The First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Kaohsiung, Taiwan

The First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Ren and I are enamored with Taiwan. We love everything about this country. We love how organized it is, we love how green it is, and we love how kind and respectful its people are. A place like Taiwan gives me hope about what we can achieve as a society with some discipline and more mindfulness of others.

Among all the countries we’ve been to so far, Taiwan is just one of two that we could realistically see ourselves moving to (the other is Turkey). On our most recent trip to Taiwan, we spent two weeks exploring as much of the country as we could. We traveled in a loop around its perimeter, going from city to city, all the while imagining which city we could most see ourselves living in. And as you can probably guess by now, that city turned out to be Kaohsiung, with Taichung a close second.

Taiwan is pleasant and liveable throughout but if we could pick one city we’d be happy to call home, then it would be the Harbor City of Kaohsiung.

GUIDE TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Kaohsiung at a Glance
  2. Best Time to Visit
  3. Traveling to Kaohsiung
  4. Where to Exchange Currency
  5. Where to Stay
  6. Things to Do
  7. Day Trips from Kaohsiung
  8. Taiwanese Food Guide
  1. Where to Eat
  2. Points of Interest (Map)
  3. How to Get Around Kaohsiung
  4. How Many Days to Stay / Sample Itinerary
  5. Budget / Summary of Expenses
  6. Travel Tips
  7. For Filipinos (Visa Info)

KAOHSIUNG AT A GLANCE

Kaohsiung (pronounced gow-shung or cow-shung) is the biggest port in Taiwan and one of its largest cities. It’s located in Southwestern Taiwan about an hour south of Tainan. Kaohsiung is often referred to as Taiwan’s Harbor Capital because of its connection to the ocean and its reputation for being one of the world’s largest cargo-container seaports.

One of the things I loved most about Kaohsiung is its vibe. It may be a big cosmopolitan city but it’s more laid back than its counterparts in the north, like Taipei or Taichung. Apart from being the only city in Taiwan other than Taipei to have its own metro rail system, Kaohsiung is also known for being one of the country’s most bicycle-friendly cities, boasting numerous designated bike paths running through the city’s many parks.

If Taipei were New York, then Kaohsiung would be more like the Bay Area. It has all the conveniences of a modern metropolis minus the pace.

BEST TIME TO VISIT KAOHSIUNG

Kaohsiung is located in Southern Taiwan so it doesn’t get as cold there as it does in Taipei. We went in mid-March and it would get a little hot walking around during the day. This was in contrast to Taipei or Taichung which were still relatively cold during that time. Weather in Kaohsiung is mild year-round so there really is no best time to go, but based on weather averages, November till April seems ideal.

NOV-APR: Weather in Kaohsiung is most ideal from around mid-November to the first week of April. Temperatures are cool and it doesn’t rain as often. This is the best time to go if you don’t like hot or humid weather.

MAY-OCT: It’s rainier and warmer during these months so it’s best to avoid them if you don’t like too much heat and humidity. Both the hottest and rainiest months in Kaohsiung are from June till August so that may not be the best time to go.

Climate: Annual Monthly Weather in Kaohsiung

To help you better understand the weather in Kaohsiung, I’ve included average temperature and annual rainfall graphs below. Suggested months to visit are indicated in orange.

Average Temperature
Annual Rainfall in Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Annual Rainfall
Annual Rainfall in Kaohsiung, Taiwan

TRAVELING TO KAOHSIUNG

We traveled to Kaohsiung from Tainan by TRA train. The train system in Taiwan is so efficient that I wouldn’t think of traveling any other way. We traveled between five cities in two weeks, all by train.

It’s important to note that there are two types of trains in Taiwan – high-speed trains (HSR) and regular trains (TRA). Here are the main differences between the two:

  1. HSR trains are faster (duh). They can get you to your destination in less than half the time.
  2. HSR trains are about twice as expensive as TRA trains, but there are discounts available.
  3. HSR tickets can be purchased online as early as 4 weeks in advance. TRA tickets can be bought no earlier than 2 weeks ahead.
  4. HSR trains run only on the western side of Taiwan while TRA trains service the east as well.
  5. The majority of HSR stations are located a little outside of the city, so you’ll probably need to arrange for transfers to your hotel. TRA stations are located closer to the city center so they’re more convenient location-wise.

Aside from the trains, you can get to Kaohsiung by bus as well. I’ve created the comparison chart below for a quick overview on cost and traveling times. For comparison’s sake, let’s assume you’ll be traveling to Kaohsiung from Taipei.

