To high-end palaboys who like jetsetting in and out of the country, here is our Taiwan: Do’s and Don’ts.
To the north of the Philippines sits a beautiful island that majestically rises over pristine blue waters. This visa-free haven has been a popular destination for tourists looking to escape the heat and noise of Manila, but Taiwan has so much more to offer than just the typical tourist traps (though admittedly there are a lot of them in the city). As a smart traveler, keep in mind these tips to make sure that your stay in Taiwan, and its many districts will be as enjoyable as possible.
- Do prepare in advance – Once you book your flight, the next question will be where exactly to stay in Taiwan. Taipei is your standard destination, and for purposes of this list, we’ll be using it as our default. Taipei has many districts, chief of which are Xinyi, Wanhua, and Daan. Each district has its own character and vibe, and you have to choose wisely where to stay based on your preferences: if you like shopping in upscale stores and fine dining, stay in or near Xinyi where the bigger shopping malls are, fancy a younger vibe, and a more vibrant nightlife, consider staying in Ximending in the Wanhua district, and for those who like a quieter holiday, venture into the homey and tranquil university neighborhoods in Daan. You would also want to book stuff like SIM cards, pocket Wi-Fi devices, and even airport transport via services such as Klook and KKDay.
- Do bring cash everywhere you go – Credit cards are accepted in a lot of establishments, but not all stores do, especially in the markets and in places outside the really big cities. Keep a couple thousand NTD in your pocket just in case.
- Do take advantage of your tourist tax refund – As a tourist, you are given the privilege by large stores to refund the sales tax paid on products over a certain amount (normally NT$2,000.00), so make sure to ask and always keep your passport close. Usually, you get to refund this at the airport, but for some department stores such as the very popular Eslite chain of bookstores, you can get your refund onsite in cash! Again, these are dependent on the stores, and don’t expect this tax refund to apply to places such as supermarkets and convenience stores.
- Do forget about your diet – Taiwan has a lot to offer in terms of cuisine, as a former Japanese colony, the food has a very strong Japanese influence, and it shines through in the high quality of their cuisine: Japanese restaurants are plentiful and all quite good. Make sure to go to as many night markets as you can, where you can get to enjoy local street food that’s so good, it wouldn’t be out of place in any restaurant anywhere in the world. Don’t miss trying their sausage, their grilled corn, their blowtorch beef, scallion buns, and fried squid as big as your face.
- Do get out of the big cities if you can – Taiwan’s countryside is a marvelous showcase of nature. Breathtaking emerald mountain peaks and clear blue ocean welcomes you when you travel 30-45 minutes in any direction outside city limits. If in Taipei, don’t miss the northern coast of the island: Yehliu, Shifen, Jiufen, and Ruifang. You can charter a car or commute to these mountain and coastal towns and bask in the relaxing change of pace from frenetic Taipei.
- Don’t forget your walking shoes – There will be plenty of walking, and you need a pair of sturdy and comfy sneakers. This is not the town to go running around in stilettos.
- Don’t hesitate to go to museums – There are two main museums that you can’t miss in Taipei, their Museum of Modern Art, and the National Palace Museum. The former is a classic building that features the work of highly conceptual Taiwanese artists that’s a delight to experience, and the latter is a megastructure built into a hillside that houses countless treasures from China’s Imperial Court. Priceless artifacts of gold, jade, brass, ivory, and ancient manuscripts are there for you to drool over if you’re an antique collector.
- Don’t be intimidated by public transport – Taipei has one of the most efficient public transport systems in Asia, the trains are clean and on time, and is often the most efficient way of getting around town. You can opt to get an MTR card that would also work for the city’s bus system.
- Don’t be caught without an umbrella – Taipei, much like the Philippines, has crazy weather. Always have an umbrella handy for sudden afternoon or evening showers!
- Don’t forget to keep an open mind and have fun! – Taipei is one of the most progressive societies in the region, if not the continent. It is the first to offer true same-sex marriage to members of the LGBT. This progressiveness extends to far more than that. Generally, the Taiwanese are a laid-back bunch and are very helpful. Open yourself up to new experiences and try new things. Taiwan really has something for everybody, and all you need to do is google it and just take a leap of faith. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
Taiwan, Taipei is about 1 hour and 45 minutes from Manila. Daily flights are available aboard Philippines Airlines, and other airlines based in the region.