Before moving to Taiwan I was under the assumption that it would never get cold here. But it does! Never in a million years had I thought that I had to wear a winter coat, thick sweaters and boots, but well, I do. I want to make sure that you have all the information you need to survive and even enjoy(!) Taiwan’s cold winters.
First things first, what can you expect of Taiwan’s winter? One thing to take in mind is the weather, obviously. During the winter in Taiwan it can get as cold as 10 degrees Celsius, but the average temperature is more like 15~20 degrees. This doesn’t sound all too cold, but there can be some hard cold winds and you can experience quite a few rainy days. Some places in the mountains even get snow!
If you go to Taiwan’s more southern parts you will find that it’s warmer than all the way up north. Taipei is one of the places that gets the coldest during winter. Warmer places are Tainan or Kenting, both very nice holiday destinations. In the more southern places the temperature usually stays above 20 degrees Celsius.
I myself live in the mountains of Taipei: Yangmingshan National Park. Up where I live the average temperature in winter is more like 10~15 degrees, which is pretty cold. This is probably something you want to keep in mind when going for a hike in Yangmingshan. Dress warm! It’s better to be able to take something extra off than to feel really cold all the time.
If you're lucky you will also experience some warm winter days when in Taiwan. The weather can change very quickly. You may find yourself wearing a sweater one day, and shorts the other!
Maybe you’re the type of person that loves cold weather, don’t forget to visit Taipei in winter then! But you might as well be the type of person that hates cold weather (like me). Either way, I got you covered.
There are a ton of activities you can do in Taipei that will keep you warm during the winter. One of my absolute favorites is going to a hot spring!
There are several hot springs in the Taipei area, all of them can be found in Beitou district or in Yangmingshan.
The Beitou hot springs are very accessible by MRT or bus. This is how it works:
You pay 40NTD when entering the facility. After paying the entrance fee you are allowed to spend unlimited time and use all facilities. There are two hot springs, two cold baths, changing cabins, restrooms and showers! And all of that for 40NTD!
Find the Beitou hot springs here: https://goo.gl/maps/QzCdvtwmm6NRDGWK9
If you like your privacy you can also choose to stay in one of the many so called ‘hot spring hotels’. In these hotels you can rent a room for the night and enjoy your own very private hot spring in your own hotel room! In this case you can also adjust the water temperature by adding cold water to your hot spring water, this is not the case at the Beitou hot springs.
Another winter favorite of mine is eating hot pot. You can do this at an all-you-can-eat hot pot restaurant or at a more expensive restaurant where you choose what meats, seafood or vegetables you want to order. The meat quality is usually a little higher if you go to the latter, but the quality at the all-you-can-eat restaurants is not bad either.
Going to an all-you-can-eat hot pot has a few perks. It is not only all-you-can-eat, but also all-you-can- drink soda and beer, and all-you-can-eat dessert and ice cream! Most of the time they also have some prepared dishes like noodles or clams.
If you want to do something more local, I got you. In every district you can find these small restaurants with very small tables and chairs and big pots of soup. These are ginger duck restaurants.
Ginger duck or 薑母鴨(jiangmuya), is a somewhat spicy ginger soup with a whole duck in it(the duck is chopped into pieces). You can order different meats and vegetables with it and cook these in the soup, or you can choose to only eat the duck and duck meatballs that are already in the soup. I would recommend to at least get a plate of cabbage, it goes really well with it. the soup and duck.
When at a ginger duck restaurant you will probably see Taiwanese families or small group of older men sitting there. And sometimes you will hear some people shout ‘ganbei’ (乾杯), this means cheers. Very often you will be able to see a few big bottles of Taiwan beer sitting on the table and some old men pouring the drinks in their tiny beer cups. After every refill they will shout this again. The later it gets, the louder they say it. Definitely an experience worth having if you want to get to know Taiwan’s local life.
What to pack
Packing a suitcase can sometimes be hard, especially if you're not sure what the weather is going to be like exactly. My advice is to dress in layers. Bring some shorts, some t-shirts, but also jeans/pants and a thick sweater. If you plan on going to a hot spring, don't forget your swimming suit. And if you like hiking, make sure you bring those boots with you.
Some other things you might want to bring with you or buy upon arrival are an umbrella or a rain poncho, some sunscreen and flipflops. Why flipflops? Taiwanese people have found the perfect way to deal with heavy rains: just wear flipflops so your shoes don't get wet!
I hope you are now prepared and ready to enjoy Taiwan's winters. Maybe I will see you soon.
Let me know what you like to do in Winter and I will give you some tips on how to do just that in Taiwan!