From TaipeiFareTravel Time
TRA TRAINNTD 8434 hrs 50 mins
HSR TRAINNTD 1,490 (undiscounted)2 hrs
BUSNTD 4909 hrs

By TRA Train

We weren’t in a rush, I didn’t want to pay almost double, and I wanted to arrive closer to our hotel so we traveled exclusively by TRA train in Taiwan. As outlined in the chart above, the journey by TRA train from Taipei to Kaohsiung will be around 4 hrs 50 mins and cost NTD 843 each way. You can check the Taiwan Railways Administration website for a schedule of trains to Kaohsiung from wherever you are. You can purchase tickets from there as well.

As described, you can purchase tickets from the Taiwan Railways Administration website as early as 2 weeks in advance. I read that train tickets do run out, especially during peak seasons, so it’s advisable you purchase them as soon as possible. Once you make the purchase, you’ll be issued a confirmation and a ticket pickup form. You’ll need to take this, along with the ID you used to purchase the ticket (passport in my case), to the train station ticketing office or any convenience store (7-11, FamilyMart, Hi-Life, or OK Mart) no later than 30 minutes before your departure time to claim your train ticket.

By HSR Train

The journey by HSR train from Taipei to Kaohsiung is much faster, only around 2 hrs. A standard full fare reserved seat will normally run you NTD 1,490, but you can get up to 35% off if you purchase your ticket in advance or travel during off-peak hours.

You can check the Taiwan High Speed Rail website for a schedule of trains to Kaohsiung from wherever you are. Once you’ve decided which train you want to take, you can purchase your ticket online via their 24 hour booking system. As described, you can purchase tickets as early as 4 weeks in advance. Train tickets can run out, especially during peak seasons, so it’s advisable to purchase them as soon as possible.

Like TRA tickets, you’ll still need to claim your actual HSR train tickets from the HSR station ticket window, ticket vending machines, or partner convenience stores. You’ll need to present the ID number you used to make the booking and your reservation number. You can refer to the online ticketing page of the HSR website for more information.

If for some reason you can’t get a discount from the THSR website, then you can try Kkday as well. They offer an HSR Unlimited Pass as well as discounted single-journey HSR tickets to Kaohsiung (Zuoying) from the following cities (click on the links for more information):

If you’ll be continuing on to another city from Kaohsiung, then you can purchase a discounted HSR ticket for that journey as well.

By Bus

Highway buses are your cheapest option but they take longer. A UBUS route from Taipei to Kaohsiung costs NTD 490 with a travel time of about 9 hrs. Fares may vary depending on the bus company, so you can check the Taiwan Highway Bus website for information on fares, routes, and traveling times.

WHERE TO EXCHANGE CURRENCY

Taiwan’s unit of currency is the New Taiwan Dollar (NTD). Most travelers will probably arrive in Kaohsiung with NTD already in hand. But if you need to exchange currency in Kaohsiung, then you can do so at any bank. Currency exchange service is strictly regulated by the Taiwanese government so you won’t find any independent money changers like you would in other Asian countries, which is a relief.

It’s best to exchange your currency at big local banks like Bank of Taiwan, China Trust Bank, or South China Commercial Bank. We walked in to a smaller bank once and they advised us of a service charge, so I made sure to look for a Bank of Taiwan every time. They have many branches throughout the country, including Kaohsiung. I did a search on Google Maps and found a few Bank of Taiwan branches in Kaohsiung.

Alternatively, you can also withdraw NTD from an ATM. The rates are competitive. Just be sure to advise your bank you’ll be using your ATM card overseas so you don’t run into any problems. In my experience, my ATM card works in some machines but not in others.

WHERE TO STAY IN KAOHSIUNG

We traveled by TRA train between five major cities in Taiwan, so I made sure to always find accommodations near the train station. That way we wouldn’t have to wake up so early to catch our train in the morning. Of all the rooms we booked, this AirBnB in Kaohsiung was far and away the most convenient location-wise. It was 2 minutes away from the Kaohsiung TRA and MRT stations, and a bus stop was just around the corner. Best of all, there was a 7-Eleven in the building next door.

As you can see below, the room was massive. We didn’t use it but it’s the only room we’ve ever rented that had a washer and dryer inside the room! I’m sure this will be very useful to many travelers. There was also a microwave and a refrigerator in this studio apartment which we rented for just USD 31 a night. Not bad at all!

As described, we booked a room here through AirBnB. If you don’t think this is the right place for you, then you can follow these links to find alternate listings in Kaohsiung: AirBnB | Booking.com | Agoda. If you’re new to AirBnB, then you can get USD 31 free travel credit when you sign up via this link.
AirBnB, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Approximate Room Rate: USD 31 per night (as of May 2018)



Booking.com

THINGS TO DO IN KAOHSIUNG

1. Reverse Your Fortune at the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas

Lotus Pond is a picturesque artificial lake located in Zuoying District, not too far from Ruifeng Night Market. It’s a popular tourist destination known for its lotus plants and many temples surrounding its perimeter, none more interesting perhaps than the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas. A twin pair of 7-story pagodas with giant dragon and tiger statues, it’s believed that entering from the dragon’s mouth and exiting through the tiger’s jaws reverses your fortune and turns bad luck into good luck. Watch me run through it like an idiot in the video below.

