For first-timers to Taiwan, it is probably advisable to go for guided tours with travel agencies. Subsequent trip onwards, go ahead and do a free-and-easy holiday so that you can explore more of Taiwan leisurely. If you plan to visit the various cities, you either travel via high-speed rail, hire a taxi or you do a self-drive.
Taiwan is well connected via High-Speed Rail (台灣高鐵) and it connects between these cities (Nangang, Taipei, Banqiao, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Miaoli, Taichung, Changhua, Yunlin, Chiayi, Tainan and Zuoying) together.
A ticket from Taipei to Zuoying (Kaohsiung) will cost NT$1490 (S$67) per pax. Taking into the consideration of the number of pax, it might be cheaper to self-drive.
If you are travelling in a group of 3 or 4, it will probably work out to be cheaper to travel via car. That is if you have drivers who are willing to drive and are comfortable driving on the left side. For the driver, it takes probably just awhile to get used to the difference of driving on the different side.
Self-driving allows you to easily plan your own timing to visit places at your own pace. There is no need to catch the train or worry about what transportation to transfer to later. You also get to stop your cafe safely on the side of the roads to take photos if you spot any nice scenery along the way.
Here’s our self-drive holiday, covering these various cities (Kenting, Kaohsiung, Tainan, Taichung and Taipei) in 8 days, covering most of the major attractions in Taiwan.
Kenting is located at the southernmost tip of Taiwan and is a popular beach destination with locals and tourists. If you love nature, this is the place to be.
We recommend you to collect your car from Kaohsiung International Airport and drive down to Kenting. The journey takes about 2 hours. The express bus will take about 3 hours costing about 350NT$ per pax.
Accommodation – Bethlehem B&B Kenting (墾丁伯利恒地中海民宿&Villa)
There is much beautiful accommodation in Kenting and we chose one which is slightly special with a Santorini theme.
The attention to details is simply amazing! You definitely don’t feel that you are even in Taiwan!
Not your typical posh hotel but good enough, as long as it’s clean and comfortable. When you wake up in the morning, this is the view which will be greeting you.
Sail Rock (船帆石)
Beautiful isn’t it?
Night Market – Kenting Night Market
There are a few restaurants along the main street but as usual, go and try the various Taiwanese street food and it will be enough to fill your stomach.
The usual popular street food – Chicken Cutlet, Beef/Pork Cubes, French Fries!
Sights of Kenting
Time to head on out to explore! And in order to do that, people usually rent a car or scooter.
The southernmost point of Taiwan (臺灣最南點)
Longpan Park (龍磐公園)
Longpan Park (龍磐公園)
Baisha Beach or Bai Sha Wan (白沙灣)
Kenting is also known as the beach resort of Taiwan and the most popular beach is called Bai Sha Wan (白沙灣).
Must-Try Drink – Manxiangbingguo Station (滿香冰果站)
This fruit juice stall is known for their Red Dragonfruit Juice. We were sceptical since we are not a fan of dragonfruit.
However, after a sip of it, we fell in love with it. We were amazed at how deliciously smooth and creamy it was.
Must-Try Dessert – Ke Gu Zao Wei Lu Dou Zhuan (柯綠豆饌)
This is a famous dessert in Taiwan, filled with a variety of beans. It also feels like “Tau Suan” but the chilled version comes with shaved ice topped with sweet syrup.
Kaohsiung is the third most populated city of Taiwan after Taipei and Taichung. Right here, you can find a modern urban landscape. If you love city life, this is not to be missed. Although not as fancy as Taipei, Kaohsiung is home to many famous attractions including Fo Guang Shan monastery, Dream Mall (largest shopping mall in Taiwan), Dome of Light, etc.
Accommodation – Just Sleep Kaohsiung Zhongzheng Hotel
We love the spacious and modern design of this room and it definitely feels very comfortable. Check out the bathtub! It’s like our personal onsen.
Night Market – Ruifeng Night Market (瑞豐夜市)
Ruifeng Night Market is the largest and busiest night market in Kaohsiung. You can find lots of street food and shop in this area.
One shop not to be missed is Angel Fried Chicken. This is probably one of the best Fried Chicken in Taiwan. Despite being a breast meat, it’s so tender and juicy. It just keeps you craving for more!
