Should you travel solo to Taiwan? In this post I highlight the advantages and disadvantages of a solo trip to the island nation. First, a disclaimer: I spent 25 days in Taiwan, but most of that time wasn’t solo. For once, I had a friend who wanted to come along! On the last four days of the trip I was completely on my own though, so I got a taste of what solo travel in Taiwan is like. I’ve also travelled solo in about 50 countries to date, so I think I can give a pretty informed opinion.

So, should you embark on a Taiwan solo trip? In a nutshell, the answer is “yes”, but … Let me explain.

Reasons in favour of solo travel in Taiwan

It’s safe

Firstly, Taiwan is very safe. It’s a first world nation (for the most part) and a democracy. Taiwan consistently ranks as one of the safest countries in the world for its low crime rate. I never felt threatened or even slightly uncomfortable, anywhere in Taiwan, even at night. There wasn’t any hint of the slightest menace. (Remember: always trust your intuition.) People don’t even lock their bicycles!

Is solo travel in Taiwan a good idea?

Yes, there are earthquakes, like in lots of other places. And you have to watch out for traffic (especially those slippery scooters), but these don’t affect solo travellers any more than non-solo travellers. By the way, seat belts in taxis work here. Even buses have seat belts!

The locals are nice

The locals are polite and friendly, and will help you beyond expectations. They’re also very honest, and this extends to the taxi drivers. I took cabs a couple of times and never had to negotiate the fare. The driver just turned on the meter, and that was that.

Finally, even though I was obviously a “visible minority” (99% of the locals and tourists are Asians), nobody stared even when I was on my own, and I didn’t feel treated any differently than when I was travelling with my friend.

Tourists visiting Eluanbi Lighthouse in Kenting National Park, Taiwan (solo travel in Taiwan)

Tourists visiting Eluanbi Lighthouse in Kenting National Park, Taiwan

In addition, Confucianism philosophy teaches that the respect of one’s elders is the highest virtue. Hence, older travellers (and locals) are treated very well. Priority seats on public transit are left to those who need them. If you’ve interacted with the Japanese in Japan, this is a bit what the Taiwanese are like.

It’s clean and easy to get around

Taiwan has a good infrastructure and network of trains and buses. Every single train, metro, and bus I took displayed the stop names alternatively in Chinese and English on a LED screen. Train stations also had screens displaying all train departures and arrivals in both languages. In bus stations (usually just a small office for a particular bus company), the staff spoke enough English to sell tickets and make sure passengers got on the right bus.

Signs are in both English and Chinese in Taiwan train stations (solo travel in Taiwan)

Signs are in both English and Chinese in Taiwan train stations

I also found streets in Taiwan even cleaner than at home in Toronto. There was always someone sweeping public spaces and hardly a piece of litter to be found on the sidewalks (where they existed) or the floor of train and bus stations. And this despite the fact that public trash cans are uncommon in Taiwan.

(You can read more here about other things I love about Taiwan.)

Reasons against solo travel in Taiwan

Very little English

The main disadvantage of being alone in Taiwan is that you may start feeling lonely and disconnected after a while. Most locals speak no or very little English. Outside of Taipei, almost nobody can speak English beyond a few words. If you’re in Taiwan for more than a few days, you may start missing people to talk to. There are some ways around this of course. (See some ideas below.)

Not so cheap

Another challenge for budget solo travellers is the cost. While cheaper than Western Europe and North America, you won’t find the same bargains on accommodation and food in Taiwan as what you may be used to in Southeast Asia or Latin America.

A small single room with private bathroom in a comfortable (but not luxurious) hotel in the centre of Taipei starts around NT$1160 (US$40), and a little less in other cities. Touristy areas like Kenting National Park and Sun Moon Lake charge a premium on both rooms and restaurant meals. You may be able to find cheaper deals on sites like Booking.com ($25 cash reward if you use this link) and of course AirBnB.

Room at the Morwing Fairytale Hotel in Taipei (solo travel in Taiwan)

Room at the Morwing Fairytale Hotel in Taipei

Here are some affordable hotels I recommend in Taiwan. (I have stayed in all of them except the Longshan Inn.)

