When it comes to welcoming gay travelers, Taiwan is the only place in Asia that we think tops Thailand. They even have a temple dedicated to a gay god!
Taiwan is super gay – it has the largest gay Pride in Asia, it was the first place in Asia to legalize gay marriage and has a massive gay scene in Taipei. That's before we've even mentioned the delicious food, breathtaking scenery and really friendly charming Taiwanese people – who will make you smile every time you speak to them!
In short, Taiwan gave us everything we wanted from our Asian gaycation. We'd go back in a heartbeat and know you will want to as well. Regardless of whether or not you're a seasoned traveler or maybe thinking about your first adventure, Taiwan is a place to consider. In this gay country guide to Taiwan, we've put together our fabulous discoveries from our adventures together with safety advice, culinary inspiration and the best gay events to seek out.
How to get Internet in Taiwan?
Before heading off, don't forget to pre-order your pocket WiFi so you can stay online throughout your time in Taiwan. Pocket WiFi will save you a lot of money on roaming fees and ensure you can share all those pics on Insta! For more info, check out our comprehensive guide to renting pocket WiFi in Taiwan.
Gay rights in Taiwan
The first thing to note is that gay rights in Taiwan are very progressive. More progressive than some Western countries so we even rate it as one of the most gay friendly places in the world. It's no wonder that Taiwan is so welcoming to LGBTQ travelers. This was immediately apparent to us from the moment we touched down at Taipei's airport. We never had any issues whatsoever and we felt so comfortable while we were travelling around.
As of May 2019 gay couples are allowed to marry. This was naturally met with joyous celebration both in Taiwan and in Asia because it was the first place on the entire continent to ever legalise gay marriage! In addition, all members of the LGBTQ community are fully protected by law from discrimination. This has been in written into the constitution since 2003. And one of the first groups protected were the children. Schools could no longer discriminate based on their identity. If proved to be doing this, it results in a fine of NT$100,000 (roughly USD$3,000). This paved the way for young activists to grow up with this protection and march for the full rights that they now enjoy.
Alongside all of this, Taiwan offers full rights to transgender individuals. So as you can imagine, a pretty sweet place to be LGBTQ in Asia! For a more local perspective, check out our interview with Mr Gay Taiwan.
Is Taiwan safe for gay travelers?
As you may have inferred from our little jaunt into the legal system above with LGBTQ rights in Taiwan, it is very safe for gay travelers in Taiwan. As a gay couple traveling around Taiwan, we never had any issues at all. All the hotels we stayed at were super welcoming to us as a gay couple – you could tell they were accustomed to dealing with LGBTQ guests.
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We found that homosexuality is generally very visible across Taiwanese society and its culture, which is what has helped create the air of tolerance and diversity we experienced throughout the country. A large part of this is down to the country's main religions: Taoism and Buddhism, which believe that everything happens for a reason and so if a man falls in love with a man, then so be it. It's quite a beautiful philosophy that many of us could do with adopting in our lives!
As with every country in the world, there are always pockets of homophobia to be expected, particularly in rural areas and amongst the older members of society. The difference with the Taiwanese however, is that politeness is a cornerstone of society (like the Japanese), so even if they may not approve, they'd never dare express this publicly. Couple this with their laissez-faire attitude, the worst you'd ever get in Taiwan is the odd look.
Top experiences in Taiwan for gay travelers
Taiwan is not the largest country in the world. To give you an idea, it's about the same size as the Netherlands or a quarter the size of Florida. Despite its size, it's packed with so much to see and do, not to mention a fantastic gay scene in Taipei. In this section, we set out some of the top experiences in Taiwan for LGBTQ travelers:
Taipei: the bustling and super gay capital city
The capital city has plenty of things to do, including visiting one of the only places in the world where you can worship a gay god! The gay scene in Taipei is strong with plenty of nooks and crannies for you to explore to your little gay heart's content. There are great places for you to do your shopping like in the Wunhua district and lots of Night Markets to sample some of the best Taiwanese street food. Also, be sure to check out the iconic Taipei 101 tower.
