Taipei with Kids: 24 Tips for a Great Trip

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Our Taipei experience has been a whirlwind but despite that, or maybe because of it, we accumulated a small mountain of tips for traveling with kids through this modern Taiwanese city.  There’s plenty out there about where to go in Taipei and you can make an educated guess about the destinations your kids will like best.  As usual, we’re focusing instead on how to go with kids.  We also discovered a few helpful money or sanity-saving tips for family adventuring in Taipei.

Taipe with Kids: Travel Tips

1. Contact the Taipei Tourism Bureau in advance of your trip and receive a packet of brochures in the mail as well as subway cards preloaded with NT50 and a coupon for a free gift at the duty free store as you leave from the airport. The preloaded subway card enabled us to avoid the steep initial purchase fee of NT500 per card.

2. You can pay for in-city taxis with the EasyCard too!

3. Unlike any experience we’ve had in the USA, the bathrooms in the Taipei subway system, called the MRT, are large, patrolled, and clean. These are a fabulous resource for traveling families.

4. Other bathrooms are frequently a hole in the ground (e.g., porcelain pit toilet).  A nice, clean hole in the ground, grant you, but a hole nonetheless. Sometimes there are several stalls with holes and then one with a sit-down option.  The sit-down option generally reminded me of how unsanitary sit-down toilets really are. Many Chinese and Taiwanese choose to stand on the seat in order to avoid sitting down, so expect shoe prints or urine drops. Prepare young kids for peeing in a hole in the ground. Maybe even practice once or twice outside before you go. 

5. There are a lot of lodging options. We found Agoda.Com’s mapping feature extremely helpful. It’s impossible to say which neighborhood is best for kids. Each has its own character and nearby attractions. Choose lodging as close as possible to an MRT station to make getting out and getting home again as easy as possible.

6. There is a well-developed system of Taipei Visitor Information booths and these each include a stamping station (like a Taipei passport). This looks like a kid activity to me, but we saw plenty of adults lining up to put a stamp in their book. Ask at the Tourism Information desk in the airport.

7. The Tourism Information Booth at the airport also advertised a free ½ day tour. We didn’t try it. If you do, let us know!

8. Write or print the name of your hotel and its address in Chinese characters before you land at the airport (or ask at the Tourist Information desk). Your taxi drivers and any helpful strangers will be extremely grateful!

9. It is much, much easier to pay for the Maokong gondola with the MRT EasyCard. Preload it with NT100 per person in advance. Note that the gondola is closed on Mondays.

Maokong Gondola

Maokong Gondola

10. While there was a long line for the “Crystal Cabins,” gondolas with clear floors, on the way up to the top at Maokong Station, the line was much shorter for the return trip. Getting a glass-bottomed gondola on the way back added something new and exciting beyond the views we had already experienced.

11. Plan to sit down and enjoy tea at least once after you get off at the top of the Maokong Gondola. The outdoor snack area is a delicious bargain, too.

Taipei with Kids: Tea at the top, Maokong Gondola

Tea at the top, Maokong Gondola

12. The postcards are really cool in Taipei! This would be a great and inexpensive thing for kids to collect. The 3D postcards at Taipei 101 are the cheapest way to score a souvenir, and the collection of postcards at the base of Chiang-Kai-Shek Memorial Hall kept me (let alone the kids) occupied for 10 minutes.

Taipei with Kids: Chiang-Kai-Shek memorial

Chiang-Kai-Shek memorial

13. Even cloudy views are OK! We visited on a grey and rainy day and enjoyed the views from both the top of the Maokong Gondola and Taipei 101 despite the warnings about clouds.

Taipei with Kids: Free tea at the Tea Center at the top of the gondola

Free tea at the Tea Center at the top of the gondola

14. By chance, we discovered that the Taipei 101 Observatory gives a 20% discount for paying with a Visa card.

15. Consider giving your kids the camera and a photo assignment at the top of Taipei 101. That’ll keep them busy and give you a chance to listen the audio tour presentation.

