It was January in 2013 and I had just made the decision to bump up my move to Taiwan sooner. I scoured the internet and could not find any particular list that would help me pack for my move. The only information I had was from a friend already living there about what to bring, but even that was limited. Taiwan may be a member of the South East Asian community, but its climate and cities are very different from its neighbors. I had found articles about China, Thailand, and the Philippines. Looking back, none of these travel guides truly helped me prepare for my move to Taiwan.
So whether you are moving or simply traveling to Taiwan, here is what you need to know about packing appropriately.
What to Bring:
1. Summer Wear: Taiwanese summers are hot and incredibly humid; think Texas or Florida during summer. If you will be here during the warm weather, pack a good variety of shorts, skirts, tank tops, and loose fitting t-shirts. Plan on being a tad sweaty and wanting clothes that breathe well. Taiwanese culture is fairly open to shorts and more revealing clothing. As long as you are fairly modestly dressed in your summer clothes, you will be fine. There are certain temples or other places where capris would be more appropriate to wear. Always check your planned itinerary to ensure that your choices are acceptable.
2. Winter Wear: If you plan on being in Taiwan during the winter, bring clothes you can layer. Sweaters, longer coats, and scarves make for great pieces that you can mix and match. Moving here, I brought one trench coat and one warmer coat. With the effect of layering, I survive winter just fine.
3. Pull-Over Sweaters: Regardless of season, bring a pull-over sweater or two. In the warmer months, buses and MRT stations tend to have the air conditioning cranked up. Coming in from the heat, you might find that these journeys can cause you to experience sudden chills. Pull-over sweaters keep you from getting sick in sudden temperature changes. They also help when you need to cover your shoulders or chest for modesty. In cooler temperatures, pull-over sweaters keep you fairly warm even indoors. Indoor heating is not always available or turned on. Pull-over sweaters allow you to ditch the heavy coats indoors.
4. Deodorant: Whether moving or traveling, you should bring (or stock up on) stick deodorant. You will use deodorant A LOT in Taiwan, especially if you plan to be walking or exploring. Stores here only sell roll-on or sprays. I force my mom to bring me several sticks when she comes to visit, in exchange for a dinner out!
5. Tampons: This one is for the ladies, sorry guys! If you prefer tampons over pads, stock up on these before your trip to Taiwan as stores do not sell any tampon varieties.
6. Walking shoes: Mix up your shoe collection. Bring a pair of sandals, flip flops, sneakers, boots, and flats. However, all of your shoes should be durable and comfortable as you will be doing a lot of walking. My advice, leave your most beloved shoes at home. Shoes do not last long in Taiwan! No worries, the night markets have tons of shoe vendors! There are also Reefs, Sanuk, and popular sport shoe distributors all over Taiwan. My Sanuk flip-slops have literally been a godsend! (Note: If you are a woman with a larger shoe size, consider bringing a few extra pairs of shoes or asking for them as gifts from abroad; Asian have smaller feet and their shoe sizes tend to run on the smaller end)
7. Beauty and Body Products: Taiwan has a wide variety of beauty products, but often I find that they do not have products that I prefer. This is especially true for shampoo and conditioner. I have chemically-produced blonde hair and have to have relatives ship me shampoo and conditioner from the U.S. As for my make-up, some of my brands such as Lancome do have stores here, but I find their prices to be higher than the United States. So, if you have any products that you just can’t live without, stock up.
8. Bras: Good quality bras are so difficult to find in Taiwan without paying a small fortune. If moving here, stock up on a good collection to bring that will last a while. If you are simply traveling here, bring bras that are easy to rinse or do well with sweat. So maybe bring three bras or so to rotate through.
9. Prescription Medicines and Over the Counter Necessities: Medicine is hard to come by easily for those just passing through. It is even harder to get large quantities of medicine. Most of the time, doctors will only dispense a week worth of medicine without another trip to the doctor’s for a check-up. Also, bring a solid supply of medicine such as Pepto Bismo. Taiwan offers such delicious food, but even the most experienced eater will experience some stomach sensitivity. Pepto Bismo is not sold here and unless you are well-versed in Chinese, finding a substitute can be challenging. I prefer the tablets because I can throw them into my purse or backpacks.
10. Hand Sanitizer: If you are just stopping by the island for a short time, pack hand sanitizer! Between both public transportation and the normal encounter with humans, hand sanitizer will help keep you healthy and germ-free in your travels. If you are moving, pack a bottle to last until you have a chance to go to the supermarket for the first time. I go through a bottle a week as I sanitize after every public transportation ride and before meals. I also use it regularly after handling students’ homework assignments. I hate being sick, especially with no one here to baby me.
11. Rain Jacket: You will need this! Especially if you hate carrying umbrellas like me. Rain jackets are tiny miracles that take up very little space but can be appropriate in so many situations.
What to Bring in Little or No Quantities:
1. Jeans: Bring a few pairs of jeans, especially if moving to Taiwan. However, there are stores like Net that sell good quality jeans. Taiwanese style includes lots of colorful pants or leggings. Plan on buying some pants beyond the demin wash when here and save your luggage space for your beauty and body products!
2. Purses and Backpacks: Night markets have so many of these cheap! Bring one or two to start you off but honestly, just buy these as you need them, locally.
3. DSLR Camera & Equipment or Digital Cameras: If you have your own, definitely bring them. If you were interested in expanding your electronic selection, wait until after you get here! There are entire streets and building dedicated to selling this equipment. Sometimes you get better deals than back home. In fact, I recommend buying a portable phone power bank while you are here. Affordable and so convenient! Back home, these are still luxury accessories with premium costs.
4. Heels: Ladies, I love shoes as much as you do, but only bring a few pairs of heels. Taiwanese infrastructure is not so friendly. I would pack a few pairs of lower heels that are both comfortable and easy to match with clothing. Solid colors, like black or even a pop of red, work best. Even in Taipei, there are so many areas where walking in heels is so tricky. Plus, coming home to your favorite heels still in pristine condition is like waking up on Christmas morning!
5. Clothes that are delicate or hard to wash: Washing here is not as effective as back home. Washers are not always the greatest at removing grime. Further, many residences do not contain a dryer. I am lucky that my building has a dryer; however, it will not completely dry my heavier stuff such as jeans and towels. In order to avoid the wet dog smell, many people hang their clothes up to dry. Which means that smart laundry planning and rotation is necessary to allow for drying. Be mindful to the types of fabric you are bringing as washers and dryers lack as many setting as those found in machines back home. Leave any delicate fabrics at home or wear them just as often as you can keep up with washing them by hand.
Overall, if you are moving to Taiwan, save your luggage space for products that are hard to find in Asia by leaving a good chunk of your wardrobe at home. I promise that you can find clothing here to replace what you left at home. Taiwanese style can be very casual, which makes finding closet replacement pieces very easy. I do recommend paying for an extra bag of luggage for your flight, that way you can bring extra supplies of beauty and body products.
If you are only passing through Taiwan in your travels, plan to do lots of walking, eating, and sweating. Pack for layers as well as comfort. Do not weigh down your bags with large amounts of dressy clothes or a ton of outfit changes. Even if you find that you need an extra shirt or pair of leggings, the night market will help you find something quick and cheap.
♥ Happy packing!