We found constant conflicting information during our research for Taiwan, and many details are omitted, even forum posts on tripadvisor for certain subjects were being closed off without real answers, so here are some travel tips and infobits that you might need if you ever decide to visit Taipei.
Do I need to know Mandarin to visit Taipei –
It certainly helps, but I only know the number system and ‘thank you’ in Mandarin and we just about got by. It would have certainly helped and made us feel a lot more comfortable, but there are many places to eat/order where you can just point to pictures and thrust cash at staff. The younger generation can speak some broken english though your mileage may vary, especially depending on how touristy the area is. English numbers, small, large, etc are generally understood universally. Most staff behind counters at MRT stations speak very good English, similarly anywhere with a visitor centre/tourist info.
How much money per day in Taipei –
Food and metro system are generally very cheap, some average sample costs of things we would commonly eat/do are below, though some souvineers like pineapple cake are quite expensive, similarly any designer shopping is quite expensive as a lot of it I think is import. A number I saw being thrown around was 1000 TWD per day, and i’d say that sounds about right. Most attractions in taipei are free anyway.
Sit down restaurant (mid-range) = 600 TWD for 2 people
Most expensive restaurant we went to (Premium buffet) = 1600 TWD for 2 people
Bubble milk tea = 50 TWD average
Shaved ice dessert with mango = between 100 and 200 TWD
Food from street vendors = Between 30 and 100 TWD
Deep fried chicken breast = 70 TWD
Tray of sushi from metro = 100 TWD
Most Metro journeys = 16-20 TWD
Long metro journeys = 50 TWD? (Ximen to Tamsui)
Most buses = 8 TWD
Express Train from/to airport to/from Taipei Main = 160 TWD
How’s the wifi in Taipei? –
Free wifi on metro trains, stations, many department stores.
Which is just as well because my data roaming wanted to charge me £3 per MB.
Storing luggage in Taipei station –
Really easy, and there is an abundance of lockers available. There are loads dotted around the high speed rail area, and even some in the metro mall.
Prices are 70 TWD for 3 hours, if you collect after 3 hours, you have to pay before it’ll release your luggage.
Locker sizes go from backpack size to fullsize plane luggage.
There were english instructions on ours, but the general directions are – Fill locker, press number on keypad for locker, put money, close locker, take password receipt. Unlock: Press number for locker, enter password, pay remaining balance.
Paying for transport –
Near everything accepts Easycard, you can grab them from vending machines at airport and taipei main, or buy one at info counter. 500 TWD, 100 of which is deposit.
You can use the easycard on buses, trains including Pingxi line and airport express, Maokong Gondola, and I think some shops accept it too.
Taxi fares –
Are metered as far as I know, pricing starts at 70 TWD, we only took 2, but an example we did was Lovers bridge in tamsui, to Tamsui main station, which is about 10-13 mins drive (4km) and cost about 200 TWD iirc.
Fares to go to Jiufen from the nearby train station is fixed though I can’t remember how much i’m afraid, much cheaper to take the bus.
Weather / indoor things –
Weather reports are not to be trusted in Taipei, we went during supposed monsoon season, and despite it being forecasted to rain every day, we got a few spatterings and one major downpour over 9 days. There are plenty of metro malls (attached to Taipei main station) to visit, you can also waste your time in Hyper gamer in Ximen, The miniatures Museum of Taipei (1-2 hours) or just grab an umbrella/poncho like everyone else does.
Travel Tips for Shifen / Pingxi and Jiufen which would have been useful to know:
– Pingxi is both a town and a district, while you can ride the pingxi line to Pingxi itself, the lantern experience most people describe can easily be had at Shifen, which has the waterfall as well.
– Approx 40 mins to Ruifan Stn from Taipei Main Stn, and then 20ish mins to Shifen, i think
– Cost from Taipei Main to Shifen was only 61 TWD
– Lantern cost anywhere between $100 and $350, ours was $200 but they charge based on colours and include photography and paint for you
– Shifen waterfall walk is about 30-45mins maybe? There are toilets and food/drink along the way
– Bus to jiufen from Ruifang Stn is route 827 or 788, catch it from next to the police station – Exit main entrance and take a left at the Wellcome supermarket, police Stn on opposite side of road. Bus itself takes about 10-20 mins
– The train to taipei from Ruifang will be written just past the main gate, the train might be flagged as a North destination line even though it goes to Taipei.
– There are still squat toilets at some places, might want to practice or read up on technique
– Stand on the right, walk on the left
– The Taiwanese are surprisingly good at queuing in an orderly fashion
– Wufenpu shopping district is the best for cheap clothing