Estimated Time to Spend: 30 mins at the pagodas, 1-2 hrs at the lake / Admission: FREE

2. Take Selfies at Pier-2 Art Center

We visited many creative parks and museums throughout Taiwan, and the biggest murals and sculptures we found were here at Pier-2 Art Center, most notable of which was a giant 20-foot robot. The creative park is spread out over several buildings and warehouses by the wharf, making for a good 1-2 hours of mural hunting and selfie taking. You’ll find a few interesting shops and cafes here as well.
Pier-2 Art Center, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Estimated Time to Spend: 1-2 hrs / Admission: FREE

3. Rent Bikes and Explore Cijin Island

Cijin or Qijin Island is a small, narrow strip of island just a short ferry ride away from Kaohsiung Harbor. It’s a popular day trip destination known for its black sand beach, a few historical and religious structures, and the best seafood in Kaohsiung. If you have enough time, then I suggest renting a bicycle or electric scooter and spending the whole day exploring the island. That’s what we did and it turned out to be my favorite day from our two weeks in Taiwan. Families can even rent electric trolleys that can seat four or more.

Check out my post on Cijin Island for more pictures and information.
Cijin Island, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Estimated Time to Spend: At least half a day / Ferry Ticket Cost: At least NTD 25 each way

4. Make a Stop at the Dome of Light

The Dome of Light is a stained glass installation piece located within the Kaohsiung MRT’s busiest stop – Formosa Boulevard Station. Standing an impressive 30 meters (98 feet) in diameter, it’s made up of 4,500 glass panels, making it the largest work of glass art in the world. It was created by Italian artist Narcissus Quagliata, a feat which has led many to call Formosa Boulevard Station one of the world’s most beautiful subway stations. If you’ll be traveling at all by MRT in Kaohsiung, then chances are you’ll transit through this station so be sure to make a quick stop here before going on your way.
Dome of Light, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Estimated Time to Spend: 15 mins / Admission: FREE

5. Visit the Fo Guang Shan Monastery

Fo Guang Shan is the largest Buddhist monastery in Taiwan. It covers an area of over 30 hectares and is comprised of university buildings, shrines, a cemetery, and a 36-meter tall statue of Amitabha Buddha. It’s about 40 minutes north of central Kaohsiung so we decided to skip it, but based on what I’ve read, the place is massive with much to see so you can easily spend the whole day here if you have a particular interest in Buddhist monasteries.

You can get to Fo Guang Shan Monastery by public transportation but you can also visit on a private tour as well. Kkday offers a Lotus Pond and Fo Guang Shan Monastery private tour starting at NTD 3,937 for up to four people. This might be worth considering if you have enough people in your group.
Fo Guang Shan Monastery, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

By Huicheng1967 [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom
Estimated Time to Spend: 2-3 hrs / Admission: FREE

DAY TRIPS FROM KAOHSIUNG

1. Spend the Day in Tainan, Taiwan’s Oldest City

Tainan is only about 40 minutes away by TRA train (15 minutes by HSR), so it makes for an ideal day trip if you’re spending enough time in Kaohsiung. Recognized as the oldest city in Taiwan, it served as the country’s capital for 200 years. There you’ll find historic Anping District which is home to several attractions like Anping Tree House, Anping Old Street, and Fort Zeelandia. Check out our Tainan travel guide for more information.

As described, you can get to Tainan from Kaohsiung either by TRA or HSR train. You can check the TRA or HSR website for a timetable and ticket prices. If you decide to travel by HSR train, then be sure to select “Zuoying” as the departure station. You can get a discount on the HSR ticket as well if you purchase it through Kkday.
Anping Tree House, Tainan, Taiwan

Suggested Length of Visit: Whole Day

2. Explore Kenting National Park

I wanted to do this but we didn’t have enough time. Kenting National Park is Taiwan’s oldest and southernmost national park, covering an area of about 181 square kilometres (70 sq mi) of land and 152 square kilometres (59 sq mi) of sea. It’s famous for its beautiful beaches and stunning ocean views. Located about 2 hours south of Kaohsiung, it’s a little harder to visit on a day trip but it is possible.

