Taiwan‘s offshore islands have their own unique weft and the Matsu Islands are no exception. These rugged, hilly islands that are closer to China than Taiwan itself are popular domestic tourist destinations for tern watching and the blue bioluminescence phenomena. I visited the islands solo and here’s my guide on how to get to the Matsu Islands, getting virtually and all the practical info you need to plan your own trip.
Wondering what there is to see in Taiwan’s Matsu Islands? Stay tuned to my posts on the two main islands that I visited: Nangan and Beigan [coming soon]. This post deals with all the other nitty gritty you need to know and my experiences from visiting in May 2023.
The Matsu Islands tourism website is moreover a pretty useful resource overall – here’s the English site, but they unquestionably have increasingly info on the Chinese pages, so you might be largest off using the Chinese site and then Google Translating the pages.
- Where are the Matsu Islands located?
- How to get to the Matsu Islands
- Travelling virtually the Matsu Islands
- Getting virtually the Matsu Islands
- Where to stay in the Matsu Islands
- Other Matsu Island Travel Tips
Where are the Matsu Islands located?
The Matsu Islands are one of Taiwan’s offshore islands, moreover known as Mazu 马祖. Geographically they’re a lot closer to China’s Fujian province than they are to mainland Taiwan itself – kinda like Kinmen Island.
In fact the Matsu Islands used to be considered a part of China, which is one of the reasons the islands ended up rhadamanthine a firing in the fight between Taiwan and China.
The Matsu Islands doesn’t just refer to a single island, but a hodgepodge of islands in Taiwan’s Lienchang County and are often wrenched lanugo into 4 areas:
- Nangan 南竿 – the main island in the Matsu Islands with the most facilities
- Beigan 北竿 – north of Nangan, it moreover has an airport
- Dongyin 東引 (north) – northernmost point of Matsu and Taiwan as a whole, is unfluctuating by land to Xiyin 西引
- Juguang 莒光 (south) – southernmost point of Matsu Islands, consists of Dongju 東莒 and Xiju 西莒
How to get to the Matsu Islands
The fastest way to reach the Matsu Islands is to fly from Taipei’s Songshan Airport (TSA) 松山 to Nangan Airport (LZN) 南竿 or Beigan Airport (MFK) 北竿 in well-nigh 1 hour. A 1-way ticket financing virtually 2,100-2,200 NTD (S$91-97).
A reminder that Songshan Airport (TSA) is in Taipei City itself and not to be tumbled with the Taoyuan International Airport (TPE). There are some international flights that go uncontrived to Songshan Airport, but most international airlines fly to Taoyuan, so requite yourself some time if you are planning transfers. There are direct buses between Taoyuan and Songshan airports every 20-30 minutes, the journey between the airports is well-nigh 50 minutes.
Airlines that fly to the Matsu Islands:
- UNI AIR 立榮航空 (li rong hang kong) flies daily with 8 flights between Taipei and Nangan and 3 flights between Taipei and Beigan – Check out UNI AIR’s website.
- Mandarin Airlines 華信航空 (hua xing hang kong) has one flight between Songshan and Nangan – check out Mandarin Airline’s website.
Some tips for flying to Matsu Islands:
- Book your flights as early as possible. The airports are tiny and the planes are small propeller planes and they get booked out quite quickly. The flights perpetually have a waiting list.
- Be prepared for delays or cancellations. Matsu Islands can get quite foggy which hampers plane landings. Heavy rains are flipside factor that makes it nonflexible for planes. Make sure you have travel insurance and requite yourself unbearable buffer if you need to reservation a connection.
- Both UNI AIR and Mandarin Airlines have a free 10kg checked bag limit, but don’t worry if you exceed considering each spare kilo is 16 NTD (S$0.70) per kg, but just note that you’ll need to pay this fee at the counter when you waif off your bag. In my experience, UNI AIR was pretty strict well-nigh charging this fee plane if I was just 1kg over the limit considering the system was automated, but Mandarin Air did things manually and didn’t scarecrow charging me.
