I’m lucky to have been able to spend two months travelling in Taiwan. I’ve visited in the sweltering summer months and chilly wintertime. I’ve spent time on the beaches, in the mountains, and around the countryside.
In other words, I have a lot to share about how to pack correctly for your time in this wonderful place. This blog post is going to share it all.
Note: this packing list is aimed at women and covers what to wear on a trip to Taiwan. It also contains affiliate links.
Which Luggage Should You Take With You?
When it comes to travel in Taiwan, you won’t need to bring a huge amount of stuff with you. Temperatures are mild in winter and sweltering in summer, so you won’t need to worry about packing bulky coats and heavy shoes. While Taiwanese people do dress relatively conservatively, it’s not to the point of being extreme and you can wander around in a vest top during the hot and humid months.
When you combine the few essentials you need for travel in Taiwan with the hassle of busy streets, bustling food markets, and train stations without escalators or elevators, it’s best to travel with a carry-on backpack. While you can travel in Taiwan with a roller suitcase, it’s probably going to be annoying as hell on travel days.
I’m a big fan of the Osprey Farpoint 40l backpack, and take it on all of my adventures, whether I’m spending two weeks in Japan or six months in the South Pacific. It’s super-comfortable to wear, easy to pack, and has plenty of compartments to help you keep your belongings organised. Osprey offers a lifetime guarantee for all of their backpacks, which makes opting for one a no-brainer.
If you’re not a fan of backpacks, a suitable alternative is the Osprey Sojourn, which is a backpack and suitcase in one. You’ll be able to comfortably wheel your backpack around the country, then wear it as a backpack when you come across a series of steps or a seriously chaotic street.
What about a day pack?
You’re not going to want to wear your backpack while you’re exploring Taipei or Taroko Gorge, so that’s why I recommend bringing a daypack with you on your trip.
Enter this teeny-tiny backpack that packs up to the size of an apple.
Despite its tiny size, this daypack still surprisingly strong, holding a two-litre bottle of water, two SLR cameras, two phones, and a guidebook when I was exploring all over Japan last year. And it doesn’t look cheap and crinkly, either, as so many packable bags often do. I take this bad boy on every single one of my trips and appreciate that it doesn’t take up much space or weight in my luggage.
What to Wear for Your Time in Taiwan: A Guide for All Four Seasons
When it comes to spending time in Taiwan, you’re probably going to pack a whole bunch of different landscapes into your vacation: this place is so diverse! You’ve got enormous cities, bubbling hot springs, towering mountains, beautiful beaches, vast lakes, and quirky temples to explore. Fortunately, you can wear similar clothes for many of these places and activities.
What to wear in summer:
Summer in Taiwan is hot, with an average temperature of 30 degrees throughout June, July, and August. This is also the monsoon season, so you can expect occasional thunderstorms, too. Here’s what I recommend wearing during summer:
- Two strap tops: Taiwan is so humid in summer, so you’re going to want to wear lightweight, thin tops to stay as cool as possible. I pack a couple of spaghetti strap tops for those days where I can’t bear the thought of wearing anything larger.
- Three tank tops: For much the same reasons as why I bring strap tops, I pack a handful of tank tops to give me some variety with my clothes.
- Three t-shirts: While there are no rules around covering up at temples in Taiwan, I tend to dress a little more conservatively if I know I’m going to be hitting any up on a particular day. T-shirts are also good for cloudy days or if you feel uncomfortable showing any more skin.
- One dressy top: Taiwan has some great restaurants, so if you feel like mixing things up and skipping the night markets for an evening, having a single option for those fancier experiences is something you won’t regret packing.
- Three dresses: I like to spend most of my time in hot countries in dresses to stay cool. Three is the right amount for me.
- One kaftan: I like the selection they have on Free People. This is good for covering up and protecting yourself from the sun on beach days.
- One bikini: If you plan on heading to the hot springs in Beitou and hitting up the mixed-gender pool, want to work some beach time into your itinerary, or simply booked a hotel or apartment with a swimming pool, some swimwear is a must. I tend to spend more time in the mountains than on the sand while I’m in Taiwan, so one swimsuit is enough for me.
- One pair of denim shorts and a pair of bike shorts: It’s so hot that I usually live in shorts in Taiwan. I give myself two options, bringing some denim shorts and a pair of longer bike shorts.
- A poncho/rain jacket: The rain in Taiwan isn’t in any way chilly, so I usually just cram a poncho into my daypack to deal with those rain showers. If you have an aversion to looking like you’re wearing a garbage bag, pack a thin, breathable rain jacket. Most hotels, guesthouses, hostels, and apartments provided guests with umbrellas, so I wouldn’t bother bringing your own with you.
- One outfit to keep you warm: Lows in the summer months are usually around 18 degrees, so most people won’t feel the need to pack anything like jeans and a fleece. Instead, pack a lightweight Marino long-sleeved top and some thin leggings.