Taroko National Park: the prettiest site in Taiwan
Taroko National Park is our favorite scenic highlight of Taiwan. Not-to-be missed, this place is stunning! The National Park contains the country's deepest gorge, which reaches a total depth of 18km (11 miles). Nestled into the gorge is Tianxiang, a small town with an impressive monastery. We also loved the Xiangde Buddhist Temple, which is decorated in a distinct blend of white, orange and gold. Getting to Taroko is another highlight – a very scenic train ride from Taipei.
Go Insta-crazy in the Rainbow Village of Taichung
Taichung is Taiwan's second city after Taipei, located on the central west side of the country. It's the perfect base to access the mountainous areas of central Taiwan as well as the Sun Moon Lake. Taichung is also a bustling cultural centre with lots of museums and beautiful temples. But what really got us excited was the rainbow village, a dwelling decorated in a myriad of colors by a former soldier nicknamed “Grandpa”. Taichung also has a small vibrant gay scene to check out with bars like Plaza and queer-friendly hangouts like No Boundary. See all the best bits in this day tour of Taichung.
Explore the romantic Love River in Kaohsiung
Located in the South of Taiwan, Kaohsiung is a port city famous for the Love River. By day, this wide languid river flows smoothly through the city with cruise ships crossing it, and dozens of cafes/restaurants open along the river bank. By night the river transforms into a stunning display of lights over water that makes for a truly romantic evening walk. In terms of a gay scene, like Taichung, Kaohsiung also has a small gay scene to check out with awesome hangouts like Eden's Secret and the Hi-Bar Club.
The Pingxi Lantern Festival in February
Launching our own lanterns into the sky easily ranks as one of our top experiences in Asia. It's quite a magical feeling that we got to experience at the Pingxi Lantern Festival in February. It's a tradition that dates back generations to the days when the city was plagued by bandits. Coupled with harsh winters, the locals would often retreat to the mountains. When the scouts would return to the village, they would release lanterns into the sky to let the villagers know it was safe to come back. Voila – the Pingxi Lantern Festival was born! If you visit Pingxi at other times you can still partake in the lantern tradition as well.
Jiufen: channel your anime fantasy
Located about an hour's taxi ride from Taipei, the super charming quaint village of Jiufen makes for the ideal day trip, or you could visit it at night for some extra magic. Jiufen is often thought of as being the inspiration for the beautiful movie Spirited Away (one of the anime classics that everyone should watch!) because of its narrow streets, convoluted alleyways and teashops. Our favourite was the famous A-Mei Teahouse (pictured). It's pretty unique because we could see the ocean from our little viewpoint, along with the Keelung Mountains.
Yangmingshan Park Volcano: the mountain of fire!
Want something a little more exciting? Why not travel to see Xiaoyoukeng? This is a smouldering volcano that translates to “mountain of fire”. From the moment we arrived, the smell of sulphur hit us and continued getting quite intense! Our most poignant memory of the volcano – out on the plains, there are little vents called fumaroles which release loose steaming sulphur. If you thought a jockstrap after a gym session and then left in the sun was bad, then you would be in for a rude awakening! Hiking in the Yangmingshan National Park is definitely an experience you won't forget…
Sun Moon Lake Swimming Carnival in September
The Sun Moon Lake is located at the foothills of the Central Mountain Range of Taiwan. It is the largest body of freshwater in Taiwan, home to an exciting swimming festival every September called The Sun and Moon Lake Swimming Carnival. The festival also includes fireworks, concerts and a laser-show. Outside of the festival, the Sun Moon Lake is a beautiful spot for hiking thanks to the reflective silver surface of the water glinting in the beaming sun and the wonderfully picturesque woodlands.
The Temples of Tainan: the spiritual heart of Taiwan
Tainan is located at the southern end of the country. For over 200 years it was the imperial capital city. Today is it recognised as not only the oldest city in Taiwan but the most spiritual place in the country with thousands of temples and shrines. The most famous is the Luermen’s Matsu Temple which is dedicated to Mazu, the Goddess of the Sea and patron Saint of Taiwan. It is honestly breathtaking. When we arrived, we were blown away with how grand it was! We joined this excellent spiritual culture tour to learn more about the temples in Tainan.