What to do to feel less isolated

I have been emphasizing that English is not widely spoken in Taiwan, but being solo does have an advantage in that regard. If a local who happens to speak English, or is learning the language, spots you on your own, they may gather the courage to approach you and start a conversation. This happened to me while I was having breakfast in a crowded food court. A young Taiwanese woman, who was also on her own and sitting next to me at a large communal table, started talking to me.

If you decide to visit Taiwan solo, here are a few ideas to stave off feelings of loneliness:

  • Consider staying in hostels (some have private rooms) or AirBnB rooms with English speaking hosts. I stayed here with a lovely Italian/Taiwanese couple who spoke good English.
  • Join walking tours or day tours in English such as these free English walking tours in Tainan or one of these Taipei’s free walking tours. GetYourGuide also curates many tours and day trips. (Use Google to find more.)
  • Spend more time in Taipei since it has a larger number of expats and people who know English. You could attend a meetup or even take a Chinese language class if you like learning languages.
  • Make your trip to Taiwan shorter and spend the rest of the time in other Asian countries like The Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia or Cambodia where it is easier to find English speakers.
  • If you get really desperate, there is always Skype and WhatsApp to chat with people at home!

Who should travel solo to Taiwan?

People who will enjoy travelling solo in Taiwan share the following attributes:

Food-adventurous

By that I mean people who are not afraid to try new and unusual foods. After all, one of the highlights of Taiwan is the food culture and the night markets. Often you won’t know exactly what to expect, so it helps a lot if you’re open-minded when it comes to food, and not too picky.

Local dishes served in Taroko (solo travel in Taiwan)

Local dishes served in Taroko

It also helps if you’re not suffering from too many food restrictions or intolerances. Taiwan will be difficult for vegetarians and vegans as even dishes that don’t list meat often include little bits of meat or fish sauce, or are cooked in animal fat. And that’s in the best case scenario where there is an English menu and the dish names are translated properly. Consider using a translation app so you can ask questions.

Oh yes, and make sure you can use chopsticks!

Not too thrown off by language issues

As I mentioned several times before, communication with locals in English will be strained or downright impossible. Exceptions are airports and most hotels where you should be able to have a basic conversation. When buying train tickets, I wrote down what I wanted on a slip of paper for clarity (destination, train number, time). Or I bought the tickets online.

Comfortable in cities

Taiwanese cities are busy and crowded. It’s not a complete free-for-all though. There are lots of traffic lights and crosswalks, and people are considerate and follow the rules for the most part. Taipei even has wide sidewalks where one can walk comfortably. While night markets and other attractions can get crowded, streets are nowhere as packed as I’ve seen in Manhattan or Hong Kong. Being at ease in large cities will definitely help you enjoy Taiwan though.

Taipei is busy but orderly, and very clean (solo travel in Taiwan)

Taipei is busy but orderly, and very clean

Sure, there is a lot of countryside and empty mountains, but unless you have your own vehicle, it will be impossible to avoid large cities since they are the transportation hubs.

Don’t mind being a “visible minority”

Unless you look Asian, you’ll definitely stand out in Taiwan. Most of the time, outside of Taipei, we were the only Caucasian visitors at a given sight. But as I mentioned above, nobody points or stares or makes comments, so it’s not a big deal unless you have a tendency to feel self-conscious.

Enjoy being trailblazers

If you like travelling to countries with a clear tourist trail, lots of other people like yourself, and clearly marked places where you can have a “Western breakfast”, don’t go to Taiwan just yet. If on the other hand you have a pioneer spirit and enjoy seeing a place in its authentic state before it is transformed for mass tourism, you should go to Taiwan now! 🙂

In the end, only you can decide if a solo trip to Taiwan is a good idea. Hopefully, these insights, along with my other posts on Taiwan should help you make that decision. If you decide to go, get the Lonely Planet Taiwan guidebook, which is what I used during my 25-day trip. Their restaurant recommendations are especially useful.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links.)


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