Taipei with Kids: View from Taipei 101 on a cloudy day - still impressive!

View from Taipei 101 on a cloudy day - still impressive!

16. The original Din Tai Fung, just outside the Dongmen MRT stop (Red Line) has a casual and authentic vibe that beats the polished chain-store feeling of others we have visited. Use jetlag to your advantage and arrive a bit early for dinner to avoid the crowds. The bathrooms are a hoot! – wind, water sounds, and special sprays. Supervise your kids! (The button with the little square stops whatever is going on … you’ll see.)

Taipei with Kids: Original Din Tai Fung - tucked away on a regular street

Original Din Tai Fung - tucked away on a regular street

Taipei: Menu at Din Tai Fung - ordering starts outside

Menu at Din Tai Fung - ordering starts outside

17. The night markets are a huge tourist draw. They were packed even on wet, weekday nights. Strollers will be a challenge; holding hands will be essential. It’s worth it but be prepared.

18. The two night markets we visited were very different in character. The Ningxia Tourist Night Market near Zhongshan MRT (Red Line) was 90% food. There were few snacks that interested our kids and our kids are pretty adventurous eaters. Gazing and photographing were plenty fun. The Shilin Tourist Night Market across from Jiantan MRT (Red Line) was 90% stuff – socks, bags, clothes, accessories, belts, pillows, shoes, t-shirts and more. All cheap knock-offs from what I could gather. I found a $3 watch with a little bunny on it. There were a few snack carts here and there selling easy-to-eat. Kid-friendly nibbles. 

Taipei: Shilin Night market

Shilin Night market

19. So, what would your kids like to eat that’s special? Try the shaved ice and slowly work your way up to adding sweet beans and colorful bits of jello-like goodness.

Taipei with Kids: Zoey and Logan buying an onion pancake on the street

Zoey and Logan buying an onion pancake on the street

20. There is a Ferris wheel at the Jiannan Rd MRT (Brown Line). It’s the third biggest in Asia and yet barely advertised.

21. What do I wish we had done differently? I loved wandering semi-lost through the narrow streets of the Bangka District behind Longshan Temple. I wish we had watched the film, Manga, before arrival. Many of the sites in the district were apparently portrayed in the movie and it might have given us historical perspective and context. I’m not sure what the film is rated but at least we parents would have enjoyed it. Also Miss Kicki and Orz Boys were in part filmed in that same district.

22. Pick up the tourist brochure for Bangka at any official Tourist Information desk for a useful map identifying temples, bird shops, shaved ice, and more. It’s a great map for helping young kids choose what they want to see or offering them an opportunity to try their hand at navigation.

Taipei with Kids: The Modern Toilet Restaurant

The Modern Toilet Restaurant

23. We waited until 9pm on the eve of our departure to arrange early morning transportation to the airport. That was cutting it a bit close. We missed the window for making shuttle bus reservations and had to find NT1000 that evening to pre-pay for a cab.

Hello Kitty telephone at the Taipei Airport

Hello Kitty telephone at the Taipei Airport

24. We were encouraged to arrive very early at the Taipei Airport and were, at first, a bit frustrated at our 2-hour wait after clearing security. In hindsight, I might have left even more time. We discovered breastfeeding rooms sponsored by Hello Kitty herself! There was a line-up to take pictures. And we found a relaxing green room full of plants with massage chairs in the back (near Gate C7) and a room of photography and information about Taiwan’s Ocean and River Ecology (near Gate C9).

The relaxing green room at the Taipei Airport

The relaxing green room at the Taipei Airport

 

We’re hopeful that a few of these tricks and tips will help you and your kids have even half as much fun as we had in Taipei. We loved it! I think the Tourism Bureau should send us back to write a book on Taipei with Kids, don’t you think so too?!

 

 

 

 

E. Ashley Steel is the co-author of “Family on the Loose: The Art of Traveling with Kids”, co-curator of www.familyontheloose.com, and the Traveling with Kids editor for Wandering Educators.

 

 

All photos courtesy and copyright E. Ashley Steel

 

 

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