Taipei. One of our favourite travel destinations in Asia. Most of us visit for the shopping and food — sticking to the usual hotspots, not venturing far from places like Ximending (西門町), Shilin (士林) and the famed Yongkang Food Street (永康街). I must admit that this happened on my previous 2 trips to Taiwan too.
But after meeting a couple of Taiwanese friends on our travels, I realised there’s much more to Taipei and Taiwan than shopping and eating (买东西，吃东西). Eating is still a BIG part, but so are the scenic outdoors, culture, and stories behind the different towns on the outskirts of Taipei.
Even for the touristy stuff, we found that there are often more interesting and local ways of experiencing them differently.
So here’s our 4D3N insider Taipei itinerary to make the most out of your trip here.
Connectivity: While there’s free (but slow) WiFi at the airport and numerous hotspots around the city, nothing beats having the convenience of Google at your fingertips. I suggest pre-ordering your 4G SIM cards (from S$13 with unlimited data and connectivity even in the mountainous regions) or WiFi device (from S$3/day) to save time.
Travel Insurance: As travellers always seeking new and exciting things from our trips, that usually means veering off the beaten path. That is why travel insurance is especially important. There’s the peace of mind of preventing any expensive accidents from happening, be it a bout of diarrhoea from eating something wrong, or any mishaps on the road. We’ve personally benefitted from medical claims many times on our travels, and that’s enough for us to get an annual plan for the convenience, plus it costs less in the long run.
DirectAsia offers really competitive rates and covers medical expenses to extreme sports and activities to even trip cancellations or amendments from terrorist attacks. But the best part comes from their hassle-free claims settlement — over 80% of their travel claims are settled within 24 hours!
Day 1: Rediscover Taipei City
Arrive in Taipei
Getting to the city:
The most common and cheapest option is via the metro (NT$160 or ~S$7.20). But for just a couple dollars more, you can carpool from the airport to your accommodation directly in the comfort of a car. No need to lug your luggage around.
Eating local in Taipei
First agenda of the day… food! We headed straight to Fu Hang Soy Milk (阜杭豆漿), a breakfast spot popular with both locals and tourists. The unique salty soy milk and crispy dough sticks are hot favourites, though we heard the egg crepes were pretty good too.
Fu Hang Soy Milk (阜杭豆漿)
Address: 100, Taiwan, Taipei City, Zhongzheng District, Section 1, Zhongxiao East Road, 108號
Opening hours: 05:30AM – 12:30PM, closed Mon
*Pro-tip: Arrive before opening hours if you can. We queued for 30 minutes (at about 9:00AM) and heard it could have been longer.
After a short walk around Huashan 1914 Creative Park, it was back to eating as we hunted down one of the best beef noodles in Taipei. Most people go to Yongkang Beef noodles, but we headed the other direction instead after a local friend’s recommendation.
Tucked in a shabby looking shop along Bade Road is Lin Dong Fang beef noodles (林東芳牛肉麵). All I can say is that we weren’t disappointed. The beef was rich and super tender, and I especially loved how their chili oil is made out of beef grease, which complimented the broth super well. Don’t spend too long sitting around or taking pictures though. The shop auntie (大姐) will definitely get impatient with you. True hallmark of a local food joint I guess.
Lin Dong Fang beef noodles (林東芳牛肉麵)
Address: No. 274, Section 2, Bade Road, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 10491
Opening hours: 11:00AM – 04:00AM, closed Sun
Cost: NT$140-230 per bowl. The small bowl is pretty big portion.
Then we were off for some desserts at Roji Monster Ice (路地 氷の怪物 – 市民大道店). This snow ice joint took Taichung by storm and recently opened up a branch in Taipei. I mean with it’s Instagrammable too cute to eat shaved ice (please eat it, it’s delicious) and unique toppings, it’s no wonder why.
Roji Shaved Ice (路地 氷の怪物 – 市民大道店)
Address:106, Taiwan, Taipei City, Da’an District, 市民大道四段10號
Opening hours: 11:00AM – 11:00PM
Cost: NT$130-200. Min. of 1 order per pax.
Experiencing Taipei 101 differently
No visit to Taipei would be complete without visiting the iconic Taipei 101. Instead of heading straight to the top, check out the highest Starbucks in the world.