Some people get hard with erotica, others get hard with rocks. And if you're looking for something a little unusual, a visit to Yehliu Park may be for you. It's located around 45 minutes taxi ride (or 1.5-hour bus ride) from the western side of Taipei. Yehliu Park is filled with geological marvels. There are these formations called hoodoo stones (the best name ever right?). They are huge spikes of stone that reach right up into the sky. Couple that with the crashing ocean and you've got yourself a pretty breathtaking view!
Pride and other gay events in Taiwan
When it comes to Pride, Taiwan sure puts on a fantastic show. They host the largest in all of Asia, which we rate as one of the best gay Pride events in the world. Alongside Pride, Taiwan has heaps of other awesome queer events, which we summarise below to inspire your trip:
Taiwan Pride (October)
This is one bad boy of a show you do NOT want to miss! Every October, Taipei hosts the BIGGEST and BESTEST Pride event of the entire continent! Every year, no fewer than 200,000 people gather in the city's capital to celebrate our amazing LGBTQ community. The entire festival is a week of parties, talks, events and drag shows, which all culminates with a dramatic parade through the streets of Taipei. Not bad for what started as a modest protest back in 2003 with a mere few hundred souls!
Kaohsiung Pride (September)
The biggest gay party in South Taiwan! The pretty port city of Kaohsiung in the south of Taiwan hosts its own Pride event every September, which has been going strong since it started in 2009. It's a more low key “local” experience compared to the big Taipei Pride, which is part of its charm. One of the most iconic moments at Kaohsiung Pride was when the members of the parade held a mirror to spectators in a symbolic way to show that the way you treat others reflects on who you are as a person.
Taiwan International Queer Film Festival (October)
The Taiwan International Queer Film Festival (TIQFF) started in 2014 as a government-backed initiative to help promote LGBTQ movies in Taiwan. It takes place throughout October, coinciding with Taipei's Pride. The main event is the Global Queer Film Programming: a showing of up to 100 LGBTQ-themed movies from countries all over the world. The coolest thing we love most about the TIQFF is that it even reaches the rural parts of the country, so if you find yourself wandering through smaller villages, keep an eye out for some showings.
Looking to make more of a splash? Then maybe the Taipei Mega Dragon Boat Circuit Festival may be for you. This event takes place alongside the traditional Dragon Boat Festival. Spread out over 3 days are 4 events packed in. The first day is all about being like a star. You are to dress up in the flashiest outfit you have. The more you can shine, the better. The second day is split between 2 events. It starts up with a pool party and the dress code is sexy underwear! The last day is sexy underwear all the way. The locals want to see what you're packing. Get out there and represent!
New Year’s Eve (December 31st)
For the gayest party in Asia, we recommend either heading to gay Silom in Bangkok or to the Ximen Red House in Taipei. Most will head to the Taipei 101 Tower to see the impressive fireworks display, then head over to Ximen Red House to party. We love it because the entire Red House area evolves into one giant gay street party later into the night. There is usually a few Circuit parties taking place in Taipei over the NYE period organised by the G5 Taipei group.
Food and drinks in Taiwan
Eating in Taiwan is a genuine treat. As foodies, we knew we were going to have a pretty sweet time exploring Taiwan! The country has had a rich cultural influence from Japan and China, both of which have left their impact on the food. These are some of the best not-to-miss culinary prizes we loved in Taiwan and think you need to also add to your culinary bucket list:
Beef noodle soup: the national dish
Considered the national dish, this is a soup that you've got to try. It is actually a full meal, made with stewed beef, vegetables and Chinese noodles. These are filled with herbs and spices that explode in your mouth. There is ginger, star anise (one of the Chinese 5 spices), garlic, chilli and bok choy. Mix this with the glass noodles and you have yourself a truly rewarding dinner. If you really want to geek out, we recommend checking out the annual Beef Noodle Festival in November, where different chefs and restaurants compete for the honour of having the best Beef Noodles in the country!
