Traveling to a foreign country is as tricky as it is fulfilling—you never know what’s waiting for you, but still you crave the mystery it entails. Normally, the common factors to be considered include language barrier, transportation system, and the different culture among many others. During my recent trip to Taiwan, as wonderful as it was, I also had to experience some of these challenges firsthand.
Now, to avoid “an adventure gone wrong,” here are some of the things you should know beforehand in order to fully enjoy the beauty of Taipei.
1. Most restaurants and cafés don’t open until around lunch time.
That means you might find it difficult to fill your empty stomach if you’re planning to start your day early. It would be nice if your hotel accommodation comes with free breakfast, but if you went for an Airbnb apartment that’s not inclusive of meals, you might want to consider grabbing some instant noodles or a fluffy mamon from 7-Eleven before hitting the road.
2. Most locals can’t speak English.
If you have plenty of time to prepare for your trip, learning basic Mandarin may prove to be handy. Although of course, a foreign language is not something you can teach yourself overnight. The best alternative is to do your research ahead of time, plan an itinerary, know how to reach your chosen destinations, and if worse comes to worst, always bring maps or travel guides that you can simply point to when you wish to ask for directions. Most importantly, whether or not you manage to get anything out of them, always be polite and thank them for trying to help.
3. Menus are usually not available in English, too.
I must admit, this part got me a little frustrated. The only restaurant we went to that had an English menu was Din Tai Fung located inside the Taipei 101 Mall in Xinyi District. As for the others, we had to keep our fingers crossed that they’d at least have a list with photos to help us choose. To avoid something like this, again, best do your homework and come prepared. Perhaps have a list of restos you’re thinking of going to with the dishes you’re planning to order? It may sound farfetched, but this should work. Then if all else fails, you can always count on Taiwanese street food to sate your touristy appetite.
4. Currency exchange is best done as soon as you land in Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.
It’s not like in Hong Kong or in South Korea where foreign exchange booths are literally everywhere. Some hotels offer currency exchange services, but these are more often than not exclusive to guests. Banks are your next best option, but if you’re traveling on a weekend, it’s extremely difficult to find one that’s open for business. My suggestion? Just do it at the airport and have one less thing to worry about on your trip.
5. Their MRT system is superb.
It may feel overwhelming at first try, but once you get used to it, the MRT will soon become your best friend as you go around Taipei. It’s the most efficient and convenient mode of transportation in the city, and the different transfers between lines are almost always relatively close to each other. For more detailed explanation as to how to purchase a ticket, here’s something that might help.