Located on Level 35 of Taipei 101, this secret Starbucks even requires you to make a reservation a day in advance (by phone +886 2 8101 0701) due to its recent popularity. I must say it was quite cool having a cup of coffee so high up.
The part that many of us miss though, is the view of Taipei 101 together with the rest of the city. Just a couple of minutes by foot from Taipei 101 is Elephant Mountain (象山). It’s a bit of a climb up the hill (15-20 mins from the bottom of the trail), but if 60 year old uncles and aunties can climb those steps, I don’t see why we can’t! I assure you the views are worth it.
*Pro-tip: Bring water. The only shops are on the road leading towards the start of the trail.
Tong Hua Night Market – The local’s choice
After the short climb, it’s time to reward ourselves at the night market. We headed to Tong Hua Night Market (通化夜市), also known as Lin Jiang Street Night Market near Taipei 101.
It’s not as big as Shilin Night Market or Raohe Night Market, but it’s less touristy and more frequented by locals. I mean, it doesn’t matter how big a night market is. Even if you are in a group, there will be tons of shops selling the same food to your limited stomach capacity. At Tong Hua Night Market, you get a similar experience with a more manageable crowd.
Be sure to try the unassuming and simple Ice Fire Dumpling (御品元冰火湯圓-台北總店). The refreshing hot sesame/peanut tang yuen on shaved ice is very popular amongst locals. Perfect after all the street food in the night market.
Ice Fire Dumpling (御品元冰火湯圓-台北總店)
Address: No. 31, Alley 50, Lane 39, Tonghua Street, Da’an District, Taipei City
Opening hours: 06:00PM – 12:00AM weekdays, 05:30PM – 12:00AM weekends
Accommodation in Taipei – Flip Flop Hostel Main
Flip Flop Hostel is the epitome of budget-but-not-too-shabby accommodation. Clean, modern, and an unbeatable location just 5 minutes by foot from Taipei Main Station. The dorms also have personal lockers so you won’t have to worry about your valuables. There are private rooms for those who want a little more privacy too.
People often ask why we prefer hostels, and the answer is simple. It’s cheaper so you can spend more on experiences (and eating) instead. Hostels are also a great way to socialise and get information too.
Cost: 6-bed dorm at NT$600/night (S$27)
Day 2: Motorcycle Tour — Exploring Shifen, Jiufen, North Coast
Day trips out of Taipei are common, but on a motorcycle? That’s a first! When we found out there was a motorcycle tour to the places we wanted to visit, we knew we had to make this the highlight of the trip. What better way to explore the outskirts of Taipei than on the transport of choice amongst the locals.
Note: You will be riding pillion with an experienced rider, so don’t worry about not having a motorcycle license.
When we saw our guides turn up at our hostel in the morning, we knew we were in for an awesome day. With their shiny customised bikes, these guys are actually local bike enthusiasts who banded together to provide an alternative experience for the more adventurous.
To be honest, we were a little hesitant at first. But our guides Ah Wei, Darren, and Edward were very professional and always kept safety in mind. Only after we were comfortable did they try to make our ride more fun. 😉
Find out more about the Taipei motorcycle tour here.
Charm of Shifen Old Street (十分老街)
Our first proper stop was at Shifen Old Street (十分老街), a marketplace near the train station where people can release Sky Lanterns with well wishes on them. The railway track between the two rows of shops is still in service, which makes for an interesting sight when the train approaches and everyone scurries out of the way.
It’s mainly a tourist town now, but we still found it charming with all the xiaochi (snacks) and mountainside scenery.
Nearby is the impressive cascading Shifen Waterfall (十分大瀑布), Taiwan’s widest waterfall, which some nicknaming it Taiwan’s Niagara Falls.
Eating in Jiufen Old Street (九份老街)
We were then off to the village of Jiufen, a formal gold mining town which inspired the setting for Miyazaki’s 2001 film Spirited Away. These days it’s another popular day trip destination where people come to feast on Taiwanese snacks and food.
Wild Boar Taiwanese Sausage and the adorable shop owner at Wu Di Wild Boar Sausage (無敵黑豬肉香腸). Please try the double sausage and rice in sausage too.
The queues can be long, but A-Zhu Peanut Ice Cream Roll (九份阿珠雪在燒) is another must-try here at Jiufen.
