Taiwan is steadily catching up with its Asian neighbors as a choice travel destination for Filipinos, even more so with the forthcoming visa-free entry policy for Philippine passport holders and other Southeast Asian countries. Its location usually excludes it from the usual Southeast Asian backpacking route, but with its efficient transport system, numerous night markets, awe-inspiring architecture, rising art districts, wide spectrum of shopping options, and most of all, the relaxed and accommodating locals, I firmly believe that Taiwan will rise up and be one of the top destinations in Asia in the coming years.
One surprising fact about Taiwan that travelers, especially the budget-conscious ones, would be delighted to know is that most products and services in Taiwan, if not all, are relatively cheaper compared to other developed Asian countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Japan. Whether it’s your first time visiting the country or not, Taipei, the capital and the biggest city, offers a delightful buffet of budget-friendly and, wait for it, FREE attractions and activities that you can surely enjoy. Here is a list of some of the places to visit in Taipei and nearby areas for FREE.
These sites can be reached DIY-style. But if you need a little help navigating, you can pick up a 4G SIM Card at the airport. You can buy a Welldone 4G SIM Card that will allow give you unlimited data without worrying about roaming costs. Each sim also allows unlimited incoming calls. It also includes calling credits (NT$300 credit for 5 days, NT$150 credit for 7 days, NT$100 credit for 10 days). If you buy online, you can pick it up at the airpot when you arrive.
1. Elephant Mountain
Want to get the best view of Taipei? Elephant Mountain, also known as Xiangshan, gives you a double treat as you marvel at the view of the cityscape while enjoying nature. Late afternoon is the best time to hike, presenting you the cityscape in 3 different lighting modes: daytime, sunset, and nighttime. Reaching the top will take you 15-20 minutes in total. The jumping-off point for the hike, Xiangshan Hiking Trail, is just a 15-minute walk from Taipei 101. You may avail yourself of the YouBike service if you want to get there faster.
Location: Xinyi District, Taipei (Near MRT Xiangshan Station)
How to Get There: From MRT Xiangshan Station (Red Line 2), take Exit 2 where you can see a park. Walk until the end of that road, then turn left and continue walking until you reach the jump-off point – Xiangshan Hiking Trail.
2. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall
The building of this memorial hall was completed in 1972. The project was spearheaded by Chiang Kai-shek himself in honor of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the founder of the Republic of China. Explore the area and learn about history through the life of Sun Yat-sen or enjoy other exhibits found within the compound.
Location: No. 505, Section 4, Ren’ai Road, Xinyi District, Taipei City
Operation Hours: 9am to 6pm (Daily)
How to Get There: Take the Blue Line 5 to Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall Station (S.Y.S.)
3. Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
Opened to the public in 1980, this important historical landmark was built as a tribute to the first president of the Republic of China, popularly known as Taiwan. Its blue-colored roof commands attention, making the entrance and the facade more striking. One of the must-see is the hourly changing of the military personnel guarding the massive statue of Chiang Kai-shek.
Location: No. 21, Zhongshan South Road, Taipei City
Operation Hours: 9am to 6pm (Daily)
How to Get There: Take either Red Line 2 or Green Line 3 to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall Station (C.K.S.)
4. Martyr’s Shrine
Built in 1969, the complex boasts impressive architecture. The whole area commemorates the Kuomintang soldiers who lost their lives during the Chinese Civil War. Just like Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, the hourly changing of honor guards stationed at the front gate is one of the spectacles that draws visitor to this place.
Location: No. 139, Beian Road, Zhongshan District, Taipei City
Operation Hours: 9am to 5pm (Daily)
How to Get There: From Jiantan Station (Red Line 2), take Exit 1 going to the southbound buses. Go for Bus 267, 556, or 902.
5. Dalongdong Bao’an Temple
A UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Site, Dalongdong Bao’an Temple is a Taiwanese folk religion temple, dating back to mid 1700s. At present, the temple is well-known for the Baosheng Cultural Festival, which usually starts from April and lasting until May. Locals and foreign visitors alike can marvel on the ancient architecture, the sculpted statues, and the colorful murals as they stroll around the place.
Location: No. 17, Lane 49, Bao’an Street, Datong District, Taipei City
Operation Hours: 6:30am to 10:30pm (Daily)
How to Get There: From Yuanshan Station (Red Line 2), take Exit 2 and continue walking down Kulun Street until you reach Dalong Street. Take a right and continue walking until you reach Hami Street. Continue walking until you see the temple entrance on the right side.
6. Shifen Old Streets
If you want to witness colorful lanterns lighting up the sky, head over to Shifen Old Streets, particularly in the Shifen railway station area. Located in Pingxi District, the place is buzzing with colorful sky lanterns, food stalls, souvenir shops, and brightly smiling locals and tourists alike. Get your adrenaline pumping when you hear the bell signaling people to get out of the track to make way for the passing train. Pingxi District is also known for its annual Sky Lantern Festival every Chinese New Year celebration. There’s no entrance fee, but if you want to release your own lantern, you have to purchase one for TWD100 to 200.
