Some people are more than happy to be seen as a tourist. They have no problem wandering around a new city, map in hand and opened wide, asking for directions, and snapping photos of…everything. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that – it’s darn fun actually. However, many travelers prefer to blend in and immerse themselves in the culture amongst the people, places, and things they come across along the way. Some want to go so far as to “do” a destination like an actual local or at least an expat. If this is you and you have your sights set on Taiwan, here is your five step guide to making that happen.
5 Ways to Pass as a Local When Traveling to Taiwan
1. Learn Some of the Lingo
The good news, is that while Mandarin Chinese is the official language used in Taiwan a large number of people speak English. It won’t seem out of the ordinary for you to communicate with someone in one of the major cities in English, especially if they work in the hospitality sector. That said, it’s a good idea to learn a few key phrases in Mandarin Chinese so that you can pass as an expat, should that be your goal. Beyond “Excuse me, where’s the bathroom?” focus on topics that you will personally need to inquire about on your trip. If you’re on the island to hike, attend festivals, participate in water sports, or try different local foods and so forth, learn as many phrases about said activities as you can. When it comes to shopping at the night markets (something everyone does here) you’ll want to incorporate some Taiwanese Mandarin so that you can bargain like a local too.
2. Plan Your Itinerary In Advance
Locals travel about the island and explore the attractions as much tourists – the only difference is that they know where they’re going. In order to enjoy all that Taiwan has to offer in a seamless manner (read: like a local) you will want to plan your itinerary well before your arrival. Know what you want to see, what you want to do, and exactly how you will get there so that you’re not scrambling to figure it out on the day of, a surefire way to give away your “I’m a tourist” status. Thankfully we have already provided a guide to some of the top “to dos” in Taiwan that locals enjoy as much as visitors do. Please reference those that are of personal interest:
- Top cycling destinations in Taiwan
- Top ocean attractions in Taiwan
- Best dive spots off the coast of Taiwan
- Best Taipei beaches
- Where to see monkeys in Taiwan
- Most interesting museums in Taiwan
- Top national parks to see in Taiwan
- Best annual events in Taiwan
- Famous Hollywood film locations in Taiwan
- Baseball attractions in Taiwan
- 5 top temples to visit in Taiwan
3. Gear Up Like a Local
What you do and don’t bring with you to Taiwan also plays into your goal of blending in. For one, make sure that you come with enough Taiwanese Dollars (TWD or NT$) so that you’re not running around looking for an international bank, currency conversion kiosk, or foreign-card-friendly ATM at a moment’s notice. In addition, develop an understanding of the changing seasons in our tropical (south) to subtropical (north) climate so that you pack appropriate clothing. Nothing gives away a tourist quite like an improperly dressed (for weather) one. View more on what you need to bring with you to Taiwan, and perhaps just as importantly, what not to bring.
In addition, arm yourself with the same local transportation tools that locals use. Rent a bike for the full duration of your stay as that’s one of the most popular ways for getting around, even on long treks through national parks and the like. Also get a local transit pass to cover you during the duration of your trip so that you can hop on and off local transit without being left scratching your head (like a tourist) at the ticket booth. For instance, in Taipei you will want to get a Taipei Metro Multi-day Pass or an Unlimited Taipei Fun Pass (view details here) and be sure to study the appropriate Route and Timetable Maps (here).
4. Hang at the Right Spots
Do your homework regarding the best local spots for food, drink, and nightlife and look to places that suit your tastes. For example, if you’re into craft beer, you can reference this guide to the top craft breweries (with tap rooms) in Taiwan. In fact, this is one area that gives you a lot of leeway when it comes to blending in because with a relatively large expat population, you needn’t necessarily look to where Taiwanese citizens go, but perhaps instead where expats common to your home (or familiar) country go. Using the same craft brewery example, an American traveler may want to head over to Redpoint Brewing Company in Taipei, which is frequented by visiting and expat Americans in addition to locals – it’s a great place to fit in without feeling like a tourist. In fact, there is pretty much a bar or tavern in Taiwan that offers a taste of “home away from home” for every nationality out there, be you an American, Aussie, Brit, Canadian, German, Irishman/woman, and more. Of course, the only challenge is uncovering these nooks and crannies, which leads us to the next point.
5. Roll With an Actual Local
The best possible way to do Taiwan like a local, is to hang with an actual local. Traditional tour guide services treat you like a tourist, whereas a true local and independent guide will be at your side not only to take you to preferred destinations on the island, but to be a temporary companion who will teach you the ins and outs of the land and its people. They will teach you the lingo (as needed), take you to secret spots only locals know about, and give you tips to navigating through the nuances of Taiwan all on your own. In almost all cases, travelers becomes friends with their Loci Amica local guide, forming a relationship that will last for years to come. It all starts when you book the tour. Learn more about how it works here and feel free to reach out to us with any questions you may have at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join us today and find out what it’s really like to do Taiwan like a local.