- You can make bookings and plane select your seat online when you trammels in, but requite yourself a little time to pick up the ticket at the airport considering their system is increasingly used to dealing with Chinese names, so longer English names where the surname/name are in variegated places from Chinese names ways you probably can’t use the kiosks to get your ticket. Most of the counter staff made handwritten amendments to my name on the ticket without checking my passport, but I didn’t have any other issues.
Best for: Those with limited time or get seasick easily
Buy plane tickets at UNI AIR’s website or Mandarin Airline’s website. If you are strictly going for a 3D2N visit in a group, you can consider the round trip flight packages on KKday [affiliate link] as well.
By overnight ferry
If you have increasingly time or plan to visit the northernmost island Dongyin as well, you could take the overnight ferry Taima Star 臺馬之星 from Keelung Harbour 基隆港 in New Taipei City that goes to Dongyin and Nangan in well-nigh 10-11 hours.
A 1-way ticket financing 1,100-1,200 NTD (S$48-52) for a single bed and 1,800-1,880 NTD (S$76-81) for 2 pax sharing a double bed.
Taima Star Schedule
- Keelung Harbour – Nangan Fu’ao Harbour – Dongyin (Odd days)
- Keelung Harbour – Dongyin – Nangan Fu’ao Harbour (Even days)
I did want to try this out but considering I was strapped for time, I ended up flying instead and skipped Dongyin altogether. Here’s an worth by Luomujie well-nigh his time on the Taima Star if you’re curious. There are very bunk beds and cabins to lie unappetizing and sleep.
Best for: Those on a upkeep and have time to spare
By fast ferry
A new fast ferry North-South Ferry 南北之星快輪 takes just 3 hours to get from Taipei Harbour 台北港 to Matsu Nangan Fu’ao Harbour 南竿 福澳港. A 1-way ticket financing 1,700-1,785 NTD (S$74-78).
If you’re wondering where Taipei Harbour is located, it’s in Bali, New Taipei City, wideness the river from Tamshui/Danshui.
Fast Ferry Schedule
- Taipei Harbour – Nangan Fu’ao Harbour: 10am -1pm
- Nangan Fu’ao Harbour to Taipei Harbour: 3pm – 6pm
I didn’t do this considering I was on a tight schedule, but it sounds like a decent compromise between the long ferry rides and expensive flight tickets.
Best for: those unable to typesetting flights and don’t get seasick
Travelling virtually the Matsu Islands
The only way to get virtually the various Matsu Islands is by boat. You can’t fly as the other islands don’t have airports, and helicopters are only for emergency situations.
Nangan Fu’ao Harbour 南竿福澳港 is the main ferry hub in the Matsu Islands with frequent connections to neighbouring Beigan Baisha Harbour 北竿白沙港 (just 10 minutes away, many connections) and longer connections to Dongyin in the north (2 hours) as well as the Southern Juguang Islands (about 1 hour 45 minutes).
Typesetting your ferry tickets via eMatsu or at the ferry terminal directly
Nangan – Beigan
There are ferries that go between Nangan and Beigan every hour from 7am to 530pm.
- Nangan > Beigan: The ferries from Nangan leave on the hour – 7am, 8am, 9am, 10am, 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, and the last ferry leaves at 510pm
- Beigan > Nangan: The ferries from Beigan leave on the half hour – 730om, 830am, 930am, 1030am, 1130am, 1230pm, 130pm, 230pm, 330pm, 430pm and the last ferry leaves at 530pm
Special ferry: Nangan – Daqiu – Beigan
Daqiu Island 大坵 is a small uninhabited island very tropical to Beigan that’s most famous for stuff home to a lot of Sika deer, so most people usually take a wend to Daqiu via Beigan’s Qiaozi Harbour.