Dumplings at Din Tai Fung
When it comes to dumplings, Taiwan nails it! On our first visit, we went straight to the Din Tai Fung restaurant (recommended by our local friends). It's one of the best places for dumplings we've even been to…they are divine! These delicately wrapped up bags of goodness can be mixed with anything, from pork, tofu, vegetables and prawn. They are usually served with a vinegar sauce, soy sauce and ginger slices (used to cleanse the mouth in between each bite).
Stinky tofu: yikes!
Look, we'll be honest here, it's pretty vile! But it's one of those dishes you need to try at least once in your life, like the Balut egg in the Filipino cuisine. Most stinky tofu can be found on the street, particularly at the Night Markets. You'll smell them before you see them! Geeky tofu facts: tofu was made increasingly popular all around the world as a replacement for meat. Made from compressed soy milk, it's great for vegans. Stinky tofu is made with fermented milk, vegetables or meat.
Bubble tea: a meal in itself
Bubble tea is a global fascination but in Taiwan, it's on a whole other scale. Whereas in the West we're more used to them as a sort of smoothie replacement, in Taiwan they're more like full meals. For example, on one occasion we tried a Breakfast Bubble Tea – a creamy mixture of oats, milk and tea. Absolutely delicious! You can, of course, get more “low-key” bubble teas in Taiwan, particularly oolong teas with some crazy variety of fruits thrown into the mix.
Hot pot: perfect for those cold nippy evenings
You can't really beat a good hot pot. This dish is perfect for those cool nights that sometimes creep up on you in Taiwan. A hot pot meal includes several flavoured simmering broths presented to your table, which are bubbling away. You're also presented with various raw ingredients which you place into the broth to cook. Popular hot pot ingredients include thinly sliced beef, chicken, ham and leafy vegetables like cabbage and mushrooms. It's a fun meal to try with a bunch of friends.
Pineapple cake: Taiwan's most popular treat
Pineapples have a really cool history in Taiwan. Just before WW2, Taiwan became one of the biggest pineapple exporters in the world. Over time, demand for Taiwanese pineapples abroad fell, so instead they became more popular with locals: suddenly they had this cheap and super sweet fruit to use in their day-to-day lives. As such, local bakeries began incorporating pineapples into their pastries, some with cream, others using local spices. Voila, the pineapple cake was born!
Gua bao: the Asian burger
Gua Bao is the Asian version of a burger. It is made with stewed meat (usually beef, chicken or pork) that is placed between flatbread (called ‘lotus leaf bread'). It is shaped like a half crescent moon and is roughly the size of your palm. It is typically packed with stir-fried suan cai, coriander, ground peanuts, and served with a variety of sauces. It's super popular with locals and a must we recommend everyone tries! The taste is absolutely tantalising on your tongue!
Before you go
We've put together some handy hints and tips to help you plan your own gay trip to Taiwan. Read on to find out everything the gay traveller should know before they go.
How to get there: Taiwan is an island, so you'll most likely be getting there by flying into the Taoyuan International Airport in the capital of Taipei. From there you can easily get into the city centre via train, bus or taxi, although we usually like to pre-book a private airport transfer when we're arriving in a new city after a longe flight. That way we don't have to try to juggle luggage on public transport and we know a professional English-speaking guide will be waiting for us no matter how late we might get in.
Visa requirements: Travellers to Taiwan from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and all members of the EU can visit the country visa-free for up to 90 days. Make sure you check your personal visa requirements before making any travel arrangements though, particularly if you're visiting from somewhere not listed above.
Getting around: Taiwan has a very efficient transport system for you to get around the country via trains, buses, ferries and domestic flights. You can read this detailed transport guide to Taiwan if you'd like more information.
Power Plugs: The power plugs/sockets used in Taiwan are of types A and B, which are found in many areas throughout Asia, along with Canada and the United States. If you are travelling to Taiwan from another country then you will need to bring a travel adaptor with you.