Apart from Fried Chicken, they too have many other selections of street food, catering to every different taste buds.
Tired of eating and shopping? There are also games for you to play!
Night Market – Liuhe Night Market (六合夜市)
Liuhe Night Market is more of a street food market located close to Formosa Boulevard Station (where you can find the Dome of Light). If you happen to visit this night market, you have to try the Papaya Milk from this particular shop!
Breakfast – Xing Long Ju (興隆居)
You can’t visit Taiwan and not try their traditional breakfast. Xing Long Ju is the most popular breakfast spot in Kaohsiung. Do note that they close at about 11am once they are sold out.
Dessert – 福泉布丁豆花
Taiwanese shaved ice is one of the must-try items in Taiwan. This shop sells a wide variety of shaved ice with an array for fruit choices. We decided on the famous mango shaved ice with an addition of a banana.
This shop is actually very near to Pier 2 Art Center, so you can visit either before or after.
Pier 2 Art Center
Artsy peeps, this is a good place for you to discover interesting recycled products as well as beautiful graffiti arts.
You can even take the new monorail here.
Beautiful walls for photo taking!
Massage – 左腳右腳經典泡腳會館
Looking for a good and clean massage? Check this place out. A well-established massage centre which provides a massage that will leave you saying “Shiok!”.
After your massage session, you will be served with hot soup, tea egg and dessert. Double shiokness indeed.
Attraction – Dome of Light
The “Dome of Light” is a tourist attraction located at Formosa Boulevard Station. It was created by renowned artist Narcissus Quagliata. The dome is the world’s largest public art installation made from individual pieces of coloured glass.
The dome tells the story of human life in four chronologically arranged themes: Water: The Womb of Life; Earth: Prosperity and Growth; Light: The Creative Spirit; and Fire: Destruction and Rebirth, with an overall message of love and tolerance.
Attraction – Love River
The Love River is 12km long and it meanders through the city passing by attractions such as Pier 2 Art Center, Xinguang Ferry Wharf, 85 Sky Tower, Yancheng District, Tower of Light and Holy Rosary Cathedral. The two sides of the river also stand some cafes eateries. There are also sightseeing cruises plying the route for tourists to enjoy.
Attraction – Dragon & Tiger Pagoda (龍虎塔)
The Dragon and Tiger Pagodas are located south of the Lotus Pond. Inside the entryways to the pagodas, there are many Taoist reliefs, with motifs depicting scenes of heaven and hell. These are friendly reminders for people to do good deeds in daily life.
To turn bad luck into good fortune, do this: Walk through the dragon’s mouth and out through the tiger.
Night Market – Wusheng Night Market (武聖夜市)
Night markets in Tainan are a little complicated because they are not open daily. Different night market opens on different days. The largest one is Hua Yuan Night Market (花園夜市) and they are open on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
As for the one that we managed to visit, they are open on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It’s one of the longest running night markets in the city.
Many locals come here to get their dinner and supper.
We tried several items here and these are the highly recommended ones! Fried Milk, Braised Pork Bun with Peanut Sauce and Fried Sweetcorn!
Accommodation – Fairy Lake Leisure Farm B&B (仙湖休閒農場)
Infinity pool right up in the mountains. Yes, but do note that it’s just a very small infinity pool (see picture below).
This accommodation is slightly out of Tainan city, about 1 hours drive up to the mountains. If you want somewhere which is quiet, away from the city life and just meditate in the mountains, this is a good place to be!
Taichung is Taiwan’s second most populous city and there are definitely lots to explore here!
Accommodation – Hotel 7 逢甲
This loft style hotel room is nicely styled and the best part has to be its location. It’s just less than 5 mins drive to Fengjia Night Market!
Must-Try Food – Shark Bites Toast
If you happen to see Shark Bites Toast in any part of Taiwan, just go in and have a meal. Their sandwiches are very delicious. Ingredients are fresh and they are generous with the portions. It will surely leave you craving for more!
Must-Try Food – Top One Pot (這一鍋)
Top One Pot is one of the best hotpots we had in Taiwan. We had this in Taichung’s branch on a very chilly and rainy night, so it was the perfect dinner choice. The soup base was so comforting and the ingredients were of high quality.
