Taiwan is an island country with a tumultuous recent history that sits off the coast of mainland China. This is a travel guide for visitors to Taiwan who are looking to save money, sleep cheap, and eat for a penance. Read more to find out how to travel Taiwan on the cheap.
Prepare for your travels to Taiwan
Taiwan is a small island off the southeast coast of China in the Pacific Ocean. It is officially governed as the Republic of China (ROC). Taiwan was originally populated by indigenous people related to Malay and Indonesians, but the indigenous currently on make up 2% of the population, the rest identify as Han Chinese.
In 1895, China gave Taiwan to Japan after losing a military defeat, but it came back under China’s control following World War II. After the Communist victory on mainland China, millions fled to Taiwan including nationalists and religious Han Chinese under Chaing Kai-Shek’s leadership. The government slowly loosened its totalitarian grip, and now Taiwan in a democracy. Though Taiwan continues to have political tension with China.
The official language is Taiwan is Mandarin Chinese, though they use a more traditional and complex form of writing than on mainland China.
Taiwan has a population of almost 23 million people, making it one of the most densely populated countries on earth.
Getting there and away
Citizens of many countries, including the USA, EU, Canada and Australia do not need a visa to enter Taiwan for up to thirty days. Almost all visitors to Taiwan fly into Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. It is located about 40km outside of Taipei, but has direct, convenient buses into the city. It is also possible to take a ferry boat from mainland China. There are ferries from Fuzhou (China) to Matsu. There is also reports of a ferry from Xiamen to Keelung and Taichung.
Taipei is the bustling capital of Taiwan. It is home to many of the businesses that one associate’s with Taiwan. But there is also a large student population with budget clothing shops, cheap food and markets. Taipei 101, the world’s second tallest skyscraper, is a main attraction in Taipei.
While many foreigners think of Taiwan as overcrowded and industrial, there are also some beautiful national parks and green places to escape to. They are as follows:
- Yangmingshan National Park in the north is a beautiful mountain range overlooking the rocky coast.
- Taroko Gorge is a large gorge surrounded by green mountains and colorful temples.
- SunMoon Lake is a beautiful clear lake in the middle Taiwan surrounded by mountains.
Budget Travel Tips
Taiwan isn’t use to many tourists, so you have less need to worry about being taken advantaged of. However, it is not a super cheap country.
If you want to save money eating, you can find delicious and cheap street food, but as always, make sure you watch how food is handled and prepared.
Buses and trains are convenient and quick, but can be expensive. I did a little hitchhiking in Taiwan without any problems, but it isn’t common. Taiwan is starting to promote the use of bicycles more, and this may be a cheaper way to see the small country.
If you are shopping, try going to the markets instead of boutiques. There are some colorful night markets in Taipei with cheap goods and about anything you need. Bargaining is common if you are in markets.
There are hostels in Taipei, but if you want to see some of the national parks, consider taking a tent as there are some campgrounds.
About the Author: VBJ
I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. VBJ has written 3678 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.
VBJ is currently in: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
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