The easiest way would be to hire a private charter from Kaohsiung to Kenting and back. Kkday offers a roundtrip Kaohsiung-Kenting private transfer starting at NTD 4,200 for up to 4 people. You’ll have the car and driver for 10 hours, giving you about 6 hours in Kenting. That’s probably enough time so this may be a good option if you have enough people in your group.

Otherwise, you can take a shuttle bus to Kenting from Kaohsiung starting at NTD 389 each way (fares vary depending on the station). You can follow that link to book it through Kkday as well. If you read the description in the click-through, you’ll see that shuttles run every hour on the hour from 9AM-5PM, giving you a maximum of about 6 hours to explore Kenting. I read that getting around isn’t as easy in Kenting because it involves long stretches of scenic highway, so it’s best explored on a rental scooter.

Though it is possible to visit Kenting on a day trip from Kaohsiung, it looks like such a beautiful place so you may want to spend at least a night there.
Kenting National Park, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

By Bernard Gagnon [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom
Suggested Length of Visit: Whole Day

TAIWANESE FOOD GUIDE

Taiwan is all about night markets and street food. There are so many delicious and interesting things to eat in this country. If you’re wondering what to eat in Kaohsiung, then check out our list of 57 things to eat in Taiwan.

WHERE TO EAT IN KAOHSIUNG

1. Ruifeng Night Market

Of all the night markets we visited in Taiwan, Ruifeng Night Market was my favorite. It wasn’t the biggest but for me, it had the best combination of size, layout, and food selection. Pictured below is one of the night market’s most popular stalls – a vendor selling giant takoyaki balls filled with octopus, shrimp, mushroom, and vegetables. Don’t miss this!
Ruifeng Night Market, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Unlike many other night markets, Ruifeng Night Market is completely closed off to traffic, including motorbikes, so it makes for a much more pleasant experience. It’s laid out in an easy-to-navigate grid as well with a good mix of food and shopping stalls.
Ruifeng Night Market, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Ruifeng Night Market

Address: Yucheng Road, Zuoying District, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan 804
Operating Hours: 12MN-12:30PM, 4PM-12MN, Fri-Sun | 12MN-12:30PM, Mon, Wed | 4PM-12MN, Tue, Thurs
How to Get There: Take the MRT to Kaohsiung Arena Station (Red Line, Exit 1). Walk straight along Yucheng Road for about 5 mins and the entrance to the night market will be on your right.

2. Liouhe Tourist Night Market

Liouhe is another pleasant night market in Kaohsiung. There are food stalls on either side of a street spanning about two blocks with tables and rubbish bins in the middle. Many night markets don’t have either so we thought that was convenient. One of the best things you can get at Liouhe Tourist Night Market is this cup of papaya milk sold by that stand in the background. You’ll know it from all the pictures (presumably of celebrities) plastered all over its cart. Absolutely delicious!
Liouhe Tourist Night Market, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

The atmosphere at Liouhe Tourist Night Market isn’t as much fun as Ruifeng but it’s a must-visit as well, especially if you’ll be spending more than one night in Kaohsiung.
Liouhe Tourist Night Market, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Liouhe Tourist Night Market

Address: Liuhe 2nd Road & 與中山一路口 Xinxing District, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan 800
Operating Hours: 6PM-10AM, daily
How to Get There: Take MRT to Formosa Boulevard Station (Red/Orange Line, Exit 1). Walk straight along Zhongshanheng Road then make a right on Zhongzhengsi Road. Turn left on Liuhe 2nd Road to the night market.

3. Gang Yuan Beef Noodles

When I was doing research for must-eat restaurants in Kaohsiung, this place was at the top of nearly every list. Beef noodle soup is the single most beloved dish in Taiwan and Gang Yuan Beef Noodles is described as having some of the best. People who’ve eaten this dish throughout Taiwan, including Taipei, swear that the beef noodle soup at this shop was the best they’ve ever had. We can understand why. Available in wet or dry versions, the noodles here were noticeably chewier and springier in texture than at other places we visited. Definitely a must.
Gang Yuan Beef Noodles, Kaohisung, Taiwan

Gang Yuan Beef Noodles is located amidst a row of similar-looking shops, so be sure to look for the one with all the beef noodle awards proudly displayed in their window. It’s a popular place so be prepared for a wait.
Gang Yuan Beef Noodles, Kaohisung, Taiwan

Gang Yuan Beef Noodles

Address: No. 55, Dacheng St., Yancheng Dist, Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Operating Hours: 10:30AM-8PM, daily
What to Eat: Beef noodle soup
What We Spent: NTD 220 with drinks
How to Get There: Take the MRT to Yanchengpu Station (Orange Line, Exit 4). Upon exiting, walk southeast on Wufu 4th Road. Walk straight then make a right on Dacheng Street. The restaurant will be on your right.