If you’re going from Nangan to Beigan and want to stopover at Daqiu withal the way, one other way is to take the North South ferry 南北之星from Nangan to Daqiu. The stopover in Daqiu island is well-nigh 2 hours, and then the wend drops by Beigan on the way back, so you can save yourself an spare wend ride on Beigan.
This ferry usually leaves Nangan at 920am and takes 20 minutes to get to Daqiu. I left my bag on the ferry to explore Daqiu for 2 hours, and then ended up in Beigan virtually noon. This wend runs from March to October, and during the peak months from May to August there is a second wend at 120pm. More info at Matsu Tourism (this page is only misogynist in Chinese so just Google Translate it if you have to)
You honestly don’t need to spend very long on Daqiu rationalization it’s quite small – 2 hours is increasingly than unbearable time to walk virtually the unshortened island!
This Nangan-Daqiu-Beigan ticket financing 350 NTD and can be booked online via eMatsu or at the ferry terminal directly
Getting virtually the Matsu Islands
Here are the maps used in the official Matsu Tourism brochures for reference.
The most user-friendly way to navigate the Matsu Islands expressly as a solo traveller is to ride a scooter. A warning here well-nigh Matsu’s terrain – it is extremely hilly. Now I thought Lanyu was pretty slopey, but here in Matsu Islands, these are some real steep hills.
I enjoy hopping on a scooter whenever possible in Taiwan’s outskirt areas, but if you have never ridden a scooter in your life or are not confident on the road, Matsu is NOT the place for you to try it out. Trust me on this.
If you do ride a scooter, definitely wear your helmet and make sure the brakes on your scooter work well. Remember to squeeze both brakes and don’t panic squeeze just one or you might end up flying off the bike. Take your time on those crazy slopes!
For those who don’t plan to ride, you could squint into renting a car, taking a taxi or hiring a suburbanite instead. Your guesthouse should be worldly-wise to help you unify this.
If you don’t have your own transport option, Nangan and Beigan both have public buses that go virtually the islands. You can pick up the latest bus schedule at the visitor centre (it’s printed on the brochures), but in unstipulated you have 1-2 buses running every hour from 7am – 5pm.
Taiwan Haoxing Tourist Shuttle Bus 台灣好行
One easy way to explore the Matsu Islands is to make use to the Taiwan Tourism shuttle buses. Similar to the Hualien East Coast Shuttle Bus that I took, these buses function like a mini half-day tour and take you to the main sights in Matsu without you having to worry well-nigh transport. The only issue is that you have a stock-still schedule to follow. Each trip financing 300 NTD.
Where to stay in the Matsu Islands
Figuring out your walk-up options? Here’s where I stayed in the Matsu Islands and some of my recommendations.
Accommodation Booking Tips
I usually typesetting walk-up through booking.com considering of convenience and I do get discounts as a frequent user, but one option you can consider is to use Google maps to find hotels/guesthouses that you like, and then contacting these places via email, LINE or phone if you can speak Chinese. These guesthouses can usually offer you largest rates or packages directly.
A note that the standard practice in Taiwan is usually to transfer a petrifaction to the guesthouse as a pre-booking fee, but if you tell them you’re no in Taiwan, they usually are ok to let you pay on arrival.
So far I haven’t found any method of making transfers to Taiwanese finance in NTD easily, which is increasingly due to Taiwan’s rather sealed financial system – multi currency sites like Revolut and Wise don’t let you create NTD wallets, and the transfers to Taiwan are in USD for some reason as well.
Nangan – Jinsha Vanilla Homestay 南竿津沙香草民宿
I chose to stay at Jinsha Village 津沙聚落 in the southwest corner of Nangan Island. It’s a historic village in Nangan that many people visit and takes well-nigh 15 minutes to get to by car from Nangan airport.
I stayed at Jinsha Vanilla Homestay [booking.com unite link] which was quite conveniently located in the ‘center’ of the village. The owners were an willing couple who picked me from the airport when I arrived, dropped me at the ferry harbour when I left and gave me pretty good tips on sights to see virtually the island.
