Taiwan somehow manages to cram a cultural and scenic diversity into its borders that would be the envy of countries five times its size. And the best thing about it is that it’s still kind of a secret among travellers from the west.
But it won’t always be like this. Only so much time can pass before news of Taiwan’s ridiculously beautiful beaches, buzzing cities and fascinating culture filters out into the mainstream. Which is why you should visit now, before all your friends, and experience this extraordinary island nation as a trailblazer.
You certainly won’t have trouble filling your time. Enjoy nature? Look no further than Taroko National Park, with its soaring cliffs and jaw-dropping canyons. Fan of the sea? The Penghu Islands beckon, with their white shores and absurdly clear waters. What about culture? Prepare for an overload (in the best way possible) in the capital Taipei and its sister city Kaohsiung.
You can fly from London Gatwick to Taipei (Taiwan’s capital) direct with China Airlines. Yay. Flight time is around 14 hours. Which sounds like rather a long time but when you consider you’re travelling 6,000 miles, it’s actually pretty amazing. Tickets cost something in the region of £300 each way – bargain, right? If you don’t mind making a stop en route, you have a choice of many airlines, including Emirates (via Dubai), Thai Airways (via Bangkok) and Cathay Pacific (via Hong Kong).
Taiwan is divided into two climate zones – subtropical in the north, tropical in the south – but its seasons broadly match those of the UK. Spring and autumn are pleasant, with average temperatures of around 25°C, while winters are a bit cooler at around 18°C. Summer sees the heat and humidity really rise – typical temperatures in August are around 30°C – and typhoons aren’t out the question.
For such a small island, Taiwan is absolutely crammed with amazing things to see and do. In terms of events, the Taiwan Lantern Festival is the premier item on the cultural menu, and takes place in either late February or early March each year. As for year round things to do, you’re spoilt for choice, but try not to miss hiking through Taroko Gorge, watching the sun rise over Mount Jade and exploring the quirky neighbourhoods of the capital Taipei.
It would be our utmost pleasure. UK travellers can spend up to 90 days in Taiwan without a visa. And if Taiwan thoroughly seduces you in that time, and you decide you’d rather enjoy an additional 90 days, you can extend accordingly. If half a year just ain’t enough, and you want to stay for longer, you’ll need to arrange the appropriate visa before you arrive. Also note, your passport should be valid for at least six months after the date of entry.
Taiwan has fantastic infrastructure, so you shouldn’t have any trouble exploring independently, especially as train and bus stations feature maps, ticket machines and signs in English. Joy. The two major cities – Taipei in the north, and Kaohsiung in the south – are linked by a high speed rail, with a journey time pf just 90 minutes. Within cities and other main settlements, taxis are ubiquitous. Outside of urban areas, it can be a good idea to hire a car.
Okay, sure. You know how in the UK, ice cream vans play music to alert people to their presence? Well, in Taiwan something similar happens, except the music comes from waste disposal trucks. It’s to remind residents to bring out their rubbish for collection. As if that wasn’t charming enough, it’s not just any old music, but Beethoven’s Für Elise. Nice.