4. Duck (Ya Rou) Zhen

I learned about this local favorite when I chanced upon an article from the Singapore Michelin Guide. In the article, Chef Lanshu Chen of Le Mout lists her favorite places to eat in Kaohsiung and proclaims Ya Rou Zhen as her go-to place for duck. Here she always orders sliced duck with rice and a bowl of duck innards soup. Being the head chef of one of the world’s best restaurants, she clearly knows what she’s talking about so we followed her lead, dish for dish. You may want to do the same because it was awesome.

The sliced duck was tender, juicy, and smokey with a nice layer of fat beneath the skin. But as good as it was, what we enjoyed most was the innards soup which was swimming with duck parts like intestine, liver, and gizzard. It tasted clean and flavorful with that wonderful gummy texture characteristic of offal. Really delicious!
Duck Zhen, Kaohisung, Taiwan

Just look for the restaurant with the yellow awning and all the red-orange stools outside.
Duck Zhen, Kaohisung, Taiwan

Duck Zhen

Address: No. 258, Wufu 4th Road, Yancheng District, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan 803
Operating Hours: 10AM-8:20PM, Wed-Mon (closed Tue)
What to Eat: Sliced duck, duck innards soup
What We Spent: NTD 200 with drinks
How to Get There: Take the MRT to Yanchengpu Station (Orange Line, Exit 4). Upon exiting, walk northwest on Wufu 4th Road. Walk straight and the restaurant will be on your right.

5. Gao Xiong Po Po Shaved Ice

If I were to make a list of dishes that gave me the most pleasure in Taiwan, then this mango baobing from Gao Xiong Po Po Shaved Ice would be close to the top. Made with shaved ice topped with fist-sized hunks of the sweetest fresh mango, condensed milk, and scoops of mango ice cream, it was ravishingly delicious, especially after a day of walking under the hot Kaohsiung sun. Ren and I just shared one but I kinda wish we hadn’t. DO NOT miss this.
Gao Xiong Po Po Shaved Ice, Kaohisung, Taiwan

Gao Xiong Po Po Shaved Ice offers many types of shaved ice desserts but mango baobing is one of their specialties.
Gao Xiong Po Po Shaved Ice, Kaohisung, Taiwan

Gao Xiong Po Po Shaved Ice

Address: No. 135, Qixian 3rd Road, Yancheng District, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan 802
Operating Hours: 9AM-12MN, daily
What to Eat: Mango shaved ice
Expect to Pay: NTD 100 per order of mango shaved ice
How to Get There: Take the MRT to Yanchengpu Station (Orange Line, Exit 3). Upon exiting, walk northwest on Xinyue Street. Walk straight then make a right on Qixian 3rd Road. The restaurant will be on your left.

6. Wu Pao Chun Bakery

Like Gang Yuan Beef Noodles, this is another place that you’ll find on every “must-eat in Kaohsiung” list. And understandably so, because this bakery is owned by Wu Pao-chun, a Taiwanese baker renowned for his sourdough bread. He’s won several baking competitions in Europe and was awarded the title of Master Baker in the bread category of the 2010 Bakery Masters competition in Paris.

As you can see below, they offer many types of bread but none are more famous than his Taiwan Litchi Rose Champion Bread which was crowned the champion at the Bakery Masters in 2010. It’s made with mullet wine, lychee, walnuts, and rose petals. If that isn’t interesting enough for you, then another renowned loaf is his Taiwan Longan with Red Wine Bread which won second place at the Coupe Louise Lesaffre in 2008. We bought many different kinds before spending the day on Cijin Island and everything we got was delicious. If you like bread, then you have to make a stop at Wu Pao Chun Bakery.
Wu Pao Chun Bakery, Kaohisung, Taiwan

We arrived just before opening so we were the first in line. Wu Pao Chun Bakery presently has two branches in Taiwan – one in Kaohsiung and another in Taipei.
Wu Pao Chun Bakery, Kaohisung, Taiwan

Wu Pao Chun Bakery

Address: No. 19, Siwei 3rd Road, Lingya District, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan 802
Website: wupaochun.com
Facebook: wupaochun
Operating Hours: 10AM-8:30PM, Mon-Fri / 9:30AM-8:30PM, Sat-Sun
What to Eat: Litchi rose champion bread, longan with red wine bread
Expect to Pay: Starts at around NTD 40
How to Get There: Take the MRT to Sanduo Shopping District Station (Red Line, Exit 6). The bakery is about a 15-minute walk from here. Upon exiting the station, walk northeast on Xingzhong 1st Road. Walk straight for several blocks then make a left on Yongding Street. Walk straight then make a right on Siwei 3rd Road. The entrance to the bakery will be on your right. If you’d prefer not to walk and take the bus instead, then I suggest downloading the Google Maps app (iOS | Android). It’ll tell you how to get to Wu Pao Chun Bakery from wherever you are.

