On my trip to Japan (a month and a half ago), I first stopped at Taipei, Taiwan! I only had a short stay there (two days), but I loved it and hoped to visit again. I’d meant to go for a very long time (one of my best friends from college is from there), but I never got around to it. I’m so happy that I finally got a chance to visit.
I had very minimal language skills (Hello, Thank you, Excuse me, Where is..?, and I would like…); but, it ended up being okay because many people in restaurants and hotels spoke both English and Japanese. My dad and I probably spoke more Japanese than English (or Mandarin) during our stay. The only time it was a problem was when we got a little lost and wanted to ask for directions – I think I accidentally scared a woman on the street in my attempt to ask for the closest metro station… Oops!
Below, you’ll find some of my tips and tricks for transportation, food, accommodations, and things to do!
First things first, let’s talk about the airplane ticket. When traveling to Japan (especially from San Francisco), it is imperative that you check to see if there are tickets for a stopover in Taipei, Seoul or Hong Kong before your final destination in Japan (in my case, Narita). My plane ticket was about $650 round trip, and even with two nights in Taipei, it was well under the price of the usual $1000+ round trip ticket from SFO – NRT. Of course, if your budget is abundant, then, by all means, fly direct! The best airlines for Japan, at least in my opinion, are still ANA (All Nippon Airways/Zennikku) and JAL (Japan Airlines). You will get great service in flight, regardless of what cabin you’re in. Even if you’re on a budget, if you’re flying United, you can find codeshares where your flight is on ANA!
The metro system in Taipei is very convenient and quite affordable. We loaded our metro cards with 10 USD each and were fine for the two days. We did take two taxi rides though, from the station on the airport line to our hotel. We also ended up walking a lot, so you might spend a little more depending on how much you want to walk!
Every traveler seems to visit Taipei expecting great things of its food. I was no different, and I can happily report that the rumors are true – Taipei is a city full of glorious drinks, snacks, and meals. Whether you’re looking for street food, Taiwanese staples, international cuisine, or bubble tea, Taipei has you covered!
Before you go, look through the myriad YouTube videos where many bloggers/vloggers have shared their tips for the various foods in the city. I highly recommend going to one of the night markets (Yèshì). Each has its specialties, but all serve the large staples of Taipei street food. My dad and I only got to visit the largest (also touristy) market called Shìlín, but I was also hoping to visit Raohe (it has candied tomatoes and a pork bun that I wanted to try). There are a bunch of others, so take the time to decide which ones strike your fancy!
Din Tai Fung, a famous xiaolongbao (soup dumpling) restaurant with chains around the world, was another one of our destinations. The flagship location was super crowded – we, unfortunately, went on a weekend and the wait was 2 hours (!!!), so we decided to wait until dinnertime and went to another location in town where the wait was still 20-30 minutes. While it was good (and the skin super thin and amazing), I wouldn’t say it’s the best xiaolongbao ever. But maybe I felt that way because of the long lines?
Taipei is also home to the now-ubiquitous drink: bubble tea/boba/tapioca tea! I did not have my priorities straight during this trip, so I never got around to getting Boba at a regular Boba place (I only got one at the airport). Get some if you go! Another drink to try is the Aiyu jelly drink. I thought the jelly was really good, but the drink itself is like a limeade so only get it if you like lime!
Another thing to check out is the department store food/gift areas. You’ll find a ton of great snacks and desserts. I went hunting for the Sugar & Spice nougats because I’d been craving them ever since my friend got some for me several years ago. They’re a little harder and milkier than the French nougats, and so delicious. I went to the store branch located in Taipei101. Also, if you want a taste of France while you’re there, stop by Jean-Paul Hevin for some amazing chocolates. Taipei (and also Tokyo) have many French boutiques and dessert shops that I crave when I’m back in the States!
Finally, Taiwan is a sub-tropical island. You can expect to find many glorious fruits everywhere you go!
Hotels in Taipei are affordable. My dad stayed in a very comfortable, nice hotel for about $80 USD/night. We were technically in New Taipei (just outside Taipei downtown), but we were still pretty close to everything. When I looked up AirBNBs, they were very affordable as well (and had many options).
Things to Do
There are so many things to do in Taipei! We mainly walked around, ate food and observed the city, but we also visited the National Palace Museum and its collection of Chinese imperial treasures. You can go shopping downtown (or anywhere), go up the Taipei 101 observation tower, or take a trip up to Jioufen for scenic tea time (I, unfortunately, didn’t have enough time). There are several other museums, a concert hall, and so many streets that you can stroll down!
That’s all for now – I hope you have the chance to visit this fantastic city!