Visiting Taipei & Taiwan in September 2020

Dear reader: This article contains links to products and services that I may be compensated for, at no extra cost to you.

September is the final month of summer in Taiwan, but with average temperatures a few degrees lower than July and August, it is definitely more bearable. By the end of September, I would even call it pleasantly warm, and one of the best times to visit Taiwan of the whole year.

While the Mid-Autumn Festival (popularly known as the “Moon Festival” in English) normally falls in September, in 2020 it will come on October 1. However, this year August’s Ghost Festival will continue into September, including its most important day.

With everyone back to school and work, September usually sees the lowest number of visitors of any month of the year in Taiwan. So for those looking to escape the crowds and enjoy some sightseeing in summer-like conditions (hello beaches!), September may be for you. Also, water lovers can’t miss the chance to participate in the Sun Moon Lake Mass Swim, one of the top September events in Taiwan!

The only thing to be careful with is that September, along with August, is the month you are most likely to encounter a typhoon in Taiwan. It is also the rainiest month of the year in Taipei by volume, thanks in no small part to those typhoons, though cities in the center and south of Taiwan see far less rain in September.

 

Also read:

 

Taiwan travel planning group

Is Taiwan Safe to Visit in September 2020?

Essential resources for the latest news about travel restrictions to Taiwan:

Taiwan Center for Disease Control
Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs

At the time of writing, no foreigners are allowed to enter Taiwan unless they have an ARC (alien resident card). Let’s all pray that by the time September 2020 rolls around, things are back to some degree of normalcy in the travel industry and we can all start planning trips to Taiwan again. For any attractions or events I mention in this article, please double check for possible closures, postponements or cancellations.

Taiwan is one of the safest countries in the world for travelers. Earthquakes do occur but serious ones are very rare. August and September are when the bulk of typhoons hit Taiwan; see my recommendations for getting through a typhoon safely below.

Since it can still be quite hot in September, it is important to stay hydrated, protect your skin, and as much as possible avoid being out for too long in the middle of the day.

 

Save money while traveling around Taiwan by using Klook! Sign up with my referral link to get TWD100 off your first booking.

A Taipei Fun Pass can also save you money; read my full guide to the Taipei Fun Pass here.

 

Taipei Weather in September

View from Taipei 101 with decent September weather in Taipei
View of Taipei City from Taipei 101

 

Also read: The Best Time to Visit Taipei City

If you’ve already spend the whole summer in Taipei, by September, you may start wondering, “Is this ever going to end?” Taipei in early September can remain as hot as the peak of summer, but by the end of the month is has usually subsided by a few degrees. The average high and low for the month are 31°C (89°F) and 24°C (75°F), respectively, two degrees lower than August.

Don’t forget about the humidity, often around 75% at this time, which makes things feel a lot hotter and sweatier than the numbers indicate.

The muggy weather in Taipei in September is accompanied by more rain than any other month of the year: 360mm. Although there are still an average of 5 hours of sunshine per day in September, this is interspersed with regular heavy rains, not to mention the huge amount of rain that comes with the typhoon or two that usually strike.

While this combo of intense heat and lots of rain may sound pretty bleak, I personally would rather spend September in Taipei than July or August; those few degrees do make a difference, crowds are down, and the rain is often a welcome reprieve.

 

Typhoons in Taiwan in September

My son standing in front of a tree that fell over during Typhoon Megi in Taiwan in September 2016
My son in front of a fallen tree after Typhoon Megi (Sept 2016) hit our neighborhood

 

While the typhoon season runs from July to October, with occasional typhoons coming as early as June or as late as November, August and September are the most common months they strike. There is also a common belief that the typhoons which come later in the season tend to be more powerful.

While this is not always the case, one example was Typhoon Megi, which struck Taiwan in the last week of September in 2016. The typhoon left nearly 4 million households without power, caused NT$3.36 billion, rolled over tour buses, and killed 8.