POINTS OF INTEREST IN KAOHSIUNG

To help you get your bearings, I’ve created this map so you get a better sense of where everything is. All the places recommended in this guide are pinned on this map.

HOW TO GET AROUND KAOHSIUNG

It’s super easy to get around Kaohsiung using public transportation. Other than Taipei, it’s the only city in Taiwan that has its own metro system. You can get to most of the places recommended in this guide using the Kaohsiung MRT. For everything else, there’s the public bus system which is almost as easy.

I’ve always been apprehensive about using a foreign city’s public bus system for fear of getting lost. But my fears were dispelled on this trip after I started using the Google Maps app (iOS | Android) here in Kaohsiung. To my surprise, I found it incredibly helpful and easy to use. It tells you exactly how to get from one place to the next using any city’s public transportation system. I’ve always been afraid of hopping onto the wrong bus and winding up somewhere in China, but this free app makes it practically idiot-proof. Give it a try if you plan on getting around Kaohsiung by bus.

There are several transportation cards you can use in Taiwan but the EasyCard has worked well for us so I haven’t looked into anything else. If you plan on taking public transportation a lot in Kaohsiung, then getting an EasyCard is a must. It works on both the MRT and bus systems. Aside from the convenience, using an EasyCard gives you a 15% discount over single-journey tokens on the Kaohsiung MRT. You can purchase it at any Kaohsiung MRT station and it will work throughout Taiwan. Go to the travel tips section of this guide for more information on the EasyCard.

In some instances, you many not want to take public transportation so you’ll be pleased to know that Uber is available in Kaohsiung as well. We took it a couple of times when we were too tired to walk and the most we paid was NTD 166 to go from Kaohsiung TRA Station to Lotus Pond (about 7.2 km).

HOW MANY DAYS TO STAY / SAMPLE ITINERARY

By population, Kaohsiung is the smallest big city in Taiwan so you probably won’t need as much time there as you would in Taipei or Taichung. We spent two nights and we thought that was perfect for a first-time visit. If it’s your first time traveling to Kaohsiung, then here’s a sample two-day itinerary to help you plan your trip.

DAY ONE

• Dome of Light
• Fo Guang Shan Monastery
• Lotus Lake
• Dragon and Tiger Pagodas
• Ruifeng Night Market
DAY TWO

• Pier-2 Art Center
• Cijin Island
• Liouhe Tourist Night Market

BUDGET / SUMMARY OF EXPENSES

Assuming you’ll be traveling with one other person and staying two nights in Kaohsiung, then a budget of around NTD 1,100 per day should be enough. This takes into account a moderately priced hotel, inexpensive meals, transportation, bike rental on Cijin Island, and pocket wifi rental.

ACCOMMODATIONS

This is highly subjective. It depends on several factors like hotel preference and number of travel companions. We booked an AirBnB rental for about NTD 928 a night. Expect to pay much less if you’re staying in a dorm room.
MEALS

Again, this is subjective, but based on our experience, I’d say around NTD 200-300 for the day per person with drinks. Budget more if you plan on dining at fancier restaurants.
POCKET WIFI RENTAL

If you’re sharing the cost with one other person, then you’ll each be paying NTD 40 per day.
TRANSPORTATION

As advised, it’s a good idea to invest in an EasyCard while in Kaohsiung, especially if you’ll spending time in Taipei as well. The base cost of the EasyCard is NTD 100 plus whatever amount you’ll need in Kaohsiung. If you plan on traveling exclusively by MRT and bus, then a transportation budget of around NTD 100 per day should be enough.
BIKE RENTAL

If you plan on renting bikes to explore Cijin Island, then you’ll be paying NTD 100 to rent a bike for the entire day.
TOTAL

This comes out to about NTD 1,054 per day for each person. Ren and I are middle of the road travelers who enjoy good food and drink, so this is a budget that works for us. Feel free to adjust based on your own travel habits.

TRAVEL TIPS

1. Plan your Trip with Sygic Travel (formerly Tripomatic)

This free app is very useful. It enables you to plot points of interest on a map, including your hotel, so you can see exactly how far you need to travel between points. You can then group attractions together per day based on their location. With pocket wifi, it can turn your mobile phone into a GPS tracking device so people with a terrible sense of direction (like me) don’t get lost. Pretty cool right? Check out my post on the Sygic Travel app for more information.