Scenic North Coast
It was then a nice scenic ride along the coast, with the sea on one side and mountains on the other. Eventually we ended up at Shen Ao Elephant Rock (深澳岬角), which has a pretty distinctive feature that looks like an elephant’s trunk.
The best part of the tour though, wasn’t the sights. And it also wasn’t about feeling cool riding through the city and countryside. The best parts were actually the warmth and sincerity of our guides. They’re a very fun bunch, always eager to accommodate, and have an interesting outlook on life. They showed us their life, and brought us to smaller spots along the way. There was even this secret photo spot recommended by our tour leader Ah Wei, where we had to ride slowly through the narrow winding roads up the mountain.
It’s cliche to say this, but we came as strangers and left as friends. I guess that’s the beauty of travel, meeting people from another part of the world, and leaving with a warm heart and more open mind.
For those with an adventurous spirit. This motorcycle tour is something you definitely have to experience.
They have a couple of predetermined routes, but the guys are flexible and open to suggestions. For us, we booked their 8hr Maniac Tour & 4hr Dusk Tour, and combined it into a super long customised tour.
*Pro-tip: Use the chat app LINE to work out the plan with the tour leader before your trip. You will receive the contact details after booking the tour. Do request for an English speaking guide if your Mandarin isn’t too fluent!
If motorcycles aren’t your thing, there are cheap and convenient shuttle busses that can bring you to explore the outskirts of Taipei too.
Day 3: Beitou Hot Spring & Keelung Port City
Beitou – The local hot spring town
Took a convenient MRT ride to Xinbeitou to explore the hot spring town. It’s a sleepy town, with key sights like Thermal Valley (地熱谷), the Hot Spring Museum, and Public Library to slowly explore.
The highlight though, was a visit to a local hot spring called Xinbeitou Public Hot Springs/Millennium Springs (新北投千禧湯露天溫泉). For NT$40 each, we soaked for 2 hours, alternating between the hot and cold pools. Perfect after the previous day’s activities.
Do remember to bring proper swimwear, as board shorts and FBTs are not allowed.
We then had a late lunch at Man Lai Hot Spring Ramen (滿來溫泉拉麵), well known for their Taiwanese style ramen, hot spring eggs, and tofu. Avoid meal times if you don’t want to queue for too long!
*Pro-tip: Order the fried tofu and the staff will ask you to play a secret game for a small discount!
Man Lai Hot Spring Ramen (滿來溫泉拉麵)
Address: No. 1-8, Zhongshan Road, Beitou District, Taipei City, Taiwan 112
Opening hours: 11:30AM – 09:00PM
Cost: Ramen NT$150-220. Sides NT$30-150.
After half a day in Beitou, we headed back to Taipei for our bags and left straight for Keelung via a local train for NT$41 (~S$1.80).
Keelung is a port city that is probably past its golden days. A strategic fort in the past, it’s now better known for food and the 24hr Miao Kou Night Market (廟口夜市) that rivals the night markets of Taipei. Most stalls close by 11:00PM, but the stalls have a rotation system to make sure there are enough places open to support the people in the fishing industry who work all night.
The beautiful Peace Island (和平島公園), which was a short bus/taxi ride from the town centre.
Do also check out Keelung Lien Cheng Bakery (基隆連珍餅店) for their awesome Yam balls as well. Taiwanese celebrity Xiǎo S visited once and said it was one of the best bakeries she has been.
Keelung Lien Cheng Bakery (基隆連珍餅店)
Address: No. 42, Aier Road, Ren’ai District, Keelung City, Taiwan 200
Opening hours: 08:00AM – 09:00PM
While most people visit Keelung on day trips, the real gem lies in what happens after hours. Kanziding Fish Market (崁仔頂漁市場) is the biggest wholesale seafood market in Northern Taiwan. Chefs from as far as Taichung supposedly come here for the best fresh produce.
Wanting to understand the culture and famous fish auction better, we went on a local midnight fish market walking tour that currently only runs every Thursday.
The wireless earpiece was a nice touch as it allowed us to hear our guide even if we wandered off or was too noisy.
What made the tour special though, were the interactions with the locals. Most tours usually bring you to places where people are trying to sell you things. However, the ones on this tour were very authentic. From a whiskey bar owner sharing local drinking culture, to the veteran fish auctioneer who showed us the nuances of the auction game, they simply wanted to share their knowledge and love for Keelung!
Find out more about the Keelung Midnight Fish Market adventure here.