In our own New Taipei City neighborhood, my kids and I took a stroll once the typhoon had passed, and we found scooters with seats bent in half or ripped right off, trees uprooted, and signs of a river that had nearly flooded to the top of the flood protection walls.

I’m not trying to scare you off from visiting Taiwan in September but only to stress the importance of taking typhoons seriously. If a typhoon is going to strike during your trip, you will surely hear people talking about it or see it on the news.

 

Scooters damaged by Typhoon Megi in Taipei in 2016
Damage in our neighborhood from Typhoon Megi (2016)

 

While typhoons sometimes veer away from Taiwan days before, if one is really going to hit then you’ll want to get away from high mountain areas (for example Alishan National Scenic Area), landslide-prone areas (Taroko Gorge in Hualien), anywhere close to the sea on the east coast, or the offshore islands such as Green Island or Orchid Island. If you’re unsure whether you need to adjust your Taiwan travel itinerary at the last minute, ask locals for advice!

On the evening before the typhoon strikes, every major city or county in Taiwan will decide whether to call a mandatory day off for students and most workers (7-11, the MRT, and essential services remain open). If this happens, make sure to stock up on food (and beer!) that night, then really stay in the whole next day.

Taipei is one of the safest places to be during a typhoon; the city’s infrastructure and concrete block apartments are well designed to withstand. The bulk of injuries and deaths happen in small villages in the mountains, near the coast, or to people who ignore the warnings not to go outside.

Waiting out a typhoon indoors can be an awesome experience; the powerful wind and rain can be deafening, especially if you are on a top floor or have a balcony to look out from. Just watch for falling debris, signs, pieces or roofs, etc!

But before you celebrate the experience, keep in mind that while some typhoons can seem rather tame in the big city, the same storms can take out entire villages in the countryside. The most brutal example is Tyhoon Morakot (August 2009), the deadliest typhoon in Taiwan’s history, which killed 465 people when a landslide covered an entire village in the south. Likewise, Typhoon Soudelor (August 2015) was the most intense typhoon I’ve ever experienced in Taipei (see my articles on Taipei in July and Taipei in August for some photos of the damage in my neighborhood).

 

What to Wear in Taipei in September

Not much different than summer, in September you should dress is clothing that is light, comfy, and protects your skin. While most of the population is back to school and work, it is still perfectly acceptable to wear shorts, tank tops, and sandals (for men), or short shorts/skirts and tank tops for women, even if you’re planning to visit some of the temples in Taipei. Taiwan is not a super formal country.

With a practically guaranteed chance of getting wet from sweat or rain, opt for clothing that dries quickly and make sure to bring some extra pairs. An umbrella is an essential item, but you can buy them easily and cheaply all over Taiwan. Cheap plastic ponchos are also available from any 7-Eleven.

 

Taiwan Weather in September

Temples back by clouds at Lion's Head Mountain in September in Taiwan
Cloudy but beautiful weather at Lion’s Head Mountain in Miaoli

 

Other parts of Taiwan are not as rainy as Taipei in September. While the whole country can be impacted by typhoons, Northern Taiwan (including Taipei), Yilan County, Hualien County, and Taitung County tend to be the most seriously hit.

Cities and counties on the central west coast, including Hsinchu, Miaoli, Taichung, Changhua, and Yunlin, are protected by the Central Mountain Range and tend to be less affected, and they see significantly less precipitation than Taipei in September. For example, Taichung only gets about 100mm of rain in September.

Likewise, the south of Taiwan is much drier than Taipei in September. Tainan only sees 180mm of precipitation, while Kaohsiung gets a moderate 240mm.

The average temperatures in the major cities and lowland areas of Taiwan in September are virtually the same as in Taipei; it’s only in the milder seasons that the differences between the tropical south and sub-tropical north become more apparent.

