TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- A Chinese American posted a list of 16 quick tips on YouTube on Wednesday that he felt were beneficial for anyone thinking about traveling to Taiwan.
Kevin Lu, 26, a 3D computer graphics artist who resides in New York City, took a trip to Taiwan in March of this year and enjoyed it so much that he decided to create a list of helpful tips for would-be travelers to Taiwan.
The list covers everything from the weather to Taiwan's tasty night markets. Lu gives would-be travelers a lot of practical suggestions such as the purchase of EasyCards and sim cards and the best time of year to travel.
Lu said that the trip was very important to him because it was his first time to visit Asia and it was a real eye opening experience: "For me, growing up in a rural area in the south of the United States, I had never seen this large amount of Asians on the streets!"
Lu pointed out that Taiwan has a highly tropical, humid climate with frequent rainfall, and his advice to bring an umbrella should be heeded.
2. Low crime
Taiwan has a relatively low crime rate in comparison to some of its Southeast Asian neighbors. There are even waiting sections on the MRT for women only, which can be found in the middle of the platform which say "Safe waiting zone" (夜間安心候車區).
3. Unsafe tap water
Lu asserts that the tap water is unsafe to drink. In fact, the municipal tap water in major cities in Taiwan is officially safe to drink, however the problem is that the pipes in older buildings may necessitate the boiling and filtering of water to eliminate bacteria and sediment.
4. Night Markets
Taiwan's night markets are world famous and a must see with a plethora of seafood, deserts, and snacks for sale late into the night. Lu recommends the Taiwanese pork and rice sausage, fried calamari, and shellfish. Lu says he was inspired to delve into the night markets after seeing food documentaries online such as "Huang's World" on Vice and David So's Taiwan food tour videos on YouTube.
Mandarin is spoken by the majority of people in Taipei, but many signs are bilingual in Chinese and English. Many people in tourist areas in Taipei will speak English, but once you go into the countryside and head further south, the number of English speakers starts to diminish and the use of Taiwanese dialect for communication by locals increases. Lu says he had learned Hokkien from his parents, which he said was similar to Taiwanese dialect.
There are also certain pockets of Taiwan where Hakka dialect prevails or even indigenous languages. However, the vast majority of Taiwanese can speak Mandarin, at least for basic communication. Lu also mentioned that Google translate also has an app that lets you take a photo of words and will translate what you highlight.
6. Cheap flights
Lu says that tickets are cheaper in February and March. However, this may not be the case if the lunar new year falls in February, as that is busiest travel season of the year in much of Asia. Tickets tend to be more expensive during summer vacation months and Christmas. Lu says that tickets (from the east coast U.S.) cost US$1,200, but he was able to get a deal for US$650.
Lu mentions Eva Airlines and Cathay Pacific as popular airlines that people use to travel to Taiwan. In fact, Eva Air has been recently been named one of the Top 10 Major Airlines in Asia Pacific and the Best Airline in Taiwan by TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site.
7. American plugs
Unlike China, outlets in Taiwan are essentially the same as in the U.S. as is the voltage at 110 volts and 60 hertz. However, some outlets in older buildings only have two prongs, and may lead to some problems with devices with three-prong plugs.
8. International airport
Lu states that Taiwan's Taoyuan International Airport has buses and taxis that go to the city of Taipei. However, as of March 2, 2017, there is now an Airport MRT line that also goes to the city's center. In Taipei, there is also the Taipei Songshan Airport, which has both domestic flights and services to China, South Korea, and Japan.
9. Get unlimited wifi
If you have an unlocked smartphone, Lu suggests you buy a 4G unlimited sim card for 10 days for a mere US$15. He also suggested that those traveling in groups could consider getting a portable router to receive unlimited wifi for about US$30.
10. Great public transport
Lu lauded Taipei's "incredible metro and public transportation." He took the bullet train from Taoyuan to Taichung in less than hour for NT$540 (USD$17.50). While the bullet trains for travel from city to city, the metros are used for travel within cities.
11. Get easycard
Lu recommends getting an EasyCard (悠遊卡) at one of the local metro stations to make riding the MRT lines convenient. This will prevent the need for having to purchase separate tickets for each ride. If there is extra money left on the card, you can always get a refund at the station. Lu pointed out that these cards can be used in many stores as payment.
12. No eating in metro
Eating and drinking is strictly prohibited on the MRT, violators will be fined between NT$1,500 to NT$7,500. It is also advisable not to sit in the dark blue priority seats, as they are reserved for the elderly, children, and disabled.
13. Hotels cost $30 - 100 USD
Lu asserts that hotels range from US$30 to US$100, however this would be the range for low end hostels to mid range hotels. Higher end hotels can reach as much as US$1,000 and lower cost rooms in popular tourist areas during peak times of year can sometimes be hard to come by if not booked well in advance.
14. Use ATMS for cash
Lu recommends using ATMs as the cheapest exchange rate for the dollar. He used the ATMs at 7-Eleven and Family Mart convenience stores, which are abundant across Taiwan.
15. NT$32 TWD = US$1
At the time of publication, the exchange rate was indeed NT$32 = US$1. Of course, this can fluctuate slightly on a daily basis.
16. Check out Jiufen
Lastly, Lu's personal tourist recommendation is Jiufen (九份). He describes it as "A charming old town near the mountains about a 90 minutes by bus from Taipei." As Lu mentions, the town is well known, particularly among Japanese tourists, as being an inspiration for the Hayao Miyazaki film "Spirited Away."