DOWNLOAD: iOS / Android

Sygic Travel is what I used to create the location map above. You can view it as a day-to-day itinerary as well. Follow this link to check out our two-night Kaohsiung itinerary on Sygic Travel. You can also download our entire 2-week Taiwan itinerary in editable Word format by signing up for our FREE newsletter below.

2. Rent a Pocket Wifi Device

Having a constant and strong wifi connection is a must when traveling these days. You’ll need it to navigate, convert currencies, post on social media, and do last minute research.

We rented a 4G pocket wifi device through Kkday for NTD 80 a day. You can pick it up and drop it off at Taoyuan, Songshan, or Kaohsiung International Airports. It gave us a strong wifi signal no matter where we were in Taiwan. Beach, mountains, intercity trains, it didn’t matter. Our wifi signal was always good. Battery life was decent, maybe 6-7 hours so I suggest bringing a power bank as you’ll probably need to charge it before the end of each day. Follow this link to rent a pocket wifi device in Taiwan through Kkday.
Pocket wifi rental, Taiwan

3. Store Your Luggage with lalalocker

More and more travelers are staying at AirBnBs these days. We do, and it can be a problem when we can’t check in to our accommodations until 2PM, sometimes even later. We arrived by train early in every city we visited in Taiwan. It wasn’t a problem with hotels because we could leave our luggage at the front desk till check in. But in some instances, like here in Kaohsiung, we were staying at an AirBnB so it wasn’t possible to drop off our bags early. Thankfully, we were able to leave them at a luggage storage facility so we could tour the city before checking in.

If you run into the same problem, then you can use lalalocker to find places where you can temporarily store your luggage. Think of them as the AirBnB for luggage. They connect travelers with establishments like hotels, shops, and cafes where you can safely leave your luggage for a fee. They serve multiple areas in many cities throughout the country, including Kaohsiung. Just go to their website to find a storage place convenient for you. You can then make a reservation directly on their website. Check out the lalalocker website for more information.
lalalocker, Taiwan

Bookstore that stores your luggage in Taipei

4. Travel with an EasyCard

If you plan on using public transportation a lot in Taiwan, then an EasyCard is one of the best investments you can make, especially if you’re spending any time in Kaohsiung or Taipei. Aside from eliminating the hassle of having to buy single journey tokens each time, you’ll get a 20% discount with every ride on the Taipei MRT and 15% off on the Kaohsiung MRT with an EasyCard. That alone makes it worth it for me.

On top of discounts on the Taipei and Kaohsiung MRT, it works on most city bus systems and several inter-city buses in Taiwan as well. I read you can get discounts and free rides in some cities, but what I really like about it is that it eliminates the need to pay in exact change. Bus drivers can’t give you change so you don’t have to worry about scrounging up exact amounts every time.

We never used it for anything but transportation but you can use it for other things as well like taxis, ferries, TRA trains, supermarkets, convenience stores, even some restaurants and cafes. Follow this link to see the full scope of use of an EasyCard.

As described, you can purchase an EasyCard from any MRT station for a non-refundable NTD 100. You can then top it up at any station in multiples of NTD 100. You can use it throughout Taiwan, meaning if you bought it in Kaohsiung like we did, then you can use it on the Taipei MRT as well and vice versa. At the end of your trip, any unused amount can be refunded minus a service charge of NTD 20. It’s super convenient so I’d never go to Kaohsiung or Taipei without getting one. You can refer to the EasyCard website for more information.
EasyCard, Taiwan

5. Rent Bicycles from the Mainland

If you plan on renting bikes and visiting Cijin Island, then I suggest renting one from the mainland and taking it with you onboard the ferry. The reason for this is that there are two separate lines for ferry passengers – one for pedestrians and another for people on bikes/scooters. In our experience, both going and coming back, the line for pedestrians was significantly longer.

If you’d rather not risk having to wait for the next ferry, then I suggest renting your bicycle from the mainland instead of Cijin Island. The ferry cost is just a little bit more, just NTD 35 for cyclists as opposed to NTD 25 for pedestrians. In my opinion, it’s worth the shorter wait. Plus, you’ll feel more like a bonafide local, even if you aren’t.

6. Check for Discount Passes

There are many websites that offer discount passes to tours and services. One of my favorites is Kkday. They offer deals to many destinations around the world, including Taiwan where they’re based. They’re a Taiwanese e-commerce travel platform so in my opinion, there’s no better website to purchase deals from in Taiwan than Kkday. They have the widest selection.

If you’re looking for deals on tours, transfers, pocket wifi rental, etc, then you may want to search through Kkday’s website for a list of Kaohsiung attractions. You’ll often find interesting activities that you wouldn’t normally think of yourself, so it’s definitely worth a look.

