Ever think of visiting or moving to Taipei? Here are some things that I love about Taipei!
Keep in mind, there are negative aspects to the city, but I will highlight the good things in this post.
1) How much there is to do (Places to Visit)
I live in New Taipei City (just outside of Taipei) currently and the amount of things to do is staggering. I do not think I could do everything there is to do even if I went out every single day in the year! Taipei is a pretty big city with a population of 2.7 million, and there is plenty of entertainment, restaurants, and culture within the city. Taipei is a very modern city with many things to do in such a small area. There is no lack of activities to be done. There are many free places to visit and see if you are on a budget, and if you have some money you have even more options.
Here are some of the must-sees if you are visiting Taipei for a short time.
- A) Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall (free)
A classical and cultural piece of architecture. This halls changes the galleries inside it every once in a while, so something new will always be there. Usually, it has art and other history. The changing of the guard is nifty to watch.
- B) Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall (free)
This is a huge palace looking area with enormous buildings. Another memorial ground for former President Chaing Kai-Shek. Worth looking at, at least once or twice. Great place to take a walk and relax.
- C) Daan Park (free)
This is an enormous park inside Taipei. There are many hills and small ponds sprinkled throughout the sparse woodland area. This park also has many kid playgrounds and a small roller skating arena. There is even some equipment for exercising. You can relax and chill out in a green escape from the city.
- D) Elephant Mountain Hiking Trail (free)
This hiking trail will test your legs if you have not exercised in a while. This steep hike up the side of a small mountain gives you the perfect view of Taipei 101 and the surrounding area. There are different stops along the way to get out your camera and snap the perfect picture. If you make it to the top, you will find a small exercise park and some covered benches and tables. I would definitely recommend this trail for the view and the fresh air. Beware of the crowds though. On a Friday night, or the weekend, this trail can become clogged with people. If you want to get a good view with less people, try to go just before sunset on a weekday.
- E) Danshui / Tamsui ($) (You may see either spelling, but they are both the same)
This is an area north of Taipei. You have to take the MRT red line to the terminal station. Once you arrive here, there are many places to bike, eat, enjoy the view, or take a boat. If you love seafood, this is a great place to visit. At the northern end of the area, you will find a “lover’s bridge,” which is the perfect place to watch the sunset. Many cool things to see around this area.
- F) Shihlin Night Market (free to look, ha!) ($-$$)
This is one of the biggest night markets in Taipei. This night market has tons of things from shoes and clothing to tons of street food. Prepare for the crowd and waiting in line, this is the usual in Shihlin.
- G) Maokong Gondola ($)
Ride this beautiful gondola up to the tea fields and see the surrounding beauty. This a very good place to relax and look at nature. There are many different trails you can hike along the hillside. Once you get to the top, there are many nice and quiet places to have tea or grab a snack from a food stand. Going on a holiday or weekend will not guarantee it will be quiet though.
2) The cost of living (Cheaper for an English teacher) Native vs. Foreigner
The cost of living is relatively low in the city and even lower in the country. You can get decent whole meals for 50-200 NTD (1.75-7 USD) generally. If you go to a place that only speaks and writes in Chinese you will most likely get a break in the price. If the menu is translated into English and there is some English speaking people there, chances are it will be a higher price in that range. That should not deter you though, it should motivate you to learn a little Chinese 😉 If you go to a night market or a designated area for shopping, you can find everything you need. Taiwan has some bigger outlets like Carre Four and Costco if you’re looking to find everything in one place or to buy in bulk. When you go to night markets, you will (generally) find cheaper items because the vendors are selling a smaller quantity of things. The fees for withdrawing money from a foreign bank here are super low. Each withdraw from a foreign ATM will cost you 5 NTD ($0.15). How cheap compared to the prices in America of $2-$10 per withdraw!
3) Food (The food culture/All meals can be take out)
When coming to Taiwan, you should expect the normal thing to do is eat every meal out. Buying food and cooking it yourself will honestly not save you enough money for what it’s worth. There are plenty of good restaurants or food stands to choose from. You will never go hungry in Taiwan (Taipei especially)! There are many breakfast shops that are set up solely for breakfast and lunch. They usually open around 5-6am and close around 12pm-1pm. Some more established places will have set hours. Most smaller Taiwanese restaurants will not stay open past 10pm, unless it is a food stand or a restaurant catered to night eating. You can always get good cheap snacks from the night markets that will stay open until around midnight. The Taiwanese people are big fans of have a lot of many small snacks, so don’t fill up on just one thing! Many small Taiwanese shops take randoms days off during the week or weekend, so make sure to figure out which days they are open and closed or you may be disappointed, like I have been so many times until I learned.