Travel insurance: All travellers to Taiwan should make sure they have adequate travel insurance, because you just never know when you might miss a flight, get sick or have something else not go according to plan. We recommend World Nomads travel insurance as we've been using them for years and they offer affordable, comprehensive cover. It's also very easy to make a claim online if something does go wrong.
Vaccinations: All travellers to Taiwan should make sure they're up to date on routine vaccinations like measles, mumps and rubella. Most travellers should also get vaccinated against hepatitis A, while some may need to be vaccinated against hepatitis B, rabies and Japanese Encephalitis, depending on what you will be doing/where you will be going. Make sure you check the CDC website and speak with your doctor before making any bookings for your trip to Taiwan.
Currency: The currency used in Taiwan is called the New Taiwan dollar. The code for it is TWD and the symbol used is NT$. Currently, US$1 converts to about NT$30, €1 is worth about NT$32.38 and £1 will give you about NT$35.
Tipping culture: Taiwan is not a country with a strong tipping culture, so you don't need to feel obliged to tip anywhere you travel. Even taxi drivers will probably be surprised if you try to round up your fare! A service charge is also usually included in restaurant bills, so there's not really any need for tipping at all.
Internet access: There are plenty of free WiFi spots throughout Taiwan, although you will need a local phone number in order to register and use these. We personally find it a lot easier to rent a pocket WiFi device when we're travelling as you can connect multiple devices at the same time. We've even written a whole guide on renting pocket WiFi in Taiwan to help you figure it all out before you get there.
Online privacy: While Taiwan is quite progressive and very gay friendly by Asian standards, you might still want to keep your online history private, especially if you plan to use gay dating apps like Grindr or Scruff while you're there. We like to use a VPN when we travel as it's a reliable and affordable way to keep our online activities completely private.
Accommodation: Whenever we travel to Taiwan, we like to use Booking.com to find accommodation with the best prices. Their online booking system is easy to use and they offer free cancellation on many properties which is great for flexibility. Their online customer support is available 24/7 and is very helpful.
Sightseeing and adventure: Another one of our recommendations while travelling is GetYourGuide. They offer many fun activities and tours to choose from in locations around the world, especially in Taiwan! The online booking process is very simple and they also have fantastic 24/7 customer support.
When to visit: There's no real bad time to visit Taiwan, as it has a subtropical climate as well as pretty springs and autumns. Summer can be rather hot and humid, with typhoons, but it's still a good time to go island-hopping if you'd like a beach holiday.
Safety tips for gay travel to Taiwan
Is Taiwan safe for gay travellers? The short answer is YES, but there are some precautions you should always take when travelling. Make sure you follow these safety tips and you are unlikely to encounter any problems while travelling in Taiwan.
- Check official government advice before you go. You should always check what your country's official government advice is on travelling to any destination before you go. It's also wise to make sure you register your travel plans so you can get updates while travelling if anything changes.
- Avoid excess alcohol and the use of drugs. It's far more likely that you'll be taken advantage of, scammed or even robbed if you're obviously intoxicated! We're not saying don't have a good time, just make sure you stay in control of things.
- Don't wear valuables in public. Pickpockets operate everywhere and while Taiwan has a low crime rate, petty crime does happen. The flashier your belongings, the more attractive you are as a target, even more so if you're wasted! Leave your valuables and important items in your hotel safe so even if you do find something missing, hopefully, it won't be anything too irreplaceable.
- Invest in a good money belt. It's always better not to carry too much cash or credit cards anyway, but having a good money belt that hides under your clothes is another way to ensure nothing goes missing.
For more inspiration:
- Read about our experiences travelling through Asia as a gay couple
- Travel in luxury on one of these fabulous gay cruises to Asia
- For those who prefer to be under the waves, these are our top scuba diving spots in Asia
- Many of which can be found in the stunning and gay friendly country of Thailand
- Definitely check out our guide to the gay area of Bangkok
- And these gay tours of Bangkok are perfect for first-time visitors
- If you're into Japanese culture, check out our gay guide to exciting Tokyo
- While these are the best gay hotels in Tokyo