- Enough underwear for the length of the trip: For me, this is two bras, five pairs of socks, and seven pairs of underwear. If I’m travelling for longer than a week, I’ll either pay to get laundry done or use my travel laundry bar and stain remover to wash my clothes in the sink.
Shoes with fantastic grip are a must. I’m a big fan of multi-tasking when it comes to shoes, so I’d recommend limiting the amount you bring to three.
- Flip-flops: I travel with these tropical-themed Havianas and love how comfortable they are. I use flip-flops on beach days and short wanders through the local cities in the evenings.
- Comfortable sandals: If you plan on spending a lot of time in the sea or the mountains, you might want to invest in some hardy sandals from Teva. I’ve travelled with, and really like, these ones. You can use them to protect from sea urchins in the water, comfortably hike in lightweight shoes, and even wear them while sightseeing. I dress a little more casual than most when travelling, so these Teva sandals are pretty much all I wear on my feet in Taiwan.
- Something for evening meals: I really like taking tennis shoes, like these low-top Converse sneakers in pastel shades to wear for dressing up, especially as they’ll give me a little more grip on the slippery streets than strappy sandals. If you plan on hitting up high-end restaurants and dressing up while you’re in Taiwan, take something you know you’ll be happy wearing. You know your style better than I do!
Accessories for Taiwan
Sunglasses: This is fairly self-explanatory! If you’re planning a summer trip to Taiwan, you can expect to need sunglasses while you’re out exploring.
Quick-dry travel towel: I absolutely adore mine! My Sea to Summit towel in extra large has been the perfect travel companion for the past eight years. It’s the size of a satsuma, weighs next to nothing, dries within minutes, and lasts for years.
Medications to Pack for Taiwan
In general, I don’t recommend travelling with a hefty first aid kit unless you’re planning on venturing well and truly off the beaten track, which you’re unlikely to do in Taiwan. You’ll be able to get all of the same medication as you can back home while you’re in Taiwan, so don’t worry about bringing absolutely everything with you for every eventuality.
Still, there are certain medicines it’s useful to have on hand at all times. Here’s what I keep in my limited first aid kit:
- Dramamine: I suffer from motion sickness, so always make sure to have some tablets on hand. For most people, you won’t need any of these for the bus or train rides — I’m just especially susceptible to movement.
- Painkillers: There’s nothing worse than having to venture out in the humidity in search of a pharmacy when you’re dealing with an agonising headache. That’s why I always travel with a dozen painkillers when I travel, usually half a dozen acetaminophen tablets and half a dozen ibuprofen.
- Imodium: Unfortunately, travel isn’t always incredible for our stomachs, and travellers’ diarrhoea can sometimes threaten to ruin our vacations. I always keep Imodium on hand for any times when the local food doesn’t agree with me. It’s been a life-saver on days when I’ve needed to get on a bus and wouldn’t have otherwise been able to leave the bathroom. I also recommend packing some DripDrop rehydration sachets in case you get felled by food poisoning or sun stroke.
- Anti-histamines: I’m a very reactive person, so anti-histamines are a must for me! I always bring half a dozen tablets with me in case I break out in hives or start sneezing all over the country.
- Band-aids: You don’t want to get an infection while travelling in Taiwan, so you’ll want to bring a couple of bandaids and a small tube of antiseptic cream for any cuts or grazes you may get.
Essential Travel Technology for Taiwan
Let’s be honest: no technology is truly essential when it comes to travel, but whether we like it or not, it sure does help make our trips easier.
- A smartphone: I travel with an iPhone XS, but there’s no real need to upgrade your phone for your trip to Taiwan — just take whatever you normally use at home. If you’re from the U.S., ensure your phone is unlocked and pick up a local Taiwanese SIM card once you arrive to gain access to cheap data.
- A camera: My main camera these days is the Sony A7ii with a 28-70mm lens, along with a couple of 32 GB SanDisk SD cards. At $2,000 for the full set-up, this is pricey AF, but I highly recommend it if you’re looking to invest in a mirrorless system. If you’re not into photography, just bring whatever camera you usually use on holiday, or use your smartphone to take photos.
- A Kindle Paperwhite: Now this is something I won’t consider travelling without. I’m a voracious reader when I travel, and a Kindle allows me to power through a travel memoir a day without adding weight to my luggage. And if you’re looking for reading material, obviously How Not to Travel the World is a travel memoir classic. I’m also a superfan of Love With a Chance of Drowning, Wild, In a Sunburned Country, Canoeing the Congo, Travels With Myself and Another, Marching Powder, The Alchemist, The Geography of Bliss, What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding… I’d also recommend grabbing a Kindle copy of Lonely Planet Taiwan — it’s the best-reviewed Taiwan guidebook, was published in 2017, and is one of only a few you can read digitally.