4) Transportation (Highly efficient and cheap)
The MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) is cheap and efficient. The MRT is a quick mostly underground train that runs on 5 different lines through Taipei. The average cost of a trip is about 30-50 NTD, but lower if you travel less of a distance. You can get from Taipei to Keelung (an hour train trip on the slow train) for around 50 NTD too!
Taipei and New Taipei City have Ubikes everywhere! You can rent a Ubike for a very cheap price and pedal your way to your destination.
If you are feeling confident in your heavy traffic driving skills, you can also purchase or rent a scooter. Usually to rent a scooter, one requires a Taiwanese license, so bring a friend along!
5) Language (Traditional Chinese, many chances to learn)
The official language in Taiwan is Chinese, and the traditional script is preserved in the writing. If you want to learn the old form of Chinese, Taiwan would probably be the best place to do it. Simplified Chinese is used with more of the population, but it is easier to learn Traditional Chinese first because there are more strokes involved with each character. When learning Simplified Chinese after Traditional, you will just be taking away strokes you already understand. Also in Taipei, you do not necessarily need Chinese to survive. There are plenty of English signs and places that welcome English speaking people. You could very well live here for 10 years and no practice Chinese at all. Now, that would not be as fun and you would miss many ideas about the culture, but it is certainly possible.
6) Friendly Environment (Towards foreigners)
I found out ever since I arrived that most Taiwanese people are very friendly to foreigners. I remember 3 separate occasions where I was lost and a Taiwanese person not only helped me with directions, but they took me wherever I needed to go on the back of their scooter. Talk about helpful! I also talked with my Taiwanese friends and they told me that the Taiwanese are most friendly to foreigners and not particularly to each other. So, if you are a foreigner, you get a lucky break! (Most of the time)
7) Easy Bill Pay
Paying the bills in Taiwan is as easy as pie. Whenever I get a bill, it comes in the mail, but I can go to any 7-11 or Family Mart and give them the slip, and pay the bill right there. That is super convenient because there is a Family Mart at the bottom of my apartment building. The way I pay for my phone bill is, they send me a message via text, and I open the text at any 7-11 or Family Mart. They simply scan the barcodes in my text and I can pay the bill immediately. The convenience of Taiwan’s bill paying is awesome! However, if you do not pay a bill in time, you must go to one of the offices of the company, which is kind of a pain. So, the moral of the story is pay your bills on time and everything goes smoothly!
8) Nature (Natural parks and beautiful landscapes)
While you can get lost in the urban jungle of Taipei, it is nice to see that parks and natural areas are sprinkled throughout the city. If you decided to hop on a train for less than 2 hours, you can get to some very scenic and natural places. Taiwan is an island, and there are many beautiful places along the coast to indulge the eyes and spirit.
9) Location (In Asia)
Taiwan is centrally located in Asia, and in Taipei there are now two international airports. The main international airport is Taoyuan International Airport. From Taipei, this airport is less than an hour away. If you want to fly south to the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, or Thailand, you can do it in less than 5 hours. If you want to fly north to China, Hong Kong, South Korea, or Japan, you can do it in less than 5 hours as well. I have flown to the Philippines and Thailand just in the first year of living in Taiwan. The flights are pretty cheap and the travel time is relatively low. Taiwan is a great place to live if you want to explore the other exotic locations Asia has to offer.
In Taiwan, if you get onto the national healthcare plan, it is super affordable for you! Every month, you might pay about 600-900 NTD ($20-30 USD). When you visit a doctor or dentist, you will generally just pay 150 NTD for the visit and basic medicine that comes with it. If I go to a doctor when I am sick, I get a checkup and medicine for 3 days 150 NTD ($5 USD). That’s cheap!!! Dentist vist? Cleaning and check up, 150 NTD. Fantastic! If you don’t get sick that often, that’s great too, you don’t lose out on much. I really enjoy the National Healthcare Taiwan provides. It’s simply great!
*11) Nightlife (Tons of Bars, Clubs)
Taipei has no shortage of night clubs and bars. You will find the majority of bars and night clubs in the XinYi area which is located around Taipei 101. Taipei 101 is the huge building that can be seen from most areas in Taipei. Many bars and clubs will stay open until 5-6am, so you will not have to worry about running out of time getting your party on.
Here are a list of some clubs and bars:
Please let me know what you think of the post! If you agree or disagree with anything, I would love to hear about it. Leave a comment or send me an e-mail anytime! Look forward to hearing from you!