of shopping and food and sights. MRT blue line to 西門 Ximen, exit 6.
- Night Markets! There is a lot of information in English about all of them online. My favorites for food/vibes so far are 寧夏夜市 Ningxia and 饒河夜市 Raohe.
- 大安森林公園 Da’an (Forest) Park is a very large inner city park that spans multiple blocks in both directions. Locals (and I) love to jog around the perimeter and do group exercises within its lush green setting. Highly peaceful and happy place. Take MRT red line to 大安森林公園 Da’an Park station.
- A short walk from Da’an Park are the 建國假日花市/玉市 Jianguo Weekend Flower and Jade Markets open on Saturday and Sunday until early evening. These massive markets are all individual vendors with tons of greenery, curios, jewelry, furniture— very pleasant.
- 炭火工廠 Charcoal Factory 96 Local Japanese izakaya (tell the boss 小黑 Xiao-hei I sent you)
- 鼎泰豐 Din Tai Feng World-renouned 小籠包 xiao-long-bao soup dumpling restaurant
- 玖五牛肉麵 Jiuwu Beef Noodles Yep
- 永和豆漿 Incredible local breakfast shop, you are going to need Chinese or a lot of pointing, but well worth it
- 初魚料亭 Chu Yu — 2020 Recent discovery— In the top 3 omakase sushi experiences I’ve ever had anywhere, and at stunningly low prices. Must make reservation in advance. Highly recommended
- 享咖啡 Enjoy Café Da’an— my go to local coffee spot
- Lavazza Espresso Point great little coffee shop, open late; check Google Maps for hours
People in Taiwan love hanging out in malls and food courts, and for good reason— they are awesome here. These can also be very easy places to hang out if you don’t know the language.
- Xinyi Shopping District / Taipei 101 — a cluster of 14 connected malls said to be the highest concentration in the world. Tons of food and sights of all kinds. Check out Bellavita on the north end for calm relaxation, coffee and food on B1 and B2.
- 忠孝復興 Zhongxiao Fuxing intersection — two separate SOGO department stores (Green SOGO especially recommended) anchor this cool area good for walking and taking in the sights. This corner is home base for me in Taipei. Take MRT blue or brown line to 忠孝復興站 Zhongxiao Fuxing station.
- 京站時尚廣場 QSquare — lots of great food and shopping clustered together in a single building right off the train station. Take MRT red or blue line to 台北車站 Taipei Main Station.
- 誠品敦南 Eslite bookstore Dunnan branch — the quintessential bookstore in Taipei, unfortunately no longer 24 hour but still wonderful
- If you want to buy cool/entertaining souvenirs or gifts, there are a couple cute gift shops in 西門町 Ximending just a few doors west of 漢口街二段中華路一段路口 (the intersection of Hankou Street Sec 2 and Zhonghua Road Sec 1)
(All in good locations. Google in English to book these on a variety of sites such as Kayak or Expedia)
- Swiio Hotel in 西門町 Ximending and 大安 Da’an
- Inhouse Hotel Heritage in Ximending
- Park Taipei Hotel in Da’an
- 淡水 Danshui (also written “Tamsui”) is an old port town on the water about 45 minutes away on the metro, with tons of shops on the street and beautiful scenery. A popular local hangout. Check out 無極天元 Wuji Tianyuan temple on the mountain, a cab ride away. MRT red line to the north end.
- 九份 Jiufen is a beautiful old town way up high on a mountain, with incredible views. Known best for 九份老街 Jiufen Old Street, a maze of walkways between the buildings with tons of shops, food and culture— must experience. On your way, make a stop at 瑞芳車站 Ruifang station, grab a meal at the 瑞芳美食廣場 Ruifang food court right outside and then check out the river walk just beyond. Trains and buses run frequently from 南港站 Nangang MRT station in Taipei to Ruifang and Jiufen, about 45 minutes.
- 宜蘭 Yilan is an east coast seaside destination that is very popular with the locals, famous for its beautiful scenery and hot springs. I prefer a couple of towns on the southside 蘇澳 Su’ao and 南方澳 Nanfangao, both of which have incredible charm. Recommended to stay at Lakeshore Hotel Su’ao which features hot springs tubs in the rooms. Rent bikes at the shop just out on the main road from the hotel and ride south into Nanfangao; check out the 南方澳漁港 Nanfangao Fishing Harbor and have a coffee by a beautiful oceanside bay at 情人灣涼亭 park. Purchase ticket for bus 1879 (runs throughout the day) at the office at 南港車站 Nangang station, to 蘇澳車站 Su’ao station about 1 hour.
- 日月潭 Sun Moon Lake— Nestled into the mountains in the middle of the island, maybe the most beautiful place I have ever been
- 墾丁 Kenting (國際公園 National Park)— South end of the island, kind of feels like the end of the world! Really good vibes. A common vacation spot for Taiwanese. Nearby National Museum of Marine Biology & Aquarium is huge and very cool.