The Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in Taiwan

November 21, 2017

Taiwan is a remarkable island that boasts a unique culture, incredible food, and locals that will go out of their way to make sure you’re having a comfortable time in their country. While Taiwan is not as cheap as Southeast Asia, the modern transportation system around the island, high end hotels, and overall safety makes it one of the top places in Asia that you cannot miss.

If you’re short on time, I recommend spending at least a week in Taiwan to get a feel for the entire country. However, 10 days to 2 weeks is ample time to go around the entire island at a comfortable pace.

The Ultimate Guide to Backpacking Taiwan

Getting Around Taiwan

Luckily, the transportation system in Taiwan is affordable, safe, and efficient. You’ll end up taking buses, trains, and metros in Taiwan. Tickets can be purchased at the train and bus stops.

In each city, you can take a taxi (or Uber in Taipei). I was only able to rent a motorbike while I was in Hualien, otherwise, you have to have an international license.


Visa

Find out beforehand if you are part of the Visa exempt countries for entering Taiwan. Visitors from 60 jurisdictions are visa free and can enter Taiwan for up to 90 days without a visa. Some of these countries include the USA, UK, Canada, and Australia.


Before heading to Taiwan, check out this awesome food guide to all of the delicious snacks and meals you’re not going to want to miss out on!

The Ultimate Guide to Backpacking Taiwan

Taipei

Two or three nights in Taipei is enough to see the city, munch on unique treats, explore the markets, and even do a hike.  You can spend these days at the beginning or at the end of your trip if you’re planing on making a complete loop.

What to do

  • Elephant Mountain: This hike is strenuous, but only for a short time. The views of the city are worth it once you get to the top!
  • Taipei 101: You can see this skyscraper from virtually anywhere in Taipei. It’s over 400 m (1400 ft) tall and is known as the Taipei Financial Center (and home to the highest Starbucks in the world!)
  • Yangmingshan: This national park boasts hot springs, hiking trails, and a dormant volcano. It is located between Taipei and New Taipei City.

Where to stay: Sleepy Dragon Hostel

Once you take the bus to Jiufen, make sure you spend an hour or two roaming around the area. It’s known as the ‘Santorini of Taiwan,’ and for good reason!

Bus to Jiufen, train to Hualien


Hualien

Located on the east coast of Taiwan, Hualien is a great place to stop for a few days, especially if you’re thinking about visiting Taroko Gorge National Park.

The Ultimate Guide to Backpacking Taiwan

What to do

  • Taroko Gorge: Rent a motorbike in the city and take the beautiful drive to and around Taroko Gorge. It’s truly one of the most beautiful places in Taiwan. This 19-km long canyon makes it a perfect destination for adventure and nature lovers. You’ll be driving along cliffs, through tunnels, and zipping past forests. There is an abundance of different flora and fauna. Try and find the hidden hot springs!

Where to stay: Journey Hostel

Train to Taitung City


Taitung City

Known for its parks and beaches and as the gateway to Green Island, Taitung City is a wonderful place to visit to relish in Taiwan’s natural beauty, history, and delicious food.

The Ultimate Guide to Backpacking Taiwan

What to do

  • Flowing Lake: This man made lake in Taitung City is the perfect place to come to cool off and relax. They even have a water sport course that’s open during certain months of the year! You’ll find locals swimming from one end to the other for exercise, as well as kids splashing around with their families.
  • Dulan Forest: This is a great place to spend a sunny day hiking around the beautiful towering trees. It’s an easy cab ride to get to from the city center.
  • Green Island: A popular day trip from Taitung City is Green Island. Reachable by boat or a 15 minute flight, this island offers spectacular clear blue waters and magnificent diving spots. There’s also a prison, a lighthouse, and a small village where you can get a glimpse of local Taiwanese life.

Where to stay: 4 + 57 Backpackers

Bus to Kenting


Kenting

From National Parks to delicious Western food, Kenting became one of my favorite places in Taiwan. It offers white-sand beaches, caves, and coral reefs, as well as a fun nightlife and delicious food. Kenting Town has restaurants serving anything from sushi, Western style ribs, and authentic Taiwanese food.

The Ultimate Guide to Backpacking Taiwan

What to do 

  • Kenting National Park: Offering the only tropical botanical garden in Taiwan, this National Park boasts a beautiful beach, thousands of tropical plants, wildlife, and beautiful hiking trails.
  • Eluanbi Lighthouse: This is a historic museum just outside of the city center with a small museum attached
  • Kenting Street: Known for its delicious western and local food and fun nightlife

Bus to Tainan and train to Taichung


Taichung

Known for being a gateway for exploring Taiwan’s nature and mountainous interior, Taichung is a pleasant city on the western side and is a popular spot for exploring museums, temples, and markets.

The Ultimate Guide to Backpacking Taiwan

What to do

  • Hike to waterfall: The owners of N Joy Hostel took us on a trek to a waterfall- with a 337 meter suspension bride over a massive valley towards the end of the hike.
  • Rainbow Village: A former veteran’s village is painted in colorful artwork and worth an hour or two visit
  • Fengjia Night Market: One of the biggest markets in Taiwan and full of delicious food and trinkets worth collecting
  • Dakeng Scenic Area: Pick a hiking trail, labeled #1-10. All of them offer different difficulty levels and views. Check out the different hikes here.
  • Sun Moon Lake: Surrounded by peaks, this lake is a beautiful spot for boating and fishing. Take the cable car near the lake to get the most out of the surrounding views and area.

Where to stay: N Joy Hostel

Bus back to Taipei


Want some awesome photos? I use the Olympus PEN E-PL8 Mirrorless Camera whenever I travel!


Preparing for your first backpacking trip? Check out my ULTIMATE guide here!

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