Night Market – Fengjia Night Market (逢甲夜市)
Fengjia Night Market is the biggest and most popular night market in Taiwan. Located just beside Fengjia University, it brings a lot of the young crowds here.
Be sure to find almost every kind of street food you can find in every part of Taiwan here. Apart from food, there were also many shops all around for shopaholics.
Don’t leave Taiwan without trying their stinky tofu!
Attraction – Lavender Cottage
Since we were self-driving, visiting attractions are much easier as we can do a quick stop as and when we want. We checked out the lavender cottage and everywhere was just purple and green!
We even chilled out at their cafe over some drinks and desserts.
Sun Moon Lake (日月潭)
Every first-timer to Taiwan should visit Sun Moon Lake since it’s Taiwan’s largest lake. They are located in the mountains of Nantou and the name of the lake is inspired by the beauty of the area.
It is claimed that the east side of the lake is round, like the sun, while the west side is long and narrow, like a crescent moon.
Taipei is the capital city of Taiwan. There’s so much to explore in terms of food, shopping and culture!
Xi Men Ding (西門町)
You can’t visit Taipei and not come to Xi Men Ding. It’s the favourite place for young local teenagers as you can see from the crowd.
There are lots of food options in Xi Men Ding but the most popular has to be Ay-Chung Flour-Rice Noodle.
Ay-Chung Flour-Rice Noodle (阿宗麵線)
You will notice quite a long queue in front of the shop but not to worry, they clear quickly too. As you turn comes, order either a big or small version and enjoy the mee sua.
The King of Bitter Gourd (檸檬屋苦瓜大王)
After your meal, head over to get a Honey-Bittergourd Juice. Yes, the name doesn’t sound attractive and I’m not a fan of bitter gourd. But I guarantee you that this taste nothing like what you imagined!
It’s slightly towards the taste of a sugarcane juice but much healthier. Give it a try and let us know how it went! :p
Night Market – Raohe Street Night Market (饒河夜市)
Raohe Street Night Market is the oldest and most popular in Taipei. We heard that most locals flock here for the pork soup, but unfortunately, we didn’t get to try it. If you are here, give it a try!
The famous beef cubes is a must-order if you take beef!
A slight drive up into the mountains and you will arrive at Jiufen. We advise you to avoid coming here on weekends as the locals will also come.
Drivers, park after the entrance to Jiufen and you will be happy to find cheaper parking rates.
There are lots of street food and souvenirs to get here but don’t leave without having some tea over the nice view.
Shifen Old Street (十分老街)
Always envying your friends flying the traditional lanterns in Taiwan, now you can do it your own too at Shifen Old Streets! There are many shops here who will be able to assist you in getting your lanterns and wishes up in the skies.
Wu Fen Pu
This is a shopping haven for ladies. Lots of fashion and bags to shop for.
Tamsui (淡水, Danshui)
This place makes a good weekend escape where you can get many street snacks and also enjoy the river view.
Milk Muah Chee – 麻吉奶奶鮮奶麻糬福
We had this at the entrance of Tamsui and we highly recommend you to try it. It’s quite different from the muah chee that we are used to having.
After Tamsui, drop by Lover’s Bridge since it’s just nearby. A good place for lovers to come and enjoy the view.
Beitou Hot Springs (北投溫泉) Thermal Valley
Beitou is known as the place to be for those who want to enjoy hot springs in Taipei. There are many hot springs resort and hotels for you to enjoy.
Don’t miss out on a visit to the thermal valley!
Yangmingshan National Park
Catch a glimpse of cherry blossoms at Taipei’s Yangmingshan National Park without having to travel to Japan. A good time to visit will be from mid February to mid March.
Li Yi Bing Dian (李仪饼店)
Don’t leave Taiwan without buying their famous “Tai Yang Bing”. We prefer the version from Li Yi Bing Dian, located at Taipei Main Station.
The alternative for this shop has to be Chia Te Bakery. If you are lazy to travel to their shop, you can get their “Tai Yang Bing” or “Huang Li Su (鳳梨酥)” from 7-11 outlets too.
We hope that you enjoyed our summary of our Self-Drive trip in Taiwan!