Like many Asian countries, shopping in Taiwan is almost never simply a means to an end, but an end in itself. Shopping may take place in a number of different venues under a wide variety of circumstances, but it is usually done as a group activity when there may not be much else to do.
If you don’t have much time to shop in Taiwan…
Many travelers to Taiwan don’t have a lot of time to travel around Taiwan and mainly stick to Taipei. Maybe you’re just here on transit, or you simply came for a short business trip. Whatever the reason for your trip to Taiwan, you should still try to make some room in your schedule for some shopping. Here are the some mandatory places to shop in Taiwan’s capital city:
Shilin Night Market
MRT Jiantan Station
Shilin is the biggest night market in the city (many say it’s the biggest in Taiwan), so if you’ve only got time for one, spend a few hours here. It’s big and scary, so try not to get lost. Visit Shilin on an empty stomach.
Taipei 101 Mall
MRT Taipei City Hall; No. 45, Shifu Rd.
The building of Taipei 101 wasn’t just built to look good; inside, it’salso a massive upscale mall. Visiting the 101 shopping center should be on top of your “shopping in Taiwan” list if you’re into department stores. The 101 mall includes Page One, a great place to find English books and magazines.
Zhonxgiao E. Road
MRT Zhonxgiao Fuxing Station
If you are lover of all things fashion, Zhongxiao E. Road is the place for you. While the huge SOGO department stores offer the majority of famous international brands, the small alleys and streets behind them are bursting at the seams with independent and mom-and-pop retail operations. These small stores usually bring fashion in from Korea or Japan, or sometimes they make and design the clothes themselves. Look for the area north of Zhonxiao E. Road from Fuxing S. Road all the way to Guangfu S. Road.
Shopping for something specific in Taiwan
If you’re looking for something specific, there is a bit of a quirk to the way Taiwan’s shops are organized. Vendors that sell the same kind of things – school supplies, shoes, clothes, housewares, etc. – tend to place themselves in close proximity to one another, so that you may have an entire city neighborhood dedicated to the sale of furniture. Don’t expect, as you might in your home country, to find a huge range of different types of shops right next to one another. This makes it convenient if you’re, say, trying to find a new couch, but if you want a more open-ended kind of shopping it may not be the best situation for you.
Night Markets in Taiwan
Taiwan’s endless night markets offer wares as mundane as Converse shoes and as off-the-wall as bottled snake blood. This is where most Taiwanese enjoy “window shopping,” slowly browsing and looking around without any kind of obvious intent to actually make a purchase. Taiwanese night markets in bigger cities like Taipei, Kaohsiung, and Taichung tend to specialize a bit – some are better for clothing, some for food, some for little knickknacks and things of interest to tourists.
So, before making a shopping trip to a night market in Taipei be sure to ask what it’s like and what you can find there. In small-town night markets, you should be able to find anything you need, thousands of things you don’t and hundreds of things you never knew existed. Be aware that night markets in Taiwan can be a big time investment as the bigger ones move excruciatingly slowly on busy weekends, and it’s usually difficult to escape once you’re in the fray.
Famous things to buy in Taiwan
The things that Taiwan is most famous for selling – and that Taiwanese seem to buy the most – are clothes, fake and real jade, shoes and a lot of domestically grown tea. Many tourists also like to visit Taiwan’s technology markets, which are essentially huge malls dedicated to the sale of all things electronic. However, the prices at these markets are rarely much lower than in the West, and unless you want to go for the experience (which is fairly interesting) it’s not worth it for any kinds of special deals.
Black market in Taiwan
The Taiwanese black market is relatively small, so don’t expect, as many do, to find that Louis Vuitton bag you always wanted for 5% of the retail price. There are endless fakes and knock-offs of purses, phones, shoes, clothing, etc., but it’s very rare to find stolen goods. That’s not to say that it doesn’t happen, so in the same vein try not to be surprised if your watch salesman suddenly closes up shop and takes off down an alley.
Haggling is acceptable
As for prices, you may be disappointed to know that shopping in Taiwan is not really that much cheaper than doing so in Western countries, particularly if you’re in Taipei. If you disagree with somebody’s price at a night market or otherwise makeshift establishment, haggling is acceptable but it probably won’t get you very far. The rule in India is to start at an absurdly low 25% of the asking price and build up from there, but in Taiwan you’ll be lucky to get a 20% discount on anything. It’s worth a shot though, and nobody will be particularly offended if you go for it.
Shopping in Taipei
Taipei is a shopper’s dream, with its multitude of department stores, night markets and little alleyways that snake around filled with boutiques and shops. Learn about Taipei’s many shopping districts like Ximending, Daan, Xinyi, and Zhongxiao East Road. Read about the Taipei 101 Mall. Find out where to buy antiques, books, jade souvenirs, traditional Chinese gifts, and more…
Shopping in Taichung
Shopping in Taichung, in the central part of Taiwan, can be fun if you know where to go. Some little-known places such as Yizhong Street and the two jade markets could also be listed as attractions for all the hustle and bustle they provide.
Online Shopping in Taiwan – Yahoo Auction
More for expats than travelers, Yahoo Auction (Kimo) is the place to shop for used stuff like furniture, scooters, cars, computers, cameras, and other electronics. The site is in Chinese only, so you’ll need to have a Taiwanese friend with you to check for deals.