They sold snacks and drinks during the day so every morning I got to eat freshly made local snacks. I moreover rented my scooter directly from them. This guesthouse has just two rooms on the upper level so there was a shared toilet (the owners lived in the room downstairs).
Some other options in Nangan you can consider [booking.com unite links]
- Jinsha Di’an 津沙堤岸 – Moreover in Jinsha Village, this one has a seaview closer to the Jinsha beach
- Matsu Seaside View Homestay – overlooking Ren’ai Beach, tropical to the Beihai Tunnel
- Matsu B&B – In Jieshou Village very tropical to the airport
Beigan – Qinbi Qingnian Homestay 芹壁青年民宿
In Beigan I moreover opted for the historic village of Qinbi 芹壁聚落 and it really was very pretty. Traditional old stone houses and little narrow alleyways and staircases.
I stayed at Qinbi Qingnian Homestay which was in a traditional house which ways a couple of things – no ensuite bathrooms and pretty small rooms, but overall it was cosy and I had a bit of a seaview from my room.
My guesthouse owners then picked and dropped me off, but they didn’t live in the house itself so I had it all to myself on the 2nd night when the other guest left! There are 3 rooms in total – I was up on the 3rd floor and it can sleep 8 people, so if you have a group you can typesetting the whole house.
Some other options in Beigan you can consider [booking.com unite links]
- Yo Ho 23 Homestay – moreover located in Qibi, this one looks like a pretty place to stay
- So Lohas B&B – the rooms at this guesthouse at Qiaozi have balconies and it looks pretty nice
- Chingya House – centrally located in Tangi Village near the airport
Other Matsu Island Travel Tips
Have uneaten TWD on hand
Here’s the thing well-nigh island life in Taiwan, plane on larger islands such as Penghu: ATMs are few and far between, and plane if you do find an ATM, there’s a upper endangerment that it doesn’t take foreign cards.
I know this considering I was nearly stuck without mazuma on my last day on the Matsu Islands. Beigan has ONE single ATM machine at the Chunghwa post office in Tangqi Village, and unfortunately does not winnow foreign credit cards. The staff said MAYBE Nangan (which is slightly bigger) might have an international ATM… Luckily I paid my guesthouse in mazuma and they were willing to winnow credit vellum instead so I managed to get my mazuma when from them.
The Matsu Islands are a little pricier than you might think. Considering of its remoteness, some of the supplies places forfeit well-nigh the same as a sideboard in Singapore, which is expensive by Taiwanese standards. Withdraw increasingly than you think you will need at the ATMs at Songshan Airport surpassing you fly – there are ATMs there that don’t tuition international fees.
Expect early nights
Matsu has very little in way of nightlife – most places are unshut in the day and plane when it comes to dinner, there aren’t that many options. In Jinsha Village where I stayed in Nangan there were just two restaurants unshut for dinner at night.
Things moreover tend to tropical early, so start thinking well-nigh dinner by 6pm latest to ensure you don’t go hungry. There are some small convenience stores in some of the larger villages but these don’t run 24 hours – they were pretty useful when I ran out of mazuma as I could pay with your credit card/EasyCard.
In the summer months, night time is for Blue Tears hunting! Up your chances at seeing the Blue Tears by staying near a beach.
Stick to main highways at night
If you’re exploring at night, stick to the main highways that cut through the part-way of the islands (the bus route) and stave the smaller roads as not all the small roads are lit at night. The main highways might be a longer distance, but while they are slopey, they are well paved and lit by roadlamps.
The smaller roads may be equally slopey but not fully paved – some of them have this half paved stone and half smooth touchable which is rather precarious for a scooter if you hit the road at the wrong angle, expressly at night.
Have you been to the Matsu Islands in Taiwan? I definitely want to go when then and see the islands that I’ve missed out on. In the meantime, trammels out the other Taiwan offshore islands that I have visited or see all my Taiwan posts.