With heavier rain than usual, be especially cautious and avoid visiting Taroko Gorge during (or shortly after) any typhoon or heavy rain.

September can be a great time to visit Sun Moon Lake, with fewer tourists and slightly milder temperatures than elsewhere due to the elevation (748 meters). Alishan can be pleasantly warm in the daytime, with an average 23°C (73°F), while in the early morning it can go down to a chilly 16°C (61°F).

 

What to wear in Taiwan in September

You can pretty much dress for summer when spending September in Taiwan. Away from Taipei and Northern Taiwan, while you can expect less rain, it is still quite likely that you will encounter some heavy downpours or even a typhoon. Think light clothing that dries quickly, and carry or purchase an umbrella, even if the day starts out totally clear.

Don’t forget that while casual clothing is normal and acceptable, Taiwanese never go barefoot anywhere but the beach, and going shirtless for men is also guaranteed to get a lot of stares.

If you’re heading to high mountain areas like Alishan or Qingjing Farm, you’ll want to bring a jacket for those chilly early mornings.

 

Here’s my detailed guide to where to stay in Taipei, or search for the best hotels in Taipei and best Airbnbs in Taiwan.

 

Taipei in September: Best Things to Do

With temperatures finally abating slightly in September, it becomes less of a struggle to do a lot of sightseeing in Taipei in the daytime. Consult my recommending Taipei itinerary or guide to what to do in Taipei for loads of ideas.

Making day trips from Taipei in September also becomes easier, with reduced crowds, especially during the week. See my dedicated articles to Jiufen and Shifen Waterfall.

 

Shifen Waterfall, one of the best things to do in Taiwan in September
Extra rain means that waterfalls like Shifen are even more beautiful

 

Even though the sights are less crowded, Taipei’s famous night markets are never anything but crowded…check them out right when they are opening (5-6 PM) for the best experience. From 7-10 PM, they can still be unbearably hot and packed.

Even though its still so hot outside, the Taipei Water Park (suitable for young children only) is closed in September, but nearby Road Castle outdoor swimming pool remains open until the end of September.

The Taipei Fringe Festival will continue at venues throughout the city from August 22 to September 6. The Taipei Jazz Festival, also with performances hosted around the city, will take place from September 5 to October 27.

Since the lunar year started a little later than usual in 2020, the Ghost Festival (中元節 or zhong yuan jie), normally an August event, spills into September in 2020. The seventh month of the lunar calendar is referred to as Ghost Month (beginning July 19, 2020), and the 15th day (September 2, 2020) is the most important.

This is a time when the locals believe the spirits of their ancestors return to the world. They must be appeased with all manner of offerings, which are laid out on tables in front of homes and businesses all over Taipei. This also comes with copious burning of joss paper (or “ghost money”), and any stroll through the city inevitably involves walking through clouds of smoke from the canisters of burning paper.

 

A hand putting some ghost money into a fire, part of the rituals that take place during Ghost Month in September in Taipei
Burning “ghost money” for the Ghost Festival

 

There are traditionally a whole bunch of things you aren’t supposed to do during Ghost Month, but nobody will expect you to actually follow these restrictions. There aren’t really any associated events for Ghost Month in Taipei; for that you’ll need to head to Keelung (see below).

September 28 is the birthday of Confucius, one of the most prominent philosophers and teachers in Chinese history. The day also honors teachers in Taiwan. Confucius’ birthday is celebrate with an early morning (6 AM) performance at Taipei Confucius Temple. You can get a ticket by dropping in to the temple a few days before; the attendants there are always very helpful and speak English. To read more about this and other temples, read my guide to the 30 best temples in Taipei.

The Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節 or zhong qiu jie, also known as the Moon Festival) normally takes place in September, but this month it will take place on October 1. Mainly a family-oriented festival, locals celebrate it by having barbecue gatherings right on the alleys and streets in front of their homes, which you may already start seeing on the last weekend of September.

