It’s been said that Taiwan has two seasons: Wet, hot summers and cool, damp winters. This, of course, is an oversimplification that fails to take into account the difference between northern and southern Taiwan, our fair island’s many micro-climates, a deceptively charming sounding plum rain season, a spot-on sounding typhoon season, global climate change, and other factors beyond the scope of this humble article designed to help you pack for your upcoming Taiwan visit. So let’s keep it simple, starting with a few basic and usually reliable generalities about Taiwan’s climate:

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  • The cooler months usually begin around November and last until March.
  • The warmer months begin in April and last until around October.
  • Peak heat comes in July and August, and can get very hot (especially with humidity factored in).
  • The further south you go, the more likely it is to be warm even during the cool months.
  • The closer to the shore you are, the more cooling breezes you’ll get even in the hottest summer months.
  • The higher up you go in altitude, the colder it gets (especially at night).
  • The wettest months are August and September (also known as typhoon season), the driest are October to January.

Now let’s factor a few fun weather related facts about Taiwan into the mix:

 

Even in the winter, the island’s generally moderate clime makes central heating unnecessary (though it’s usually found in better hotels). Most Taiwanese homes have a space heater or two to cut the winter chill.

  • Though it only gets below 50F (10C) a few times a year (outside of the mountains), when it does most city folk act like they’ve suddenly found themselves in Siberia. Boxes of cheaply made puffy winter coats appear in night markets around the island.   

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  • Summers are simultaneously the hottest and coldest months, as all enclosed public spaces are air conditioned (sometimes to a downright frosty degree).
  • August and September are statistically the wettest months due to the combination of powerful (usually late-afternoon) thunderstorms and the occasional typhoon, both of which dump a lot of rain over a relatively short period. Barring these events, August and September are actually hot and humid – but not rainy.

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  • While the months of December through February fall smack in the middle of the statistically driest months, the northern part of the island can actually feel pretty wet thanks to lengthy periods of light persistent rains. Think springtime in Seattle and you’ve got the idea.
  • Umbrellas are cheap and readily available (you’ll sometimes find a box with free umbrellas at the metro station) and every convenience store sells rain ponchos.

So, putting it all together, Taiwan is pretty much a year-round destination, but certain months are better for some activities.

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  • Summertime is beach time, though people swim in Kenting (Taiwan’s southern tip) year-round.

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  • Autumn is best for hiking in the mountains, but people hike year-round.

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  • Autumn and spring are the best seasons for round-the-island bicycle tours, as it’s neither too hot nor too cold. Winter is good as well, and summer…well, depends on your tolerance for heat.

South Bay water facilities

  • Summer and autumn are best for visiting the outer islands, but if you’re a fan of high winds Penghu in winter is pretty awe-inspiring.
  • October to March is surf season on the east coast, April to September down south.
  • Autumn, Winter and Spring are the best seasons to visit hot springs.

So how you pack depends on when you’re planning to come to Taiwan and what you’re planning on doing while you’re here.

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Visiting from November to April? Unless you’re planning on hiking or motorcycling in the mountains, a sweater or two, a pair of tights, a rain jacket / windbreaker and pair of light gloves should be fine. Zip-off cargo pants over tights are good for motorcycling, without the tights for regular wear, and zipped-off for shorts on warmer days. If you pack jeans, you’ll probably wear them. Bring a swimsuit and swim-cap for hot spring places that don’t allow soaking au natural.MyTaiwanTour_summer_elephant mountain

Visiting from May to October? Think light and easy to dry. Two pairs of zip-off cargo pants (shorts during the day; pants at night to keep the bugs off at night) should do for any summer journey. You’ll want several t-shirts, and at least a couple of long sleeved shirts to guard against air conditioning induced frostbite. If you pack jeans, you probably won’t wear except when motorcycling or clubbing. Two items that are indispensable in the summer are a hat to keep the sun off your head and a light cotton or linen scarf, usable both to cover your arms from the sun, wipe away sweat, and, in a pinch, wrap yourself up in over air conditioned public areas.  

Finally, outside of the smallest mountain towns and remote island outposts, clothing is generally easy to find (for folks of average build, as many a larger-proportioned expat has discovered). If you forget to pack it, you’ll be able to buy it – including perhaps the most important item of clothing: Comfortable footwear.

Year round, there’s plenty to experience in Taiwan. Plan on doing lots of walking!

2 Comments

  1. Not everybody likes cargo pants – I’m not really a fan. I’d suggest for women in the summer:

    – Think breathable. Cotton or poly-cotton blend clothes, stay away from pure synthetics that won’t breathe.
    – Think light – light flowy skirts, light cotton trousers, light sundresses, light shorts. Light light light. If you pack only denim and leggings or tights you’ll be in a bad spot. Capris made of a light fabric are a good choice.
    – The same is true for underclothes – leave the padded bras and lace at home.
    – You won’t be able to re-wear anything without washing it first, and you may even want 2 shirts to wear per day as you’ll sweat a lot.
    – Bring comfortable sandals – you’ll soon wish you had as little covering your feet as possible. Make sure your shoes have good traction as sidewalks can get slippery on rainy days.
    – Bring enough deodorant, as they won’t sell anything strong enough for you here. You’ll need it.
    – Sunblock is another matter – the best sunblock is made by Innisfree (a Korean brand) but you can get good sunblock at reasonable prices in any pharmacy.
    – Bring lots of stuff to tie hair back (or just buy it in a general store or in the night market) – you won’t want to leave long locks down in Taiwanese summer heat
    – Do not count on being able to find your size. Perhaps if you are very slender, but even then the clothing will be made for Asian body types, which means if you have sizeable curves, even if the size “fits", it won’t look right. Stores with larger sizes exist, but again, they are made for an Asian shape and the clothing isn’t likely to look good on anyone else. I also find that women’s clothing here is too short as I am fairly tall.
    – Do bring enough shoes – there’s a fair chance your shoe size won’t be available here (for women) and I find men’s shoes, when the length is right, are too narrow. And when wide enough, are too long.
    – Pack a fold-up hair brush and some sort of smoothing serum if you have even slightly frizzy/wavy hair. The humidity here will make you fuzz right up if you have anything other than perfectly straight hair.
    – A lot of restrooms have hand dryers but if you want to wash your face, no way to dry it. And you will likely want to wash your face as it will become oily very quickly. Bring a small washcloth for these times.

    Even if your size is available, shoes in Taiwan don’t have arch support as a rule, so anyone with plantar fasciitis should keep that in mind.

  2. Excellent article. As the author of four books on Taiwan, I support the recommendations made. On my first visit to Taiwan, I packed a puffy Colorado-style winter coat and never wore it once despite staying two years.

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