Some say a trip to Taiwan isn’t complete without Tainan, and I completely agree. Get all the know-hows in this Tainan travel guide.
This Tainan travel guide is a cumulation of my visits over the years. In the four years I lived in Taipei as an expat, I found myself yearning for a getaway to the southern city of Tainan every so often.
Tainan is like the elder sibling in the family, wise and cultured, with an inward beauty that is often overshadowed by its younger, livelier sister cities. And yet, for those seeking an immersive experience in history and the street food culture, or simply to get away for the weekend with some lovely photos to show, Tainan seems to have it all, unabashedly proud and generous, a hallmark of the southern hospitality.
I mean, where else can you find monuments that quite literally defined the history of Taiwan, humble street food that claimed the international stage, and spectacular sights that will make your social media feed the envy of all your friends?
If this is your first time visiting the southern city, I suggest starting with this Tainan travel guide. Take a look at your transportation and accommodation options, and save the map to know where all the good stuff is. Then, depending on your purpose for the trip, read the more in-depth travel guides for history & culture, food, and photo ops.
Taiwan’s bigger cities are well-connected by a number of systems such as the HSR (High Speed Rail), TRA (Taiwan Railways), and buses. There is of course also the option of driving along nearly the entire coast, a 300km trip, if departing from Taipei.
This is a good option if you enjoy road trips and are planning on slowly making your way around the island. Otherwise, there are plenty of public transportation options for you to get around effortlessly.
Travel time: 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours
- On the HSR homepage, enter ‘Taipei’ and ‘Tainan’ as your starting and end points to check fare and timetable.
- Enter the same information in the online booking system and select the desired class and train.
- Enter contact information and confirm booking.
- Keep your reservation number and ID number handy for pick up at the ticketing window, or at convenience stores. Payment can be made online and in-person.
- Purchase an early bird ticket up to 28 days prior for as much as 35% off. Also check for discounts for select credit cards.
- Short-term foreign visitors relying on the HSR and TRA should check out the rail passes for the best deals.
Travel time: 3 hours and 3 minutes to 9 hours and 5 minutes
- The duration and fare vary greatly depending on train type (Chu-Kuang, Tze-Chiang, Puyuma) and line (mountain or coast). Make sure to use the search on the homepage to check for your best options.
- Enter your passport number, desired stations and train time/code on the booking page.
Retain the booking code and pay online or at pick-up (TRA ticketing windows and convenience stores).
- As with the HSR, short-term visitors can purchase a TR pass for the TRA, or a joint pass for travels on both the HSR and the TRA.
Travel time: around 4 hours and 20 minutes
- There are many bus operators to choose from. I recommend using this page for an overview of bus companies and routes.
- For booking and more information on specific buses, check with their websites or visit the counter at either bus terminal: Taipei Bus Station or Taipei City Hall Bus Station.
- The following are main bus operators with routes from Taipei to Tainan:
Where to stay
Depending on your budget and travel style, Tainan offers a myriad of options for hotels, hostels, motels etc., all quite affordable for friendly services as well as amenities. Staying close to the city centre will allow you to get around easily and make the most of everything that the city has to offer.
Family & solo backpacker
Friendly service and pleasant stay right on Shennong St.
Couples & solo backpacker
Fully serviced hotel & hostel with a beautiful rooftop terrace
Tainan, in my opinion, is best experienced on the good ol’ scooter. Unless you are venturing outside of the city centre, a car might prove troublesome as you’d have to navigate through narrow streets and combat parking issues. However, a private tour with an English guide removes some of those worries. That being said, there are plenty of beautiful nature spots in nearby areas, like the Tsengwen Reservoir, that’s worth the drive.
For urban explorations, you won’t want to miss the nooks and crannies of the city, so it’s best to travel on foot, scooter, or bicycle.
Tainan offers its own rideshare T-Bike, with a phone holder and basket. You can find stations throughout the city and easily register for use with a credit card.
Scooter is a popular way to experience Tainan due to its mobility and ease of use. Typically, a scooter of 150cc would get you plenty far with no problems except for a sore rear. You’ll want to check with the rental place for limits on the distance though.
And that, my friend, is the city map with the abovementioned transportation and accommodation options, PLUS all of my personal recommendations for places you’ll want to check out for a culture & history immersion, food, lots of food, and plenty of photo ops for your ‘gram.