Invite your friends to travel to Taiwan and you’d probably get tepid responses like “Why there?” or “Nah, maybe not now!” compared to when you ask them to go to Japan or Korea. Well, I couldn’t blame them. I, myself, used to be guilty of this until I finally set foot on this beautiful country for the very first time in March 2017. I fell in love with it, more so when I returned three months later and explored more cities like Kaohsiung, Tainan and Taichung.
Now, if you’d ask me again, “Why Taiwan?”, my answer would most definitely be “Why NOT?!” With all these amazing reasons, Taiwan truly deserves a spot in every Filipino traveller’s bucket list.
Taiwan will soon be visa-free for Filipinos
I know, I know, some of you have probably heard about the postponement of the visa-free policy from June to sometime in September 2017. Even so, this is something Filipinos should still be happy about. Yay! No more hassle of applying for a visa in a few months’ time. I regularly update this article for the latest Taiwan visa-free policy for Filipinos, so do read it from time to time. Alternatively, you may visit the website of Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in the Philippines for official news and announcements.
It lets you enjoy the four seasons
You don’t need to fly far to experience the four seasons — winter, spring, summer and fall — because Taiwan has it all! Did you know that some mountainous parts of Taiwan get snowfall during winter (Dec-Feb)? Popular areas to see snow include Yushan or Jade Mountain, Hehuanshan, Guanshan, Xueshan and sometimes the Yangmingshan area. And, you’d be excited to know that Taiwan has cherry blossoms, too! They bloom during spring (March-May), and I was lucky to witness these lovely blooms on my first visit to Taiwan.
It’s not as expensive as you think
Would you believe I only spent ₱16,000 (all-in) for 4 days on my first visit to Taiwan? It’s already inclusive of everything, from airfare to accommodation to food to souvenirs. That’s how affordable travel in Taiwan can be, and it could go so much cheaper than that if you’re really on a tight budget.
Accommodation options are aplenty
Whether you’re travelling on a budget or on a grand family vacation, Taiwan has a wide range of accommodation options for you. For budget travellers, hostels and Airbnbs are your best bet like the Airbnb I stayed at on my first visit. But of course, if you want something a little fancy, especially if you’re travelling with your family, do check out these luxe hotels in major cities of Taiwan:
- Taipei: Grand Hyatt Taipei
- Tainan: Silks Place Tainan
- Kaohsiung: Hotel Indigo Kaohsiung Central Park & EDA Royal Hotel
It could take me another book to write about my experiences on each hotel. But trust me when I say that their excellent services and top-notch amenities more than make up for the price you pay. Oh, these hotels are strategically located too, meaning, they are at the centre of each city’s happenings, and that’s already a big plus for me.
Travelling around the country is fast and convenient
Exploring the whole country is a breeze with their efficient public transportation options. Their Taiwan High Speed Rail could take you to distant parts of the country in a matter of minutes. To give you an idea, it takes around 90 minutes to travel from Taipei all the way down to the southernmost city of Kaohsiung. That’s approximately the same distance you travel from Manila to Ilocos Sur, which takes about 10-12 hours of travel by bus.
Getting around each city is also easy, as metro trains and buses follow regular schedules. Learn more about Taiwan’s public transportation here.
Bicycle trails are everywhere
Taiwan is one of the most bike-friendly countries in the world so never leave the country without bicycling in any of its scenic routes. You can even have a DIY trail with their public bicycling sharing services such as YouBike in Taipei and C-Bike in Kaohsiung. I am thankful to have tried this (quite literally) breathtaking cycling adventure in Taipei, starting from Xinbeitou and ending in Tamsui. Read my (mis) adventures as a newbie biker here.
It’s a shopping and food mecca
It cannot be denied that Taiwan is synonymous with SHOPPING and FOOD! Go crazy shopping and food tripping in any of Taiwan’s vibrant night markets like Shilin Night Market and Raohe Street Night Market in Taipei, Miaokou Night Market in Keelung, Flower Night Market in Tainan, Fengjia Night Market in Taichung, and Liouhe Night Market in Kaohsiung, to name a few.
With so many mouthwatering foods in these night markets, you’ll surely be at a loss of what to try first. Well, watch the video below and read this Taiwanese food list perfect for the Filipino palate. And oh, xiao long bao in the Michelin Star awarded Din Tai Fung is to die for, so don’t miss that one too!
Because bubble tea
Bubble tea deserves a special spot here! Although many Filipinos love pearl milk tea or bubble tea, I’m no fan of it. But let me tell you this — Taiwan’s bubble tea made me crave for it each day. It’s that good and addictive! A must-try is the original pearl milk tea of Chun Shui Tang in Taichung. Established in 1983, it is famed for being the origin of Taiwan’s ever popular bubble tea drink. If Taichung is in your Taiwan itinerary, do hit up this legendary tea house.
Lots of unconventional activities
There’s more to Taiwan than shopping and eating! Go forth and start your own unconventional vacation with these fun, unique activities:
Home of the phenomenal F4
Needless to say, Filipinos are not over the Meteor Garden craze yet! Although it’s already 16 years ago, who could forget Shān Cài (Barbie Shu), Dào Míng Sì (Jerry Yan), Huā Zé Lèi (Vic Zhou), Měi Zuò (Vanness Wu) and Xī Mén (Ken Chu)? Relive the romantic Meteor Garden moments by visiting the still existing filming locations like the National Taiwan University and P.S. Bu Bu Restaurant in Taipei.
And of course, home of the kindest people on Earth
More than anything, what really captured my heart are the warm, kind locals. I’m sure they’ll capture yours, too! Interact with them, talk to them whenever you get the chance, and you’ll feel their sincerity and genuine soul despite the language struggle. You’ll get what I mean when you’re there.
So, fellow kababayans (countrymen), prepare your passports, grab your travel buddies and see the beauty of Taiwan yourselves. Enjoy!
A big thank you to Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in the Philippines and Taiwan Tourism Bureau for allowing me to experience more of what Taiwan has to offer, especially to Filipino travellers. Special thanks to EVA Airways too, for flying me to Taiwan with ultra comfort and excellent service. EVA Airways operates direct flights from Manila to Taipei 3x daily. Fly with EVA Airways and enjoy seamless travel to and from Taiwan like I did.