After the tour, we couldn’t resist getting some fresh sashimi at Zhutian (朱添鮮魚號).
Address: 200, Taiwan, Keelung City, Ren’ai District, Rensi Road, 45號號
Opening hours: 03:00AM – 06:00PM
Accommodation in Keelung – Yung Feng Hotel (永豐旅店)
Yung Feng Hotel is pretty basic. But at just 2mins by foot to Miao Kou Night Market, and 5mins by foot to the Fish Market, the location is perfect for exploring Keelung.
Cost: Quadruple room at NT$1780 or NT$445/pax (~S$20)
Day 4: Yehliu Geopark & Taipei City
Touristy but spectacular Yehliu
The next day, we headed back to Taipei and dropped our bags at the lockers in Taipei Main Station. Before taking a 4hr private car charter to visit Yehliu Geopark and it’s surroundings. This was perfect as it allowed us to maximise our last day in Taipei instead of wasting time taking public transport.
Some of the rock formations do require some imagination, so come with an open mind. 😛
Nevertheless it was very scenic.
*Pro-tip: Try to visit when the park opens at 08:00AM in the morning to avoid the crowds. We arrived too late and many of the tour buses were already there.
Round up Taipei
Lunched at San Ho Yan (參和院), a local chain restaurant that serves Taiwanese and Chinese dishes with a twist at a reasonable price.
The food looked and tasted good. Especially loved the cute dim sum dishes.
San Ho Yan (參和院)
Address: No. 14, Lane 101, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road, Da’an District, Taipei City
Opening hours: 11:30AM – 12:00AM
We then visited Tamed Fox Cafe for a break and some really Instagrammable food (looks better than it tastes). The cafe has a very nice vibe, and you can easily spend hours chilling there.
*Pro-tip: Buy a donut and drink to make your own Instagram creation
Address: No. 56, Lane 122, Section 4, Ren’ai Road, Da’an District, Taipei City
Opening hours: 08:00AM – 5:00PM Mon to Wed & Fri, 10:00AM – 6:00PM Sat & Sun, Closed Thu.
Finally, we ended our Taipei food hunt at the famous Snow King Ice Cream (雪王冰淇淋), which serves some really unique ice cream flavours. Their pork floss ice-cream, really tasted like pork-floss in ice cream. Ask the staff for the popular flavours. Please don’t make the same mistake as us.
Snow King Ice Cream (雪王冰淇淋)
Address: 100, Taiwan, Taipei City, Zhongzheng District, Section 1, Wuchang St, 65號
Opening hours: 12:00PM – 08:00PM
It was then off to the airport by carpool, before collecting the food souvenirs we pre-ordered online at the airport. I liked how it was already packed into a box (we removed them for photos), so you can easily check the entire box in without having to worry about repacking. The more brittle snacks were also bubble wrapped for extra protection.
Cheap direct flights from Singapore to Taipei
There are many flights to Taipei from Singapore, but Jetstar offers pretty good value with its price and flight timings. They have up to two flights a day, and we chose the early morning flight there (arrived Taipei 6:00AM), and evening flight back (departed Taipei 8:20PM) to maximise our time in Taiwan. Annual leaves are often in short supply, so such flight timings are very ideal!
It’s also a direct flight, so no time wasted changing flights or transiting at another country.
Jetstar fares from Singapore to Taipei start from S$119.
Most Taiwanese speak Mandarin, though the older ones speak the Taiwanese Min dialect — similar to Hokkien spoken in Singapore.
|Hello/Greetings||你好 (lí-hó) / 你好 (nǐ hǎo)|
|Thank you||感謝 (kám-siā) / 謝謝 (xiè xie)|
|Cheers! (toasting)||呼乾啦! (ho͘ ta là!) / 乾杯! (gān bēi)|
|Sorry||歹勢 (phái-sè) / 對不起 (duì bù qǐ) or 抱歉 (bào qiàn)|
|Goodbye||再見 (chài-kiàn) / 再見 (zài jiàn)|
|Time zone of Taiwan||GMT +8 hours (Same as Singapore)|
|Currency||NT$ – Taiwan New Dollar (NTD)|
|Power plug & socket outlet||Types A & B – 110V 60Hz.|
Hope you found our Taipei Itinerary useful. Do let us know in the comments below if you have any other recommendations!