Early last month, Filipino travelers rejoiced at one bit of good news, visa-wise: starting June 2017, Philippine passport holders may enter Taiwan visa-free. According to ABS-CBN, this move will be implemented on a trial basis for a year, and will allow Filipinos to stay in Taiwan for up to 30 days.
Indeed, this is good news for most Pinoys, given that Taiwan is only a couple of hours flight from Manila, and seat sales from Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines mean that it will be as cheap (and easy) to get there as Hong Kong or Singapore.
For those who are planning to visit Taipei alone, here are some solo travel tips for you.
Solo Travel Tips: Taipei, Taiwan
Taipei is much like Singapore or Hong Kong with a bit of Tokyo and Seoul, with its own glitzy and stylish shopping district in Ximending and street food that is unique and tasty. It also has a public transport system that makes it easy and convenient to explore nearby destinations and those that are an hour or so away.
While going to visit Taipei isn’t really in everybody’s bucket list, the lure of affordable fares and beautiful pictures of those who have been there will make you want to discover what Taiwan has to offer.
Visit Taipei: Arriving at the Airport
The two affordable options to get out of Taipei airport are to take the bus or train. There are taxis, of course, which you can find outside the Arrival halls of both terminals 1 and 2. To go from one terminal to another, take the Skytrain. It’s free.
To get to the Taipei Main Station, get Bus 1819 at the B1 Arrivals in Terminal 1 and at the northeast arcade of the 1st floor Arrivals lobby in Terminal 2. Once you arrive at the Main Station, you can easily take the MRT to your final destination. Tickets are sold at bus counters.
Where to Stay in Taipei
It’s easy to find accommodations in Taipei. You have plenty of options, from luxury to backpacker. A highly recommended one is Easymind Guesthouse because of its central location; it’s just a few minutes away from Taipei Main Station. A bed in the hostel’s dorm is around TWD 400 (PhP600 or US$13) per night.
As a general rule of thumb, the best places to stay are near restaurants and train or bus stations. Staying in these areas allow you to save money on transportation and food.
While in Taipei, choose accommodation near the Main Station or Ximending, these are backpacker and budget-friendly areas for those looking for affordable places to stay in or if they want the convenience of being near certain destinations.
What To Do in Taipei
Much like Tokyo and other big and developed cities in the region, Taipei mixes old and new, man-made and natural, in the sights visitors get to explore.
Taipei 101 is the most iconic structure in the city; it is one of the tallest structures in the world and is famous for its distinct design as well. Taking pictures of it from the outside isn’t the same as riding one of the fastest elevators in the world to get to the observation deck to see the city below. The best time to do this is at night, where you get to see the metropolis light up the night sky.
Ximending is the place to go for shopping and dining, it mostly attracts other tourists and Taiwanese millennials. There are plenty of foreign and local brands selling the latest apparel, street performers and different cuisine to try.
Taipei has a handful of night markets, from the less popular and local ones to their more famous counterparts. One of the most recognized markets is in Shilin; this is the place to try different street food and go bargain hunting.
If you’re up for a good leisurely hike, Xiangshan is an option to consider. This isn’t your typical mountain because you climb up stairs to get to the top. After reaching the viewing area, your reward is a beautiful view of the city, for the sunrise, sunset, or night views.
Taipei has a number of beautiful temples, one of which is the Longshan Temple. It is in the historical district of the city and is centuries old. You’ll see monks walking about or selling flowers for good fortune, the smell of incense hanging in the air and you might even hear traditional music playing.
The Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall commemorates the father of Taiwan and is a popular place to visit for both locals and tourists. It has three big buildings and a park, all of which are impressive in design and layout. You can take pictures of Chiang Kai Shek’s statue and watch the ceremonial change of the guard when you enter the main chamber.
Another similar attraction in the city is the National Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, it is a huge complex that celebrates the memory of the Republic of China’s National Father, Dr. Sun Yat-sen. There is a statue of Dr. Sun inside as well as displays that depict his past and his role in the country’s history.
Beitou is another noteworthy destination in northern Taipei; it is renowned for its hot springs. The Japanese brought their hot bath concepts to the country during Taiwan’s colonial period. They cultivated the area for spas and hot springs that continued to today.
Day Trips from Taipei
Taipei’s transport system makes it easy for tourists to do day trips from the city. Here are some that you can do if you get tired of city life and want to see what’s beyond the capital.
Yangmingshan is a popular park just around an hour away from Taipei; it provides nature lovers with a little bit of everything; there are grasslands, cool to cold weather, cherry blossoms, and of course, beautiful landscapes.
The trails are easy with stairs, paved roads, or stone steps, making it ideal even for those with little to no experience hiking and trekking.
It is easy to go around the park, too, because there is a bus that takes visitors to major destinations for only TWD 15 (PhP25 or US$0.50) one way, payable by cash or easy card.
Shifen Old Street takes you back in time; this quaint, old railroad town was built to transport coal. It is a popular destination because of its uniqueness, delicious local food and it is also a place to release sky lanterns. While in the area, head to Shifen Waterfall, one of the most well-known waterfalls in the country.
Jiufen used to be a prosperous mining town. It fell on hard times when the mines closed. However, its quaint and narrow streets, tea houses, and beautiful ocean views saved it from turning into a ghost town. it is now a popular destination for tourists because of its charming architecture, teas, and accessibility from Taipei.
If you’re looking for unique rock formations, head to Yehliu Geopark in northern Taiwan. This area is home to a number of distinct formations that include the “Queen’s Head” just to name one. The mushroom-like rocks jut out of the surface to form the unique shapes.
Safety Considerations for Solo Travelers in Taipei
Taipei is a solo traveler friendly destination, because of affordable hostel dorm accommodations and a public transport system that can take you to the attractions you want to visit.
The city is safe for travelers who are out at night or are traveling alone, but always remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings whenever you visit attractions or go on day trips. Locals can speak some English and signs to tourist destinations are in English, which makes it easy to find where you want to go.
Night markets are fun to experience local culture, too, but keep in mind that more famous ones like Shilin tend to have higher prices for food and other products compared to its lesser known counterparts.
If you have a few days of vacation time, it is indeed worth it to visit Taipei solo. Check out the other things to do in Taipei here.
Have you been to Taipei? What other tips can you give? Do share in the comments!
For more tips on traveling in Taiwan, visit Joshua Berida’s blog, The Wandering Juan.