- A laptop/tablet: Most of you won’t need to bring your laptop with you. I work online as I travel, so this is an essential for me, but if you don’t think you’ll have a use for it, save on weight and space and leave it at home. If you have a tablet, this could be a good compromise, so that you can watch TV shows on it in the evenings.
- Various chargers/adapters: Taiwan has the same electrical standard as the US and Canada: 110V. Make sure you bring this universal travel adapter with you if you’re from elsewhere!
Toiletries for a Trip to Taiwan
If you’re going to be travelling with carry-on luggage, you’ll need to be cautious here, as you’ll have to make sure any liquids you travel with are under 100ml. Regardless, I’m always trying to reduce my environmental impact, so plenty of these suggestions will help you, too.
- Bamboo toothbrush and toothpaste: I invested in a bamboo toothbrush recently to cut down on my plastic consumption, and I’m obsessed with the offerings from B-Earthly. Their toothbrushes are biodegradable, comfortable to use, great for sensitive teeth, come with a travel case, and have a built-in tongue-cleaner. I combine mine with Crush&Brush toothpaste tablets, which come in zero-waste packaging and biodegradable dental floss.
- A razor: I get my hair lasered, so I don’t have to shave very often, but I usually pack one reusable razor for each trip.
- Deodorant: This is a travel essential if you plan on travelling in Taiwan through the hot and sweaty summer months! I love the Organic Island solid deodorant bar. It’s plastic-free, biodegradable, and works just as well as traditional deodorants. The fact that it’s not a liquid will please all of my fellow carry-on travellers out there!
- Sunscreen: You’ll get through a hell of a lot of sunscreen if you’re planning on visiting Taiwan in summer — fun fact: I managed to land myself with severe dehydration after my first day in Taipei in September, so sun protection and hydration is going to be so important. To be honest, you’ll get through so much sunscreen in Taiwan that I’d recommend picking some up after you arrive so that you can travel with a bigger bottle.
- Solid shampoo and conditioner: I love LUSH’s solid shampoo bars — they leave my hair feeling soft and shiny, are super-lightweight and small, and last me over six months when using them continuously! Because they’re so small, I’d definitely recommend picking up some solid conditioner, too — that salt water can really mess up your hair. The cork pots that are sold by LUSH are perfect for storing your bars as you travel.
- A small bar of soap: I usually grab a bar of soap from LUSH before a trip, too. I love their products and the fact that they’re packaging-free. A bar of soap will last me for an entire trip and also means I don’t add to my liquid limit with shower gels.
- Tangle Teezer: I’ve been traveling with a Tangle Teezer since I first started traveling, and it was a lifesaver in Taiwan! It’s the only hairbrush I’ve found that can get rid of all of all of the knots in my wild, curly hair.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
If you’ve read any other posts on Never Ending Footsteps, you’ll know that I’m a great believer in travelling with travel insurance. I’ve seen far too many Go Fund Me campaigns from destitute backpackers that are unexpectedly stranded in a foreign country after a scooter accident/being attacked/breaking a leg with no way of getting home or paying for their healthcare. In short, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.
Travel insurance will cover you if your flight is cancelled and you need to book a new one, if your luggage gets lost and you need to replace your belongings, if you suddenly get struck down by kidney stones and have to be hospitalised, have your camera stolen and need to buy a replacement, or discover a family member has died while you’re overseas and now you need to get home immediately. If you fall seriously ill, your insurance will cover the costs to fly you home to receive medical treatment.
I’ve used World Nomads as my travel insurance provider since 2012 and have nothing but wonderful things to say about them.
What Not to Pack for a Trip to Taiwan
A money belt: There’s no travel item I despise more than a money belt, and I very much recommend leaving yours at home. Why? Because they don’t work! Thieves know what money belts are and they know to look for them. When a friend was mugged while travelling, the first thing the attacker did was lift up her shirt and check for a money belt.
So not are they uncomfortable and weird and make it look like you store your valuables in your underwear, but they don’t even protect you from being robbed.
Instead of travelling with a money belt, I recommend splitting up your money and credit cards before you travel. Keep an emergency 200 TWD in your shoe, put some of your money in your wallet, keep a card in your daypack, and some extra cash in a pocket. You’ll be a lot safer by doing this.
High heels: Leave the heels behind and opt for some sandals with a good grip.
Too much make-up: I’m all about that beauty life, but I’ll hold my hands up here and confess that I always pack far too much make-up on my trips. For some reason, I always assume I’m going to want to put on a full face of primer, foundation, concealer, eyeliner, lashes… when the reality is that it’s often so hot in Taiwan that the last thing I want is products on my face. Instead, keep your products to a minimum: I like to pack some bronzer, mascara, a quad of neutral eyeshadows (I like the Flirt palette from Tarte), some highlighter, and lip gloss. I’ll throw a couple of vibrant nail polishes in there, too, and that’s about it for my beauty bag.