7. Get Travel Insurance

To be honest, it was only recently when we started buying travel insurance. Back when we traveled just once or twice a year, travel insurance felt like a luxury, something we could do without. But now that we travel more, I understand how important it is to have it. Fact is, you never know what can happen. It’s one of those things that you hope you never have to use, but if you do wind up needing it, then you’ll be thanking the gods that you had it (or cursing them if you didn’t).

Though I do find it more necessary now, it’s still up to you if you think you need it. A 3-day trip to Seoul just sightseeing and eating may not really call for insurance but if you plan on doing more active things like skiing, snowmobile riding, or even going on a city bike tour, then I’d say travel insurance is a must. We went bike riding twice in Taiwan so we did get travel insurance for this trip.

We buy travel insurance from World Nomads because every long-term traveler I know recommends it. From the sound of it, they’re the best in the industry by a mile. Not only do they provide a high coverage limit for medical expenses (up to USD 5 million with the Standard package), they also cover things like trip delays, missed flight connections, theft/loss of passport and luggage, etc. Follow the link or use the widget below to learn more and get a free travel insurance quote from World Nomads. It’s super quick and easy.

8. Bring the Right Power Adapter

Taiwan has Type A and Type B electrical outlets so be sure to bring the right power adapters for your devices. Electrical voltage is 110V and the standard frequency is 60Hz.

For Filipinos

VISA-FREE TRAVEL TO TAIWAN

In 2017, TECO implemented a 9-month visa-free trial program for Filipinos. From 1 November 2017 till 31 July 2018, Philippine passport holders will be able to travel to Taiwan visa-free for stays of up to fourteen (14) days, provided the following requirements are met.

  1. The applicant’s passport is valid for at least six months starting from the date of arrival in Taiwan.
  2. The applicant has an onward/return air/ferry ticket and a visa for that destination (if required).
  3. The applicant has no criminal record in Taiwan.
  4. The applicant can provide proof of accommodation (or host/sponsor’s contact information or arrangements of tour, travel, visit, events and meeting etc.) in Taiwan.

HOW TO GET CHEAP AIRLINE TICKETS

Ever since I scored my first piso fare from Cebu Pacific, I’ve been hopelessly addicted to cheap airline tickets. Our tickets to Taipei with a shared 20 kg baggage allowance came out to about PHP 4,587 each roundtrip. How awesome is that?

These piso fare tickets are limited and sell fast, so you have to be quick. To give yourself an advantage, I suggest liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter to quickly find out about these seat sales. If you check off “Get notifications” on Facebook, then you’ll receive instant alerts every time they post something new.

Other airlines that have direct flights from Manila to Taipei are Philippine Airlines, EVA Air, AirAsia, and China Airlines. I checked and there appears to be just one airline with direct flights from Manila to Kaohsiung, and that’s China Airlines.

Have fun!

I’m not an expert on Kaohsiung but I do hope that you find this post useful. I’m only sharing some of the things that I learned from our trip. If you have any suggestions or simply want to share your own experiences, then please feel free to do so in the comments section below. You’re welcome to join our Facebook Travel Group as well. We’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for stopping by and have an awesome time in Kaohsiung!

OUR GEAR

These are some of the things we brought with us to Kaohsiung. As you can tell, I document a lot of content for this blog so most of the things I bring are photo and video equipment. 😆 If you’d like to see what other gear we use, then you can check out our “What’s in Our Backpack?” post. (NOTE: The following links are affiliate links.)

Disclosure

We’re a Kkday affiliate and worked with them on this trip. We paid for our airfare, accommodations, and incidental expenses like transportation and food, but we were allowed to go through their website and choose activities and services in exchange for an honest account of the experience. We didn’t go on any guided tours in Kaohsiung, but they did provide us with a voucher for pocket wifi rental for use during our entire trip. As always, all words and opinions expressed in this post are mine and mine alone.

Some of the links in this guide are affiliate links, meaning we’ll get a small commission if you make a purchase at NO extra cost to you. We only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We really appreciate your support as this helps us make more of these free travel guides. Thank you!




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There are 2 comments for this article
  1. Richard at 12:11 pm

    Hello!

    I’ve been doing A LOT of research on Taiwan, and your site has been the most informative BY FAR! Would you kindly give your opinion on which is a better place to visit for two days, Kaoshsiung or Tainan?

    Thank you in advance for your insight. And thanks again for the amazing resource.

  2. JB & Renée Macatulad at 12:54 pm

    Wow happy to hear that Richard! 😀 For me, definitely Kaohsiung. It’s more fun plus there’s more to see and do there. Tainan is interesting in its own way, but for us, it was probably our least favorite city in Taiwan. Hope that helps and have a great time in Taiwan! 🙂

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