You can also take part in the festival by trying a moon cake, a rich, round pastry filled (traditionally) with things like bean paste, salted duck egg yolk, taro, meat floss or (in modern versions) anything from mochi to ice cream. Boxes of them are often gifted at the time, and local expats seem to either love or hate them, while most young local locals nowadays find them too sweet and calorie-dense.

 

Moon Cakes, which are eaten during Moon Festival, one of the biggest Taiwan September events
Moon Cakes, a staple of the Moon Festival in Taiwan

 

Taiwan in September: Best Places to Visit

Keep an eye on the forecast in Taiwan in September; while Taipei and Yilan in Northern Taiwan surely see lots of rain, when it’s not raining, it’s a great time to head to the beach. Crowds are way down, but the weather is ideal. Here’s my guide to the best beaches in Northern Taiwan.

 

Mass Swim at Sun Moon Lake in September
The annual Sun Moon Lake Mass swim is usually held in September

 

The Sun Moon Lake Mass Swim, one of the largest mass swims in the world, will take place on September 27 in 2020, and online registration for the event began on July 11. It is the one time of the year you can swim in Sun Moon Lake, so make sure to register on time. Read my guide to Sun Moon Lake, the best Sun Moon Lake tours, and how to take advantage of the Sun Moon Lake Pass.

Northern Taiwan’s largest port, Keelung City (40 minutes from Taipei by train), is the center of Ghost Festival activities in Taiwan, especially Zhupu Altar (the main temple associated with the Ghost Festival in Taiwan) in Zhongzheng Park (基隆中正公園 or Chung Cheng Park).

These include a lantern ceremony to kick off the event (29th day of the 6th lunar month, August 18, 2020), a lantern parade on the 13th day of the 7th lunar month, August 31, 2020), a parade and releasing water lanterns on the 14th day, September 1, 2020), and the main event, Zhongyuan Pudu, on the 15th day (September 2, 2020) at hilltop Zhupu Altar. See here for all the details about the Ghost Festival activities in Keelung.

 

Zhupu Altar, where ghost month activites take place in taiwan in September
Zhupu Altar, Keelung, the center of Ghost Festival activities in Taiwan

 

Lingering summer weather means it’s also a great time to hit the beach in Taitung (try Dulan), Kenting National Park, or on the offshore islands such as Green Island, Orchid Island, Penghu, or Xiaoliuqiu. Both domestic and foreign crowds will be down, but the weather will be fine. Just keep a close eye on possible typhoons. Once, my family and I had to leave Green Island one day ahead of schedule because a typhoon was coming and the authorities asked all the tourists to go back to the mainland.

Fun activities to try on the islands include scuba diving on Green Island or on Orchid Island, sailing or island hopping on Penghu, and turtle watching on Xiaoliuqiu. Get your ferry tickets for Green Island and Orchid Island here or flights to Penghu here. The 2020 Penghu International Fireworks Festival will come to an end on September 3.

If the cities or lowlands areas are still too hot for you in September, high mountain areas like Alishan (see my detailed guide to getting to Alishan) and Qingjing Farm are the a perfect getaway.

The Confucius Temples of Taichung and Tainan may have activities on Confucius’ birthday (September 28); it’s worth checking in advance.

Earthfest Revolutions, a small, underground pystrance music festival, usually takes places somewhere remote in Miaoli or Nantou County twice per year, in May and late September.

 

Conclusion: Is August a Good Time to Visit Taiwan?

If you like to avoid the crowds, September may be one of the best months of the year to visit Taiwan. True, Taipei is often muggy and/or rainy, but other parts of the country are less so.

The Sun Moon Lake Mass Swim and Ghost Month festivities are two offbeat experiences to add some spice to your trip, while enduring summer-like weather around the island can make for a great holiday. Just keep an eye on approaching typhoons and take necessary precautions, even if that means making some last-minute changes to your itinerary.

 

 

Leave a Comment