Note: Shifen Waterfalls is just a 20-minute walk from Shifen Station. Entrance is TWD80 per adult and TWD50 per child.
Location: Pingxi District, New Taipei City
How to Get There: From Taipei Main Station, take a train going to Ruifang Station, then transfer to Pingxi Line.
7. Jiufen Old Street
If you are a fan of Hayao Miyazaki films, a visit to Jiufen Old Street is a must. Used to be a gold mining area during the Japanese period, this mountain town is reminiscent of scenes in Hayao Miyazaki’s film Spirited Away. Revel in the mix of Japanese and Chinese aesthetics while you scan your eyes for souvenirs and through food stalls or cafes and quaint restaurants. You can stop here first before going to Shifen in Pingxi. Some people stay overnight here, but if you are planning to do the same, you have to book your accommodation ahead of your visit.
Location: Jishan Street, Ruifang District, New Taipei City
How to Get There: From Taipei Main Station, take a train going to Ruifang Station. Along Mingdeng Road is a bus station (Local Residents Plaza) with routes heading toward Jiufen. Take bus Route 827 or 788. Going back to Taipei city, take bus Route 1062.
If you have more budget and you want convenience, you can also join a group tour that will allow you to explore the following sites. Coach transportation and hotel pickup are included in the package:
- Jiufen Town, famous for its unique teahouse culture
- Pitou Cape and its caves and sea cliffs
- Rock formations at Nanya
8. Shilin Night Market
After spending your time exploring the city of Taipei, reward yourself with good food and shopping! Where else should you do it than in one of the largest night markets in Taiwan. Shilin Night Market is also one of the most popular, especially among tourists, because it has wide array of choices – from food to souvenirs to clothes. You can find both local and international products here. Some of the traditional Taiwanese food you can discover are the oyster omelettes, fried buns, supersized fried chicken, bubble teas, and, of course, the notorious stinky tofus!
Location: No. 101, Jihe Road, Shilin District, Taipei City
Operation Hours: 3pm to 1am (Daily)
How to Get There: Take the Red Line 2 to Jiantan Station, and then use Exit 1. Cross the street to the night market’s entrance.
9. Raohe Street Night Market
Being one of the oldest (opened in 1987) and the first tourist night market in Taipei, Raohe Night Market should be on your must-visit night markets in Taiwan. Savor not only your food but also the place’s lively vibe. Having a hard time deciding on which food to buy? Most vendors will let you try some of their goods, especially those tasty dried fruit products. Some of the popular grub are oyster vermicelli, pepper pies, and herbal-stewed ribs.
Location: Raohe Street, Songshan District, Taipei City
Operation Hours: 5pm to 12mn (Daily)
How to Get There: Take Green Line 3 to Songshan Station. Go to Exit 5. Cross the street to the night market’s entrance.
10. Ximending Youth Shopping District
Often dubbed the “Harajuku of Taipei,” this shopping district pulsates with youthful vibe. Its streets are flanked with a wide array of fashion shops, restaurants, and bars! It was established during the Japanese period as a recreation center, but is now a legit tourist attraction and a favorite among local youth.
Nearest Station: Ximen (Blue Line 5 or Green Line 3)
NO Entrance Fee
These are just some of the many things you can do in Taipei. You can visit other night markets, discover more historical landmarks, and chill in one of the parks. If you want to maximize your time, you can even avail yourself of its very efficient YouBike service. Travel at your own pace.
More detailed travel guide here: Taipei Travel Guide
How to Get to Taipei
Since September 2016, Taiwan has made it easier for Filipinos to enter the country. For Philippine passport holders, since visa-free entry policy is still in the works, here’s how to get Taiwan visa or Travel Authorization Certificate (TAC).
If you’re coming from Manila and you want to maximize your visit in Taipei, EVA Air offers the best flight schedule. Treat time as currency, too! The schedule below will take you to Taipei early in the morning and bring you back to Manila late at night but not too late so you could still have enough rest for tomorrow, if you have work or school. It wouldn’t hurt to spend a little bit more if it means you’ll get to make the most of your time AND your money, given that EVA Air is a Skytrax-rated 5-star airline.
Where to Stay in Taipei
Determine your needs, priorities, and budget. Taipei provides different types of accommodations from budget to mid-range to luxury, so you will have plenty of choices. Should you want to splurge on your lodging, you might want to check out Grand Hyatt Taipei located at No. 2, Songshou Road, Xinyi District, Taipei.
If your plan includes spending around USD50 or less for accommodations, here are some of the top budget hotels and hostels in Taipei according to online users.
Top Budget Hotels Under USD50
C U Hotel
Colormix Hotel & Hostel
Hotel Fun – Linsen
Top Taipei Hostels
Taipei Sunny Hostel